Monday, July 03, 2017

Denver Comic Con -- an unexpected place to find some good advice on literary fiction

Chris and I accompanied our Millennial daughter Annie to Denver Comic Con on Saturday.

"Accompanied" might be a bit of a stretch, since she ditched her Boomer parents as soon as it was feasible. This wasn't too hard as she already had her entrance ID so just got into the line surging toward the Colorado Convention Center. Chris had to find a shady spot to test her blood glucose levels while I searched for the "will call" window. I was on a mission to trade in my paper tickets for entrance badges. I walked around the entire Con Center which looks a bit like a starship at rest, one with a gigantic blue bear staring inside. It could be an alien bear, an anime bear, a bear that is also a shapeshifter, a perfect disguise for an "Aliens"-style alien, or one from "The Predator" series, or those rapacious aliens in "Independence Day" or "War of the Worlds."

The heat may have been getting to me. I kept yearning to be in the AC with a cool Brewt, the official beer of Comic Con from Breckenridge Brewery. But first, I had to crack the code that would let me inside. I located various long lines, none of which were the correct ones. I finally found the "will call" line when I saw others of the dispossessed using their paper tickets as fans. The line moved fast as it was mostly in the shade of one of the DCC's giant wings. Twenty minutes later, I had our badges and eventually located Chris and we finally were admitted to the inner sanctum.

I was unofficially the oldest person in the building. Even veteran actor Kate Mulgrew, whom we heard speak in the BellCo Theatre, is younger than me by a few years, if my arithmetic is correct. Captain Janeway has transformed herself into the dastardly prison den mother in "Orange is the New Black." Her Russian accent is pretty good, which may hold her in good stead with our new Overlord, Vlad Putin. Mulgrew is the oldest of eight in an Irish-Catholic family (I am the oldest of nine). That wasn't the only thing we had in common. She said that reading is the basis for success. She is working on her second book while ensconced in her house in Galway reading through the Irish masters: Joyce, Trevor, O'Brien. This summer, she is even tackling Proust, which earns her major brownie points in the literary world.

Janeway is still the only female captain in the long-running "Star Trek" series. She hears rumors that one of the top-ranking officers in the latest series (set to debut this fall) is female. But she is not the captain. Mulgrew is a big Hillary fan which automatically makes her a big non-fan of whatever alien life form now occupies the White House. That's as close as she got to politicking which, she said, speakers were warned to steer clear of. As if....

People watching was the best use of my time. So many cosplayers from so many different books and TV shows and movies. One person was dressed as the Lego captain. He must have been hot in there. Princess Leia continues to be popular, as are various Trek characters. Annie is a big "Doctor Who" fan and there were plenty of doctors and even a few Daleks. One of my faves was a hoodie-wearing Donnie Darko and the Big Scary Rabbit that haunts his life in the movie. We ran into some theatre friends from Cheyenne all costumed up, including two female Ghostbusters.

We lunched on soggy overpriced sandwiches. We went to one of the NASA panels that addressed "The Science of Star Trek." The speakers quizzed us on the feasibility of Trek items, including communicators, transporters and artificial intelligence. Communicators were an obvious yes but a big no on the molecule-rearranging transporter ever seeing the light of day. This dooms my dream of someday avoiding the drive from Cheyenne to Denver. I would trade the possibility of misplaced molecules with driving I-25 any day.

My day ended with an authors' track panel entitled "Start Short, Get Good." The five published panelists spoke of writing short stories as a way to break into the sci-fi lit world. Catherynne M. Valente, author of "The Orphan's Tales," said this: "It's always been a hustle to get short fiction published." And this: "It's a struggle to get people to read short stories who also are not aspiring writers." As a test, she had audience members raise their hands who read short stories -- the majority of us complied. Then she asks for a show of hands of aspiring writers -- many raised hands. That got a laugh.

This continues a theme that I have heard for decades at everything from national AWP conferences to Wyoming Writers, Inc., conferences to book festivals. The question is: Are you buying and reading the work of the authors you like? That patronage is crucial to the survival of small presses and literary magazines.

Michael Poore ("Up Jumps the Devil") spoke up for the survival of these small markets. He said that he publishes some of his "character-driven stuff" in the literary markets.

"Genre fiction has lots of rules," Poore said. "In a literary story, you can get away with more. People tell me that they read my stories but don't like stories that don't end."

That sounds like a great description if literary fiction -- stories that don't end. I remember my insurance salesman uncle saying that he liked my first book of stories but was surprised that they had no end. Slice of life. Minimalism. Whatever term you use, it's shorthand for literary fiction which doesn't always coexist with genre fiction. Poore, on the other hand, seems to live in both worlds. He has published stories in some of the best litmags (Agni, Glimmer Train, Fiction) and sci-fi mags such as Asimov's. His story "The Street of the House of the Sun," was selected for The Year's Best Nonrequired Reading 2012, edited by Dave Eggers.

So, by the end of the day, I at last has found my tribe. These panelists face the same challenges I do, which warmed the cockles of my heart and made me very, very thirsty.

I went in search of Brewt.

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