Sunday, April 25, 2010

OSFest 3’s Author GOH

Imagine a world with a single land mass and the Eye of God watching over it. But only after a very long ocean voyage can you make the pilgrimage to witness your God's beneficence. Then your girl friend invents the telescope. Oh, did I mention you are a dinosaur. Robert Sawyer's, who is OSFest 3's Author Guest of Honor, Far-Seer trilogy brings us the last days of Land where a race of intelligent dinosaurs, the Quintaglio, learn about the heavens, their past, and how to save their future within the scope of a few hundred years. Just one of the many universes created by Hugo, Nebula, and John W. Campbell award winning author Robert J. Sawyer.

Are you enjoying the ABC TV series; FLASHFORWARD? Robert wrote the book on that one, the original novel it's based on. ILLEGAL ALIEN while starting out as a first contact story is a who-done-it with enough twists and turns to keep any mystery reader immensely happy. CALCULATING GOD brings an alien race of pilgrims to Earth in search of the divine. The ending will not let you down. In fact Robert has a propensity to deliver twists and turns as his books progress that you rarely see coming until you go back and see the clues he has left you. So who is this guy?

I'm glad you asked. Robert Sawyer is a Canadian writer of hard science fiction. He went to school wanting to be a dinosaurian paleontologist until he discovered how few of them actually made a living at it, only about 3 dozen. He then focused on a field that had several hundred professional members actually living off their work, science fiction authors. In 1982 he graduated from Toronto's Ryserson University with a Bachelor of Applied Arts degree in Radio and Television Arts, specializing in scriptwriting and taking a lot of psychology electives. From then until he decided to become a full-time SF author, he made a good living writing non-fiction for magazines and corporations. In 1989 he decided to make the change and has written over 20 published novels, numerous short stories and collected several writing awards for doing them.

So where should you start reading? FLASHFORWARD is similar enough to the TV series to evoke images, yet divergent enough to not give anything away in the upcoming episodes and spoil the TV series. ILLEGAL ALIEN is one of my favorites, STARPLEX brings together four intelligent races (two from Earth) to take you on a trip through the cosmos. Then come to OSFest 3 and learn more about this multifaceted writer by attending readings, participating in panels, and having coffee with our Writer Guests of Honor. You will have a great time doing it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

To Do or Not To Do?

By Trudy V. Myers

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I've been thinking about Megacon the past few days. There was an impression I got from it that I just couldn't put a name to at first. I mean, my first few impressions were dismay at the parsecs one had to walk, panic at the sea of people that surrounded me, wonder at the amazing costumes I saw, and so on and on. But after all of that, after I attended the panels that looked interesting, wandered through the dealer's bazaar, talked to dozens of artists, studied costumes … what did I think of it?

It all jelled this morning as my husband was talking about some of our acquaintances back home. As usual, these people had something they wanted to do, and also had a million excuses why they couldn't do it. And then it hit me; the 'we can't do that' attitude seems to be a staple in Omaha. But here in Orlando, at Megacon, the attitude is much more "do it". Just take a look at some of the panels I attended:

Adventure Chefs – a new 'survivor/cooking' television show with at least 2 episodes in the can, currently in talks with various TV producers. This show was created, filmed, and in all ways put together by everyday people, not big Hollywood types. Look for information on it on You-tube.

Independent film making – two panels on this subject, by different groups of people. They had different ways they approached the subject, but I came away from both of them with the advice, "Just go out and do it!" Don't wait for the perfect camera, the perfect lighting system, the perfect script, someone to leave you a million dollars … use what you've got and make the best indie film you can do right now. And it certainly doesn't have to be 'feature length'. In fact, when you're first starting, a shorter film might be better, not so overwhelming an endeavor.

Costuming – generally, the idea was, 'don't look at what things are, look at how they can be something different'. On one panel, one guy was known for the 12 versions of 'rocket backpack' he had created over the years for his version of a superhero. It was said that at least one of those backpack rockets looked like he had strapped a vacuum cleaner to his back. (He hadn't.) Others talked about light saber handles and ray guns made from such things as plumbing supplies. Check thrift shops, surplus stores, and garage sales for items that could be used to produce the look you want.

Now, consider that almost every artist I spoke to (dozens of them!) had their own comic book.

I don't want to think it's completely a matter of environment. Yes, films and TV shows do get made in Florida; not so much in Omaha. Yes, there are at least two film/special effects/cgs schools in the Orlando area; I'm not aware of any in Omaha. Those things might make it a little easier, but lack of them doesn't make these things impossible. People can self-teach themselves, if they really want to know how to do something. THAT's what I wish I could bring back with me from my visits to Florida; the willingness to work for a dream. If you really want something, you can do it. It won't happen if you just sit around wanting to do it, but actually do nothing to make it happen. No matter how many excuses you have, doing nothing accomplishes exactly that – nothing. Is that what you want out of your life? As Yoda said, "There is no try. Do or do not."

