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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Albacon 2017 Con Report by Chuck Rothman

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Albacon 2017 Con Report

(Albany, New York, March 31-April 2, 2017)

by Chuck Rothman

Albacon is a long-running traditional science fiction convention that's been held in the Albany, NY area since 1996. This year's edition had author Charles Gannon and artist Stephen Hickman as Guests of Honor, and was held over April Fool's Day weekend.

It's a small convention, one where you get to see and talk with everyone there if you wish. I've been a part of the convention since before the beginning, and have been running programming for well over half of them. What we try to do is have a mix of panels; some serious, some silly, and also a mix of events.

The convention began on Friday with a Writer's Workshop. There were various topics on the craft and business of writing, and the audience was made up not only of aspiring authors, but also some who had already been published, looking for tips and techniques they could use.

Friday evening was the convention's traditional Ice Cream Social, with all the toppings, followed by an Art Show reception.

Traditional conventions are always looking to expand their membership, and Albacon concentrated on cosplay and costuming. This worked out well, since over a third of the attendees were there Saturday only, which was focused on events for cosplayers. We were delighted by the response; 20 people took part in our costume contest.

There also were a large number of younger people, always a good sign.

Costume Contest winners

Saturday night was our Extravaganza, starting with a roast of Charles Gannon (yes, a Chuck Roast). Dr. Lawrence M. Schoen was master of ceremonies (blame him for the Chuck Roast pun), with a slide show made up for the occasion. The audio of the roast is on the Albacon web page. James D. Macdonald presented his slide show "100 Years of Dead Magicians," a look at various magic acts who literally died on stage. Fascinating if you're interested in stage magic.

The art show was small but with a variety not only from Stephen Hickman, but from several others in different media, including Heidi Hooper's dryer lint art. There were only a few dealers, concentrating on books. The con is looking to find other types of dealers for next year.

Some of the panels included topics like "Lost SF Themes," "Improvisational Storytelling," "Fantasy from Different Cultures," "How not to get published," "An Appreciation of Mary Shelley," "Twisted History," and "Great but Forgotten SF." Given the date, there also was a track of mythical programming in a room that didn't exist.

Attendees agreed that they had a great time at the convention. The convention will be moving to September next year to move away from the busy winter season.

Chuck Rothman's novels Staroamer's Fate and Syron's Fate were recently republished by Fantastic Books.


2016 Worldcon panel on the "State of Short Fiction"

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2016 Worldcon panel on the "State of Short Fiction"

Friday, August 19, 2016

3 PM, Room 3501B

Panelists: Dave Truesdale (M), Neil Clarke, Sheila Williams, Jonathan Strahan, Gordon Van Gelder

I had originally planned to post this unedited audio recording of the panel in conjunction with an article I wanted to have posted at Tangent Online the same day as the panel, and the text transcription of the audio. I now feel it is in the best interests of all parties to post the audio now, with the article and text transcription to follow as soon as I can get to it.

I had made notes for the article I wanted to have posted here, so brought them to the panel in their rough state, crossouts, arrows moving pieces around, written-in thoughts in pen, the usual rough draft of any document. I did not intend to use anywhere near all of them but knew from experience that having too much material is better than having too little. As it turned out, the only item I used directly from these notes was the quote from David Hartwell.

I would like to clear up one area near the very beginning of the panel, where it is difficult to discern what was being said. There are maybe one or two others that will be made clear from the text transcript, but I'll leave them for that (they do not impact in any way what you will hear here). You will hear a fan shouting (to be heard) something at Neil Clarke, accusing him of intolerance (exact wording in the audio). This was prompted by Neil turning his chair around in protest when I was speaking. There was a brief back and forth from Neil and the fan, where Neil shouted into his mic "I call bullshit!". You have to listen closely to catch that, it happens quickly, but it's there. I think it was at this point that I called for the audience to please hold their comments until the Q&A at the end, which they did. Also near the beginning you'll hear me say, after the door at the back opened and a fan walked in, "Oh, that's not Gordon." Gordon was a few minutes late and I was hoping it was him arriving. So now you'll know what that line was about. Other than these two items, I'll let the audio speak for itself.

