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Followup on Cleveland ConCoction

Okay, the convention ended days ago, but I’m only now getting around to posting about it. Let’s see… My last panel on Saturday was about “Shaping the Short Story,” and I was hoping to pick up some tips on how to get better at coming up with short stories, but I don’t think I got the answers I was looking for. I think my problem is that my ideas tend to be big worldbuilding stuff that requires a longer format to explore. I think I’m better at coming up with ideas in universes that are already established and defined, like The Hub or Star Trek. Still, I got to hear from other authors on the panel, including another Analog author, Mary A. Turzillo. Afterward, I ran into Mary and Geoffrey A. Landis in the lobby, and we three Analog veterans hung out for a while in the con suite (a nice perk of the con, a dining area providing free food to guests).

On Sunday morning, I got checked out of my room before my 11 AM panel, “Best Worlds in SF.” I’d thought that would be a discussion of our favorite or most optimistic fictional universes, but apparently it was about “worlds” in a more literal sense, our favorite physical settings and the worldbuilding behind them. Geoffrey Landis was on this panel with me as well, and we both talked about our interest in real planetary science and how that could inform our fiction. There was also some discussion of the worldbuilding process, and I got to talk about The Hub and how pleased I am that its central concept is so simple and distinctive yet provides so many story possibilities growing out of its ramifications. Although that might actually have been in the short story panel the night before. They’ve kind of blended together in my memory.

(By the way, I’ve just discovered that the Internet Science Fiction Database lists my Hub stories under the series title “The Hub Gates.” I guess I can see why they’d think “gates” in terms of instantaneous interstellar travel, a la Gateway or Stargate, but I’m puzzled because I’ve never used that term for it myself — and there’s really only a single “gate,” the Hub itself. I’ve always thought of the series as just “The Hub.” Still, it’s neat to find out I have an ISFDb entry for my own original series. Though my main ISFDb page is in need of updating — it’s missing my non-Analog original stories, Hub Space, and my Star Trek Magazine articles.)

After the last panel, I spent an hour at the guest table in the main hall, trying to sell books, but that can be tough on the last day of a con, when people have spent most of their money already. Plus, I was kind of far from the other guests, since for some reason there was a live rabbit in a cage under the table and I had to move off to the side to avoid kicking it. So I was a little lonely. After that, I moved back to Author’s Alley for a last bout of giveaways and signings before the closing ceremony, and Larry Nemecek took that opportunity to interview me for a podcast. I think he said it was for Trekland, but there doesn’t seem to be a video up there yet.

So then I went off to the fairly brief closing ceremonies, and then I reclaimed my remaining books from the con staff — those from my own stock, at least, since we weren’t sure about the disposition of the remaining giveaway books. (That’s being worked out.) Anyway, it turned out that I didn’t need to bring both my boxes of Only Superhuman hardcovers, since I only sold 3/4 of one box worth. Still, I made a pretty decent haul, better than I’ve ever made at a single convention before.

And then the rough stuff began. First, I had trouble getting out of the parking lot. My car has been having problems accelerating after sitting overnight in cold weather; it takes up to a few minutes before I’m able to get the car moving to any useful degree, though it tends to clear up after that. I then had to endure a drive through heavy rain all the way to Detroit, and I wasn’t feeling too great after all the stress of the convention and lack of sleep, so I had to keep stopping to rest. Under other circumstances, I might’ve just found a motel for the night, but I wanted to get to Shirley and Harry’s home in time for the tail end of their “housecooling” party, as they called the gathering to commemorate their impending move out of their home of over 45 years. I got there in time to see cousins Barb, Mark, and Teddy before they left the next morning. It’s been a while since I’ve managed to see them, since I’ve had to miss the past couple of holiday gatherings at their home.

Unfortunately, their presence meant there was no room at the inn for me that night, so the plan was for me to go stay with Uncle Clarence. Which turned out to be a terrible plan, since getting there was a 40-minute drive through unfamiliar territory in the dark and the pouring rain. There were moments when I was driving on the freeway and could barely see the lane dividers, and it would’ve been so easy for me to have an accident. It was the most terrifying driving experience of my life. I should’ve just found the nearest motel to Shirley and Harry’s house, but I was too tired to think of it. I’m grateful to Clarence for letting me stay over, but in retrospect, it wasn’t the ideal choice in those conditions.

And I had car trouble again the next morning, this time with Clarence observing. He later called an automotive-minded friend, who suggested I might need the transmission fluid changed. Anyway, the car finally started moving, as it does, and I went back to Shirley & Harry’s for the rest of Monday. With things finally settled down and the weather improved, it was a good visit. There was good food and conversation, and we went to the local library and I checked out a collection of fun and zany Superman comics from 1958-9, the era when some of the most important elements from the Silver Age debuted, such as Brainiac, Kandor, and Supergirl. And I finally got a good night’s sleep on Monday night, so I was well-rested for my drive home Tuesday. The folks provided me with lunch for my trip, and also let me have a tea ball and a couple of mugs they no longer need.