Sunday, April 18, 2010

2010 Convention Season: ConStellationNE

You wake up in the morning, leave your bedroom and enter a magical realm where the literature you love is available, discussed and its creators honored. Food is available for the picking from metal trees trays, escape can be found in recorded performances or puppeteered games, and windows into alien realms await your viewing.

ConStellationNE was this weekend in Lincoln, NE. Brandon Sanderson, returned to his hometown of Lincoln to talk about writing and in particular finishing the Wheel of Time series of books for the late James Oliver Rigney, Jr. (aka Robert Jordan). The insanity that is Frank Wu and his wife Brianna Spacekat Wu ran rampage through the Guest House Inn and took us all on a ride that is their world. Patrick Kennedy offered the stability of a long time artist and convention-organizer who has worked had for our community of fans and his perspectives on its journey and future.

But ConStellationNE was not a great convention because of these guests; it was a great convention because of the attendee guests. Over one hundred and fifty fans of the literature, games, movies, and art that we love, came together to celebrate what these Guests of Honor had done and to teach each other what we could do. Interactive panels include costuming advice, writing and publishing suggestions, community outreach, and artistic demonstrations. ConStellation did not have eight contestants in their Masquerade, they had eight great costumers in their Masquerade. The Art Auction, scheduled for one hour, ran half again as long because of the vast number of pieces that people really wanted to take home with them. Looking for a good book? The dealer's room had several vendors with numerous great books, including those of the Guest of Honor available at reasonable prices.

A few blogs ago, I laid out some guidelines for judging of an event is a success. ConStellationNE happened; success. All the attendees of ConStellationNE had a great time; success. And I understand that ConStellationNE made enough money to break even or better (its still too early for a treasurer's report); success. Here's hoping that that success will be translated into another great Lincoln SF convention next year as we attend ConStellationNE 2.

Great work guys, you done the community proud!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Usual Suspects' May & June Schedule

The Usual Suspects are a group of movie buffs that meet weekly for the newest (or as close as they can get when you have a double release) genre film. Join them at the Great Escape Omaha Stadium 16 every Saturday for the last matinee showing of the day. It will be a great time and a wonderful chance to talk about the film you have just seen and others you may or may not have enjoyed. Below is their May and June schedule:

May 1, 2010 – MacGruber (Action, Comedy) (Note: This movie goes into wide release on April 23rd)
Director: Jorma Taccone
Screenwriter: Will Forte, John Solomon, Jorma Taccone
Starring: Will Forte, Ryan Phillippe, Kristen Wiig, Val Kilmer, Powers Boothe, Maya Rudolph
Only one American hero has earned the rank of Green Beret, Navy SEAL and Army Ranger. Just one operative has been awarded 16 purple hearts, 3 Congressional Medals of Honor and 7 presidential medals of bravery. And only one guy is man enough to still sport a mullet. Will Forte brings "Saturday Night Live's" clueless soldier of fortune to the big screen in the action comedy "MacGruber."

May 8, 2010 – Iron Man 2 (Action, Adventure)
Director: Jon Favreau
Screenwriter: Justin Theroux
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Jon Favreau, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Garry Shandling, John Slattery, Olivia Munn
With the world now aware of his dual life as the armored superhero Iron Man, billionaire inventor Tony Stark faces pressure from the government, the press, and the public to share his technology with the military. Unwilling to let go of his invention, Stark, along with Pepper Potts and James "Rhodey" Rhodes at his side, must forge new alliances -- and confront powerful enemies.

May 15, 2010 – Robin Hood (Action, Adventure)
Director: Ridley Scott
Screenwriter: Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris, Brian Helgeland, Paul Webb, Tom Stoppard
Starring: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, William Hurt, Matthew Macfadyen, Mark Strong, Oscar Isaac, Lea Seydoux, Scott Grimes, Kevin Durand, Alan Doyle, Danny Huston, Max von Sydow
Robin Hood chronicles the life of an expert archer, previously interested only in self-preservation, from his service in King Richard's army against the French. Upon Richard's death, Robin travels to Nottingham, a town suffering from the corruption of a despotic sheriff and crippling taxation, where he falls for the spirited widow Lady Marion, a woman skeptical of the identity and motivations of this crusader from the forest. Hoping to earn the hand of Maid Marion and salvage the village, Robin assembles a gang whose lethal mercenary skills are matched only by its appetite for life. Together, they begin preying on the indulgent upper class to correct injustices under the sheriff.

