Since one of my writing goals was to read more, I thought it would help to keep track of what I knocked off Mount Tsundoku. Here’s as good a place as any to post what I’ve read and what I thought of each book immediately after finishing.
Back in 2020 I decided to be a little more systematic about my reading plans. I started putting an actual to-read pile to stack on the nightstand and limited the stack to five books, which seemed doable for the month. Occasionally comics and graphic novels or roleplaying games jump the queue, but I typically tried to get through the pile in the order I stacked them. I also used this strategy to try and diversify my reading. The goal was for each to-read pile to contain at least one book by a BIPOC or LGBTQ2S+ author, one book by a woman, one non-fiction book, and one book by an author I know personally.
Creating these piles is getting a little trickier, as I’m having a bit of trouble filling all of my criteria from stack to stack, and I’m never precisely sure when a library book will arrive. Despite all of the library reading I’ve been doing I still plan on trying to read through the books on my own shelves as much as possible and reading beyond my typical fantasy proclivities.
Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Fantastic neo-noir by one of my favourite authors. I do prefer her speculative fiction to her crime fiction, I think, but that’s not the novel’s fault, I just prefer spec fic to crime fic in general. I loved the comic book subplot, and Maite as narrator in particular. Highly recommended!
Savage Worlds Super Powers Companion by Pinnacle Entertainment: A fun add-on to the Savage Worlds game. I think it’s technically from a different edition of the game than the rules set I own, but it seems pretty compatible. I think Savage Worlds would do an awesome job of emulating a supers game.
The Vast in the Dark by Charlie Ferguson-Avery: I loved this little ‘zine. A cool setting, and rules for dealing with exploration and megadungeons without a ton of prep. Highly recommended! I’ll be using this in all of my D&D style games going forward.
Mörk Borg by Pelle Nilsson, Johan Nohr, and dead people: A really cool, but super-nihilistic game that I think I’d prefer playing to running. The book’s art is all gorgeous, but for me the wild layout and design, while totally fitting with the black metal sensibility of the game, took away from the experience of digesting the actual rules and setting.
Masquerades by Kate Novak and Jeff Grubb: A nostalgia reread of an old Forgotten Realms novel. I really dig Alias and Dragonbait. Not my favourite in the series, but I still enjoyed it. Bonus points for being set in one of my favourite cities in the Realms, Westgate!
Mörk Borg: Feretory by Mörk Borg Cult: A ‘zine with a bunch of additional rules and assets, and adventure for Mörk Borg. A cool supplement. Design and layout not quite as wild as the core book.
Agonby John Harper and Sean Nittner: A very cool Greek mythology inspired game, with a lot of interesting rules, but I don’t think it’s my jam as a player or GM.
Paper & Blood by Kevin Hearne: Book two of Hearne’s new series set in the world of his Iron Druid novels. I laughed out loud so often during the reading of this one (thanks Buck Foi)! I enjoy Al as a narrator which is why I was a little disappointed by the appearance of characters from the previous series (but not disappointed enough to ruin my enjoyment of the book!) I’m looking forward to more in this series.
Death in Castle Dark by Veronica Bond: A fun little cozy mystery set in a castle featuring a dinner theatre style murder mystery. I grabbed it from the library on a whim and I might read more if the plot of the second book grabs me.
Since one of my writing goals for 2020 was also to read more, I thought it would help to keep track of what I knocked off Mount Tsundoku. Here’s as good a place as any to post what I’ve read in 2020 to keep me honest, and what I thought of each book immediately after finishing.
I’ve decided to be a little more systematic about my reading plans. Now I’m pulling out an actual to-read pile to stack on the nightstand. I’m limiting the stack to five books, which seems doable for the month, even though odds are I won’t get through them all each month. Occasionally comics and graphic novels or roleplaying games might jump the queue, but I’m trying to get through the pile in order I stack them. The first time I did this, I basically grabbed the first five shinys to catch my eye, but for my next stack, I plan on adding some criteria to diversify my reading a bit. My intention is for each to-read pile to contain at least one book by a BIPOC or LGBTQ2S+ author, one book by a woman, one non-fiction book, and one book by an author I know personally (I’ve accumulated a lot of these over the years, and I’ve been a bit slower to get to many of them than I’d like. Sorry, friends!).
Here’s the to-read stack for October!
You may notice there’s six books instead of my usual five, but I’ve reread A Night in the Lonesome October a chapter a night in October for the last several years, and 2020 isn’t taking that away from me. You may also notice a CZP title in there, and while I’ve severed ties with them, I purchased this before that went down and I don’t want to punish the author. David Demchuck got the rights back to the book, and I believe there’s a new edition pending, so check that one out if it intrigues, and support another author who was taken advantage of by their publisher.
Atomic Robo Volume 2: Atomic Robo and the Dogs of War by Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Ronda Pattison, and Jeff Powell: Continuing my Atomic Robo reread. Most of this one takes place during World War II, but there are “B” stories included that happen throughout Robo’s career.
