Oddcon Thoughts

So this past weekend, I attend my first science fiction/fantasy convention ever.

It’s not like I’ve actively avoided cons when I was living in Chicago. I knew about WindyCon and Duckon and Anime Central (my sister went to that—kudos to her). It’s just that I thought they looked sort of…weird. I had no great desire to go to a place where people walked around in costumes and going to panels where they debated what really killed the Star Trek series (hey, I liked Enterprise, that is, until it started going all weird and angsty and dark).

Plus, I didn’t really have anyone to go with. I wasn’t about to drag my hubby to one, although it’s possible he would’ve enjoyed himself, and most of my friends were SAHMs with young kids. I just couldn’t see myself bringing a bunch of moms and kids and watching them gawk as a dude dressed as Xena strolled by. Well, okay, I can see that, and in hindsight, it would’ve been hilarious…Also, the Guests of Honor seemed to be people who had their stuff self-published, and suddenly, they’re an “expert”…

Okay. So I did actively avoid the cons in Chicago.

When I got to Madison, I heard about OdysseyCon and checked out the website. The first thing I saw was that Tobias Buckell was attending as Guest of Honor, and hey, I knew that name. Then the whole RaceFail thing happened and, whaddyaknow, some of the LiveJournalists and other authors involved were going to be in attendance too, including Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. Then Tobias Buckley bowed out because his wife was having twins (good for him!), and he’s been replaced by oh, some guy who, I don’t know, made the NY Times Best Seller list but I never heard of him. But by that time, I decided. Oddcon was too good to pass up.

So out of all that, what did I get out of Oddcon?

  • The panels I went to were informative and fun. Some were geared towards writers, but some were fantasy/scifi in general. There were a few that definitely had some in-jokes I didn’t get, but all in all, not bad.
  • I got to meet Patrick Rothfuss, who has one freakylooking beard. But once you get over your fantasy of hunting him down with a pair of scissors, shouting, “AT LEAST MAKE IT EVEN FOR GOD’S SAKE!!!!!!!!!”, you find that Patrick Rothfuss is a pretty laid-back and absolutely hilarious guy. And his debut book made it on the NY Times Best Seller List. AND he won the Writer’s of the Future Contest in 2002. That’s stuff I’d like to do.  Edit: I finally got around to reading his book, The Name of the Wind. You can find my review of it here.
  • Yes, there were people playing D&D. Yes, there were people doing LANgames. Yes, there were people dressed up. But there were also regularly dressed people there too. And oddly enough, I got to know my upstairs neighbors, who I wasn’t expecting to see there.
  • I also didn’t expect to see Jim Frankel, Senior Editor of Tor Books. Actually, I knew that he was coming from the Programming schedule, but I didn’t actually think I would actually meet him and have actual conversations with him. Which was nice. He was gracious, casual and fun to talk to.
  • I got to meet a couple of LiveJournal people whose names I recognized from the whole RaceFail thing—including Moondancer Drake, who can really rock a Stetson. She was fun to talk to, and I really enjoyed getting to know her (and her 6-year-old, who is a sweetie).
  • And yes, I got to meet Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, who at first pretty much intimidated me, as well as Sarah Monette, who does some collaborative work with them. But they’re pretty easy people to talk to once you get to know them. I even screwed up courage to talk with them and about RaceFail. I didn’t want to be confrontational, but I had some genuine questions. I think it was a good conversation overall, and I generally had fun. In fact, this general ease of talking to these well-known authors led to…
  • A most surreal late Saturday night when somehow, I don’t know how exactly, I wound up hanging out with Bull, Shetterly, Frankel, Monette and a bunch of other writers at the hotel bar. Being that it was past my bedtime anyway, and the fact that I’m sitting with well-known authors and a senior editor of Tor, it sort of blew my mind. Then on Sunday, some more friends and I went to have Thai food with Rothfuss and his girlfriend. And I found myself thinking, being a writer ROCKS!
  • Oh. I won a garlic/ginger grater at an art auction.

So there you have it. My first con. I had a great time, and people kept telling me that I chose a good one to attend. Oddcon was small enough so that I didn’t get lost in the shuffle, but prestigious enough to pull in a couple of big names, but small enough that those big names could mingle easily with the rest of us. Everyone tells me that if I liked Oddcon, I would love Wiscon, since it’s gained quite a name for itself over the past few years. I’m looking forward to that, although I’ll only be able to attend that Friday’s events.

There are some things I learned from Oddcon that I’ll take with me to Wiscon. 1) Read up on not just the Guests of Honor, but also people who’ll be attending panels. I’m still kicking myself for not getting to know Sarah Monette more.

2) Bring business cards. For the first two days of the con, I completely did not have anything with me to pass out. Actually, that wasn’t such a bad thing, since I got to know people first before I started handing cards out to them. But I had to put a reminder on my laptop because I’ve fallen out of the habit of carrying my cards with me.

3) Don’t bring a 4-cheese toasted bagel with garlic and tomato cream cheese to a panel. Especially since the con had food there. I didn’t need to stop at Einstein Bagels for breakfast. But dang…it was good. Smelly, but gooooood…

4) Plan to help out at the next con. Which is one thing I definitely intend to do. Who knows, maybe I’ll have a book contract by that time. And then I’ll be the one chasing people down the hall with a big styrofaom mock-up of my book cover, cackling madly. Well, Pat Rothfuss didn’t actually cackle when he did that. But it still looked cool.

