My Keycon Roundup

Another Keycon has come and gone. Keycon is my home science fiction and fantasy convention. I’ve been attending the con regularly since I started writing and always found it to be a fun, laid-back experience. Keycon also usually has a very strong literary track of programming.

This year’s author Guests of Honour were Timothy Zahn and Jonathan Maberry. Other out of town writers in attendance included Robert J. Sawyer, Eileen Bell, Marie Bilodeau and Erika Holt. Manitoba’s SF&F writing contingent were out in force as well, with programming including myself, Karen Dudley, Sherry Peters, Ronald Hore, Chris Rutkowski, Craig Russell, Gerald Brandt (Gerald, I’m including you even though you didn’t do any panels–next year you’ll have no choice, Mr. Published author!) and Lindsay Kitson.

This year’s con really kicked off on Thursday for me. Marie launched Destiny’s Fall to a small, but enthusiastic crowd at McNally Robinson, and we went for drinks and appetizers afterwards and made plans to explore Winnipeg Friday Afternoon before the con officially started. Also, Erika gave me an awesome Inkpunks button! (Seriously, you must check out their shared blog, it’s invariably filled with awesome.)

Touring visiting writers about Winnipeg/Manitoba is awesome, and in many cases, because I didn’t grow up in the city myself, I get to experience these places for the first time, or at least, for the first time in years (I feel there is another blog post in that sentiment somewhere…). Wendy, Marie and I met Rob, Sherry and Erika at The Forks, in the Oodena Celebration Circle (one of my favourite spots in Winnipeg), and grabbed a bite to eat before exploring the market (I bought a Spider-Man toque/half balaclava that everyone was very disappointed I didn’t wear for my reading–it is now my Twitter and Facebook avatar) and taking in the River Walk, amazingly for this time of year, it was not under three feet of water. Afterwards, I took Marie to Louis Riel’s grave, and we walked the grounds of the St. Boniface Cathedral and the Manitoba Legislature before grabbing our memberships to the con and fleeing downtown just ahead of rush hour traffic.

We all met up again for a barbecue at Karen’s house (Bison burgers!) and were joined by Eileen and Winnipeg artist (and former Keycon Artist GoH) Kari-Ann Anderson, and as Opening Ceremonies were looming we made our way back to the Radisson.

One of the reasons I love attending cons is that I get to talk face to face with my twitter and Facebook pals. At the Ice Cream Social following Opening Ceremonies (where I learned we’d all missed being there for the “Also Attending” announcement–we were in the Dealer’s Room, dropping coin) I met up Dieselpunk author and Twitter pal Lindsay Kitson, who joined us for some of the evening. I didn’t take in any programming Friday, instead enjoying the many Hospitality Suites (I think the Nautilus-themed decorations of the New Cairo Club suite were my favourite–even if the drinks they served were not).

My reading was at 10:00 am, on Saturday. As such, I was expecting to be reading to Karen Dudley, who was sharing the reading slot with me, and one or two other folks if I was lucky. Instead, we had a turnout of close to twenty people! If that doesn’t sound like a lot, trust me, for a con, it is. Many attendees were new friends (and old–including a couple who paid for a day pass just to attend the reading! Thanks Mike and Hilary!), some people I know only by name or brief conversations at the con, but a handful–completely new to me. My publisher, Turnstone Press also printed chapbooks that held the first chapters of Thunder Road and Food for the Gods, and Keycon was kind enough to hand these out with their program books. It was an amazing experience, and I’m grateful to everyone who came and listened so attentively, and who seemed to really enjoy what they heard.

This year’s panels attended included: Does it always have to be Good vs. Evil (Timothy Zahn–whose Heir to the Empire is the post-Empire Strikes Back highlight of the Star Wars franchise in my opinion–and Craig Russell, author of 2011 Aurora nominated Black Bottle Man). Storytime with Marie, where Marie Bilodeau told the story of finding the perfect ending to the first story she sold (if you’ve never checked out her storytelling you’re cheating yourself of an amazing experience). Feminism in Fantasy was more a discussion of feminism and women’s issues in general than in fantasy specifically, but I thought the panelists did a good job (Marie Bilodeau and Karen Dudley (panel crasher!) moderated by Keycon stalwart LeAmber Kensley). Stereotypes in Speculative Fiction (Jonathan Maberry, Marie Bilodeau) which didn’t have a lot to do with the topic at hand, but was still tons of fun as Jonathan is an amazing storyteller.

