Monday, November 7, 2016

Mile Hi Con Recap - Supernatural, the Undead, & More

It's been a week since Mile Hi Con, so it's high time I do a recap, eh?

MHC was held in Denver Halloween weekend. Kelley Armstrong and John Varley were Guests of Honor, and Chaz Kemp was the Toastmaster. I had a not-so-secret hope that I'd be on a panel with Kelley Armstrong, but alas, it didn't shake out that way. There's always the future!

On Friday, I was on the panel Horror on the Menu: Different Flavors for Different Tastes. I already covered a bit about this panel in this post. My fellow panelists were Sam Knight, Emily Godhand, Amity Green, and C.R. Asay.

Hororr Panel: Sam Knight, Emily Godhand, me, Amity Green, C.R. Asay

We had a great conversation about the different types of horror out there, with a consensus that psychological horror was preferred by most of us, but that there is plenty to enjoy elsewhere. Look these folks up if you're seeking some good horror to read!

I went straight from this panel to being a representative of Pikes Peak Writers and hosting a mixer. We had a solid turnout, and I got to hang out and chat with some familiar faces and lots of new faces, which was wonderful. In order to let our lovely waitress get closed up and go home, we retired up to a party hosted by the folks who run Myths and Legends Con, a convention I hope to check out this coming year. They had finger sandwiches, alcoholic chai, and lots of other goodies. The party was still going when we left in the wee hours.

JT and Jennifer work the Pikes Peak Writers table

Saturday afternoon I had a panel I was incredibly nervous about. You see, the way they handle faculty sign ups is to send out a list of the workshops sans descriptions and have you indicate what workshops you'd be interested in, willing to be in, and adamantly against (basically). This one said F/SF Outside the West. Being a wild west buff, that's the version of the west that came to mind, and I marked it as interested, thinking it was F/SF except for the new fantasy-based westerns that are becoming more popular. (Which is a weird thing to think, looking back, but it's where I went, anyway.)

Instead, it was a panel about non-western writers. As in, writers outside the U.S. and Europe, or whose voices differ from those commonly found in the west. When I discovered later what it was about, I jumped into research, reviewing those voices I'd already experienced and checking out a ton of books from the library. Not an unpleasant experience as a reader! However, I doubted my knowledge in the area, and was terrified I'd be asked a question that would make me look like an idiot. Instead, the conversation was an interesting one, with us discussing why it's important to read non-western voices (to experience different ways of life, to see the similarities between our culture and the culture of others, to learn more about viewpoints and issues facing our non-western counterparts, etc.), what voices to read (I'll list the ones I mentioned, plus some suggested by my co-panelists below), and how to handle writing non-western voices (key takeaway = RESPECT). We discussed that research should be more than reading about the non-western cultures we're representing, and that speaking to people within those cultures and finding beta readers within them is a good idea. And even then, there will be someone who isn't happy with what you took away from it. A good piece of advice given by Amalie Howard was not to be offended if someone calls you on what you've written that they is false, but to ask them to let you know where you went wrong (while also understanding that it's not their job to educate you, and they can refuse if they please.)

I was happy to be able to recommend some of our fellow bloggers, as well as to mention a couple Native American authors (Native American voices do not typically fit into the western niche). Here's a list in case you want to check out some new authors:

Bish Denham (Fantasy, MG) - The Bowl and the Stone
Pam Munos Ryan (Magical Realism) - The Dreamer, Echo, Esperanza Rising
Isabel Allende (Magical Realism, some MG) - City of the Beasts
Cixin Liu (SF) - The Dark Forest
Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Magical Realism) - Of Love and Other Demons)
Amitov Ghosh (Epic Fantasy) - Sea of Poppies
Sofia Samatar (Fantasy) - A Stranger in Olondria
Karen Lord (SF) - The Best of All Possible Worlds
Haruki Murakami (Fantasy/Dystopian) - IQ84
Nnedi Okorafor (Post-Apoc Fantasy) - Who Fears Death, Binti
Damyanti Biswas - short fiction, Forge Literary Magazine, editor
Sherman Alexie – Reservation Blues
Stephen Graham Jones (Horror)- Any
Jeff and Ann Vandermeer - The Big Book of Science Fiction (contains 13 short stories translated into English for the first time)
N.K. Jemisin - The Fifth Season; The Killing Moon
Saladin Ahmed - Throne of the Crescent Moon
Ahmed Khan - A Mosque Among the Stars
Jaymee Goh - The Sea is Ours: Tales from Steampunk Southeast Asia
Kim Stanley Robinson - The Years of Rice and Salt
Jorge Luis Borges - Fictions
Ken Liu - The Grace of Kings
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni - Mistress of Spices, and other titles
Zaraida Cordova - Labyrinth Lost
Renee Ahdieh - The Warth and the Dawn
Roshani Chokski - The Star Touched Queen
Cindy Pon - Serpentine (Book 1) and Sacrifice (Book 2)
Tracey Baptiste - The Jumbies

My co-panelists on this one were Stant Litore, Amalie Howard, and Jane Bigelow.

There was a book signing a few hours after this, which I could opt to take part in. I went ahead and did so, knowing I probably wouldn't sell any books (I didn't), but it was fun, as I got to sit with Evangeline Denmark and Amity Green. We chatted with each other and had a bunch of people stop by to talk to us, so it was still a good experience. I actually had the option of selling my books at the Pikes Peak Writers table, but since I was hardly ever there, I didn't do so.

