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Launch Pad 2013 applications now open

In 2008 I attended the Launch Pad astronomy workshop. Applications are now open for this year’s workshop, which will be held July 14-21, 2013.

Launch Pad is a week-long crash course for modern astronomy held annually in Laramie, Wyoming, and combines traditional lecture, experiment, activities, discussion, and telescope visits. It’s basically a full semester of Astronomy 101 in a week, and it will melt your brain.

Attendance is limited to about a dozen participants, who are selected based on audience size and audience diversity. That’s a fancy way of saying they don’t just admit a dozen white male hard sf novelists who write for pretty much the same audience. They would love to see more applications from writers of all genres, non-fiction writers, screenwriters, playwrights, editors and anyone with the ability to put more and better quality astronomy in front of interested eyes, although they expect many participants to continue to be science fiction novelists as they have dominated the applicant pool. The workshop used to be free, but they’ve lost their NASA/NSF funding so it now costs $500 — this includes tuition, lodging, and meals except for dinner.

The application form, more information about the workshop, a history, and my write-up of the workshop at tor.com are available online. Applications will be open until April 15 and final decisions should be made by mid-May.

I had a blast when I went, and I encourage any SF writer with an interest in space to apply.

Mad Science, FOGcon, and more

Last night’s Mad Scientist’s Guide reading at Powell’s went well, with an enthusiastic crowd of about 50 attendees.

IMG 1702

I was remarkably blasé about the whole thing, really… I had two other people to back me up, and all I had to do was read a story, one I’ve read before and I know goes over well, and do a bit of Q&A. But still — I had a reading at Powell’s! And at the end of the evening I went home with the large foam-core version of the book cover, which is something I’ve never had before. Very cool.

In other mad-science-related news, I have just sold a reprint of my BVC Mad Scientist Week story “One Night in O’Shaughnessy’s Bar” to Mad Scientist Journal. Mad Scientist Journal has also reviewed The Mad Scientist’s Guide, calling “Letter to the Editor” “my favorite story of the anthology”.

I have also just learned that Heiresses of Russ 2012: the Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction, which includes my story “Tides of the Heart,” is a finalist for a Lambda Award!

Tomorrow morning we will be heading down to the Bay Area for FOGcon, where I will be on the panel “Better Stories and Gardens” at 4:30 Friday.

I was also supposed to appear on a bunch of programming on Saturday, but I am going to have to bail on all of it because my aunt passed away a couple of weeks ago and her life celebration is on Saturday afternoon in Sacramento.

(Condolences, although appreciated, are unnecessary; my aunt was a wonderful person, but I did not know her well and she passed away peacefully at age 87.)

The good news is that, as the life celebration and the con are both in the Bay Area, I don’t have to miss the entire con, just Saturday afternoon/evening. So if you are at the con, I hope to see you there!

Mark your calendars (Portland, OR)

Here are a few upcoming events that might be of interest to the Portland-area SF-reading crowd:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013, 7:00 PM: The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination reading/signing with John Joseph Adams, Daniel H. Wilson, and David D. Levine at Powell’s Books at Cedar Hills Crossing (http://www.powells.com/events/#5113)

Thursday, April 4, 2013, 7:00 PM: Phantom Sense and Other Stories book launch with Mark Niemann-Ross, Richard A. Lovett, and David D. Levine at St. Johns Booksellers (http://stjohnsbooks.com)

Wednesday, April 24, 2103, 7:00 PM: SFWA Pacific Northwest Reading Series with Mary Robinette Kowal, Tina Connolly, and Nisi Shawl at McMenamin’s Kennedy School (http://www.sfwa.org/for-readers/sfwa-northwest-reading-series/)

Portland Comic Con report

I had thought that I’d never been to a comics event before, but when I ran into Barry Deutsch he pointed out that I’d been to several iterations of the Stumptown Comics Fest. Which is true, but Stumptown is more of an arts festival, where most of the tables are staffed by independent comics artists. The Wizard World Comic Con was not very much like that at all.

My first thought when I stepped onto the show floor was that this looked and felt exactly like the “sci-fi conventions” seen on shows such as Castle and CSI — masses of people, mostly dressed in black, with a sprinkling of costumes, all tightly packed in a show floor crammed with booths. Lots of T-shirts with geeky slogans; mass-produced zap guns and other accessories. Quite a few small children, with parents in tow (or is that the other way around). Pop music from the overhead speakers competing with video game noises and soundtracks from the booths. Thousands of people, possibly over ten thousand; certainly all the parking near the convention center was full. This was a place of commerce — a giant dealer’s room with a few tracks of programming attached (on the other side of the hall, more lightly attended). Apart from Barry (whom I’ve met only a few times before) and the other panelists on my own panel, out of all those thousands I didn’t meet a single other person I knew.

