LTUE Roundup

Last weekend, science fiction and fantasy writers and fans from Utah and beyond gathered for Life, the Universe & Everything (LTUE): The Marion K. “Doc” Smith Symposium on Science Fiction & Fantasy.  After being held at BYU for 29 years, the venue changed this year to Utah Valley University.

Although there were several reasons for the venue change, the one I find very disappointing is the lack of support from BYU faculty. You’d think that the English department might give at least token support to a symposium named after one of its late members, but from what I understand (and it’s all hearsay, so if anyone knows differently, please let me know) the BYU English department doesn’t particularly care for the speculative fiction genres and therefore stopped sponsoring both LTUE and the Leading Edge magazine.  (I used to be very proud of BYU for recognizing the worth of speculative fiction, but apparently that was the result of individual faculty members who are now retired or deceased.)

But enough griping. The new venue at UVU worked well, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the change of universities becomes permanent.

The guest of honor was James A. Owen, author and illustrator of the Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica, among other works.  I’ve admired his art ever since he illustrated one of my stories for InterGalactic Medicine Show, so I was glad to see him honored.  His keynote address was given to a standing-room-only crowd. (You can listen to a recording here.)

The Writing Excuses podcast team of Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler were all there as special guests and recorded several episodes with various guests.  Chris Schoebinger, acquisitions editor for Shadow Mountain, was also a special guest.

Featured guests were Larry Correia; James Dashner; Dave Wolverton/David Farland; Tracy & Laura Hickman; L.E. Modesitt, Jr.; and Brandon Mull.

I was on a few panels, but the two most apropos to this blog were:

  • Monsters and Mormons — This panel featured the authors of several stories in the Monsters & Mormons anthology from Peculiar Pages: Dan Wells, Nathan Shumate, Jaleta Clegg, Steven L. Peck, and me. We discussed our stories, how we came to write them, and the challenges of portraying a world in which speculative elements are found side by side with gospel truths.
  • Religion in Science Fiction: Is It Possible? — Since I (ahem, blatant bragging ahead) won a Nebula Award last year for a novelette about Mormons in space, I was forced to come down on the side of yes, it’s possible.  Actually, there was no debate as to whether it is possible, so the panel (L. E. Modesitt, Jr.; Zachary Hill; Paul Genesse; Scott Parkin; Dan Lind; and I) discussed reasons why religion should be in science fiction, how to do it, and how not to do it, among other related topics.

If you’re interested in reading about other people’s experiences, here’s a sampling from those who blogged their impressions or notes from this year’s symposium:

(Note: Although the majority of the people listed above as guests and participants at LTUE are LDS, not all of them are, so don’t make any assumptions.)

About Eric James Stone

A Nebula Award winner, Hugo Award nominee, and winner in the Writers of the Future Contest, Eric James Stone has had stories published in Year’s Best SF 15, Analog, Nature, and Kevin J. Anderson’s Blood Lite anthologies of humorous horror, among other venues. One of Eric’s earliest memories is of seeing an Apollo moon-shot launch on television. That might explain his fascination with space travel. His father’s collection of old science fiction ensured that Eric grew up on a full diet of Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke. While getting his political science degree at Brigham Young University, Eric took creative writing classes. He wrote several short stories, and even submitted one for publication, but after it was rejected he gave up on creative writing for a decade. During those years Eric graduated from Baylor Law School, worked on a congressional campaign, and took a job in Washington, DC, with one of those special interest groups politicians always complain that other politicians are influenced by. He quit the political scene in 1999 to work as a web developer in Utah. In 2002 he started writing fiction again, and in 2003 he attended Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp. In 2007 Eric got laid off from his day job just in time to go to the Odyssey Writing Workshop. He has since found a new web development job. In 2009 Eric became an assistant editor for Intergalactic Medicine Show. Eric lives in Eagle Mountain, Utah.
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19 Responses to LTUE Roundup

  1. MKHutchins says:

    I did talk to some of the current Leading Edge staff, and they are financially on their own now. They’ve started a developmental editing service, which has been doing well, receiving praise, and helping fund the magazine. If anyone’s interested in an editor and helping out LE, there’s info on their website: http://www.leadingedgemagazine.com/. It saddens me that there’s not the recognition of this amazing SFF community and legacy, but one of my favorite things about LTUE was seeing this new generation of staff keeping LE alive and thriving.

