Among the Mensans

Saturday I spoke at a Regional Gathering of Mensa members in Hudson, Ohio. I’d been telling myself for a long time that I wasn’t going to do this kind of thing anymore, but I did it as a favor because a friend of my wife was on the programming committee for the gathering and needed speakers. I’m kind of glad I did it now, because it reminded me of how much fun I had doing this.

This picture isn’t at all representative of how the presentation went. It’s posed, me at a table with some of my books. More representative would be me stalking about with my arms in the air like a lunatic, but I may have been moving too fast for the shutter speed required by the lighting in the room.

I did the session The Idea Is The Easy Part, where in the space of half an hour, I goad the audience into constructing a plot line for a novel. While doing this, I try to do very little in the line of actual plotting – I let the audience determine the subject, and make only suggestions on how or what to develop or mete out bits of writing advice. For the most part, I try and let things fall into place while I map it all out on a dry write board.

They started me out with the unlikely subject of NASCAR, about which I know nothing, and by the end of our session, we’d put a Science Fiction spin on it and whipped it into a decent enough plot line, managing as we did to even get in a Big Question, which is what SF is so brilliant at. There was intrigue, a love triangle, an opening chapter that starts with a bang, and a sidekick character named Sparky – a bisexual android (don’t ask) who (that?) becomes suspect and triggers the Big Question.

What was really fun about this the Mensans themselves, who really got into the plotting. I had a couple of groups that were discussing stuff among themselves by the end of the allotted plotting time. And what was really super was that I could toss out all of the cultural references I wanted to, and they made the connection. Great fun. I ought to see about putting myself back on the speaker circuit again.

Meantime, if a couple of years from now there are a rash of novels with a plot line about odd androids, orbital racing vehicles and a twisted version of cow pasture bingo, with titles like “Sparky’s Revenge,” you’ll know where that particular idea came from.

See the sun spread wings of gold
as the dawn unfurls
hear the song that the moon sings
to the darkened world
Feel the fire lighting
in the bitter cold
It’s the light that shines
through the windows of your soul

(via iTunes shuffle play)


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