My First COSine 2020

COSine 2020 (©2020, COSine/Morland Gonsoulin, used with permission).

COSine 2020 (©2020, COSine/Morland Gonsoulin, used with permission).

I finally attended my first-ever COSine convention, January 17 – 19, 2020. I’d been interested in it for many years, but thought it was only for Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror (SF/F/H) types (my work isn’t typically categorized in these genres; I’m more speculative/Twilight Zone/“weird shit,” where average people deal with the paranormal [hence “paranormal fiction”], but I’ve never really looked as my stuff as “science fiction” or “fantasy,” though there are elements of SF/F/H in them). Well, yeah, it is…but at the same time it’s so much more. It’s very much like MileHiCon, but on a cozier scale. And then when I was interested in attending, I’d had other gigs at the same time. So, long story short, up to this year I’d basically steered clear of it, though many of my writing friends continued to urge me to attend. They said it was far more than “just that.” They were right.

COSine self-states that it is a SF-focused convention, but their panels go into more than just SF-related topics. Their topics cover a broad spectrum of topics, as is typical for all the conventions I’ve attended (which, admittedly, ain’t many!).

My COSine 2020 schedule was as follows:

  • Friday, Jan 17, 4 p.m.: on a panel titled, “Books that changed me/messed me up.”
  • Saturday, Jan 18, 5:30 p.m.: part of the Author Reception and Mass Autographing.
  • Saturday, Jan 18, 7 p.m., I’m moderating “First Contact Scenarios.”
  • Sunday, Jan 19, 11 a.m., on a panel titled “Short Story Writing.”

What I’ll present below are the notes that I’d prepared—and which were—largely—unused. Yes, that happens more than you’d guess! I always prepare notes for panels I’m on, and rarely use most of those notes, because of the panel/author dynamics—which is fun! But for this post I’ll show y’all what I’d prepared. Some of the questions below were provided to us, and some are my own.

Books that changed me/messed me up

Aside from non-fiction, no work of fiction has ever “messed me up,” though a couple of books had gotten my attention. Below are the novels and my notes pertaining to them. We did not talk much about the non-fiction work, but I did briefly bring them up when asked…or the topic-at-hand specifically forced my hand to say if I’d been “messed up” by any of these books (arguments can be made I’m “messed up”…but for entirely different reasons…). Moderated by Glen Engel-Cox.

Here are my notes:


  • Slaughter-House Five, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Cover ©1977

    Slaughter-House Five, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Cover ©1977


    • Messing with Time
    • Tralfamadorians
    • Eschewed traditional structure
    • Tralfamadorians
    • Employed author intrusion
    • Tralfamadorians
    • Employed simple words in powerful ways
  • Dracula
    • Dracula, by Bram Stoker, Cover ©1979

      Dracula, by Bram Stoker, Cover ©1979

      I love how it’s not a straightforward, real-time POV.

    • Story woven together through after-the-fact presentations of diaries and letters.
    • Style lent a bit more of a sense of urgency, if that makes any sense.
    • Style lent a much more palpable sense of dread. Like, good Lord, what has just happened and who lived through it? What have these people been through, and what are they doing this very minute (okay, I know, it was written in 1897…).
    • Was as powerful and hypnotic as it was when it was first penned and captured the imagination of all who read it.
    • Stoker did it a superior job of writing given the state of writing at the time.
    • There are definitely archaic turns of phrase, flowery prose, and the portrayal of women as frail and to-be-watched-out-for weak constitutions, but the story remains—to me—as powerful and hypnotic as it was when it was first penned.
    • Look at that [cover’s] face. There was nothing nice nor attractive about him. Stoker made his vampires to be feared. I’ve read much has been made about the sexual subtext throughout the novel. Well, to me, there was not so much “sexual” as sensual.
  • The Best of Cordwainer Smith, Cover ©1975