The photo below was sent to me by someone I did not know and had never met. I was given permission to use it, or not, as I saw fit. I don't know his real name so can't provide photo credit, but I thank him for allowing me to use it. I had no plans for posting it anywhere at first, but thought that now would be as good a time as ever. And I'm not sure, but I think it--or another one like it from some other fan photographer--has been posted somewhere else anyway.

I will let the following audio speak for itself. You decide whether this warranted expulsion from a worldcon. I obviously don't think so, but am biased in this regard. I've heard much worse panels (far worse)--and moderators--in my 42 years of con going, but again I guess all I can say is You be the judge.

Play Time: 54:13







Corrupting the Artist Within You by David Farland

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David Farland was the Grand Prize winner in the 1986 International Writers of the Future contest, of which he is now a judge as well as the editor of the Writers of the Future annual anthology. His debut novel On My Way to Paradise (Bantam Spectra, 1989) was honored with a special second place citation for the 1989 Philip K. Dick award. Of On My Way to Paradise, Orson Scott Card writing in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, said that it was "One of the deepest and most powerful science fiction novels ever written." David has since penned some nineteen novels to date, most of them in the fantasy genre, and include three major series: the Serpent Catch series (4 books); the Golden Queen series (3 books); and the Runelord series (9 books).

David's web page on writing tips, his workshops and seminars, and other valuable columns on the writing craft can be found at www.mystorydoctor.com.

I thank David for allowing us to share his thoughts on author entitlement and the place of humility in the Arts, a lesson that never grows old and which newer writers especially should take to heart as they begin their (hopefully) successful careers.

♣      ♣      ♣

Corrupting the Artist Within You

By David Farland

(From David Farland’s Daily Kick in the Pants) Selfish Art


There is a problem with the arts, one that I have not addressed, and it is this: If you have the fortune (or misfortune) of being a gifted artist, it can corrupt you.

If you are a gifted artist, people will tend to be moved by your art. They will praise you in private letters, offer you awards, present you with valuable gifts, fawn over you, seek to seduce you, and so on, and this can corrupt and destroy you.

It starts innocently enough with praise. Every author that I know of feeds on praise to some extent. We need praise. I was fascinated a few months back to learn that the single biggest factor to predicting longevity is the “approbation of our peers.” When others praise us consistently and admire our efforts, it reduces the harmful stress in our lives and not only allows us to perform at our peak, but also lengthens our years.

But praise is a fickle thing, and few artists have a career where they are praised and receive awards on a regular basis. I have known authors who received early praise to grouse when a competing author receives a rave review, wins an award, or hits high on the bestseller list. Such authors become ravaged by jealousy and despair, to the point where such authors have been known to fall into alcoholism, drug addiction, or suffer from suicidal tendencies.

Even worse, praise is so often insincere. It costs nothing to give, and so has little real value.

Other authors buy into the belief that their talent makes them inherently superior to others, so that they somehow exist in an elevated realm above the rest of humanity, and feel entitled to favor. I was recently speaking to an author who was hoping to get an endowment from a wealthy patron. I wondered, “Have you ever considered actually working for your money? It’s not very hard to make, if you work for it.” I actually suggested a couple of ways for her to make the money she wanted—all of which she promptly rejected.

When authors become puffed up in pride, they often become demeaning or dismissive of others, and I know of authors who love to ridicule and condemn their competitors in an effort to boost their own reputation. Such authors often treat the unwashed masses with contempt, having no patience with waiters, hoteliers, or similar “little people.” Very often, such authors blind themselves to the strengths and talents of others to the point that they look doubly foolish.

This sense of entitlement often is manifested in sexual aggression. I’ve known several male authors who could not be trusted to enter into an elevator with a pretty girl who was alone. Back during the 19th Century, authors of genius tended to die from social disease so often that it became cliché.

In short, talented artists may create wondrous things but become pathetic, miserable, self-destructive people. I’m reminded by this again and again when I read about people like Poe, Michelangelo, Paganini, Mozart, and most lately Tolstoy.

Here is a quote from a recent review of a biography of Sofia Tolstoy that demonstrates the problem (in very, very small part). Sofia says of her husband:

For a genius one has to create a peaceful, cheerful, comfortable home. A genius must be fed, washed and dressed, must have his works copied out innumerable times, must be loved and spared all cause for jealousy, so he can be calm. Then one must feed and educate the innumerable children fathered by this genius, whom he cannot be bothered to care for himself, as he has to commune with the Epictetuses, Socrateses and Buddhas, and aspire to be like them himself.”