  2. Diana says:

    Thanks for posting these links, Eric! I was planning on featuring a recap of LTUE on my blog for Friday, so this post of yours makes it much easier! I hope you won’t mind me linking to your post!

  3. Joseph Zieja says:

    Thanks for the mention, Eric! That was a good wrap up. I hope, if I have time, to take all the classes I attended and write a little bit about them on my blog.

  4. Jonathan Langford says:

    I am so jealous…

  5. Ben Rose says:

    Thanks for mentioning my blog. I’ll be posting notes from one session every day as long as I have the energy—which may not be long, since I just came down with a nasty cold. Luckily I’ve got several of them already typed out and scheduled.

    I really enjoyed the conference. The venue at UVU worked out pretty well, although one of the rooms was really too small and made it so some people couldn’t attend panels they wanted to. It’s really sad to hear that BYU isn’t supporting the conference anymore. A few years ago it was apparently on rocky ground due to low attendance, but they’ve recently experienced a boom and it’s doing better than ever. Too bad the staff at BYU doesn’t recognize a good thing when they see it. But bravo to UVU for stepping in. Makes me proud of my alma mater.

    • Jonathan Langford says:

      It’s good that UVU was willing to host it, but it’s important to understand that UVU didn’t “step in.” Instead, the symposium committee approached them. The credit is mostly due to a small group of volunteers who keep the symposium going year by year.

      I mention this because if the symposium is going to continue — especially in the absence of BYU sponsorship — I suspect that the pool of volunteers is going to need to grow, in order to make up for the organizational and financial support that is no longer there (to the extent that it ever was). Something to keep in mind in thinking about the future.

  6. Th. says:

    .

    So . . . it’s no a longer student-run symposium? What’s the oldest-running student symposium now?

    • Jonathan Langford says:

      I know that students (BYU students) were involved in running it this year. The chair, I think, was one of them. I don’t know if any UVU students were involved.

      In reality, LTUE has been run by a consortium of students and nonstudents (mostly former students) basically forever, with the balance shifting from year to year. I don’t know what the precise balance was this year. The truth behind the claim of it being student-run is that it’s never been actively run by BYU faculty or staff, but rather by students and other nonpaid volunteers from the larger community.

      One of the problems with LTUE moving off-campus is that over time, I predict that it will get harder to involve students. That’s one reason why I think a more permanent “official” structure will be needed for LTUE in the long-term — if the off-BYU trend continues.

      I hasten to add that this is all based on my perspective as a bystander. I’m not currently involved in organizing LTUE, though I still have my contacts (oldest son among them).

    • Scott Parkin says:

      A couple of thoughts–

      The symposium chair was a BYU student, BYU students made up a significant portion of the committee, and organizational meetings were held at BYU. A core group of a half-dozen BYU alumni have provided continuity and play key support roles; a large group of student (high school, BYU, other colleges) volunteers provide services and logistical support.

      While the symposium is well understood and respected by many in the BYU administration, high-level moves to focus on core academics have led to many events and organizations losing sponsorship. Without a sponsor we could not schedule rooms until after a certain date (after sponsored organizations had first pick); by then it was impossible to get the three consecutive days we needed unless we were willing to move to August.

      The choice was now to 1) move to August, 2) do a 1-day event, 3) seek a different venue, or 4) cancel for this year. We were leaning toward moving to August (and staying at BYU) until a core alum successfully reached out to UVU and found support and facilities for both our traditional time frame (February) and the full three days. While the event was held at UVU, it was not academically sponsored this year.

