In which there is ketchup

So, we went to Boskone, and it was fun.

I had my doubts, as we drove out last Thursday morning, to catch the Downeaster to Boston.  It had snowed on the overnight, and the Amtrak lot at Brunswick is uncovered, as are most of the parking lots in Maine. Honestly, you’d think it never snowed here.

Still, it had snowed, and I had visions of us having to shovel out a parking space, if, in fact, the lot was open at all.

Now, this?  Is the upside of being a pessimist.  We get so many more nice surprises than optimists.  For instance — yes the lot was both full of snow and full of cars, but!  there were two spaces available, and a front-loader on the case clearing the snow.  The nice operator dug out one of the two available spots for us, leaving us fresh for a small tussle with the “automatic parking meter,”  which, given the snow and the temperature, and all, was a little less automatic than one might wish.  Eventually, however, Victory Was Ours, and we rolled our suitcases down to the actual train station, and boarded in good order.

We arrived in Boston to find that — surprise! — North Station was undergoing construction and the Taxi Feeding Grounds from which we have for many years claimed our ride across town was — unavailable.  In fact, there were no taxis to be seen.

Finally, we walked up Portland Street, to the Kimpton Onyx Hotel, which had done us a good turn once before, and asked the nice person on the front desk to call us a cab, which she very kindly did, and we were on our way.

Boskone was lovely.  We saw a lot of people we hadn’t seen in years, what with one thing and another; had a delightful Friends of Liad breakfast, and several stimulating panels.  We signed books; I lost my voice, and on Monday morning, in the teeth of a very pretty little snow that did very little violence to the Traffic of Boston, given that it was a holiday, we were returned to North Station, where a nice Transit Authority Person was able to give us succinct and accurate directions to Amtrak, and so to Brunswick, and thence to Waterville, where we were very glad to see the cats, and vice versa.

We had a celebratory Home Again pizza, as is our habit, and a good night’s sleep.  This morning, we slept in, and, now that my hair is dry, I will be going out to the grocery store.  After lunch, I will delve into The Taxes, and Steve will be hitting the galleys for Liaden Universe® Constellation Volume Four.

So, yanno:  Back to normal, until next Thursday, when Steve will be reporting to the Cardiac Unit at Eastern Maine Medical Center to have his generator replaced.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention that today is Belle’s ninth birthday, which she is celebrating by sleeping in the sun, stretched full length on the cedar chest.

. . .and that?  Catches us all up.

Here, have a picture from the con.

The Lee and Miller Boskone 56 Schedule

As mentioned elsewhere, Steve and I (that’s Steve Miller and Sharon Lee) will be attending Boskone 56  February 15 through 19, at the Westin Boston Waterfront.  This is what our Official Con Schedule looks like.  You’ll also likely see us in the art show, the dealers room, and in the hallways or the Big Living Room, reading (Sharon) or talking (Steve).

FRIDAY

The Hopeful Future in Science Fiction
15 Feb 2019, Friday 2:00 – 2:50, Harbor II (Westin)
Science fiction can tend toward grim futuristic realism that is either technology-based or post-apocalyptic. Are these the futures we want to write for ourselves? Or read? In light of all the possibilities, where can we find the bright and shining moments? What current fiction gives us hope for the future? And how can we stay positive while still being realistic?
James Patrick Kelly (writer) (M), Muriel Stockdale, Gene Doucette, Fonda Lee, Steve Miller

The Long View (of a Writing Career)
15 Feb 2019, Friday 5:00 – 5:50, Marina 3 (Westin)
How do you keep the fiction and art fresh after 10, 20, 30-plus years in the business? A few streaks of gray here; a few wrinkles there … but we’re still here, contributing to SF/F literature and art and the fandom that embraces them. Our panelists take a look down memory lane at their careers — and how things have changed since they were young, eager creatives, struggling to find their place in the field. Stories will be told, advice will be shared, and a few laughs (and tears?) will be shed over the good times and bad that come with walking the long road of writing.
Ginjer Buchanan (M), Sharon Lee, Jeffrey A. Carver, Steve Miller, Allen M. Steele

Shared-Universe Worldbuilding
15 Feb 2019, Friday 6:00 – 6:50, Marina 3 (Westin)
Authors can cooperate in a variety of ways: co-authoring, writing a sequel to another’s work, extending/finishing a series started by another, etc. Shared worlds are purpose-built for different authors to (more or less independently) set their own stories. How do you make a sandbox for multiple writers to play in? What are some pitfalls? What prevents the world from degenerating, or tying up its authors in knots while trying to maintain mutual consistency? Let’s look at successful shared universes, and what keeps them worlds ahead of the rest.
Steve Miller, Victoria Sandbrook (M), Lauren Roy, Barry Lee Dejasu, David Anthony Durham

SATURDAY

Friends of Liad Breakfast with Steve Miller and Sharon Lee
16 Feb 2019, Saturday 8:30 – 9:30, Sauciety, Westin
This is a family event for fans of the Liaden Universe®, the Cat Farm Cats, or, yanno, whatever.  This is not a convention event; it’s a group of friends getting together to catch up over breakfast.  You are expected to pay for your own breakfast.  Sharon and Steve will be paying for their breakfasts, too.  Hope to see you there.

