RavenCon brings big crowd to Williamsburg focused on literary science fiction

Eric Hodge sat with a group of friends for a coffee break from RavenCon at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Williamsburg Saturday.

"After every con I come home with a huge reading list, movie list, gaming list," he said, letting out a yawn. 

RavenCon, now in its 11th year, hosted its first convention in the Williamsburg area this weekend. The convention drew more than 1,300 attendees to the hotel, many dressed in costume for the occasion.

Among science fiction conventions, RavenCon is noted for retaining its literary focus, with speakers and workshops focused on the writing process, developing characters and storylines.

Williamsburg is now playing host to a number of conventions geared toward science fiction, gaming and fantasy, including MarsCon, which took place last January, and Scares that Care last summer.

"We moved here for a bigger hotel. It’s a great location, and very nicely centrally located, so it's pulling all that business from Tidewater," said Michael Pederson, the convention chair.

"When we started it, there were about 10 of us, there were three of us who founded it. We’ve got a staff of about 40 now," Pederson said. "When cons started they were all literary focused, the modern con seemed to have gotten away from that," he said. Through the years RavenCon has produced a number of authors, and many writers come to get story ideas, and help with their writing.

"It depends on who you are, there's a lot of people who come for the workshops, or the costume contest. There are people who come for the concerts,  the dealers room, there's no single main draw, it’s each different group of fans has something that draws them in."

Pederson works as a graphic artist in the Richmond area. He grew up reading science fiction novels and playing first person shooter games like Doom.

Advice for young writers

The guests of honor at the RavenCon convention this year was science fiction writers Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. They are the creators of the popular Liaden Universe series of books. They are also a couple.

Lee and Miller fielded questions from fans at a workshop Saturday afternoon, and gave advice for young writers. The couple struggled at first to become successful in the industry, juggling side jobs and moving frequently.

"Don't quit your dayjob," Miller told workshop attendees.

"Read, read and read," said Miller. "We have done writing workshops and worked with any number of young writers. Watching movies is not the same as reading. Some writers think if they know a lot of movies, they know how to write a story. The pacing is different, density is different," Miller said. "You can’t get inside a characters head in a movie," Lee said.

"The internet is a wonderful thing," Lee said. "But if you write a story and post they will not necessarily see it." 

Lee said writers who utilize the internet should seek out editors. "It's not a good thing to do to post a story within 48 hours after you've written it."

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