    The Best of Cordwainer Smith, Cover ©1975

    The Best of Cordwainer Smith

    • AKA Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger (July 11, 1913 – August 6, 1966).
    • The loneliness…loves lost…deep, deep space and its weird unknowns.
    • Like how he thinks of humanity in terms of thousands of years in the future, spread out across the universe.
  • The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury, Cover ©1979

    The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury, Cover ©1979

    The Martian Chronicles

    • The utterly pure imagination he employed! No “real” research—he just wrote.
    • Loved the compilation of short stories into one [somewhat] cohesive whole (again, I love the spanning of Time).
    • The “atmosphere” of his work.
    • The Human Condition. We are who we are…and changing planets won’t change us.


  • Seth Speaks, by Jane Roberts, Cover ©1972

    Seth Speaks, by Jane Roberts, Cover ©1972

    The Seth books

    • The total and utter weirdness that this POV has about the world
    • Whether or not you agree with them, they open your eyes to such wild perspectives that you may never look at the world the same again. Yes, they totally totally blew my mind, yes, I’ve never looked at the world the “same” again.
  • Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury, Cover ©1992

    Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury, Cover ©1992

    Zen in the Art of Writing

    • The out-and-out joy and exuberance he held for writing!


Author Reception

This was in a large banquet hall that involved the raffle and us selling and autographing books. I didn’t sell any, but I’d given away one of each of my six books to the raffle (of which I autographed five of them), which was to help fund the Mobile Earth & Space Observatory (MESO). MESO was also out in the hotel’s parking lot so people could experience it first hand, Sadly, I missed it for some reason.

COSine 2020 Raffle and Author Reception (©2020, COSine/Morland Gonsoulin, used with permission)

COSine 2020 Raffle and Author Reception (©2020, COSine/Morland Gonsoulin, used with permission)

COSine 2020 Raffle and Author Reception (©2020, COSine/Morland Gonsoulin, used with permission)

COSine 2020 Raffle and Author Reception (©2020, COSine/Morland Gonsoulin, used with permission)

First Contact Scenarios

I moderated this panel. I wasn’t sure which tract I would take, but the panelists made that decision for me with their thoughts. I’m not going to go into any depth on my notes, because I’d never get out of this post, but suffice it to say that the panel did touch on a lot of my talking points. I was also a bit surprised that none of the panelists knew of Whitley Strieber’s Communion series, as I remember it. I think one or two audience members had heard of it, so I had to give a condensed rendering of the books.

The upshot of the First Contact panel is that some believe it has happened, and the some feel it hasn’t—and that when and if it does happen, it would be disastrous, because we couldn’t handle it on many levels, not the least of which include how it might affect our religious and/or social views. I found that interesting…but disagree with it.


  • Poll panelists: who believes it’s already happened?
  • Can we assume that first contact has already taken place?
  • We usually think of First Contact (FC) as face-to-face, “Howdy, I’m Gort—what’s your name?
  • What if physicality is merely an adornment? Many claim feelings/control from a distance, so why can’t FC have already been made “from afar”?
  • Look at the effect it’s had already? This panel, our mentalities, shows, films, etc.
  • Or…what if they take no interest in us for whatever reason?
  • “Ghosts of Civilizations”: for one reason or the other ETs killed themselves/died off or transitioned from biology to technology or…?
    • “Time capsules”: might something have been left behind for us? Left “ahead” for us (i.e., when we’re ready)?
  • “Printable Aliens”: like the ones talked about in Whitley Strieber’s Communion

In 1950 the U.S. military developed a procedure called “Seven Steps to Contact”:

