My FenCon Five … and then some

FenConI should be sleeping. In about six hours I need to get up. Two hours after that I need to be caffeinated and on the road to FenCon, Dallas’s SFF Literary Convention.

Instead, I’ve been awake, obsessively researching the programming schedule and guests bios  It will be great to see (and learn from) some old friends. And there are some truely awesome panels this year.

Here are Five  (in no particular order)  and a few more that I’m really excited about.

Image result for LankhmarThe City as Character (Saturday, 2 p.m., Southlake Room): Oddly, I’ve had a lot of conversations on this topic over the past year. My conclusions? First, the city as character is the critical innovation necessary for urban fantasy to exist. Second, it really begins relatively late, with Fritz Leiber. While the great cities in SFF have always had character (e.g. Lovecraft’s Arkham), I think Leiber’s Lankhmar is the first true city as character. I try to pay attention to the power of place in all my stories (and have earned a fair bit of critical praise in this capacity), so I look forward to learning even more for this panel.

Table-Top Gaming Over the Years (Friday, 4 p.m., Gravevine1 Room): I’m a gaming nerd. Image result for d20Have been since I was ten years old back in the benighted year of nineteen-*cough, cough* And I did TTRPG writing and game design professionally before I ever turned my hand to fiction. I had the pleasure of serving on a similar panel (also moderated by Aaron de Orive) at this year’s ArmadilloCon. Similar, but not identical, the Austin panel focused on writing for TTRPGs (as a bit of shameless self-promotion, here is a summary of my remarks). While it’s hard to argue with utility of that, it’s not quite as fascinating as looking at the history of the hobby/industry/obsession. I’m anticipating lots of great anecdotes and references to games I haven’t thought of if 20 years!

Lock-Smithing 101: (Friday, 4 p.m., Frisco Room): You know how it is, ever Con there’s one time slot where there are two sessions your absolutely dying to attend. Opposite the Gaming panel is this little gem from Tex Thompson. Two things that seem to come up repeatedly in my stories are picking locks and hotwiring cars. Unfortunately, I know almost nothing of either. But, really, the topic is only part of the attraction here. Tex’s wit, wisdom, and larger than life personality could make a presentation on watching paint dry seem awesome.

Mark Finn as Toastmaster (Saturday, 11 a.m., Southlake):  Whether it’s Robert E. Howard, the beauty of maps, or whatever, I just dig listening to Mark Finn talk. I’m sure he’ll make an amazing toastmaster.

Image result for wood cut of the devilContracts You Shouldn’t Sign (Friday, 5 p.m., Galleria 4): We all want to focus on the fun parts of the Con and attend panels about the happier side of our craft. But we shouldn’t forget to prepare ourselves for the darker side, too. We’ve all got that one friend who is a cautionary tale about this. I’m looking forward to learning what pitfalls and traps to watch out for.

Image result for Q james bond

Wait, wrong “Q”

DS9 at 25 (Sunday, 11 a.m., Galleria 4): Can we all just agree that DS9 was the best Star Trek? As Casablanca in Space, it somehow pulled off gritty space noir while remaining felicitous to Roddenberry’s vision of a heroic techo-socialist Utopian. Also, Sisko was the best captain. He punched Q.

How to Approach, Talk To, And Get a Literary Agent (Sunday, 3 p.m., Southlake Room) I’ve really been dragging my feet on this (contrary to what you might think after reading this post, I don’t especially enjoy talking about myself or self-promotion. But, I do feel like I’ve reached the point in my career where this is a logical next step (and, yes, the fact that the wife has been after me to do it doesn’t hurt). I will say, FenCon, it has been noted that this even has been scheduled late on Sunday … when there is little time after to put our new-found skills to work and the agents can enjoy the Con in peace. 😉

Image result for sheraton dfw airport hotel

The Sheraton DFW Airport Hotel.

Got Filk? There is some great SFF-driven music throughout the weekend. This former music journalist is looking forward to performances by The DoubleClicks, Bland Lemon and the Lemonaides, and many more.

Okay, I should try to grab my five hours of sleep. See you all there!


Not Blue About Review for “The Green Muse”

“An enthralling and disturbing story in equal measure,”

“… opens with a hook that grabbed me immediately.”

“It’s intensely atmospheric writing…”

“….a detailed and fascinating look at pre-1914 Paris, with Black deftly bringing to life a city of duality; a snobbish and charming exterior that has a chaotic underworld, one full of artists, pimps, anarchists and a thousand other types.

Those are a few of the choicer words I found in a review of my Mythos novelette “The Green Muse” by the Sci-Fi & Fantasy Reviewer (as part of a broader review of the anthology The Chromatic Court, published by 18th Wall Productions) back in April.

While I’m disappointed it passed without my notice when first published, it was a wonderful surprise to stumble across such an effusive review by accident. And I can’t tell you how oddly happy it makes me that someone finds my work “disturbing.”

I have, of course, presented the entire text of the review of “The Green Muse” below.    And I’ve written in-depth about the story elsewhere on this site and I invite you to read an excerpt  You’ll find the Sci-Fi & Fantasy Reviewer’s full review of The Chromatic Court here.

“Following on is The Green Muse by Jon Black, another story that opens with a hook that grabbed me immediately. A rash of murders in early 20th Century Paris attracts the attention of the media; but the murders are of cubist painters, people who produce a type of art reviled by more conservative lovers of art. An art journalist is assigned the job of doing undercover and learning more about the murders, with the aim of producing salacious, gossipy articles that will discredit cubism forever. That’s an amazing concept, and I loved the snark in the opening pages about various types of artist, the (real-life) snobbery to be found in the heat of competition between hierarchies of artists, and the conferring of respectability.

“But of course this is Cosmic Horror and not mere historical crime fiction, and it soon becomes clear the dead artists had stumbled into something eldritch to do with their paintings. As the investigation begins, we get a detailed and fascinating look at pre-1914 Paris, with Black deftly bringing to life a city of duality; a snobbish and charming exterior that has a chaotic underworld, one full of artists, pimps, anarchists and a thousand other types. It’s intensely atmospheric writing, and makes the weird, unsettling nature of the murders feel somehow integral both to the nature of the Cubist artists, and the city’s anarchistic culture at that time. I really enjoyed the central mystery that unfolds, becoming more eldritch and unsettlingly ill-defined as time goes on, and the way that Black is able to make the theoretical underpinnings and philosophy of Cubism so central to that mystery. There’s even a cameo from the previous story, The Man in Purple Tatters, which is much appreciated and helps build a shared universe between stories. An enthralling and disturbing story in equal measure, The Green Muse is another stand-out tale in the anthology.”