The drive home was much nicer than my previous two long drives. The weather was great and I was feeling much better. I ran into a long traffic delay due to construction, but it was well-timed to let me eat lunch while traffic was completely stopped or inching forward, and it turned out to be a much shorter delay than the hour and forty-some minutes that Google Maps predicted. When I got home, I found a sticker on my door from UPS saying they’d tried to deliver a package from Simon & Schuster on the day I’d left for the convention — my copies of Live by the Code, of course, in an odd bit of timing. They’d dropped them off at the local bike shop, which I’d used once before to drop off a return to Amazon, so I guess UPS had it in their records as my preferred location. I picked them up the next day, combining it with a grocery trip. My car still seemed to be having some acceleration problems going up hills, so the transmission issue may be getting worse. I was going to take it to the garage then, but I decided I needed groceries first instead, and once I got home from that, I figured I’d wait until today. But today I had to do laundry, and was just generally too tired to do much else. So maybe tomorrow.

And hopefully soon I’ll be recovered enough to get back to that whole writing thing…

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Discussing my superhero novels on Sci-Fi Bulletin

October 7, 2013 1 comment

Sci-Fi Bulletin, a British genre site edited by my former Star Trek Magazine editor Paul Simpson, has just published an essay I wrote for them comparing the writing of Only Superhuman and Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder, timed to coincide with the release of the OS paperback in the UK. You can read it here:

The Science of Writing Superheroes

Oddly enough, it’s indexed on the site under “Fantasy.” I guess that’s because superheroes are generally treated as a subset of fantasy; my hard-SF approach to the subject seems to be pretty unusual, though as the article points out, sometimes there was more science in Stan Lee and his Marvel cohorts’ creations than you might think.

Only Superhuman MMPB cover    Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder audiobook

Kind of a good week writing-wise…

In the past few days, I’ve gotten two tentative invitations for new writing projects, though one is much more tentative than the other.  I hope they both come to fruition, though.  At least, it’s a good sign that I’ve gotten approached twice this early in the year.

Also, today I finally got paid in full for my latest Star Trek Magazine article (well, latest published, but second-latest written), after the first check got lost in the mail.

Meanwhile, my progress on the spec novel has had a bit of a setback, but in a way that’s progress in itself.  I realized that just trying to keep as much as possible from the old version of the story wasn’t working; there was too much infodump and lecturing and not enough characterization or emotion to make it work, and at the same time I wasn’t making good enough use of the setting and situation at this part of the novel.  I realized there were some things I could do to address both problems at once, so I have to do some major rewriting of this portion and replace a lot of the recycled material with new content.  It entails partly reversing a decision I made before to reduce the number of distinct alien races I used in the story, because the old version was getting too cluttered and unfocused.  So I was initially skeptical of the thought that including another alien race (indeed, one pretty much recycled from some of my old unsold fiction) might be the way to go here.  But it’s okay, because I’ve solved the main clutter/focus problem (by having the central arc of the back half of the novel grow out of an established character and species whose motivations tie into another significant piece of worldbuilding in the novel, rather than tossing in a different antagonist and species that have no connection to any of that), and because I can use this alien race in place of another one that I was planning to use anyway in the final stage of the story (and was on the fence about using at all), so it gives the story more cohesiveness if I set them up here.  Moreover, it lets me showcase the setting more, making it come alive as more than just a backdrop.  So I think that this time it will serve the story integrally rather than sending me off on a tangent like before.  At least, I hope it will.

If nothing else, at least I finally feel my imagination is fully engaged with this project; the ideas are flowing more quickly now and I’m recognizing both problems and solutions that I wasn’t seeing before.

TrekMovie reviews STRUGGLE WITHIN, and new ST MAGAZINE article now out!

Two bits of Star Trek news that I’m happy about:

One, TrekMovie.com’s reviewer Robert Lyons has posted a review of my e-novella Star Trek Typhon Pact: The Struggle Within, and he has some very nice things to say.  My favorite bits:

 Bennett provides a timely story, inspired by very recent real world events, combined with an accessible yet still alien background (in both the A and B story!), that completely engages the reader.

While “Zero Sum Game” may be the best novel in the series, “The Struggle Within” is truly the best story of the five… and an outstanding conclusion to the series….

Very flattering.

Also, Star Trek Magazine #38 is now out, and it contains my entry in the ongoing Star Trek 45s series, examining every 45th aired episode of ST one by one.  My piece is on one of my favorite Voyager episodes, “Concerning Flight,” and it has an absolutely gorgeous title-page illustration of Janeway and Leonardo da Vinci which you can see a small version of here.  My thanks to the magazine’s designer, Philip White, for giving my article such a great accompanying image.