May 22, 2010 – Shrek Forever After (Animation, Comedy, Fantasy)
Director: Mike Mitchell
Screenwriter: Tim Sullivan, Josh Klausner
Starring: Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas
A bored and domesticated Shrek pacts with deal-maker Rumpelstiltskin to get back to feeling like a real ogre again, but when he's duped and sent to a twisted version of Far Far Away -- where Rumpelstiltskin is king, ogres are hunted, and he and Fiona have never met -- he sets out to restore his world and reclaim his true love.

May 29, 2010 – Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (Action, Adventure, Fantasy)
Director: Mike Newell
Screenwriter: Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Kingsley, Gemma Arterton, Alfred Molina, Toby Kebbell
Set in medieval Persia, the story of an adventurous prince who teams up with a rival princess to stop an angry ruler from unleashing a sandstorm that could destroy the world. In his effort to save his own kingdom and redeem his fatal mistake, it's up to the prince and the princess to return the sands to the hourglass by using the Dagger of Time, which also gives him a limited control over the flow of time.

June 5, 2010 – Killers (Action, Comedy)
Director: Robert Luketic
Screenwriter: Melissa Stack
Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Katherine Heigl, Thomas Selleck, Catherine O'Hara, Rob Riggle, Martin Mull, Casey Wilson, Letoya Luckett, Katheryn Winnick, Sharan Masfield
A vacationing woman meets her ideal man, leading to a swift marriage. Back at home, however, their idyllic life is upset when they discover their neighbors could be assassins who have been contracted to kill the couple.

June 12, 2010 – The Karate Kid (Action)
Director: Harald Zwart
Screenwriter: Chris Murphy, Steven Conrad
Starring: Jackie Chan, Jaden Smith, Taraji P. Henson
12-year-old Dre Parker could've been the most popular kid in Detroit, but his mother's latest career move has landed him in China. Dre immediately falls for his classmate Mei Ying -- and the feeling is mutual -- but cultural differences make such a friendship impossible. Even worse, Dre's feelings make an enemy of the class bully, Cheng. In the land of kung fu, Dre knows only a little karate, and Cheng puts "the karate kid" on the floor with ease. With no friends in a strange land, Dre has nowhere to turn but maintenance man Mr. Han, who is secretly a master of kung fu. As Han teaches Dre that kung fu is not about punches and parries, but maturity and calm, Dre realizes that facing down the bullies will be the fight of his life.

June 12, 2010 – The A-Team (Action, Adventure) (This is an alternate movie for this date)
Director: Joe Carnahan
Screenwriter: Joe Carnahan, Brian Bloom, Skip Woods, Michael Brandt, Derek Haas
Starring: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley, Jessica Biel, Quinton Jackson, Yul Vazquez
A group of Iraq War veterans looks to clear their name with the U.S. military, who suspect the four men of committing a crime for which they were framed. Stephen J. Cannell, who created the show, will produce the movie with Jules Daly, Ridley Scott, with Tony Scott executive producing through their Scott Free banner.

June 19, 2010 – Toy Story 3 (Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Family)
Director: Lee Unkrich
Screenwriter: Michael Arndt
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, John Ratzenberger, Laurie Metcalf, R. Lee Ermey, Ned Beatty, Michael Keaton, Timothy Dalton, Bonnie Hunt, Whoopi Goldberg
Woody, Buzz, and the rest of their toy-box friends are dumped in a day-care center after their owner, Andy, departs for college. As Andy prepares to depart for college, Buzz, Woody and the rest of his loyal toys are troubled about their uncertain future. It's pandemonium as they try to stay together, ensuring "no toy gets left behind." Meanwhile, Barbie comes face to plastic face with Ken (yes, that Ken).

June 26, 2010 – Jonah Hex (Action, Thriller) (Note: This movie goes into wide release on the 18th)
Director: Jimmy Hayward
Screenwriter: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor
Starring: Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Michael Shannon
Jonah Hex is a scarred drifter and bounty hunter of last resort, a tough and stoic gunslinger who can track down anyone... and anything. Having survived death, Jonah's violent history is steeped in myth and legend, and has left him with one foot in the natural world and one on the "other side. Jonah Hex is a Wild West character that first appeared in DC Comics' All-Star Western comics in 1972, who proved popular enough to have the title renamed Weird Western Tales. The character was later given his own comic series in 1977 and lasted for 92 issues as the last of the great American Wild West comic book series.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Convention Season Begins

Once again Midwest fandom enters the convention season. We have patiently waited until that part of the year when snow is unlikely to disturb travel plans and cancel planned conventions. And now a whole string of activities have been lined up for us until that snow once again threatens to huddle us indoors until warm weather returns.

