Tim Powers |
Todd Lockwood |
Patty Wells |
Writer Guest of Honor
- What attracts you to using historical figures in so much of your
Laziness, mainly! When I use characters that actually did exist,
I get whole biographies ready-made, generally dozens of them! I get a
character's looks, tastes, obsessions, even conversations and decisive
actions! I just have to figure out why the character really did the
things he did — they won't be the same reasons history
And using actual historical characters — along with actual
settings and events, lends, I hope, an air of authenticity to my often
implausible plots. London, Einstein, Beirut, Blackbeard the pirate, the
Cold War, the Turkish Siege of Vienna in 1529 — readers have heard
of these, and associate them with the actual real world, so I hope they
find ghosts & genies in those associations more convincing than
they'd find them in a Never-Never Land setting populated by Dark Lords
and elves. I try very hard to prevent my readers from thinking,
"Oh, I see, this is an imaginary story!"
At least until they've put the book down and taken a couple of steps
away from it.
- Do you find that new ideas float to the top of your brain or do you
actively research to unearth story ideas?
Well, both, I guess. I note any ideas that happen to drift
through my brain, but I get most of my ideas from the research. I
approach research like a paranoid conspiracy-theorist — I look for
clues like ... Edison claimed he was going to invent a telephone to talk
to dead people with? And when he died his last breath was caught in a
test-tube? What does that mean? And so I read heaps of books on him,
looking for similarly odd (or at least unexplainable) behavior and
events, and I try to figure out what was really going on. And for this,
I'm always looking for a supernatural explanation! (I've never been
inclined to write mainstream fiction.) And really, anybody's biography
will provide spooky clues if you comb through it with this obsessively
It often happens that I wind up — late at night —
becoming convinced that the weird theory I've come up with is the true
story! — but in the morning I'm sane again.
- As a child, what did you imagine that you'd be doing in 2008?
I was sixteen when the famous '68 Baycon happened, and I read all
about it in fanzines and Amazing and Fantastic. I wouldn't have even
dared to hope that I'd be Guest of Honor at a BayCon forty years later!
I suppose I imagined I'd be an English Literature professor somewhere,
riding a bicycle around campus with crazy white hair. I'm glad it worked
out the way it did.
- How did you start writing?
Like us all, probably, I wrote lots of stories when I was a kid,
mostly inept imitations of Heinlein and Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard.
And in '67, the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction ran an
editorial explaining how to submit manuscripts, so I instantly wrote a
clumsy re-telling of a story in that same issue and sent it off. And I
was very pleased to get a real, grown-up rejection slip for it! And I
kept writing stories and getting them rejected, until finally Laser
Books came along and actually bought a novel of mine.
- What one piece of advice would you offer to aspiring authors?
One piece? Okay — though it might turn out to be two or
three. First — if you look at a group of would-be writers,
assuming they're all reasonably literate, the sub-set of them that's
going to wind up published is the sub-set that will keep on writing and
submitting stories long after any reasonable person would have quit and
found a practical career. Genius is great if you happen to have that
persistence too, but the persistence is the main thing. Second, read
very widely! Mysteries, histories, plays, westerns, bibles, poetry! Read
lots of stuff from previous centuries. And don't read this stuff with
your 2008 perspective, which will make you think that everybody before
1900 was a racist or sexist or what-have-you. Read them from within
their own philosophies. And — don't be tongue-in-cheek! Flippancy
and irony are just tricks to cover a writer's embarrassment at the idea
of being taken seriously.
- You were a longtime friend of Philip K. Dick, what do you see as his
legacy? In your opinion, did his stories reflect his personal
Yes, Dick was one of those writers — like Byron or
Hemingway — who constantly used bits from his own unique life in
his stories, probably as a way to try to come to terms with his own
life, to make sense of it. And Dick wound up letting us all see a lot of
aspects of what it is to be human that no writer had ever explored
before. His legacy is his humane perspective, authentic people dealing
with a largely-incomprehensible and often malevolent world.
(You might object that Dick was often tongue-in-cheek — but he
took his characters and their troubles with supreme seriousness, and
besides, he was a genius and we're not.)
- Have you previously attended BayCon?
No, I've been to lots of conventions in the Bay area — my
very first convention was a Westercon in San Francisco in 1971 —
but never a BayCon! High time that omission got remedied.
- Do you frequently attend conventions? If so, what makes you keep
Yes, my wife and I probably attend four or five conventions a
year. Mostly it's because there are a whole lot of people we only get to
see at these things, and it's great to hang out in the bar and catch up
on gossip. And we spend too much money in the dealers' rooms, which is
Artist Guest of Honor
- What's your favorite motif?
