My 2017 Ravencon schedule

Ravencon is a fun little convention that keeps growing — It used to be in my hometown of Richmond but now it’s in Williamsburg, right next to Busch Gardens where I spent many days riding roller coasters when I was younger… This year, the writer Guest of Honor is Mercedes Lackey! Other guests include Chuck Gannon, Philippa Ballantine, Tee Morris, Jack McDevitt, Bud Sparhawk, and me (among many others!)  Here’s where you can find me:

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Opening Ceremony (Friday 7 pm) Wherein guests are introduced and Mike Pederson tells some bad jokes

What Rules to Break and Which Don’t Apply (Friday 9 pm): Many new authors have heard the rules: One POV per scene, don’t use adverbs, limit the POVs to no more than three per story. These “rules” have been taught for over a hundred years, but who came up with them and do they still apply to the modern reader? With Nicole Givens Kurtz, Kelly Lockhart, and Melissa McArthur

The Dystopia is Already Here; It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed (Friday 10 pm): Unable to change abortion laws that have already been decided upon by the Supreme Court at the federal level, many state legislatures have gotten laws approved that effectively ban abortions by curtailing various freedoms for “medical” reasons. Protections for voting rights have eroded in a similar manner, at the state level. While dystopian literature has all but taken over the field of Young Adult SF, the resolutions offered by these narratives are often violent. How could SF/F predict more realistic/more feminist ways to combat local hostile governments? With Nancy Northcott, Carolyn O’Neal, and Gray Rinehart 

Time Travel in Literature (Saturday 1 pm): Many books include time travel, some more successfully than others. How does time travel affect plot lines and history in different ways in different books? What are some of the more creative uses of time travel and ways around the paradoxes? With Lou Antonelli, Darin Kennedy, and Steve White 

Ethics Behind the Story: Moral Dilemmas In SFF (Saturday 2 pm): Science fiction as a genre is rife with future ethical issues. Fantasy is all about the moral choices of heroes and villains. Learn about ethical dilemma, receive a brief overview of Western ethical philosophy including the diverse approaches to resolving moral dilemmas, and discuss what important moral issues we will face in the future. With Charity Ayres and Fabian Rush

Pre-Judging for the Masquerade (Saturday 6 pm): In which I give a pep talk and advise the masquerade participants in how to present themselves for the judges and the audience.

Reading (Saturday 9:25 pm):  I’ll be reading something (audience choice)!

Signing (Sunday 10 am) I’ll be signing anything anyone wants me to sign (preferably my books)

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My Ravencon 2016 Schedule

Ravencon is a fun little convention that keeps growing — It used to be in my hometown of Richmond but this year, they are moving it to Williamsburg, right next to Busch Gardens where I spent many days riding roller coasters when I was younger…RavenConBanner

Anyway, the main guests this year are Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, but you can also find many other great writers. editors and agents, including many I’ve interviewed here on the blog:  Larry Hodges, Mike Kabongo, Gail Z. Martin,  Peter Prellwitz, Bud Sparhawk, and Allen Wold! We’re also doing a tribute to my old college friend Bud Webster.

The convention is the weekend of April 29th.

Here’s where you can find me:

MARKETING AND BRANDING FOR AUTHORS (Friday 6 pm): Many old-school authors have stories about books that were rejected because the publisher didn’t know how to market them. In the Createspace world we live in, marketing has become the author’s responsibility. The panelists discuss tips and strategies on promoting your writing to a potential audience, and on how building the right identity can attract readers to your work. Panelists: Baine Kelly, Gail Z. Martin, Alex Matsuo, Michael A. Ventrella (M)

RAVENCON OPENING CEREMONIES (Friday 7 pm): We welcome attendees and guests to RavenCon 11 and present last year’s RavenConnie. Plus a performance by Jonah Knight.

