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Back to Dragon Con!

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dragoncon 2021

Well, we're back at a con at last! And as usual, I'm posting my schedule at the last minute. At least I got the chance to see some people I haven't seen in person for two full years!

dragonwriters 2021

And here is my schedule:

Title: Star Trek Essays
Description: There are thousands of worlds within Star Trek, & thousands of topics to talk about. Where do we start? Join a panel of published writers & producers to discuss what's worth discussing in Trek essays, articles, & videos.
Time: Fri 11:30 am Location: Galleria 2-3 - Hilton (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Kyle Mackenzie Sullivan, R Alan Siler, Anthony Francis)

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Title: Teaching Robots to Learn
Description: When you tell a machine to learn, all bets are off on what it will learn to do. In this panel, we'll discuss techniques used today to teach robots to recognize objects, to grasp them, to navigate autonomously around people, & even to imagine the future.
Time: Fri 04:00 pm Location: Atlanta - Sheraton (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Anthony Francis)

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Title: To Series or to Stand-Alone?
Description: Fantasy readers fall in love with the characters & worlds we build. How do you sustain the interest in a series--or would this idea work better as a stand-alone?
Time: Sat 10:00 am Location: Embassy EF - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Anthony Francis, Moderator: Nancy Knight, A. J. Hartley, J. Gregory Keyes, Seressia Glass, Dakota Krout)

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Title: Author Signings:
Time: Sun 01:00 pm Location: International Hall South 1-3 - Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Clay Gilbert, Patricia L. Briggs, Anthony Francis)

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Title: Dead at the Keyboard
Description: Panelists discuss strategies to combat writers' block, stress, fatigue, boredom, insecurity, & deadline anxiety.
Time: Mon 11:30 am Location: Embassy EF - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists:Moderator: Nancy Knight, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Anthony Francis, Peter David, Trisha J. Wooldridge)

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Title: My Favorite Author, Book, Series, Character...
Description: Authors discuss their favorites among their own works & offer insights into their favorites in other authors' writing.
Time: Mon 01:00 pm Location: Embassy EF - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Anthony Francis, Moderator: Bill Fawcett, Trisha J. Wooldridge, James R. Tuck)

Hope to see you there!

-the Centaur

P.S. I have been drawing more or less every day, but I have also been moving, so you get a drawing another time.

The Science of Airships at Clockwork Alchemy 2021

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the science of airships
Hail, fellow adventurers! Clockwork Alchemy goes virtual this year, and tomorrow at 10am I'll be on a panel on the Science of Airships with moderator Laurel Anne Hill and fellow panelists Madeline Holly-Rosing and Mike Tierney. We'll be talking about everything we can fit in 45 minutes, including:
  • Zeppelins, dirigibles and blimps: what do all these terms mean?
  • The history of airships, starting with an airborne chicken.
  • The science of airships, including innovations for flight.
  • The failures of airships - what brought them down?
  • The future of airships - airships on the drawing board!
Sign up here, and the full schedule is also online. We're the first panel, at 10am Saturday, and our panelists include:

Laurel Anne Hill [Moderator]

Laurel Anne Hill—author and former underground storage tank operator—grew up in San Francisco, with more dreams of adventure than good sense or money. Her close brushes with death, love of family, respect for honor and belief in a higher power continue to influence her writing and her life. She has authored two award-winning novels: The Engine Woman’s Light (Sand Hill Review Press), a gripping spirits-meet-steampunk, coming-of-age heroic journey, and Heroes Arise. Laurel’s published short stories and nonfiction pieces total over forty. She has served as a program participant at many science fiction/fantasy conventions, including the World Science Fiction Con and World Fantasy Con. She’s the Literary Stage Manager for the annual San Mateo County Fair, a speaker, writing contest judge, and editor. And she’s even engineered a steam locomotive. For more about her, go to http://www.laurelannehill.com.

Madeleine Holly-Rosing

Madeleine Holly-Rosing is the writer/creator of the award-winning Boston Metaphysical Society graphic novel series. Previously self-published, it is now published by Source Point Press. The series also includes the award winning prequel novel, A Storm of Secrets, and an anthology.  After running eight successful crowdfunding campaigns, she published the book, Kickstarter for the Independent Creator.  Other comic anthology projects include: The Scout (The 4th Monkey), The Sanctuary (The Edgar Allan Poe Chronicles), The Marriage Counselor (Cthulhu is Hard to Spell), The Glob (Night Wolf), The Infinity Tree (Menagerie: Declassified), and the upcoming, The Birth (Stan Yak Vampire Anthology).

