appearances genre

GenreCon be gone (sniff)

So what did you folks do on the weekend?

…look, that was a rhetorical question and you probably shouldn’t bother answering it, because I want to talk about what I did on the weekend, and that was go to Brisbane for GenreCon! This genre-writers’ conference was an absolute blast and I’m still on a bit of a high, marred only by being totally goddamn exhausted by the trip.

Others will, I’m sure, have more detailed and thoughtful posts to write on the con, but this is my space and I ain’t got no time for ‘detailed’ or ‘thoughtful’ or ‘coherent’ or ‘pants’. Let’s just knock out some Bullet Point Fever.

The highlights

  • Going straight from the airport on Friday night to Fat Louie’s karaoke bar, chugging a pile of beers, smashing the living hell out of ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ and basically rocking the post-reception con crowd like a motherfuckin’ hurricane.
  • Chairing a panel on exploring and writing hybrid genres, which was a terrific topic and one that I found really fascinating. I was blessed with an exceptional panel – romance editor/publisher Kate Cuthbert, romantic thriller author Sandy Curtis and gothic horror/historical fantasy author Kim Wilkins. We had a big, lively crowd and a lot of energy, and the panellists really had a lot of terrific insights and ideas to discuss. It’s the first time I’ve chaired a panel like this, and I hope I did a good job; I asked questions, kept things moving and generally tried to stay out of the spotlight, and I think people seemed to enjoy it. Also, Kim Wilkins is goddamn HILARIOUS, and I nearly burst a frontal lobe when she started miming T-Rex erotica.
  • 1376413_10151707269747536_1627616250_nGetting to finally meet Chuck Wendig, who I’ve known for years through our shared RPG work for White Wolf back in the day. While we’ve sporadically kept in touch, we haven’t actually met until now, and it turns out we get along pretty well. We had some beers, we talked about writing, we posed for photos and I think we had a pretty good time.
  • Getting to meet a whole bunch of other folks, some of whom I knew from Twitter (one of whom turned out to be my high school English teacher, much to our mutual amusement) and many that I didn’t. That was terrific, not just for professional networking purposes (although I did hand out a few business cards) but just because they were good folks and we got along well and then we all went to the pub. I like people who’ll come to the pub with me, especially writers.
  • My wife came with me. And that’s always a highlight.

The lowlights

  • Spending $70 on shitty hotel breakfasts that I didn’t realise weren’t included in the room cost and then vomiting up one of them anyway due to hangover.
  • Oh fuck, that fucking post-karaoke hangover. Fuck. Fuuuuuuuck.
  • Brisbane Airport and the Flight of the Damned getting home at arse-end o’clock last night.
  • …yeah, that’s pretty much it.

The takeaways

No, not the shitty pizza at the airport. A good con is one where you leave with something in your head as well as in your sample bag, and here’s the stuff that’s rattling around in mine right now:

  • At our hybrid genre panel, the authors all agreed that mixing genres (whether in terms of tropes or themes) requires you to read and engage with those genres, because you don’t read or appreciate them in the same way. (See Samuel R. Delaney’s notion of the ‘protocols’ of reading science-fiction.) While I know horror, fantasy and SF pretty well, and I’ve read my fair share of thrillers, crime and even Westerns, I’ve never read a romance novel of any kind, and I’m feeling that this is a lack, especially when it comes to evoking the romantic tension in Raven’s Blood. So I’m going to try to do some reading in the genre and learn from it. This may be difficult because I am Butch and Staunch and Manly GRRRR and have a rusty can of dog food for a heart, but I’m going to give it a shot. Kate Cuthbert has offered to recommend me some books; feel free to do the same if you have some favourites.
  • I attended an excellent workshop on the storytelling and narrative techniques of 80s and 90s action movies, where there was a lot of great discussion about what made films like Die Hard and Aliens great and how to use those strengths in our own writing. One of the strengths these films have is a clearly definable premise, and that’s something I kind of struggle to articulate with Raven’s Blood and with other, as-yet-unwritten ideas. I think I want to work on that, and on better defining the movements between acts in the novel so that the stakes and potential consequences are clearer.
  • At a panel on juggling writing with the rest of your life, Chuck – who is writing and submitting four novels in the next 10 months because he is an insane word robot with coffee-meth for blood – talked about the difference between short-term happiness and long-term satisfaction; between doing things you enjoy for the moment and doing things that eventually make your life better. That’s a divide I’ve always struggled with, but hearing it spelled out like that really helped me get some clarity on my time/energy/focus issues and how in the end they come down to prioritising what actually matters. On top of that, there was the idea that you could retrain your brain to gain happiness from satisfaction, and that blew my fuckin’ mind. If I can make that happen, if I can stop being someone who values ‘having written something’ over ‘actually doing the work of writing something’… hell, people, then I can do anything. And I’m gonna try.
  • The QLD Writers Centre team are fucking awesome. Meg Vann, Peter Ball and the rest of the team of ninjas pulled out a fantastic conference, full of energy and ideas and a willingness to just get things done. I’m really impressed by them, by the revamped State Library where they’re based, by the playfulness and neophilia of the recent Brisbane Writers Festival… it’s enough to make me miss living in Brisbane, just a little bit.
  • So was visiting Brisbane, to be honest. The place has changed, and it looks like it was for the better. I’m not leaving Melbourne, but I’m going to make more of an effort to visit all my friends, family and contacts up there more often. Preferably without braving the Flight of the Damned again.