BUD WEBSTER TRIBUTE (Friday 10 pm) Bud Webster was an author, a literary historian, a book dealer, and so much more. He was also a dear friend to many of us here at RavenCon. Join us as we share our favorite Bud stories. Panelists: Michael D. Pederson (M), Michael A. Ventrella, Allen L. Wold

THE EYE OF ARGON (Friday 11 pm): The worst science fiction story ever written gets a reading by our brave panel as they compete to go the longest without tripping over a misspelled word or laughing uncontrollably. Audience members are also encouraged to take a chance. Can you keep a straight face, especially when the panel begins acting out the story? Panelists: Gail Z. Martin, Peter Prellwitz, Gray Rinehart, Michael A. Ventrella (M)

LAW AND SOCIETY IN SCI-FI (Saturday 11 am): How do the law and social structure fit into Sci-Fi? Should you regulate the tech in your SF universe? What fundamental differences in law are there between SF and other genres? Panelists: Richard Groller, Stephen J. Simmons (M), Michael A. Ventrella

ALTERNATE HISTORY (Saturday 9 pm): Why is this genre so fascinating, and how does it relate to the rest of speculative fiction? What special challenges does it pose for the writer—and reader? Panelists: Kate Paulk, J. Matthew Saunders, Michael A. Ventrella (M), Steve White

READING: MICHAEL A. VENTRELLA READS BUD WEBSTER (Sunday 11 am): Michael A. Ventrella reads one of Bud Webster’s classic stories

Interview with editor Michael Pederson

MICHAEL A. VENTRELLA: I am pleased to be interviewing Michael Pederson today! Mike is a good friend from my old hometown of Richmond. He’s the publisher/editor/graphic designer responsible for the magazine Nth Degree.photo 1 In addition to Nth Degree, in 2006 Mike came up with the crazy idea of hosting a science-fiction convention in Richmond. After its tenth year, RavenCon moved to Williamsburg and Mike is still the con chair. In the last few years Mike has interviewed a wide range of writers, gamers, artists, and actors.

Let’s first talk about editing. How did the idea for Nth Degree begin?

MICHAEL PEDERSON: I had been publishing a local entertainment magazine (Scene) in the late ’90s and had to stop after four issues because I couldn’t keep the volunteer staff on track and it was too much to do by myself. This was also a period where I had GAFIAted a bit and was only attending one con a year (MarsCon in Williamsburg, VA). I really wanted to do something that would combine all of my passions—graphic design, writing, editing, and fandom. I worked out the basic framework in my head on a late-night drive from Northern Virginia to Richmond and then emailed all of my friends to get their input. After about two weeks, I had condensed everything into what became Nth Degree.

That’s been kind of a running theme in my life. I’m the Kermit. I’m always the guy that gets all his friends together and pushes them into creating something big and exciting. Yaaaaaayyyy!!!!!

VENTRELLA: What kinds of stories are you interested in?

PEDERSON: I always like to say that I look for character-driven stories but that sounds like such a generic editor response. I don’t really know. People have told me that Nth Degree stories have their own flavor and that reading the zine reminds them of the type of stories that got them interested in science fiction in the first place. It’s just one of those things that I recognize when I see it. My personal tastes run to science fiction over fantasy but the market being what it is these days I tend to see a fair amount of fantasy. And that’s ok.

VENTRELLA: What bugs you most about being an editor?  In other words, what is your pet peeve concerning submissions?

PEDERSON: Well, I could tell all the usual horror stories about improper formatting but I’ll skip that. Twist endings bug me. For some reason, writers who are just starting out tend to love to throw that twist ending at you. And 99.9 percent of the time it just doesn’t work. And people who submit non-genre stories. That bugs me. It’s not too hard to research the publication you’re about to submit to. Someone actually sent me a story about a game of golf they had played. I have no idea what they were thinking.

VENTRELLA: How did you become interested in science fiction and fantasy?Cover#25

PEDERSON: You make it sound like it was a choice. I don’t think I ever chose it; science fiction and fantasy were just always a part of my life. I started reading at a very early age and one of the first things I remember reading was a book of Greek mythology. I think that really shaped my interests. And then when I was in kindergarten and first grade I read through everything that my school had from some author whose name I had forgotten until much later.  I do remember one of the stories was called “Have Space Suit Will Travel”. I, of course, eventually realized that I had been reading Heinlein’s juveniles. At age eight I was reading Bulfinch’s Mythology. I also discovered comics around then. I still have the first comic I ever read, Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man Issue #4,  “The Vulture is a Bird of Prey!”. After that it was Lewis and Tolkien and Kipling and Asimov and Bradbury and Clarke… all the classics. And I was hooked.

