2014 East Coast Game Conference, Day 1

April 23, 2014, Durham, NC: Thanks to a generous last-minute press pass, I had a chance to stop by day one of ECGC – the East Coast Game Conference – this morning at the Raleigh Convention Center. I’ve been to a half-dozen? conventions of various kinds (science fiction, health and fitness, anime, etc.) at this venue and each has taken advantage of the space in different ways. Here, the ECGC is well-laid-out, with branding stickers on the (many!) glass-surfaced entrances into the convention space and plenty of room and people to handle registration without fuss or backups.

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After registering I headed straight for the Expo, which starts as an in-hallway affair before expanding into the Expo Hall Proper. Here, schools pitch their programs and specialties and game companies pitch both their projects and open positions as well as their engines and platforms. In the hall, the two which most caught my eye — though “swag of the day” goes to the Magic 8-ball from Insomniac Games — were Wake Tech’s Simulation and Game Development program as well as a “Goat Simulator” game showcasing Epic Games‘ Unreal Engine. Getting hands-on with the goat simulator, I was encouraged to perform a backflip, but instead got carried away with running my goat forward for a hard stop to force a pretty nice “skid stop” animation; this eventually led to darting my goat out of an alley and into a street just in time to be killed and thump-thump-thump run-over by a very large truck. (I think I earned some bonus points, somehow, for this spectacular method of demise.) Read the rest of this entry »


Feburary newsletter: Wendy Webb, Sheila Turnage, Deborah Johnson, Alice Hoffman, Megan Shepherd, MystiCon, TV deals, new and forthcoming books, literary lineups, and more

Vol 4. No 2. January 31, 2014:

Well, January was what one might call a good month. RDU-based convention illogiCon welcomed Mary Robinette Kowal, Lawrence M. Schoen, Laura Anne Gilman, Gail Z. Martin, Misty Massey and Ed Schubert, and many more to town, along with fantastic participation from Triangle-area authors and fans; William Shatner rocked the house with his one-man show; Quail Ridge Books hosted Carrie Vaughn for Dreams of the Golden Age; and Jeaniene Frost closed out January with the launch of her latest Night Hunters novel. We also saw new books from Lisa Shearin (on December 31), Cate Tiernan, Megan Shepherd, and Faith Hunter, along with the first in Tor’s re-releases of Jenna Black‘s Guardians of the Night series, a new paperback edition of Ariel Djanikian’s just-optioned-for-TV The Office of Mercy, and! J.M. McDermott’s long-awaited Maze. But don’t sleep in too late to start February, though, as tomorrow (Saturday, February 1), Wendy Webb brings her haunted house novel The Vanishing to Flyleaf Books at 11 AM, kicking off a February that went from sparse to packed since the last newsletter.

 The Office of Mercy: A Novel Maze

Speaking of television, more big, big news on that front is that HBO is set to develop a comedy based on NCSU professor Wilton Barnhardt’s darkly hilarious 2013 novel Lookaway, Lookaway. And speaking of NCSU, they’re looking for a visiting writer to teach in their MFA program next year. Via John Kessel: “NC State University is looking for a Visiting Fiction Writer to teach in our MFA program for the 2014-2015 academic year. Detail available at the NCSU website and also on the AWP Job List. This is meant to be a graduate professorship, so we’re look for experienced and well-published candidates.”

More news? Here you go:

