Readercon 2019 Schedule

I’ll be at Readercon in a couple weeks, as usual. Here’s what I’m doing:

Afrofuturism and Solarpunk in Dialogue

Rob Cameron (mod), Bill Campbell, Michael J. DeLuca, Tananarive Due, Cadwell Turnbull
Thu 8:00 PM, Salon A
Afrofuturism: an African-American creative movement that reimagines the past, present, and future. Solarpunk: subverting the cyberpunk future, it explores sustainable solutions to global environmental crisis. Both have a strong “maker” tradition and are, at their core, hopeful. Panelists will brainstorm converging issues, technologies, and ideas that would make for compelling solarpunk Afrofuturist stories.

Rob has been talking about this panel idea for years and I’m very excited to be part of it. I’m representing solarpunk, in case that wasn’t completely obvious. In which role I expect I’ll be keeping quiet and listening carefully.

The Implications of SFWA’s Rate Increase

Scott H. Andrews, Pablo Defendini, Michael J. DeLuca (mod), Paul Levinson, Romie Stott

Sat 12:00 PM, Salon 3

SFWA will be be raising their designated qualifying rate for fiction from 6 to 8 cents per word in September. It might seem a small change, but it has the potential to alter the field significantly for a lot of writers, readers, editors, and publishers. This panel, led by Michael J. DeLuca, will discuss what the change means for specific markets, who’ll be able to meet the new rate, who benefits and who doesn’t, and how this relates to the broader economic and political climate.

I wrote the above panel topic sometime in February. I’ve been fundraising and applying for grants in hopes of raising Reckoning’s rates to match, and my thinking about this has changed quite a bit since. I hope we’ll get to think together about what pay rates actually mean for writers, readers, editors and publishers, whether an increase means more of the kind of writing each of us wants and why.

Reading: Michael J. DeLuca

Sun 1:30 PM, Salon C

I expect I’ll read a bit from a novella about Detroit I’ve been working on.

I’ll also be in the dealer’s room for most of the rest of Friday, Saturday and Sunday selling books (including Reckoning) at the Small Beer Press table. Please come on by! I might be lonely.

What is Solarpunk? from Commando Jugendstil on Vimeo.

WriteFest Schedule 2019

This weekend I’ll be at WriteFest in Houston, Texas. Look, they interviewed me!

Here as usual,  for my own reference and note-taking convenience, is my schedule.

Take a Stand: Activism through the Authorial Mask

Panel
Time: Friday – 1:30-2:30
Room: The Lamott Room
Presenters: Catherine Vance, Mack Little, Michael Deluca, Sage Webb (M)

Activist fiction allows writers to explore issues of social justice, cultural epidemics, uncommon perspectives, and more. How do we take a stand in our writing in a way that reaches people without pushing them away? What place does this type of writing have in our communities? Join our panel to discuss the impact of activist fiction and how we can incorporate these reformative topics in our stories and poems.

Preservation & Re-creation: Writing About Nature and the Environment

Panel
Time: Friday – 4:00-5:00
Room: The LeGuin Room
Panelists: Elizabeth White-Olsen, Jody T. Morse (M), Marianne Dysen, Michael Deluca

Whether you love gardening in your backyard or traversing the trails of your imagination, writing down your experiences with nature helps preserve our environment. The writers on this panel

will discuss writing that enriches, engages, and encourages readers to care about the worlds they recreate on the page, the world we share, and beyond.

Publishing Online: Viral Stories and Why Print’s Not Queen Anymore

Panel
Time: Sat – 1:30-2:30
Room: The Chaucer Room
Presenters: Chelsea Voulgares (M), Georgia Pearle, Icess Fernandez Rojas, Joshua Foster, Michael Deluca

Many authors choose to publish exclusively in print journals. But ignoring the world of online publishing can mean you lose out on major opportunities. Learn why you should be submitting to online publications and how they differ from print-only publications.

Review: Rule of Capture by Christopher Brown

I can’t remember a legal thriller having made me cry before—though I suppose terrifyingly near-future compassionate dystopian SF is another story. RULE OF CAPTURE is both. It started getting to me round about page ten, when the Native filmmaker on trial to be deported for trumped-up (yes I see it and I’m not sorry) sedition charges gets dragged into the courtroom under a black hood. This goes beyond topical into the territory of my—everyone’s?—personal paranoia.

The scariest part is hearing, every time a private security force is shown patrolling an American neighborhood armed with the technological manifestation of the biggest wealth gap in the developed world, how willing and proud so many in the crowd are to be oppressed.

The world of RULE OF CAPTURE and its prequel, TROPIC OF KANSAS, isn’t easy to inhabit, being just that much worse than our own, which is bad enough. But I also find it impossible to look away from, even as I struggle with what this kind of writing is for, what it’s doing. When we’ve already got an America daily tipping further into kakistocracy, what makes Brown’s hyperbolized version of same so compelling? More importantly—to me at least—is it helping?

As publisher and erstwhile editor of Reckoning, I’ve thought a lot about this. I want to publish—and read, and learn from—stories that foster hope, that energize us to foster change. Reading fiction can make us better people by making us care, an antidote to the desensitizing effects of mass media and the fragmentation of social media. It gives us actual human beings to live with and inhabit over time, and in doing so can give us access to ideas we’d be closed to if we encountered them any other way. It can also let us hide. The difference is subtle. Everybody needs catharsis. Right now, people in the US, the kind of people writing and thinking about environmental justice anyway, need to grieve for the world they thought we’d be living in by now. I need to grieve for my kid’s future, for the swarms of bees and vibrant coral he’ll never see, for the coming to terms he’s going to have to endure with the ways the world doesn’t correspond to the principles I can’t help instilling in him. I need stories that elucidate that process, that let me sit with it and prepare. But even more, I need stories that help me think what to do. And those are rare. And hard.

RULE OF CAPTURE does both. This isn’t escape, it isn’t wish fulfillment. There are no easy wins. There are expansive, boggling ideas for the future, for the resurgence of nature, the articulation of utopian ideals. They have to be fought for, and re-fought—if there’s a moral to this story, it’s that you never get to stop fighting—but that’s the only way I’d have believed in them.

For a sense what you’re getting, Chris tells me the idea for RULE OF CAPTURE came straight out of his essay by the same title published in Reckoning 1, a Ballardian/Borgesian/transgressive romp through the concept of ownership by conquest, manifest in the resurgent, post-industrial urban wilderness of his Austin backyard.

The best thing about RULE OF CAPTURE, as far as I’m concerned, is how obviously its author is as invested in our future as his characters, and as willing to fight. As demonstrated by everything he’s put into this mind-bending, emotionally challenging piece of fiction.

Another forty-five minutes and two more wrong turns walking down in there, as the morning sun started to get hot, Donny wondered if it was a stupid idea to wear a suit. He had honestly thought they were headed to an apartment building, and might end up dealing with the law before the day was out. Now he wondered if he had stepped into some even bleaker future than the one he was living in, and by sundown the suit would rediscover its hunting attire roots as they scrabbled to survive in the ruins. Seeing how many people already lived like that, hiding in plain sight in the ruins of the right now, made you realize how adjacent that reality really was. He imagined himself trapping nutria at dusk, long hair held back by a necktie repurposed as a headband—

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.