Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."
Hey, everybody! Thanksgiving is this week, and you know what that means: this weekend is Chessiecon!
Chessiecon is by far the best-run convention I attend. I love it and I'm sure you will, too. I'll be doing an assload of panels this year, so I hope to see you there.
So, again as far as dates, it will be this weekend, November 23-25, 2018. The location is:
Red Lion Hotel Baltimore North
2004 Greenspring Drive
Timonium, MD 21093
And my (batshit crazy) schedule is below. Hope to see you there!
Friday 4:15 pm - Greenspring 1 - "How Not to Get Published" (Moderator)
A discussion of the mistakes and pitfalls common in SF/F publishing, and how to avoid them.
Steve Kozeniewski (M), Linda Adams, Scott Edelman, Karen Osborne, Steven R. Southard Friday 5:30 pm - Greenspring 2 - "But What if There Really Is a Wolf?
This panel appears to be cancelled. I'll leave it on here until I confirm.
Friday 6:45 pm - Greenspring 1 - "Running a Small Press"
A daunting task, taking on the title of publisher. Learn what is involved, in terms of subject matter, scheduling, financing, and personalities. Also, other less-obvious aspects of what might be involved, and what to avoid.
Harrison Demchick (M), Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Cristin Kist, Steve Kozeniewski, Martin Wilsey
Saturday 10:00 am - Greenspring 3-5 - "FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, 200th Anniversary"
Possibly the earliest SF/F work still widely read, this novel has influenced literature since its publication. Direct retellings include terrifying films and hilarious TV shows. We can see Frankenstein's influence in works as recent as the TV series Dexter and the popular web series Worm. Come discuss the work itself and its effect on feminism and society as we celebrate its bicentennial.
Carl Cipra (M), C.S. Friedman, Steve Kozeniewski, Jo Miles, Steven R. Southard Saturday 11:15 am - Greenspring 3-5 - "Walking To Mordor: A Panel About Pacing and Time Compression"
There is something to be said about making your world feel big and the journey from point A to point B feel long and arduous. But if you're not careful, your epic odyssey may become a bedtime story! How do you make a long journey or passage of time interesting, and how do you know when to trim things down?
Don Sakers (M), Elektra Hammond, Steve Kozeniewski, Jo Walton
At our somewhat misguided request, authors created the opening paragraph to the worst SF/F novel they could conceive of. For four years running, our imaginative and inspired writers have come up with some beautiful, horrible, awful, and awe-inspiring works. Come hear what our finalists have written this year, and what our judges have to say about it. Winners will be awarded dubious prizes later in the evening.
Don Sakers (M), Lee Budar-Danoff, Beth Chandler, Harrison Demchick, Steve Kozeniewski
Saturday 5:30 pm - Greenspring 3-5 - "Rules of Writing, and When to Break Them" (Moderator)
Show, don't tell. Active rather than passive. Use energetic verbs instead of adverbs. These, among many others, are rules of writing that get beaten into us from day one. But are they immutable? Are they being used as intended or have they been misunderstood? When should we resist the temptation to bend the rules, and when should we modify them or even toss them out the window?
Steve Kozeniewski (M), Harrison Demchick, Ruthanna Emrys, Sarah Pinsker, Jo Walton Saturday 6:45 pm - Atrium - Mass Signing
Authors, artists, and musicians gather for signing/book-selling/chatting with fans.
Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Leslie Roy Carter, Margaret Carter, Dr. Mary Crowell, Mary Fan, C.S. Friedman, J.L. Gribble, Elektra Hammond, Intisar Khanani, Steve Kozeniewski, Katherine Kurtz, Timothy Liebe, Valerie Mikles, Tamora Pierce, Sarah Pinsker, Roberta Rogow, Michelle D. Sonnier, Steven R. Southard, Jo Walton, Martin Wilsey Saturday 9:15 pm - Greenspring 1 - "Where Does it All End? Turning Your Story Into a Cohesive Whole"
Well begun may be half done, but how do you figure out where you are ultimately going with your idea, the great ending, and how do you get there? Our panelists will discuss the elements that make up a good middle and end of a story and how to connect them.
