Post-Con Pile of Thoughts: Readercon 2013 edition

I’m home and somewhat rested, so in between all the things that must get done today (and this week), I’ve got to start my Readercon posts. I wasn’t so good about them last year as I was the year before, and this time the plan is to look–in depth–at what this convention was for me. First up, some notes:

  • The logistics were not good. Travel meant driving to Boston Thursday, and home Sunday, and of the three people in the car I am the only driver, so it was me behind the wheel for 7 or 8 hours each way. Add to that never getting enough sleep at conventions, starting the trip tired since my son was sick all week, and other annoyances, meant it was a unpleasant experience getting to the con and a miserable one getting home. Changes for next year include potentially: staying until Monday so that Sunday can be relaxing, visiting with friends, and getting enough sleep; taking the train (which means driving an hour to the station, and getting from the Boston station to the hotel) or flying (never a non-stop because our airport is small, and still commuting from airport to hotel), or… I’ve got time to weigh the options.
  • The hotel had problems. No bar, no lobby. They lost my books for a day even though I had delivery confirmation and asked the desk staff in person four times. This was after I’d called ahead to confirm they could handle deliveries to guests, had a box of my new collection shipped to the hotel, and paying for faster, Thursday, shipping. The staff finally only found them after I planted myself in the registration area and waited for 45 minutes–while the person sent to look went, came back empty-handed, saw me, sighed, went off again, and then found the box. I called down Sunday for a luggage cart, to be told there was a wait and I should be downstairs 30 minutes later–only to then be told there was no list, no plan, and people should just hang out til one comes by. The sandwich cart they provided a few times a day sold out quickly and they left again instead of getting more food; the promised “pub food menu” didn’t include the chicken strips/chicken wings/other bar staples we usually ordered; internet you paid for in your room didn’t work in the meeting rooms (where panels were held–technically the 3rd floor, and the room internet worked on the 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 6th floors). Oh, and the smaller of the two Sunday brunch buffet options was still $25 a person.
  • I saw nearly everyone I meant to see, and a hundred other people besides. Since most of that was, “Oh, hey, you’re Carrie Cuinn, I wanted to meet you!” as I was walking to one panel or another, I missed most of the panels I wanted to attend. But the conversations were often important, the people were almost entirely friendly, and I got a lot more work done than I was expecting.
  • SFWA was on a lot of people’s minds. I had five different women recognize my name from the online forum and make a point to tell me how much they appreciated my posts there. They all said they felt uncomfortable posting themselves. They worried they’d be shouted down, dismissed, insulted–and they were glad I was saying the things they’d have said themselves. I was floored, and grateful. I didn’t set out to be anyone’s hero, I just wanted to make the Bulletin a more professional publication, and ended up saying the things I thought were obvious, logical, and true, during the discussion of that and other topics.
  • Many, many, other SFWA members and officers took the time to say hello, too, reminding me that the organization is generally a welcoming place, with a smaller percentage of grumpy iconoclasts and a much larger percentage of forward-thinking, open-minded, community-oriented writers and editors. Between hanging out all weekend with my friends Eugene Myers (now our East Coast rep), Fran Wilde, and Wes Chu, an hour-long conversation with Treasurer Bud Sparhawk at the official party Friday night, catching Ken Liu and Mike Allen between panels Saturday and Sunday, chatting with Ellen Datlow, Neil Clarke, and Kate Baker (who had a TARDIS skirt!) at a party Saturday night, and meeting up with Gordon van Gelder, Scott Edelman, Michael Burstein, and Athena Andreadis on Sunday–as well as others who stopped for brief greetings as we passed in the hall… I felt I got time with a good spectrum of the members. It’s nice to be able to point to an event like Readercon as proof that our members are a spectrum–there is no one type of member, or SFWA style of writing, just a bunch of professional writers who all think SF/F is a genre worth promoting.
  • A quick dash into the dealer’s room turned into an hour of chatting with Ian Rogers and Gemma Files, a reminder that I need to read more of their work. I bought Ian’s SuperNOIRtural, and he bought my collection.
  • I took part in Saturday night’s Speculative Fiction Poetry Reading. It was my first time reading poetry aloud, and the piece (a pantoum about a robot, an interstellar treasure hunter, and who we choose to be with at the end) was well-received. Since I only finished it a few minutes before the reading, I’m revising it today. I like it better already, and by request will be sending it to Mythic Delirium. Continue reading

