Archive for category Personal
I wrote a few thoughts about this year’s VCON shortly after the event had ended this year. A month has not passed, and I feel the need to revisit what I had to say then. Not about my core question of whether what I experienced at VCON indicates a trend or a blip, but about the bias I (and others?) are carrying with us when we attend.
I am a writer. Though this is a fan and not a writers convention it does have a strong writer track to its scheduling. The more I consider the way I thought about it after my last post, the more I saw how I have been limiting my experience by attending as a writer.
A closer look at the schedule revealed how many of the panels that had been presented were only writer related because I approached them with that overlay. While panels like Time Travel in Film and What Makes a Good SF Television Series can present ideas writers can use, that was not the primary aim of either.
On the flip side. Is it possible that some people have stopped attending VCON because they have come to feel it is too writer centric rather than offering more in their particular fandom?
I recognise that no con can reach out to every fandom in every medium. I also know that a new writer centric con has been added to the local calendar, and that more than a few people who attended the latter chose not to attend VCON because of the perceived overlap. Hotels and travel costs for out-of-towners aside, it does not have to be this way.
I do not want to see VCON fade away. I also do not want to see it become so narrow in its focus that people continue to stay away because it has stopped speaking to them. I for one plan to attend future VCONs with the eye to seeing it from more than my writers eye.
I hear lots of people comment on how much you have to sacrifice to be a writer. Today I got to thinking about how wrong such a sentiment can be. It can be likened to the person who says you can’t enjoy a party if you don’t get drunk or don’t go out of your way to show off.
The world and all that implies is too big for anyone to take in during a finite lifespan. We all have to make choices about what we desire the most during this life we’ve been given.
In this sense I see sacrifice as having to give up something we desire in order to accomplish that which has to be done. I would rather be writing than have to spend long hours each day earning a living. It could be argued that I sacrifice my writing time in order to keep a roof over my head.
Mind you, a quick look at how I describe myself will show that I put writing beneath God and family. In that sense keeping a roof over my family’s head is a higher priority than writing.
All that being said, I do put writing over everything else. I am not sacrificing TV time to write. I am not sacrificing sport time to write. I am not sacrificing travel time to write. Though I may add travel time to my writing world if I reach the point that attending cons outside the local area makes sense to my writing outreach. What I am sacrificing is writing time to go off and do any of the above.
To rephrase an earlier statement, choosing to make writing a major part of my life is a matter of priority, not sacrifice. There are plenty of lesser things I willingly give up to write because they are just not important enough to place above writing. No sacrifice required.
VCON, Vancouver’s premier science-fiction, fantasy, and gaming convention is over for another year. I must confess I’m a relative new comer to this wonderful con having only attended the last 6-7 years. The energy, the people, the panels, and of course both the artist and vendor halls have all been something to look forward too each year.
Yet, this year in particular, I have noted a disturbing trend, declining attendance with an emphasis on little in the way of new blood. My wife runs the Cat’s Knitting table in the vendor hall as I attend panels. In the first few years she had come home with enough profit to cover all our costs including hotel. This year we chose to commute from home each each day and still she all but chewed her nails over low sales until a last minute surge gave her a slim, and I do mean slim, net take home. Other vendors reported the similar results.
We’ve wondered about this a couple of years now. Where are the people? Why isn’t VCON growing at least in proportion to the local population?
Some of this can be put down to the growing con scene with big anime and fan expos each year. But all of it?
At the same time I’ve noticed how little time the people behind VCON spend on the official channels through Twitter, Facebook, and the VCON blog. I know of no ads and no effort to get the word out through local news outlets designed for that very purpose. As for attendees, I might be the only one who regularly mentions VCON throughout the remainder of the year. (Please prove me wrong).
All of which leads to a final question. Is this something those of us who enjoy VCON need to worry about going forward, or is it nothing more than the usual cyclical process most fandoms go through?
My parents emigrated from England before I was born. Until the discovery of a long lost branch of the family in Utah we were all but the only representatives of the Downwards in North America. There is one other Downward clan out there, but even they may be related if you search back far enough. The point I want to make is that I do have a specific heritage in which I was raised.
