What Fandom Can Learn From Onyxcon

So this past weekend Onyxcon returned to the ATL. Sadly I wasn’t able to make it but I was there in spirit celebrating with my fellow Wakandans.

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of attending with a couple of friends including my fam Kiyra and my date, J.

Suffice it to say I scored with plenty of swag and spent quite a bit of cash. It’s all good as I’m all too happy to support black businesses. As I chatted with my peeps, something struck me as odd. I’ve been to plenty of cons over the years, as both a guest and an attendee. I’ve had some wonderful experiences, and I’ve had some less than pleasant ones.

This was the first time I attended a Black convention. It’s always interesting to note the difference of energy between marginalized spaces and mainstream straight white spaces. This isn’t to say that minorities are infallible because we aren’t. However at the same time, it’s always refreshing to lower my guard and enjoy myself in a non-hostile environment. Onyxcon is doing a lot of things right that quite frankly mainstream cons/fandoms should be taking notes from.

Here are a few examples:

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Hypericon 8 Report

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So recently yours truly had the honor of being one of the guests at Hypericon 8 in Nashville.

Whenever attending a new con alone, I’m always nervous if I’ll be the odd one out or if I’ll be nervous. Truth be told I’m very shy and introverted. I say all this to explain that I had absolutely nothing to worry about. Once I arrived, I felt at home and had friends aplenty (old and new) to have an incredible weekend with.

I also learned a few things:

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Coming Soon: Hypericon 8

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And it’s official. Yours truly will be a guest next month at Hypericon 8 in Nashville, TN. The three day event runs from June. 14-16 at the Holiday Inn Express. While this is my first year in attendance, I couldn’t be more stoked.

This con is run by some most excellent peeps and I’m going to be in stellar company. Case in point, my partner in crime Sara Harvey will also be in attendance.

I for one can’t wait. This is definitely a most excellent way to kick off the summer.

For more intel, just click this fine link here.

Putting Faith To Purpose

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So a few weekends ago, I had a homecoming of sorts as I was back in the Atlanta for Gaylaxicon/Outlantacon. The con was a smashing success but that was to be expected. I had a wonderful time reconnecting with my Outlantacon family and adding new additions to our merry band. This was also to be expected.

Enjoyed the panels I was on and the ones I sat in on. I had an incredible time and I didn’t want to leave, This too was  to be expected.

What wasn’t expected however was the revelation I would receive repeatedly during the weekend and the moment I returned from Atlanta.

In addition to the con, I also had the chance to catch up with my best friend, my brother, William. We caught dinner and caught up with each other’s lives and we both discussed the hardships of  the job-force. Our discussion forced me to ponder on what I’m doing with my life. Am I happy working the day job I worked? Am I content in my writing career? And as I expressed to Will, there’s more to life than the day-to-day rat race that we’re forced to endure.

A similar discussion emerged when I caught up with my other sibling and fellow storyteller, Amaya Radjani when she brought me up to speed on some exciting opportunities that she’s been offered. I found myself asking again, where am I? Where am I going? Am I happy? What am I going to do about it?

When I was younger, I swore that I was never going to become the guy who asked where did he go wrong in life and why is he stuck in a bad predicament. The signs kept pointing that there was something I had to learn this weekend, but I couldn’t figure out what it was.

Then the damndest thing happened. While I was in the hotel room, the movie Office Space was on. Of all the movies HBO could’ve played, they played the one movie where the protagonist was facing the same dilemma that I was facing at that time, that weekend.

I stopped believing in coincidences years ago. Call it Fate, call it God, call it some sophisticated probability, the message was being given loud and clear, it’s time to step out on faith and fulfill my purpose. I didn’t know how this was going to happen.

And no sooner did I return to work on Monday did some foolishness pop off and I knew right then and there, the time had come for me to move on and to fully embrace my purpose in life.

And what is my purpose?

