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Wrestling With Gods: Tesseracts Eighteen

I’m very pleased to announce that the T18 cover has been revealed!

What do you think??

My short “The Moral of the Story” is included in this fantastic collection of all-Canadian SF/F.

There is a SPECIAL ADVANCED sale for Kindle only! It is available right now here


A mechanical Jesus for your shrine, the myths of cuttlefish, a vampire in residential schools, a Muslim woman who wants to get closer, surgically, to her god, the demons of outer space, the downside of Nirvana. The 24 science fiction and fantasy stories and poems included in Wrestling with Gods (Tesseracts Eighteen) take their faith and religion into the future, into the weird and comic and thought-provoking spaces where science fiction and fantasy has really always gone, struggling with higher powers, gods, the limits of technology, the limits of spiritual experience. . At times profound, these speculative offerings give readers a chance to see faith from the believer and the skeptic in worlds where what you believe is a matter of life, death, and afterlife. . Featuring works by: Derwin Mak, Robert J. Sawyer, Tony Pi, S. L. Nickerson, Janet K. Nicolson, John Park, Mary-Jean Harris, David Clink, Mary Pletsch, Jennifer Rahn, Alyxandra Harvey, Halli Lilburn, John Bell, David Jón Fuller, Carla Richards, Matthew Hughes, J. M. Frey, Steve Stanton, Erling Friis-Baastad, James Bambury, Savithri Machiraju, Jen Laface and Andrew Czarnietzki, David Fraser, Suzanne M. McNabb, and Megan Fennell.


Preview of my story, The Moral Of The Story

Her fingers brush the soft skin, the small smooth of bone under thin flesh behind my left ear, brushing back through wiry hair to where I’ve got it pulled back in preparation for hard work. Lake water, brackish here where it mingles with the St. Lawrence, slides down the side of my neck, summoning goose pimples in its wake. The slick, cool brush of membrane kisses the lobe of my ear and I feel my eyes slide closed, involuntary, as natural as the slight gasp that parts my lips, inflates my lungs, brushes the taste of water and breeze and sunlight across my tongue.

“You came,” the woman in the water says. Her voice is sibilant and filled with nearly inaudible clicks and hard-palate burrs, an accent never before heard in the lower plains of Quebec.

Never heard before the Melt caused all the water levels to rise. Never heard before the Great Dark came and killed all the technology. Never before the Daniel-Johnson dam stopped working, the regulating of the Manicouagan became too much and the river broke through its cement prison. Never before Baie-Comeau was overborne and drowned.

Possibly, perhaps – and maybe I flatter myself a little – never before in the whole of human history. But then, how could we have stories of things like her, if I’m the first to converse with one?

Arrogance is a sin. It’s one of the sins brought the Great Dark.

“I came,” I say, opening my eyes. Sunlight on water dazzles like diamonds. I squint. It’s a comfortable gesture. The lines beside my eyes folding into place is familiar, nearly soothing. “How could I stay away?”

“But did you come for me?” she teases, dipping her chin into the water in a gesture I’ve learned is meant to be coy, flirtatious. Dark hair slips and pools along the surface, shifting and curling like squid ink.

I sit back in the boat, take up my nets, and fling them over the side that she doesn’t occupy. She whistles and clicks, face in the water, summoning fish. This is our deal. She fills my nets, I fill her mind, and we neither of us attempts to harm the other. Actively.


I had more hungry mouths to feed than fear of rumours, and that is what initially drove me out onto the unnatural lake. The stories said that there was something in the water that feeds on manflesh. But I am no man, and we needed the fish.

For the first few weeks, it was subtle. An elongated shadow too far down to see clearly, too solid to be a school, but too large to be any breed of fish I had ever caught before. Sometimes, it was a splash on the surface of the otherwise calm lake. Once, my little rowboat lurched under my feet, against current, violent, wrong.

I was being hunted, I realized. Even as I harvested fish, something else sought to harvest me. The rumours were not just stories.

I stayed away for three days. On the fourth my youngest brother patted his stomach morosely and cried, unable to understand why he hungered so. Defeated by his tiny misery, I fetched my father’s harpoon from the hunting shed, and made the short walk back to the rocky shoreline.