  1. Remote surveillance and data gathering
  2. Covert visitations with the goal of gauging the performance characteristics of the aliens’ vehicles and weaponry.
  3. If we judged our technological capabilities to be superior to those of the other race, we would attempt near approaches to the planet to determine whether the alien beings were hostile, and if so, by what means.
  4. If all went well, we would then make brief touchdowns in isolated areas, securing specimens of plants, animals, and of the intelligent beings themselves. In other words, this phase would involve non-harmful abductions similar to those reported by some Americans. (Interestingly, the “Seven Steps to Contact” plan predated the first reported alien abduction incident in 1957, suggesting the theory could have influenced such reports.) [Alien Abductions May Be Vivid Dreams, Study Finds]
  5. Next, we would make our presence known, making low-level approaches where our craft and its operators could be seen, but not reached.
  6. We would try to be witnessed by the greatest possible number of inhabitants and would demonstrate our existence and our nonhostile nature.
  7. Lastly, if all went well and there was no reason to think that contact would be disastrous for the two races involved, we would land and attempt to communicate face-to-alien-face.


  1. Philosophical/Theological?
  2. Technological?
  3. Ecological?
  4. Legal?
  5. Political?
  6. What books/movies have done a good job of considering the issues?
  7. What are the biggest problems?
  8. What are the biggest worries?
  9. What of Star Trek’s “Prime Directive”?
  10. What is the best-case scenario for a first contact?
  11. And the worst?
  12. Is first contact destined to be a disaster for one side or the other, or can it go well?

Eight post-“Arrival” books:

Short Story Writing

COSine 2020 Short Story Panel (©2020, COSine/Morland Gonsoulin, used with permission)

COSine 2020 Short Story Panel (©2020, COSine/Morland Gonsoulin, used with permission)

This was my last panel of the weekend upon which I sateth. It was about what makes short stories work and how their process is different than novel writing? It was a great, fun panel with lively discussion that went off into different (salient) directions that didn’t involve most of notes, below, and was moderated by the short story writer James Van Pelt. Had a great time!

In the photo at left are, from left to right, my friend Shannon Lawrence, Benjamin M. Weilert, moderator James Van Pelt, and my friend Patrick Smythe.


  1. How do you approach a short story?
    1. A shorter version of novel work: by idea
    2. I get an idea and “vomit” it out
    3. Then I go over and rework the hell out of it
    4. Research
    5. Read aloud
    6. (Don’t typically use beta readers for short stories)
  2. What is the editing process for short stories vs. novels?
    1. Same as for novels, just shorter
      1. Vomit out story
      2. Step back from it (not necessarily in terms of time, but mentally) and try to get big picture
      3. Second draft is hardest:
        1. Intense editing
        2. Research/fact checking
        3. Rearrange (as needed)
      4. Reread and reedit
      5. “Fourth” (or whenever “more ready”), read out loud
  3. What makes a good short story?
    1. As with any written piece, I don’t think there’s any one “thing.” Readers must find one aspect of the writing that grabs them:
      1. Story
      2. Plot
      3. Writing
      4. Characters
      5. Setting
      6. Voice
  4. What are the major differences (other than the obvious) between a short story and a longer work?
    1. “Short form” v. “long form.”
    2. Need to get to “the point” more quickerly
    3. Usually a single plot line
    4. Usually not as complex
    5. In short (pardon the…) a shorty story is usually written about a single incident, episode, or character in someone’s life.
    6. Short stories are not divided into chapters, but can be divided into sections…unless it’s at the upper-end of the word count…but still, not called “chapters.”
    7. Writer titles: “Novelist” v. “short story writer”/”storyteller.”
    8. Word count:
      1. Short: up to 7,500/10K
      2. Novelette: up to 20K
      3. Novella: up to 20-40K
      4. Novel: 40K+
      5. Tome: 100K+ 😊
  5. How is the market for short fiction faring?
    1. TBH I’m not as plugged in to the SS market as I used to be….
  6. Can you make a living writing short fiction?
    1. Of course. But go back to #3b: editors and readers need to find something about you and/or your work that hits them for this to happen, so much so that it causes people to flock to you and your work in stupidly insane amounts to buy your words, cause you know, you gotta pay taxes.

COSine 2020 was a blast and I plan on attending again and again, if they continue to have me. Once again, another great con! And to all who helped put this on and KEEP IT ALIVE, thank you! You all did an outstanding job!