I’m a bard, a storyteller. It is my art, it is my blessing, and the curse I’m burdened with. I have to write to stay sane. Whether it’s penning a blog entry for Livejournal, formulating an essay speaking out on the issues of minorities, utlilizing visual art to convey a story or share a profound truth, or writing another novel, this is my power. Like a shaman who uses his gifts, words are my tools to build, to aid, and in certain cases my weapons to protect. I share my story and the stories of others. I share our truths in an effort to make the world just a little bit better.

I had no qualms about working the dead end jobs while my writing took off but now I’m realizing that it’s time to kick it up a notch. I believe I’m meant to be doing something greater. And going forward, I’m going to attempt to restructure everything to work towards that purpose.

Regrets, I have none. As far as the past goes, I did what I had to do and I made the best decisions I was able to make with the information and resources that I had at my disposal at the time. Besides, I don’t think it was my time then. But I definitely believe my time is now.

I don’t know what all of this means or where I will end up but I definitely know that this is the path I’m  meant to be on. While I’m being mindful and wise about the choices I make, I’m not afraid and I’m not stressed out. For me, that’s saying something. That’s actually saying a lot.

I’m moving with purpose and stepping out on faith. I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but I get the feeling it’s going to be a hell of a ride.

MidSouthCon 31 Itinerary

 

I’m currently in Memphis and I’m living it up like a rock star for MidSouthCon 31. Below is my itinerary for MidSouthCon 31 this weekend. If you’re in attendance, stop by and say howdy.

 

SATURDAY

10:00AM – 11:00AM W Diversity vs. Tokenism
Guests of Honor: Ross Lockhart, Kimberly Richardson
Panelists: Hilaire Playa, Laura Underwood, Denny Upkins, Stephen Zimmer

Writing beyond your race, sex, or orientation without tokenizing your characters

 

3:00PM – 4:00PM W Spread Too Thin 
Panelists: Robert Krog, Tracy S. Morris, Van Plexico, Kirk Stevens, Denny Upkins

How to prioritize and manage your time

 

8:00PM – 9:00PM  Ultimate Villain Showdown
Guests of Honor: Ross Lockhart
Panelists: Alexander Brown, Jenny Oldenburg, James Tuck, Denny Upkins, Michelle Weston

There can only be one! In a fight to the death, which literary villain would come out on top?

 

11:00PM – 12:00AM LGBT Characters In Speculative Fiction
Panelists: Hilaire Playa, Selina Rosen, Angelia Sparrow, Denny Upkins

LGBT books and characters in Speculative Fiction

 

SUNDAY

1:00PM – 2:00PM Monster Hunter: Are You Safe? 
Panelists: Walt Boyes, John Hartness, James Tuck, Denny Upkins

How to Identify and Protect Yourself From Monsters

March Madness!!!!!

So starting next month business begins to pick up for me. In addition to editing and writing, con season kicks off for me.

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Exciting news! Yours truly will be back at MidsouthCon this year. Even more exciting is that I get to kick it with my good buddy Cherie Priest who is one of the Guest of Honors.

Oh yes. It’s about to go down.

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As you can see, my schedule is about to pick up and I can’t wait. I’ll be back at Norwescon this year. I’m very stoked to see all of my friends again and kick it with some awesome peeps. Seattle is one of my favorite cities and I’m always up for the chance to get back there. So if you’re in the area, definitely stop by and join us.

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To say Gaylaxicon/Outlantacon in Atlanta is a homecoming for me would be a major understatement. Can’t wait to see my family, be home and just party it up all weekend. And you will want to be there. No really, you will want to be there.

GMX Draws Near

Just a reminder that yours truly is going to be a guest at this year’s Geek Media Expo which will be held at the Cool Springs Conference Center & Franklin Marriott on Oct. 26-28.

I’m very excited about this. Epic fun will be epic. If you’re in the Nashville area, you definitely don’t want to miss this. Some most excellent people will be there and an awesome time will be had.

My Norwescon Panel Schedule

 

If you’re in the Seattle area this weekend, you should definitely stop by Norwescon. I’ll be there this weekend and I’m excited to spend the weekend with many awesome peeps and have some fun. Below is my panel schedule.