      The idea of university sponsorship and student leadership are core to the concept of LTUE. It still has pretentions of being a primarily academic event, and association with a university are part of its identity and its difference from traditional sf cons. That’s part of the draw for guests and many of the attendees. LTUE features science exploration/explication, craft workshops, business/technology workshops, literary analysis, and social science investigation. The associated Education Conference on Saturday focuses on young readers and the use of sf as an aid to education, and qualifies for UEA continuing education credit precisely because of that university affiliation and focus on academic presentations.

      So…it’s still student-run (and former-student supported), and it remains university-affiliated. UVU officials have approached us with offers of academic sponsorship (both English and Physics departments) that we will have to take seriously as we review this year’s events and begin planning for next year’s.

      The idea of moving to UVU has a lot of merit. It has an active sf community (their student sf magazine participated with us this year) and opens a new recruiting base for student involvement. Some have suggested seeking a co-sponsorship arrangement with both UVU and BYU, with organization done at BYU and facilities/event management done at UVU. A split student leadership refereed by the core alumni staff would be ideal.

      The symposium will continue as a student-run event. The only question is which students and at which university.

      • Jonathan Langford says:

        Scott,

        Thanks for the clarification. I didn’t know about the involvement of UVU faculty, students, and magazine. A co-sponsorship situation sounds ideal, if it can be managed.

      • Katya says:

        I understand there was an issue last year with some scheduled panelists being unable to present at a BYU-sponsored function because they were inactive or former Mormons. (Non-Mormons were fine to present, just not Mormons who wouldn’t be able to get an ecclesiastical endorsement, I guess.) A move to UVU obviates that issue, at least.

        • Scott Parkin says:

          Yeah. We had to get ecclesiastical endorsements for each guest, panelist, and presenter, which means that some of our more outspoken (and ambivalent/inactive) participants could not get approved.

          Which always struck me as odd; a non-member could get a clean endorsement, but an inactive member could not. Seems counter-productive to keeping an open door to me (missionary work isn’t only for non-members).

          That’s been a strong current of commentary from participants this year (more than 140 different presenters; somewhere around 1400 different registered visitors)–they seemed to appreciate being out from under an ecclesiastical eye.

          • Jessie says:

            I’ve known about that policy in regards to admissions for students/hiring for faculty, but it seems weird to apply it to anyone who does any sort of presenting or anything on campus. Wow.

      • Yay! I’m glad the Physics and English depts offered sponsorship. I used to work with several of those profs (particulary Joe Jensen) and I think it’s a perfect fit. You’re right that the ideal would be a co-sponsorship–keeping BYU in on LTUE is an important part of its legacy, and keeping students there involved and feeling welcomed is important. But I think as far as faculty and facilities support, UVU has a better structure.

        • Scott Parkin says:

          Let me backpedal a bit. Individual people from those departments suggested the possibility and their own willingness to help us approach the administration to seek sponsorship. No formal offers have been made.

          The event review meeting is today. I know there is a strong sentiment to move permanently to UVU if we can manage academic sponsorship.

  7. Marny says:

    James Owen has graciously made the ebook his keynote speech is based on available for free for the next few days. (It’s available in three formats, PDF, epub, and mobi.) Just go to his website here ( http://coppervaleinternational.com/make-today-extraordinary/ ) and fill in your email address to get a link sent to you. It is an amazing story, and one I think everyone should read.

  8. I thought UVU was a gine venue. Especially since Marny and all the rest had to scrape it together at the last minute. I am sure if LTUE is held at UVU in 2013 we’ll have things running even more smoothly — and this one was pretty smooth, all things considered. I hope those who attended my four panels felt them to be worthwhile. I had a good time, and of course, LTUE is a great excuse to get together with friends like Eric, Larry, my cartoonist neighbor Carter Reid, who does the Zombie Nation web comic, and shake the hands of elder statesmen like L.E. Modesitt, Jr., and Dave Wolverton.

  9. Wm says:

    My only request is that you give me a 2013 and a 2014. Because somehow I’m going to make it to LTUE one of those years.

  10. Suey says:

    Thanks for the shout out! Makes me wish that I was just a bit more detailed in my recap.

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