VENTRELLA: Tell us about the first RavenCon and how it came to be.

PEDERSON: I’ve told this story so many times that I’ll go ahead and give you the seldom-told long version. Freshman year of high school (I did say it was the long version) was the year that I discovered there was such a thing as a science fiction convention. We had a very short-lived science fiction club at school and one week two girls came back to report that they had gone to a convention. The concept fascinated me. I had to go! This was 1982 though and there weren’t as many cons as there are now and there were very few ways to even get a schedule for the local cons. I also discovered that year, hidden in the back of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, a convention calendar! One page, every issue that listed upcoming conventions. The calendar was compiled by Erwin “Filthy Pierre” Strauss. I was further intrigued by the idea that people had different badge names that they used at conventions (for a while I went by the deceptively non-descript name of Harold Zwick but that’s another story).

So, five years later I make it to my first convention. The late, great SciCon. I instantly fell in love with the whole culture of fandom. During the late ’80s and early ’90s I was primarily attending SciCon, EveCon, and DisClave. When I started my comic book in 1993 (Raven), I expanded the number of conventions I was attending and started guesting and/or vending. I ended up doing A LOT of conventions during the ’90s. And I would travel all over Virginia and North Carolina and DC and Maryland and sometimes further, and it occurred to me that Richmond was geographically central to everywhere I was going. So why didn’t Richmond have a convention? In 1994, I started exploring the possibilities of hosting a con in Richmond but I didn’t get very far.

Cover #10Fast forward to October 2004. I had been attending between 12-16 conventions a year with Nth Degree and had met a lot of con runners and knew pretty much everyone on the local circuit. I was sitting around at a convention with Tee Morris and Tony Ruggiero and my old Richmond convention idea floated back to the top of my head. We were sitting in the hotel bar and I turned to the two of them and said, “You know, I bet we could do this.” I expected them to tell me I was crazy but instead they both agreed with me. So, three people that had never even worked at a convention (we were all writers) ended up putting on the first RavenCon in 2006.

As people that had done a lot of panels at other conventions we had a pretty good idea of what worked well and what needed tweaking and even had some original ideas of our own. I threw $500 into the pot and booked a hotel. Tee booked our guests (Terry Brooks for the first year!). And Tony put together the program. We recruited some friends and built a staff of 10 people. It was really a “Come on baby, hold together!” kind of event. There were a million things that could have gone wrong but it turned out amazing.

And to bring the whole story full-circle: I got to meet Filthy Pierre many times over the years. We did an interview with him in an early Nth Degree and had him as a guest of honor at one of the early RavenCons. He’s now a regular at RavenCon and I’m very proud to have him as a friend.

VENTRELLA: What are your ultimate plans for RavenCon?

PEDERSON: I want to keep building it. RavenCon’s primary focus will always be on the literary aspect. We like to include as much of the other fun stuff as well (gaming, filk, anime, cosplay, etc.) but at our heart we’re all about the fiction. We’ve always tried to add a little more every year. I think the only thing left on my wish list now though is a video gaming room. That should be coming in the next year or two.

VENTRELLA: I’ve attended most of them, and can’t help but notice how bigger and better they get each year.  Do you want it to keep expanding or do you think there is a limit you want to reach?

PEDERSON: We’ve always focused on small growth. We had 420 people our first year and are currently bringing in 1200 people. I feel like 2000 people would be an ideal number but our hotel is large enough that we could easily do 3000 if we wanted to.

VENTRELLA: Will moving it to Williamsburg next year change the feel of the convention?

