The more local events I go to, the more I realize how large and thriving a writers’ community there is in the Raleigh-Durham area, especially for the speculative fiction genres. For the past couple of years, my primary contact with other writers has been my own writing group, which, don’t get me wrong, is great, but is more geared toward general fiction than sci-fi and fantasy.
But I got a great look at the community on Wednesday, when I went to the launch party for the second issue of Bull Spec. Bull Spec is a local magazine that publishes sci-fi and fantasy short stories, interviews, critiques, and is also a great window into the local writing scene. It seemed like almost everyone who attended was a writer, busy discussing their latest novel or short story. I recognized a few of the people from the writing panel I attended a few weeks ago, including James Maxey and Mark Van Name. I also saw John Kessel, a prolific local writer who happened to be my professor for a Science Fiction class I took at NCSU oh, eight years ago.
But of course the main focus was on the magazine, and there were six panelists who spoke, including Professor Kessel and the editor of Bull Spec, Sam Montgomery-Blinn. (Sam had actually rejected one of my stories for inclusion in Bull Spec that very morning– but he did take the time to send me some detailed feedback, so I guess he’s cool.) The other four panelists were contributors to the issue, including Gwendolyn Clare, Paul Celmer, Natania Barron, and Joseph Giddings. Gwen and Paul had short stories in this issue; Natania and Joe had written reviews, although Natania’s reading was from one of her stories. It was a steampunk involving girls with guns, aliens,and the Wild West– what’s not to like? Actually, all the readers were excellent; I bought the magazine and went home so I could finish the stories which had been left tantalizingly unfinished.
On a personal note, the event taught me something else: my networking skills need work. I’m introverted by nature, so this kind of thing doesn’t come naturally to me to begin with, but it’s worse talking to published authors and editors. I want to come across as a serious aspiring professional rather than just another random fan, but I’m not really sure how to do that. So after I get past the pleasantries, my brain tries to lock up, apparently operating under the theory that it’s better to shut up than risk saying something dumb. If I do overcome that, I’m in danger of rambling, afraid to stop talking for fear my brain will take over again and freeze everything up. (I probably shouldn’t admit it, but my brain operates the same way when talking to women. Stupid brain.)
Nevertheless, despite my personal neuroses, I did meet several people, and definitely hope to continue attending local events like this. As it turns out, I’ll get a chance this weekend, except the size of the event is multiplied by several orders of magnitude: the North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFIC) is in downtown Raleigh this weekend, spanning two hotels and the Raleigh Convention Center for four days. There’ll be lots of authors and editors there, conducting various writing panels and workshops, as well as the usual con-related goings-on: costumes, gaming, movies, the works. Should be fun.
The real question is, do I play hooky from work on Friday afternoon and check it out early?
Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. Here’s hoping my co-workers don’t read this.