Favorite motif? Now there's a question I haven't been asked
before. I suppose I like spirals and diagonal lines. Most of my
compositions contain both if you study them. The "Golden
Rectangle" suggests a spiral which is found in nature, in things
like unfurling fern fronds and nautilus shells. It's an almost fractal
repetition of a semicircle that moves naturally. Even the ancients
honored it in Celtic Spirals and the like, though they weren't as
mathematical as the Golden Rectangle. But it's the growth outward and
perhaps a spiritual movement inward suggested by the spiral itself and
the negative space inside it. Sort of a yin-yang relationship. Now it's
getting heavy ... but the point is that it's a shape and movement that
we are naturally drawn to. It works because we understand it on an
intuitive level. Diagonals are much simpler: they simply knock the
movement in a composition off-center, imparting action to even a static
scene. I like to tilt the camera so that the horizon is askew, or look
up or down at the scene ... anything to take it from stationary. A motif
I haven't used in a long long time (until once very recently) is the
formal composition, in which an almost perfect bilateral symmetry is
used. It imparts stolidity, strength, and power to the central figure,
even nobility. It's very statuesque and serene.
- Do you have a favorite medium?
I love the look of an oil painting, and of the natural media it
is my favorite. I used acrylics for years and years, thinking that if
they were good enough for Michael Whelan, they were good enough for me!
But I struggled with them all along, and when I did finally start using
oils, I wished I had switched much sooner. I always thought that medium
was medium was medium — that the final image was what mattered,
not how it was created. But I learned from that that some artists and
media are better suited to each other than others. For me, it is
I like graphite too — pencils and powder. And I enjoy painting
digitally as well. It's very spontaneous and energizing. I use Corel
Painter rather than Photoshop for 95% of my digital paintings because of
what it does that Photoshop doesn't. It's much more intuitive for
someone who learned to paint traditionally. My only regret is the lack
of a painting in the end. But even if I get back to painting more often
I will probably incorporate the computer, if only at the design
- Anything you don't like to use?
Airbrushes. I used them for years in advertising because, in that
era, everyone wanted airbrush art. I never liked them, and yet I was
somehow an "airbrush artist." I loathe them. I don't even like
the look of airbrush any more. It's plastic and artificial — the
very thing advertisers loved about it, I suppose.
- Do authors try to influence the look of what you create to fit their
image or do you have a free hand?
I have a pretty free hand, for which I am very grateful. When I
started at TSR in '96 I was determined to do only good art — or
the best art I could manage. The culture there at the time was sort of
to accept what the R&D guys wrote as art orders and grudgingly do
the bad ones. But I made a habit of questioning the less clever art
orders and found that nothing was written in stone, and that the R&D
folks were thrilled to have the artists involved enough to discuss
options. Some of the best covers fro those years came about because I
said — no, not good enough.
The textbook case in my mind was the cover for a product called
Golems, which was a book full of different golem types for insertion
into your D&D campaign. The art order called for a mad magician in
battle with his creation — a golem of wax that looked just like
him. My thought was that if it looked just like him, it didn't look like
a golem. It looked human. I wanted to see something unusual on the cover
— something we hadn't seen before. So I sat down with the authors
of the book and went through the golems one by one. A theme soon
developed; they seemed to favor golems that you could use to surprise
your players with, which meant that — despite a variety of ways of
creating them and varying abilities and strengths — they tended to
look just like people. Umm ... please. Finally we found a golem that was
made up of sticks and various wooden objects — a treant (a
D&D Ent derivative) that had been chopped up and rendered by an evil
wizard into other things of value, which somehow reacquired its life
force and went about gathering its own scattered bits. That became the
a personal favorite.
- Is there a significant difference between working on a novel and
working on a game like D&D?
Hmm ... There are differences. Whether they're significant or not
is another question. D&D can be much more inventive, depending on
what the product is, because ultimately its a set of guidelines with
which to invent your own stories and worlds, whereas a novel comes
complete with descriptions and characters. On the same Golem piece, for
example, the creature was described somewhat, but his victim was
entirely invented according to my whims. There was a new girl in the
magazine department who wanted to model and who was cute, to boot. So I
killed her. Often, the D&D game module art orders would end up being
a party of characters (again, usually invented) taking on a monster of
some kind ... which demanded some creativity to interpret well again and
again, or an effort to find a better cover lurking somewhere in the
product. The purpose of the cover was to suggest to those running games
for their friends that this product contained something exciting and
different with which to murder their players.