It’s summer in NA. This means people have been ‘Going Home’ on vacation. It won’t be long before talk turns to ‘Going Home’ for Christmas or similar festivities. Not to mention all the people glued to the news about events occurring ‘Back Home’.
I don’t get it. To me, Home is wherever I unpack my suitcase. I recognise that some people are nomads by choice or work constraints, in which case their suitcase could be considered their Home. Others unpack in which ever temperary abode they find themselves in, to which I must reply Why?
My wife and I recently bought a house in Maple Ridge BC. That is now our Home. Before then lived in a bare land strata complex in a place called Anmore. That was our Home until we moved. If we were to move into a rental house in the middle of Iowa USA tomorrow, that would become our Home. (For that matter, such a move would make me an Amercan regardless of what the official paperwork calls me. Though the bigger picture that unpacks would require at least its own blog post.)
To me, Home is a intimate concept, not some place I pine for while made for whatever reason to establish day-to-day roots somewhere else. I visit my parents (though they have complicated the issue by moving several times since I ‘Left Home’). I may someday travel to England and see the places my parents grew up. None of these places are Home.
This post by Derek Haines has me once again thinking about my definition of success when it comes to being a writer.
Let’s face it, everyone has their own measure of success. Some want the numbers. Other’s want the validation of an award or list position. A few want nothing more than to know their work is out there. My goal is to one day generate sufficient income to replace what I earn from by bread and butter job. Though I do reserve the right to re-evaluate that goal as circumstances change.
If this weren’t enough, reports like the one Derek refers to give us only a part of the story. Who’s to say those .99c books aren’t loss leaders? The author could be hoping readers will go on to purchase other full price books. The whole phenomenon of perma-free books suggests this is a valid marketing technique once the author has sufficient works available.
On the flip side, Derek suggests the pricier books on the list could only have gotten there by way of a corporate publishers deep pocket marketting machine. This is an equally short-sighted position to take. There are authors out there I to whom would willingly pay 12.99ish for their next ebook. In fact, the single greatest obstacle I face when looking for an ebook is availability in the format of my choice. While not a deal breaker, having to maintain multiple libraries is a bit of a pain.
I guess my real point is that we have insufficient information to define success within the context provided.
One the other hand, as a reader who has never bought a .99c book (or downloaded a free book I hadn’t already decided I was ready to buy for that matter), I might not be the best person to tackle this question.
Enough of me rambling off on a subject I’m not yet qualified enough about to have more than an opinion. Look at what you want to achieve. Set your own goals. Then measure your success by how well you do in achieving them.
Exciting new images of Pluto from the New Horizons platform now so far from Earth have me thinking about the state of space exploration.
While the number of nations capable of boosting men and equipment into orbit and beyond remains small, there is no shortage of nations, corporations, and even individuals invested in the next stage of space exploration.
Hubble, Chandra, Kepler, and other imaging platforms in space and on the ground continue to reveal the marvels of our universe. With the arrival of New Horizons to Pluto we have now sent probes to every historically major body in our solar system. Missions like the Dawn probe to Ceres and the Deep Impact meet up with Tempel 1 have only expanded on what we know and can do.
Then there’s the wonder of having watched Voyager 1 pass beyond the heliosphere of our sun into galactic space.
Even more exciting is the new level of talk around manned missions. To Mars. Back to the moon. Even to near Earth asteroids.
I wrote a previous post over the question of how much all this costs: Billions To NASA When So Many People Are Starving? You can see how I feel about that question by following the link.
One thing I do know is how much of this need to reach out and explore is inherent in being human. For the most part, the easy stuff of mapping the surface of our own world has been done. That leaves us with the oceans about which we still know so little, and space, where we have only just begun to reach out a tentative hand.
Krista Ball wrote a fascinating reflection of her journey from fear to confidence as a writer. I first heard of her when she asked a pregnancy question about one of the characters in Blaze back in the beginning if her career. She has since gone on to write a bookshelf worth of works you should go and read. I am still wavering over releasing the same book I was working on when she asked her question. I do have a second book drafted and copious notes for a third book, but still I remain unpublished..
