The 62nd World Science Fiction Convention

  • Sept. 2-6, 2004
  • Boston, MA

Program Brainstorming Introduction

  • This weblog is a place where you can give us your suggestions for Noreascon 4 programming. What great new ideas do you have and what things have you seen at other conventions that you'd like us to "steal"? (Remember, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.) To make a suggestion, please add a comment under the appropriate heading. Feel free to write a short description of the topic and even suggest appropriate program participants for it. If there's a lot of interest in a particular topic, we'll add a new heading for it.

    Please note: This is not the place to volunteer to be on Program. If you are interested in being on the Program, please see our Program Participant Selection FAQ.

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September 24, 2003

Science Fiction and Fantasy (Business)

This is where you can give us suggestions for program ideas relating to science fiction and fantasy as a business or profession.

September 24, 2003 | Permalink


We are not planning on having Writers Workshops at Noreascon 4.

Noreascon 4 is choosing to emphasize our concept of a convention as a series of overlapping public conversations. Writers' workshops are, by their
nature, not public conversations – and while we recognize their value, we'd prefer not to have a majority (or even a sizeable group!) of the writers in our community sequestered away for most of the weekend. We'd prefer to have them taking part in some of the many aspects of our Worldcon.

There will be lots of opportunities for small group gatherings on topics of interest to their members – write to if you'd like to reserve time and space for one. We'll also be including a couple of demo workshops as program items, to give more members of Noreascon a taste of what might happen in a workshop.

Is our decision a good one? We think it's the right decision for us, but we don't know for sure – and we can certainly guarantee that other Worldcons are unlikely to do things the same way we do!

Posted by: priscilla | June 10, 2004 03:51 PM

I would like a writer's workshop. As in stories are sent in and resent before the Con starts and at the Con a mini-workshop (4 hours) is held. BayCon ( does this and you could contact the organizer for info.

It may be too close to the con start for this to happen. Another alternative would be a Panel on how to Find Workshops and what to bring to them as a writer.

Posted by: Dawn Burnell | June 10, 2004 01:54 PM

What Do You Mean, "Get a Real Job!?" !

Part 1: "Yes, Being an Artist/Writer Is Real Work:" Writers and artists discuss dealing with perceptions attitudes from others that they don't have "a real job" -- a serious discussion and consideration of the advantages and disadvantages of life as independent writer/artist and how the rest of the world views them and their lifestyles.

Part 2: "What to Say When They Don't Believe It's a Job:" The humor view of the situation, what the writers and artists talk about the best comebacks they've made to people who think that the life of independent writer artist isn't a real career, and where/how they may get their revenge upon the worst or most persistent detractors.

Part 3 "Writers' and Artists' Home Lives:" How does a writer or artist deal with family and friends who don't quite believe that lying on the couch reading a book for research, going to a library for researching, sitting and thinking about how the current project, or being at the keyboard in the the studio typing/painting are Real Work? How can a writer/artist get it across to the spouse, the parents, the siblings that the writer/artist needs undisturbed blocks of time to work, that being "home" doesn't mean they can just pop over to mail checks, take the cat to the vet, get the car fixed, and run the hundreds of other errands and chores and still get their writing/artwork done? How can a writer/artist get family and friends to respect and value the work time of writer/artist, and to stop saying "you don't have a -real- job, you should be out -working- for pay!"?

Posted by: Paula Lieberman | April 27, 2004 01:27 PM

Setting the Mood, Setting the Characters: Ways of approaching stories, and characters, a general overview discussion of drivers in stories, comparing starting from plot-driven versus character-driven versus setting-driven bases, and mixes of those. How does a writer get from whatever initial idea, image, question, or whatever other inspiration hits that gives the initial concept for the story, into an actual story? That is, the author might have a picture in their mind of a character in a setting, or of a problem to be solved, but how does the writer get from that initial point, into having a full story? How does the writer avoid hitting a wall, and how does the writer deal with walls--and what differentiates between a blockage the writer can work through, and a stoppage situation that forces abandoning the story and going forward on something else instead?

