Tag Archives: Phoenix Comicon

Don’t be Diss’n the Myth

A guest post by T.L. Smith.

Star_People_Legacy_Cover_for_Kindle“One man’s myth is another man’s religion.” Many variations of this quote exists, so I won’t try to figure out who said it first. I only bring it up because that’s a popular trope for writers. I’m one of them. But for all the vast potential we can pull from mythology/religion, I think authors should keep in mind how easy it is to cross the line from entertaining, to insulting.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not all up into ‘political correctness’, or afraid I’ll insult someone and they’ll come hunt me down. No, I’m talking about is how, with e-books and international markets, our writing crosses cultural borders all around the world. Even borders who try to regulate their internet and what their citizens can see. Our potential markets are virtually limitless.

I personally like the idea that a reader in some far corner of the world might get their hands on my book… and like it… and order more. With that in mind, I believe it’s possible to write a myth/religion based fiction, without insulting a large number of your potential readers. Whether you believe in their faith, or not.

It’s not pandering, it’s respect. In fact, internally I cringe when I use the word ‘myth’ out loud. Whether the followers truly believe(d) these characters exist(ed), or were created, they believe the purpose of God(s) is to guide humanity onto more enlightened paths. To better lives. To brighter futures. Even God(s) of destruction are there to cleanse and prepare the world for another attempt towards perfection.

So I put a lot of research into the characters I incorporate into my stories. I study them, good or evil, until I can see the person in my head. Until I can hear their voices, until I sense their intent to exist. Then I try to translate their personalities and motives onto the page and into my own stories.

Currently I’m working on a ‘gods are aliens’ Science Fiction novel series, that one day might see the light of day. All my gods, demi-gods, demons and humans, however obscure or popular, exist somewhere in the stories passed down through the world’s cultures.

The material available is vast and consuming, and in many cases…ewwwww. There’s some pretty twisted mentalities at play. Which makes me wonder about the original sources. Makes me sometimes wonder about myself too, as I try to bring these characters back to life in my own stories…just saying.

But back to paying proper homage to the trope… It might seem an easy task We see the ‘gods are aliens’ theories repeatedly on TV, but it’s not. It takes the right myth, the right region of the country of origin and an explanation to weave it into the fiction you’re writing. I just don’t see Zeus rampaging through modern Norway. Maybe waking from a long slumber to look down from Mt. Olympus and say “WTF?”

I wouldn’t add to Ulysses’ ordeal, but I might take on his mythical creatures and give them lives of their own, struggling to make this strange blue planet home after exile from their own distant destroyed world.

Then there’s bizarre stories of Gods on chariots, blankets, and winged creatures. The transport of Gods and their minions, awing the iron-age populace below. There are tales of war and weapons so devastating, they can alone destroy the entire planet. And let us not forget the gods’ insatiable appetites for human flesh, culinarily or erotically.

But be careful. As freewheeling as the ancient storytellers were, don’t take a character out of their personality. There things that Athena simply wouldn’t do, that Hera would, or Zeus took as a common practice. And speaking of ‘common’, unless you got a good twist, skip the usual suspects. They get a bit… boring. Dig deeper and pull out the gods few people know about. You get a lot more flexibility with their personalities and motives, without crossing the line.

However, this isn’t all about insulting someone’s religion. We want to be creative, but lend an accuracy to not offend the experts in this field. Last thing I want is some big-deal professor somewhere coming out against my book. I want a good review from them. Even if it’s ‘Didn’t like the story, but she got her facts straight. Thumbs up.’.

So how am I doing with paying the proper homage? Last year I released Star People Legacy. A story where Native American Mythology and Science Fiction collides down on the Yuma Bombing Ranges.

The ‘where’ was easy. I’m USAF and did my time down on the Gila Bend side of the ranges. The inspiration came from a story told by a couple NCOs who had an odd run-in on our bombing ranges. I carried the story around for (cough-cough) years, then on our way driving from Phoenix to San Diego Comic-Con, I told my friends the story. As clear as the Arizona skies 350 days of the year, Star People Legacy came to me as a concept.

