Sci-Fi Agents: Where are they gathering?

A few days ago, I posted a message on the Fantasy & Science Fiction Writers Facebook page.

Does anyone know about a writers’ conference that focuses on sci-fi and/or fantasy? I’m going to Thrillerfest in a few days to pitch my sci-fi book but I feel like it is the wrong venue.

The response I got was varied, interesting and in some cases disheartening. I’d like to share some with you and my thoughts on them.

The First Group of Responses

Many people focused on the “sci-fi” and “con” aspect and started posting multiple suggestions of purely fan-oriented conventions for that. As you know, I like entertainment cons as much as the next person, but it is not where I would go, pitch in hand, to search for an agent. First of all, to my knowledge, agents don’t have a reason to go as a professional to a general sci-fi/fantasy con. If they go, I would assume it is because they go for the love of the spirit of sci-fi and don’t want to be pestered with newbie writers. Like others enjoying the genre, they might just want to dress up, see some panels, and sing some filk.

Metropolis girl

I’d love to cosplay this character.

The years (and it has been many years ago) that I’ve attended these conference, you couldn’t tell who a publisher, agent, artist, or writer was unless they were on a panel or in the Dealers’ room. It is not like they wear giant neon signs, arrows swaying over their heads, or even halos. Therefore, if they are there, how does a writer find them? Once the writer finds the agent, how do they go about “discussing” anything without seeming to be obnoxious? These are the things I worry about because I’ve very shy at crowded conventions.

On the other hand, when they go to organized writers’ conferences, they know they are going to be hit up with pitches. It is just another day on the job for them. When the same conference has a pitch fest, the event becomes a golden opportunity for writers to approach them in an organized safe way. This is best for both. Agents don’t want to be chased into the bathroom (as one person on the Facebook page related) or have their dinner interrupted with an overzealous author. At the same time, those authors that respect boundaries might have difficulty knowing when it is proper to approach an agent. I’m shy, generally speaking. At a pitch event, I can bring it on. When I’m standing in line for drinks at a conference break, I can’t. I honestly think the agent wants a break by then. So I try to abide by the rules of polite society and common sense, but that begs the question of when to approach them in a nonorganized way at a sci-fi convention.

The Second Group of Responses

I got some good recommendations for possible general writing conferences, most of which I already knew about.

  • Pikes Peak Writers Conference: This is a very good regional conference and I enjoyed the one time I went. It wasn’t too pricey (as conferences go) but only had around six agents (can’t remember actual number) of which only four might be interested in my work. For all the cost of the registration fee, hotel, air flight, and more. I spent a lot of money to meet these folks.
  • Thrillerfest (which I’m attending next week): This is a pricey national conference. The event is huge with lots of opportunities for learning, socializing, and pitching. I’ve gone four times before. I feel like I get good “bang for my buck” at larger, national conferences like this and the Writers’ Digest ones.
  • Push to Publish: I’ve never been but it was recommended to me.
  • Philia Writer’s Conference: I’ve never been but it was recommended to me.
  • Writing Excuses week long cruise: I’ve never been. I researched it and it talked about a lot of famous authors, over three hundred attendees… and one agent. As much as it would be fun, it is not a good option, in my opinion, for meeting multiple agents.

K. Tempest Bradford, who is a media critic and writing instructor, stated that I should concentrate on the conventions that have a high percentage of agents/editors who won’t mind doing a little side business. Again, how would I know about these people unless they literally have signs on them? She recommended these general sci-fi cons. I only know about the one that I commented on.

Third Group of Responses

This was the disheartening group because it seemed filled with bitterness. I’ll paraphrase it as “Pitch fests aren’t worth it. The agencies only send their newest, crappy agents, most agents hate these events, etcetera.” I have no idea what agents think about these pitch fests. I’ve been to several in California, Colorado, and New York City and the professionals been wonderfully kind to me. I always walk away with at least three or more requests for pages. The bigger the event, the more requests I get.

