Coffeehouse reading

The reading for the Steel City Speculative Series went swimmingly!  The event took place at Steel Valley Roasters, a coffeehouse I’ve never been to but it was very nice.  Large artworks dominated the bare brick walls, a low counter was piled with old board games, and I got to relax on a huge and incredibly comfortable couch that filled most of one wall.

There were five readers total.  Jamie Lackey, who organizes the series, started us off with something short and sweet, “The Straw Mother,” one of her stories which appeared in Triangulation 2014.  Then I read the first few pages of “The Evening Path,” which appeared in Triangulation 2016.  And because that’s a heavier story, I followed it up with the beginning of my much sillier story, Why I’m Asking for an Extension on my Paper. It seemed appropriate, since it’s Halloween Season and if there’s one thing Pittsburgh does well, it’s zombies.

Triangulation readers - small
Left to right: Jennifer Hykes (that’s me!), Jamie Lackey, Diane Turnshek, Frank Oreto, and Doug Gwylim

Diane Turnshek, the creator of the Triangulation anthology series, read her intriguing short story “Vegan.”   I won’t give it away but I will say that the title has a double-meaning.  Frank Oreto, one of the anthology co-editors, read a short story from Triangulation 2017 that managed to be both horrifying and hilarious (a rare combination to pull off well); I unfortunately failed to get the name of the story or the author, but it involved a giant statue of Elvis carved out of jello.  And Doug Gwylim, the other co-editor, finished us off with a reading of “Soulmate’s Song” by Christina ‘DZA’ Marie, published in Triangulation 2018.  It’s a story that deals with the heavy topic of race relations in World War II, but it was an incredible story.

Overall, it was a great night for coming together and enjoying some excellent stories with some amazing people.  A perfect way to spend a crisp autumn evening.  So if you’re in the Pittsburgh area and you love a good SFF tale, this is definitely a reading series to look out for!  And if any of these stories pique your interest, definitely check out the Triangulation series!



Reading on November 5

This Monday, November 5, I’ll be doing a reading at Steel Valley Roasters in Homestead, PA at 7 pm.  This particular reading will feature several authors whose works have appeared in the annual speculative fiction anthology Triangulation.  So if you enjoy good SFF, come out for a nice evening of storytelling!

The reading is part of the Steel City Speculative Series, which hosts regular SFF readings featuring local writers.

Not gonna lie, I’m a little excited and nervous, since this is my first public reading.  So we’ll see how it goes!  If you’re in the area on Monday night, and you like my stuff, feel free to stop by and show your support!

The Dragon Lady

I just got back from being a dragonrider this weekend, and boy are my dragon’s wings tired.

Wait, let me back up.

I first discovered Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern books in 7th grade.  Our English class was doing units on different genres, and for one of them, I selected Dragonquest, the second book in the Dragonriders of Pern series.  It changed my life.

It was not my first SFF book.  But it was my first adult SFF novel, one that took place in a fully-developed secondary world that was so well fleshed out, so finely detailed, that I felt like I could live there.  It made me see exactly what SFF was capable of, when it came to building entire new worlds of imagination to explore.

It was not the book that made me start writing, or think of being a writer.  But it was the book that made me realize I wanted to write for the rest of my life.  Like most kids, my career aspirations by middle school had wandered all over the map, from botanist to musician, from ballet dancer to ichthyologist (yeah, I wanted to study fish for a while there, and I loved being able to say “ichthyologist”).  But the Dragonriders of Pern series honed my aspirations to a fine point:  I wanted to write, to be an author and create brilliant worlds like Anne McCaffrey.

I’ve been writing ever since.

Not coincidentally, I’ve loved dragons ever since.

I had the privilege of being able to meet Ms. McCaffrey once, at her Dragonhold home in Ireland, over 15 years ago.  I remember her as warm and welcoming, willing without hesitation to spend a morning entertaining a fan and feeding me lunch.  (She made me a BLT!)  Her hospitality, in fact, was a well-known side of her, as so many people will attest.  I will always remember her fondly as the woman whose works changed my life, and who was also kind enough to give me a lift to the train station.

And so, in deepest love for those books and the woman who wrote them, I find myself once a year at Fort Fest, an annual retreat for a Pern role-playing fan club.  I get to enjoy the great outdoors and hang out with fellow McCaffrey fans, the sort of folks who are hospitable and creative and have way too many dragon-themed toys and crafts.  (Although, can anyone truly be said to have too many dragon-themed toys and crafts? asks the woman who has dedicated an entire bookshelf just to her dragon figurines…)  It’s always a good time, full of games and music, feasting and costumes, nature walks and mutual complaining about all these fire lizards getting everywhere.

Fort Fest
The queen dragon watches all…

There’s no moral to this story.  This is just me telling you about a beautiful thing that exists because one woman, somewhere, had a beautiful heart and wrote beautiful stories.  That’s a true joy of art:  the hope that your work will resonate with someone, may move them to create something in their turn, may even change their life for the better.

So, make things.  Put them out there.  Who knows?  The story you’re telling might bring someone joy.  It might encourage someone to create in their turn.  It might be exactly what someone out there needs to hear.

After the Nebulas

So it’s been pretty quiet on this blog for the past month, but I’m still here!  May was a busy month for me, full of conventions and trips—including the Nebulas, which took place right here in Pittsburgh!  This is the second year in a row they’ve been local, so it’s the second year in a row that I’ve attended.

It’s a great convention, full of interesting people and great conversation and some really excellent, top-notch panels.  It’s also a super inclusive convention that (from my admittedly able-bodied perception) really went out of its way to be as accessible and welcoming as possible.  If you have the opportunity, and want to meet some really cool folks in the professional writing/publishing community, I recommend trying to go at least once!

Of course, one of the most fun elements of the Nebulas is the impressive swag bag of free books you get just for registering.  They come in a really sturdy tote bag, which is good, because you’re going to need it to carry all those books!  In addition to all the books I purchased in their on-site bookstore, my free books consisted of 14 novels, 2 anthologies, 1 graphic novel and 5 magazines.  Whew!  That’ll keep me in reading materials for a while.  I’m still making my way through last year’s pile—though to be fair, I’ve been splitting my attention between reading through my Nebula acquisitions and reading through stuff that’s already been in my To Be Read pile for a while.

Then again, I’m never going to complain about having too many books.  It allows me to be a dork like this:

The elusive Jennifer Hykes in her natural environment: lying in a pile of books.

Nebulas 2018

Hey folks, this is just a brief update that I’ll be attending the 2018 Nebula conference, which will be held once again in my hometown of Pittsburgh.  I had the great opportunity to attend the Nebulas last year and had an absolute blast, so I’m looking forward to attending again.  If you’re in the local SFF crowd, I hope to see you there!  And if you are in the not-so-local SFF crowd, I look forward to meeting you 🙂

Going to the Nebulas!

Hey everyone, guess who has two thumbs and is going to be attending the SFWA Nebula Conference?

This writer!  . . . And also many other people.  In fact, I’m going to venture a guess that there will be many two-thumbed people this weekend attending the Nebulas.

They will also, in large part, be fellow SFF writers, editors, publishers, industry vets, etc. and I cannot wait to meet them and hear what they have to talk about. Continue reading “Going to the Nebulas!”