Right there, in the back seat of Gini Koch’s car, I started writing out the concept. Then came the research. I could have stuck with myths (hate that word) isolated to the southwest, but I wanted it more universal. I looked for stories that spanned as many of the Nations as possible.

That is how I focused in on the Star People and their stories. I found an admiration for the stories and the Native Peoples brought together by them. I tried to incorporate that into the future world created for them, where social advances renew their cultures and internal politics help merge them into one Nation.

All the while a little part of me was afraid I might fail at respecting the Nations these stories originated from. Until Phoenix Comicon 2016. Sitting behind my books, a Native American family passed by. The mother saw Star People Legacy and looked up at me. Though her husband was rushing her to keep going, she grinned, pointing at the book. Before he pulled her away, she told me she’d read it, and loved it.

I so wanted to chase after her. To ask her straight up whether I’d given their story the respect it deserved, but someone heard her and stopped to look at the book. I’m happy with that few seconds of affirmation.

Now to get back to work on the next installment of aliens and gods.

Guest Writer Bio:
TL SmithT.L. Smith was born in Louisiana, but calls Phoenix, Arizona home between bouts of wanderlust. Even a stint in the U.S. Air Force as a radar specialist, training pilots in enemy detection, brought her back to the desert. Her time in the service taught her to appreciate the military culture and ever-changing technologies. Experience gives life to the Science Fictions she loves so much and helps her write about the strong women, holding their own as humanity reaches out into the universe. Come check out her current releases and where you can meet her next: www.tlsmithbooks.com

Isn’t it Time to Re-brand Space Opera?

2016 phoenix comicon boothI’ve harped on this before. Where in the middle ages did we come up with the term “space opera” to refer to soft science fiction? Is it a derogatory term? Did it make sense at the time? What were they thinking?

Space opera. It sounds like soap opera, so what are readers going to think when they hear the term? I know what I thought; Days of our Lives aboard the USS Enterprise. Now, I admit, that would fit a fair number of Star Trek episodes, but it definitely does NOT define the genre. So, what should we call it instead? What term would fit a genre that incorporates adventure, romance, horror, and/or mystery in a futuristic setting that has scientific elements but does not strictly adhere to known scientific fact? My vote? Galactic Fantasy.

I’m sure you’ve heard the term before. I’ve heard it here and there, though not consistently, and it’s rarely used by the die-hard sci-fi gurus. And maybe I’m wrong. If the experts are okay with the term then why change an established genre.?

Why? Fans. Space opera may be established in the writing community, but it is not widely established among the fandom. And I have proof.

I shared tables at the 2016 Phoenix Comicon with a group of writers called AWW (Amazing Wycked Writers), which is a group of local Arizona sci-fi/fantasy authors who band together on occasion for conventions and such. I ran my section of the tables, showing my books to passing fans and talking about them. When describing the genre of my “Mankind’s Redemption” series, I used the proper term, space opera. Some fans knew what that meant, the avid readers and those who knew their sci-fi stuff, but most just smiled and nodded. You know the look. Sure, I’m going to pretend like I know what that means so you don’t try to explain it and so I don’t have to show my ignorance. A few people just admitted that they had no clue, and a few were familiar with the term, but not many. About halfway through the convention, I switched my genre label to Galactic Fantasy.

Now, did the readers recognize the term galactic fantasy any better than space opera? No, but I saw their eyes light up as their interest sparked. Maybe they thought the same thing I did when I first heard the term; a fantastical adventure in an outer space setting. Now, being a fantasy and soft science fiction fan, that idea appeals to me a lot more than a soap opera in space. And it appealed to the fans at Comicon, too. I garnered more interest, sold more books, and spent more time explaining my stories rather than defining the genre in which they take place.

If Galactic Fantasy makes more sense to the fans then that’s the road I’m going to travel, even if it is less worn. (Reference to famous poem intended). I hope you’ll join me and we can all be part of the Galactic Fantasy revolution. Isn’t it about time…and occasionally, time travel?