"That's Not the Right Beginning!" Sometimes writers have difficulty either figuring out just where the story should start, or writing the beginning of story. It's really the same problem--where's the right place in time and space for the beginning of the story that the reader sees (but not necessarily the writer). How does a writer figure out if the story on paper's starting too early, too late, or at the right time? Likewise, what the the signs of the location being the wrong place for the story to start? What are the signs when the story does start in the right location and time?

"What the Writer Needs to Know That -Doesn't- Get in the Published Story:" A published story has a beginning, middle, and end. But, there are events that occur before the story starts, the characters haves lives [well, not always, if the story starts with the birth of the character or before then] before and after and story, and the writer needs to know more information about people, events, geography, and history of the characters and settings, that the reader is ever going to see. Just how much does the writer need to know, and what happens when the writer doesn't know? Can it be faked, and/or what can be left out? And when it is time to trim out events and plots and themes that might be interesting to the writer and have been part of the impetus to write a story, but which turn out to be extraneous to what the publishable story is about?

Character Building: World-building is an old and cherished tradition in fantasy and science fiction, where the writer creates a fictional or fictionalized world and setting. But, what about the characters? Is there such a thing a character building? What techniques do different writers have for creating or "discovering" characters--that is, some writers invent characters to fit a situation, some have charactrers appear to demand stories be told about them, others have conversations with their characters, asking the characters about their background, history interests... some create characters by writing up notes or notebooks describing what the characters look like, their likes, dislikes, personality traits, and whatever else occurs to the writer.

Working through Blockages: What techniques can writers use when they hit problms with the plot, the setting, and the characters? How can a writer persuade a character to "tell" them what's bothering the character, or why the character won't cross that river the writer thinks the character needs to cross, what does a writer do after having gathered the armies to have a war, and the characters are so unobliging as to refuse to fight? How does a writer write themself out of a box? And what other things can a writer do when stuck, besides cat vacuuming?

All about Writer's Block: writer's block is a simple concept, that the writer is stuck. Getting past it, though, can be less simple--there are lots of different possible causes--stress at work or at home, a story that the plot is getting stuck on, characters that the writer is getting bored with, etc. The ways to address writers' block differ, too. Some people talk a long walk, some garden, some go shopping, some go on-line, some work on a different story, some read a favorite book. There's no one cure -- but different writers have different strategies, or sets of strategies, and those can work for other people, too.

Posted by: Paula Lieberman | April 21, 2004 12:17 AM

"Dealing with Pesky Characters" -- What's a writer to do when the characters in the story just won't cooperate with what the writer's got planned? Does the writer plow on forcing the characters to comply, replace them, rewrite the work, follow the characters' alternate sugggestios, or work on some other story instead?

"Too Much/Not Enough Plot" -- Sometimes a rejection note appears in the mailbox, with a comment such as, "Nice style, where's the plot?" Or, a work will have too much going on to really resolve in the length the story is at. Just how much plot should a story have for what length, what sort of additional plot and plot elements can a writer add to "pump up" a story, and what can/should a writer take out, to cut the story down to reasonable length/prevent it from turning into a footbreaking novel?

Posted by: Paula Lieberman | March 8, 2004 01:52 AM

There are other alternatives besides BBS and blogs. A good example is the WikiWikiWeb ( Anyone can edit any page at anytime. I know of at least one non-fiction book that was written with similar software (two authors, one document). It could be fun to set a Wiki up for the duration of the convention, invite people to put up stories, have discussion, etc.

Posted by: Beth | March 4, 2004 12:27 AM

An interactive blog would be a standard BBS. The one BBS I try to read is more like instant messaging.

Posted by: David J Van Deusen | February 24, 2004 12:36 PM

A variation on the blogging idea someone else had--how about the more interactive blogs? Do they help writers to network? Are there any other benefits?

Posted by: Victoria McManus | February 24, 2004 11:12 AM

SO you want to start a semi-pro Zine... What does it take to start up a webzine that pays? What does it take to start up a print mag that pays? Will your personal life disappear beneath the ever-mounting slush pile?