PEDERSON: I don’t think it will change it. It will definitely focus it more though. Now that we’re sharing a hotel with MarsCon we’re paying very close attention to what makes a RavenCon a RavenCon. We have certain things that we do very well and we’re working extra hard to make sure that those things are our prime focus now.

VENTRELLA: Literary Conventions seem to have a problem attracting younger fans these days.  Is this a bad thing?  What can be done to get more younger readers to attend?

PEDERSON: I think RavenCon’s average age has actually been getting younger and younger every year. We owe comic cons a huge debt for that. Also, we partner with a local high school every year where we go in to the school and speak with the kids. We send them some of our programming guests and the students tell us what they enjoy about science fiction. Young people still read science fiction and they definitely want to be involved, it’s just a matter of letting them know that we’re here.

VENTRELLA: You’ve been able to meet and interview many famous writers.  Who was your favorite?

PEDERSON: Writers and artists and gamers and actors. Yeah, I love doing the Guest of Honor interview. Always the highlight of any convention I attend. And I’m very grateful that so many conventions have asked me to do that.Issue #1

Favorites… I’ve interviewed Jim Butcher twice and he’s a lot of fun. He’s got great stories and is very easy to work with. Sherrilyn Kenyon was amazing—she has an energy that is just infectious, you can’t talk to her without laughing. Elizabeth Bear—someone’s whose work I’m so impressed by—was another one that I remember fondly. I think some of the ones that I worried about the most were some of my most memorable though. People like Orson Scott Card and Larry Correia, where I go in feeling like I’m walking on eggshells, but then there’s always some point where you just connect with your guest and you’re laughing and swapping stories from that point on. It’s all very gratifying.

VENTRELLA: Who would you like to see as a guest that you have been unable to get?

PEDERSON: I have a personal wish list. It’s mostly people that don’t do conventions or are overseas and out of my budget, or both: China Mieville, Stephen Baxter, Neil Stephenson, Dan Simmons.

VENTRELLA: Who do you like to read?

PEDERSON: Everyone on my wish list. Jack McDevitt, John Scalzi, Robert Sawyer, William Gibson, S.M. Stirling, Jim Butcher, Harry Turtledove, George R.R. Martin. And, of course, the classics. Dune is still my all-time favorite.

VENTRELLA: You’ve done some writing; do you plan on doing more? 

PEDERSON: I have a couple of novels on the drawing board but haven’t been able to find the time to put them to paper yet. Between working a full-time job, running a convention, and publishing a fanzine there just aren’t enough hours in the day. One of these days though.

I’m currently working on a Kickstarter project that will fund a “best of” print issue of Nth Degree. It’s been online for the last 10 years and people keep asking me if I’m ever going to do a print issue again. So that’s keeping me busy. Oh, and I’m redesigning both the Nth Degree and RavenCon websites. I should really just stop sleeping.

VENTRELLA: Science Fiction doesn’t seem to be selling as much as fantasy these days, including urban fantasy and all the varieties. Why do you think that is?

PEDERSON: That’s a fairly recent development. SF always used to do better. I suspect that’s it’s just the way the market cycles. We’ll see science fiction on top again. Or maybe horror will start outselling everything. There are plenty of good science fiction writers out there right now though. Just look at the current lineups at Tor and Baen—it’s an impressive list. Maybe the Honor Harrington movie will be the push in the right direction that pushes SF over the top of fantasy again. In a way though it’s a little unfair to make the SF versus fantasy comparison; so many authors work in both genres and even blend the genres that it’s hard to favor one over the other.

VENTRELLA: With a time machine and a universal translator, who would you invite to your ultimate dinner party?

PEDERSON: Groucho Marx, Jim Henson, Isaac Asimov, Douglas Adams. There are others I’d like to meet but I wouldn’t want to detract from my time with my idols.

My Ravencon 2015 Schedule

On the weekend of April 24th, I’ll be a guest at Ravencon, a small but fun convention in Richmond, Virginia. RavenConBannerThe Guest of Honor this year is Hugo-winning author Allen Steele. There’s also a costume competition and my artist wife Heidi Hooper is a judge. It’s always a lot of fun to visit my hometown, even if I hardly get to see any of it since I’m in a hotel all weekend.