Autographing: Jonathan Hunt, Sharon Lee, Dan Moren, Steve Miller, Rebecca Roanhorse
16 Feb 2019, Saturday 10:00 – 10:50, Galleria – Autographing (Westin)

The Great Escape
16 Feb 2019, Saturday 1:00 – 1:50, Burroughs (Westin)
How do you extricate your characters from sticky situations? Felix the Cat has his bag of tricks, Batman has his utility belt — but heavy-handed rabbit-pulling is passé these days. So what’s it take to orchestrate a believable, savvy escape? Or a whole series of them, when your plot keeps putting your protagonist in peril? Let’s consider some great SF/F/H escapes, and discuss how the writer pulled them off.
Sharon Lee, Brad Abraham, Brendan DuBois (M), Brenda W. Clough , Laurence Raphael Brothers

Economics in SF/F Worlds
16 Feb 2019, Saturday 2:00 – 2:50, Burroughs (Westin)
Whether you deal in coin, platinum, electronic credits, or chickens, all societies rest upon an agreed-upon economic foundation. However, fantastic fiction rarely features a reference to any body that establishes and monitors a financial system. How important is it to see a working (or failing) economy in an SF/F world? Can you realistically have a cashless society (Star Trek) or a civilization run by orcs (LOTR)? What are the economic drivers that keep these worlds turning? Fellowships that cross multiple borders to throw away precious metal objects so rarely pay well. How do our heroes and villains survive without visible incomes of any kind?
MR Richardson (M), Fonda Lee, Karl Schroeder, Steve Miller, Walter H. Hunt

The Middle Book Syndrome
16 Feb 2019, Saturday 4:00 – 4:50, Marina 4 (Westin)
The first book of your series was amazing: solid story; compelling characters; great reception by publisher, critics, and fans. Now, the hard part: living up to all the high expectations. Or maybe the first book had a less receptive reception, but you still need to produce that second volume? Plus there’s the rhythm problem — first book, thrilling beginnings; last book, satisfying conclusions; middle book, recaps and repetitions … How do you deal with the pressures of a multi-book contract and impatient fans?
Juliana Spink Mills, Fran Wilde (M), Kenneth Rogers Jr., Sarah Beth Durst , Sharon Lee

The (r)Evolution of Military SF
16 Feb 2019, Saturday 4:00 – 4:50, Burroughs (Westin)
The tools of war change: shouldn’t fiction about fighting also evolve? Even as weapons in the real world are approaching science fictional levels of lethality, the spirit of military SF hasn’t changed much since the age of swords. Let’s look at how technology, fiction, and the military intersect and interact.
Alan Brown, Vincent O’Neil (M), Paul Di Filippo, Steve Miller, Errick Nunnally

The Impact of Fandom
16 Feb 2019, Saturday 5:00 – 5:50, Marina 4 (Westin)
Fandom is a many-splendored (and terrifying?) thing. As fandom accompanies SF/F into the mainstream, what’s its impact on the genre’s creators? Do fans actually save shows? Influence creative directions? Drive innovation? Or demand more of the same? What about when fans become creators themselves? Looking ahead, what more might we fans do for our beloved genre?
Janice Gelb (M), Dave Weingart, Jim Mann, Steve Miller, Brad Abraham

SUNDAY

Kaffeeklatsch: Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
17 Feb 2019, Sunday 11:00 – 11:50, Galleria – Kaffeeklatsch 2 (Westin)

Reading by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
17 Feb 2019, Sunday 1:00 – 1:25, Griffin (Westin)

Housekeeping Note: In Which This Site Will Be Twilit

Because I know some of y’all worry when the blog doesn’t update regularly. . .

I will not be updating this blog — or any blog, actually — for. . .a while.

The reasons for this are several.  One is that, of course, we’re deep in the end game for Accepting the Lance, which is due, no excuses, by the end of January.  By itself, as you and I both know from experience, this would be enough to limit updates.  I’m lead on Lance, and being the end of several story arcs, as it is, it’s being, ahem, a little difficult to bring in.

In addition to this, a small mountain of family crises has landed in my lap.  As it turns out certain obligations fall to the last surviving child of a parent — and that would be me.  You will remember that my sister died earlier this month, very suddenly, leaving things with regard to our father’s care. . .a little awry, but recoverable, or so I imagine her thoughts went, had she recovered.  She did not, and in the aftermath of her departure, documents which really ought to have been kept. . .weren’t.

I have therefore inherited said small mountain, which includes people demanding payments, and other people denying me access to accounts, until I can prove X,Y,Z.  Needless to say, the folks who want their money are a lot less particular about what I can prove than the folks who are holding the checks.

To sum up: I am simultaneously embarked on two life-devouring projects, which means “extras,” like updating this blog, will have to go on hold.

