Four Days With My People (GENCON 2018)

GENCON.

Man.

Part of the reason I’ve taken so long to do this AAR is that I was having trouble trying to put the experience into words.  It’s been two weeks since I loaded out of Indianapolis and began the long trip home…and I still find myself having a goofy smile for no good reason.  If you crossed Toad the Wet Sprocket’s Walk on the Ocean with some goth synth metal fantasy power ballad all over a rolling dice track, that would probably be what my homage to “The Best Four Days in Gaming” would probably be.  Which is ironic, because I didn’t do a whole lot (read none) of gaming.

So what was so great about it? More on that later.

TL:DR for those here for the “Go or not go…” from the author’s perspective:  That hall is wait listed for a reason, and I did great fiscal murder there.  With only books, my books, as in I couldn’t even take any anthologies there.  No prints either.  So, if you want a chance to hand out your swag at a con that has (conservatively) to 75,000 rabid gamers and can get into the author alley, go.

NOTE: I was wait listed and got into Author’s Alley late.  

I will add this caveat, however:  Lodging is going to eat you alive.  If you are comfortable with Air BnB, several vendors had success with that.  However, if you’re not comfortable with Air BnB, expect to spend upwards of $600 on lodging, and that’s if you don’t stay downtown.  Which, for the love of God, stay downtown if you can.  Technically, according to the hotel I was staying at and Mapquest, it should have taken 25 minutes to get downtown.  Yeaaah, that’s not counting weekday rush hour my friends.  Time is money, and in this case it’s worth that extra $10-$15 a night to be able to walk back to your hotel if necessary.

The tables in Author’s Alley were your standard 6-foot con table.  As originally set up, the grey walls behind were angled in order to make them slightly more stable.  This…this was a problem, as it sharply constricted the back area space, meaning I had to empty two of my book crates:

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“I think we’re going to need a bigger booth…”
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“It’s also going to be super awkward if I don’t sell anything…”

Despite the booth shock, load in (and load out) went really well.  This was a con that took security seriously, and woe be unto you as a vendor or help if you did not have your badge during setup.  Park in Parking Lot A if you go–it’s not that much further than the “Marshalling Yard” behind the building, and you won’t have to wait for a pass to park.

 

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All done!

The crowd, as to be expected from the gaming community, was mostly (high and epic) fantasy fans, then about 75% of those sci-fi as well.  The Butcher’s Blade print, as always, was a life saver.  As my neighbors all observed, it made people stop and look, I could engage them in conversation, and at that point the magic usually happened.  Again, if only I had apparently talked to the right person and been told “book related merchandise” was safe to sell.

Speaking of fantasy, it also helped that I had great neighbors.  To my right was fellow sci-fi author Hans Cummings:

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To my left was Fantasy Author J.J. Sherwood (here with your humble host and her hubs, Michael):

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Good neighbors make any Con go well, and J.J. and Hans were awesome.  Since J.J. did not do sci-fi, she sent folks over to me.  As I lacked fantasy, I sent folks over to her.  It went really well.

So, again, if you have a chance to do GENCON as an author, do it.

If you have a chance to go to GENCON as a guest? Well, now we get to where I talk about “tribe.”  For those of you who don’t know, I’m a huge role playing game fan.  (“Wait, wait…you dropped DnD references and names throughout An Unproven Concept.”)  Being around 75,000 other people who shared the same passion was amazing.  I spent most of the weekend talking to people with whom I didn’t have to explain phrases like, “Oh, so you’re a World War II buff as well?  I shall now make my persuasion roll with advantage…” (and yes, she bought the alternate history anthology).  Even better when you see familiar faces from the Kansas City area and do a mutual “Wait, what?  Why are you here?!”  Plus, there were cool books like this:

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And a truly impressive charity set up:

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In addition, there’s Critical Role Live (if you get your tickets early enough):

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I was in a theater with over 2,000 fellow crazies when this brought the house down:
Sam on Skates

Courtesy of Leigh 574

For those of you who don’t know who that is or why we were all ecstatic about a man in a pink suit on roller skates coming out with a headlight in his crotch, I can only point you here, then point you here, and say this has been one of the best stories I’ve ever consumed.