My little boat was tied up where I had left it, undisturbed. But, no, see — there were four long scratches in the wood of the stern, naked against the dark stain of tar sealant, brackish water, and age. I bent down, breath caught in the hollow of my throat, and splayed my palm against the slashes. They were finger-width apart from each other, come from a humanish hand.

There was a Creature in the lake. And it was mad at me.

Mad because I dared to fish? Or mad because I did not come back?

I nearly turned away then, abandoned the boat, and the lake, and went to find another way to contribute to the supper table. I am old enough to go to the steam-driven factories, now, but then who would care for the littles?

I could spare a few hours each day to go onto the lake, but I cannot leave them for eight or more hours each day to work, and then shop. My parents would be furious. And I cannot hunt, I have no skill with a bow and arrow, we have no gun and ammunition is too expensive, and the Mayor Creature has not given us express permission. That is courting disaster.

No choice. I had to go back onto the lake.

I hesitated, but I could still hear the little ones’ frustrated wails ringing in my ears. So I gathered up and solidified my courage. Die of hunger, or die on the water.

Those were my only choices.

When I sat down to write this NaNoWriMo pep talk, I was 10k behind and feeling sick.

Not the cold that’s going around, but a gnawing, mild sense of nausea that no amounts of ginger tea and/or red wine seem to be able to dissipate. For the last three evenings, after work, I had not sat down to my computer. I had, instead, finished reading three books that have been languishing in my TBR basket, repotted all my outdoor herbs and plants in their container gardens for the winter, had done no less than seven loads of laundry (most of it things like curtains and blankets that suddenly, inexplicably, seemed to need a wash), and filed all of my expense receipts. (Which, by the way, my friends will tell you that I never do before tax season).

Yes. I was procrasti-cleaning.


Because I suddenly and inexplicably hated my novel.

Twenty thousand words and a good handful of chapters in, and I hated my novel. I thought it was trite. It was clichéd. It was boring. There was nothing compelling about it and I should just stop and save everyone in the world the pain of having to even know the book ever existed! I was a terrible writer! I sucked! I was a boring, trite, shallow human being and everything I made was boring, trite and shallow!


Right. So. You know those feels, right?

Sure you do. You might be battling them right this moment. I always battle them between 25-35k. I’ve had twelve years of NaNoWriMo and I still start procrasti-cleaning and despising my book between 25-35k. It’s a dark, horrible creature that sits on your shoulder and says “This is awful, you’re a hack, this is a waste of your time.”

1667 words per day is a slog, especially if you don’t type fast. Even more so if you fall behind and have to try to make it up. The greyness of routine, the lack of sleep, three weeks of being a shut in and missing your friends and family, those are all hard, and they compound the feelings of “I suck” ness.

But guess what? Monsters can be slain.

You don’t suck.

You don’t.

So first things first: flick that creature right off your shoulder. It’s a LIAR.

Nobody, but NOBODY sucks. Nobody is shallow. Nobody is worthless. And neither are any of the stories anybody wants to tell.

In the words of The Doctor:

Second things second: Sometimes the book’s perceived suckiness comes from being just plain weary. Give your creative well time to replenish itself. Read a comic, watch a TV show, go see a film. Go have a nice dinner with friends and family, reconnect with your social circle for a few hours. Take a night off from writing, if you need to. Go to bed early. Spend time with other human beings. Take a bubble bath. Drink a liter of water and eat something healthy. Take the dog for a really long ramble. Go to a museum. Go do something, anything that isn’t writing your book. Even for an hour. Then come back to your book energized.

Third things Third: And then have a good old think about your book. WHAT about it sucks? Is it that you don’t know where the plot is going? That you hate the MC? That you’ve suddenly realized that you’re telling it from the wrong POV? Is it that it just suddenly bores you? That you’ve realized that it’s a shallow ripoff of something else? Or is it something in your personal life that’s getting in the way? (I, for example, am currently dealing with the $#!%-storm that is my hate-blogger being finally unmasked.)

Once you’ve figured out where the problem is, don’t worry it like a popcorn kernel stuck behind your tooth. Work around it. And don’t stress. First off, finding problems with a story is normal. God, I am still not totally happy with my published books. That doesn’t invalidate everything you’ve already done.

Maybe what you did is just fine and you just needed a breather. Maybe you just needed a little vacation for an hour. Maybe you need to rejig the plot, or read your research notes. Or the conversations you had with friends and fellow writers about why you were excited to write this novel in the first place.

