“Is this your first Capclave?” the woman at the registration desk asked me. After informing her that it was, she smiled and replied, “Welcome,” to me and all of the other newcomers.
From October 11-13, the annual Capclave conference was held at the Hilton/Washington, DC in Gaithersburg, MD. The annual conference (aka a Con) was hosted by the Washington Science Fiction Association (WSFA). Unlike the other Cons which are more media driven, the Capclave had a literary emphasis and was geared towards the actual craft of writing Science Fiction.
“In my writings, I always seem to default to the male protagonist and I don’t know why,” the energetic veteran Science Fiction author Brenda Clough paused from crocheting to answer a question in a discussion titled “That’s not My Sex,” which discussed authors who create protagonists of the opposite sex in their stories. “It’s like you automatically reach for the spatula when you start cooking. It’s like the most natural thing.”
“Mistakes that some female authors make when creating male protagonists are creating Mr. Fixit, creating men that are perfect, and creating emotionless men,” said authors Janine Spendlove and Hildy Silvernan. The talk at times felt as much like a men’s or women’s studies class as it did a literary workshop. When talking about his own writing, Author James Morrow stated, “The woman’s psyche is very complex. I tend to create female protagonists because I don’t want to slide into fiction that is biographical.”
This discussion was one of many at the Con. Other topics included Space Marines and Goblin Troopers, Are Prose Superheroes Still Novel?, Any Resemblance to Real People is Intentional, and The Sub-genres of Science Fiction Action Adventure. That was just on Friday night. There were more workshops on Saturday and Sunday, as well as book readings, and Author’s tables. Special guests at the conference included George R.R. Martin (author), Sharyn November (editor), Steve Stiles (fan artist) and Harold Waldrop.
“When writing military science fiction, authors often don’t completely think through what they’re creating,” one of the authors in the Space Marines discussion said when asked about what writers of this sub-genre do wrong. Another panelist commented, “Not everyone in the military wants to be there. Far too often authors create armies with characters that aren’t authentic.”
A fan of Science/Phantasy Fiction myself, the Capclave Con was first introduced to me during writing workshops led by the above mentioned Brenda Clough at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD. As at our workshops, she was facetiously very vocal about her disdain for the movie Pacific Rim, but gave interestingly rave reviews to the new movie Gravity.
“To write Science Fiction, one of the most important tools you have to have a good imagination,” Mrs. Clough, the author of eight books said when asked about the keys to the craft. “It’s a genre that is a lot of fun because everything is wide open regarding the rules.”
“The WSFA meets twice a month here in the DC area, once in Maryland and once in Virginia” said Kathi Overton, and avid fan of science fiction and also one of the Friends of the David M. Brown Arlington Planetarium. “The Capclave Con has been around since the 1980s.”