Posted by: Sonya M. Sipes | January 27, 2004 01:05 PM

I would really like to see some panels that help budding screenplay writers. Information on copyright, taglines, treatments, character bios, how to get an agent to represent you, what _is_ screenplay manuscript format anyway, and is there a way format works better than others? Can you trust online screenplay submission engines like the one at Zide-Perry. Et Cetera!

Posted by: Sonya M. Sipes | January 27, 2004 01:00 PM

Franchise, Theme, and Original. Media tie-in franchise work, small press publication (reprints, some original novels, and single author collections), original theme anthologies, and even e-publication have arisen where the midlist once lived, challenging writers to achieve literary and commercial success. What are the opportunities, constraints, and pitfalls; how does one gain entry; and does "success" crossover?

Posted by: Paula Lieberman | December 8, 2003 02:01 AM

The Bottom Line--Financial Realities and Planning for Would-Be Writers, Editor, and Artists -- Everyonen's heard tales of starving artists. Some SF professionals do very well financially, but most can't make a living out of it. What are the typical payment and productivity rates, and how can adjust one's expectations to reconcile living expenses and SF professional revenue (and afford health coverage, too)?

Posted by: Paula Lieberman | November 6, 2003 08:19 PM

Careers besides Writing in SF. While writing is the best known profession in science fiction, there are other professional career paths, including editor, literary agent, publicist, publisher, sales or marketing specialist, bookseller, artist, and art editor. What are the entry points into these careers, and what does it take in terms of talents and training. What does the work and a typical day consist of> What are the benefits, and what are the downsides?

Posted by: Paula Lieberman | November 6, 2003 08:14 PM

Finding an Agent -- many publishers today state that they don't read unsolicited novel manuscripts. Having a literary agents helps avoid this problem, also, agents work for the writer in many other ways. But how does one go about getting an agent? Where does one get tips and leads, and how can one decide upon choosing between one literary agent/agency and another?

Posted by: Paula Lieberman | November 6, 2003 08:10 PM

Does 'blogging interfere with the creative process? William Gibson has stopped his 'blog because, he claims, it might stifle the creative process. Charles Stross on the other hand writes and blogs and even blogs about his writing. So what's the truth? I should point out this is not entirely original: I moderated a similar panel at Phoenix Con in Dublin this past September.

Posted by: David Stewart | November 3, 2003 05:06 PM

Hi, Wen. That's a good idea. I notice that Wal Mart is in trouble for selling "Grand Theft Auto III" to some kids who then went out and emulated the game by shooting at cars. (And that could be a topic in itself, but I won't go there.) Here's my question: What DOESN'T Wal Mart sell? "GTA" isn't exactly wholesome family entertainment. If it's fair game, what is "objectionable?"

Posted by: Matt Jarpe | October 24, 2003 08:19 AM

All about Day Jobs. Theatrical talent work as wait staff--what sorts of day jobs do fiction writers and artist have? What are the benefits and pratfalls of different types of days jobs and different fields of endeavor--and what unusual opportunities are there? Some people even discover they're more productive if their fantasy and science fiction career, isn't their only one!

Posted by: Paula Lieberman | October 22, 2003 06:02 PM

Freedom of Speech gives you, the writer, ability to write just about anything you want. However, it does not insure that anybody is going to buy it. A lot of people object to the Harry Potter series and won't sell it. That is their choice. They lose a lot of business but that is their choice.

Posted by: David J Van Deusen | October 20, 2003 08:47 PM

Walmart: Censorship through Megabucks

Walmart is the largest retail market, who is practicing censorship via deciding to buy and not buy based on "objectable material." What do we do as writers? Do we bend our artistic drive to meet their guidelines to access their market, or do we write what we feel is 'the story as it needs to be told?' If we bend, what do we do if they make their guide lines more strict?

Posted by: Wen Spencer | October 20, 2003 01:41 PM

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