With a novel, you want to capture the essence of a story with either
the perfect moment from the tale or with something iconic and
appropriate. I hate to give away the end of a book on the cover, which
often means that the most visually dynamic part of the story is
off-limits. But there's almost always some symbolism or character or
item that will work well. I've done a large number of action scenes, of
course, for the Salvatore novels. I do like a good action painting, and
I think I still have a number of good fights up my sleeve. But I like
the iconic story-telling covers, too (what I don't like is the
"montage" approach to a cover, and resist it if it's
suggested. It has its place and can work really well, but too often it's
intellectually lazy and has little-to-no story-telling power. But I'm
digressing ...). With a novel, the purpose of the cover is to suggest to
the potential reader that this product contains an exciting and
different tale with which to fill their spare time.
I guess that's a subtle difference, in final analysis ... It's all
about story, in the end. With a novel, you're immersed in a story
hopefully told by a master, with D&D you're participating in and
helping create a story.
- What one piece of advice would you offer to aspiring artists?
Get the best education you can afford, at a creditable school
that teaches illustration, not just "fine art." You need the
fundamentals of good design: anatomy, perspective, light and shadow,
color theory, composition, design — all of that technical stuff
that "fine artists" abandoned in pursuit of their navels. And
you need to study the art of the great story-tellers, too, like N.C.
Wyeth, Remington, Frazetta ... on and on. And you need to be an active
observer of everything going on around you: not just art, but politics,
history, math, physics, geology, biology ... Everything you know will
come into play sooner or later in a painting. It's all grist for the
mill. The more grist, the better the meal, or something like that. Those
three things are the one piece of advice I would give an aspiring
artist. Oh: and draw every day, whether you feel like it or not,
especially from life.
Four things. Those four things are the one piece ...
Fan Guest of Honor
- How did you get started in fandom?
I wasn't planning to work on our first Orycon, except as an L5
liaison. However, I showed up to register and there was no one to run
registration, with nearly a hundred people in line. I'd done
registration for college things, so I asked the person in charge whether
I could just open it and give out badges. He said yes, so I shut up the
heaviest complainers by having them carry heavy boxes of program books
to the desk, and drafted a friend or two to work the desk with me.
Afterwards it occurred to me that I might like working on these
things. And I have ever since.
- So when you're not busy with working on a convention, what do you do
with your time?
I teach job retraining skills (computer apps,
résumés, correct business writing at a local college as a
career. I have one husband, two dogs, and three teenagers, and I read
everything I can get my hands on.
- What's going on at OryCon this year?
Cool stuff as usual. Here's the link with the GOHs names spelled
correctly (which I always mess up):
Lots of history programming with Turtledove, and I am always very proud
of our writer's workshops.
- Friday Night at the Meet the Guests reception you announced your bid
for WorldCon: Reno in 2011. Why WorldCon?
I've worked on conventions all my adult life and in 1986 I went
to my first WorldCon and it was bigger and wilder and more fun than
anything I could imagine. I worked Ops and I ended up being a fannish
legend. I was a party elevator hostess at the Atlanta Marriott in 1986.
They had these beautiful glass elevators that started slipping and they
slipped the night of the Hugos and they knew it was going to be
horrible the night of the Masquerade so they started putting ops people
in the elevators to maintain a weight limit of who got on board. I had a
really good time at that WorldCon and have been dinning off that story
for 20 years. Their bigger than anything we go to you get to meet guests
that you never ever thought you'd meet. In Anaheim my daughters had been
gophers and one of their gopher rewards was that they got to help with
Ray Bradbury's autographing and meet him and shake hands with him and
they will remember that for life.
- Why Reno?
I'm from Portland and the honest truth is that I thought my kids
would get grown about the time the beautiful Portland Convention Center
would have hotels built around it but the Portland Development
Commission and the owners of the property have not gotten along and it's
been in continuous litigation for about the last 10 years. They said
they were getting ready to lay the ground work for the new hotel and
last fall, that November, it went into litigation again. It looks like
it will be another 10 years before Portland would have the bedroom for a
WorldCon and I don't want to wait that long. So, I looked up a website
of every convention center in the country and started breaking it down
of where there were not fans, already a fan group that I would upset, I
preferred the west because I'm a born and raised Oregon girl. I wanted
something hopefully where we would be the biggest convention in town
that weekend. I'm running facilities for the Denver World Con and we're
only the third biggest convention in town that week, and that makes life
hard. I found Reno, turns out that they had been looking for fans and
were more than happy to talk to us. Turns out there's a BayCon
connection because one of the guys at the visitors bureau was a general
manager at one of the earlier BayCon hotels and right off the bat asked
me how Michael Siladi was.
