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Life at the Edge of the Universe (Writing Con Recap)

Answer this: what could possibly be better than spending three hours in the company of other writers, gamers, and lovers of books while attending convention panels rich with nerdery?

Well, if you said chocolate and a pocket-sized book dragon, I’d give you that one, but the suggested answer is “three hours of nerdery in company without leaving the library armchair.”

Yes. We’re back to talk about LTUE’s “Edge of the Universe” mini sci-fi and fantasy conference.

I’ll skip the recap of what the Edge of the Universe is since you were all so clearly hanging on my every word in last week’s post and jump right to the good stuff.

You know how much I was looking forward to this.

I was also having a really hard time deciding which panels I wanted to go to.

That’s the problem with LTUE events–everything is good, so deciding what to miss is like trying to pick a single dessert from a three-tiered stack of perfectly decorated éclairs. It’s true the panels are recorded, so I could go back and listen to them (and I probably should), but it’s not quite the same as being there live, with everyone else in company, clamoring to have your questions answered.

I wasn’t agonizing over it, but, well…see for yourself.

It’s not a conspiracy board with red yarn trailing off into the next apartment landing, but it does suggest an uncomfortable double cloning or a triple simultaneous time bend for bookmarkedone.

I made up my mind (mostly) the night before and went to bed, visions of sharp-toothed fairies and interplanetary sugar plums dancing in my head.

Next morning? Confession:

I was banging on a friend’s door, saying, “Rise and shine, it’s Edge of the Universe Time!”

(Bearing in mind that bookmarkedone is a self-appointed librarian and immensely polite so this was only at about 60 decibels. Yes, despite obvious excitement).

Then I scampered off to the garrett, logged into Discord, and waited for the fun to begin.

In case you’re not familiar with LTUE’s conference setup, the Edge of the Universe is essentially a three-ring circus. Three hours, three panels each hour. Each is streamed on YouTube while the attendees are happily chatting in Discord (this bit feels a bit like passing notes in class, talking while the important stuff is going on, but then occasionally a panelist reads a comment and chokes over their own words because they’re laughing, so it all evens out). I have no idea if there is some mysterious mythic origin to the Discord channel names or if they’re just Dragon, Cat, and Rocket because that’s all you really need for a good sci-fi story.

So.

Top of the conference, I log into the Cat Room for “Books Around the World.”

Important note here: my life is Extra Chaotic with a Side of Mayhem, and I am infrequently just lazy.

I haven’t researched the panels or the panelists like I should have. All I know is that there’s books, and that’s enough for me.

What I thought the panel was going to be about was books from all cultures, recommendations, comparisons–okay, this is probably because I’ve got archetypal fairytales steeping in my brainpan this week and that would have been really useful.

The panel was actually from the perspective of book marketing–why we read, how we inspire others to read, and how to keep reading. All very useful for authors trying to market their books.

You know, short of shoving your latest novel in your friends’ faces shouting I wrote a book buy it so I can buy a sailboat or maybe a hot air balloon and go on a solo tour of the world please.

I did have to raise an eyebrow when she said we read to expand our vocabularies and be better communicators.

Um. That’s a nice theory.

But this is a SF/F group? Most of the stuff here doesn’t exist in the known world? And when it does–well, let’s just say archaic medieval prose and technical jargon don’t mesh well with modern English.

I’ve gotten my share of odd looks.

Anyway, after Oswald’s presentation in the Cat Room, I was off to “Book Marketing–Keywords and Categories…” or I would have been, if there hadn’t been technical difficulties. I would have popped over to the Rocket Room for a few minutes while they got set up, but…well…I stayed for the whole thing.

I mean, what are the odds that the little bard wound up getting interested in how someone was going to pull “30 Story Lessons from One Song?”

Granted, it was a song with all the traditional markers of a Western (saloon, outlaws, guns bang-bang, hanging, petticoats) and so not quite my style–but I think that’s sort of the point.

I was so ready to overlook the piece that I didn’t realize how many clever things were layered into the lyrics. An irritatingly clever number. And it’s not, despite my assumptions, the story you expect it to be. All the familiar players are there, but the heroes and background characters seem to have swapped roles.

Refreshingly so.

Whether I learned anything aside from stinging musician jealousy of someone else’s work (especially after working late on a composition and realizing I failed to include the title in a single lyric arrgh), I’m not sure.

But the last panel of the day?

Both other sessions, I had at least one (or even two) backup panels if the one I chose didn’t instantly spark my interest (hey, there’s no rule you can’t skip around!). But for the last hour, there was only ever one choice.

“The Economy As a Character,” presented by Alexandria Rowland and Victoria Goddard.

Again, I don’t know either of these authors. What I’m hoping for is a discussion of fictional economic systems (like those in The Name of the Wind), or if I’m especially lucky, tips on writing currency and related details (which I kind of stink at).

What I got was a blossoming discussion of how “economy” can refer to any push and pull of environment–food, crops, warfare, value systems, raw materials, refined goods, labor, treasures, wants, rarity–and yes, maybe at the end of it, this game we play called “money.”

And, of course, a brief but passionate discussion of the Paris sewer system, accompanying museum, and Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables.

It wouldn’t be an LTUE event without something of the like.

I’ll admit it. The Edge of the Universe wasn’t quite what my LTUE experience was. For one thing, it wasn’t nearly as well attended (which makes no sense! Free panels! Great topics! SF/F!). And that meant the Discord was substantially quieter. Where at LTUE, if you blinked you’d miss something, during some of the presentations, there were awkward pauses as panelists waited for someone, anyone, to phrase their questions. And since the camaraderie played such a big part in my enjoyment of the first LTUE event I attended, well, I was starting to feel a little crestfallen.

But that last panel–

It felt like two friends taking tea and talking over whatever flew into their heads, starting with one topic, but letting it lead them wherever they might choose to go. It felt like conversations I had with my friends, only interesting in a different way because I didn’t have a clue what their answers would be and I could soak in all their experiences and perspectives.

Right from the comfort of the garrett.

That’s LTUE. People who love writing and can’t shut up about it, even if they tried, finally getting to gush about worldbuilding, about characters, about history and obscure details–

Stories grow from the smallest seeds, and cons like this are splendid places to pick a few up. Creative passion is contagious, and frankly, it’s a beautiful thing.

So that’s the Edge of the Universe! Don’t forget, if you’re in the mood for a con, there’s still time to join in ProWritingAid’s Science Fiction Writers’ Week, starting August 29! I’ll be along for the adventure, so stay tuned!

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