ConFusion 2019 Schedule

As much for my benefit as for yours, here’s my panel schedule for ConFusion 2019, which happens next weekend, January 18-20th, in Dearborn, MI.

Cultivating a Fanbase as a Publisher

Friday 4:00 PM Erie
Just as fans follow specific authors or magazines, with the proliferation of small presses, we’re increasingly seeing publishing houses develop followings of their own. Apex Publishing, Subterranean Press, World Weaver Press, Small Beer Press and many others have distinct voices and aesthetics which distinguish them in the marketplace. Some, such as Ugly Duckling Presse and Restless Books, offer annual subscriptions to their catalogs. Are readers following publishers as they follow authors, and what are publishers doing to cultivate fan bases?
A. Carina Spears (M), Pablo Defendini, Yanni Kuznia, Michael J. DeLuca, Joe R. Lansdale

Escapism, Coming Back, and Beyond

Friday 5:00 PM Allen Park
Fans of SFF can get pretty prickly about their escapist pleasures. In the era of #metoo, #ownvoices and bot-fueled reactionary troll backlash, it’s time to unpack that. What do we get by escaping the real world into fiction for a little while? How does it feel coming back? How else can fiction help us weather and overcome the hardships of the real world, and how can it hurt?
Michael J. DeLuca (M), Eric Anderson, Sandee Rodriguez, Andrea Johnson, Jessi Cole Jackson

Reading: Michael J. DeLuca, Clif Flynt, John Wiswell

Saturday 1:00 PM Rotunda

New Trends in Post-Collapse Fiction

Saturday 5:00 PM Dearborn
The prospect of a world where the march of social and technological progress has drastically reversed course seems a lot closer than it used to be. What has changed in the way we imagine post-collapse futures? How do post-collapse futures of the past and present exist in conversation with the social and political worlds in which they were written?
Marissa Lingen (M), Andrea Johnson, Michael J. DeLuca, Petra Kuppers, Anaea Lay

About ‘Forest Spirits’

I had a story out in 2018! “Forest Spirits” came out in Beneath Ceaseless Skies #266 at the beginning of this month. I always try to share a little bit of background about a story when it comes out, but I’m only getting around to it now due to Reckoning 3 prep and then the holidays. I guess this is going to amount to my “awards eligibility” post too, such as it is, today being my last chance.

I haven’t written a whole lot this year, obviously. If you’re really hankering for more of my work, please read Reckoning 3. It means a lot to me.

So. “Forest Spirits” is a story about what it takes to rebel against an impending ecological catastrophe that has been making your life easier and better for a long time, to which you have been actively contributing. I imagine my inspiration for all that doesn’t need a lot of explanation. But it’s also a story about the revelatory experience of showing a part of the natural world that was instrumental in making you who you are to someone you love. I’ve been through that a few times. It’s not easy. It takes a hell of a lot of trust; it’s making yourself vulnerable, opening yourself up to the possibility that they won’t understand. At least it was for me. A lot of what I am, a lot, comes from my relationship with nature. The Mary Oliver poem I quoted in the upper right on this site communicates it probably better than I’ll ever manage.

I came up with the idea for this story at a writing retreat hosted by BCS editor Scott Andrews at his family’s house on Buck’s Elbow Mountain in the central Blue Ridge, over a week of very early, misty mornings spent hiking around fire access roads and cow pastures with Justin Howe. Yes, both Scott and Justin are people I trust with the part of my soul that is a product of mountains, mist, mushrooms, summer squalls, owls, trees, water trickling through moss, etc. Justin and I had a series of conversations about a kind of story that could take place on a path through wilderness, a story that would undermine certain traditional dramatic expectations by occupying the interstitial space between big set pieces, the parts that tend to get glossed over, particularly in adventure fantasy. We talked about Western plots that work that way, and bits from samurai films and what they have in common. And I ended up working out a set of story furniture I thought I could work with: small stakes both foreshadowing and emerging out of larger stakes, just a few characters, one of them being the setting itself, lots of backstory. I’m not sure if Justin ever did anything with this idea—I hope he tells me when he does. I’m very grateful to Scott for getting on board with it—the ending was entirely a collaborative effort between us, figuring out how to lead up to the edge of a climactic conflict without actually going there.

