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Beware the Creeper!

Iain's life as a psychotic crimefighter

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Everyone in Aus SF

Or at least the three of you that have friended me:

Read punkrocker1991 's editorial in the latest Ticonderoga Online now.

It's all right, I'll wait.

I certainly think that's a problem that has manifested at "Magic Casements" and Conflux - too many roosters and not enough hens. I know there are science fiction readers out there who aren't remotely interested in being writers (my favourite one is a rugby player I worked with once who turned out to be a Chuck McKenzie fan) but these people don't go to cons and tend not to buy local magazines and anthologies. I think it was Cat Sparks who pointed out somewhere that the only people buying the Agog anthologies were other writers (hopefully that will change now that they're listed on Amazon.)

The demand for local short fiction is limited, and from what little I know, there's few attempts at an outreach program to bring local content to outside readers. Magic Casements is run by a writer's centre, so it's focus is, naturally, writers. Cons advertise through the usual channels so they attract the usual suspects. And (from my experience) SF discussion groups tend to attract and maintain only the hardcore SF reader - who isn't necessarily interested in local product.

I don't think there are any easy answers, but I think Russell is raising the right questions.

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I'll put in a couple of words for Andromeda Spaceways, here. I think we've managed to get a solid, healthy proportion of subscribers who aren't writers and who have never attended a convention. I agree that Russell is raising the right questions, but I also think there's a disjunct between who Russell says is important, and who he courts at conventions. I don't think it's just Russ -- I think we've come to see conventions as networking opportunities with other writers and publishers...

(which is part of the reason I like the UK fan scene, and I'm looking forward to being immersed in it for a while. It's mostly readers...)

Also: I don't know if you noticed, but that editorial was pitched at writers and publishers, not readers. Ironic?

Yeah, kind of a temporal loop, really.

The trouble with targetting readers in that sort of thing is that it tends to be counter-productive. They aren't that interested in why they're reading, or how to get others to do so (and there's plenty of other things to read if you bore them).

So you're right that it is a strange place for such comments, although perhaps the subject needs an editorial to get enough exposure. It's certainly important.

You're absolutely right about not targeting it at readers; I think it's right to address whether the Aus small press scene is reaching out to the people that would be excited by the stuff it publishes. Distribution and marketing is hard, unsexy slog, and I like Russ acknowledging that and exploring it in more depth.

Which made it all the more interesting that he did pitch part of it directly at readers. I think my reaction to it as a reader was to feel condescended to. I know that wasn't Russ's intent, and I want to analyse that reaction in as dispassionate and objective way as I can.

I identify as a reader, first and foremost. It's one of the few labels I feel comfortable wearing.

There's a feeling I get from it that I am worth courting only for my money - "these are the people we want at conventions, with fat wallets and shopping bags" ... not to enliven the scene, but to buy our stuff. Er, no. If that's your attitude to me as reader, I want no part of it. As a feminist, it gives me vibes of objectification. Objectifying readers only for what they bring to writers. Where's the love?

Whereas, I'm not a reader -- at least, not of most of the publications he is talking about (I pass over short fiction for novels very easily).

And I see what you're saying, but is it possible to bring love into a discussion of demographics? We all want to reach out and change someone's life with our writing, but how can we do that on a mass scale? (Write better, being the obvious answer...)

I don't mean love literally. I really mean respect -- I know as a fantasy reader, I come away from conventions very frustrated at the way "big fat fantasy" is so easily and readily belittled, rather then people seeing what readers value in it, and seeking to appeal to them through their love of such things. How can you expect to win people into buying your stuff if you're simultaneously telling them they have no taste, kinda thing.

That's what I mean by "where's the love?"

I keep forgetting that you came out as a reader first and foremost, Zara. In fact, when it comes to SF/Fantasy, I identify more as a reader than as a writer (as my writing is mostly for performance at the moment.)

Certainly the local scene needs more active and engaged readers - i.e. more readers like you. In my limited experience with reading groups (i.e. Futurians and what I've seen of the Infinitas group) is that the old guard tend to dominate discussion and dismiss other readings or approaches to the material - which discourages the very active readers that the scene needs to be healthy.

And it's from the pool of active readers that we'll draw effective critics (i.e. who are critics first and foremost and don't have to be concerned about the arse-covering fiction writers employ when they're writing about their own brethren - or their potential paymasters - unless they're benpeek - phew, what a load of subordinate clauses!)

In a nutshell, we need to create and maintain environments that cultivate and don't alienate active readers. The current con scene may not be doing it.

I agree that the current con scene probably isn't generating and sustaining a large pool of active readers, but I wonder if it ever could. I imagine that the great majority of readers will never attend a con, or even know (or care) about their existence. Still, it'd be nice to have more of them come along.