The biographer, Cathy Porter, then notes: “In 1910, just a month before the 82-year-old Tolstoy fled Yasnaya Polyana on the trip that would lead to his death in a railway station far from his home, Sofia — now in her late 60s — celebrates her “name day,” which is also the day that Tolstoy proposed to her. She asks herself: “What did he do to that eighteen-year-old Sonechka Behrs, who gave him her whole life, her love and her trust?” She sums up the 48 years of their life together: “He has tortured me with his coldness, his cruelty and his extreme egotism.”

May I suggest that if you find yourself the object of adoration by fans, you can remain humble by looking upon the strengths of others outside your discipline? You can treat others as equals, nurturing and loving them and learning from them the highest art from them—the art of living.

If you find yourself the object of praise one week and scorn the next, you can treasure your triumphs while learning from your failures. You need not go to bed for a week, suffer from crying jags, cook up a dose of heroin, or try to destroy the reputation of your competitors.

While your art may make great demands of you, you need not lay your life upon its altar.

Copyright © 2015 David Farland

[Left: On My Way to Paradise, 1989 ed. - Center: Writers of the Future 31, 2015 - Right: On My Way to Paradise, 2014 ed.]


Below: the most recent volumes of David Farland's series'


And Multiple Award Winner...


Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Best Young Adult Novel of the Year.

Grand Prize Winner of the Hollywood Book Festival, placed first in all genres, all categories.

Finalist in the Global Ebook Awards.



Jousting with Straw Puppies by Kate Paulk

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Jousting with Straw Puppies


Kate Paulk

Since the success of Sad Puppies 2 in bringing a handful of differently philosophical works onto the Hugo ballot, there has been a stream of articles, blog posts, tweets, and every possible other outlet imaginable decrying the evil of the Puppies and how the campaign is the reactionary work of a collection of redneck, white-supremacist, homophobic, Mormon men trying to keep everyone else out of the field.


Fear is the Mindkiller by Jeb Kinnison

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Fear is the Mindkiller
Jeb Kinnison

If a civilization is to be judged on how concerned it is with its weakest members, then we are becoming very civilized indeed. If college campuses are the bellwethers of the future, then we can look forward to a future of restricted speech and thought designed to preserve the feelings of those who perceive themselves to be weak. Crusaders for "social justice" will punish every microaggression with career-ending charges, and the bounds of what one is allowed to say without fear of reprisal will narrow further.


The Origin of Galaxy's Edge and Stellar Guild by Mike Resnick

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Mike Resnick has won five Hugo awards (out of a record 36 nominations) and a Nebula for his short fiction, including numerous international awards, making him, according to Locus, the all-time leader among authors, living or dead, for short fiction. His most recent editorial excursions are as editor of the Stellar Guild series of books under the Phoenix Pick imprint, and editor of the bi-monthly online professional SF magazine Galaxy's Edge. With the recent success, popularity, and recognition of stories from both Galaxy's Edge and the Stellar Guild series, I asked Mike if he would recount the origins of both, how he hooked up with publisher Shahid Mahmud, and how the dual concepts — book series and magazine format — became reality. I thank Mike Resnick for taking time from his writing and editing schedule to pen the following piece, which among other virtues shows how he and other established (busy) professionals still take time to discover and nurture new talent within the field.

♣      ♣      ♣


        The Origin of Galaxy’s Edge and Stellar Guild


by Mike Resnick




Afoot in Africa by Gregory Benford

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Afoot in Africa, October 2014


Gregory Benford


{Late October of 2014 found Gregory Benford in the wilds of South Africa. We are pleased to present his sketched notes of the trip--to be fleshed out at a later date--plus a snippet of a short story in progress written one evening inspired by his African experience.}




Afoot at Loncon... by Gregory Benford

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Gregory Benford, Brian Aldiss, Robert Silverberg


"Doctor, Will the Patient Survive?" by Sheila Finch

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Doctor, Will the Patient Survive?


By Sheila Finch



WisCon 38 Con Report by Charles Payseur

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WisCon 38 Con Report

(Madison, WI, May 23-26, 2014)

by Charles Payseur

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