Mary Fan, C.S. Friedman, Cristin Kist, Steve Kozeniewski, Jo Miles Sunday 10:00 am - Greenspring 1 - "The 60-minute Plot"
A panel of writers takes suggestions from the audience to concoct the plot of a story.
Roberta Rogow (M), Harrison Demchick, Cristin Kist, Steve Kozeniewski, Valerie Mikles, Michelle D. Sonnier Sunday 11:15 am - Greenspring 2 - "Famous Animals in Fantasy"
Whether as major characters in such works as Narnia, Watership Down, and Redwall, or as background characters in humanoid-centered fantasy worlds like Middle Earth or Damar, animals have played important and influential roles in genre literature. That's before even considering dragons! Join our panelists in a celebration and discussion of candidates for the Fantastic Animal Hall of Fame.
Nicole Jamison, Heather Rose Jones, Steve Kozeniewski, Tamora Pierce, Sarah Sexton Sunday 12:30 pm - Greenspring 2 - "They're the Protagonist, But Are They a Role Model?"
The panel discusses protagonists who aren't inherently good people or who don't have inherently good goals, and what that means for how the reader perceives them and the story. Does a flawed character automatically mean a flawed story? Can an author tell a moral story with an amoral protagonist?
Don Sakers (M), Harrison Demchick, Jeff Gritman, Steve Kozeniewski, Jo Walton
Hey, everybody! Slight change of venue from normal, so if you've been waiting for me to appear in New York City, this is your chance to meet me. The New York Review of Science Fiction will be hosting An Evening with Serial Box next Tuesday, November 13.
I'll be representing the "Silverwood: The Door" crew and doing a brief reading from one of my episodes. But authors from the other Serial Box stories will also be there, including:
I'm probably wasting my time, if we're being frank. If you're actually reading this, you've probably already made up your mind about voting tomorrow. Hell, a lot of you have the option of early voting, so a lot of you may have already voted.
I don't. I just wanted to point that out. In Pennsylvania we don't have early voting, so the whole concept is especially foreign to me. We just get one day. Always have. Hopefully won't always in the future, but that's it. The first Tuesday in November is our only chance to make our voices heard in Pennsylvania. It makes it feel more consequential, perhaps.
It's our only chance.
So, like I said, if you're reading this, I'm probably not going to change your mind. On Friday I tried to reach out to the dedicated fence sitters. The ones who are deliberately not voting tomorrow. If you don't think there are people like that, you're mistaken. A lot of people consider the options, carefully weight them, and opt not to vote. The system and the people in it have ground them down. It's not, I believe, a lack of civil responsibility, but a lack of faith.
I was like that once. I didn't vote in 2000. I've regretted it ever since. It's not that my vote would have fixed the next eight years of misery I had to endure as a soldier in the Bush years. It's that I know if a few thousand people like me had thought differently, it would have a made a difference.
I've been wondering over the weekend about those words that I wrote on Friday. Why do I have such trouble expressing that you can be disappointed in the system, disappointed in the country even, but the only real voice you have for change is your vote? What is it that I find so hard to express about that?
And it came to me this weekend. If everyone voted, the abuses inherent in the system would melt away.
Don't like the two-party system? If everyone voted, third parties would have a far greater market share, and we would probably have a coalition government.
Don't like the abuses of the primary process? Imagine if everyone voted. There'd be no insurgent Trumps slipping through the cracks on the backs of a few firebrands. Primaries would mirror generals, and our candidates would all be much more moderate.
Don't like gerrymandering? Imagine if it didn't matter how you packed or cracked a district, because everyone in it was voting. Voters would be forced to choose their representatives rather than representatives choosing their voters.
