Tag Archives: Larry Niven

Treat Yoself to a Dragon*Con

First, if you haven’t seen Parks and Recreation, do that. Do it. All of it.

Next, go to Dragon*Con.

This year was my first Dragon*Con, and can I just say “wow”? Wow. While it has a reputation as being a party Con, I found Dragon*Con to be one of the best. There’s something about being in a place with thousands of other people, taking up a lot of space, and being there for the same reason: to geek out together! I especially loved that I could look at anyone and smile. I felt the excitement and camaraderie almost immediately.

Dragon*Con has a few unique aspects. The panels and events are held in six hotels and buildings in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. Also, because it’s such a big Con, the organizers put the events and panels along a number of tracks. You can access the schedule and information about these panels via the Dragon*Con app. For example, if you are particularly interested in Anime/Manga, the organizers have a proposed schedule for you for each day. Some of the tracks include: Animation, BritTrack, Comics and Pop Art, Costuming, Fantasy Literature, High Fantasy, Horror, Military Sci-Fi Media, Paranormal, Podcasting, Sci-Fi Literature, Star Wars, Table Top Gaming, Urban Fantasy, Writer’s Track, Young Adult Literature, and many more.

But what’s in it for you as a writer? Lots.

I attended about 13 panels at Dragon*Con this year, most along the Writer’s Track. I loved the YA panels – it felt like we were all there together, laughing and geeking out over YA literature instead of an audience watching writers talk about writing.

I especially liked two panels over the weekend. The Magical Mavens of Fantasy/SF panel included Laurell K. Hamilton, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Mercedes Lackey, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and Jane Yolen (I’ll save you the play-by-play of my geek-out over Jane Yolen). Hearing these women talk about the industry, the people who told them they wouldn’t make it, and how they paved the way for the rest of us really made an impact on me. The sister (brother?) panel to Magical Mavens of Fantasy/SF I attended was Magnificent Men of Fantasy/SF with Kevin J. Anderson, Jim Butcher, Larry Correia, Peter David, and Larry Niven. I wasn’t expecting to laugh that hard, nor come near tears when they told touching stories.

Each night, the Westin hotel hosted a Writer’s Bar where professional writers could go to meet fans and fellow writers. I spotted and/or talked with Myke Cole, Sam Sykes, Jim Butcher, and Delilah Dawson. The cast of Wynonna Earp also showed up to hang out, which blew a lot of our minds. The accessibility of writing professionals at this convention seems abnormal, especially compared to other bigger Cons like San Diego. But nothing will light a fire under your ass to get published more than talking with professional writers and wanting to be on panels with them.

I’ve attended smaller conventions and a few huge conventions. Dragon*Con was my favorite. The Writer’s Track, High Fantasy Track, Sci-Fi Track, Urban Fantasy Track, and the Young Adult Literature Track provided multiple choices of panels each hour, and I didn’t attend one panel that I didn’t love. The access to professional writers was unlike any other convention I’ve been to. You’ll find that price of admission is well worth it to attend Dragon*Con. Oh yeah, and you’ll have a blast, too.

In the Company of Giants

A guest post by Lou J. Berger.

As other writers have mentioned to me, sometimes life manifests situations so improbable that, if you were to write them into a story, no reader would accept them as plausible.

And yet…

I walked through the dealer room at Reno’s WorldCon, showing my girlfriend Kelly around, marveling at the artist displays, looking around to see if I could spot Bob Eggleton, a tremendous artist that I’ve only met via Facebook, never in real life.

My eye lights upon a grinning, elfin woman with graying hair and the eyes Yoda only wished he had had, as expressive as a sunset. She spies me and calls out my name and wraps me in a hug that conveys love and adoration and respect, then calls over her husband, Joe Haldeman.

Gay Haldeman is an angel among people, and she has an encyclopedic memory, knows everybody, loves everybody, and is one of the nicest folks I know. Without my being able to figure out how, she manages to convince me that she considers me one of the most important people she’s ever met. I know, in my soul, that I am just another cog in the gears that permeate her life—and a small, insignificant cog at that—but she has that magic touch, that personality that the best of the best seem to have.