The Art of Writing Fanfics (Or whatever happened to Home/Heart, LaShawn?)

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from someone who liked to know if I finished a story I started years ago. She had all eleven chapters of it and wanted to know if I wrote any more.

The premise of that story? A girl named Lita accidentally gets zapped into another world, where she is mistaken for Ranma’s fiancée, Kane. Meanwhile, Kane, having been pulled into Lita’s universe, has to adjust to working with Serena and the other Scouts to find her way back home.

To a normal reader, the above will make little sense. To anime fans, however, not only does that make perfect sense, those fans will know exactly which version of Sailor Moon I’m talking about just by the names alone.

Fanfiction–fanfics for short–has always been around, but through the internet, fanfics have exploded into widespread community. You can type in any TV show or fictional character and find a fanfic based on it. You want to continue the story of “Lost” after the finale in a few weeks? Chances are, there are hundreds of stories out there presenting what happens after the story, alternate storylines, fanfics where the men shun the women and have orgies among themselves (Not that I ever read one–I missed the boat on becoming a Lost fan–but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a fanfic like that out there). Any scenario you can think of, a fanfic writer probably has already thought of it and written it.

Fanfic writers are unique creatures in that they don’t do it for money. They do it for the love of the character and worlds they’re based on. So in that regard, basically anyone can become a fanfic writer. And yes, there are thousands, nay, millions of badly written, misspelled, crude stories, mostly where the writer himself becomes the main character of the story and saves the day. (Those are called self-insert fics; stay away from those if you don’t want your brain to melt into gooey cheese.) But for all of those horribly written fanfics, there are many gems that are so compelling, so wonderful to read, that you have to wonder why the writer didn’t get paid for it. Then you remember the copyright rule and go, Oh yeah…right…

All this leads up to me admitting that, yes, I too was a fanfic writer. I started watching Sailor Moon on Channel 26 at 6:30am. That opened the door for other anime like Ranma 1/2, Gunsmith Cats and Slayers. Because video stores were limited in their selection of anime, I turned online to get my anime fix and stumbled upon the FFML, the Fan Fiction Mailing List. With all the stories written about anime, it wasn’t long before I was spinning out several stories of my own. This was during my college years, when I wasn’t so sure of my own writing, or what it meant to be a writer. I took a writing class, yes, but the stories I wrote were crappy, and I didn’t know what to do with them after I wrote them. On the FFML, I can write something up, post it to the list, and I got feedback, from grammar/spelling corrections, to if a character was OOC–acting Out Of Character.

Looking back on it, the FFML can be considered a predecessor to the online critique groups of today. It was an unofficial classroom where I could focus on technique without having to come up with made-up world. In a fanfic universe, all the characters were right there, with their own rules I had to abide to. I don’t think I stood out among the top fanfic writers–there were people who wrote far more epics than I did. But I did learn how to hold my own, and even got a small fanbase of sorts. And I got a chance to do things that I didn’t have the courage to in my own work. For instance, I wrote a fanfic based around the entire album of XTC’s “Skylarking”. Now that was fun!

So the question is, what happened? Why did I stopped writing fanfics?

Well, there’s the obvious reason. The more I grew into writing, the more I wanted to start working on stories of my own creation. Fanfic writing is beneficial, but there comes a point in time when you have to break out of the box of someone else’s world and start learning how to create your own. I had grown confident enough in my own writing skills to tackle that.

The changing of anime universe had a hand in it too. With anime more easily accessible, people no longer having to rely on fanfics to get their anime fix. They could just go online for fansubs. And even the fanfic content grew a little stale. The old standards of Ranma 1/2 and Sailor Moon got replaced by newer anime of Blood +, Full Metal Alchemist (which itself has grown old), and Bleach. Fanfics of all genres exploded everywhere, to the point where it got hard to keep up on new stories. Nowadays, people go to Fanfiction.net if they want to read fanfics. The FFML still exists, but it’s not the same list it was ten years ago. I have thought about putting my fanfics up at the Cafe where all can read. But why would I want to do that? Most of the writing in those fanfics was horrible…and unless you know the anime, they wouldn’t make much sense. I’m content in letting them remain out there in the Net. If you’re truly curious, just google my name–a couple of my fanfics that are decent enough to remain out there will pop up.

But let’s face it. I’m just not into fanfiction anymore. I just don’t have time. There are a few running stories that I still read when new chapters come out (Sailor Moon 4200 and On a Clear Day, plus anything released by Megane 6.7 or Zoogz. Their Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatments of bad fanfics are a treat in itself). I still watch anime, too. Currently, I’m watching Dennou Coil and Sister of Wellebar, as well as the live action of Honey and Clover. But I think my time of writing fanfics is over.

Which is a shame, because I always wanted to finish “A Humble Home for a Strong Heart”, my crossover Sailor Moon/Ranma 1/2 story. But even if I did, that story used such obscure information that only fans back in the day would know (the reason I wrote it was to spoof the English version of Sailor Moon against the Japanese version of Ranma 1/2). Sadly, the story is just not relevant anymore. The only reason I would complete it is for the sake of finishing it.

Of course…if enough people bug me about it, then, who knows? Maybe I will.