Voter apathy is a tool. That's what bothers me about it. The disingenuous bastards with the reptile smiles want you to believe it's all pointless and fixed and the outcome is determined in advance. And the more you believe that, the more it is. The less you engage, the more they can push you out. You may think not voting is a well-considered choice, but it's really some asshole using you.
In the Australian system, voting is mandatory. If you don't vote you pay a fine. They also have the option to vote "no choice." I'd feel a million times better about Americans who walked into the voting booth and had the option to choose no one than the people who feel morally obligated to sit out every election.
In America, it's about the ground game. It's about the get-out-the-vote operation. It's about, when you think about, falsifying the wishes of the electorate by encouraging some of them to stay home and others to go to the polls. It's a game of three card monte and it's bullshit.
The voters are the oversight for the government. If everyone voted, the desires of the electorate would have to be represented by the government. As it is, politicians have learned that if they can mobilize their base, they can win elections, and that means fuck the 2/3 of the electorate who disagree with you.
Think about that. While not always the same and not always precise, this country is basically composed of about 1/3 liberals, 1/3 conservatives, and 1/3 moderates. Anytime you take a stance, the person to the left and the right of you will disagree. And yet we can be governed. We can and have been governed for going on 250 years. Slowly, inexorably, we have sought to build a more perfect union. It has become more perfect as more and more people have been enfranchised.
Over the years, in various ways, sometimes peaceful, sometimes bloody, each American minority - including women who, rather ironically, are a majority - have fought and earned the right to vote. And now that we have it, some people choose, whether deliberately or not, not to use it. And it's fucking up the system.
The more people vote the better our system gets. I doubt we'll ever have a mandatory, Australian-style system. I'd love that. The ideologues would disappear in a puff of shit-flavored wind. There'd be no question about where the American people stand on any issue. We would just fucking let you know once a year. That would shut up the pundits, too.
No, we'll probably never get that. Or at least no time soon. But we can replicate it by packing the polls to bursting with as many bodies as possibly. We can attempt to replicate mandatory voting by making everyone want to vote.
I wish the system wasn't so fucked-up, too. I talked about that at length last week. I don't like my vote being nullified, or stretched, or diluted. I don't like a whole lot of fucking things. But I believe if we start holding our representatives' feet to the fire by pulling those levers tomorrow, we can right this ship.
I want to address someone I don't normally address on this blog: the person who's planning not to vote on Tuesday.
Now, if that's you, you've most likely already closed this blogpost. You don't need to hear another shrill rant about the importance of voting. And God knows I have no interest in giving one. So this won't be that.
For that small percentage of you that are still reading, though, I want you to know this: I'm just like you. I can't say why you, personally, are going to be sitting out this election but I'm going to guess it's one of a few reasons.
The first is that you might not have time. You work a job, maybe two jobs, have kids at home, an actual life and shit to deal with. You really can't go spend an hour waiting in line to vote, even if you want to. And I'm sure if that's you, you don't need another "make the time" speech, and I sure as shit don't want to give you one. You know your own schedule and your own life.
Others of you are shitbirds. You don't care about voting, civic duty, or probably much of anything else. Nothing's going to turn you around, so I'm not even going to waste my time trying with this paragraph. Shitbirds are going to be shitbirds.
But for some of you not voting is a deliberate choice. Not a failure. Not an oversight. A conclusion arrived upon after careful consideration.
Maybe you're disgusted with the candidates. It's hard to blame you. The politicians who have made it through the muddy stream of popular election and remained good and honorable are few and far between. Most of these people are power-hungry, or amoral, or, perhaps worst of all, rich fucks who were born rich and who have that shit-eating grin of someone who knows they'll always get their way. That's who politicians are, with exceptions being few and far between, so you're not wrong to dislike them.
Maybe you think your vote doesn't matter. And that is also hard to argue with. It really doesn't. Not your vote. Yours will be diluted by the votes of 50 million of your closest friends and neighbors. Some of them are hopeless morons, and a lot of the ones that aren't just straight up will disagree with your views. And your vote will be further diluted by gerrymandering, voter suppression, and a system that's set up to enfranchise some at the expense of others. And that's all before you even get to the elecoral college.