Atomic Robo Volume 3: Atomic Robo and the Shadow from Beyond Time by Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Ronda Pattison, and Jeff Powell: Next on my Atomic Robo reread. Now there’s some cosmic horror! H.P. Lovecraft makes an appearance along with Charles Fort, but my favourite cameo belongs to Carl Sagan. Reading the “B” stories reminds me of another similarity I’ve noticed between Hellboy and Atomic Robo for me, and that is, I also vastly prefer Robo drawn by Scott Wegener. Something in the expressions just never feels right otherwise.
Atomic Robo Volume 4: Atomic Robo and Other Strangeness by Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Ronda Pattison, Jeff Powell, and Lee Black: An anthology of one shots, this volume features the gloriously wacky Doctor Dinosaur! I fucking love Doctor Dinosaur.
Atomic Robo Volume 5: Atomic Robo and the Deadly Art of Science by Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Ronda Pattison, Jeff Powell, and Lee Black: A tale of Robo’s early days with lots of pulp hero inspiration.
Atomic Robo Volume 6: The Ghost of Station X by Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Ronda Pattison, Jeff Powell, and Lee Black: A missing building, an assassination attempt, and Alan Turing make Atomic Robo public enemy number one.
Atomic Robo Volume 7: The Flying She-Devils of the Pacific by Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Ronda Pattison, Jeff Powell, and Lee Black: Another tale of Robo’s past, set in the post-WWII Pacific Theatre area. Lots of fun! I have a bunch more Atomic Robo I could read, but this was the point were I started buying it in single issues, and I don’t feel like hauling out the comic long boxes.
Leave it to Chance Book One: Shaman’s Rain by James Robinson and Paul Smith, with Jeremy Cox: I’ve loved a lot of Robinson’s work over the years and Paul Smith illustrated my all-time favourite issue of Uncanny X-Men back in the day, as well as collaborating with Robinson on The Golden Age (one of my old favourite superhero graphic novels, which will probably end up on the reread pile soonish). Lots of fun concepts that didn’t necessarily age well. I enjoyed revisiting this volume, but when I tried to continue on with Book Two, I quickly lost interest. I think I’ll be donating this part of my collection.
Saga Volume One by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples: Another graphic novel reread. I still love this series so much. Staples’ designs are as striking as ever and I love the relatively simple idea of star-crossed lovers just trying to get by in a galaxy at war. Also, rereading it, Hazel’s narration and the foreshadowing embedded within it hit so much harder. I both want, and do not want a Lying Cat of my own.
Saga Volume Two by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples: Briefly continuing my reread, as after this point I started buying the series in monthly issues, and as with Atomic Robo, didn’t feel like hauling out the long boxes.
Trick or Treat Murder by Leslie Meier: From a Halloween Murder omnibus. Cozy mysteries aren’t my typical reads, but I found I needed some lighter fare than expected this month. It was fun. Arson in small historic town leads to murder. Interesting characters, but as I was mostly in it for fun Halloween content, I likely won’t dive too deeply into the rest of the series, which is substantial.
Invincible Ultimate Collection Volume One by Robert Kirkman, Cory Walker, Ryan Ottley, and Bill Crabtree: When this book came out it quickly became one of my favourite superhero books. I also enjoy it far more than the other property Kirkman is probably better known for, The Walking Dead. Teen hero Invincible is the son of the world’s greatest hero, Omni-Man, and once his powers kick in he starts getting his feet wet in the family business. Ryan Ottley takes over art duties from co-creator and original artist Walker halfway through, and ends up being a perfect fit for the series. This volume’s shocking conclusion upends what the reader thinks the story’s dynamic will be, and reverberates throughout the rest of the series (at least as much as I’ve read). I haven’t read through it in ages, the appearance of the trailer for the upcoming animated series probably thrust it back into my mind. I still really dig this series, with one caveat, and that is the characters occasionally use “gay” or the r-word as a pejorative, in the guise of friends joking around with each other (particularly when Invincible carries a male friend while flying, which becomes a running gag). I remember both words being used that way more commonly when the series was being published, and it definitely dates the dialogue and struck me every time I encountered it going forward in my reread.
Invincible Ultimate Collection Volume Two by Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, and Bill Crabtree: Another reread. Invincible deals with the fallout of the revelation of his father’s true nature, as well as graduating from high school, and ends up creating a new arch enemy.
Invincible Ultimate Collection Volume Three by Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, and Bill Crabtree: Invincible discovers some unexpected family and a lot of long running subplots come to a head in this volume. Kirkman’s pacing on this series is just immaculate, and Ottley’s art is as good as ever.
Invincible Ultimate Collection Volume Four by Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, and Bill Crabtree: This was the end of my Invincible collection, and so the end of my reread. Despite my minor issues with some dated dialogue, I really enjoy the world of Invincible, and I think I’ll try and track down the next volume or two, which I don’t think I ever read, and keep going with the series. The series accomplishes a lot of what I loved in Chris Claremont’s epic Uncanny X-Men run from my formative comic-reading years.