Other guests include many I’ve interviewed here on this blog: Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Philippa Ballantine, Gail Z. Martin, Mike McPhail, Tee Morris, KT Pinto, Tony Ruggiero, Lawrence SchoenBud Webster, and Allen Wold … as well as a few of the authors whose stories have been in the Tales of Fortannis books (Davey Beauchamp, Danny Birt, and Angela Pritchett).

Anyway, here are the panels where you can find me (and more may be added):

Double Dragon Book Launch!  (Friday 6 pm):  Join DD authors as they celebrate the release of the latest in the Tales of Fortannis fantasy anthologies “A Bard Day’s Knight” as well as Ventrella’s most recent novel “Bloodsuckers:  A Vampire Runs for President.”  They’ll be there to autograph copies of their books, and there will be a raffle of free book downloads as well!  With Gail Z. Martin, KT Pinto, and Angela Pritchett

Opening Ceremonies (Friday 7 pm): Guests are introduced to the audience.

Elementary, My Dear Watson (Friday 10 pm):  Why is  Sherlock Holmes still so popular?  People are flocking to recent comic releases, films, and plays. Panelists will discuss why Sherlock is still such a popular figure in contemporary culture.  With C.M. Adams, John Gregory Betancourt, Karen McCullough, and Bud Webster

CJ Henderson Memorial (Friday 11 pm):  Friends and Fans of CJ Henderson gather together to remember this iconic author.  With Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Heidi Hooper, Mike McPhail, and Jean Marie Ward

Why Editing Matters (Saturday 10 am):  Editors are the unsung heroes of the writing industry, and they sometimes get a bum wrap for asking the tough questions and getting the story ready for prime time. Why do editors have the reputation of “adversary” with some writers? What are your expectations for them? What is their job and how does it fit in with your job as a writer? What’s the difference between developmental and line edits? Why is editing so important?  With Philippine Ballentine, John Gregory Betancourt, and Emily Lavin Leverett

New Releases from Perseid Press (Saturday 11 am):  Come hear about this year’s upcoming releases from Perseid Publishing! With Richard Groller

Writing Critical Hits: RPG tie-in fiction (Saturday 8 pm):  Writing RPG tie in fiction without letting the reader hear the dice roll. This panel can also go into what to expect from RPG publishers as far as what you can and can’t do in their worlds.  With Harry Heckel, Chris Jackson, and Mike McPhail 

The Eye of Argon (Saturday 11 pm): The worst science fiction story ever written gets a reading by our brave panel as they compete to go the longest without tripping over a misspelled word or laughing uncontrollably. Audience members are also encouraged to take a chance. Can you keep a straight face, especially when the panel begins acting out the story? With Gail Martin and Ian Randal Strock

Is “Ancient Aliens” Racist?  (Sunday 11 am):  If ancient aliens exist, does this mean humanity is not responsible for inventing anything? A discussion of the likelihood and alleged evidence for ancient alien visitations.  With Robert Blaskiewicz, Nicole Givens Kurtz, and Randy Richards 

Visibility 101 (Sunday noon):  In an industry brimming with independent presses and magazines, it can be daunting for the burgeoning speculative writer to find a way to stand out. Writers and artists share the marketing secrets that have helped put them on the map.  With Gail Z. Martin, D. Alexander Ward and Meryl Yourish

My Ravencon 2014 schedule

On the weekend of April 25th, I’ll be a guest at Ravencon, a small but fun convention in Richmond, Virginia. RavenConBannerThe Guest of Honor this year is Elizabeth Bear. There’s also a costume competition and my artist wife Heidi Hooper is a judge. It’s always a lot of fun to visit my hometown, even if I hardly get to see any of it since I’m in a hotel all weekend.

Anyway, here are the panels where you can find me (and more may be added):

Anthology Don’ts (Friday 4 pm): There are always rules for submitting in anthologies … length, subject matter, etc. Our panelists discuss the common errors they see (or have been guilty of) in anthology submissions. With John Betancourt, Jim Stratton, and Tera Fulbright.