Colette Black Bio:
Author PicColette Black lives in the far outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona with her family, 2 dogs, a mischievous cat and the occasional unwanted scorpion. She loves learning new things, vacations, and the color purple. She writes New Adult and Young Adult sci-fi and fantasy novels with kick-butt characters, lots of action, and always a touch of romance. Find her at www.coletteblack.net

 

Where Sweltering Heat Meets the Inner Geek – Guest Post by Victoria Morris

 

 

– Guest Post by VictoriaMorris

Phoenix-ComiCon-Logo

I’m fairly new to the comic con scene. My first foray was a two hour visit to Emerald City Comicon here in Seattle, just so I could get a feel for the crowds I figured I would have to deal with — in preparation for the trip south later that summer for the 2013 Phoenix Comicon. Since the noise and the commotion only made me happy to be there, I figured I was good to go.

Phoenix proved it could bring its own unique spin. First, it is HOT. And when I say hot, I mean, I’ve lived in Arizona, and have wonderful memories from that time. But Phoenix at the end of May, beginning of June feels like you’re the egg frying on the sidewalk. The convention planners are smart though, and as they grew, they moved operations into the convention center — handy, since that’s right across the street from the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

The Hyatt runs misters along the outside of their building, making the walk much more comfortable. And it’s literally just one crosswalk away to the front doors of the southwest’s inner geek heaven.

The main floor of this con, where you’ll find the artist, author, and comic alleys, is built below ground. It’s cool, comfortable, and seriously easy to navigate. Within minutes, I knew my way around, and was more than comfortable to assume the job I had traveled 1,200 miles for: to assist at The Coppervale Marketplace booth with James A. Owen.

I spent then, and continue to spend now, the majority of my time at James’s booth. For some, I’d bet you’d think that would be boring — especially when the likes of Richard Dean Anderson, Nichelle Nichols, or John Barrowman are high on the special guest lists. Believe me, being at this booth is anything but boring.

My first year there, I got to play photographer for James as he met Dean Cane. Superman meeting an actor who played Superman. Super cool, right? Oh it gets better! That year, Terry Brooks was also a Guest, and he came to visit with James not once but twice. Right there, just hanging out. He invited James to dinner with he, his wife, and his sister. Just a small gathering, and let me tell you — watching an author you admire bounce like a kid in a candy store because an author he admires invited him to dinner… yeah, that doesn’t stink. When it came time for that special meal, I made sure James wasn’t sidetracked by adoring fans or the thousands of comic books in his path to the doors. And while James chatted with friends, Terry came down. He smiled that endearing smile, and asked if I would be joining them. I shook my head. Oh no, thank you Terry, but this night is for you and James. I waved them off and went back to the booth. Have you ever met Karma and shaken her hand, right while you knew you were? I knew right then and there, Phoenix Comicon would always be my favorite event.

Each of the last three years I have traveled to work the show. No longer just a hand at the booth, I took over most of James’s con planning because of the ease I found in Phoenix. And I know a lot of that is because they do such a wonderful job taking care of their guests, artists, authors, and every single one of the 55,000-80,000 attendees.

This last year they rearranged things to make the lower levels easier for everyone — celebrity guests were all moved upstairs, giving the lower level several more rows to work with that had been designated as line-place-holders in the past.

They also changed management. And with that came a high focus on guest comfort. At least three times a day, we had a staff member come by the booth to ask if we needed anything. And when we did, we had it within minutes.

From a fan perspective, I noticed they were much happier with the newer setup. I always have wonderful conversations with the people who come to Coppervale’s booth. We usually have a lot in common. It probably doesn’t hurt that I could talk about a certain series of books every single day for the rest of my life and still not get enough of them. But here, I always find new friends, get to show them some amazing art, and even sell them books that I truly cherish. Sometimes I think I’m getting more out of the deal than they are.

Every one of the three years I’ve attended, Phoenix has made me feel like I’ve come back home. Every warm home, both literally, and in heart. I couldn’t put a number on how many people living there are friends to me now thanks to this convention. And because of that, I will attend for as long as I am able to.

Some other additions: Last year, Phoenix added a Fan Fest event that took place in December. Though smaller, and more focused on the comics side of the show, it was a success, and Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest 2015 will again take place at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. This year it runs December 4-6.