Maybe you just think the whole goddamned system is a mess. And that, my friend, is also hard to argue against.
I'm the same as you. I think the American system of governance is utterly corrupt. It barely counts as a democracy, in the sense that the people rule. And, yes, I understand how a representative democracy is supposed to work, but kids, this ain't it. Like I mentioned above, there's gerrymandering, there's voter suppression, there are a million little tricks and tools that let the people in charge keep the plebes like you and me away from the decision-making process. And that's just the illicit stuff. With Citizens United bribery is legal in our country. The rich are calling the shots, and they've set the whole thing up to be as close to an autocratic, kleptocratic oligarchy as possible while maintaining the barest sheen of voting to keep the masses from revolting.
I'm probably not making a very good argument for you to vote on Tuesday, am I?
Well, I agree. The whole thing's a mess, the two party system is a joke, and we'd all be better off if things were very, very different. What is really called for is a revolution. Tear the whole thing down and start again. That's how I've felt for a long time. I didn't vote in 2000 for every reason I've listed above and then some.
And you know who won the presidential election in 2000? That's right: Al Gore. But you know who got seated in 2000? That's right, George W. Bush. One of the absolute worst presidents of all time, although, sadly, he seems like a downright statesman considering the current occupant of the White House.
I lived in horror through the Bush years. It almost seems quaint now, but for me it was an utter shitshow. I got sent to Iraq for...well, no reason really, when you get right down to it. I almost got sent back to Afghanistan after I'd left the army because of Bush-era policies. Just about everything was a nightmare. Personal privacy is a joke now, after however many Patriot Acts.
Sometimes I think about what the state of the country would be like today if Gore had been seated. Maybe historical forces were already in play, and things wouldn't be terribly different. But when I think about Gore, a dedicated environmentalist, being president for eight years right before, you know, we now get summers in November, I truly believe everything would have been very, very different.
See, here's the thing: in spite of all the shenanigans and the electoral college and all that shit, we do still have elections in this country. They've been reduced to a shadow of actually representing popular desires, sure. But until an Emperor Palpatine from "Star Wars"-level villain steps in and actually declares America the First Global Empire, elections are still going to dictate who is in power.
You've already figured all of this out. You're smart enough to see that all these assholes, these moneyed interests, and hell, let's just be blunt, the Republican Party, are putting their fingers on the scales in every way they can to keep your voice from being heard. They're laughing at your childish wish for a representative democracy. They think it's quaint, and they can just legislate a million tiny structural changes that will prevent you from having a voice in how you're governed. And they are loving the fact that you've become disenchanted and decided not to vote.
Look, here's where we're at, my friends. There is genuinely a "Star Wars"-level villain in the White House. You've been paying attention. You've seen that he wants nothing more than to abolish the media, and the next step is probably abolishing free and fair elections, or at least the husk of what used to call free and fair elections.
Remember when I said above the system is utterly corrupt? I changed that from "hopelessly" corrupt. Because it's not hopeless. There is hope. Just a shred.
This is it. This is our chance. Maybe our last chance. All the bastards trying to hold us down are expecting a whimper this year. Well, the only way we fight back is if we roar. If you go out, even just you, the people who have given careful consideration to the matter and decided voting is futile, if even you go out and vote that scale with the finger on it can flip the other way. And it'll snap on the bastards who've been holding it like a mousetrap.
Elections are still being held. They may not be next year. We're really at that point. But this year we need everyone in America to get out there and exercise the only option left to us for fixing our brokedick system. Maybe after that the powers that be will be so spooked that they'll make a few moves to make a few things right. Maybe gradually we can reclaim our representative democracy, make it worthy of the name again. But if you don't make a move this year, the whole fucking thing could be sunk. And that's not me being Chicken Little, that's just me being a pragmatist. Like you.