Opening Ceremonies (Friday 7 pm): Guests are introduced to the audience!

Reading (Friday 9 pm): I’ll be reading excerpts from my books and short stories and talking with readers.

The Eye of Argon (Friday midnight): The worst science fiction story ever written gets a reading by our brave panel as they compete to go the longest without tripping over a misspelled word or laughing uncontrollably. Audience members are also encouraged to take a chance. Can you keep a straight face, especially when the panel begins acting out the story? With Philippa Ballantine, Gail Martin, and KT Pinto.

New Releases from Perseid Press (Saturday 11 am): Perseid Press publishes, among other things, the “Heroes in Hell” series. Come and visit Perseid authors and find out about their latest release “Dreamers in Hell.” With Rich Groller.

Young Adult Literature (Saturday 3 pm): What makes a Young Adult novel these days? Is it just the age of the protagonist or is there something else? What books should be considered Young Adult that are not, and which are that shouldn’t be? With Bill Blume, Betty Cross, and Lana Krumwiede.

Allen Wold’s Writing Workshop (Saturday 8 pm): Participants do a small writing exercise, which is then evaluated by the panel, discussing where they have done well and where they can improve. With KT Pinto, Allen Wold, and Darcy Wold.

The Greatest Animated Films of All Time (Saturday 11 pm): The panelists will debate what the greatest animated films are of all time in an attempt to come up with a Top Ten List. Weapons must be checked at the door. With Chris Impink and Patrick Vanner

My Ravencon 2012 Schedule

I’m looking forward to attending Ravencon on the weekend of April 13th. As a son of Richmond, I love going back and visiting friends and seeing the city — or at least as much as I can, since I’m mostly in a hotel all weekend.

Here’s what they have planned for me:

Building Suspense (Friday 4:00 pm) Panelists discuss how to structure a mystery and keep the reader’s interest without frustrating them or giving too much away. With Austin S. Camacho, A.J. Hartley, Gail Z. Martin, and Kate Paulk

Ghost Hunters verses Mythbusters (Friday 6:00 pm): Are we still as gullible as our ancestors? Do we really still believe in ghosts and goblins, or is it all just camp fire stories? With Diana Bastine, Ben Davis, Pamela K. Kinney, and Christopher Weuve

Opening Ceremonies (Friday 7:00 pm): The guests are introduced and there is much merrymaking.

Science Fiction Motifs in Fantasy (Friday 9:00 pm): What happens when fantasy uses science fiction motifs? Is it now science fiction, or at least not “real” fantasy? Panelists discuss F/SF mash-ups and their potential to destroy civilization as we know it. With Diana Bastine, Barbara Friend Ish, Monica Marier, Ahlen Moin, and Janine K. Spendlove

Pervy Elf Fanciers (Friday 10:00 pm): Panelists discuss the romantic appeal of humanoid but non-human creatures such as elves, vampires, fairies, and so on, as well as the ramifications of human-nonhuman interbreeding. With Anita Allen, Rachael Hixon, Monica Marier, KT Pinto, and Erin “Zenobia” Woods

What Harry Potter Did Right (Saturday 9:00 am): What did J.K. Rowling do right, and what can an aspiring author learn from that? With Paula S. Jordan, Gail Z. Martin, and Warren Rochelle.

Self Promotion and Social Anxiety Disorder (Saturday 1:00 pm): … At Least Your Mom Still Loves You (Maybe). Talking about your work isn’t as hard as you think. How to promote your work without driving yourself crazy. With Austin S. Camacho, S. Reesa Herberth, Ahlen Moin, Michelle Moore, and Leona Wisoker

Disturbing Ramifications of Harry Potter (Saturday 10:00 pm): What does trust mean in a world with polyjuice potions, love potions, and the Imperius curse? And what really happened to Dolores Umbridge? With Mike Kabongo, Gail Z. Martin, Tedd Roberts, Patrick A. Vanner, and Robert E Waters.

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