Steve will be updating Welcome to Liad with writing, professional, and appearance news (yes, we do still plan — very much — on attending Boskone in February).  He also plans to resume the story hours on Patreon.  He has begun writing the next Liaden book, which he tells me will be a Jethri book, the sequel to Trade Secret.

. . .and here ends my tale.

Everybody stay safe, right?  And may the incoming year bring joy and success to us all.

 

In which life is interesting

 

Yes, yes, there will be another Liaden Universe® novel.  Actually, there will be. . . *looks at projects list*. . .six.  Six more Liaden Universe® novels.

Eventually.

Accepting the Lance is due to be turned in to Baen in January.  It is in the publishing schedule for the end of 2019. 

After Lance is submitted, Steve and I will be taking a couple months “off,” as the saying goes, and then starting the next book.  Which will be a Liaden Universe® novel.  No, we don’t know what it will be about.  No, we are not out of ideas for Liaden Universe® novels.  Thank you.

Work on Lance continues to go in a forwarder direction.  I am reading the manuscript now; should finish today.  Looks like I have some bridge-building in my immediate future, which wasn’t entirely unexpected.

In Real Life news, for those who follow along, on the day before Thanksgiving my sister went in to the hospital with what looked like a stroke.  Despite tests, medical science could not find what had caused this episode, so she was sent home. 

She was readmitted to the hospital less than a week later with a “massive infection,” was given every antibiotic known to science, and daily dialysis. She went into cardiac arrest late on December 7 and died in the early hours of December 8. 

I am behind on answering email.  I will, I promise, get to yours soon, but there are things in queue ahead.

I think that gets us caught up.  All of you who celebrate winter holidays — be joyous.  We here at the Cat Farm and Confusion Factory give a nod to Yule; and a modest nod at that, since we’re usually on deadline for a book in December.  This year, we achieved wreathes — one for the front door, one for the dining room, and a modest string of lights for each.  Serendipitously, a friend sent us a turtle ornament, so now we have a Great A’Tuin Wreath.  Which pleases me.

 

 

Observations on the retreating horizon of Success

So, a couple weeks ago, I read an article addressing the ever-fascinating topic of how to rise above the crowd of voices in SF/F, how to become  A Success, defined for the purposes of the article as an internationally recognized winner of awards and rich beyond your wildest dreams of avarice.

Followed a list of five-ish Things To Do, at least three of which we — by which I mean Steve Miller and Sharon Lee — had, so far as we know, invented.  At the very least, we were very early adopters.

I showed the article to Steve, and he nodded and said, “Yep, yeah; do all that.”

“I know we do all that,” I said.  “What I want to know is why we’re not A Success.”

And Steve lifted his index finger and pointed at the ceiling.

“Roof,” he said.  “Over head.”

Which, yanno, is fair enough, and a Good Reminder that Success is a moving target; it’s always ahead of you, and — pro tip! — you will never catch it.

Back when I was a baby writer, I thought success was selling a short story and seeing it published in a professional magazine.  And, in 1980, I hit Success dead-center.  I sold and saw published “A Matter of Ceremony,” to Amazing Stories.

Only. . .to really be A Success, I had to sell two more short stories to professional venues, so that I’d qualify for membership in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and be recognized as A Pro.

Well, I hit that Success, too, and then, it turned out that, to be a Solid Success and a Real Pro, one needed — absolutely needed — to write and sell a novel. Anyone can write short stories, after all.

. . .And we did that.  Then, we wrote and sold more novels, because anybody can write one novel, and to be A Success one needed a Body of Work.

And, then of course, to be A Real Success, instead of a tawdry wannabe success, one had to win awards!

. . .and. . .one had to teach!

. . .and. . .be important in the media!

. . .and. . .be Guests of Honor at science fiction conventions!  No, wait — at WorldCon!

. . .and. . .there’s Success, always ahead, dancing and laughing, and taunting.

So, the point of this — I really do have a point — is that Success — by which I mean Third-Party Success, envisioned by Someone Out There, and built according to their rules — is a mug’s game.  Worse, trying to catch Success opens you to the corrosive effects of envy, and self-dissatisfaction, which will leach happiness from your life, and joy from your relationships.

You’re better off — oh, so very much better off — setting your own goals, and celebrating each one that you achieve, without reference to what Other People are achieving, or what you “ought” to be achieving in order to be a “Real Success.”

This world is full of ways to make you unhappy and desperate (Once upon a time, an acquaintance said to me at a party, “So, I hear you have a new book out!”  “Yes,” I said excitedly.  “Have you read it?”  “No offense,” he answered, sipping his wine, “but I don’t have time to read good books.”).  Your job is to visualize your own happiness and success — and work toward those goals, joyously.

It’s not easy — nothing in this life is easy — but it’s worth the effort, in ways that chasing Success will never be.

. . .and now?

I need to clean the cat fountain — I keep cats because I enjoy the company of cats, and they make my life better, and they really prefer to have running water — and then I need to get to work.

See you on the flipside.