Drinks with Jonathan and most of the attending writers followed, where we talked vampires, folklore, politics, American views of Canadians and vice versa, bourbon and why the Zombie Apocalypse will be all Jonathan’s fault. Jonathan knows a lot about science, folklore, and shares my love of Knob Creek bourbon. He even enjoyed his first Canadian beer, a Fort Garry Pale. I also got to meet and chat with up-and-coming Winnipeg writer Tara Lee Baxter. She loves the Norse stuff too, so I can’t wait to read her book someday.

I cut my con a day short this year–for my Mom’s birthday–but I’m already excited about next year. The Stars Are Right is the the theme, 100 years of H.P. Lovecraft, 50 years of Doctor Who, 30 years of Keycon. So far confirmed as a guest is Innsmouth Free Press editor Silvia Moreno-Garcia, who is also co-editor of Fungi, which contains my story “First They Came for the Pigs”. I’m really looking forward to meeting her, and participating in all the eldritch horror that Keycon has to offer.

Write on!

Parnassus Unbound

I’ve been hanging on to this news for a while now, but Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy has a listing of the contributors for Tesseracts 16: Parnassus Unbound here, so now you get to know too:

I’m in!

Editor Mark Leslie bought my story “Back in Black.” Parnassus Unbound is speculative fiction inspired by literature, music, art and culture. I rolled the dice hoping Mark wouldn’t be put off by a story about an obsessed AC/DC collector. It’s a story I had been looking for an excuse to write for a long time, so thank you Mark and Edge, for the opportunity.

I’ve also wanted to land a story in Tesseracts for as long as I’ve been writing. This is definitely a milestone I had set for myself. What makes the news even sweeter is that I get to share a table of contents with so many friends I’ve made over the last several years.

Write on!

Lucky Number

Susie Moloney won the inaugural Michael Van Rooy Award for Genre Fiction at the Manitoba Book Awards on Saturday, April 28th. Here’s our interview from the Summer  2011 issue Prairie books NOW talking about her winning work, The Thirteen.

Lucky Number

Susie Moloney believes all women have a little bit of witchery in them.

“We have such power as mothers and lovers. We can make or break you, us girls,” she chuckles.

But Moloney’s witches in her new novel The Thirteen are by no means a benevolent troupe of new age pagans, and their home, Haven Woods, is no ordinary suburb.

These witches have been making and breaking folk for years. With the surprising suicide of one of their circle, they must fill the void, or pay the consequences. Paula Wittmore, is unknowingly a witch’s child, and the circle’s best chance to return their number to thirteen. And 12-year-old Rowan, Paula’s innocent daughter, would make a fine gift to the witches’ dark god.

The Thirteen began its life as a television project, featuring “an odd little street in a suburb, on which lived a number of odd and supernatural people,” explains Moloney. This idea spawned short stories and a novella featuring the relationships of these strange neighbours. Neighbours to Moloney are like family.

“You can’t really pick ‘em,” she says.

These stories became the foundation of a novel, her first since 2003’s The Dwelling. By turns macabre, funny and gruesome, The Thirteen is a lightning paced narrative that explores ideas of women, power, family and sisterhood.

Moloney, who grew up in the suburbs, once thought “every house, every family was the same.” And while she may have run away screaming when she was of age, like with her character Paula Wittmore, time and circumstance drew her back. As an adult she realized that “the old saw about how all happy families are the same, but unhappy families are unhappy in their own way, was very true.”

Witches and human sacrifice are not the only horror of The Thirteen. Moloney also speaks of the “close quarters” and “what you can hear when the wind is right;” of the daily grind to pay a mortgage or raise a family. It can be a life of quiet desperation. She imagines late at night “you can hear the snap of something turning bad;” and “knowing it happens and you can’t see it until it’s too late” is what’s truly unsettling.

This aura of menace lingers throughout The Thirteen, given form by the Chapman House, where the witches initiate new members and make their sacrifices. Every small town and community has a similar place, where a crime has transcended its origins to enter the local lore. It is a house Moloney would want to go inside to “imagine those last, terrible moments” but she also acknowledges that such an act would stick with her forever and keep her up at night.

Moloney doesn’t discount more tales featuring her Haven Woods witches—either short pieces about individual coven members or a tale that continues Rowan’s story. But the author warns Rowan’s story “would be particularly twisted.”

Any one of us could also inspire such a twisted tale.

“We are all the root of our own evil. We have our demons that stay with us, demons from our childhood, things we saw, heard, did. Horror is within; how it comes out depends on when we’re vulnerable.”