Skip to main content

Post-Arisia 2018 Report

I think this was one of my favorite Arisias. First off, I had a bunch of panels, including a reading panel. That's always fun. In addition, all of the panels I went to were interesting, well-run, and gave me a lot to think about. I can only hope that my own contributions to Arisia were as worthwhile to the audience.

I certainly had my fill of stimulating conversations. As always, this convention gives me that singular chance to catch up with both friends and the state of SFF in general. I was happy to catch up with Matt, Alex, John, and Melanie, as well as Wendee and Dan. I got to see a few familiar faces from the con circuit: Gillian Daniels, Andrea Corbin, and Gillian Daniels and I met a bunch of awesome writers and reviewers. I even got in a great session of RPG, playing Masks, a superhero RPG powered by the Apocalypse. I was happy to see the Indie Expo return to the con even though the offerings were some what slim this year. 

A few thoughts on the panels I participated on:

Writing Horror, which was my first panel of the convention was a lot of fun. Chris Philbrook, as the moderator, kept the conversation going and we had plenty of constructive audience participation. Considering this was a writer's advice panel I think that was definitely a plus. I've put Hillary Monahan, Tom Deady, Chris Philbrook, and Douglas Wynne's work on my reading list. They had interesting things to say about the genre of horror and how to achievement chills in a work of fiction.

I also got a chance to read with Douglas for the Horror Reading panel. Our work certainly seemed complementary. We had a little time towards the end of the reading to answer questions from the audience. To be honest, I thought this was one of the more rewarding moments of the convention for me. To be asked specifically about my craft helped stimulate ideas and future experiments.

I had two panels on Saturday. The "It Came from the Past…" gave me a bunch of stories to read and the "Writing for Emotional Impact" panel had a terrific panel of writers as well as a big audience. Particularly this second panel really felt like a high point of a very successful convention.

My wife Lauren MC'd this year's Geeky Belly Dance show. She did a tremendous job with her long-time creative collaborator Wendee Abramo and the performances were very strong this year.

Both Lauren and I had panels on Sunday. If I can signal boost my wife for a moment, she is a tremendous public speaker, and the topic of the panel: Art and Illness is one that I know she cares deeply about. My panel came in the next time slot and was the year in review for Stephen King. This was the most fun I've had on a panel in quite some time. Griffin Ess did a great job as a moderator, Tom Deady, Genenieve Leonard, and Dierdre Crimmins were fantastic. We had plenty to talk about and also a great topic for a follow up panel if we should be so lucky in next year's Arisia.

I had one final panel on Monday: Houses of the Dead which concerned Haunted Houses. I feel like we barely scratched the surface of good haunted house stories but the discussion moved easily and I thought my fellow panelists brought deep knowledge of this topic from both the practical level and the literature side. To put it more simply, this panel, like all of the others I was lucky enough to join, added value to the topic under question. It made me very happy to be a part of that.

To back up a bit, I watched two panels on the state of Star Trek and Star Wars that left me with a great many feelings about the role of con panels regarding SFF. 

The Star Trek panel leaned about 75% against the most recent television series. Complaints ranged from the changes to the Klingons for this series, to how the two gay characters are depicted and handled in recent storylines. A full third of the panel was spent decrying CBS' subscription model for watching Star Trek: Discovery. The one panelist who enjoyed the show made some great points (i.e.: points about the actual story, its characters, and relationship to ST canon) but overall I was struck by how similar the tone in this panel was to the Star Trek panel from 2011 that I participated in. Back then Star Trek Into Darkness was the worst thing to ever happen to the franchise and no one was happy about it. Now fast forward seven years and Discovery is the worst thing that's ever happened to the franchise. Go figure. I don't want to minimize the complaints about Star Trek: Discovery. To be honest, I felt happy to have a chance to get a perspective on the series different from my own. The state of fanship for this franchise does appear locked in a state perpetual out-rage. Let's not lose sight of the fact Star Trek is a very entertaining, glorified kid's show about a future filled with goofy aliens and starships; if your vision of the future depends on Star Trek telling you what it should look like, you are always going to be disappointed. May I respectfully suggest that if you don't like the direction of Trek, please open your word processor and create something better. Seriously - I would love to see more energy devoted to improving this franchise than simply tearing down each successive version.

The Star Wars panel, on the other hand, felt like a genuine conversation between fans about the actual work of art in question. Is The Last Jedi the best Star Wars movie ever? Possibly, possibly not. However, it was a sincere and well-crafted piece of art with some interesting flaws and a compelling message. The panelists universally approached this movie from the standpoint of what was the creative team's intention and whether or not they succeeded. I find panels that do that to be the most helpful, to be honest, both from the standpoint of an aspiring creator myself and a fan of SFF. 