I can give you any number of reasons why this has happened, but when I boil it all down to its essence, the problem is a lack of confidence. Have I done my best in crafting this story? Will any one want to read it? Will I become a pariah for doing it wrong? Not keeping pure to the Science Fiction genre I write in? I’ve already been warned about including too many elements of my Christian faith in my stories.
It could even be argued that taking the time to compose this post is keeping me from finishing edits on the last few pages of my latest draft. The fact we are in the middle of selling our present home and buying a new one better suited to our future needs is only incidental to the bigger picture.
Maintaining this blog doesn’t really help. Though I freely admit to making little effort to market my presence, the general lack of traffic is not what I’d call confidence inspiring to someone aspiring to a craft where discoverability is probably the single biggest obstacle we all face.
This is the year this will change. I have already pushed myself forward through moments that would have stopped me in the past. A few more steps, each capable of shutting me down as Krista described in her development as a writer, and I’ll have my first work out there and be deep into getting number two ready to follow.
One final thought. The average reader can finish a story faster than most writers can produce them. Writing isn’t a competition so much as a collaboration. Just take a look at how many different authors you have on your own bookshelf. If you find yourself in the same place I’ve been and still feel you have a story you want to tell, it’s not to late. Take a close look at what’s holding you back, set your priorities, and act upon them.
Warning. This post contains references to math.
It’s a question all of us have heard in one form or another. Most of us have heard many variations of it over the years. The other day I heard it once again, sparking a little number checking and this post.
A quick check of official NASA budget numbers reveals they received over 17.7 billion last year. Keep that number in mind.
It is estimated there are over 164 million smart phone in use in the USA today.
Now to some guestimates.
Let us assume that number is overstated by 25%. That leaves 123m SPs.
Let us further assume another 25% are dedicated strictly for business. That leaves 92.25m SPs. Most of which are used primarily for entertainment.
Let us further assume 25% of those only connect to the internet via available WiFi hotspots. That leaves 69.2m SPs.
If the average monthly cost of a data plan is $50 a month or $600 a year, these users are collectively spending $41.5 billion annually.
If only 1/2 of those users acted on the question, Why am I spending so much money on instant gratification when there are people going hungry, it would produce a bigger impact than the total diversion of NASA funds to food programs.
As an aside, let me point out that it is easier for the individual to send money to a trusted charity that for that same individual to sway how a government spends the money they have skimmed off their paycheque.
In addition, of that 17.7b allocated to NASA, only a small fraction is actually shot into space. Most of it stays right here on Earth to cover the salaries of the many fine people employed either directly or within the supply chain NASA sources its material from. Those are real jobs helping to feed real families at a level that makes it possible for them to donate from their excess to the poor and hungry.
All that’s before accounting for the long list of scientific advancements and inventions that have gone on to help society at large.
I would call that something to think about before complaining that some program represents money being wasted.
Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I make a point of talking up Vancouver’s premier Science Fiction, Fantasy and Games Convention VCON. It’s an event I’ve made a special point of attending for a number of years now. Not just me, but the entire family as my wife runs her Cat’s Knitting table in the Vender Hall each year with the help of our daughter.
There are many different kinds of Cons out there. Some aimed at Fans, others at Creators, and many that do their best to bridge the two in some dynamic way. To me the one thing that separates a Con from a Show is the level of interaction invited between the showees and the attendees. I’m fine with people who have a different definition.
One of my goals as a writer is to earn enough money from my craft to fund my attendance to Cons outside the local area. Another milestone would be to become big enough to attract invites to sit as a panelist at such Cons.
Only thing is, Cons can have so much going on it’s hard to find time to take a breather. All that interaction can wear a person down. I know people who thrive is such situations, who go home raring to go, their batteries charged. That’s not me. I need a vacation to recover from my ‘vacation’.
True, I’ve met a lot of fine people at past VCONs. Just as true are all the times I failed to say hello to people I wanted to meet because I couldn’t get past the inner voices telling me the time and place weren’t right. That last bit can leave me exhausted to the point of wondering if the whole thing is worth it and asking myself what else can I hope to achieve by attending the next con?
The answer as of this moment is: I don’t know. What I do know is I will be attending VCON 40 on the Dead Dog Membership purchased at the end of VCON 39. Perhaps I’ll see you there and get past those voices in my head long enough to say hello.