It's my intent that Consyder will move away from some of the "same old stuff" (do we need yet another "the state of small press" panel? I think not) and explore some slightly different territory, and thereby help open up the con scene to new people... but I won't make any promises yet!

In a nutshell, we need to create and maintain environments that cultivate and don't alienate active readers. The current con scene may not be doing it.

And, interestingly, this is something that the UK scene excels at. I've been doing some extensive compare and contrasts, and I intend to keep doing them. I want to bring readers into the Aus scene, and I have some ideas that I did want to put into place for ConSyder (I know Chris Barnes feels strongly about reader-focused conventions, too, so I have no doubt he will do great work...)


I didn't get the objectifying women angle when I wrote the editorial, and not wishing to do so have added a footnote to try to address this, in my own clumsy way.

Zara's talking about objectification of readers (by your editorial) that is similar to the objectification of women - describing them as some kind of exploitable resource rather than thinking autonomous agents.

Of course, if you're talking about Sara Douglass fans...

Yes, exactly. Thank you. It's a massive, massive button for me.

Thanks Russ - that's appreciated. And I know you didn't intend it. Also see what Jack_ryder says -- I definitely saw it more as objectification of readers than of women, but changing "hookers" to "sex" would eliminate the latter :)

To be honest and give credit where it's due, the "cocaine and hookers" line actually comes from Cat Sparks. Obviously it's perceived differently when said by a female than when it's said by a male.

No, it's really not. I'd find it just as problematic from Cat as from Russ.

If this is the case it wasn't a deliberate pitch: I was trying to pitch this editorial to a general audience.

Strange, Bianca thought that Magic Casements had a much more interesting line-up. Despite the far few options, she was happily occupied all day.

Magic Casements is at least attracting younger fans/readers so it's doing something right. There are people who attend MC who don't appear to be interested in going to cons and such per se.

but the argument seems to be one of markets - is MC increasing the profile (and increasing sales) of local authors?

Maybe you'll be able to get first hand experience of that next year with Prismatic.

That's not an impression I was getting (about MC), but I hope it's true.

The fact our largest city doesn't have a full-sized con must be doing something odd to demographics, anyway.

The impression is based on a couple of people I keep meeting at MC but see nowhere else. Both fans (and one's a writer) and obviously finding MC more to their tastes then other gatherings (which, of course, they may be unaware of.)

Plans are afoot for the full-sized con. Consyder didn't come together for 2006, but so far it's looking positive for 2007.

Sounds highly commendable (and more than a little scary).

You're quite right; MC is by nature a writer's festival, so it's always going to be skewed towards the writerly aspect of spec fic. However, we've specifically tried in the last two festivals to include some more reader-focused panels.

As to whether MC is increasing the profile of local authors: I'd say "Yes, but probably not by much". But even a little bit of promotion is worth something; a few new readers who mightn't otherwise have picked up your book, articles in local news, a bit more word of mouth generated.

Can I be rude and add here that there's now a TiconderogaOnline lj ripe for discussing the editorial:


However feel free to delete this post if you feel I'm advertising in a private forum.

Can I be rude and add here that there's now a TiconderogaOnline lj ripe for discussing the editorial:


Where do I collect my sex and cocaine rewards? I've been to science fiction conventions that are aimed at readers, like WorldCon and TorontoTrek. They're great fun. I even ended up volunteering to help one run when I returned. I was delighted to chat to some writers I'd never even read before, and get hooked on their writing. I'm more than half expecting a character based on some of our conversations to turn up in one of his books. I'm a science fiction and fantasy reader - a fan. I don't attend MC because I'm not writing fiction.

I've been told there's a Pop Culture convention SUPANOVA in Sydney in October 2006, perhaps that may offer an opportunity for cross-pollination between the fans and the writers?

I was most impressed at the way North American fans are organised, it would be glorious to enjoy the same community in Sydney.

I was intrigued to see that Agog is cheaper on Amazon. I did see a copy show up in the second-hand section of Berkelouw in Leichardt.

I picked up my first Sean McMullen novel at the library last week. This is a good way for Australian writers to reach new fans who will buy the books of the writers they love.

has been brought up before - but from what I've heard from people who've attended (like ferkster) it's not exactly the kind of con where you get the chance to chat to writers. It's mainly concerned with tv, movies, comics and gaming. And chock full o' kids.

Though a quick look at the website indicates that Marianne de Pierres is going to be there, so they do have prose authors as guests too.

Writers were readers first and still are; that's where we got the bug. I'm not sure you can split us up so neatly.

I'm sorry I don't have a fat wallet to take to cons but writers just don't get paid enough. That's not a go at local publications, I know they can't afford it but still, hardly fair to complain that writers do not buy books, considering. I buy all the books I can afford and some I can't.

I definitely don't think of readers as second-class or whatever the phrase was.


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