Sexual Harassment at Cons, Part 2: How to Stop It (and other thoughts)

On Sunday, I wrote about sexual harassment at genre conventions. By the time I sat down to write this, Tuesday morning, that post has had over 5,400 views. I expected a few hundred. Instead, everywhere I go online, there it is. I’ve spent the almost 48 hours since dealing with the reactions to it–good, supportive, confused, and trolling. It’s been pointed out to me that it’s the most personal thing I’ve ever said in public, and that’s true.

It’s probably for the best that I didn’t expect such a big response. I’m not sure if I would have lost my nerve. I often point out that I’m an introvert, because online you can’t really tell, but when I say important things, personal things, I always have to hold my breath before I hit the button that makes it visible everyone else. I rarely do it. The more my writing and other work gets known, the more I have to take a deep breath and push forward, though my natural tendency is to hide under the covers until everyone goes away. I love the majority of the interaction I have with people, it just takes energy that is only replenished by quiet time, without the majority of the interaction I have with people.

But this needed to be said. And it’s telling, to me, that I honestly didn’t think me sharing those moments would be a big deal. There are a couple of examples from that list which are unusual, horrible, and clearly harassment, obvious to pretty much everyone (including me, at the time) but most of it is the little things, the everywhere-you-go, background radiation of attending a genre convention. It’s there, and we all see it, we all experience it, and we’re so used to it that it’s the accepted price we pay for being women in genre. I stopped going to cons for several years, put my nascent career as a writer on hold, just to get away from it all. I came back because I love writing. I love writing science fiction specifically… and going to cons is part of the work we do as writers to get our stories out there. I wonder how many women leave genre, never to return, because of incidents like these. How many fans do we lose? How many go to a convention and never come back?

We can’t let that stand. Fixing it, though, seems so hard. As I said in my quick update this morning, “The power needed to break free from the gravity of this mess is astounding.” It is exhausting. But there are ways to stop it, and that’s what we need to do next. Continue reading

Well. That Happened.

A few days ago I posted (here) a list of things I’ve experienced over 20 years of attending conventions–a few “big ticket” items that were obviously horrible, and several “smaller” things that are still definitely harassment, but only sometimes get considered that (and, as always, context is key, but we’re talking about things done by strangers who usually hadn’t even introduced themselves first). I expected it to be read by my usual readers, and thought it was a good way to lend support to the other women doing the same thing right now; instead it’s been spread around the Internet and I’ve spent the almost 48 hours since dealing with the reactions–good, supportive, confused, and trolling–to it. I’m introverted by nature, and the whole thing has been a bit overwhelming.

Almost everyone said they’d only seen one or two of the big bad things, or maybe not seen any, but at the same time, the smaller things? Everyone’s seen or experienced those. I’ve heard things ranging from “oh I thought it was just me” to “well, I’ve seen guys pick up women they didn’t know and carry them out of the room, and no, no one even tried to help those women even if they were protesting, but is that really harassment?” to “you should be grateful a guy wants your attention”. I realized that not saying anything sooner was an example of the problem: we’re so used to it that we notice, enough to roll our eyes and mumble, “Jerk,” when it’s over, but don’t do anything about it.

We’re worn down. Tired. I’m exhausted just from talking about it, and having my experiences talked about, for less than 2 days. Imagine how hard it is to speak up when you’re a regular con attendee and you’ve been convinced that this is an inescapable something that happens. The power needed to break free from the gravity of this mess is astounding.