Finally, I got to see old friends after several years.  To include my friend Quiltoni (“Queen of the Quilts” as I’ve been known to call her) and her merry band of booth helpers.

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(No, there’s not a quilter in there…we all forgot to take pics the whole weekend)

So to recap:  Go to GENCON for the sales, stay for the community.  It’ll probably be the best 4 days of your life, the people were awesome, and I have zero regrets about taking the plunge into Author’s Avenue (even with the spinning wheel of doom).  I don’t know if I’ll do it next year (I have my sights set on a couple of other shows that might eat the leave), but it was worth it this year.

 

Random Thoughts

On the transitory nature of things:  So I’ve mentioned Project Wonderful on here a couple of times.  Well, after over a decade of great adverts at low prices, they’re closing their doors.  It’s like going in to check on a great restaurant you used to frequent…only to find that they’ve been closed for several weeks.  Yes, feelings of guilt may be involved.  However, it sounds like the advertisement market is just going through some serious change.

On eternal arguments:  I work in a building with several other air enthusiasts.  This includes a gentleman who has been in the Commemorative Air Force almost as long as I’ve been alive.  Well, if there’s one discussion you can expect to have with a fellow flight fiend, it’s “What do you think is the best fighter of World War II?”

I think I threw him for a loop when I came back immediately with, “Where am I flying and what’s my mission?”

“That’s overcomplicating things, don’t you think?”

“Not really.  If I don’t have to go above 10,000 feet and ground fire isn’t that much of a problem…”

“Fine, what’s your favorite fighter of World War II.”

*without missing a beat*  “P-47, all day, every day.

“So you don’t think it’s the best fighter of World War II?”

“There I was over the Philippines when my only engine conked out.”

“Okay, good point.”

On nerves: No matter how many cons I do, I still have those moments where I’m afraid the whole thing is going to be like the scene from Carrie, i.e., “They’re all going to laugh at you!”  (Except, you know, hopefully I don’t get that homicidal surge to go with my previously largely nascent telekinesis.)  It’s silliness–I actually like going to cons and getting to meet new fans.  Plus the dealer room closes early at GENCON so vendors can game.

Speaking of gaming, I’ve been playing a lot of D&D 5th Edition.  While I grew up with 2nd Edition and played a bit of 3.5, I think 5e has hit the sweet spot between “Having a d20 system that keeps folks honest…” yet being simple enough that you can teach someone to play well in a matter of hours.  Even better:  The Better Half has started to apply her talents to preparing game sets:

Haunted House

Anyway, enough musing for the night.  Time to take Mama Shark her copy of Aries’ Red Sky in the AM.

Libertycon 31!

As longtime readers of this blog know, I regularly attend Libertycon, a small sci-fi convention out of Chattanooga.  Unlike most cons I attend (where I allegedly perform Jedi mind tricks, erm, vend), Libertycon is primarily a professional get together / family reunion.  I met my first guest blogger there, got invited into an anthology, and generally get up to all sorts of shenanigans with folks who are fellow authors.

This last year I had to skip the Con due to that pesky dissertation problem.  This year was the first time in decades the Con had moved to a new venue, the Marriott in downtown Chattanooga.  The journey down was a little, um, interesting (video tilts the right way once you hit play):

As I had not been sure I was going to make the Con, I had planned to just attend as “just another guy.”  Well, that lasted until I got signed in, looked at the back of my badge, and realized I was scheduled for several events.  Whoops!