The important information: Phoenix Comicon updates their site well, and is currently set to the Fan Fest event.

Where: For Phoenix Comicon: Phoenix, Arizona

Venue: Phoenix Convention Center

When: June 2-5, 2016

Costs:

  • Attendees – If like past years, Comicon 2016 passes will come available for sale in December once Fan Fest concludes, with a cheaper sale price ($45 last year for Full event) running through the new year. After the holidays, the badges will go up to regular and at-the-door price. ($55-$60)
  • Hotels sell out quickly. The Hyatt will start taking reservations in January for the con block of rooms. There are several other options; The Renaissance, and The Sheraton for example, but they too will sell quickly. Should you wish to attend, plan accordingly.
  • Vender booth –
  • Artist Alley – All pricing to be set after Fan Fest.
  • Author Alley –

Guest Writer Bio:
Victoria lives on the edge of a misty magical forest in the Pacific NorthWest with one husband, two daughters, a big white dog and one huge resident bald eagle that likes to circle over her house when she brings in the groceries. A lifelong artist and writer, Victoria is building a universe inside her head that has taken form in a six book fantasy series, with a middle grade trilogy on the side. While illustrating the world and all its characters is always on her mind, she draws portraits in her spare time to relax. Find out more at www.VictoriaDMorris.com.

The Summer Party Ain’t at the Pool.

Two Mwalgi-aliens at a photo-op with John Barrowman (Phx Comicon 2014)
Two Mwalgi-aliens at a photo-op with John Barrowman (Phx Comicon 2014)

I’m one of the few science-fiction/fantasy fans who knew nothing about conventions until I began writing. The first convention I ever attended was the World Fantasy Convention which tends to focus more on agents, publishers, and authors rather than fans. My eyes have been opened since then. And to think, the fabulous party titled Convention could be found in my own backyard!

I live in the south end of Arizona. You would think that nobody would want to get dressed up in their warm pokemon outfit and go traipsing around in 100+ temperatures for fun, but you’re absolutely wrong. And after I thought about it, it makes perfect sense. Living in this natural heater, you realize very quickly that summer life consists of getting from refrigerated buildings to refrigerated cars, to either refrigerated buildings or someplace with a lot of cool water. A con fits in perfectly with the refrigerated building scenario. If one is wearing a skimpier outfit, you’ll be absolutely comfortable as you traverse between buildings but feeling the chill whenever you sit in a panel. If you’re wearing the furry pokemon get-up then you’ll swelter when traversing the buildings, but feel cool as a cat in the panels. And if you’re like me and prefer to show up in your street clothes, then you’ll be within your comfort range at all times. All in all, not a bad way to spend a weekend.

But why attend? Why not! A sci-fi/fantasy convention has everything a fan could ever want. You like the gaming aspect? There are panels on the latest video games, RPGs, board games, and card games. There’s almost always a gaming station with a variety of games set up for table-top and/or electronic. You like books (as all of us here do)? There are author panels covering everything from how to write to why we write, there are bookstores, and authors are always available to do signings and talk one-on-one with their fans. Maybe you’re interested in the merchandise. Cons will have tables with everything from Supernatural cell phone cases to Dr. Who scarves and beyond. Seriously, these merchandisers (who are often fans) come up with the coolest stuff I ever would have imagined. But wait, there’s more: cosplay design and tips, fighting reenactments, NASA updates, and the list goes on.

So, all in all, if you haven’t attended a convention yet, or if you haven’t told your friends about how awesome they can be, then it’s time to rectify the situation. If we can handle the heat in Arizona and make it a fun party, then I bet your local cons will be worth it, too.

As an FYI, some of Arizona’s warm-weather conventions are: Tucson Festival of Books in March, LepreCon in May, Phoenix Comicon in June, and CopperCon in August. I’ll be at CopperCon this year and I’m going to try out the cooler weather of Utah in September at Salt Lake Comicon. Hope to see you there.

If you have some local conventions you can tell us about, please leave a comment and let’s spread the fun.