  • The cover for the Kickstarter-funded Kaiju Rising anthology has been posted, featuring local writers Natania Barron and James Maxey amidst a gorgeous wraparound cover by Bob Eggleton.
  • ConCarolinas has added considerably to its guest lineup, headlined of course by guest of honor George R.R. Martin and special guest David Weber.  One of those new guests? Yours truly, making my first trip to the convention. More info at the new website: http://www.concarolinas.net/
  • Speaking of impressive lineups, the North Carolina Literary Festival has announced its lineup, which is simply amazing, including Junot Diaz, Karen Joy Fowler, Peter Straub, R.L. Stine, John Kessel, William Barnhardt, Daniel Wallace, Therese Anne Fowler, and many, many more including Bill Ferris, John Claude Bemis, and Zelda Lockhart. The festival runs April 3-6 at the James B. Hunt Jr. Library at NC State University. (And I’m hearing rumors of at least one more major guest announcement to come. Stay tuned!)
  • Local author (and Bull Spec poetry contributor!) Jen McConnel extends an invitation to area writers for her guest post series Writers on Wednesday
  • Durham writer Jeremy Whitley’s story for the new comic book My Little Pony: Friends Forever is the debut “Discord” comic story in the forthcoming issue 2, coming in Feburary. Here’s an interview of Whitley by Zack Smith for Newsarama.
  • Richard Dansky has an article on Deadlands in the latest issue of Dark Discoveries magazine.
  • Pete Wood’s story “Drink in a Small Town” is in the latest (March) Asimov’s, on newsstands now.
  • Natania Barron is hosting a live-reading (via Google Hangout) of her novel Pilgrim of the Sky in February.
  • The North Carolina Speculative Fiction Foundation announced the final eligibility list for the inaugural Manly Wade Wellman Award, with nominations opening soon.

Meanwhile, bullspec.com has been quite busy as well, with: the first installment of Paul Kincaid’s column on British SF, “From the Other Side”; a fantastic series of “Coming to Town” interviews including Laura Anne Gilman interviewed by Jaym Gates, Lawrence M. Shoen interviewed by Ada Milenkovic Brown, Misty Massey interviewed by Edmund R. Schubert, and both Carrie Vaughn and Wendy Webb interviewed by Richard Dansky; and two guest posts in “The Hardest Part” including Jenna Black and Lisa Shearin.

Speaking of Shearin, it was my pleasure to talk to her on Carolina Book Beat in early January. In addition to the podcast of that interview (which includes her reading from her new book), the CBB folks posted podcasts of recent appearances by Jason Mott and Matt Ross. This Monday (Feb 3) I’ll be on with illustrator Tommy Lee Edwards to talk about his forthcoming Vandroid project. And in March I’m very excited to have Mur Lafferty on to talk about Ghost Train to New Orleans, her forthcoming sequel to The Shambling Guide to New York City, and for which she’s just finished principal recording on the audiobook edition.

-Sam

UPCOMING EVENTS, FEBRUARY 2014

1 (Saturday) 11 am – Flyleaf Books hosts Wendy Webb for The Vanishing. More book info: http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/wendy-webb/the-vanishing/9781401341947/

NEW-NEW: 1 (Saturday) 3 pm to late — Atomic Empire’s first “tap takeover” is courtesy the Duck-Rabbit Brewery: “Duck-Rabbit is taking over all eight of Atomic Empire’s taps! Beer selection will include: Amber Ale, Brown Ale, Porter, Milk Stout, Hoppy Bunny, Barleywine, Baltic Porter, and Paul’s Day Off Smoked Stout. We will also be selling flights, so you can try more than one.”

4 — Regional book release day for The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage, followup to her Newbery honor winner and NY Times bestseller Three Times Lucky (Greenville).

4 — Regional book release day for Vengeance by Megan Miranda, sequel to her 2012 YA supernatural thriller Fractured (Charlotte).

NEW-NEW: 4 (Tuesday) 7 pm — Duke’s Smith Warehouse hosted a reading by PEN/Malamud Award winner George Saunders. More info: http://www.dukechronicle.com/articles/2014/02/03/english-department-brings-george-saunders-campus

NEW: 6 (Thursday) 7 pm — Quail Ridge Books hosts Sheila Turnage – ‘The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing’. “Mark your calendar now for the launch of one of the biggest children’s books of the year.”

NEW-NEW: 6 (Thursday) 7 pm — Flyleaf Books hosts Philipp Meyer discusses his historical novel The Son (paperback release). (Fiction.)