The setting of “Forest Spirits” is something between the central Blue Ridge, the eastern Berkshires and the colder, rockier White Mountains of my youth, all of which I miss dearly from here in the inland-sea geological flatness of Michigan. I’m indebted to Miyazaki—as I’m sure I didn’t have to tell you—and also to Thoreau’s “A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers”.

Photo credit I believe goes to Erin Hoffman.

For the record: go into the wilderness with someone you love, trust and admire. Show them the parts of your soul you usually only visit alone. Take that risk. It’s worth it.

Reckoning 3: In Pursuit of a Future

Reckoning 3 is out today, edited once again by me, this time in concert with Danika Dinsmore, Mohammad Shafiqul Islam, Giselle Leeb, Johannes Punkt, Sakara Remmu and Aïcha Martine Thiam.

This was a challenging issue for us. I tried to step down in favor of a guest editor, and at first that went wonderfully; it got us incredibly badass cover art from Stylo Starr along with the pleasure of her acquaintance, it pushed us into some editorial decisions that wilder and darker and more intense and more serious and we might not have made otherwise, which was exactly why I wanted to take on a guest editor in the first place. So in that sense it has been an amazing year. But Sakara had to back out a little more than halfway through, which left us scrambling to take over her responsibilities, caused us to drop a few balls and have to go chasing them halfway across August. It stretched out our submission response times and no doubt annoyed many a potential contributor. I hope we didn’t lose anybody. That is the opposite of what I want.

In the interest of honoring the work Sakara put in as well as the creative influence of Reckoning’s amazing staff, I decided to keep my name out of the editor slot for this issue and call it a communal effort.

Undaunted, unrelenting, with Reckoning 4 we’re trying it again. I think I shall not yet reveal our guest editor(s) for the new issue, but I’m excited.

Also, of course, this year happened.

I’d already been expecting Reckoning 3 to be darker than Reckoning 2. The issues were always meant to reflect the state of the world in the year of their release; this whole project, the premise of calling it “Reckoning”, is about looking both forward and back, finding the way. This issue is full of both hope and dread. Sometimes the people we’re rooting for drown. Sometimes they have to kill the people holding them down. This issue has a knife and a gun on the cover—Stylo put them there without having seen it all, but that’s how these things go; prophecies fulfill themselves. We’d already accepted Osahon Ize-Iyamu’s “More Sea Than Tar”, Andrew Kozma’s “Exit Here”, Tania Fordwalker’s “The Blackthorn Door” and Michelle Muenzler’s “Flowers for the Living, Flowers for the Dead”—most of what’s full of brutality and grief in the issue—long before the IPCC report came out. We’re reprinting a bunch of #ExtinctionRebellion protest art; I hadn’t even heard of Extinction Rebellion in August.

All of which is just by way of a heads-up: please read, just be ready.

2019 feels like it’s going to be a whirlwind.

World Fantasy 2018

I’ll be at World Fantasy Convention in Baltimore this weekend, November 1-4, 2018. I get to do a reading and a panel.

Reading

Time: Saturday – 10:00 AM to 10:30 AM
Location: Guilford

I think I’m going to read my Reckoning 2 editorial, even though I’ve been avoiding doing so because it’s deeply personal and emotional and hard, because it’s directly relevant to the panel they put me on, because after the IPCC report and three days before the election I feel like it’s time and I’m out of excuses.

Optimism in the New Dark Age

Time: Sunday – 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM
Location: WaterTable BC
Panelists: Michael J. Deluca, Sarah Beth Durst, Matthew Kressel, James A. Moore, A.C. Wise (M)
Description: The ’00s brought us a glut of dystopian fiction, but in this new dark political era, what value or function can positive or so-called “hope-punk” fiction bring? Is optimistic fiction head-in-the-sand denialism, or is it mindfully visionary? Who are some of the writers creating this type of fiction? #HopePunk