 

Panel Schedule:

Friday 2 pm Cascade 7
Minorities in comics

How do American comics differ from manga or European comics? When will there be less sexism in mainstream comics? Are token minorities better than none at all? What strengths and weaknesses are there in this medium for representing a unique look at these issues?
Dennis R. Upkins (M), Ashley “nerdtastic” Cook, Kate Merriwether Lynch, Charles “Zan” Christensen

 

Friday 6 pm Cascade 5
Queer Voices in SF/F

Science fiction and fantasy authors often use the fringes of mainstream culture as plot material. How do authors portray gender and sexuality in their works; and how realistic are the works of those who write outside their own identities? Are the tales of early authors who played with gender still relevant? And have these works changed fannish attitudes, and made those in the QUILTBAG community feel welcome?
Dennis R. Upkins (M), Charles “Zan” Christensen, Keffy R. M. Kehrli, Jeliza Patterson

Friday 9 pm Cascade 2
Young & Queer: Beyond The Trevor Project

Some attitudes have changed in the last decade or two; but how is it for those still struggling with their personal and sexual identities? How do we cope with widespread bullying from our peers and elders? What do we say when our personal identities don’t fit into one box or another? We encourage young people with questions about their place in society and fandom to come to talk and share strength with each other and with older fen who’ve been through it themselves.
Loree Parker (M), Gregory Gadow, Dennis R. Upkins, Alexander James Adams
Saturday 10 am Cascade 5
Writing for the Young and Young at Heart

Writing YA is about more than using small words. What does it take to make your YA story shine?
Lisa Mantchev (M), Dennis R. Upkins, Dierdre Phoenix

Saturday 2 pm Grand 2
Autograph Session 1

Meet the writers of all those fabulous SF/F books, share stories, and have them autograph their novels (especially the ones purchased in Norwescon’s wonderful Dealers Room). All of our distinguished Guests of Honor will be present. PLEASE: so that as many fans as possible can participate, we will be enforcing a limit of three books to autograph at a time! Also attending this session: Alma Alexander, K.C. Ball, Clinton Boomer, Satyros Phil Brucato, Ted Butler, Charles “Zan” Christensen, Bruce R Cordell, Elton Elliott, Steve Gillette, Dustin J Gross, Judith Herman, Jean Johnson, Stina Leicht, Grá Linnaea, Pat MacEwen, Lisa Mantchev, Susan Matthews, Tim McDaniel, Julie McGalliard, Mike Shepherd Moscoe, G. David Nordley, Karl “Ultraklystron” Olson, Irene Radford, Cat Rambo, Mary Robinette Kowal, David A. Rodriguez, Jon Rogers, Robert J. Schwalb, Lorelei Shannon, Bruce Taylor, Dennis R. Upkins

Saturday 3 pm Cascade 2
Race And Popular Media

Back when our TV sets still had rabbit ears, shows like Star Trek, The Jeffersons, Chico & The Man, Good Times, Welcome Back Kotter, Sanford & Son, and The Cosby Show brought the ordinary, exceptional, and fantastical lives of people of color into American living rooms every night. But from the look of current prime time schedules of the big four networks, those days have passed. What happened? And why? And what can we as media consumers do to bring diversity back to the weeknight lineup?
Sheye Anne Blaze (M), Dennis R. Upkins

Saturday 5 pm Cascade 8
How I Sold My Novel

Some debut novelists discuss the path they took in selling their first novel.

Rhiannon Held (M), Dennis R. Upkins, Christopher Paul Carey

Coming Soon….

Update time. I’ve been busy working on a novella that a publisher friend of mine wants to check out. So far it’s going well and business is about to pick up.

And speaking of business picking up, exciting news!

I’ve been sitting on this announcement for a few months now but I didn’t want to say anything until the other parties officially announced it. Now that they have, so can I.

Yours truly will be a guest at not one but two upcoming sci-fi conventions:

 

March 23-25
Memphis, TN

And in 2 weeks following…….

 

April 5-8
Seattle, WA

You can check out my guest pages here and here.

Not gonna lie, this has pretty much been me: