We did our thing at Context in Columbus, Ohio. Here is a report, cribbed from another blog Webmaster Allen does:

We arrived on Friday and went to the interview with the Dead Body Guy, which was a total hoot (more details were posted last weekend).

T. Lee Harris was then on a panel called WRITING MODERN VAMPIRES with Tanya Huff and Mark Evans. Seems like there was somebody else on there, too, but those are the only ones listed in the program book. (For those who have never been to a science fiction convention, who is on the panel — and what the panel is once it starts — does not always correspond exactly to what is announced. Stuff happens.) Some thought vampires should be inhuman monsters, and that humanizing vampires has … er … taken the bite out of the horror. Others thought that is is precisely the dilemma of being a human with an inhuman hunger that IS horrible. So that was that panel. Interesting.

Southern Indiana Writers had a reading after that, but we were placed next door to a raucous wine and cheese party open to the public, so guess where everybody went? Not to hear people reading stories, that’s for sure! Still, we had a good time sitting around talking story.

We went back to the room and drank some Mango Blush Wine that tasted like wombat piss–which is only a metaphor, none of us being willing to admit having ever had wombat piss.

And so to bed.

On Saturday, we went to a panel called GREAT MOVIE SOUNDTRACKS, which was rather pointless but enjoyable. We learned that some excellent music has always been written for soundtracks (in this case, specifically sf/fantasy/horror movies), which you seldom remember hearing because the best soundtracks are mostly unobtrusive.

After that, Glenda Mills and Marian Allen <waves> were on a panel called GENRE LABELS with Deena Fisher, Gary Frank, S. Andrew Swan, Nick Mamatas and Tracy Chowdhury. We talked about how genre labels (mystery, horror, romance) are being blurred more and more. There were panels on forensics and sex in literature at this convention, as well as science and fantasy. I suppose I should say “as well as OTHER forms of science and fantasy….”

Next, we went to a panel on WORKING WITH SMALL PUBLISHERS which was MOST interesting. After I have time to hit some web sites, I’ll post some URLs. Small publishers are still somewhat disrespected by the majors, but they put out some fabulous work. This is small presses, not self-publish presses, which also may put out some good-looking product but do no editorial oversight and little if any promotion. Some small presses are moving into the “medium press”, and it’s all exciting. They usually work with a Print On Demand business model, meaning that they don’t have to invest nearly as much as an offset press publisher, and so can take more risks. They aren’t afraid to produce a small book or a large book by an unknown author. Great panel.

We went to a panel on writers groups given by the Indiana Horror Writers, including Sara Larson. The consensus is that some groups are good for some people and some groups are bad for some people. Enjoyable, and I think it was useful for people who are thinking about joining or starting a group.

In the evening, Marian Allen <waves> was on REGIONAL F/H/SF with Mark Evans and Phoebe Wray. We talked about using regional details to ground your character or action, about really USING the details rather than using them for showing off how much you know or how well you’ve researched. We pointed out that even fantasy and science fiction take place SOMEWHERE–it takes place in a specific place or series of specific places, even if the place is imaginary. All politics is local, and all fiction is regional.

Sara Larson invited everybody to a birthday party for a member of the IHW, and we went. Nobody else was there, so we got to talk to Sara and her husband. Sara and I “know” each other through the Indiana Writers Connection, a Yahoo Group email list. We also ran into Mary from the Cincinnati Writers’ Project. T. Lee Harris has produced their new anthology for them, and she’s done a dynamite job, as always! We had chocolate cake at the party, which is always good.

Back in the room, we passed on the wombat piss and drank chablis instead.

And so to bed.

On Sunday, T. Lee Harris was on a panel on STRONG WOMEN CHARACTERS with eleventy-seven other writers. At the same time, Glenda Mills and Marian Allen <waves> were on SELF-EDITING with John Dalmas and Fran Friel. Dalmas suggested proofreading by printing out your story and shuffling the pages so you read the narrative out of order and don’t get so caught up in the story you miss errors. Friel suggested changing the font from the one you usually use, again in order to SEE the letters and words and not see what you MEANT to type. Very useful.

Checkout and home. As I said yesterday, I got home to a dead refrigerator and an irritated husband, but I got to take a shower. I took showers over the weekend, but I had forgotten my razor and didn’t remember I had forgotten it until I got ready to shave under my arms. By the time I got home, I felt like I was smuggling kittens.

All in all, it was a great convention. Everybody was courteous and helpful: the staff, the panelists, the other attendees. Nobody grandstanding or showboating or deluding themselves into ego trips nobody else was taking with them. We intend to go in 2009. Two thumbs up.

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