Nextwave Agents of H.A.T.E Volume One: This is What They Want by Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen: This used to be one of my favourite series, and Warren Ellis used to be one of my favourite writers (in another life I won an award from his publisher for promoting his debut novel) but after revelations of Ellis’s toxic behavior, I didn’t want to keep his work on my shelves. I decided to give Nextwave a quick reread before it hit the donate pile, and while I’m kind of sorry to see it go (as it contains another of my favourite single comic panels, and I love the character of Elsa Bloodstone, and Ellis’s particular take on Machine Man), but also happy to have it gone. I decided not to bother with reading the second volume in the series.
Wicked Witch Murder by Leslie Meier: The second book in the Halloween Murder omnibus. Enjoyed the first enough to keep going, but I know I’m in it for the Halloween-y content, so I’m unlikely to dive much deeper into the Lucy Stone series, unless Meier has more Halloween books in her catalogue (pretty sure she does).
Clan Destine Classic by Alan Davis and Mark Farmer: Another graphic novel reread. This one has the first eight issues of the comic that Davis and Farmer worked on (the less said about what came after, the better) and a miniseries that teams up the Clan Destine with the X-Men. Davis is still hands down my favourite superhero artist. The X-Men team up didn’t hold up as well as I’d hoped though, largely because I’ve moved on from the X-Men in recent years.
The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter: So lush. I wish the print were larger, but the small print made me take more care with Carter’s perfect sentences. Fairy tale reimaginings include Bluebeard, Beauty and the Beast. I didn’t care for Puss in Boots, the only story I didn’t love in the collection, actually. One of my issues with single author collections is that’s not how I tend to consume short stories. I read far more anthologies than collections, and stories that I find online. My other issue with this book, the print…so tiny on my aging eyes, which to be fair, is hardly Carter’s fault, but it made it difficult to digest her prose at times.
Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell by Paul Dini and Joe Quinones: Another reread. Zatanna is probably my favourite character in the DC universe, and Paul Dini writes her so well. Dini was also one of my favourite writers on Batman: The Animated Series. Still fun. Dini’s voice is great for the two main characters. Quinones’ art nails facial expressions and reactions better than action moments in my opinion, but was pretty well suited to the story.
The Bone Mother by David Demchuk: Most of my experience with this collection of eastern European-inspired stories has been hearing the author read from the book at various events and conventions. This has the interesting effect of me hearing Demchuk’s voice in my head while I read the book. The Bone Mother was full of wonderful bite-sized tales of terror. Highly recommend it.
Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: A Mexican narco vampire novel. Moreno-Garcia’s a fantastic writer, and every time I’ve read one of her books, it’s ended up on my favourite books of the year list. Somehow, I was expecting something different from this one, not sure what, exactly, but I loved it in spite of my initial expectations not being met. Great characters, and a really interesting take on vampire lore. Especially loved Moreno-Garcia’s portrayal of Mexico City.
A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny: One of my favourite books, and one I’ve reread almost every year since I finally tracked down a copy of my own (it was out of print for far too long). The novel unfolds over the month of October and each chapter covers a single day as Jack the Ripper’s faithful dog Snuff tries to help prevent the rise of the Elder Gods in a game of Openers and Closers. Sometimes I’ve read the novel all in a burst, and that was how I first consumed it (it’s a pretty quick read), but for the last several runs at the book, I’ve read it a chapter a night over the month of October, and I find that’s how I best enjoy it. Already looking forward to next October’s reread!
Zatanna the Mistress of Magic Volume One by Paul Dini, Stephane Roux, Chad Hardin, and Jesus Saiz: A reread. I have all the individual issues of this series, but I’m not sure if they were ever all collected. As I stated above, I love Dini’s take on Zatanna. Jesus Saiz delivered my favourite art of the collection, pity they were only on board for a single issue. Stephane Roux’s pencils capture the spirit of the character excellently as well.
So my reading went a little of stack this month. There was a lot going on down Thunder Road Way, and so I sought some comfort in rereading old graphic novels. When I moved I decided to limit my graphic novels to one shelf (in a past age, at their height, I had almost two full bookcases in my collection but I realized I only ever reread the same stack of them). It was good in a way, as a few things I’ve been hanging onto for years without actually enjoying them are now free to be enjoyed by other readers, and no longer cluttering my shelves, while other series have reminded me that I’ve been meaning to get caught up for ages, but didn’t because of space limitations.
Nominations opened for the Prix Aurora Awards (and a whole mess of other awards too–though it’s the Auroras that are most likely to impact ’round Thunder Road Way) while I had my head down trying to finish my latest novel.
I also want to mention the people that helped me create in 2015:
In addition to being my co-conspirator for the Winnipeg arm of ChiSeries, Samantha Beiko steps up every single time I give her a weird ass request, such as: I want to make story cards, or can you draw me a giant, evil cat? Even I want to put a new book together less than a month before Comic Con.
Sam did this great picture of Ted Callan for my story, “New Year’s Eve”
She also illustrated this super fun (and super creepy) Jólakötturinn, the Christmas Cat.