I have also met a LOT of established agents and CEOs of their companies, thus blowing away the “newest agent” comment. As far as that goes, I have absolutely no problem dealing with a new agent as long as we have good chemistry. I’m in it for the long haul and looking for a partner that will support me and also tell me when I’m wrong

In Conclusion

Ultimately, I was right. None of the science-fiction conventions appear to have the same setup as Thrillerfest, where they spend three days supporting writers and then two days celebrating fans. Although people on this Facebook page said they DO feel supported, the main gist of the advice was to go to mainstream writers’ conferences because “science fiction is different.” I disagree. Sci-fi is great with a huge body of supporters, writers, publishers, and agents. Yes, there are writing panels and workshops at places like Worldcon and the larger regional ones, but it stops there. So why can’t Worldcon have two days for writing and a pitch fest for those of us trying to become established authors? Why not support up and coming writers directly at some of the larger literary-oriented cons? It is the one way where we sci-fi people fall a little short of supporting our own.

Meanwhile I will be at Thrillerfest this week, pitching my feminist YA story about life for women in the Asteroid Belt where the Old West meets The Martian. Please wish me luck!

Happy writing!

Kilonovae and Science Fiction

kilonova

From Science & Technology, Oct 22, 2017

Space science is glorious in its beauty. Over the past century, scientists have created increasingly better technology to give us Earth-bound folks unforgettable views of distant stars and galaxies as well as a deeper understanding of what lies in our own system. If you are a fan like me, you get news feed from Space.com or Nasa for weekly updates of incredible visions in the heavens. Astronomy picture of the day (apod.com) also provides beautiful material.

This week was outstanding by even our jaded standards. We witnessed incredible encounter involved two neutron stars colliding. The event was the fourth gravitational wave to be announced and the first that involved objects made of matter instead of black holes. Because of this, it showed us aspects that were never before seen, including the formation of heavy elements such as gold and platinum. It may be planet-fixated thinking but I thought all the elements that were available now was all there ever will be out among all the galaxies. This week’s news implied even the creation of raw material like gold, platinum, and uranium are cyclic in nature. It also implied that the ring on my finger or the earrings I’m wearing might have come from star stuff billions of years ago. That is a really cool concept.

As you might know, a supernova occurs when a massive star dies. The star swells, becoming brighter then fades over weeks or months. The power produced is mind-boggling and destroys the nearby planets in the star’s system. It also generates a neutron star or a black hole.

A kilonova occurs between two neutron stars or a neutron star and a black hole. Keep in mind that a neutron star is super dense. A teaspoon of neutron matter is under such a high gravitational pull that it weighs in the tons range. You can learn more about neutron stars here but suffice to say, we won’t be landing on one ever. Or a person could land but never take off, breathe, or move again.

Novae are not frequent events so I can only speculate that kilonovae might occur perhaps once in several lifetimes, so watching this one was a tremendous event. According to NPR‘s “Astronomers Strike Gravitational Gold in Colliding Neutron Stars, telescopes across the world and in space all pointed themselves at this unexpected event. Some have said that it looked so much like the predicted model that some researchers felt a sense of déjà vu. The article also features an artistic rendering of what the collision looked like, including an outward blast of gold, platinum, and uranium.

From a science fiction standpoint, this collision of powerful stars boggles my mind. I can picture the 25th or 30th century equivalent of the 49er prospectors in small, scrappy ships hovering around a supernova or kilonova. With particle scoops dropped and opened and shields in place, they skim the debris cloud of newly formed elements. Riches await and fortune favors the bold who take on the danger of dancing across the nova’s explosive wake.

Men will always need raw materials and nuclear power sources. In the bright future of space exploration, they will cross the galaxies in mining ships, colonies, tourist excursions, and more, settling, excavating, hustling, and profiting from what nature gives us. In those ideas alone, good science fiction thrives.

But for a few moments in the tremendous time continuum, let’s take a look at the beauty out there and breathe in awe-inspired reflection of the enormity of space. Like the carbon cycle or the water cycle here on earth, elements are born, evolved, and consumed only to burst forward again to form planets, stars, and galaxies. Everything that dies, rots or rusts away is reborn. This cyclic power is fearsome, humbling, and, as proved with this event, quite exquisite.

 

Side note: Physicist Robert L. Forward wrote an excellent fiction book in the late 1980s about life developing on a neutron start in Dragon’s Egg, which is still available at Amazon.com. I loved this book because he got not only the physics correct, but he also did a great job with the biology and development of intelligence. I met Dr. Forward at a relativity conference in Dallas for a few moments. He is the only author of the many I’ve met over the years that I turned into a squealing fangirl for. I was that surprised and pleased to see him.