Michael Tierney

Michael Tierney writes steampunk-laced alternative historical fiction stories from his Victorian home in Silicon Valley. After writing technical and scientific publications for many years, he turned his sights to more imaginative genres. Trained as a chemist, he brings an appreciation of both science and history to his stories. His latest novel is Mr. Darwin’s Dragon. Visit his blog at www.airshipflamel.com.

Anthony Francis

By day, Anthony Francis teaches robots to learn; by night he writes science fiction and draws comic books. Anthony’s best known for his Skindancer urban fantasy series of novels including the Epic eBook Award winner Frost Moon and its sequels Blood Rock and Liquid Fire, all following the misadventures of magical tattoo artist Dakota Frost trying to raise her weretiger daughter Cinnamon in Atlanta. Anthony also writes the Jeremiah Willstone steampunk series, following a young female soldier in a world where women’s liberation happened a century early – and so, with twice as many brains working on hard problems, the Victorians invented rayguns and time travel. In addition to her debut novel Jeremiah Willstone and the Clockwork Time Machine, Jeremiah appears in a dozen other stories, including “Steampunk Fairy Chick” in the UnCONventional anthology. Anthony is co-editor of the anthology Doorways to Extra Time and a co-founder of Thinking Ink Press, publisher of the steampunk anthologies Twelve Hours Later, Thirty Days Later, and Some Time Later. He’s the artist of the webcomic fanu fiku and he’s co-author of the 24 Hour Comic Day Survival Guide. He’s participated in National Novel Writing Month and its related challenges over 20 times, recently cracking one million words written in Nano. Anthony lives in San Jose with his wife and cats, but his heart will always belong in Atlanta. To learn more about Dakota Frost, visit facebook.com/dakotafrost or dakotafrost.com; to learn more about Jeremiah Willstone, visit facebook.com/jeremiahwillstone; to learn more about Anthony and his appearances, visit his blog dresan.com.
You can also take a look at my previous presentations on the science of airships, which I've been doing on and off for about 10 years now, for more details ... Hope to see you virtually there, or in the air! -the Centaur

My Dragon Con Virtual Mentoring Schedule

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I know it might be hard to believe, but I am not dead, despite 2020's best efforts! In fact, I am going to be at Virtual Dragon Con, participating in the Virtual Mentoring sessions!
2020 Dragon Con Writer's Track Virtual Mentoring Guests We have 30 established authors and other publishing pros who've generously donated their time and expertise to host 15-minute, one-on-one mentoring sessions with aspiring authors. If you're signing up for an acquiring editor or publisher, you are welcome to pitch your completed book! If you are meeting with an established author, the door is pretty wide open. You can ask about craft. If you're struggling with something specific, you can ask them about it. We have a number of indie authors, so if you're interested in self-publishing, you can pick their brains. Think about what you want to get out of this dedicated one-on-one session and choose your mentor accordingly.
So, who am I in all of this, if you're just encountering this link and haven't read my books or this blog?

Anthony Francis - Thinking Ink Press & Author

Session schedule: Friday - 4:30, 4:50, 5:10, 5:30

Secret origin: By day, Anthony Francis teaches robots to learn; by night, he writes the Dakota Frost urban fantasy series (FROST MOON, BLOOD ROCK and LIQUID FIRE) and the steampunk Jeremiah Willstone series (THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE). He's also an editor, and co-founded Thinking Ink Press. Genres & expertise: I'm a science fiction, urban fantasy and steampunk author with experience in space travel, general physics, artificial intelligence, robotics, cognitive science, fictional magic and myth, and real and fictional military systems. Acquisition wishlist: we're looking for fresh voices in science fiction accessible to new audiences. We've recently published YA military science fiction and humorous cyberpunk novels featuring LGBTQIA characters, and have also published a series of steampunk anthologies.
If you're interested in talking with me about writing science fiction, urban fantasy, or steampunk, or would like to talk about a new book proposal of interest to Thinking Ink Press, the signup sheet for sessions is here: https://form.jotform.com/202435857025050. This is the first time we've done this virtually, but I've participated before in the live events (on the mentee end, rather than mentor :-D) and found it very valuable. So come on board, ask your questions, and help us make Virtual Dragon Con a success! Virtual Dragon Con is already running - and I've been on two recorded panels already for the Writer's Track, though I don't know when they'll air yet, just figuring that out myself - but please go check it out and help the world have fun in the face of the zombie apocalypse! -the Centaur  

Author Reading: Saturday at 11:30!