I’m writing up a post now about how to deal with harassment at cons. UPDATE: Part 2, Stopping Harassment, is here.

Please stop touching my breasts, and other things I say at cons

UPDATE: Part 2, Stopping Harassment, is here.

I wasn’t going to post this today, because I have a lot of other things going on, and another post I need to make this afternoon, but I’ve put it off long enough. Not only do we–as writers, and women–have to deal with sexism, and the agressive insistence from some men that we all just settle down, but we also have to deal with being harassed at conventions where we’re supposed to be fans, writers, editors, and publishers. (Those links go to other writers saying the same thing.) Worse, because so often it goes unreported, many people’s response has been, “I didn’t know that happened.” How can you stop something we don’t talk about? So, okay, let’s talk about the details.

Hi, I’m Carrie, and I’ve been sexually harassed at genre conventions. (Putting this behind a link because triggering. You’ve been warned.)

Continue reading

Writer Wednesday: Wesley Chu

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1. Your first two novels are scheduled to be published by Angry Robot books this year. You originally submitted during AR’s “Open Door Month” in 2011. What was that process like?

The Great Angry Robot Open Submission was probably one of the most fantastic and angst filled experiences of my life, which is unusual for me because I usually live a pretty happy, zero-angst life. I’m like a cross between that singing meerkat in Lion King and a Labrador Retriever.

The robot overlords, Marc Gascoigne and Lee Harris, opened their doors to subs for one month in March of 2011. The subs went through four levels of review, from query and chapters, full manuscript, editorial and finally to acquisitions. At the end, out of a nearly a thousand submissions, twenty-five manuscripts made it to editorials and five received deals. The entire process from submission to signing the deal took fourteen months.

An added bonus about the open sub process was that fourteen of us in the editorial stage bonded on the Absolute Write forums and created our own social Group: Anxious Appliances. Since our inception, we’ve been the most active writing group on AW. Not gonna lie. Those guys kept me sane. I got pretty batshit crazy as the process drew to a close.

2. Once your book was in to the final stages of consideration, you got an agent. How did you find yours? Looking back on it, should you have started looking sooner, or waited longer?

I did query an earlier draft of The Lives of Tao a few years ago. I received some great feedback, and a request for a rewrite, but things fell through. It was still a great learning experience and helped me develop as a writer. It’s fair to say the book wouldn’t be what it is without the suggestions and changes I made from their critiques. I took a year off from the book and then rewrote it with a fresh pair of eyes.

After the manuscript was promoted to editorial during the open sub, I leveraged the potential deal and began querying again, and received offers from two agencies for representation. I was very fortunate to sign with Russell Galen of Scovil Galen Ghosh, who was one of my top targeted agencies. What better person to lead your career than the guy who represented the authors that wrote the books and movies you grew up with (Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, Screamers)?

3. You have a wife, an executive-level job for a major corporation, family, friends, and a dog. How do you find time to write?

There’s a lot of time in the day. You just have to figure out how to prioritize what is important and what isn’t. I admit to being an OCD kind of guy. I am a single purpose driven machine, like a Phillips screw driver.

During my hardcore martial art days, I used to drive an hour to my friend Tony Marquez’s school (he was the original Kung Lao in Mortal Kombat), Extreme Kung Fu, and train at his facility. Then afterward, I drove thirty minutes to another school where I learned from a Bagua Zhang/Tai Chi master. It was four hours of training a day, six days a week. This went on for many several years.

One day, I thought to myself. “Man, I’ve always wanted to write a book. I don’t know how, but I’m going to figure it out.”

So I gave it a shot. Without knowing what I was doing, I began to write when I had the free time. Eventually, writing took over all my other hobbies. I stopped clubbing. I retired from martial arts. I quit raiding in Wow (that freed up a crap ton of time), and focused on what was really important to me. Continue reading