6th Annual Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off: An Introduction to the SPFBO

6th Annual Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off

An Introduction to the SPFBO

A Tale of Stars and Shadow by Lisa Cassidy – Spoiler Free Review

A Tale of Stars and Shadow

Spoiler Free Review

Out of Body by Jeffrey Ford

ARC Review


New York Comic Com 2015 Report – Part One

Once upon a time, the Supreme Overlords of Fantasy-Faction asked if anyone on staff lived in the general area of New York City and would be willing to take one for the team and go to New York Comic Con with a press badge. “It’s a tough job,” I said to myself, “but somebody’s gotta do it.”

I’ve never been to NYCC before. I’ve been to a few smaller cons, mostly for books, readers, and authors, but nothing even remotely on the scale of Comic Con. I packed up my trusty camera, a notebook, a Kaylee costume, eight Luna bars, four books, and a bottle of water, and I was ready. I made it to my bus with a whole thirty seconds to spare (thank you commuter traffic), and off I went!

NYCC - Entrance



The first panel I went to was Tor: The Next Generation, moderated by John Scalzi. This was billed as a game of “Would You Rather” with new authors Ilana C. Myer, Fran Wilde, Seth Dickinson, and Lawrence M. Schoen. I made it with a solid two seconds to spare and slipped into the back row. It was a panel filled with banter, but a few things really stood out for me:

1. John Scalzi comes up with really difficult would-you-rather questions.
2. Seth Dickinson would make a great Evil Overlord.
3. I want Fran Wilde on my team if I ever have to impress the Evil Overlord with my clever twisting of intent and disregard for rules. Respect.

Highlights included questions such as: Would you rather be a Jedi or a Sith? My favorite answer was Fran Wilde, who said “Yes,” with great conviction and refused to change her answer. I also enjoyed that when asked whether they would rather have a gun or a printing press for a weapon each author chose the printing press for slightly different reasons. Seth Dickinson said it was because he could then contact all the people with guns, and Wilde again had my favorite answer, saying that in addition to being a useful communication tool you could totally crush someone with it. Brutal.

I have only one point of contention with the authors in general. Scalzi asked whether they would rather “uplift” (give sentience to) a dog or a squid, since they had previously determined that giving a cat intelligence was a Bad Idea. Every single one of them said squid, which leads me to believe that when the cephalopods rise from the deeps in their inevitable takeover, they will find four skilled writers armed with printing presses, ready to placate the human masses with pro-squid propaganda. Cats would have been a better bet people, seriously. At least our doom would be snuggly.

I spent the rest of Thursday trying to orient myself in the Javits Center. By the time I left for my friends’ house in Brooklyn it was dark, I was hungry, and I had managed to find most of the major publishers’ booths. There were a few fabulous costumes, I had circled the panels I wanted to go to the next day, and I felt good about the whole business.


Friday was a busy day for me. I dressed up a bit as Low-Key Hipster Lady Loki, and two people even guessed that I was riffing on the Marvel character! I went to three panels, an author signing, and stopped by the main floor again to re-familiarize myself with the booth setup. There were giveaways and authors showing up at various booths at mysterious times, and I wanted to make sure I knew what was what.

The day started off strong with a panel called The New Geeky Journalism. Featured were Jill Pantozzi, Abraham Riesman, Emily Asher-Perrin, Genevieve Valentine, and late addition Kevin P. Sullivan. It was moderated by Ryan C. Britt, author of Luke Skywalker Can’t Read and Other Geeky Truths. Britt asked some great questions about journalism in general, and geeky journalism in particular. I was fascinated by the diversity of opinion within the group – when asked about writing opinion pieces there were wildly different answers. Riesman said that he doesn’t like writing opinions, because he doesn’t like writing negative reviews. Asher-Perrin, on the other hand, said that almost everything she writes is opinionated and emotional. Geek journalism is tied to emotions, they all agreed, because when you review a movie, or a TV show, or a book that someone loves it can feel very personal.