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Loki the Cat and Anthony sitting on a bench reading a book So my author reading IS on tomorrow, though you can't search for it by name (my name appears in the panel description, but not in the panelists), it does show up on the list at 11:30 tomorrow (um, today, Saturday):
Reading Session: Anthony Francis Time: Sat 11:30 am Location: Marietta - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour) (Tentative Panelists: Anthony Francis)
I'll be reading from a mixture of my fiction and nonfiction, urban fantasy and steampunk, published works and unpublished works, and maybe even a preview of the Jeremiah Willstone radio drama! Or, since this got finalized on the schedule at the last minute, I might just be reading a book by myself in a quiet room. Either way, so full of win! :-D -the Centaur
P.S. It appears my author signing is still on the schedule, so I will also be appearing at 2:30 on Sunday: Title: Author Signings Time: Sun 02:30 pm Location: International Hall South 4-5 - Marriott (Length: 1 Hour) (Tentative Panelists: Anthony Francis)
Don't miss it! (I won't.)

Dragon Con 2019!

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Time Machine Scooter at Dragon Con Woohoo, I made it! After what seems like a year and a day of foo, I am finally back at Dragon Con! I had a wonderful dinner with writer friends, wandered the show floor seeing all the great costumes on the moral equivalent of Preview Night, and had a nice cocktail in the hotel bar, where I apparently sold two Muggles on Doctor Who! (We also talked about the Three Stooges, Wayne's World, and bingewatching Agents of SHIELD). My reading session this year is in theory Saturday at 11:30 in Marietta [Hyatt] though it for some reason hasn't shown up on the schedule (and they have an author signing listed for Sunday instead). Investigating. In the meantime, my schedule this year is moderate:
Social Media as an Effective Tool for Authors Social Media is an author's best friend/worst enemy. This panel discusses how to maximize the benefits without the side effects. Time: Fri 04:00 pm Location: Embassy CD - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour) (Tentative Panelists:Moderator: Bill Fawcett, Anthony Francis, Tyra A Burton, Anya Martin, Trisha J. Wooldridge, James Nettles) When Life Intrudes Writers often seem impervious to their surroundings. But occasionally life throws us a problem we have to face head on. How do we manage career & crisis at the same time? Time: Fri 10:00 pm Location: Embassy CD - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour) (Tentative Panelists: Holly Sullivan McClure, Katherine Kurtz, Nancy Knight, Anthony Francis) Reading Session: Anthony Francis Time: Sat 11:30 am Location: Marietta - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour) (Tentative Panelists: Anthony Francis) Fightin' 'n' Writin' How to write realistic fight scenes--whether utilizing guns, edged weapons, martial arts...or something not yet invented. Time: Sat 10:00 pm Location: Embassy CD - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour) (Tentative Panelists: John D. Ringo, Clay and Susan Griffith, Anthony Francis, Alison Sky Richards, R M Meluch) Stitch & Witch We are getting crafty for a bit. Feel free to bring projects to share or work on! While we explore the role that art, crafts, & hobbies play for characters & worlds. Time: Sun 11:30 am Location: Embassy EF - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour) (Tentative Panelists: Jody Lynn Nye, Anthony Francis) Transformations: Shapeshifter Magic Urban Fantasy features many types of shapeshifters. Our panel of authors will discuss the type of magic used by their characters & where their inspiration regarding it is rooted. Time: Mon 11:30 am Location: Chastain 1-2 - Westin (Length: 1 Hour) (Tentative Panelists: D.R. Perry, Tina Glasneck, Jennifer St. Giles, Aaron Crash, Anthony Francis)
When life intrudes? Oh, I got this. -the Centaur

Robots in Montreal

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A cool hotel in old Montreal.

"Robots in Montreal," eh? Sounds like the title of a Steven Moffat Doctor Who episode. But it's really ICRA 2019 - the IEEE Conference on Robotics and Automation, and, yes, there are quite a few robots!

Boston Dynamics quadruped robot with arm and another quadruped.

My team presented our work on evolutionary learning of rewards for deep reinforcement learning, AutoRL, on Monday. In an hour or so, I'll be giving a keynote on "Systematizing Robot Navigation with AutoRL":

Keynote: Dr. Anthony Francis
Systematizing Robot Navigation with AutoRL: Evolving Better Policies with Better Evaluation

Abstract: Rigorous scientific evaluation of robot control methods helps the field progress towards better solutions, but deploying methods on robots requires its own kind of rigor. A systematic approach to deployment can do more than just make robots safer, more reliable, and more debuggable; with appropriate machine learning support, it can also improve robot control algorithms themselves. In this talk, we describe our evolutionary reward learning framework AutoRL and our evaluation framework for navigation tasks, and show how improving evaluation of navigation systems can measurably improve the performance of both our evolutionary learner and the navigation policies that it produces. We hope that this starts a conversation about how robotic deployment and scientific advancement can become better mutually reinforcing partners.

