Monday, March 12, 2018

Midsouthcon 2018: Day 3

Midsouthcon 2018 continues! If you missed the previous posts, here they are:

Kaffeeklatsch with Mike Resnick

(A smart blogger would have thought to take a photo of this event.)

These informal breakfasts with individual guests of honor are common at Midsouthcon, though this is the first time I went to one. It was great, and I’ll be going to more in the future. The six of us eating with Mike grilled him about his career, how he got started editing (it was tabloids), his interest in Africa, the other places he’s visited, the ups and downs of dealing with Hollywood, and his working hours (he’s pretty much a night shift worker).

Panel: Short Story vs. Novel

with Bill Webb, Juanita Houston, Herica Raymer, Allan Gilbreath, and Mike Resnick.

This panel explored the differences between writing short stories and writing novels. A few of the items discussed:

  • Mike prefers short stories (having written about 300, compared to about 70 novels). One reason is that he likes writing humor, and finds it hard to extend that into novel length without becoming unfunny.
  • Bill writes novels by starting with the scenes he knows will happen, putting them in order later and adding the rest. He says he “writes the cool stuff first.” He also doesn’t edit until the writing is done, and likes using writing sprints.
  • Juanita starts in the middle. She and Herica are pantsers rather than plotters. Herica says she visualizes her novel and “transcribes what she sees.”
  • Bill sells short story collections on Amazon, and figures he earns more there than he would if he sold them traditionally.
  • Mike said that when you read a bad story, one that makes you say “No, you idiot,” sit down and show that you can do it better. He says that some of his stories were efforts to do just that.
  • Mike suggests being careful and clear with transitions between viewpoint characters. “Never make the reader work unless you want him to.”

  • Regarding the need to target a reading level or age limit when writing, Mike said he never worries about that. “I assume I’m writing for grown-ups, and if they can’t understand it they probably shouldn’t be reading literature.”
  • When asked about his work schedule, Mike said, “I write, and every now and then I sleep.” (He did elaborate that he writes every day.)
  • Mike says he only takes a few days to write a story. “I’m running out of time.” He then admitted that “the mechanics come a little easier” now, after decades of practice.
  • Mike talked about writing softcore porn when he was younger, as did plenty of other science fiction writers at the time, including Marion Zimmer Bradley. He said a book would take him 4 or 5 days and earn $700 to $1000, for an annual salary of $24,000 if he wrote 25—higher than the average salary of the day. This taught him to meet deadlines and how to differentiate characters, because the ones in these stories looked similar and did similar activities!
  • Mike’s final advice: “Writers write, and those who aren’t gonna write talk about it."

As a side note unrelated to writing: if you’re on a panel at a con, I recommend you remember what year you’re living in before describing the state of California as “the land of fruits and nuts.” Not cool.

Gaming: New York Slice

How could a pizza-lover not try this game? I saw a lot of people playing it, and eventually got a few minutes to give it a shot. The challenge in this game is to divide up the randomized pizza in such a way that other players can't get too many of the slices they need to complete sets. The most exciting thing is that my friend Jenny ended up winning a copy in the raffle!

Gaming: KnitWit

I didn't know what to expect from this one, but it turned out to combine spools and loops of thread with a word game. It was pretty clever. I didn't win this one either, but I blame the noise level in the game room around raffle time. (If you think you see a pattern where I make excuses for not winning games, you are totally imagining things.)

Panel: Comic Book Scripting: From Plot to Page

with John Jackson Miller

John lived in Memphis when he was younger (like me) and has come to every Midsouthcon since the mid 80s (also like me), so it’s strange to me that I didn’t meet him until this year! I knew of him mostly as a novelist, so didn’t learn until this panel that he got his start in comics, in around 2003. John said that most kids’ mothers threw their comics away, but his mom—a librarian—made him put his in order.

John’s panel was a good one, demonstrating the basics of comic scripts. He talked about Marvel style vs full script, and what kind of things he likes to leave up to the artist, and how he breaks down what goes on which pages and different ways of dividing that into panels.

Final Costumes!

Let's end this with one last duo of cool costumes:

Did you go to Midsouthcon too? I want to hear about your adventures in the comments!