Maybe what you did is salvageable. Maybe you can Frankenstein it. Maybe you can just jump ahead and write the bits that you know you have worked out already. Maybe you could skip straight to the ending, write the climax to get you excited again and remind yourself why you loved this story.

Maybe you’ve realized you told the story from the wrong POV; that’s okay, start again from the right one. Maybe, just maybe, you need to walk away from this novel and just… begin fresh. That’s okay too. If it’s not working, it’s not working. Maybe, if you morgue it, you might get an idea that will help you resurrect it next year. Just own up to your word count, and keep going with a new idea.

NaNoWriMo is, yes, about writing a novel. But more than that, it is about learning who you are as a writer. NaNoWriMo is about how you like to write, and what you like to write.

And if you learn halfway through that you aren’t connecting with this book, then that’s fine. Write a different one. Write a better one. Or, take the breathing space you need to find out why you’re not connecting, and fix it.

But most importantly, take a deep breath and congratulate yourself for having gotten as far as you have.

(And as for me, what was mobilizing my procrasti-cleaning? I found the plot too shallow and boring. So I had a friend over, made a roast, drank a bottle of wine, and explained. Together we found a way to weave some of my social passions into the narrative, and suddenly all these ideas were sparking off the page! The ending is the same, but it means something totally different now! My characters are essentially identical, but their deeper passions and motivations are more compelling, more driving. And the story is far more topical – I’ve been reading a lot of headlines and Tumblr blogs that have helped. I was telling the right story; but I was telling it the wrong way.)

Some of the best advice about the “I Hate My Work” phase of writing given was this:

*GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO BE A LITTLE BIT CRAP You can fix it later. No really, you can. If you need to, add some comments or notes into the MS, and just motor on through.

*NO ONE NEEDS TO SEE YOUR FIRST DRAFT Honestly. You can bury it forever in the back yard, or throw it into a bonfire, or put it in a drawer forever. Or you can put it away for a little white and come back to it in a few years with fresh eyes. Or you can put it away until the NaNo editing phase kicks in. The truth is, the only eyes that need see the draft is yours – you’re not obligated to share it until you think it’s been polished and is ready to share. WRITING MAKES STORIES, EDITING MAKES NOVELS This is so important. You can always go back in and add layers of meaning, or clarification scenes, or sub plots. You can always punch up dialogue or make sure the right senses are being evoked. This is all stuff that you can go back and consciously put in during the editing phase. Writing your first draft is like making the playdough. Once it’s made, then you can go back and use the medium to shape it into a novel.

*50k DOES NOT AN ACTUAL NOVEL MAKE Do you know how long the last novel I wrote for NaNo ended up being when I signed it over to the publisher? 78k. And the novel before that? 140k. The point of my telling you is this: your novel will live on after NaNo. You will still be working on it after December 1st. (If you’re like me, you could still be working on your novel from four NaNos to this very day.) So if right now it’s not right, it’s not perfect, it’s not what you want it to be, then that’s okay. It takes time to shape these sorts of things, and the time it takes is different for each person and each novel. You don’t have to get it totally right by 50k and you don’t have to get it totally complete by 50k either. Know that you have breathing room.

In summary/TL;DR –

You’re probably in the mid-NaNo doldrums. You’re probably battling the headspace that says everything you write sucks hard. I am too, so I get it.

The truth is, it doesn’t.

Take some time to reward yourself for how far you’ve come, and to rekindle the fire that pushed you to do NaNo on November 1st. Take some time to decipher if the feelings of suck are because the novel has genuine issues, and if it does, try to figure out how to solve them. If you can’t, write around them for now, and come back to them later.

Your novel doesn’t have to be perfect now. You have all the time in the world to write more, edit, and polish the book after NaNo is over.

Breathe. Sleep. Drink water. Eat healthy. Go for a walk. Be awesome. You’re already awesome. You’re a writer.

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As NaNoWriMo 2014 approaches – my twelveth go at it – I am rushing to finish applying edits that I made in a red pen to a paper copy of my 2012 NaNo manuscript to the digital version and get it off to my proofreader. I am a little behind on getting ready for NaNo this year. Okay, a lot behind.

As in, I haven’t even really decided what I’m doing.