Did I say a short blog post? Well, we all know I lie about that sort of thing every freakin’ time I post.

Anyway, take it from me if you weren’t there, it was a damn good event. The next one is in 2015, but there’ll apparently be pop-up mini-GC-events happening next year, including ones in Melbourne, Sydney and maybe some other cities. Make sure you catch them if they appear in your town; hunt them down like they’re some kind of multi-limbed creative Pokemon.

And hey, if you’re one of the folks I met at GenreCon, who’ve Googled me or started following me on Twitter, say hello! Read some blog entries, leave some comments, check out the free ebooks (and the cheap ones). Make yourself at home. Tell me a story.



8 replies on “GenreCon be gone (sniff)”

For me, Georgette Heyer was my gateway drug into romance (particularly Cotillion, ’cause the level of Jane Austen snark is extraordinary). Anne Gracie and Anna Campbell were good follow-on reads from there, in addition to being pretty awesome writer-types in and of themselves.

I also read a lot of Lauren Dane, which tends to be on the spicy end of things and explore some interesting terrain (poly relationships, sub/dom pairings) in addition to doing straight, cis-romance.

Mostly, though, I just follow Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and pick up the things that seem interesting via ebook. After a couple of weeks, you can accumulate a pretty sizable collection that way…

Random thought due to currently living post-con insomnia.
・Relapsed after 9 years in a Karaoke free life.
・Watched Kate Cuthbert break Chuck’s karaoke cherry
・Challenged same Kate to find me a romance book which I would enjoy because me ≢ romance but the romance people were awesome
・You excellently moderated an excellent panel.
・Tyrannosaurus Sex visuals will live on in many a brain.
・many other points. Loved it all.

I agree that Georgette Heyer is the way to go if you want to get a start on Romance. Romantic, and also funny. And well researched – all the slang expressions used in her books were real Regency slang, used in the exact time period. But though Cotillion is one of my Top Three Heyers, is it really the best one to start on? Given that Freddie isn’t exactly a typical Romantic hero – in fact, I think he is deliberately written as the antithesis of such. Maybe The Grand Sophy (though it does have a scene that puts some people off) or Black Sheep might be a better starting point? A lot of people recommend A Civil Contract, but it isn’t really a good example of Romance. (And she did write a few that, while Romantic, are also Not Very Good. But given how many novels she wrote, I think she’s entitled to a few missteps.)

If you feel that reading a Regency Romance would mean handing in your Man Card, how about a genre romance? I would recommend Lois McMaster Bujold’s Cordelia’s Honor (or Shards of Honor, which is the first half, written as a standalone novella, and which contains the Romance.) I have read someone trying to argue that because it is a romance it can’t be science fiction, but that person was clearly an idiot. And, BTW, Bujold’s favourite Heyer novel is Cotillion.

Another option to consider is to try Young Adult Romance. A lot of the fantasy young adult I’ve read lately seems to rely on terminally-uninteresting romantic triangles, which I guess is something else we can blame Twilight for. (Please tell me Raven’s Blood doesn’t have a romantic triangle!) But a lot of non-fantasy ones have better romance elements. Of course, they are mostly coming-of-age stories rather than capital-R Romance, but often there is still a strong romantic element to the plot. A couple of examples are Sarah Dessen (most of her books, but particularly Just Listen, Along for the Ride or What Happened to Goodbye) or On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. (Her other books also have romances, but Jellicoe is the only one – IMHO – that actually has an attractive male lead).

No, no romantic triangle in Raven’s Blood – but I am planning one (of a sort) for the sequel. (Don’t hate me.)

That statement about Lois McMaster Bujold was from a terrible editorial by Paul Cook in Amazing Stories earlier this year, which I brought up at my panel. No-one was particularly impressed by his argument.

Y’all have me intrigued about Georgette Heyer. I will investigate further.

Trust me, Cotillion works as a kick-off. It’s been my go-to book for introducing people to Heyer for a couple of years, and it’s always resulted in people reading at least two or three more books.

Patrick, you might want to read a recent blog post by Justine Larbalestier on writing romance:

She makes some good points about the difference between Adult and Young Adult romance. She also includes the names of a number of current romance writers, if you are looking for someone to try. Interestingly, she doesn’t actually mention Georgette Heyer (though I do know she’s a fan).

And just returning to the above conversation on Heyer … yes, I love Cotillion, and yes, I can see it working as a ‘gateway drug’ for Heyer. But since it is very consciously turning some of the conventions upside down, it may not be the best introduction to Romance as a genre. In particular, Freddy is neither Heyer Hero Mark I (‘the brusque, savage sort with a foul temper’) nor Heyer Hero Mark II (‘suave, well-dressed, rich, and a famous whip’ – i.e. horseman). I believe Heyer herself described him as a ‘poppet’ (this was a term of affection, not a criticism).

Though I guess the heroine IS one of the Standard Heyer Types. And it does fit the other key Romantic trope, described IIRC by Jilly Cooper (whose romances I DON’T like, with one exception) as the heroine having to choose between Mr Romantic and Mr Reliable. That is, the classic Romantic Triangle, which Heyer didn’t often use as a plot basis. (As I mentioned before, I think it is currently being vastly overused by current Young Adult writers, but that doesn’t mean it can’t work well. As Cotillion proves.)

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