2021 Nebula Conference Online Programming Preview

The Nebula Programming Committee has prepared a preview of the programming for the 2021 Nebula Conference Online. Though these items are neither comprehensive nor final, they represent the well-rounded, professional experience we’re aiming to deliver.

If you’re inspired to contribute more panel ideas or recommend panelists, including yourself, to weigh in on these topics or newly proposed ones, please submit your ideas on this form. Programming suggestions must be received by March 15, and panelist recommendations by April 1.

And don’t forget to register for the 2021 Nebula Conference Online! It’s taking place June 4-6, 2021. Register here.

Setting Boundaries: A writing career often comes with attention—wanted and unwanted. What kinds of boundaries do you set as an author with your readers, and how do those change throughout your career? Authors across the publishing spectrum discuss how they interact with, acknowledge, and encourage their readers while maintaining personal boundaries.

Crafting the First Line: Stories range from a few sentences to tens of thousands, but one does more heavy lifting than all the others: the first. What makes it snag and what makes it sing? Authors and editors discuss what makes a first line successful at a craft level, breaking down their favorites and sharing their own strategies.

Taxes and Finances for Non-U.S. Writers Published in the United States: Publishing in the US from overseas requires getting one’s head around two or more systems of currency, banking, taxation, and international relationships. This panel cannot cover all the various treaties and situations with different countries, but it can give some starting points, issues to be aware of, options for transferring money for both traditional and independently published writers, and tips on what to do when you are offered payment in a method that no longer exists in your country.

Maintaining A Good Relationship With Your Agent: Writers are often so focused on the querying process that they’re not sure what to do once they’ve secured representation. On this panel, authors and agents discuss healthy strategies for maintaining a good business relationship—and how to know when it’s time to move on.

What Sheltering In Teaches Us About our Speculative Worlds: In Pandemic Land, those who could stayed at home while those who had to worked in the plague minefield. What does this teach us about our fantasy worlds? Is baking bread really like baking bread? How does a temper tantrum work on a generation ship when you’ve nowhere to blow off steam? And for essential workers, how does class and privilege come into play in dystopic worlds?

Hometown Heroes: Working and Writing Globally: What does success look like outside of the U.S.? It’s often assumed that “international” authors want to break into the American market, but it’s a big world out there. In this panel, writers from a variety of countries discuss their experiences, their goals, and what they might need from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers “of America.”

Writing Through Pain and Fatigue: Writers with chronic illnesses, pains, and other disabilities can find even managing regular day-to-day life a challenge, much less the added challenges of writing and publishing. Panelists discuss the methods that help them navigate these challenges, and share strategies for writers in similar situations.

How Quarantine Has Changed the Middle Grade and Young Adult Markets: The MG/YA market shifted in 2020 due to COVID, with distance-learning for kids, the cancelation of large book expos, and the temporary closure of bookstores and libraries. How will the world of bookselling and promotion look when quarantine ends? Which changes are worth keeping? Writers, agents, and editors discuss ways to stay agile as the rules begin to shift.

Middle Grade and Young Adult Literature… in Spaaaaace!: Our community has long understood the appeal of space-based science fiction, but for some reason, this sort of SF is a tough sell in the middle grade and young adult markets. What craft techniques can we use to make our science fiction more appealing to gatekeepers such as teachers and librarians who don’t necessarily see the allure? How can we spin or promote our works to overcome this barrier?

Taking Marginalization to Acquisitions: Pitching in acquisitions can be a fight—for some projects more than others. In this panel, editors discuss how they approach pitching books featuring marginalized identities and non-western inspired worlds in acquisition meetings to marketing and sales teams that might fear they are not “commercial enough.”

Bridging Verse and Prose in Speculative Writing: What can speculative fiction learn from speculative poetry, and vice versa? Our panelists discuss how their experience in one field informs the other, where the two blend, and advice for writers trying to expand or improve their repertoire.

Hanging up Your Shingle – How to Start in Freelance Editorial: Professional editorial businesses are a lively part of the publishing industry, but how does one get started? From setting up your business, deciding on rates, and advertising your services to professional etiquette and basic information about tax concerns inside and outside the US, experienced freelance editors give insights on how writers can set up their own businesses in editorial. This panel is open to writers and agents looking to become freelance editors and editors transitioning to self-employment.

By Our Powers Combined – Writing Collaboratively: Two (or more) minds can be better than one when it comes to storytelling! Authors share their collaboration stories: how group projects come to be, what strategies make for effecting idea-sharing & writing, and how to pitch their work to publishers.

Interrogating Scare Tactics – Today’s Horror Writing: The dark, the dreary, and the flat-out terrifying: horror has managed to shock and awe readers for generations. The genre also has a long and troubling history, often playing upon racist, sexist, and ableist fears of the Other. How are current horror writers subverting this sordid past? What thrilling new twists can we expect from horror writing today?

Thinking Big, Publishing Small: Too often, small presses are seen as either a stepping stone for authors who really want “Big 5” traditional publishing contracts, or a fallback for those who can’t get a deal. But many authors deliberately choose small presses. This panel explores the pros and cons, the ups and downs, and the reasons for publishing small.

Beyond Superheroes – Indie Science Fiction Graphic Novel Showcase: Some of the most interesting science fiction stories told in recent years have been in the medium of graphic novels. Join experienced creators and editors, discover new graphic novel authors and learn about the possibilities of this vital medium.

Actually Writing the Comic You Promised: These days, many graphic novels are sold to editors on proposal, often with an outline—or only a brief summary. On this panel, experienced comics writers will discuss the unique challenges of writing a graphic novel script that’s already been sold.

Transitioning To Tabletop Games Writing: Writing for tabletop games is profoundly different than writing for almost any other genre. This panel will take a look at what it takes to write well for TTRPGs, which skills transfer between mediums, and how to become comfortable with writing for both mainstream and indie tabletop games.

This Ain’t the Hero’s Journey – Writing for Video Games: Writing for video games opens a whole new world of story structure in the quest to create a compelling narrative. But how do you know which tools to use and when? This panel shares tips, tricks, and approaches that keep players engaged, maintain player agency, and craft a story that builds and engages.

Being Your Own Marketer & Publicist – Promoting Your Novel: Your novel is written, edited, and published, but how do you get readers to buy it? Indie authors are responsible for the marketing and publicity that sends readers to their sale pages. While this can sound like a daunting prospect, it doesn’t have to be! Join our panelists to explore marketing tools including newsletters, paid advertising, price promotions, blog tours, perma frees, and more, with strategies for all authors—indies, small press, and Big 5—to help get eyes on your book.

Beyond Three-Act Structure: Over and over, we’re told stories should follow the “classic three-act structure,” incorporating tension, conflict, and character arcs. But storytelling has always had myriad forms, from older oral narratives to experimental transmedia projects—and those vary between cultures and over time. Does structure really make the story? Which ones? Our panelists will question received wisdom, share their ideas on building story, and highlight various non-three-act structural approaches you can incorporate into your writing toolbox.

Writing Speculative Justice:  Many envision a new role and future for the justice system in the United States and across the world—one that is more restorative, more equitable, and more just. As writers build our own worlds, what can and should we be thinking about when it comes to justice? How does our approach to laws, crime, retribution, and restoration impact the rest of our worldbuilding, characters, and plots? How can we craft a more just future?

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