A few conversations with friends have thrown some ideas that I had for a novel into the fan, where it’s been chopped up and I’ll need to reassemble what’s come out the other side. A few other conversations has revealed some flaws with the ending of said 2012 NaNo MS, and has me considering the possibility of writing a sequel novella to go with the book.

And a look at my ever-increasing To Do list and Anthology Invitations has me thinking that maybe I should scrap the idea of a new novel all together and use the peer pressure of the NaNo wordcount to play catch-up.

Basically, I’m stressed.

What began for me as a fun way to push myself to write a long fanfic, and then to write original stories is now sort of in the way. The meetups are all scheduled horribly for me, I have become a terrible introvert when I’m writing and prefer silence and darkness to help me focus so the write-ins are counterproductive, and the thought of slogging through 50k of new stuff that my agent hasn’t seen or approved yet and might veto at the end of it is horrifying.

I am also contemplating… cheating. I’ll be AFK for three days at the start, and I keep thinking that if I just write that 4k NOW, then I’ll be on track once I get back. But that is totally against the spirit of the thing.

In short, I think I’ve outgrown NaNoWriMo.


But—! But—! I don’t want to! I love the community, I love the challenge, I love the rush of surpassing your word count for the day. I’ve already bought my notebook for this year, and gave my donation. I’ve already begun to post in the forums, and I’ve already put a novel up on my profile.

I love the literacy and arts therapy that the Office of Letters and Light promote, I love the Young Writer’s Program, and Camp NaNo. I love how important this has become for people, for their hearts, and their heads, and their lives. I love 30 Covers in 30 Days. I love that this matters to people. I love that, yes, there are published authors out there whose NaNo MSes are now purchasable at your local bookstore (including mine), but more than that, I love that there are millions of stories out there in the world, now, that there weren’t before.

NaNoWriMo matters.

But does it still work for me?

This is a question I assume many NaNoers ask themselves every year.

Not only are there questions of how well writing 1700 words daily works for an individual’s personal writing style, but whether November is a good time of year this time around, and if they even have a project ready to start fresh.

I want to be honest, here. I walked away from this blog post for about three hours. Yup, writing the above bolded section made me upset. Sad, that perhaps it was true that my time with NaNo was over. Angry, because aren’t I supposed to be a professional writer, dammit? Shouldn’t I find a way to MAKE it work? Upset because I feel so overwhelmed right now, so many ideas and not enough time to do them in. Resentful because I can’t seem to write that one project that will enable me to quit my dayjob and be a full time storyteller. Jealous of my fellow pro NaNoers who managed to NaNo up a New York Times Bestseller. Guilt because I talk so highly of the NaNo community and I don’t go out to near as much as I could, don’t participate on a level that I wish I could make myself do, that I haven’t had the stones to stand up and be a Mod or a ML, that I hide so often behind the excuse of “No, I have to write, I have things do to People. Important Things for Important People.”

It left me with a lot of roiling emotion.

I felt just crummy in general, because maybe it really was time to throw in the towel and declare my days of NaNoing over. I thought for a long time about what I love about NaNo, why I started, what it means to me and realized this:

I don’t want to go.

So maybe I’m a poor community person, and maybe sometimes I have to cheat a little to make sure that I get my wordcounts in, and maybe I don’t always start on a fresh project like you’re supposed to.

But you know what I always do?

I write.

It doesn’t matter what, and it doesn’t matter when, and it doesn’t matter what the project is.

In November, I write. And that? That I don’t want to give up. That I never want to give up.

So I’m a bit of a cheat, and a bit selfish with my time, and a bit of a sneak, but I am also a writer.

NaNoWriMo – for twelve years – has given me that.

And that is why I will come back. Every year. Always.

And if that’s what NaNoWriMo means to you, if that’s what makes your heart beat fast and your passion sizzle, then do it. Do it however you have to – be a bit selfish, be a bit of a cheat, be a bit of a sneak – but do it.


That’s all NaNo is asking of you. Allow you to ask it of yourself, too.


The Dark Lord and the Seamstress is now just $1.99 on Kindle!

Now you can read a scary, fun, funny story to your wee ghouls and goblins before bedtime on All Hallows Eve.

But beware! The price rises (like the dead!!) after Halloween.



Colour by Adrienne Kress

Colour by Adrienne Kress

It’s colouring time!!