GMB Chomichuk and James Gillespie also wrote a short story for Shared World. “Kaa-Rokaan.”
In addtion to being a great writer, Gregory is an amazing artist. His Infinitum was a wonderful, weird read. Time travel noir!
He also illustrated Underworld, written by another Winnipeg comics mainstay, Lovern Kindzierski. Greek mythology in modern Winnipeg.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia wrote my favourite book of 2015, her novel debut, Signal to Noise. Silvia’s knows her Lovecraft, and everyone involved in Shared World was chuffed when she agreed to write us a kickass introduction.
Michael Matheson was my editor for Too Far Gone. Michael was new to editing the series, anddid a bang up job. I’d love to have a chance to work with Michael again. In the meantime, checkout this anthology published by ChiZine Publications:
David Jón Fuller was my copy editor for Too Far Gone (and the entire Thunder Road Trilogy) and kept all my umlauts in the right spots. David is also a damn fine short story writer.
His story “Caged” appeared in Guns and Romances, and “In Open Air” appeared in Accessing the Future.
Scott Henderson did this gorgeous piece inspired by Too Far Gone.
Scott also illustrated Richard Van Camp’s graphic novel, A Blanket of Butterflies.
Claude Lalumière and David Nickle were my editors for The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir and bought my story, “The Last Good Look.”
This is a killer anthology. I enjoyed reading every story in it.
Sandra Wickham and I are currently writing a novel together. She’s also sort of taken on the Herculean task of getting me back in shape. Her book Health and Fitness for Creative People is a great start.
Kevin Madison has done tons of Thunder Road illustrations for me over the course of the series’ life. Here’s one of his most recent:
Kevin also wrote a comic last year, which was a lot of fun. Different artists illustrating various points in a superhero’s career.
Here’s some other stuff I really dug throughout 2015, heavily weighted towards comics, because that seemed to be the majority of my reading lately.
I helped back Canadian Corps on Kickstarter. Andrew Lorenz’s writing definitely hit me right in the Alpha Flight feels.
Donovan Yaciuk did the colours for Canadian Corps, but he also writes this sweet indie comic:
A space-faring pig. ‘Nuff said.
Justin Shauf is the artist on Spacepig Hamadeus and Canadian Corps. He also drew me this SWEET Dr. Fate.
Rat Queens is written by Kurtis Wiebe, and its one of the highlights of my comic pull list ever time an issue drops.
I adore Fiona Staples’ art on Saga. Another book that’s never disappointed me.
Jim Zub’s Wayward is another great fantasy comic.
No matter how much I read, it still seems like it’s never enough! I feel like I’ve got a lot of cramming to do before I put in my nominations. What have you created or read that I should check out before nominations close?
I can’t believe that C4 (Central Canada Comic Con) is only a week away!
It’s definitely going to be a mad dash to that finish line to get everything done I’d like to have done beforehand, and an even madder weekend during the con. But I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Because I love working with friends. And I’ll have a lot of them at this convention.
First off, Prix Aurora nominated artist (for his work on a live blog of his reading of the Thunder Road Trilogy), and illustrator of my 2014 C4 project, A Simple Twist of Fate, Kevin Madison will be at C4 for the first time in Artist Alley. He surprised me on Thanksgiving with this piece:
Samantha Beiko is the illustrator of a couple of my other projects that’ll be debuting at C4 in addition to being a top-flight editor and author. Sam’s a triple threat, and the real deal.
Here’s a taste of her work:
Samantha will also be at C4 as her alter-ego: Valkyrie Books, a bookstore that until now, has existed only in her imagination. She’ll be selling the latest speculative fiction goodies, as well as a selection of titles by local authors (including yours truly).
I love having a table around GMB Chomichuk, it’s such a good vibe and good energy. We finally got to work together, putting a little story bindup of Lovecraftian Madness together called Shared World. We each contributed a story and Gregory brought his wicked art sensibilities to the cover and interiors. Gregory talked about how the project came together on his blog last week, and how he blames me, but Samantha Beiko made the craziness possible. Thanks also to Silvia Moreno-Garcia for writing us a kickass introduction.
Our first (hopefully of many) Valkyrie Books Secret Editions: Shared World!
The third (but definitely not last) of my Scott Henderson commissions just arrived. Scott did a killer Thunder Road illustration after reading the book, and I loved it so much I asked him to do a Tilda drawing to celebrate the publication of Tombstone Blues.
Here’s what he cooked up for Too Far Gone:
This is just the inks, to see the full colour amazing, you’ll have to come by my or Scott’s tables at C4. I fucking wept to see it. Also, sorry for all the stuff that happens to you in Too Far Gone, Edmonton.
I suppose I can share this now, as the contract is signed (and I’ve been paid).
Sold my first short story reprint!
The story in question is “First They Came for the Pigs” originally included in the Innsmouth Free Press anthology, Fungi, edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Orrin Grey, it’ll be appearing inGrimdark Magazine in the near future.Super stoked about this!