But as I wandered the show floor, looking at pirated DVDs and buying some graphic novels from the 50% off racks, I realized that there was something else this reminded me of: the state fair. Like the state fair, it had booth after booth of vendors and exhibitors; it even had games of chance (I won a T-shirt) and pitchmen hawking the geekish equivalent of Veg-A-Matics (mostly iPhone accessories). Instead of cows and horses, it had artists and actors. Brent Spiner and Lou Ferrigno chewed their cud in their stalls, signing autographs for $40 a pop and up. Artists, too, were had stalls, selling books, prints, and sketches (I’d been told that some would provide sketches for free; I didn’t ask, but saw several with posted price lists). I saw an enormous line, stretching the length of the exhibit hall, of people waiting for an autograph from one of the stars of The Walking Dead, which sort of baffled me. All it lacked was elephant ears and Fried Things on Sticks, though the convention center’s usual providers of unhealthy food were on hand.

Crossing the hall to the programming area, I sat in on a few panels, including a presentation on the history of Filmation by Andy Mangels, before it was time for my own panel (“Science Fiction Writers: Imagining Our Future” with Erik Wecks, William Hertling, Daniel H. Wilson, and Chris Claremont). Over a hundred people attended, and I think most of them were drawn by the name Chris Claremont… but he didn’t show, and didn’t show, and finally we started the panel without him. Then, about fifteen minutes in, someone from the convention came in and removed his name tent, muttering to the panelists “he’s not on this panel.” (::waves hands:: “I am not here. I was never here.”) Later we learned that Claremont had not been informed of his addition to the panel, though he was listed in the program book. However, even when it became clear that the star would not show, not one audience member left, which cheered me greatly.

It was a perfectly respectable panel; we covered the basics, with special attention to robots and AI due to the specialties of Wilson and Hertling, and fielded several questions from the polite but engaged audience. I handed out a few business cards and then left for another engagement.

So that was yesterday. Am I going back today? Probably… I must confess I am interested in the presentations by Morena Baccarin and James Marsters. Would I go again? Maybe, if I’m invited again, but I don’t think I’d pay $60, plus parking, for the weekend.

I’ll be at Portland Comic Con Feb. 22-24

The first Wizard World Portland Comic Con begins today at the Oregon Convention Center. I’ve never been to any kind of comic con before, but I’m going to this one, because I’m on programming. On Saturday 2/23, you’ll see me on the following panel:

4:00 – 4:45PM SCIENCE FICTION WRITERS: IMAGINING OUR FUTURE What roll [sic] does speculative fiction, and in particular science fiction, play in creating the future? When faced with so many potential catastrophes can science fiction provide hope? Or is science fiction at it strongest when it reveals our fears? Can the types of stories we tell influence the future we create? Come interact with Portland based science fiction authors William Hertling (Avogadro Corp: The Singularity Is Closer Than It Appears, A.I. Apocalypse), David D. Levine (Space Magic, Tk’Tk’Tk) and Daniel H. Wilson (Robopocalypse, How to Survive a Robot Uprising and A Boy and His Bot) along with Chris Claremont as we tackle these questions and more. Moderated by Erik Wecks (Wired’s GeekDad) (ROOM C124)

1) I would like to apologize for the lack of any women or people of color on this panel. I did suggest several women to invite (sadly, I do not know any prominent PoC SF writers in Portland) but, for reasons unknown to me, they were either not invited or were unable to attend.

2) Any suggestions for a first-time comic con attendee? I don’t expect San Diego levels of overwhelming, but it’s a new environment for me and I would like to avoid any faux pas if possible.

Happy birthday to me!

Today is my birthday! I don’t have any grand plans for celebration, except that on my birthday I allow myself to eat whatever I damn well please and not feel guilty about it. Mmm, donuts.

Also today, Mad Scientist Week continues at the Book View Cafe blog with an original short-short story from me: “One Night in O’Shaughnessy’s Bar.”

I also want to take this opportunity to mention that last night I saw one of the best plays I’ve seen in some years: Red Herring at Artists Rep. It’s a noir detective story. It’s a romantic comedy that’s laugh-out-loud funny. It’s a keenly-observed commentary on the importance and meaning of marriage. It’s a noir farce, of all things. Six excellent actors play a variety of parts, with great skill and verve, on a set whose apparent simplicity belies its sophistication. See it!