World Fantasy 2022: In-person conventions are on!

Donald and Kristin have spent the last weekend at the World Fantasy Convention in New Orleans, catching up with friends, participating in panel discussions, and promoting Mysterion

This is not New Orleans.

Since Donald's sisters live in Louisiana, we were also able to combine convention travel with visiting family, including a pleasant walk around the Mary Ann Brown Nature Preserve (pictured above).

The last World Fantasy Convention we "attended" was in 2020, all remote, and it mostly convinced us that we didn't want to bother with any more remote conventions (though the organizers did as well as they could have, under the circumstances). It was wonderful to be back in person; though we do tend to find that, of the conventions we travel to, World Fantasy is not the most fertile ground for connecting with people likely to be interested in what we're doing (Christian-focused short fiction from a tiny press with only two books, both print on demand). However, we did encounter people who were already familiar with Mysterion despite not knowing us personally or having submitted stories to us in the past, and were glad to give them the opportunity to connect our publication with the faces behind it. And we met others who may have written or be likely to write the kind of stories we're interested in, and hope that having met us in person will encourage them to send us something.

We were each scheduled to be on one panel, but Kristin was also pressed into service with only a few hours' notice to moderate a panel that she had not expected to be on at all, when the actual moderator's flight was delayed. Fortunately, the panel was "The Art of Short Fiction", a topic Kristin may have thought about from time to time, and it seemed to go fairly well despite Kristin finding out only after getting to the panel that one of the participants would be joining remotely via Zoom. Kristin credits her apparent success in jumping in as a last-minute moderator to all those years of leading Bible studies without necessarily having prepared all that well in advance. (The overall success of the panel was mostly due to the insight and thoughtfulness of the other panelists, some of whom are living legends in the field of short speculative fiction writing.)

Kristin's other panel was "Alternative History: Bending the Past", and Donald's was "The Well-Read Fantasy Lovers Bookshelf", and both were enjoyable discussions in which to participate.

The next conventions on our schedule are Arisia and Boskone in January and February, both in Boston. We'll probably both be on panels at Arisia (but not Boskone), but don't expect to know the details until December. Stay tuned!

Steam Deck Writing

Kristin the Luddite bought her first laptop years ago so she could keep up with fiction writing while attending and traveling to her first World Fantasy Convention (Madison, Wisconsin in 2005). Donald recently bought a Steam Deck for other reasons. The Steam Deck is a handheld computer meant for playing PC games, and Donald has been playing Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous on it. But underneath the gaming storefront, it's a fairly powerful Linux computer. Donald was wondering whether he could also use it to do some actual writing. The answer is yes, but it's not totally straightforward.

The Steam Deck has a touchscreen keyboard, similar to what you can call up on your phone, but it takes up half the screen and isn't easy to use. So the first step is to buy a Bluetooth keyboard that can be used with it. Donald bought the Rii 518S keyboard (Amazon associate link), with a built-in touchpad. It's functional, but small, and probably not what he would recommend for serious typing.

Next, a larger monitor also makes writing easier. Donald uses the ViewSonic VA1655 (Amazon associate link). An advantage of this monitor is that you can plug the power into one USB-C port, and the Steam Deck into the other USB-C port, and the monitor will be set up as a display and power the Steam Deck as well.

In the Steam Deck, you can select power from the Steam menu (or hold down the Power button), and select Switch to Desktop to go to the Linux desktop. If you have an online writing program that you can reach through a web browser (such as Google Docs), at this point you're done. 

But Donald prefers different software, three programs in particular. First, Word or an equivalent. Second, a cloud storage location, such as Dropbox. And third, Scrivener.

The first is the easiest. You can use the Discover app to find LibreOffice, and install it. LibreOffice is a full, open-source software suite that most closely resembles an older version of Microsoft Office. Some people actually prefer the LibreOffice interface, and it has good Word document compatibility. So that's done.

The second is not too hard. You can also find Dropbox in the Discover app. The problem Donald encountered is that it didn't run. It would start up, the icon would appear in the running services bar, but Donald couldn’t log in and get it to sync, since it wouldn’t open up the website. Thanks to an anonymous review, Donald discovered that he could fix that problem by going to the terminal (the program is called Konsole on the Steam Deck) and running the command “systemctl restart --user xdg-desktop-portal”. This restarts the service that allows programs to launch other programs, so that Dropbox could open an URI in the browser.

Then came the hardest part: Scrivener. Donald’s still using version 1.9, never having updated to version 3. He could have bought a version 3 license, then gone through the rigamarole of getting a Windows program running on a Linux environment. Some people have succeeded, using Wine, but Donald’s not sure anyone’s succeeded using the default Proton compatibility layer on Steam Deck, and he didn’t want to install a new compatibility layer and mess with the dependencies.