I also came home from work to this as a congratulations the day they made the offer:
(“First They Came for the Pigs” features people-eating mushrooms by-the-by.)
Thanks Silvia and Orrin for choosing the story in the first place (and for commissioning thatamazing cover that made me want to write about mushrooms even if I’ll never eat them) and to Grimdark for giving this one another moment in the sun.
Some news about a couple of anthologies I’ve contributed to:
It’s been a long time coming, but Beast Within 4: Gears & Growls releases soon, Halloween, to be exact, which I love. This was my first steampunk story and my first anthology invite (thank you, Jennifer Brozek!) so I’m pretty excited to see “A Taste of the Other Side” in print.
And while this probably isn’t the final cover, here’s a teaser to give you an idea of the feel that The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir is going for. This anthology is edited by Claude Lalumière and David Nickle and includes my story “The Last Good Look.”
I’m very excited to get to share a TOC with a bunch of cool folks like Colleen Anderson, Keith Cadieux, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Corey Redekop, Alex C. Renwick, and Kelly Robson.
I’ve become more than a little addicted to supporting crowdfunding projects. Here’s a few of my more recent trophies. I tend to lean heavily towards books and roleplaying games, to the exact surprise of nobody. Lots of ebook editions that can’t be shown too, although I suppose I could’ve thrown my Kobo in the picture…
I realized that a few of my friends have projects going on at the same time, and so I thought I’d give them a shout out. Here’s a peek at what I’ve been and will be supporting.
You might remember Scott Henderson from this awesome Thunder Road illustration:
Book I of The Chronicles of Era: Whispers of Redemption will introduce readers to a world where mankind made for himself a paradise fit for gods. Mankind lived in the City of Heaven for two thousand years before The Adversary destroyed paradise and returned humanity to a harsh and brutal world. The survivors rebuilt their civilization, but their history was reduced to myths and legends. Hundreds of years later, three youths—Seth, Sidrich and Caitleth—are caught between the struggles of a great empire and the scattered rural clans struggling to maintain their way of life.
All the while, secret forces are edging closer to awakening the Gifted Ones and reopen the gates of paradise…
It looks phenomenal.
Clare C. Marshall is trying to fund her next book: The Silver Spear, a sequel to The Violet Fox.
My friends Erika Holt and Andrew Romine have stories in this anthology Not Our Kind: Tales of (Not) Belonging, edited by Nayad Monroe. This anthology also has a story by Jennifer Brozek who was the editor of my Steampunk story, “A Taste of the Other Side.” Not Our Kind already has a great ToC, and if it hits its stretch goal, there will be an open call for two more stories to fill out the collection.
EDGE Publications will be publishing nEvermore if it reaches it’s goal. This is a Poe-inspired anthology edited by Nancy Kilpatrick and Caro Soles. There’s no open reading period on this one, but it looks cool for readers. And October is the perfect time to be thinking of Poe.
I asked some friends what they’re currently supporting, and here’s what I heard:
There’s also Patreon, which a few friends have taken to. Patreon is a digital patronage system that allows creators to be paid for their work.
On Spec has been publishing Canadian Speculative Fiction for thirty years. They published my first short story, and recently published a Thunder Road ‘verse story. They’re also really fine folks.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia is an editor and publisher at Innsmouth Free Press. She’s also a damn fine author. Her debut short story collection, This Strange Way of Dying, was one of my favourite books of 2013.
Bundoran Press is a fine purveyor of Canadian science fiction that has garnered a lot of awards notices in its eight years of publishing. If you like smart, thoughtful SF (and who doesn’t?), they’re definitely worth your time.
Another year of the Prix Auroras have come and gone.
Very cool to see some of my friends receiving their Aurora nominee pins. Here’s Samantha getting hers.
I didn’t win, nor did ChiSeries Winnipeg, but I knew competition was steep this year. Big Congrats to all the winners! Fellow Winnipeg nominee Samantha Beiko and I got dressed up as fancy as possible (as is our custom at formal affairs) and joined in for the high tea prior to the awards.
Here’s a list of the Prix Aurora winners in all categories:
Best English Novel: A Turn of Light by Julie E. Czerneda, DAW Books
Best English YA Novel: The Rising by Kelley Armstrong, Doubleday Canada
Best English Short Fiction: “Ghost in the Machine” by Ryan McFadden, The Puzzle Box, EDGE
Best English Poem/Song: “Night Journey: West Coast” by Eileen Kernaghan , Tesseracts Seventeen: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast to Coast, EDGE
Best English Graphic Novel: Rock, Paper, Cynic by Peter Chiykowski, webcomic
Best English Related Work: On Spec published by the Copper Pig Writers’ Society
Best Artist: Erik Mohr, cover art for ChiZine Publications
Best Fan Music: Chris Hadfield for his performance of Space Oddity
Best Fan Organizational: Randy McCharles, Chair and Programming, When Words Collide, Calgary
Best Fan Related Work: Robert Runté, “Why I Read Canadian Speculative Fiction: The Social Dimension of Reading”, Scholar Keynote Address at ACCSFF ’13, Toronto
A couple quick thoughts on the stats: It is very clear the two voting bases are in Alberta and Ontario (which I was already aware of in a vague sort of way, but looking at the numbers really hammered that home), but I didn’t know how thin the Manitoban voting pool was. We have a robust con culture here, between Keycon, C4, and other events, so I’m not quite sure why that is. Finally, Tombstone Blues had the most nominations in its category, so I must be doing something right.
