Fun Events and Writers’ Conferences

I love getting out and meeting new people at fun and/or professional events. Below are a few I’ve found, some in the NW Indiana area and some further abroad. If you know of other great ones, please feel free to let me know and I’ll list them.

Writers Conventions

Steel Pen Conference on Oct. 28th, Fair Oaks Farms, IN – Hosted by IWCthe Indiana Writers’ Consortium, this local conference is a great way for area writers to meet and mingle in a stress-free atmosphere. The keynote speaker is Catherine Lanigan, the author of nearly forty books. Ticket sales end soon, so check it out. http://www.inwriters.org/steel-pen-conference/

The Annual James River Writers Conference, Oct. 14-15 with master classes on Oct. 13. Richmond Virginia. They had 300+ people usually and a lot of famous writers and agents. I don’t know much more about it than that. The Master Classes fall along some unusual lines other than the usual “how to write” offerings. The website for James River.

Boot Camp Extreme Creative Writing Conference, Oct. 20-22, in Los Angeles, California – This conference combines with the Digital Author and Indie Publishing Conference for the same low price.  It features one-on-one critiques from editors and agents and agent pitching opportunities. The Boot Camp’s focus is on fiction, nonfiction and screenplay work. http://www.wcwriters.com/bcx/index.html for the boot camp and http://www.wcwriters.com/da/index.html for the Digital Author program.

Genre-LA Speculative Fiction Creative Writing Conference is coming in January/early February but the organizers have not updated the website yet. It is the only conference that I know of that specifically focuses on science fiction and fantasy writing. I’ll let you know more as I hear about it. For info on the 2017 conference, look here, http://www.wcwriters.com/genrela/index.html

Fun Events

Feast of the Hunters Moon, Sept. 30-Oct. 1, West Lafayette, IN – Local people know and love the Feast and it is the 50th year celebration this year. It is similar renaissance festivals only focused more around the late 1700s-early 1800s-time period. The festival celebrates the first European settlement in Indiana. The traders set up white tents for barter, fife and drum bands play, a cannon is shot off occasionally and local charity groups build firepits and earthen ovens to offer an array of traditional food. I love shopping there for old style clothes, leather products, blacksmith items and more. The homemade root beer is popular. It’s also fun and educational for the kids. http://www.crazycrow.com/site/event/feast-of-the-hunters-moon/

Chicago Dark Shores Ghost Con, Oct. 7-8, Lombard, IL- This year they are featuring 20 speakers and more than 50 vendors. Events include a Friday ghost tour, a Saturday costume bash, and a Sunday Illusionist performance. I enjoyed it a lot last year with the focus on not only ghost stories but movie and show previews and info on local hauntings. For those into the paranormal, this is a fun and exciting weekend of exploring beyond the grave. http://www.chicagoghosts.com/conference.html

Tesla Con, The Bucharest Bungle, Nov. 2-5. Middleton, WI. – Steampunkers unite to fight off monsters and show off their fabulous uniforms. The convention boasts three separate dinner nights, but the website lists very little else in terms of schedules. http://www.teslacon.com

Chicago Tardis 2017, Nov. 24-26, Lombard, IL – This Dr. Who convention brings together around 2000 fans to celebrate all things sicence fiction and time travel. Cosplayers are encouraged and guests include Colin Baker, the 6th doctor incarnation.  http://chicagotardis.com/trion/guests-2/

Con+Alt+Delete, Dec 15-17, Chicago (Rosemont), IL – The focus of this convention is anime, comic book, and nerd culture. They claim to be the perfect size so that visitors don’t get overwhelmed. The price is comfortable as well when compared to larger conventions of this type. https://conaltdelete.com/

In addition, a number of smaller science fiction conferences are going on throughout October and November. If you want to find one in your area, consider checking out this listing. https://www.upcomingcons.com/science-fiction-conventions

 

 

 

Hard Science Fiction: Aliens Need Not Apply

Good, hardcore science fiction is glorious. It shows us what the human race is capable of, both good and bad. Notice I said science fiction, which takes known theory and extrapolates it to the realm of possibility.

Science Fiction/Fantasy

Science fiction: a genre of speculative fiction, typically dealing with imaginative concepts such as futuristic science and technology, space travel, time travel, faster than light travel, parallel universes, and extraterrestrial life. (Wikipedia)

Science Fantasy: a mixed genre within the umbrella of speculative fiction which arrivalsimultaneously draws upon and/or combines tropes and elements from both science fiction and fantasy. It also sometimes incorporates elements of horror fiction. (Wikipedia)

The above definitions are the accepted versions but mine is a bit different. My definition distinguishes science fiction from those books and movies that feature any aliens or pseudo-science hand waving events (i.e. magic), including the Force. No one knows what aliens look like. Everything about aliens of any type is completely made up. We can make guesses based on our biology but that is about it. Thus, much as I love movies like Star Wars, Aliens, Star Trek, or even Cloverfield, they all tend to lean towards science fantasy even though they may feature some exciting futuristic ideas.

Science Fantasy

On the other hand, I, Robot, Gravity, and even the old Forbidden Planet all fall more under forbidden-planet science fiction because they use facts and established theories to get from plot point A to B in the story. The path can stretch the imagination a bit but the science is still clear. For those who would say, “But wait! The Krell were aliens!” I agree but the monster was  based on man’s psychology. The Krell were merely a plot device to explain the monster. By the way, this movie was the first time I’d ever heard of the id, ego, and superego as a kid.

That is why I love great science fiction. The audience can always learn something from the plot. For instance, Interstellar was a thought-provoking film, and in some cases difficult to understand, but it did an excellent job in showing relativity and space travel.

Mixing Fantasy and Reality

Consider these definitions as the polar points on a continuous line. Most science fiction books and movies fall somewhere along that line with only a few being solely parked at hardcore or fantastical.

Even Arrival, a wonderful first-contact movie, features some great linguistics ideas but also tentacled creatures, which puts it on the edge of science fantasy. It also teaches a great lesson in how we always start with certain assumptions, like math is math everywhere. We also assume that language represents a linearity of time. (SPOILER) For the aliens, it wasn’t.

Where did all the spacemen go?

My rant in this blog is this. Hard-core science fiction seems to be disappearing. Hollywood is producing some great films but the literature is sadly lacking.

The golden age of science fiction became eclipsed when some of the best writers (Clark, Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, among others) died off. While other great writers have risen to fill these giants’ shoes, the emphasis is all too often more on aliens. In mediocre fiction, we see a lot of these plot lines.

Fill-in-the-blank-hero is facing Fill-in-the-blank alien and the two races are on the brink of, or already at, war. Will he/she survive?

Or

In a universe filled with fill-in-the-blank, Fill-in-the-blank-hero is the Chosen One to unite the races and fight back the forces of evil.

These tried and true plots are becoming as tried-and-tired as unimaginative vampire stories.

Whereas these books might be well written and enjoyable, they don’t really use science as the moving force. Yeah, they feature unexplained interstellar flight and zap guns, but the science serves more of a backdrop than a critical part of the story.

Where Is My Flying Car?

I get it. The dream of space travel at best has become a humdrum reality or at worst a lost opportunity as the space program suffers from a lack of funding. However, let’s encourage writers to go back to the ideas of owning flying cars, exploring new planets, working with interesting biology, and more. Let’s use science as an integral part of the story. Maybe we can start thinking beyond the limits of Earth and time. Yes, dangers await, but at least we will embrace that aspect of the human spirit that wants to dream, expand, and explore again.

Post note: I realize my knowledge of recent science fiction books may be limited. So, dear reader, if you have any books to suggest, please leave the title in the comments. I would love to have some recommendations.