But mostly what I got from this convention were a bunch of books, movies, and television shows I'm chomping at the bit to read. After some gentle prompting from Laura Blackwell, I've decided to write down the titles that interested me from this weekend. Hopefully these are titles you've not heard about and might be willing to also give a look:

Novels now on my reading list (or pushed up a few notches)
"Head full of Ghosts" by Paul Tremblay. I've read "Disappearance at Devil's Rock" and loved it. I should have read this one a long time ago.

"The Hollow Girl" by Hillary Monahan

"Heart Shaped Box" by Joe Hill

"Red Equinox" by Douglas Wynne

"Haven" by Tom Deady

"Colony Lost" by Chris Philbrook

Sparrow Hill Road Ghost Series by Seanan McGuire. As described in the "Houses of the Dead" panel by Lauren M. Roy, this series follows a psychopomp on a journey across the roads of America.

"Mr. Mercedes" by Stephen King

"Gerald's Game" by Stephen King. Can't believe I haven't read this one yet.

"Vicious" by V.E. Schwab

"The Embedding" by Ian Watson

"Kojiki" by Keith Yatsuhashi

Short Stories
"Raise-the-Dead Cobbler" by Andrea Corbin. Appeared in Shimmer November 2017

"Maybe Look Up" by Jess Barber. Appeared in Lightspeed Magazine in April 2017

"The Whalebone Parrot" by Darcie Little Badger. Appeared in Dark Magazine October 2017.

Dear David Storify: This is a bit of weird one, recommended by Andrea Corbin ahead of the "Houses of the Dead" panel. Basically this is a fictionalized (or possibly not) tale of a haunted apartment. Available here: (

Note: This post was updated from original 1/20/18 to add descriptions of panels I saw or in which I participated.


Popular posts from this blog

Reading Response to "A Good Man is Hard to Find."

Reader Response to “A Good Man is Hard to Find” Morgan Crooks I once heard Flannery O’Connor’s work introduced as a project to describe a world denied God’s grace. This critic of O’Connor’s work meant the Christian idea that a person’s misdeeds, mistakes, and sins could be sponged away by the power of Jesus’ sacrifice at Crucifixion. The setting of her stories often seem to be monstrous distortions of the real world. These are stories where con men steal prosthetic limbs, hired labor abandons mute brides in rest stops, and bizarre, often disastrous advice is imparted.  O’Connor herself said of this reputation for writing ‘grotesque’ stories that ‘anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.’ This is both a witty observation and a piece of advice while reading O’Connor’s work. These are stories about pain and lies and ugliness. The brutality that happens to characters …

Reaction on Utopia Versus Dystopia

Are stories about utopias morally superior to stories about dystopias? By writing about futures where governments break down, resources run dry, pandemics run rampant, and zombies wolf down unsuspecting pedestrians, are we making those things more likely to happen?
Give credit where credit is due, +Robert Llewellyn asked a provocative question in his post to the the sci-fi community the other day. Does the preponderance of dystopian, post-apocalyptic (a word he doesn't actually use, but I feel fits his description of most zombie movies) come from the fears of the ruling class (predominantly white, anglo-saxon and rich)? Are these futures presented to us because that's the future the elites fear, one of rapidly reduced power and prestige? 
Robert quickly back-tracked from his question on whether or not dystopias are ever written by the under-privledged. Of course there are, from all over the world. There are also plenty of writers from conservative or elite backgrounds more th…

Review of I Wish I Was Like You by S.P. Miskowski

Even 23 years later, I remember 1994 and Kurt Cobain's death. I experienced that moment as a kind of inside out personal crisis. I felt ashamed by his death. As though his exit in someway indicted my own teenage miseries. "I wish I was like you," goes the verse in 'All Apologies,' "Easily amused." I felt as though a check I hadn't remembered writing had just been cashed. 

SP Miskowski's book, named after the first half of that line, is in the words of another reviewer, a novel that shouldn't work. The narrator is unlikeable, unreliable, and dead. The plot is almost entirely told as a flashback and long sections of the novel concern the inner processes of the writer. The daily grind to summon up enough self-esteem to carry a sentence to its logical conclusion is a real struggle, people, but it ain't exactly riveting.

But the thing is, this novel works. It is one of the best things I've read all year and a real achievement in weird ficti…