But now we have Willycon. This last weekend at Wayne State College in Wayne Nebraska the annual SF convention known as Willycon was held. And for three days we could again celebrate the friendships we have made over the years with other fans, meet new fans and begin the celebration with them, and learn a lot of interesting things. Oh, and we could buy a lot of stuff too.

The charm of this convention the amount of face time that each attendee can get with the guests the committee brings in each year. I spent much of this weekend hanging out with an artist that I admire the work of and finding a lot of similar interests. In addition to doing the wonderful Magnus and Loki series of art prints this friendly woman is well versed in the geekishness that is fandom. And what she doesn't know, she will quickly find out on her blackberry. Their Author Guest of Honor; David J. Williams, spend Sunday morning reading and critiquing the work of several neo-writers at the convention. Everyone hung out together at mealtime, continuing the fannish conversation.

Yes, they had panel discussions, game shows, and even a dance but Willycon is a small intimate convention with all the benefits of a larger one. If you were there you know what I mean. If you missed it, sign up for next year when the Guests of Honor will be alternate history author Harry Turtledove and artist Theresa Mather. The dates will be April 1-3, 2011 at Wayne State College - more details. Though give them a couple of days to update things, they just ran a great convention.

I look forward to seeing everyone at ConStellation, next weekend in Lincoln, Nebraska. Look for the OSFest room party on Saturday night.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Maidens and Monsters Revisited

The exhibit of original pulp fiction era art; Maidens and Monsters, at the Albin Polasek Museum in Winter Park, FL is about to go out with a magnificent visitor. Michael Whelan will make a two-day appearance in the area next weekend. I only wish I lived close enough that I could attend. If you do, please get out and visit this event. It is a wonderful experience that you will not regret (unless you miss it.)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

What Do You Want To See?

I have been working on designing the activities for OSFest this year and could really use your help. Of course I could come up with enough ideas to fill the three days of our festival but if I did would that be exactly what you want? We need to know what you would like to do before we can make the necessary arrangements. We will have panelists who are authors, voice actors, scientists, singers, artists, costumers, collectors, and long time fans of our genre. I am developing activities around man's presence in space; learning about how to do and appreciate artwork; collecting; making and using costumes; the business of writing and the fandom of writing; performances in both song and spoken words; and as many "how-to" activities as I can find DIY-ers for. But if what you want isn't filled by the activities or the panelists we have, we can find others if we can begin our search now, so drop me a line and let me know what you would like to see – or participate in.

Yes, you too can be a panelist if you have an area of expertise that would be interesting. The Omaha Science Fiction and Fantasy Festival is a SF/F convention with something for everyone and you are part of that everyone. What is it that makes you unique, or your group interesting? I want to share that with the fans in this area. I have room for discussions, workshops, demonstrations, and displays, so what would you like to do?

What kind of activities are we looking to attend? Activities that are writing related, media driven, artistically inclined, fan based, anime spawned, or scientifically motivated, where is your interest? That spans a very wide gap and if you have something that doesn't fit in any of those, maybe we need to develop a new category. We want your ideas; we want to bring you exactly what you want in a fun weekend. But you have to make that first step: get a membership, send us your ideas, then come and have a great time.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Third Annual OSFest Writer's Workshop

I am pleased to announce the return of the Writer’s Workshop for OSFest 3. For the past two years, new writers have had a chance to hone their skills with an interactive audience of other new writers in this round-robin critique system. Sunday morning they will be sequestered starting at 9AM and working until each and every story submitted has gone through the discussion mill. If you are someone who thinks they have the chops to be a writer and would like professional, as well as peer, feedback, look over the guidelines for this activity by clicking here. If you decide this is right for you, get a convention membership, contact Matt Rotundo to reserve a space and get your manuscript submitted by June 19th.

Yes, we will be scheduling the workshop early Sunday morning (9AM to be precise) but that is to allow everyone enough time to fully discuss each story.

If you think you would like to find out if you can write but haven’t been able to finish a story, we have been talking about a second type of writer’s workshop. This would be a more hands-on type of clinic that would actually require the participants to take a selection of plot and character ideas and work them into a scene. If this is something you would be interested in, please drop me a line at We need to know if there is enough interest to include it in the schedule.

Of course if you would just like to come and hang with writers, that’s okay also. We will have several in attendance. Three day memberships are still a bargain at $30 for the entire weekend, but that price will expire by the end of June. So click here and get yours today.