Friday, February 17, 2017

Life, the Universe, and Everything 2017 Was Just What I Needed

Nifty logo of words in a fishbowl Entry 18 – 11:46 PM: Just a quick update before I head off to bed. Finally, sickness left me so that I could attend Life, the Universe & Everything. It’s an academic symposium on science fiction & fantasy held every year in Provo, Utah. I used to help run it when I attended BYU. There isn’t anything else quite like it out there. I missed yesterday’s programming (economics of the undead and a discussion on folklore with Jessica Day George and Dene Lowe, to name a few), and I worried that I simply wouldn’t be able to shake off this virus. In a fit of unusual slumber, however, I retired to bed at 7:50pm and woke up refreshed early this morning. Well, refreshed sometime after 1:30am, then I was up all night, insomniac that I am, but refreshed I was, and off to the con I stumbled!

I was delighted to bump into old friends from college. Life takes us in so many varied directions, it’s hard to keep track of everybody. Sometimes we let friendships go. It was comforting that I could resume our friendships as if time had stood still.

Some highlights for me were “So You Want to Write Fantasy” with L.E. Modesitt, Jr., Larry Correia, and some authors that were new to me. Correia talked about the short attention span of the modern reader, and how an author used to have quite a bit of shelf-life before reader interest waned. Nowadays, awareness can be counted in weeks, not months. To fight this, authors need to be more prolific. Since he was addressing a room full of wannabe authors, Larry put it in his inimitable way and pantomimed a trip to a bookstore: “One book? Who is this guy?” followed by “Six? Oh, this guy must be good.” That’s one reason why my goal is to produce four more ebooks this year: better exposure. It is proving to be a daunting goal since I’ve had numerous setbacks, but I have a goal, so I plod forward. Just last week I completed all research for the update to my Pokémon Legendaries in 7 Easy Steps book for Pokémon Sun & Moon. It took a few months of experimentation, but I cracked the GTS and can trade from a Petilil to an Ultra Beast now in six steps. You may not care, but I’m very excited to write the updated edition. This time I’ll release the book when the game is new and not the day it becomes outdated.

I also learned about at the Crafting Realistic Fight Scenes panel. Need references for medieval martial arts? They’re your guys. I don’t often need to access ancient French sword techniques when writing articles on ADHD and depression, but I found the website interesting. Aside from honing our craft and learning about resources, symposiums can be a wonderful vacation for the ADHD mind. It’s like a marching band filled with squirrels blowing kazoos in brightly clad outfits keeping my attention all day long.

I also found the “So You Want To Write Science Fiction” panel fascinating. There was a moment where the conversation seemed hijacked as the panel and audience discussed the Singularity and how it was as crushing for hard SF as it was for the future of mankind. There seemed to be an assumption that all hard SF must address the Singularity—as if machine intelligence was a predetermined event in our future. Of course, the authors didn’t feel this way, but the hard SF audience seems to have purists who are fixated on this event. The end result seems to be that future science fiction is hampered by this theory, which explains why so many authors avoid it by working in near future SF.

And that’s all very geeky, but it is a pleasure to be in a room where such concepts are discussed in a serious tone.

What I gained most from that panel was the following tidbit: There are two ways to approach technology: How characters use technology to solve a problem, or how technology affects the characters. This can be extrapolated for the fantasy work that I’m doing. How does my main event affect my characters. It’s not enough to tell a dry tale about fantastical happenings. The reader relates with the bizarre through the characters.

The last panel that I found absolutely fascinating was “The Appeal of Science Fiction and Fantasy for Mormons”. I enjoyed listening to the panel and the audience discuss our religion in relation to this genre. Curiously, a lot of Mormons gravitate towards consuming and producing science fiction & fantasy literature. This panel discussed some of the reasons why.

Now, for my writing goals. Some steps forward, and some steps back. I can’t say that I am completely in control of my life lately. I am awaiting the return of spring with great anticipation this year. I need fresh air and sunlight to disinfect my depression and illness. I’ve been sick with viruses since New Year’s Eve. I’ve done very well this winter compared to other years, but even still, when I get sick, my tic disorder is exacerbated. I’m afraid I have yet to figure out how to be productive when my brain turns into quivering Jell-o. But don’t despair! I will get back on track. It’s only February.

Coping strategies used: Smiling practice to warm up my downward turned face. Forcing myself to mingle with people outside of my home to fight depression and anxiety. Allowing myself to be an adult with ADHD and letting my attention be pulled here and there, but taking notes during the panels to keep myself focused.

If you want to be as upbeat as I was today despite depression or suicidal tendencies, you should read my book