Next year, the Aurora nomination ballot will go from three items per category to five. I wonder how/if that will change the shortlist dynamic.
As for VCon, it was my first time at this convention. Also my first time in British Columbia.
I’ve been meaning to go west for a while, some of the first friends I made in the industry when I attended World Fantasy in Calgary were VCon regulars. This year, the combination of Sandra Wickham doing the literary programming, attending the Auroras, and getting to hang out with Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Ann Aguirre again was too much of a treat.
Convening the Illuminaughty.
The view from my hotel.
Silvia got Ann, Samantha, and I to leave the safety of the hotel and head into the city. Vancouver really is beautiful at night (to be fair, it’s beautiful during the day also), and the waterfront seemed kind of magical. While we were out with met up with Clare C. Marshall for more fun times.
Blurry waterfront photo brought to you courtesy of hunger/whiskey.
In fact, I was so hungry by the time we found a restaurant, that I’d completely forgotten how we arrived. Silvia’s directions back to the Skytrain had pretty much disappeared. However, I walk with a purpose and was on the way to getting us seriously lost before Ann and Samantha questioned me. A minor train misadventure later (this one wasn’t on me!) and we made it home safely, if very late. That two-hour time change was a bit of a beast, although I handled it a little better this time than I had in Portland for World Horror Con.
My panel on Writing Non-Fiction to Supplement Your Fiction went well. My fellow panelists had interesting things to say, it wasn’t a huge crowd, but it was a bit of a niche subject. The panel of Game Master Tips and Tricks was much better attended. I tried to speak in generalities that could be used across a broad number of games rather than just sharing D&D war stories from my games. It was cool to meet Tarol Hunt of Goblinsfame. I made a shout out to the Amber Diceless RPG and got a very enthusiastic “Woohoo!” from a couple of the attending gamers. We chatted a bit after the panel about Amber and its latest scion, Lords of Gossamer and Shadow.
There was a bit of confusion with my reading on Sunday, mostly due to the fact that I had to ask to change the time at the last minute to ensure I’d make my flight home. That’s on me, I knew I had an afternoon flight, so I should’ve mentioned it to programming as soon as I’d booked it. VCon was very accommodating, but the turnout was pretty thin.
All in all, way too short of a time to spend in such a cool city. I’m sure I’ll be back.
I’m heading off to VCon this weekend. VCon is Vancouver’s premier science fiction, fantasy and games convention. I can’t wait for this. I’ve been meaning to get to VCon since my first convention (World Fantasy in Calgary) as I met a bunch of awesome B.C. folks there. I’ve met a few since, some of whom I only get to chat with on Twitter and Facebook, so I hope we’ll get to hang out a bit.
VCon will also be another reconvening of the Illuminaughty, albeit a small one. It’ll be great to see Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Ann Aguirre again. Secret societies are the bomb. (Ssssh. SECRETS.)
I’ve got to say, I’m pretty stoked about meeting Bruce Heard. Mystara was (and still is) my favourite D&D setting and I backed Bruce’s recent Kickstarter for Calidar in Stranger Skies. It’ll be an honour to share a panel with a game design legend.
This year VCon is also hosting Canvention (Canada’s national and traveling convention) and the Prix Aurora Awards. Me and my ChiSeries Winnipeg partner Samantha Beiko will be there representing Winnipeg (oh, and our books, and the ChiSeries and stuff).
7 pm Selling Your Nonfiction to Subsidize Your Fiction? There’s an abundance of work out there when you’re a talented non-fiction writer. How does that translate into your speculative fiction? How do you balance writing both? Do anthology editors consider an author’s entire portfolio or just the fiction?
8 pm Aurora Award Pin Ceremony: All attending Aurora award Nominees receive their Nominee Pins from members of the CSFFA (Aurora award admin people) Board of Directors.
Saturday, October 4
2 pm Game Master Tricks: Having problems with your game going off the rails? Time to break out the big guns! Panelists share their favourite tips for putting one over on players, devising devious schemes, or improvising when your carefully laid plans go all to hell.
Paula Johanson • Tarol Hunt • Chadwick Ginther • Bruce Heard • Jeremy Reimer
4 pm Aurora Award Afternoon Tea: This is a catered ticketed affair. Guests will savour finger sandwiches, light pastries, scones, fruit compote, Devonshire cream, etc.
During (or shortly after) the High Tea retired Movie Critic and Journalist Michael Walsh will present several ‘spoof’ Elron Awards in a tradition dating back to the first VCON in 1971. R. Graeme Cameron, presenter of the Elrons since 1989, will unveil the rest of the horrors at a later program event.
