Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Fyrecon After-Action Report

Posted by Rampant Coyote on June 12, 2017

The first-ever Fyrecon took place this weekend, in Layton UT. As usual, I didn’t take pictures … partly because I forgot, and partly because my phone is literally out of space, even after I’ve removed every app except two tiny critical ones, after the last few Android updates). Technically I have room for about six or seven shots, so I have to send them to myself immediately and then delete them… anyway.  I’m making a short story long here.

The conference was three days long… although the first day was shorter than the rest. I’ll point out Scott Taylor’s review (with photos!), and add my own thoughts.

I attended two master classes… one by veteran best-selling author, teacher, and head judge of the Writers of the Future Contest David Farland (AKA David Wolverton), and another by Toni Weisskopf, publisher of Baen Books. When the opportunity comes to get some instruction from industry veterans of this caliber, I jumped on it. I wasn’t disappointed.

David Farland’s class was on the business of writing. He shared a bunch of success stories and cautionary tales, and provided tons of tips on how to structure finances, manage rights and revenue streams, and how to avoid some petty scary pitfalls in the business. His approach was rooted in his experience as a veteran of the traditional publishing industry, but he is also a fan of indie publishing. I came out of the class with several pages of notes, and a lot of stuff to think about more seriously than I had before.

Toni Weisskopf’s master class was much more about the craft of writing. She entitled it “What’s Missing?”, and much of the discussion was on storytelling, and what elements are missing or poorly done in many of the manuscripts she encounters. While little of it was new, she went into a lot of detail appropriate for an intermediate-level audience… which was most of us. When the Editor-in-Chief of a major SF/F publisher tells you about the kinds of things your peers keep getting wrong, it’s wise to take notes. I took plenty of them. Interestingly enough, she used David Farland’s recent article, Why You Only Got an Honorable Mention, as a guide for the first hour.

I participated on two panels: “The Future of Steampunk and Cyberpunk,” and “Why Writing and Art Contests are Important.” The Steampunk / Cyberpunk one was a lot of fun… I was the token cyberpunk author (although I’ve published more steampunk stories). Hey, I was into cyberpunk a long time before I got into steampunk! Dan Willis was the token mainstream author (although he’s published indie, too). It was largely just a chat between panelists and audience members, which worked great. One interesting point that Dan brought out was that as far as mainstream publishers are concerned, steampunk HAS no future… which is entirely to the benefit of the indies, who can profitably occupy that niche. I spoke a little bit about “Post-Cyberpunk”, which is kind of funny, since it’s kind of a deconstruction of cyberpunk, which itself was kind of a deconstruction of traditional science fiction, bringing us around full-circle… almost. Both still move away from the “change only one thing” trope of “hard” SF, which is far more believable in the modern world.

For the writing contest panel, David Farland naturally had a ton of advice, as he’s the head judge of the biggest SF/F contest in the world right now, and he got his career started by literally studying writing contests and training himself how to win them. I was kind of in the “just happy to be here” position as last year’s DragonComet 1st place winner, but I’d like to think I had a couple of contributions to the discussion.

I also taught a two-hour workshop entitled, “Writing Pulp Fiction for Fun and Profit,” all about writing pulp-style fiction. Unfortunately, my partner in crime in this presentation, David West, had a family emergency and couldn’t be there. Bryce Beattie, editor of StoryHack, graciously offered to step in, and we had a small but very enthusiastic audience… including one author who could have taught the class herself. We turned it into an interactive group workshop and had a lot of fun.

Besides all this, I enjoyed a three-hour mini-storytelling festival, classes on author branding, uses of tropes, finding your voice, and the short story market. I got to network with a bunch of great authors and illustrators. As often happens, sometimes the most useful bits of advice and information come from informal chats.

Overall, it was a great conference. It was more geared towards professional development than Life, the Universe, and Everything… which is also an excellent conference.  Sadly, attendance wasn’t quite up to LtUE’s current levels… but LtUE has a good thirty+ years of growth to get to that point. I’d like to think both conferences can happily coexist and do well. I had a great time and learned a lot, so it was a total win for me.

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