Enjoyed The Dark Lord and the Seamstress? Love the fantastic, emotive, wonderful art of Jennifer Vendrig? Want a FREE copy of The Dark Lord And The Seamstress signed by J.M. Frey?

All you have to do is colour!

How The Contest Works:

1)There are three age ranges: 0-7, 8-15, 16+. We will mail out three physical books, signed by J.M. Frey, to the three winners.

2) HERE are eight of the twenty four illustrations that make up the book for you to colour! Pick one, and right click to save, or download, or print! (These are PNG. If you want the TIFF files, contact me and I’ll send them along)

3) Colour one of the pictures. It can be any way you like, in any medium you like. Be creative! (After all, the Dark Lord is a horrendous dresser).

4) Post the picture on Tumblr and tag it #tDLatS and indicate your age range. If you don’t have a Tumblr, post it to another site and inform me that it’s up and I will add it to the Tumblr album.

5) You will have until HALLOWEEN (October 31 at The Witching Hour) to post your picture with the tag and age information.

6) J.M. Frey AND Jennifer Vendrig will be choosing the THREE winners to receive signed copies of the book.


Q: Will you be picking the BEST pictures?
A: Nope, I will be picking the ones we like the most! That doesn’t necessarily mean the most elaborate, or the most professional, or the neatest. We’re looking for fun, for passion, for energy!

Q: Can kids enter?
A: Absolutely! Make sure you indicate your child’s age range when you post the picture. If you’re a kid, make sure you ask your parent’s permission to post, first.

Q:What if I feel like redrawing the whole piece in my own style?
A: We will love you forever, and totally consider it for the contest. That would be super cool, yo.

Q: Are there any limits to what I can do with the piece?
A: Well, it IS a kid’s book, so keep it PG. Otherwise… no?


Want ideas for how everything should look? Here’s the full text of the poem, over on Wattpad.

CROPPED Dark_Lord_and_the_Seamstress_Cover_8.25

It’s here! It’s out! It’s available!

The Dark Lord and the Seamstress

Once upon a time, oh yes, so very long ago, there came to be a lovely girl, who came to learn to sew. And as it goes, fair listener, she learnt to sew so well, that even the Dark Lord himself learned of her talent down in Hell.

 “The Dark Lord and the Seamstress” is an illustrated love story told in verse about the importance of looking beyond someone’s (poorly dressed) exterior and into their heart. Features a little trickery, a little romance, and a little bit of sartorial fun!


Review by: Mystical Press on Oct. 19, 2014 :
5/5 Stars What a fun and delightful book!!! The illustrations were lovely and the story in prose was just adorable! Okay…admittedly…I teared up a little. IT WAS CUTE, SO SUE ME! LOL Looking forward to more from this author.


Amazon | Kindle | Goodreads | Smashwords

book launch

Here is my scheduled appearances at GenreCon 2014!


October 18, 2014, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Crowdfunding 101 – Galt Room


October 18, 2014, 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

J.M. Frey Reading – Library


October 18, 2014, 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Dark Lord and the Seamstress Book Launch – ConSuite


October 18, 2014, 9:00 pm – 10:00 pm

Sexual Consent in SF/F – Brock Room


October 19, 2014, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm

Separation of Author and Word – Wyndham Room


October 19, 2014, 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

World Building 101 – Wyndham Room


October 19, 2014, 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Transmedia 101 – Wyndham Room


October 19, 2014, 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Steven Moffatt: Hero or Villain – Galt Room

So, this article about how Cosplay is Killing Cons went up, and then JV Friedman Tweeted this amazing rebuttal, which generally sums up my feelings on the topic. I commented on the rebuttal on FB, and was asked to repost it as shareable. So, with some tweaks and extra thoughts added, here’s the reposting.

I’d like to jump in and add my two cents about the future of Cons.

As it stands, right now, I prefer the concept of Con As Social Space over Con As Access Space. 

Cons began as a way to get access to things that fans – separated from one another in different cities without the aid of the internet, and separated from the writers/actors/creators they admire – wanted access to. Fans created Cons for ourselves so that we could exchange VHS fanvids and get into one room together to screen a special-access episode or film, or to get access to stores or shops that sell fannish things, or to sell/exchange Zines, or to exchange fanfic, or show off our awesome Cosplay skills, or to have a chance to meet celebrities face-to-face and get photos with them, get autographs, get a chance to chat with them and ask questions.