NEW-NEW: 8 (Saturday) 3 to 5 pm — Durham County’s Southwest Regional Library hosts a “Meet the Author” event with Durham author Mur Lafferty. More info: http://durhamcountylibrary.org/events/meet-the-author-mur-lafferty/

NEW-NEW: 8 (Saturday) 10 am to 3 pm — The High Country Festival of the Book hosts a special February event in Boone, NC, bringing authors Deborah Johnson and Ed Williams to the area. More info: http://www.highcountryfestivalofthebook.com/

NEW-NEW: 9 (Sunday) 3 pm — Bookmarks NC “Book Club Moveable Feast” in Winston-Salem, NC with authors Wilton Barnhardt, Arien Djanikian, Deborah Johnson, Wendy Welch, and more changing tables every 10 minutes to meet with and discuss with readers. Tickets (4 remaining at last check) are available at: http://bookmarksnc.givezooks.com/events/book-club-movable-feast

 NEW: 10 (Monday) 7:30 pm — Quail Ridge Books hosts Deborah Johnson – The Secret of Magic. Johnson’s novel is amazing; it’s an historical fiction set in Mississippi in the late 1940s as a black GI returns home from WW2 to the segregated South, built around an actual NAACP Legal Fund case and a fictional fantasy novel within the novel. (Fiction.)

NEW: 11 (Tuesday) 7 pm — Flyleaf Books hosts Deborah Johnson discusses her novel The Secret of Magic. (See above for my brief thoughts on this fantastic book.)

NEW: 16 (Sunday) 2 pm — Flyleaf Books hosts Joyce Allen launches her young adult novel The Threads of Earth, part two of the Threads trilogy.

NEW: 17 (Monday) 7:30 pm — Quail Ridge Books hosts Alice Hoffman – ‘The Museum of Extraordinary Things’.

NEW: 19 (Wednesday) 6:30 pm — McIntyre’s Books hosts Alice Hoffman for The Museum of Extraordinary Things.

NEW: 20 (Thursday) 7 pm — Quail Ridge Books hosts The Lovestruck Tour – Four Passionate Authors. (See below for list.)

NEW: 21 (Friday) 7 pm — Flyleaf Books hosts The Lovestruck Tour, featuring YA authors Megan Hansen Shepherd (Her Dark Curiosity), Megan Miranda (Fracture), Kasie West (Pivot Point), and Robin Constantine (The Promise of Amazing).

NEW-NEW: 21-23 (Friday to Sunday) — 15th Nevermore Film Festival at The Carolina Theatre of Durham. More info: http://festivals.carolinatheatre.org/nevermore/

21-23 (Friday to Sunday) — MystiCon in Roanoke, VA withguests John de Lancie (ST:TNG’s “Q”), author Todd McCaffery, author A.J. Hartley, and more. More info: http://mysticon-va.com/

NEW-NEW: 25 (Tuesday) 7 pm — A Knights of Badassdom screening at the Raleighwood Cinema Grill. More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1378122032455699/

26 — Regional book release day for The Narrow Gate: A Supernatural Thriller (Solom) by Scott Nicholson (Boone).

26 — Local comic book launch day for Vandroid by Tommy Lee Edwards.

NEW-NEW: 28 (Friday) — The Carolina Theatre of Durham is playing a Labyrinth and Legend doubleheader showing, starting at 7 pm. More info: http://www.carolinatheatre.org/films/labyrinth-legend

NEW-NEW: 28 (Friday) — Asheville’s Malaprop’s Bookstore hosts a ticketed event with author Karen Russell (Swamplandia! and Vampires in the Lemon Grove: Stories). The program includes an interview by Greta Johnsen followed by a booksigning and wine and cheese reception. More info: http://www.malaprops.com/event/karen-russell-conversation-wcqs-morning-edition-host-greta-johnsen-ticketed-event

MARCH 2014 Read the rest of this entry »


Coming to Town: Wendy Webb for The Vanishing, interviewed by Richard Dansky

Interview by Richard Dansky:

Think “Gothic” and you might not immediately think Minnesota, but Wendy Webb is working on changing that perception. Building on a writing career that began as a journalist for a Twin Cities arts & entertainment weekly, she’s published three critically and commercially successful gothic novels set in her home state. The third, The Vanishing [ebook], was released in January 2014, and in support of the book, she’s visiting Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill on Saturday, February 1st for an early reading at 11 am [Facebook event] in one of three North Carolina events on her current tour [the others include Thursday, Jan 30 at Charlotte’s PARK ROAD BOOKS and Saturday evening at Asheville’s MALAPROPS]. Ahead of that visit, she was kind enough to take a few minutes to answer some questions. From the “Devil’s Toy Box” to the influence of Downton Abbey, here’s a few questions with Wendy Webb.