4:45 pm Aurora Award Ceremony: Master of Ceremonies Sandra Wickham (well-known author whose stories have appeared in “Evolve”, “Urban Green Man”, and numerous other anthologies and magazines) will preside over the awarding of the Auroras.This is the last year the current Aurora Award design will be handed out – Frank Johnson’s wonderful ‘Maple Leaf Aurora’ design has been used for the past 23 years, each award individually handcrafted by him in his workshop. To put it mildly, CSFFA certainly appreciates Frank’s dedication and hard work. CSFFA is glad to note that Frank will be present at the awards. As part of the ceremony CSFFA Canvention 34 Chair Clint Budd will announce the recipients of the newly created Hall of Fame Honours. This replaces the previous Lifetime Achievement awards, all previous winners of which will now be inducted into the CSFFA Hall of Fame.The past winners of the Lifetime Achievement Award being “transferred” into the Hall of Fame are: A.E. Van Vogt, Susan Wood, Judith Merril, Phyllis Gotlieb, Dennis Mullen, and Robert J. Sawyer. This year’s winners are William Gibson, and Spider & Jeanne Robinson. Bill and Spider will be present to acknowledge their induction, the latter on behalf of and in memory of his co-author and beloved wife of many years, Jeanne Robinson.
Sunday, October 5
10:00 am Reading with Ann Aguirre
Hope to see you there, and wish me luck at the Auroras.
These roundups are coming a bit late, aren’t they? Like-“holy shit, really? It’s been two months”-kind-of-late. Between prepping for World Horror and traveling and then prepping for Keycon a week later, I managed to fall pretty far behind on a number of things. Having mostly dug myself out of the catch-up hole, it’s a long one, but here you are:
It’s hard for me to separate my impressions of these two cons, they happened so closely together, for one, and I hung out with a few of the same awesome people at both. In fact, World Horror Con (or the reconvening of the Illuminaughty) all spun out of last year’s Keycon 30. I had a great time with a bunch of awesome folks and we got to reminiscing on Twitter and missing each other and tried to find a convention where we could all meet up. Lee Moyer and Venetia Charles kindly offered to host those of us who made it down to Portland for World Horror and Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Ann Aguirre, GMB Chomichuk and I leapt at the offer.
The first leg of my trip to Portland for World Horror Con was Winnipeg to Minneapolis. The Minneapolis airport was nice enough, although I found actually boarding my next flight to be a part of crazy hodge-podge of too many gates too close together and an unending series of boarding announcements. Boarding feels considerably more higgledy piggledy (to quote Bloom County “Higgledy Piggledy means a big mess”) in the U.S. than it does in Canada. Also, a shoutout goes to the guy wearing the “You’ll Take My Guns From My Cold Dead Hands” T-shirt in the terminal. Way to represent, fella.
Another peculiarity of being south of the border was that there was Wi-Fi on my plane. I was very excited about being able to tweet during my flight, not that it was particularly dramatic, but c’mon, living in the future. Then I saw that I had to pay for the privilege and my cheap inner Winnipegger took over and decided to read instead. But I did see the mountains, sure I saw them from 30000 feet up, but that’s the closest I’ve come to them yet. I’ve seen them in the distance from Calgary but I couldn’t really make anything out. Next time I’m in Alberta, I’ll have to get closer, I guess.
When I left Winnipeg, the snow had been gone for about a week, all the trees were bare, all the grass was dead. Imagine how refreshing it was to see this when I landed:
At World Horror, I took in a few panels. Gregory crashed the comics panel at the insistence of Silvia and myself. He ended up moderating and rocked it. Seriously, if you ever need to keep a panel lively, get that GMB fellow up there.
I also spent a lot of time watching GMB sketch. I always carry a notebook, he always carries a sketchbook, and both of us were scribbling words and pictures all weekend.
We came up with Secret Plans. (More on that in the future, hopefully.)
I’ve said this before, but it remains true, one of my favourite things about attending conventions is meeting people who I’ve so far only chatted online with. World Horror was a great con for that, and I finally got to meet Folly Blaine, Minerva Zimmerman, Wendy Wagner, Claude Lalumière, Camille Alexa, and Jennifer Brozek (Jennifer was my editor for my first Steampunk story, “A Taste of the Other Side”, forthcoming in Beast Within 4, Gears & Growls).
I can usually avoid con-crud, but I got sick the day after I arrived in Portland. I don’t think it was a bug, so I’m blaming the two hour time change. Fortunately, I was able to rally. (Thanks for looking out for me, guys!)
My only programming at World Horror was offering a critique to an aspiring writer. It was supposed to be a shared critique with another pro, and done in the Clarion Style. All good. Except I was still feeling like ass, and the other pro didn’t show up, so I had an hour of critiquing to fill instead of thirty minutes. Something good spun out of it though. That aspiring writer had gone through the trouble of making a submission and so I was determined to be “on” for him. Being forced to show up and not stay home wallowing in self-pity also pushed me through the wall of my headache and nausea, and I felt a lot better when the critique session was over. I hope the aspiring writer did too. He took my suggestions well, and was an affable, fun guy. I really hope he’s successful.