- There's a competing bid for WorldCon in Seattle for 2011. What are
your thoughts on the two bids that are geographically so close
They're very nice about it and I've known these folks for years
but the thing is that it's competition. We're fans, all of us are sneaky
all of us like to do this stuff. I think the WorldCon is better for
having competition. The voting for this WorldCon, and this is how you
can help bring it to Reno or Seattle will be held in Montreal at
Anticipation. It helps to get out and say we have two sides partying,
talking about the WorldCon, talking about why it's exciting to bring the
whole science fiction/fantasy community together, so I think it's a good
thing. There is another woman chairing that bid so it's kind of like,
let the best woman win.
- If people are interested in supporting the Reno WorldCon bid, what
can they do?
There is information up on our website, which is
it's a vote. The first step to vote for it and bring it to Reno is that
you have to buy at least a supporting membership in Anticipation. You
can support the bid by going on our website and giving us $20 and
becoming a presupporter. One of the ways we gauge interest is to [see]
how many people go, "Ok I'll give them my $20 and let's see what
they do." I think we can do something pretty fun down there, it's a
real fantasy kinda place.
- Anything else?
They seem to be real willing to do the whole science fiction
theme. We were talking about shuttle buses between the further hotel and
the convention center and they said "What would we think of Klingon
bus drivers?" I turned around to the person I was down there with
afterwards and said, I'm not sure I want to get on the bus with somebody
who's first comment is, "It's a good day to die."
- You've been able to make money by giving your work away for free?
What do you know that the RIAA and MPAA don't?
Common sense, basically. In a world where there are thousands of
entertainment choices, it's not the same world it was 30 years ago when
they could dictate what was on the radio and dictate what was on the
three channels of television and have total control over everything. Now
it's all over the place. Cory Doctorow's quote is that "Piracy
isn't my enemy, anonymity is my enemy." When you give stuff away it
gives the potential fan or the potential customer a chance to listen to
something or read something with no risks and no obligations, and that
just flat-out works. It's just like being a crack dealer. You're just
giving out your samples for free. A lot of people are immune to it, not
everybody gets addicted, but the ones that do will just buy everything
that you put out.
- You've just released your first hardcover through the traditional
publishing methods. What did you find different about it compared to
what you are used to?
Well, first of all, it has been shockingly pleasant. I'm a bit of
a caustic personality and I was fully prepared to have to go to the
mattresses on any number of things. I found out that Crown Publishing
was just really excited to put the book out and they liked the book as
it was. Instead of asking me to cut things out, they asked me to add
more stuff. I did put out two indie books with a small publisher called
Dragon Moon Press and those did decently. Largely it's just more of the
same. It's like the same process but on steroids. There's a small book
tour and they managed to get publicity in the San Francisco Chronicle
and the New York Times and stuff like that. That's a little bit unusual
to see yourself in those areas, but other than that it's just, still
writing, still podcasting so it's the same thing. Still taking care of
- We're hoping to publish this interview as a podcast as well. Any
advice for us or any other potential podcasters?
Well, this is just for the [duration of] BayCon, so that gets rid
of my first piece of advice, which is consistency. Either put it out
every weekday, once a week or once a month. The listener gets used to
that schedule because that's what we're used to. We're used to monthly
magazines, we're used to weekly TV shows, weekly magazines and we're
used to the daily TV show. Regardless of what you're putting out
contentwise, the quality of the recording doesn't need to be all that
great to start getting an audience. The subject matter can be just about
anything because there's so many people out there you're going to get
fans. Consistency's the biggest thing. When you start this make sure you
flush away a good part of your life so you can do this every
- As members of the media, the newsletter staff is good at
disseminating propaganda. Need any help with this whole world domination
thing? More importantly, what do we get if we help?
The more people put into it and support the cause, the less
painful their death will be. So that's a good thing — you've got
that goin' for ya and that's nice. You can obtain a level when we start
to pass out vassalships and fiefdoms. The higher up the ladder you are,
you can actually get a good chunk of land out of this. Being alive is
probably the biggest factor and then hopefully getting to subjugate
others under your will.
- Why should BayCon support your bid for world domination as opposed
to anybody else's?
In large part, it's honesty and transparency. I make no bones
about it that for the most part your best hope is to have a painless
death. I'm not telling anybody they're going to get anything out of
this. There's no afterlife. That's really what makes it different. And
the fact that I want to tear down every city hall and build a new city
hall that looks like my head.
- Do you have a flag?
We do not have a flag as yet. The religious wing of the revolution,
which is lead by Pope Sigleracous the 30th, is currently working on
that, but there's a little infighting because General Siglerisimo, who
leads the land forces, firmly believes that flags originated in the
military, so he needs to be able to control that.