Bio: Dr. Anthony G. Francis, Jr. is a Senior Software Engineer at Google Brain Robotics specializing in reinforcement learning for robot navigation. Previously, he worked on emotional long-term memory for robot pets at Georgia Tech's PEPE robot pet project, on models of human memory for information retrieval at Enkia Corporation, and on large-scale metadata search and 3D object visualization at Google. He earned his B.S. (1991), M.S. (1996) and Ph.D. (2000) in Computer Science from Georgia Tech, along with a Certificate in Cognitive Science (1999). He and his colleagues won the ICRA 2018 Best Paper Award for Service Robotics for their paper "PRM-RL: Long-range Robotic Navigation Tasks by Combining Reinforcement Learning and Sampling-based Planning". He's the author of over a dozen peer-reviewed publications and is an inventor on over a half-dozen patents. He's published over a dozen short stories and four novels, including the EPIC eBook Award-winning Frost Moon; his popular writing on robotics includes articles in the books Star Trek Psychology and Westworld Psychology. as well as a Google AI blog article titled Maybe your computer just needs a hug. He lives in San Jose with his wife and cats, but his heart will always belong in Atlanta. You can find out more about his writing at his website.

Looks like I'm on in 15 minutes! Wish me luck.

-the Centaur

 

Back to Dragon Con!

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Hail, fellow adventurers! If you want to experience our world the way Jeremiah Willstone and her friends first experienced it, there’s no better way than to come to Dragon Con in Atlanta! I’ve been going to Dragon Con longer than almost any con - certainly longer than any still-running con - and after enough time here they put me on panels! And here they are:

  • Practical Time Travel for the Storyteller
    Sat 05:30 pm / Athens - Sheraton
    Panelists: Darin M. Bush, Michael J. Martinez, S.M. Stirling, Anthony Francis, Jack Campbell
    This panel discusses the real science behind time travel, as well as how these scientific theories can place both challenging and rewarding demands on the stories we tell. Time dilation, the grandfather paradox, and more will be explained as we discuss the stories that reference these theories.
  • Partners: Collaborating on Your Novel
    Sun 11:30 am / Embassy CD - Hyatt
    Panelists: Nancy Knight, Janny Wurts, Anthony Francis, Clay and Susan Griffith, Gordon Andrews, Ilona Andrews
    When writers collaborate, the results can be great--or horrible. How do you insure that your collaboration turns out well?
  • Plotting or Plodding?
    Sun 02:30 pm / Embassy CD - Hyatt
    Panelists: Janny Wurts, Anthony Francis, Lee Martindale, Richard Kadrey, Laura Anne Gilman, Melissa F Olson
    It's the story, stupid! Everybody loves a great story. This panel discusses how to create that unforgettable story roiling within you.
  • Magic Practitioners in Urban Fantasy: Witches and Warlocks
    Mon 10:00 am / Chastain 1-2 - Westin
    Panelists: Jeanne P Adams, David B. Coe, Linda Robertson, Kevin O. McLaughlin, Anthony Francis, Melissa F Olson
    Witches and warlocks in the genre range from being an accepted part of their communities to the most feared. Our panel of authors will discuss the characteristics of those in their works.
  • Write a Damn Good Book
    Mon 11:30 am / Embassy CD - Hyatt
    Panelists: Bill Fawcett, Peter David, E.K. Johnston, Diana Peterfreund, Anthony Francis

    Writers worry about all sorts of things, but the first thing to worry about is writing a great book. Here's how.

Other fun things at the con are the Parade, the Masquerade, performances by the Atlanta Radio Theater Company, and, of course, The Cruxshadows. So come on down and hang out with 80,000 fans of fantasy and science fiction! Some of them may become your new best friends.

-The Centaur

Applied Plotonium at Clockwork Alchemy

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Boosting the signal ... I'll be joining my friend David Colby's panel APPLIED PLOTONIUM at 10am on Sunday at Clockwork Alchemy:
Applied Plotonium Monterey - Sunday 10:00 AM
Applied Plotonium is a discussion and series of examples of worlds that are, in general, 100% scientifically accurate save for a SINGLE element of applied plotonium - a single element or feature that is downright fantastical. Eagerly explores extrapolation ending in exposition!
Presenter: David Colby
Moderator: Roger Que Panelists: Anthony Francis, Michael Tierney
David Colby is the author of the hard science fiction young adult novel DEBRIS DREAMS (think "The Hunger Games meets Gravity") and proposed the panel to explore his love of making the science in science fiction not suck. In addition to David and me, we've also shanghaied, er, convinced two of our  mutual friends to join in: writer and chemist Michael Tierney from the Treehouse Writers will join as a panelist, and the writer and computer scientist Roger Que from Write to the End will serve as our moderator. Drop in - you'll enjoy yourself! -the Centaur