Convention Programming

In the most general terms, my approach to writing is to write the book I want to read, and hope other people want to read it too.

I take the same approach when I’m in charge of programming at a convention—that is, I try to put together panels built around writing topics that I’m struggling with and that I want to hear a lot of smart people talk about.  That is, for the most part.  For five years I had the honor and pleasure of teaching at a week-long writing workshop called Viable Paradise (recommended, by the way), and so based on that experience, I also like to throw in some of the more common problems I saw coming up among students.

I am, just now, about to start putting together the schedule for Narrativity, to be held (absent a new COVID upsurge) over Labor Day Weekend.  Looking through the proposed list of panels—the ones I came up with, and the ones suggested by others—it’s kind of a drag we’re not going to be able to do them all.  As a rule, we pick which ones make the cut by how many people are eager to be on them, although I reserve the right to say, “No, we’re doing that one cuz I wanna.”

Narrativity is small, with single-track programming that includes breaks for lunch and supper, so the idea is that most people will be at every panel, which leads to what is, for me, the fun part: trying to figure out the flow, that is, how each panel feeds into the next one, as well as which ones are likely to generate the best discussion over the supper break or between days.

Anyway, consider the post an advertisement for the convention, if you’d like, although mostly I’m just procrastinating before diving into the brutal chore of figuring out how many panels we aren’t going to have time for.

Narrativity Early Bird Deadline

A reminder that, if you’re interested in attending Narrativity (July 12-14, Minneapolis), the early bird registration rate ends tonight.

It is my hope that this will be a place to challenge each other on how we work, on all aspects of the craft of fiction.  I want that moment of, “Woah, I never thought of it that way,” and, “I have to try doing that in my next book,” and, “I wonder what would happen if I tried this?”  I have strong ideas about what makes writing good; I want those ideas challenged.  If you have strong opinions, express them.  If you don’t, come and discover them.  It is also my hope that the discussion will help us become better readers.

Go to the web site and look over the proposed panel list, see what you think.  Want to be part of the conversation?  We’d love to have you.



WHEREAS I have an inexhaustible appetite for sitting around with people and talking about the craft of writing, and
WHEREAS It turns out I’m not the only one with this peculiarity, and
WHEREAS That’s a good thing, because it’s hard to have these conversations by myself, and
WHEREAS I am obviously insane,

THEREFORE Be it resolved that, god help me, we’re launching a convention. Small, craft-oriented, single-track programming, here in Minneapolis, July 12-14 of this year. I’m doing the programming, Jane Hawkner is onboard for the web site, Liz Vogel is running the thing. Take a look, see if you want to make it there, or even help us make the thing a go. And, if you’re so inclined, help spread the word about this gobbler.  Also, let me know if there are any obvious errors on the web site, or anything missing that ought to be there.  Thanks!

Here’s a link to the location and other relevant information.

Followup On Fourth Street

Had a long talk with a good and smart friend, who conveyed to me some of the confusion over my opening at Fourth Street. She says that it could be interpreted as regretting the “good old days” when women could be freely preyed on by pros at conventions.

It is difficult to explain why I chose to use “safe spaces” and “threatened” in that talk without a long explanation which is inappropriate to this post, though I’ll happily get into it in comments if anyone wishes. I had thought that when I referred to physically safe and “no unwanted harassment” (a stupid phrase, sorry; I mean, as opposed to the more usual wanted harassment? Sheesh, Steve) that would be sufficient to make clear that I proposed no such thing.

Evidently I was wrong. And, while one can always blame the reader for failing to understand, when enough readers get it wrong, one begins to side-eye the writer.

So let me state clearly and for the record I do not support that kind of atmosphere, I do not want that kind of convention, and I deeply apologize for any pain or fear that was caused by anyone thinking I did mean that.  My fault, not yours.

ETA: It’s worth pointing out that it isn’t just a matter of reading, but that this was a speech, not presented as text, and a speech that, moreover, I deliberately opened with a shocker.  This makes more reasonable the number of people who went past the “physically safe” and “no harassment” parts.  Again, my bad.

My opening remarks at Fourth Street Fantasy Convention

This last weekend Fourth Street Fantasy Convention took place.  At the beginning I made an opening statement that has generated discussion, dispute, and even some hard feelings. I have exactly no interest in perpetuating one of those idiotic feuds or convention brawls that plague the science fiction community like aphids on tomato plants, but as the discussion is continuing in various places, it seems appropriate to permit those discussing it to have the text at hand.   Though these conversations often, alas, degenerate into personal attacks, I am hopeful that the issues themselves will receive some discussion.  For those of us who love fantasy fiction, and want there to be better fantasy fiction, it should be obvious that, at least, the issues are important.

(The closing statement, which addresses the same issues from another, perhaps opposite perspective, was delivered by Scott Lynch and can be found here.)

There are two  points I want to make about my remarks:
1) I thoughtlessly permitted my statement to be interpreted as coming from the Fourth Street Board, rather than being my own opinion.  That was a mistake and I regret it, and I apologize to the board and membership for that confusion.
2) I stand by what I said.


Fourth Street Fantasy Convention is not a safe space. On the contrary, it is a very unsafe space. Of course, it ought to be safe in the sense of everyone feeling physically safe, and in the sense that there should be no unwanted harassment, and it should be free of personal attacks of any kind. But other than that, it is not safe.

Your beliefs about writing, and my beliefs about writing, and what is good, and how to make it good, should be sufficiently challenged to make us uncomfortable.

The interaction of art and politics is getting more and more in our faces. Whether this is good or bad is beside the point (although I think it’s good); it reflects changing social conditions, intensification of conflicts. Anyone who thinks art is independent of social conditions is as hopelessly muddled as someone who thinks there is a direct, simplistic 1:1 correspondence between them.

The result of this is that political understanding, unexamined assumptions, agendas, are very much present in the art we create and thus in the discussions of that art.

If no one feels unsafe, or threatened during these discussions, we’re doing them wrong. The same is true in discussing technique, because technique, content, form, attitude toward the creation and role of art, and understanding of society, are all interconnected, and in challenging one, we are liable to find ourselves challenging another. Am I interested in turning a discussion of writing craft into a political dispute? No. I’m here to talk about craft. But I recognize that there is no clean separation, and that the one can lead to the other, and I’ll not shy away from it when it does.

If our primary goal in such discussions is to make sure everyone feels safe, then we must above all avoid the very sorts of passionate dispute this convention was created for. At that point, the convention has lost so much value that I, for one, would rather spend the weekend writing. I come to Fourth Street to have my assumptions and opinions about fantasy writing challenged and threatened; I come here to feel unsafe. If you aren’t here in order to have your assumptions and opinions challenged, then one of us is at the wrong convention.

If no one feels unsafe, we’re wasting our time here.