  • Morland Gonsoulin – Co-chair
  • Arlen Feldman – Co-chair
  • Karen Jordan – Ottoman
  • Richard Karsh – Chair-emeritus
  • Eli Roa – Anti-chair

Morland Gonsoulin shared with me the COSine Flickr page.

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About fpdorchak

Speculative and paranormal fiction author. Please check out my website: Thank you for stopping by!
This entry was posted in Books, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Short Story, Space, To Be Human, UFOs, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to My First COSine 2020

  1. says:

    Good morning Frank, sounds like this was a great event. I picked up quite a bit just reading your synopsis. I’ve read Dracula (what “our era” kid didn’t?)- and wasn’t Slaughterhouse Five required reading at SLHS? I especially liked the outline on writing short stories. I agree with it dead on! That’s EXACTLY how I write. Except the out loud part- I still use my in house “Beta’s”- but I’ll beg a mulligan there- hard to read out loud much with half a lower jaw and no tongue.
    I haven’t read the “Zen ” Book you mentioned- but I have read “Motorcycle Maintenance” Zen- and my canoe’s name is Zen- does that count?
    As to first contact- I don’t know about anyone else- I’m ready! Hey ETs – Coffee’s on- Beam me up! Let’s have a chat.
    Thanks for sharing the thoughts and experience. I enjoyed reading it.

    • fpdorchak says:

      Thanks, Dick!

      Yes, Slaughterhouse-Five was required reading for half of us, anyway. Not sure what the other book was—1984, maybe?

      Reading out loud—can you have another read it out loud to you. Sometimes my wife reads some of my work back to me. It’s interesting hearing someone else read your words back to you! 😛 You can also have Word read it out loud, though I’ve never tried it (now, I’ll have to…). And there are other apps out there, I’ve heard, that will do this, too.

      I smiled when I saw that your canoe was so named!

      As for ETs…check out Strieber’s books. I didn’t know that he wrote some followups, so now I’ll have to read them. I’m REALLY interested to see how he…grew…in his understanding of himself and his experience. I think he really “short circuited” with all the info he got. It was just too much for his traditionally minded self at the time (I believe he even said as much). And I really loved how he never called his “visitors” “ETs,” because he didn’t think they were necessarily extraterrestrial. People may gloss over that, but I feel that’s very important in very basic, philosophical ways…so I really need to check out those follow-up works. I have my feelings about “them,” which was mainly described in ERO with Eurphraeus. 😉

      Thanks for stopping by, Dick! And keep up you’re OWN writing!

  2. Karen Lin says:

    Great post. Sounds interesting. Sorry you sold no books but you got your name out there, shared your expertise and likely met some good contacts. Making a living with short stories is pretty tough these days unless you already make a good living with books… as is also true of essays. Sadly…I like shorts. So much easier to digest in this busy ADD world. Sounds like you offered great info to your participants. I’ll teach ay PPWC in April and hope do give to my audience the way you did. And maybe I’ll have a chance to see you and Laura!

    • fpdorchak says:

      Thank you, Karen! Yeah, I just haven’t yet found my global audience yet. “It’s what it is,” as the The Irishman sez. 🙂 But I had a great time at the con, I enjoy being on panels and interacting with other authors and the audience-at-large. These are always a fun time!

      Glad you’ve got a gig at PPWC! Yes, it would be great getting together! Keep up the great efforts yourself!

  3. says:

    Good morning Frank!
    Well, my cancer journey, “Some Days I’ve Been In” is now nearing 20,000 words. While word counts aren’t my driving force – based on the categories you have outlined above -They do prompt one question: May I suggest a new sub-category for your list? “Serial Blog Memoir Novelette”. It’s a niche category, perhaps. But who knows! Could also be a new trend!
    As a wise man once said:
    “And That Weren’t No Fish!”

    Hope your current project is going well.
    Enjoy your weekend!

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