RamboCon – Proposed Sessions for an Imaginary Spec-Fic Convention

Some panel ideas, which any convention organizer is welcome to grab.

(Writing) Making the Transition from Short Story to Novel
What are the pitfalls and what should the writer know before starting? Is it easier to do it in reverse and go from novel to short story? What’s similar and what’s different? Does it help to think of chapters as mini-stories?

(This seems to me to be harder than anyone acknowledges it to be, and I know there’s several basics I wish I’d known before I’d begun blindly floundering in the much deeper waters of a novel. I’m also pretty sure this is not a new idea for a panel, but I haven’t seen it at recent cons I’ve been at.)

(Editing or Publishing) The Architecture of the Country of the Blind
Reading blind, so you see just the story and not the name of the author with its info about gender, is something many editors and publishers agree is a good idea. What are the practical aspects of setting up such a system? What do you do if editors or slush readers recognize the story? Is it true you can tell gender by how someone writes? What about the fact that such a system removes the “name recognition” that some widely published authors hold?

(Let’s just start with the assumption it’s a good idea for once. For the love of Pete. Thx.)

(Writing) What the F*** is Flash Fiction?
Some people say flash fiction has a minimum length, such as 1000, 500, even 250 words, while others say Hemingway’s famous “For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.” is a complete story. Who’s right? Where does prose poetry fit? Why are flash magazines so popular and what are the ones doing interesting things in the field? Who are the flash authors to watch out for?

(Flash seems like such a great place for new writers to start. They can get stuff out there and in circulation while the magazines constantly need new stuff. At the same time, there’s some great writing happening in this area. I’m teaching a flash fiction workshop called Sudden Fiction this Saturday at Bellevue College, so obviously I’ve got strong opinions about some things mentioned above.)

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 100+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and Tor.com. Her short story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her story collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012.
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  • http://www.aisteach.com/ kyle

    You’d certainly have my butt in the audience for the flash panel.

    • http://www.kittywumpus.net Cat

      In my writing F&SF class, we always spend a good bit of time on the flash markets and how to write flash. Because we do a lot of in class writing exercises, students end up with a number of possible stories and we talk about how to polish them up and send them out. In fact, the most recent 10 Flash has a story by both myself and one of my former students, who writes as Folly Blaine! :)

      • http://www.follyblaine.com Folly Blaine

        Thanks for the mention, Cat! I can’t tell you enough how glad I am to have had the opportunity take your class. I know you’re speaking about panels, but if you offered a class or one-day workshop called “Making the Transition from Short Story to Novel” I would sign up.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003405397268 Rashi

      Great list, Cat! Here are a few of my fveoritas: Ted Chiang, Jeffrey Ford, Barry Lopez, Aimee Bender, Maureen McHugh, and Jay Lake. You’re also on my list. I’m not sure Ted Chiang is someone to study. I’m not certain mortals can recreate what he does. I’m also not sure I would want to write a Ted Chiang style story because they do seem to be a signature. However, his works are a joy to read and feel like a discovery every time. Every story is like a sky scrapper. A beautiful work of art and engineering. Right now, I just want to make a bird-feeder or a dog house. Jeffrey Ford’s works definitely fit in that world between speculative and literary. They aren’t always structurally satisfying, but the characters always seem to have a natural reality to them. Also a good one to read for prose. I think Ford was one of the first writers I discovered that made me realize fantasy was more than just D&D fan fiction. After reading him I started taking fantasy seriously as a genre.Barry Lopez’s works are probably lesser known. He has a few works that are more magical realism than speculative, but still a joy to read. This one is definitely more on the literary side though. Aimee Bender is just amazing. Also more literary, but the way her stories flow and feel so natural makes them a fun read. She also has a real compassion for her characters, something I’d like to capture in my own works.Maureen McHugh is in my opinion the go-to writer for character. Her stories are almost always all character–they have a plot, but they almost don’t need it. She captures voice like no one I’ve ever read. I would also consider her a bit more literary, but her stories tend to be in speculative anthologies and magazines. Jay Lake is just awesome. This guy has more world building skills in the tip of his pinky finger than most people will ever develop over a lifetime. And these skills come out in the prose and characters. I love his shorter works and have just started appreciating his novels. Jay is both a heroic figure on the page as an author and in real life. I’m certain you’ve read most of these, but thought I would throw them out there as part of the conversation.

  • Rebecca Stefoff

    These are all great ideas. Con organizers, take note! And if anyone is implementing #2, reading submissions without the author’s name attached, I’d lover to hear how that is going.

    • http://www.kittywumpus.net Cat

      Thanks, Rebecca! I’ll keep you posted if I find out anything. ;)

      • Rebecca Stefoff

        Er, I meant I’d “love” to hear . . .

  • Danielle Gembala

    I’d attend all three of these. I am now a short fiction writer, and novels frankly terrify me. It seems like a black box the way I hear it explained – words go in, novel comes out, ta dah! And the second idea is something I would love to hear people’s opinions about (though I think it is a great idea, personally, I don’t know a thing about the business).

    • http://www.kittywumpus.net Cat

      Yeah, novels are different. And yet the same. It’s very weird and a little frustrating to be realizing something that I should have had engrained already on what is essentially the 11th draft of this book. ARGH.

  • http://dale.ivan.smith.com Dale

    All three of these would grab my interest, the short story to novel one would take top billing, architecture in the country of the blind is a topic I hadn’t considered before, and while I’ve only sold flash so far, I’m always up for discussing it.