Jill Pantozzi had the most poignant point of the panel when she said, “You have to address the ways in which something failed.” Even if you love the book (or the show, or whatever) you have to compare it to its own perfect incarnation and then point out the ways in which it could improve. This can feel hostile to the reader, but in fact it’s just good journalism, and applies to what we do here at Fantasy-Faction just as much as it does to the wider world of journalism. When speaking about a piece of media, a good reviewer needs to hold the piece up to a rubric of its fullest potential, and point out where it failed. The example she gave hit home for me; she said she had never liked the show Firefly, because though the universe is described as half Chinese there are no Chinese characters in the main cast, and indeed, very few even show up as extras. I love Firefly but I know what she means.

Jill Pantozzi, Genevieve Valentine, Abraham Riesman, Kevin P. Sullivan, Ryan C. Britt, and Emily Asher-Perrin by Sonia Grace

Jill Pantozzi, Genevieve Valentine, Abraham Riesman, Kevin P. Sullivan, Ryan C. Britt, and Emily Asher-Perrin.

I hung out after the panel to chat and found everyone delightful in person. Also, Emily Asher-Perrin’s Hawkeye costume was awesome.

Molly Ostertag and Brennan Lee Mulligan by Sonia Grace

Molly Ostertag and Brennan Lee Mulligan

While I was waiting to get into the next panel an amazing and fortuitous thing happened. I was standing there just minding my own business when I saw two people walking down the hall, one of whom I recognized. “Molly?” I asked, shocked that in this huge mass of humanity I had run into someone I went to college with. It was indeed Molly Ostertag and Brennan Lee Mulligan, respectively the artist and writer of the successful webcomic Strong Female Protagonist, which features a young, middle-class American with super strength, invincibility, and a strong sense of social injustice. If you like superhero comics you should check it out.

Next up was a panel with a set of successful, self-published indie authors. It was fun, and they had some powerful things to say about diversity in fantasy and science fiction. It’s an issue that has been coming up more in recent times, but the mainstream publishing industry still has a long way to go. On this panel creators discussed the difficulties and joys of managing all of their own content, marketing, and distribution, plus their goals as creators. Two stated a commitment to bringing diversity to sci-fi and fantasy as the major impetus behind their work. On the panel were Nilah Magruder, Greg Garay, April Adams, Neil Gibson, and Cerece Rennie Murphy, and it was moderated by Sonic Electric’s Dean Plakas and Michael “7” Michael.

My last panel for the day was Wicked Reads, featuring April Genevieve Tucholke, Danielle Vega, Jake Halpern, Kim Liggett, Zac Brewer, and Michael Buckley, and moderated by Danielle Paige, author of Dorothy Must Die. It was an absolute delight, and I livetweeted the whole thing. I storified it, so it should be easy to read now.

Sonia Grace and Jake Halpern by Sonia Grace

Sonia Grace and Jake Halpern

After the panel I went to their signing and ended up chatting with Jake Halpern about journalism and his book Nightfall for at least half an hour. I’m in the midst of writing a review of his book right now. Everyone was also kind enough to sign a poster for a friend of mine who couldn’t make it to the con this year, which just goes to show that horror writers aren’t scary at all! Although their fascination with Lovecraft and Stephen King is a bit alarming in its intensity sometimes.

The rest of Friday was spent on the con floor, photographing excellent cosplays and lurking around the publishers’ booths chatting with fellow book nerds. It was a good time, and by the time I headed back to Brooklyn I was exhausted in the best way. The next day was Saturday, but since Friday was my biggest day in terms of panels I decided to spend a lot of time in Artist’s Alley and chatting with publishers and authors. I collapsed into bed and was out like a light.


One Comment

  1. Avatar Mama Bear says:

    You painted such a great picture of the events you participated in. It was fun to read and your humor is a treat. Did you study journalism in school????

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