My last panel was Re-imagining History With the Living Dead. My fellow panelists were Stant Litore, Aaron Spriggs, and DeAnna Knippling. Both this panel and the SF/F Outside the West panel had no-show panelists, which is why there were only four of us on each of those. I have no idea why the other panelists didn't show (though I have them both on Facebook, so I suppose I could ask them.) This one was different than I'd expected, but lots of fun. The audience gave us time periods in history, and we discussed how it would work for the living and the undead, what the pitfalls might be for either side, what might contribute to it, etc. We went from prehistoric times to Egypt to the Romans to the vikings. It seems like this could be a party game.

I had dinner out with various friends each evening, walking both nights because it was so lovely out. And two of us took a Rocky Horror Picture Show virgin to the sing-along (we didn't out her). I don't believe she was impressed. 

My final act as faculty was to moderate a Supernatural fan forum. This was the second one I was nervous about out of the four I was part of. Reason being, I'd never been to a fan forum, so didn't know how it was actually supposed to run. Also, I don't retain information like true fans do, so I can't pull an encyclopedia's worth of information out of my booty. To prepare, I put together a list of topics on Supernatural, with a good number from the current season. I tried visiting forums online, but didn't find much helpful there, as it's mostly game play and little things that I couldn't make into an in-person discussion. As it was late in the day Sunday, I was afraid no one would show, but we ended up with a full table. Who can resist the Winchester boys?

We discussed favorite characters and episodes (mine is Yellow Fever), whether Cass and Crowley have been neutered, what's going to happen with the mom, monster of the week, and whether the show has run its course (it kinda' has). It was a fun hour of discussion and a much better experience than I expected.

All in all, it was a good experience. I also worked the Pikes Peak Writers information table a few times (though not as much as some others, so thanks to them!), and attended two panels I wasn't in (a dating game-type panel and a podcast panel). The dating game was an interesting concept, and was actually called The Reading Game. Put a reader on one side of a curtain and pull up three authors meeting the desired genre. The reader gets to ask three questions, unaware of who is on the other side. They choose the one that sounds best and get a free book!

My thanks out also to Rose and Patrick, the folks handling faculty and programming. I got to talk a little about one of my first writing loves (horror) and stretch myself out of my comfort zone in speaking on non-western writers and moderating the Supernatural fan forum. Being able to be faculty at conferences and conventions adds a whole new element to the experience, and I definitely enjoy it, even if I stress myself out ahead of time. Connecting with the audience and the other panelists is so much fun, and makes any stress worth it. This con, specifically, is friendly, intimate, and well run. And unlike World Con, I don't leave feeling empty.

Have you read any non-western authors you'd recommend? Any insights? Would you play The Reading Game? What three questions would you ask? What time period would you most like to see re-imagined with the living dead? What's your favorite flavor of horror? Do you think Supernatural has run its course (even if you love it)?

May you find your Muse.

Exposed Brain Zombie by OCAL,


Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

It sounds like it was a great experience! You did awesome!

I've read some of Kelley Armstrong's work lately and really enjoy it - will definitely read more. :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Shannon - it does sound like you had a wonderful time and managed to cram in lots of interesting aspects ... while getting out and about ... loved seeing Bish's book here .. cheers Hilary

H. R. Sinclair said...

That was a packed schedule, but it sounds like you managed it and it was fun. Thanks for sharing.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Glad it all worked out. I would've been misled by the title of that panel as well.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I have read a few of those non-western writers. I do love a Supernatural and I hate to see it end but I think it's close to over. Who will keep us safe then?

Crystal Collier said...

Wow! That sounds like a crazy-busy time, but so much fun. Man. Lots of stamina to get you through the convention, eh?

Jen said...

Congratulations on your bravery! It sounds like a wonderful time and a wonderful learning experience for you. Sounds like you learned a lot AND had a blast! I would play The Reading Game. Sounds like fun!

Jen said...

Whoops! I meant to say that I've read some non-western voices but not many. I had to read a Native American novel in college a few years ago and it was WONDERFUL! It reminded me a lot of Celtic mythology, how everything was interwoven and the story turned in on itself. Everything was connected. Very much NOT a Western voice! Thanks for the list! I need to read more Non-Western authors.

John Wiswell said...

That's a nice list of non-western writers to discuss on the panel! I've adored Ken Liu's novels, and Okorafor is really strong. I'm eagerly awaiting Ahmed's second novel.

And I'm glad your fan forum went well! It sounds like you crushed it as a moderator and a panelist. Congratulations!

Julie Flanders said...

Wow, this sounds like an amazing experience. I also would have been thrown by the title of that panel but it sounds like it worked out so well. I enjoyed reading about it and also appreciate the list of authors you shared.
Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

Shannon Lawrence said...

I haven't read much of her newer stuff, so need to get back to that.

Shannon Lawrence said...

I did! Lots of good stuff there.

Shannon Lawrence said...

I prefer a packed schedule to a dull one!

Shannon Lawrence said...

It turned out to be interesting to research and discuss, so I was happy about it!

Shannon Lawrence said...

We'll need someone new to keep us safe!

Shannon Lawrence said...

Conventions and conferences definitely take a lot out of me. The big writing conference I help with in April always sees me passed out on the couch come Sunday night.

Shannon Lawrence said...

The Reading Game is a fun idea for sure. Native voices definitely tend to be different, with nuances not found in typical western voices.

Shannon Lawrence said...

I think we covered a lot of ground and had a good discussion, so I was happy with it!

Shannon Lawrence said...

Each of these experiences is valuable in some way. Even better when they're fun, as well!