Worldcons and Hermits

Scott William Carter   August 8, 2005  

I’ve reached the two thirds mark on the second pass on the young adult fantasy. The goal is to push through this second pass and finish it by the end of the week. Then it goes to the First Reader (who happens to also be my wife, making for a sometimes sticky situation, but her critical skills are too good to pass up), after which I’ll finally get the thing in the mail to a publisher.

Speaking of genres, while I was doing a little Web surfing I saw that the latest Hugo Awards had been announced. These are the awards that the attendees of Worldcon, the biggest science and fantasy convention, give out each year. It reminded me of my experience at last year’s Worldcon in Boston. I really enjoyed meeting some wonderful people, including Matt Cheney, who’s becoming something of a noted critic in the field; Jeff VanderMeer, whose writing career has moved into a new gear; Stan Schmidt, editor of Analog, buyer of three of my stories, and all around amazing guy; as well as many, many other nice folks. It was great putting faces with the names, and getting a sense of the people I knew only from their writing or editing. Except for an Orycon I attended back in college, this was my first real Con experience. I really wanted to know what it was all about and I’m glad I went. However, I also learned that conventions are not my cup of tea, and I’ll be a very, very infrequent con-goer at best. For me, I’m much better off spending that time writing and reading. There are writers I’ve met who have used conventions to make a lot of connections, connections that have undoubtedly helped their careers, but ultimately publishing is always, in the end, about the work itself. You can have all the connections in the world but if you can’t tell a good tale, they won’t help you much. And that’s what I love about writing fiction, too. If you do nothing but write a lot, read a lot, and keep striving to get better, you can have a very nice career from the comfort of your own home. Lots of writers have. It always seems to amaze people when I tell them (usually after they ask just how I managed to publish stories, and, my god, for actual money) that I just put them in envelopes and mail them out to markets that might buy them.

There’s the other side of conventions, which is the social aspect, the sense of community, and that has a lot of value. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by lots of writers here in Oregon, but even so, there are times when I still feel like I’m writing essentially in isolation. Even being surrounded by writers, I sadly don’t get too see them all that often. There’s just too little time these days, and when it comes down to it, after the day job and family, most of what remains must go to writing and getting better at writing. But I try not to be too much a hermit, getting out when I can. Of course, if the choice comes down to hanging out with writers or going to the zoo with my daughter, as I did yesterday . . . well, there’s no contest, is there? Just love those monkeys.

Recent reads: Finished H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds. I think I’d read it long, long ago, but I hardly remembered it at all. With all the publicity around the new movie (no, I haven’t seen it, and don’t plan to), I wanted to read it again. The mode of storytelling seems a bit dated, a sort of first person journalistic account, but since it’s so dated it’s almost fresh again. Strangely, this book reminded me of Cold Mountain, which couldn’t be more different in subject matter, since it deals with the Civil War and not an alien invasion — but they both deal with a main character trying to make his way home to his beloved while having a series of mishaps and adventures along the way, each of these episodes revealing something about human nature. Also, I finished off Joseph J. Ellis’s Founding Brothers, which was an entertainng book about all the subtle and not so subtle ways our founding fathers (focusing on Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, and Hamilton) were connected. It doesn’t delve too deeply, but it’s a great overview. What always amazes me, when I think about it, is that the population of the United States in 1776 was roughtly the same as Oregon’s population today — a little less than three million. I have a hard time imagining all of those talented people coming out of Oregon today, but I suppose there’s two reasons it happened during the Revolutionary period: 1) History has been very kind to the Founding Fathers, in most cases eliminating their flaws and elevating their strengths and 2) trying times, to slightly modify Thomas Paine’s famous sentiment, bring out both the best and the worst in people. If these men had been born ten years later, we most likely never would have heard of any of them.

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