45 years on the final frontier

Forty-five years ago tonight, on September 8, 1966, Star Trek made its television debut.  That’s a big anniversary, though not as big as the one coming up in five years.  I hadn’t even realized it was approaching, though.  I’ve been too preoccupied with writing Star Trek to think about celebrating Star Trek.  Probably the only thing I’ll do to commemorate the anniversary is to get some more work done on Forgotten History (hopefully a lot of work, though I didn’t get enough sleep last night so I’m not sure how much I’ll manage to get done today).

However, I am a participant in Star Trek Magazine‘s 45th-anniversary celebration in a couple of ways.  STM is doing a 2-issue “Ultimate Guide” to all the episodes and films, with an overview of each season (plus the movies as a group) done by a different author.  I’m doing Voyager‘s third season (my favorite year of that show) in the second issue, #37, which should probably be going on sale quite soon.  Also, throughout the year, STM has been doing a series of articles called “Star Trek 45s” which focus on every 45th episode of the franchise in the order they aired.  I did a piece on Voyager: “Concerning Flight,” which I think will be in issue #38, after the Ultimate Guide is done and the magazine resumes its regularly scheduled programming.

Good grief, 45 years.  Maybe one reason I don’t like to pay much attention to these anniversaries is that it reminds me that I was born during TOS’s original run (though in the latter half thereof, at least).  I can’t possibly be that old!  Well, you’re only as old as you feel.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get enough sleep so I’m not exactly brimming with youthful energy today.  But don’t mind me.  Happy anniversary and all that.

Shore Leave 33: my schedule

The author guests for next week’s Shore Leave convention in Hunt Valley, MD (near Baltimore) have now been issued their schedules for the con, so I can announce what panels and events I’ll be attending.  This is tentative, of course.

Friday, July 8:

10PM-midnight: Meet the Pros (corridor outside Hunt & Valley ballrooms): The annual mass autograph event by the authors in attendance.

Saturday, July 9:

4 PM: Christopher L. Bennett Q&A (Salon A): An hourlong panel devoted entirely to me, because I’ve got a lot to talk about this year.  Star Trek Magazine editor Paul Simpson (a first-time Shore Leave guest) will join me as moderator/interviewer, since this is the first one of these I’ve done and I could use the helping hand.   Topics will likely include discussion of DTI: Watching the Clock and other former works, plus new information about my upcoming Trek projects Typhon Pact: The Struggle Within and Forgotten History, and of course my original novel Only Superhuman, coming next year from Tor Books.

Sunday, July 10:

11 AM: Writing Superhero Novels (Salon E): Another opportunity to talk about Only Superhuman, alongside Greg Cox (my editor for OS, and the author of multiple Marvel & DC superhero novels), Keith R.A. DeCandido,  Michael Jan Friedman, Alan Kistler, David Mack, and Kelly Meding.  Between us, we’ll no doubt cover both original superhero prose fiction and adaptations of comics heroes.

12 noon: Time Travel in Trek (Salon F):  I’ll be joining Greg Cox, A. C. Crispin, Alan Kistler, and Paul Simpson.  Naturally I expect to be discussing Watching the Clock and Forgotten History.

2 PM: From Tie-In to Original (Salon F): One more chance to tout Only Superhuman, and to compare stories with other authors who’ve made the transition from tie-in fiction to original fiction: David Mack, Aaron Rosenberg, and Dayton Ward.

I’ve decided to drive to Shore Leave this year — cheaper than flying, more comfortable than taking the bus — so I took my car in for a checkup today.  They found the drive belt was falling apart and put in a new one.  And I noticed the difference, I think.  The car seemed to accelerate substantially more easily.  It felt like it wanted to go faster.  I’m hoping that’ll improve my fuel efficiency.  I assume a new drive belt (with “grooves,” I’m told, that had worn away on the old one) would have better traction on the shafts or gears or whatever, so there’d be less wasted energy.  They also did some kind of cleaning or purging of the fuel induction system which they said would help the mileage a bit.  We’ll see when I hit the road next week.

Some DTI DeTaIls

The new issue of Star Trek Magazine is reportedly out, and it announces some new information about Pocket’s ST publishing schedule for 2011.  Among the information are two new bits of info about Star Trek DTI, one of which I knew already, one of which I didn’t.

The thing I knew already, because I thunk it up, is the book’s subtitle.  It’s not just Star Trek DTI, it’s Star Trek DTI: Watching the Clock. I haven’t announced it because I wasn’t sure whether to use it.  If the title was Star Trek DTI: Department of Temporal Investigations, then adding the subtitle would make it unwieldy, and if we left off the Deparment of… part, would that be too vague?  I figure DTI:WtC is the best way to go, though.

The thing I didn’t already know is that a release date has been scheduled.  It’s now lined up for May 2011.

So now that you know when the book’s coming out, you can begin… umm… perusing the, uh, chronometer.  Or something like that.  I know there’s a better phrase for that, it’s right on the tip of my tongue…