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Con Man

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a writer in possession of an invitation to a Convention is always in want of a costume. (Apologies to Jane Austen).

Rand the Vampire, Norwescon, Seattle:

Me at work, not disguised in my Convention costume:

One day perhaps I’ll pluck up the courage to show my true face to my fellow Conventioneers.

SF&F Cons are fun. My publisher, Arc Manor Press (of which CAEZIK is its SF&F imprint) also has a Romance imprint. Founder/owner  Shahid Mahmud says that Romance Cons are much more serious—everyone in business suits earnestly chasing deals. SF&F Cons aren’t anything like that. We’re all there to share and to celebrate, to enjoy ourselves, and the panels, and to spend time with fellow enthusiasts.

At Balticon I had the pleasure of meeting the author Carolyn Ives Gilman.

It was cocktail hour on the last night of the Con, so I headed to the bar, where Carolyn was sitting with a copy of New Rock New Role, which had just been recommended to her.  We bonded over all things writing, from Pride and Prejudice on downwards. As an aside: If there were Oscars for books, wouldn’t P&P win all of these categories?

Best Heroine: Lizzie Bennett

Best Hero Who Can’t Get Out of His Own Way: Mr D’Arcy

Best Snob: Lady Catherine de Bourgh

Best Creep: Mr Collins

Best Best Friend: Charlotte Lucas / later Mrs Collins

Best Cad: Mr Wickham

Best Harebrained Mother: Mrs Bennett

Best Remote but Supportive Father: Mr Bennett

Best Menagerie of Sisters: Jane, Mary, Lydia, Kitty

Best Wimpy Sweetheart: Mr Bingley

Best Comeuppance: Lizzie’s skewering rejection of D’Arcy

Best Omigod Re-Comeuppance: Lizzie realising, to her mortification, the truth about D’Arcy: that he’s an honourable man and she has treated him shamefully

Best Toe-curlingly  Awkward Re-Meet between heroine and hero: Moments after the above

And, of course:

Best opening sentence (see opening sentence).

But back to Baltimore. Carolyn said that she was enjoying what she’d read so far of New Rock New Role, so I asked her to recommend one of her books.

I’ll let our emails tell the rest of the story.

“Hi Carolyn,

It is my pleasure to report how much I enjoyed Dark Orbit.  Thank you for turning me onto it.

I admire writers who can blend genres.  I’ve occasionally tried—and, more often than not, end up falling between two stools rather than bridging a gap (two cliches in one sentence alert!!).  Dark Orbit drew me in to what appeared to be a classic SF space exploration story, but it then morphed into something quite magical.

I got completely thrown for a loop by Thora’s sudden side-quest — which was excellent.  That “Huh? What the heck’s going on here?” feeling, coming at a point where the author had gained my trust, so I presumed it was all going to come together.  Which indeed it did.  That is good story structuring (which, as we all know, is the hardest and most important thing in plotting).

So: many congratulations.  See you at Buffalo, Glasgow, Dublin, Chester, er… whichever Con where our paths cross next.

All the best,


Richard, Thanks for your notes on Dark Orbit, and congratulations on the good reviews! I also finished New Rock, New Role. As I was reading, I kept thinking, “Why does this seem so different from most books?” and then it struck me: all the characters are likeable (even the trolls!), and there is no conflict, jealousy, or pettiness between the friends. It was such a wonderful refuge from my life trying to negotiate animosities on my condominium board, where even people I like can irritate me. I ended up rewarding myself by reading it after a tiring day. Thank you for the escape into a world where teamwork means something.

I’ll look forward to the further adventures. I want to know what Our Hero is going to do with… [spoiler edited].


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