Can you tell us a little bit about The Vanishing?

All of my novels feature long-buried family secrets that bubble to the surface in big, old mansions. The Vanishing is the story of Julia, who receives an intriguing job offer when her life seems to be falling apart around her. A man, Adrian Sinclair, asks Julia to be a companion to his elderly mother, a famous horror novelist who the whole world thinks is dead. For reasons unknown, this novelist chose to vanish from public life and now lives in her magnificent estate in the middle of the wilderness. Intrigued, Julia accepts the position. But when she arrives at Havenwood, she begins to wonder whether this too-good-to-be-true job offer is exactly that. 

The gothic as a genre is usually associated with windswept moors and craggy mountains. What was the inspiration for setting The Vanishing in northern Minnesota? Read the rest of this entry »


Coming to Town: Steven Brust for The Incrementalists, interviewed by Richard Dansky

By Richard Dansky:

26 novels (and 1 solo album) into his career, Steven Brust still isn’t afraid to take chances. Visiting Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill on October 2nd in support of his new novel, The Incrementalists — co-written with Skyler White — Brust is best known for his centuries-spanning Dragaera series. But with a bibliography that includes everything from a high fantasy retelling of Paradise Lost (To Reign In Hell) to an Ohio vampire story (Agyar) to a multiple volume tribute to the works of Dumas (The Phoenix Guards), Brust remains a master of confounding expectation. Here he is, in his own words:

The Incrementalists

Q: The Incrementalists is your second shot at more or less straightforward science fiction, after Cowboy Feng’s. Why come back to it after all this time? Read the rest of this entry »


Coming to Town: Richard Kadrey for Kill City Blues, interviewed by Richard Dansky

[Editor’s note: this is the first in a new, hopefully-many-more-where-this-came-from series in which authors and other creators “coming to town” for an event answer a few questions for the website. I hope you enjoy! -Sam]

By Richard Dansky:

Five books into his wildly popular and critically acclaimed Sandman Slim series, Richard Kadrey is a significant voice in urban fantasy. Coming to Flyleaf Books on Thursday August 29th in the wake of Kill City Blues, the fifth book in the Sandman Slim cycle, Kadrey also has an unrelated novel, Dead Set, coming out this fall. While this would be more than enough for most writers, Kadrey has an extensive track record as a cyberpunk author, futurist with publications in Wired and Discovery Online, comics scripter, and animation writer. And yes, he has also been turned into an action figure.

Ahead of his visit to the Triangle, Mr. Kadrey was kind enough to answer a few questions about his work, his approach to book tours and, perhaps most importantly, how you kill an unkillable wizard with his name:

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With Kill City Blues, the Sandman Slim series is now five books in. Can a new reader just jump right in and read it as a self-contained story, or do they really need to go back and pick it up from the beginning (which, to be fair, they ought to do anyway)? Read the rest of this entry »


The Hardest Part: Richard Dansky on Vaporware

Durham author Richard Dansky has helped hawk Bull Spec to passers-by at the Bimbe Cultural Arts Festival while wearing a vintage Montreal Expos shirt; he let me excerpt his novel, Firefly Rain, in Bull Spec #2; he’s been pressed to participate in several NC Speculative Fiction Night events, most recently in April, where he read from his new collection Snowbird Gothic; and he’s written a long list of reviews, interviews, and articles for Bull Spec, most recently a tribute to the late Ray Bradbury in issue #8. Here, Rich takes part in the guest author series “The Hardest Part” as it applies to his just-released novel, Vaporware.