The first of these was Chris Kenned and Mark Wandrey’s Four Horsemen Author’s Panel for all the participants in their anthologies as well as those who write full novels in the larger 4HU Universe.  As readers of this blog may recall, I’m in A Few Credits More.  I will hopefully be able to get Chris a story for the second trio of universe anthologies, as it’s a fun playground to mess around in for an old Battletech fan.  I stuck around for the mass autograph signing and also jaw jacking with my fellow authors.  It was great to see Kacey Ezell, whose alternate history Minds of Men I really enjoyed listening to.  So much so, I’ve hired her narrator for Aries’ Red Sky, with the intent being to have the print, Kindle, and audio book versions arrive within weeks of one another.  We’ll see how that goes.

The rest of Saturday was spent in panels on Space Opera, Retro-Futurist Alternate History, and what’s going on in indie publishing.  I had intended to just be a bystander for the Space Opera panel, but the always lovely Sarah and Dan Hoyt weren’t having any of that.  (Yes, it says something about how indomitable Sarah is that she can basically motivate the crowd to force me to the table.  “I’m here on vaaaaaaaccaaaatttttiiiooonnn…”) Retro-Futurist Alternate History was hosted by Louis Antoinelli, and a good time was had by all (even if I got called a pessimist at one point).  Finally, I got to sit in on a “Masters of Military Science Fiction” panel that included Chuck Gannon, David Drake, David Weber, and John Ringo.  Lots of ideas flowing out of that one, and it was timely in that it’s made me think of several things currently going on as I edit Aries’.  (Yes, I know, I should explain those things, but they involve spoilers.)

All too soon, it was Sunday morning.  Given that I was trying to not have to take leave on Monday, I had to hot foot out of Chattanooga earlier than I wanted.  Always hard leaving friends that are like family, and it speaks volumes about the con’s atmosphere that all 750 memberships sold out in under 6 hours once sales opened.  Already looking forward to next year when I’ll spend entirely too much on T-shirts and have my muses reinforced by my friends’ crazy ideas.

Otters!

In support of Aries Red Sky (available here), I had some work commissioned by A.R. Crebs.  A.R. is a fellow author as well as an artist, and I’ve mentioned her before when discussing the system maps for the book’s interior.  Introducing Oscar and Ollie, a pair of otters who are the subject of a 31st Century children’s show (of which more will be written later):

 

Harpoon Otter 18x24Ray Gun Otter

Hope you find these two images amusing.  They serve the basis for the unit patch for VF(S)-10, the “Obstinate Otters.”

A Quick Note

Greetings all, it’s been awhile.  Lots of good news, and there will be a longer newsletter (subscribe here).  But first, three items of major import:

As of 11 May 2018 I have received my doctorate in U.S. History from Kansas State University.  Here is one picture of me getting hooded by my committee chair, Dr. Don Mrozek:

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The next piece of news is that I will be at Smallville Comic Con in Hutchinson, KS on 23-24 June 2018.  We will be at Booth #44:

Smallville Map

Last but far from least, the next Vergassy Universe novel, Aries Red Sky, is available for pre-order from Amazon.  Feel free to pick up a copy so that it will download on its release date, 24 July.  Also, if you prefer audiobooks, a producer has been hired for the book with an expected completion date of 10 August on ACX.

Aries Red Sky Kindle Cover.jpg

That’s all for now!  Hope you are all doing and have a chance to pick the book up.

Star System Maps and a Shout Out

The next novel, Aries Red Sky, is nearing its completion now that the dissertation monster is finally slain.  It’s at 95,000 words or so, and will be headed to the editor (Lord willing and the creek don’t rise) at the end of the month.  My usual artist and better half is busy completing her senior projects (links go to her page), so I asked my talented fellow artist and author A.R. Crebs to put together the system maps that are pasted inside of the book.  I don’t know you guys, how do you think she did?

 

Me, I think she did awesome.  Quick work too–each of those took less than 4 hours.  So if you’re looking for a highly capable, easy to work with artist, feel free to send A.R. an email.

Blank cover art reveal of Aries Red Sky to follow shortly.