Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Denver Comic Con Recap

I spent this past weekend at Denver Comic Con as a panelist. With nine panels, I spent quite a bit of time researching and making notes in advance, and binge watched Black Mirror for a second time to have the episodes fresh in mind (which proved to be a darned good thing!)

The last two years I've only been a panelist in the literary track, which tends to be less busy than actual fan panels and the like. This year, the literary track had picked up in several spots, and because I'd proposed some non-literary panels, I got to experience the craziness that is the science fiction/fantasy track. The below two pictures are of the Black Mirror audience--eeek! They were a fun bunch.

A note to authors. If you're ever proposing panels to any type of fan con, try to mix up the literary panels with more fan based ones. You'll have a better chance of having your panels picked up, and you'll get to meet folks you might not have otherwise. And many of them are readers!

My first panel was 80s Resurgence in Books and Movies (non-literary track) with Veronica R. Calisto, Patrick Hester, David R. Slayton, and Fleur Bradley (pen name F.T. Bradley). We talked about shows like Stranger Things, long awaited sequels like Tron 2, and reboots like Magnum P.I. Why are the 80s so popular? Technically, we should be on a resurgence of the 90s now, according to the past patterns (Happy Days came out in the 70s and was about the 50s; That 70s Show came out in the 90s; Wonder Years came out in the 80s and was about the 60s and 70s, etc.). Instead, we're still hitting the 80s hard in our media. Among stories we wanted to see rebooted were Buck Rogers and Knight Rider.

Panel number two was Letters Written From Hell - The Horror Writing Process, with Patrick Hester, DeAnna Knippling, Emily Godhand, and Jason Dias. The big question was whether we were demented, and what about our readers? The diagnosis? Totally sane. In fact, even saner than people who don't partake of horror, because we get to exorcise the dark part of ourselves.

Panel three was How to Write Diversity, with Veronica R. Calisto, David R. Slayton, Emily Godhand, Emily Kay Singer, and Jason Dias. In general, it came down to being respectful, getting to know people from marginalized groups, asking at least one person from the marginalized group to beta read for you, and doing your research. The best thing about the panel was that, though we did talk about racial diversity, we covered much more than that, including neuro-divergence, LGBTQ+, mental illness, and physical disabilities.

The fourth panel, which was my final one for Friday, was Favorite Horror Tropes, another non-literary one. On this one, we had Veronica R. Calisto, DeAnna Knippling, Emily Godhand, MK Sauer, and Stace Johnson. We had a lot of fun talking about our favorite horror tropes, such as the happily-ever-after-just-kidding ending or switching to a silhouette view to show something without the gore or cheesy CGI. Among the last favorite? Saying a haunting is because it was built on an Indian burial ground and killing the minority character first.

Saturday I only had two panels, which was a nice break. I had one in the morning then two back-to-back at the end of the day. (Friday I had three back-to-back, which was insanity.) The first panel of the day was Creating Believable Monsters, with Matt Bille, Fleur Bradley, DeAnna Knippling, and Stace Johnson. Matt writes about cryptozoological creatures in his fiction, so he had a different idea of believable monsters than the rest of us. What it boiled down to for most of us was that the characters had to believe in the monster for the reader to believe, and basing the monster's makeup on already existing fears could be a shortcut to reach the reader. Xenomorphs were by far the winner of the monster that stuck with me the longest category. Yay for xenomorphs!

Next was Why You Should Have Villains of All Stripes, with Veronica R. Calisto, David R. Slayton, Fleur Bradley, Jason Dias, and Eneasz Brodski. By far, the favorite villain put out recently was Killmonger from Black Panther. A couple Stephen King characters came up, as did Magneto. What we most wanted was for villains to be strong opponents, to be intelligent and equal to the good guy, and to have something redeeming about them. This makes for a stronger villain.

The final one of the day was Not Just Novels - Writing Different Lengths, with Fleur Bradley, DeAnna Knippling, Jason Dias, Carolyn Kay, and Stace Johnson. We talked about everything from flash fiction to short story to novelette/novella length, why it was a good idea to try out different lengths, and what we enjoyed about playing with shorter fiction. It was a small audience, but one that seemed very interested in the topic, and I hope they'll pursue shorter works.

Sunday was the last day of DCC, and I only had two panels, but they were vast hours apart (6 hours, to be exact), or so it felt. The first one was First Steps in Self-Publishing, with Patrick Hester, MK Sauer, Stace Johnson, Marla Newbrough Bell (writes under MJ Bell), and A.M. Burns. We covered the basics of establishing yourself as a business, getting ISBN numbers, resources for self-publishers, and who you need to hire (editor, cover design, formatter).