And dude, that’s awesome.

I began going to Toronto FanExpo 17 years ago, before it was called FanExpo. I remember Voice Acting workshops with Roland Parliment (which led to some auditions and show pitching, on my part). I remember buying $300 of manga because it was the only place I could get it. I remember buying volume #1 of X/1999 on Friday, reading it Friday night in the hotel room, and going back to the same dealer to buy the whole run on Saturday. I remember the thrill of searching Artist’s Alley and finding things I’d never, in a million years, have found elsewhere.

Back then, there was no Etsy. There was no Zazzle. There was no Red Bubble. There was one anime shop in Toronto, and some comic stores stocked Akira, Sailor Moon and Dragonball, but little else. Chapters did not have a comics/graphic novels/manga section. There was no place to buy bubble-gum pink wigs and yellow contacts except around Halloween.

There was, and later LJ, but I still subscribed to paper Zines and Yahoo Newsletters. Youtube wasn’t a thing, so vids were posted on community boards, and passed around via VHS or later, DVDs. Very few shows had box sets, so you had to tape it every week. Going to a Con and finding the full season of a show on VHS or DVD Was a jackpot, because where I lived, there was no HMV, no Sam the Record Man, no Sunrise Records. And even then, the selection of television shows was slim.

They only way to hear filk was to go to filk meetups at cons, and download the tracks if the filkers had them up online. There was no iTunes, and no ability to self-publish albums. If the band/filker had a CD, the only way to buy it was generally from them directly.

And the only way to talk to stars was to go to Cons. Or write them a letter that generally garnered a very lovely generic letter from their publicist and a signed glossy in return. Very nice, but not the same.

This is not me “Good Old Days”-ing.

This is me explaining how and why Conventions –the  Conventions as Access – was important. It was vital. It was community building.

But. Then there was the internet.

Anything I could possibly want to buy – licenced, or fan made – I can now do so online. I love Etsy, and Red Bubble, because I love being able to support fanartists from all over the world. I love being able to find or commission the perfect prop for my cosplays, or the right wig. (And I still spend most of my time in Artists’ Alley IRL, too. Man, Fanartists, watch out for me. I always collect business cards and then shove the artists’ online portfolios at my publishers when they ask me about cover designs).

Anything I could possibly want to read – licenced or fan made – I can read online, or buy via Chapters, Amazon, or the comics or manga’s own app and store. I can buy fancomics online, now, and read them. I can buy digital fanzines. I can get newsletters. I can read reviews an hour after the show aired on a blog, or listen to podcasts. I don’t need paper anything anymore. (The environment and my overburdened bookshelf are grateful).

Because of Twitter, and FB, and Tumblr, I no longer need to write fan letters via snail mail to get access to the stars I like. I tweet to him thanking him for playing a day-saving hero with a cane because #RepresentationMatters, and Burn Gorman graciously replies. (Sure, there’s bad stuff too, like people bullying Steven Moffat off Twitter, and being rude to Mark Gatiss – but most of it is good.) Neil Gaiman and Gail Simone answer Tumblr Asks, and all the filmed Q&As and panels end up online.

I can watch fanvids on Youtube, and Vimeo, and see celebrity’s vines, vlogs, and blogs.

I can buy sheet music and digital albums from my favourite filkers.

I can watch Masquerade videos and have access to thousands of Cosplay photo albums.

I no longer need to pay megabucks to get tickets to get into cons and then pay more bucks to get autographs/photos/good seats or access to the mic in the Q&A in order to meet writers/actors/artists/talents. Because of the internet, I don’t need to subscribe to paper newsletters to get episode critiques and reviews. Because of the internet, I don’t need access to Cons for fanvid screening panels and filk workshops, and special viewings of unaired pilots.

In short: everything that attracted fans to conventions – access to creators and artists, and access to each other’s thoughts, opinions, and fanworks – is now obsolete.

So what does that leave? What can Cons do that the internet can’t?

Why are Conventions important? Why bother with them? Why keep them alive if the internet has taken over?

Well, I can’t hug my fandom friends through the internet. I can see photos and vids of their cosplays, but I can’t touch them, marvel at the work in person, pose for photos with them, etc. I can talk to my favourite stars on Twitter, but at a Con dance, I can buy them a beer and have a chat in the bar. I can revel being in a safe space, a place filled with my tribe and my people. I can make new friends. I can chat. 