Joe smiles at me and shakes my hand, I introduce them both to Kelly, and Gay says, a hand upon my forearm, “You will join us for lunch, won’t you?”

I glance at Kelly, she nods, and I say, “Of course!”

A rare cloud crosses Gay’s unlined brow. “Oh. Do you mind if I invite another person to join us?”

Well, I had been hoping for some one-on-one time with Joe and Gay, but any friend of hers…

“Sure,” I reply. “The more the merrier!”

Gay’s cloud dissipates and sunlight radiates from her again. “Great! I’m sure Larry will love to meet you.”

Larry. That’s such a familiar name, especially the way she says it. I open my mouth to clarify, because, after all, there is no way it could be… “Oh, here he is!” Gay cries out, grinning, looking past my shoulder.

I turn and, in true Ewok form, there strides one of the greatest giants of SF-dom, Larry Niven. It is him. Of course it is him.

He’d passed me in the hallway at Denvention, a couple years earlier, and I’d said, upon seeing him, “Shoot! I was hoping to attend your panel!” Without breaking stride, he shot back. “Well, you missed it.” And then he walked on.

So we walk, the Haldemans and I and Kelly, with Larry Niven beside me. I’m trying to be cool, but this is the man from whose brain all those books I read in high school sprung. He’s the Ringworld Engineer Deluxe, the guy who invented the Mote, this is Larry freaking Niven!

“You’re a writer,” says Larry to me. (See? I’m calling him Larry. Like we grew up together. Like we’re old pals. Like I have any damn right to be walking beside him, this ordinary-looking man whose prose has put me on the badly-colored carpet of a Reno convention center, walking toward an unimpressive cafe in an adjacent casino.) “Tell me a story,” he finishes.

I take two careful, measured steps. I think of the works I’ve written to date, the stories I’ve excised from my fertile imagination, the tortured words I’ve yanked out of my brain and through my fingers and onto the page, the single story I’d sold. Worthless. In the company of a god, my best work is fool’s gold, iron pyrite glittering with false richness, not worthy of discussion.

“I’m sorry, Larry,” I stammer, after a while. “I’m a little star-struck. My brain isn’t working quite right.”

“It’s okay,” he says, patting my shoulder. “Happens all the time. Give it a moment.”

I walk alongside Larry, watching the carpet flow beneath our feet, and we walk into the casino, my hand clutching Kelly’s. We sit down for lunch and I listen to Larry and Joe talk about old times, laughing and reminiscing, and I slowly relax, beginning to process that what’s happening around me, this august company I’m part of, is because of Gay, not because of anything I’ve ever done.

She’s the catalyst, the one who keeps her eyes peeled for the spark, that ineffable quality in a writer, just starting out, that signifies some semblance of promise. And like any spark, the spark she sees is tenuous, hesitant, and should, as most sparks do, simply wink out. She captures it, fans it, finds a home for it, and nurtures it into a small flame.

Then she brings that flame into the firelight and welcomes it home.

I’m not sitting with Joe Haldeman and Larry Niven because I’m some sort of brilliant writer. I’m sitting with them because Gay believes in me.

I lean across Kelly and catch Gay’s attention while Larry reminds Joe of something arcane and brilliant. “Gay,” I whisper. “Thank you.”

She peers at me through her glasses and a warm smile crosses her face. “Thank you for joining us, Lou.” She turns to Kelly. “And you too, Kelly.” She gazes at us for a minute and then turns her face back to Joe.

Her eyes go soft as she looks at the man she loves.

I squeeze Kelly’s hand and we eat our lunch in the company of giants.

loubergerpicGuest Writer Bio:
Lou J. Berger lives in Denver with three kids, three Sheltie dogs, and a kink-tailed cat with nefarious intent. He’s an active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, has been professionally published in short form, and is writing his first novel, a non-genre YA book set in 1978’s North Carolina. Take a few moments to visit his website.