Clarion East, as some refer to "the original Clarion", is a six-week bootcamp for SF and fantasy writers. A different instructor/writer each week, except for the two-writer anchor team which gets the last two weeks. A guest editor is brought in overlapping two of the weeks.
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I had hoped to go to readings all six weeks, but that didn't happen -- I made two. So I was pleased to make it to this one. And I'd forgotten that as the last reading, they'd be handing out plaques to the participants recognizing the various scholarship sources which help fund Clarion and keep the costs reasonable. So it was nice to see all the names and faces together, even if that side of my brain isn't wired very well and so I'd never be able to match the names and faces together again. (grin)
And on to the two readings!
Walter Jon Williams
By the Great Conspiracies of the Gods, I was able to buy the second book in his Dread Empire's Fall trilogy, The Sundering, but they didn't have any copies of the first, The Praxis. Oh, it's on Amazon, but I should go back to Schuler's Books and check to see if they have Marjorie M. Liu's second novel, A Taste of Crimson (Crimson City), on the shelf yet.
Walter Jon Williams' reading was a nice wholly removable slice from this series -- book two? three? -- in which one of the main characters nonchalantly leaves behind a package to explode and kill some of the occupying aliens... In this day and age, it makes one pause to be rooting for this action to succeed, even as events unfold in Iraq and London. Not sure if that's what Mr. Williams was intending for his reading, but I do so love how SF makes one think.
I should point out that I have mixed personal feelings about the term "space opera". In the past, it has been used derogatorily against fast-paced adolescent and/or campy stories. Since Star Wars, though, the term seems increasingly used all over the place for any sort of epic or adventure set in space. I prefer to label works like Dread Empire's Fall as SF -- good traditional hard military SF -- with lots of science and believable cultures and aliens.
Of course, I am sitting on two million plus words of hard military SF novels as I try to establish myself as a writer, and do not wish my epics to be slammed as "space opera". (grin)
Recently I have been re-reading most of Sisters in Arms, my huge "Jane Austen Meets Star Wars" romantic hard military SF epic, for the first time in a couple of years and have fallen back in love with my characters and settings. And I despair of the work which needs to be done to get it into "shape". But I have allowed one of my outside readers to look at the Prologue chapter of my main character at fifteen -- the first time ANYONE has seen this stuff -- and she seemed to really like my main character and her father, most gratifyingly in the manner which I was hoping to make them work. Scary.
So reading a three-volume epic arc by another author is both encouraging and numbing.
Leslie What was the second member of the last two weeks' anchor team. I've actually read a couple of her short stories before -- naturally they were completely sold out of her debut novel Olympic Games, so they had nothing to sell. She brought a small "comic" she'd made as a sort of chapbook offering so she'd have something to sign for people.
Her reading was, I think, something of a racy dare for her. Perhaps having spent nearly two weeks with the majority of the audience made her more comfortable, but I think it somewhat brave for Ms. What to read a languid erotic scene which might open her next novel, which I believe she was referring to as "Blind Date With The Invisible Man." It kept the audience spellbound.
I'd read somewhere that a writer shouldn't be afraid of what their mother might think as they write. This eventually led me to write my last Clarion workshop story, "Anime Redacted", which I need to finally revise and send off. Someone else has pointed out that while it might be embarrassing to have their mother read a sex scene, that for most of us, it is true that our mothers do know something about sex. Too easy to file that tidbit under "things I don't really want to know anything about", I think is the problem.
After Leslie What's reading, I asked her about her short story "2:30", which appeared in the 13 December 2004 online Strange Horizons:
"Here's the deal," the dentist told me, holding up the X-ray for me to examine. "You've got a colony of micro-people living in number thirty-one."
I asked if an extended dental experience was the source of this story and she assured me that, yes, number thirty-one was the culprit. She also commented that readers seemed to be divided as to whether they liked it or not, and that those who'd had some involved dental work seemed to like the concept better. That seems to go along with the reaction our 2004 Clarion reading group got with the story.
I made it to Schuler's Books on 28th Street on Saturday and managed to blaze through volume one of Williams' trilogy -- Dread Empire's Fall: The Praxis. I liked it alot, and felt he's really captured an interesting slice of a multi-alien culture. While the story is entirely self-consistent, this culture is decadent, overextended, ripe for fall and almost too over-the-top for my tastes. But the writing flows and the pages turn very quickly. (grin) And I am so glad I didn't have to wait two years to get to the second volume -- and will only have a few months to wait for the third. (!)
Recommended for those who like good complicated hard SF with some hard science and lots of military structure -- with a generous helping of classist society and quite a large number of useless people for our heroes and heroines to push out of the way to do the real work.