And now we get to my last panel of the con: Black Mirror and the Evils of Technology, with Veronica R. Calisto, DeAnna Knippling, David R. Slayton, and Stace Johnson. We discussed how Black Mirror wasn't about fear of technology so much as fear of what people will do to abuse technology, and how we humans aren't evolving as fast as our technical capabilities are. We talked about the fear of microchipping people and designer humans, plus our favorite episodes (Nosedive was mentioned several times--the one where the woman tries to get her social media rating up, running into humiliation after humiliation--as was Arkangel, the one about the mom who chips her daughter and can keep her from seeing things that might bother her, as well as seeing through her eyes and monitoring what she's doing.) I couldn't believe the energy that late on day three of the con, but they gave me the energy to make it through and drive home to Colorado Springs through a rainstorm.

I was stressed out about the weekend, not being naturally outgoing, but enjoyed hanging out with friends, as well as having great conversations about topics I'm deeply interested in. I love presenting on panels, and tossing ideas around with others, even when we disagree. It's a great way to learn more about various topics.

The view from my hotel room. Down and to the right is 16th St. Mall.

My hotel was on the 16th Street Mall, which is a long stretch right in the middle of downtown with cobbled streets, no cars allowed (except to cross at intersections), and tons of shops and restaurants. I'd intended to walk down to the Tattered Cover bookstore since I so rarely make it up to Denver, but I never really had the time. It's a great spot for people watching. I tried several new restaurants, which I'm all about when travelling, including Boney's BBQ, Stout Street Social, and Sam's No. 3. I'd recommend all three, though the service wasn't great at Boney's. I'm a sucker for good BBQ and sweet tea, though.

Time for links. Bear in mind I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

The Literary Hatchet is seeking dark fiction, poetry, and prose. Up to 6000 words. Pays up to $10. Deadline July 1.

Coffin Hop Press is seeking dark and noirish holiday stories for Baby It's Cold Outside. Crime stories only. They're also seeking stories of stupid criminals for Knucklehead Noir. Up to 5000 words. The holiday one pays $150 CAD; the stupid criminals one pays $.03/word CAD. Deadline July 1.

Whimsically Dark Publishing is seeking short stories with the theme Deteriorate. No genre limits. Up to 8000 words. Pays $30. Deadline July 1.

Broken Eye Books is seeking urban weird fiction for Nowhereville: Weird is Other People. 3000 to 7500 words. Pays $.08/word. Deadline July 1.

Spring Song Press is seeking fantasy short stories for Oath and Iron. 1000 to 10,000 words. Pays $.01/word. Deadline July 1.

Independent Legions is seeking horror short stories for Monsters of Any Kind. 3500 to 5000 words. Pays $100. Deadline July 10.

Third Flatiron Anthologies is seeking speculative fiction short stories for Terra! Tara! Terror! Up to 3000 words. Paying market, but they don't specify how much. Deadline July 15.

Gehenna & Hinnom Books is seeking weird fiction and cosmic horror. 250 to 3000 words. Pays $30. Deadline July 15 (opens July 1).

Spider and Ladybug Magazines are seeking stories for kids in the theme Our Diverse World. Up to 1000 words. Pays up to $.25/word. Deadline July 15.

Why do you think the 80s is still so popular? What would you like to see brought back or rebooted? What's your favorite Black Mirror episode? How about your favorite horror trope? Least favorite? What new technology are you afraid of? What new tech are you looking forward to? Any of these links of interest?

May you find your Muse.


  1. Sounds like you had a great time!

    Not sure what it says about me that I enjoy writing those nasty villains.... :o

    I don't mind watching shows/movies etc set in the 80s, but I could do without all the remakes/reboots.

  2. Wow, that's a lot of panels! Sorry, not into Black Mirror. I've been to science fiction cons and the fans are rabid - panels of any kind fill up fast.

  3. I was a young adult in the 80's - then an 80's Lady, lol. I can imagine Knight Rider updating their tech and really making the series shiny and new. I too and getting tired of remakes. Somebody come up with something new!

  4. Hi Shannon - gosh you were busy ... but obviously enjoyed the whole long weekend - and benefited from all the input. The 80s passed me by ... I was in sunny South Africa ... great write up though ... cheers Hilary

  5. Buck Rodgers would be an awesome reboot!

    Well done on all of those panels - love the mix of topics that you covered.

  6. Congrats! So cool:) I'm speaking on a panel at a writer's conference in September. Any tips? :)

  7. I love doing panels also. Sounds like a great time. My daughter loves Black Mirror and rewatches he favorite episodes all the time.