An alternative was a 7-year-old beta Linux version of Scrivener. Which is old, but it’s also version 1.9, which is what he's been using. You can read about it on the Scrivener forum. Getting it to run still requires messing with dependencies, but there is an AppImage floating around the Internet. You can find a link to it on the Scrivener forum here. There’s another version here, but Donald hasn’t tested it. The AppImage was a breeze to install (assuming some basic Linux terminal knowledge).

Having done all this, Donald was able to open Scrivener and access his work in progress.

The last problem was a minor one. The default Dark Theme on the Steam Deck made it impossible to read some of the text in Scrivener—things like the word count, or the comments, didn’t show up at all. However, simply by switching from Dark Theme to Light Theme in the System Settings fixed that. (The icon on the bottom menu shows it as a black square with sliders. The themes are in the default Quick Settings page; click on the Home icon at the upper right if you don't see it. Also, you may want to use the Display and Monitor page under Hardware to correctly position the external monitor relative to the deck.) And so Donald was able to do some actual writing on the Steam Deck and sync it to his Dropbox account. (It did lead him to conclude that he’ll probably want a bigger keyboard for serious writing sessions.)

If you look closely, you can see spoilers for Donald's WIP.

Food in New Orleans

It's no secret that eating out in New Orleans is a highlight of many people's trips there. Donald and Kristin particularly enjoyed Mais Arepas, a Colombian spot about a 15-minute walk from the Hyatt Regency hotel hosting the convention; and Maypop, a Southeast Asian/Southern US fusion place a block or two away. (Unlike some friends at the convention who were visiting New Orleans for the first time, we didn't feel any particular need to eat Cajun or Creole food. We enjoy it, but have eaten plenty on our many Louisiana visits over the years.) Kristin also ventured out with a couple of her Clarion West classmates to Cure, a renowned cocktail bar near Tulane University, and would recommend it to all craft cocktail enthusiasts.

Honorable mention in the food department (because it's not remotely near New Orleans) goes to La Cocina de Maria in New Roads, close to where Donald's sisters live. It's a wonderful Mexican restaurant that doesn't have a website, so you'll have to trust us when we assure you that you can get most of what you'd expect at a Mexican place, including meats that you might not see as often at restaurants catering to a largely non-Mexican clientele, such as tongue, tripe, and beef head (they do have pork al pastor, carne asada, and other non-organ meats--Kristin really enjoyed her tongue taco, though). 

The hotel had a better-than-average breakfast buffet, with some unusual offerings such as vegan chia pudding and overnight oats. Plus grits, which are obviously not unusual in this part of the country, but don't often appear at breakfast buffets in New England. (They also had the typical bacon, sausage, pancakes, eggs, waffles, cold cereal, pastries, fruit, etc.)


These are not our cats.

This was the longest trip we'd taken together since welcoming Maxwell and Marie into our lives, so of course we worried about them the whole time. Have they shut themselves into a room with no access to food, water, or a litter box? Is their automatic food dispenser working, or has a starving Maxwell killed and eaten Marie? Fortunately, a friend of ours who lives nearby kindly agreed to check in on them every couple of days and change the litter at some point (thanks, Larry!). We also have a motion-triggered camera set up and could obsessively scan through recorded footage looking for signs of life if they weren't visible in the live feed when Donald happened to check the app on his phone. They do have, besides the automatic food dispenser, a pet water fountain that can hold enough for a couple of weeks, and a self-cleaning litter box--things that we bought specifically so we could leave them alone for several days if necessary. But we still worry.

The sister of Donald's whom we were staying with has five indoor cats (four pictured above), so we weren't entirely deprived of feline affection; at least not until getting to New Orleans for the convention. Minou especially (the blue pointed shorthair) took a liking to us; and since Minou is actually Maxwell and Marie's older sister from an earlier litter, and resembles Maxwell in particular in some ways (similar facial features, meow, and loud purr), it helped us not to miss our own cats quite as much. (Petunia, the matriarch of this cat line, lives with Donald's other sister; or at least lives on her property and comes inside for food every now and then.)

Upcoming Stories

Come back on November 28th for Duke Kimball's dystopian science fiction story "My Soul, and With the Sun", about the futility of looking to politics to save us. Our December story, "Christmas in Apocalypse", by Canadian author Karl El-Koura, resonated deeply with us after the last few years, and is hopeful despite the post-apocalyptic setting. Look for it on December 26th.

Of course, if you haven't already read it, we hope you'll check out our current featured fiction offering, e rathke's "Heretic", about a man from a world with a single yellow sun, who believes beyond all hope that his god will take him home.

Please consider signing up for a subscription at our Patreon page! All our Patreon income goes toward (but does not yet cover) the cost of paying our authors and artists. Every amount helps, and you can subscribe for as little as $1/month, but our most popular tier is $3/month, which gets you early access to all the stories we publish. (For $10/month, you get them even earlier in some cases, in convenient ebook form for those who prefer reading that way over scrolling down through a story in their email or on a website.)

Wishing a Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers, and thank y'all for reading!

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