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Vaporware
by Richard Dansky
JournalStone, May 2013

—-

By Richard Dansky:

The hardest part of writing Vaporware was knowing where to draw lines.

It’s the subject matter that made things difficult, as well as interesting. Vaporware is set at a video game company, and I am a video game developer by trade. I have been for fourteen years, give or take, with four years in-house at a tabletop game company before that. That’s a lot of years spent making games, a lot of games worked on, and a lot of years hanging out with other people who make games.

And here’s something that probably shouldn’t be a surprise: not every game development cycle goes smoothly. Even the best ones demand long hours, hard work, and sacrifice of personal time. As for the ones that aren’t the best, well, the less said about those, the better. I’ve seen good and I’ve seen bad, and just as importantly, I’ve swapped stories with friends and professional peers. I’ve heard their stories of the good, the bad, the ugly, the really ugly, and the “why did this not produce an armed insurrection?”

All of which is an extremely long-winded and ominous way of saying that I know a fair bit about how video games get made, the people who make them, and what it takes to get a game from “I have an idea! Let’s have the game star a robot ninja Dimetrodon!” to finished product. Not everything, not by a long shot, and I’m constantly aware that different studios have different ways of doing things so that no experience is universal, but it’s something I feel comfortable talking and writing about.

Which is where the notion of lines comes in, and yes, I said “lines”, as in “plural”. Because on this project, there was the creative line that had to be drawn, and there was the professional line, and there was the emotional line.

The creative line took the longest to draw, but in a lot of ways, it was the easiest. Basically, it’s the manifestation of the question: How much accuracy is too much. Sure, there are technothrillers that drown the reader in jargon; that’s part of the appeal to an audience that likes that sort of thing. But there are other audiences that don’t like it, or who get overwhelmed by it, and while the urge to get every last detail juuuuust right was strong, so was the urge to not frighten off readers who don’t necessarily want to internalize data check-in procedures along with their fiction. So a line had to be drawn there, one that delineated how much realism was too much for readers who weren’t subject matter experts, and how little was too little for people to understand what goes on during game development. So one draft had a little too much inside baseball and confused people; another didn’t have enough and genericized the game development aspect of the book too much. It was, as they say, a process.

The professional line that had to be drawn was about what I could or couldn’t say. The book was never intended as a roman a clef about my employer, and I didn’t want it to be taken that way. I also felt I had a professional obligation not to whitewash some of the craziness that happens making games; to do less would be to do a disservice to my peers. But again, the question was “how much is too much” – how much could I include without doing my profession a disservice, or creating misapprehensions about what I was trying to do.

Then there was the personal line – how much of myself was I willing to put out there before it was too much. Vaporware was in many places a difficult book to write, dredging up some old memories and rough patches. And when you’re writing material you’re intimately familiar with, what goes in may not be what you intended. I don’t view the book as autobiographical, and I don’t view the protagonist – who is not, in my opinion, a hero – as a stand in for yours truly. But in writing him, in watching the behaviors that he exhibited, it was easy to see echoes of my own in there, or of places I could have gone. Self-examination was unavoidable and, to be honest, not particularly pleasant.

In the end, I think it was worth it to wrestle long and hard with the question of how much to show – of the biz, of the details, of myself. It wasn’t fun, and it wasn’t easy. But if you wanted to hear about the easiest part of writing the book, well, that’s a whole other piece.

—-

Briefly known as the world’s greatest living authority on Denebian Slime Devils (a true fact), Richard Dansky works as the Central Clancy Writer for Red Storm/Ubisoft. In 2009 he was named one of the Top 20 Videogame Writers by Gamasutra, and his numerous credits include the acclaimed Splinter Cell: Conviction, Far Cry, and Rainbow Six: Black Arrow. A prolific fiction author as well, Richard has published five novels and a short fiction collection, Snowbird Gothic. His latest novel, Vaporware, was released in May by JournalStone, and he writes regularly for magazines such as Bull Spec and Green Man Review.

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