We managed a bit of time for sightseeing:
We had lunch at Zeus Cafe (food was great), which had a great basement club, called Al’s Den (very sweet art on the walls).
Lemmy! The essence of manly beauty.
The Black Keys!
We also visited the legendary Powell’s Books, and man it lives up to its rep. For my Winnipeg friends, imagine if McNally Robinson had four floors and sold used and new books. It was also very busy. It did my heart good to see so many people in a bookstore on a sunny Saturday (Yes, it was sunny in Portland. At least until it rained again.) afternoon.
We started the dance at World Horror’s Gothic Ball. It was also strange to see more people dancing to “Funky Town” than “Closer“, but hey, Funky Town!
I first heard about Voodoo Doughnuts while watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations travel show, and have been lusting after the pictured bacon maple bar ever since. So good.
Loading elevators that came out of the street!
By the time I noticed what was happening and got my phone out to get the picture, the delivery had already disappeared into the bowels of Portland’s underground.
Yes, I found a comic store. Evidently, Portland is rife with comics professionals. No surprise there, given it’s the home of Dark Horse Comics. The neighbourhood I was staying in was home to one Brian Michael Bendis, who you may have heard of.
Leaving Minneapolis for both Portland and Winnipeg, my flights were racing a thunderstorm (appropriate, I know) and on the flight home, there was a moment when it actually felt like the plane was going to fall out of the sky. Crazy. Scary. Cool (because, you know, it didn’t).
When I got home from Portland, I had a couple of cool things waiting for me:
And my contributor’s copies of the Spring 2014 issue of On Spec, which includes my Thunder Road story, “Runt of the Litter.”
Keycon 31 was a bit different beast. And while we’re not quite at the Cheers phase, my home con is definitely the place where a lot of people now know my name.
Silvia was a guest of honour here, so we got to hang out again, which was awesome. I picked Silvia up at the airport and we went on a walking tour of Winnipeg’s Exchange District before grabbing some supper.
Friday night, I shared my reading slot with Samantha Beiko, who I unintentionally trolled during her reading.
Samantha is reading from her phone, see, and I decided to tweet about her reading and tag her. If only I could’ve caught the look she gave me when she realized what was happening. Again, sorry, Samantha! Not intentional. (She got her revenge when we went to see Godzilla and punched my belly like it was a speed bag at the gym. Tiny but fierce.)
Met some awesome folks, such as author (and wrestler) Adam Knight and cartoonist Johnathan Hatton. I caught up with old friends, Clare Marshall, Code Skillen, Levi Labelle and Brian Mitchell, co-chairs from Keycon 30.
I also signed a book for Tanya Freaking Huff. That is the kind of thing that doesn’t get old. I love her writing and she is a wonderful human.
The women who worked the Chapters book table last year were back again. Many thanks for your support and enthusiasm, Dana, Stephanie and Sydni! I had at least a couple of people at my signing who told me they bought Thunder Road because you sold them on it. You rock!
Gregory Chomichuk didn’t have any pieces in the art show this year, but he was doing live art in the registration area. So cool!
(I saw this piece, finished, and up for sale at Gregory’s joint “CoLabratory” art show, which was a time and a half.)
When it came to panels I was on the Locally Grown: Authors and More You Likely Missed panel, moderated by my pal Adam Petrash alongside Samantha Beiko, GMB Chomichuk, Karen Dudley, Adam Knight, Johnathan Hatton, Laurie Smith, Lindsay Kitson, Leia Getty, and Lenora Rose Patrick.
Using Setting and Culture to Shape Characters with Samantha Beiko and ably-moderated by another Winnipeg fantasy author, Sherry Peters.
My final panel was Sparking Creativity, which I shared with Sherry Peters, artist GoH Ian Sokoliwski, and GMB Chomichuk. I was late to this panel, because for some reason I thought it was hour later than it turned out to be. Fortunately one of my fellow panelists tweeted that he missed me, and I dashed off. I was in such a hurry that I got caught in a lie. We were talking about opening yourself up to creativity and I mentioned that I always carried a notebook so if I had an idea I didn’t lose it, when Gregory noticed that I didn’t have my notebook on the table (I’d left it safely behind the Faery Ink Press table in the dealer’s room when I realized I was late) and called me on it. But I did have my back up, my phone, which has a notepad and voice recorder app, so I somewhat recovered my always taking notes cred.
I missed a bunch of panels that I would have liked to check out. They were either opposite my programming or in the brief spans that I had available to try to squeeze food out of the hotel restaurant. I did take in GMB’s panel on Storytelling for Graphic Novels, which was fun.
Silvia, code and I played Crazy 8s (and tried to remember how to play Crazy 8s) while waiting for the banquet to start. After dinner we roamed the party rooms until the ungodly hours of the morning.
And at least I managed to finish this blog post before I have to write one for When Worlds Collide!