Last weekend (August 26-28, 2011) I attended the science fiction conference here in Albuquerque, Bubonicon 43. This is my third year to attend and they’re always entertaining and informative. A few comments and observations follow.
The first panel discussion I attended was “I Know It When I See It: What Exactly Is SF” A lot of opinions from the members of the panel, and even from the audience, but the basic lesson that I took from the discussion was that everybody has his/her own opinion of exactly what SF really is. No good definition emerged from the panel. You just have to make up your own mind.
Two panel discussions took place on Self-Publishing. (The con has a panel discussion on this every year. Well, at least there’s been one every year I’ve attended.) There’s several self-publishing options out there, from digital to vanity presses. Names thrown out included Lulu, Smashwords, Lightning Source, Kobo, and CreateSpace. Follow their guidelines to the letter. Different members of the panels (all who had self-published at least one book) had their own personal preferences as to how to go about self-publishing, and some did not like one of the most popular, Smashwords, even though it can be accessed directly from your Microsoft Word manuscript. There are a lot of scams out there, too, and several suggested reading the Scam Alert on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America website, SFFWA. Some discussion was on pricing, especially on digital books through, for example, Amazon, such as having a sale price of $0.99 for a short time to interest people, or by providing the first chapter or so for free. Oddly, Amazon’s pricing structure yields a return to the author of 70% if your book is between $2.99 and $7.99, but only 35% if it’s higher or lower. Obviously they’re pushing something, but I’m not sure what.
I went to a reading by George R.R. Martin and enjoyed it immensely. I loved his writing, his ability to turn a phrase and bring you into his fantasy world. I don’t normally read fantasy, but perhaps I will pick up one of his books and get immersed in his world. (Don’t worry, I’ll pay for the book.)
I think my favorite session was a solo talk by Connie Willis (who just won the Nebula and Hugo Awards for her latest book Blackout/All Clear). Her topic was “Irony In Action,” a literary device she uses regularly. But irony is such a hard concept to define. I tried it not long ago. See my blog on the subject, April 24, 2011. Irony involves discrepancies, tension, paradoxes, difficulty in pinning things down. Irony is indirect and nuanced. Irony requires someone to figure things out for him/herself. Irony can engender strong emotions or a dull ache, pity or amusement. Irony is present in our daily lives, and doesn’t merely exist in fictional life. The fact that the Titanic was considered “unsinkable” is a fabulous irony lost on almost no one. Connie likes Shakespeare as the most ironic writer to ever live. Okay.
In short, a great weekend at the end of the summer. I always enjoy the con, and will certainly be back next year.