Conventions still do one thing that the internet does not.

They provide a physical meeting place for Communities.

I can still do all the things I used to do at Cons, but now I don’t go to cons specifically to do Q&As and Photos and Autographs, and all the things the big cons are nickel-and-diming me over. So I don’t do them. I use the con to have meet ups, go for coffee, go out for karaoke, do cosplay photoshoots, talk shop,etc.

I stopped going to the Big Cons as a fan. Because what they want me to pay for, I can do for the price of my monthly internet bill. And the stuff that *I* want to do, the stuff that supports the reason I’m there (to be social) is virtually absent from the programming, or costs extra on top of the ticket.

To survive now, Cons have to evolve and adapt. Cons as Access Space are obsolete. To survive, Cons have to provide something that the Internet can’t, and that’s a Safe, Fun, Social Space.

That’s why “relax-a-cons” like FutureCon are, I think, the wave of the Convention future. There’s light programming, an emphasis on social events and interaction spaces, and the guests have virtually no barriers around their time. At FutureCon-I was a guest, and I had no autograph session, no table, no Q&A session. The local bookstore took care of selling my books at a table in the Dealre’s room, and the Dealer’s Room and Artists’ Alley were conflated into one room so you got to see everything all at once.  Instead of being held apart from the attendees I was just…. there. And when I was out in public space, people were free to come sit beside me, have a chat, get an autograph, get a pic, have a high tea, or dance with me. And I really liked that.

(And sure, some celebrities won’t want to do this. That’s their perogative. And sure, even I am careful about how much “public” time I give, especially given the size of Con it might be. And some fans will be horrible. But overall, the experience has been good for me, and any horribleness I have had at such Cons has been headed off or taken care of by alert and competent security volunteers and ConComms.)

KeyCon in Winnipeg was great too, because as a guest, I actually got time to spend with the other guests as well. Richard Hatch bought me a drink and kissed my cheek! Lar de Souza and I sat in a hall way drinking funny named cocktails while he drew me as a caricature and taught me how to twerk. I got to share some of a new short story by just drunkenly saying “Hey, who wants to hear a thing??” and let people vote yay or nay. I wandered around and sat in on a filking circle, and signed things in the halls, and it was great because I both got to be a guest and enjoy the con myself.

Next weekend I’ll be a GenreCon as a guest, and I’ve got a signing session and a reading, but I declined to have a table because it’s nicer to be able to go to other people’s panels, and to scope out the rest of the Con, and get to share in the artists’ alley and see the dealer’s room. The thing I am literally looking forward to the most is finding that talented bastard Thomas Gofton and singing a duet with him, again.

As a guest, yes, it’s important to have a structured time and place for people to be able to find me. There’s nothing worse than going to a con specifically to see/meet/get a pic with/get an autograph from someone in particular, and just playing Polka-roo with them the whole time. I still like scheduled autograph and reading sessions for just that reason. But I think it’s also important not to overschedule guests so they can enjoy the con, and interact on a less formal level.

Actually, I think it’s important not to overschedule a Con in general, because if you offer too much to do I in the same hour, you spread your audience awful thin. If your con has 100 guests and ten panels going on at the same time, you’re going to have some empty rooms. Especially around mealtimes.

(And I never understand why anything is scheduled against the Guest of Honour’s programming. It’s a bummer for the other guests who might like to go see the Guest of Honour’s Q&A/talk/reading/screening/etc. but it also, I think, sends a bad message to the GoH: “Yeah, you’re important, but not so important that we’re not gonna try to siphon the audience away from you for that hour.”)

And you know, I know people who go to these sorts of Cons and never even go to a guest panel or Q&A. They’re there to hang with their friends all weekend, and shop, and eat, and laugh, and dance, and cosplay, and sing along to musical episode screenings, and filk, and just be in a  good space.  For those people, good guests are a bonus.

And there’s my two cents.

(Only I’m Canadian and we don’t have pennies anymore, so… there’s my nickel.)

TL;DR – For Cons to survive, they have to evolve into the one thing that the internet doesn’t give fandom: a Safe, Fun, Relaxed Social Space with light programming and less nickel-and-diming.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Dark Lord and the Seamstress by J.M. Frey

The Dark Lord and the Seamstress

by J.M. Frey

Giveaway ends October 31, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

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