Checked into the con Thursday night, 'cause I know the lines are huge on Friday, even for pros. We live less than 30 miles away, so get to sleep in our own beds, always seems like a good idea until the middle of the drive home, early Saturday morning, with AM panels just a couple hours away :)
Old friends in the greenroom, but my scedule was so agressive that there was only time for a couple of quick hugs and a couple of Laurel and Hardy handshakes and then it was off to work.
My first panel was
"Why Ain't It Happened Next? What with writers of horror, science fiction, and speculative military fiction coming up with all these nifty ideas for terrorists, how come there ain't been any in the US since 9/11. Is Bush right and we're getting them all in Iraq. Is our Homeland Security that good? Are the terrorists spread that thin?"
Christopher C. Konker (M) Mike Brennan Michael Ehart Mike Shepherd Moscoe
Panel was a great start--- packed room, lots of lively debate, strong panelists. Weirdly, after all these years of hanging with Mike Moscoe at cons, this was the first time we were on a panel together. Worth the wait. There were a few familiar faces in the mix, including an old friend from the real world I see too seldom, lately mostly at cons, John Kono, a fellow IT geek and history fanatic. John has an encyclopedic knowledge of Middle Kingdom Egypt, and is a generally great guy to boot.
Next was my reading--- book board in place, I flew through "Six Zombies Doing that Mick jagger Strut." Well recieved, though I was stopped by more than one fan in the hall outside before asking if I were going to read a "Servant" story again this year. Apparently last year after the reading of "Servant of the Manthycore" a number of ancient Syrian Death Goddesses made D&D appearances in the gaming room :) I am starting to see familiar faces at readings, which I take to be a good sign.
"My favorite science fiction book If you had to recommend just one science fiction book from the last thirty years, which would that, be?
Kathy Watts (M) L. Timmel Duchamp Michael Ehart Judith Herman" ---This was much livelier than you might expect. Instead of a dull list there was a ton of interaction. Everyone was good on this panel, too, but this was my first of a long con with Judith Herman, who was simply delightful, full of sly, dry and very rich wit and wonderfully amusing anecdotes.
After I hung for a bit with a former student, Jonathon, and managed to spill my dreadful green room coffee on Kat Richardson, with whom, by the way I was on my next panel, and is one of my favorite (unindited) co-conspirators.
And then it was time for lunch. My wife, who was able to attend only sparsely, came and got me and we went home for Bob's Barbeque ribs and links, and her mom's quite excellent collard and mustard greens with bacon. A too short nap, and then we flew back to the con for--
"Bounty Hunter, PI, Cop--Mystery Protagonists in Fantasy/Horror/SF It's not new, but it is popular. Cross-genre authors discuss melding the traditional characters and structures of Mystery with Fantasy/Horror/SF.
Kat Richardson (M) Michael Ehart Kaitlin Kittredge Pat MacEwen Cynthia Ward" Of course, I will always love a panel with Kat, but I think that this one may have been one of my favorites--- Kaitlin was adorable, Pat had some nice grim CSI stories, and Cynthia co-wrote "Writing the Other" with my crit-mate Nisi Shawl. It also kicked off a thought process that followed through most of my writerly panels concerning noir elemnts in just about every aspect of my writing.
This segued nicely into my next panel "Noir vs Dark/Horror vs Fantasy Where does the darkness of Fantasy become Horror? What's the difference between "Dark" Fantasy and "Noir" Fantasy? What's this darned "noir" thing anyhow? Is any Fantasy with a monster in it "Dark?" Get the skinny at this discussion.
Michael Ehart (M) Kaitlin Kitteredge Gordon Van Gelder" My second in a row with the adorable Kaitlin, who has an interesting series coming soon from St. Martin's, coincidently the house where Gordon used to labor before he bought F&SF. Gordon was incisive and sharp, in that "Columbo" style he uses.
I hung a little at the penthouse pro party, had a nice chat with Gordon and met a few new folks. BTW, the pate was dreadful, as evidenced by the very small amount of it consumed by a group of writers, whom as you must know would most likely eat library paste on a cracker if it was free :)
My wife was able to make it back in time for the Midnight Horror Readings. Donna Barr raced in, read a very short Nazi buracracy story. I read my ghost rat story "The Amnityville Sinsemilla Growers' Guide to Better, Healthier Plants." Joe Cooke read a wonderfully titled and memorable story-"The Late Early Guest" and Pat gave us a cannibal tale. We baled after that, as our fatigue level had reached critical mass.
Saturday started with one of the panels I have done at several cons---
"No, Really, That Makes Sense Our distinguished panel of experts explains why certain widely- seen SF and fantasy elements that seem absurd actually have legitimate explanations. Come hear why it makes sense for barbarian sword babes to wear chain-mail bikinis, why computers on starships never crash or lock up with indecipherable error messages, and why male scientists in SF are always really good looking guys who are irresistible to brilliant, beautiful women."
Michael Ehart (M) Amy Thomson Kat Richardson Lori Edwards --- This was a very funny bunch--- Amy in particular has a very sick sense of humor, and is extrodinarily quick with a pun. Kat and I wandered over to the autograph session and sat together with plenty of time to admire the very long line for the artist GOH and its contrast to the length of the line autograph seekers in front of us:)
Next was another political panel, "Mercenaries-The Eclipse of the Citizen Soldier From the Dendari, onward, how have they been handled in the genre? In Iraq, we have 140,000 (as of this writing) soldiers in country ... and 100,000 contractors. Is the citizen soldier going the way of the hoplite? Why does America seem to want a vigilante superhero rather than an Everyman with his finger on the trigger?
Alan Paulsen (M) Donna Barr Michael Ehart Stoney Compton" Lively again, with an audience memeber who actually was a Blackwater employee, and several amusingly "Soldier of Fortune" types lurking in the back of the room, menacing in thier wrap-around shades, but otherwise non-contributing. Donna is an old friend, and her wired craziness added a very nice edge of instability to the discussion. This panel sparked some of the best hallway discussion, too.
"Plots That Fly And Plots That Die! Every story needs one. Some get away with two or three. Where do they come from? How to you entangle and tighten them? Other plots just seem to lay there and do nothing for the book. How to make your plot earn its pay!
LJ Bothell (M) Michael Ehart Kay Kenyon Richard Wadholm James Cobb" was the most "grown-up" panel I was on, and it was very well attended. Some good info for both the pros and the folks in the folding chairs.
"Computer misconceptions in science fiction literature and film Viruses that take out alien computers, text that flows across the screen, code written in a few keystrokes to do complex tasks. How does the presentation of computers in literature and media affect the expectations of the public?
Michael Ehart (M) Judith Herman Craig Figley" Judith again, who was tech consultant on a number of films, including "War Games" and just as funny again this go-around. "Swordfish" got an especially good going-over (ahem).
"Die Laughing Horror's not funny! Or is it? How do authors like Christopher Moore make things that ought to gross you out give you the giggles? What's the trick to making Horror hilarious?--come and find out.
Michael Ehart (M) Lorelei Shannon Kij Johnson M.K. Hobson Leon West" Another lively panel, full of laughter, as we worked our way through a number of examples. Leon was incredibly funny. By the way, Jordan Lapp made it to this panel--- unfortunately his time was very limited, so we only got to chat for a few minutes--- I had hoped to have a drink with him. Nice guy!
Speaking of nice guys, Joshua Palmatier was on my next, and day's final panel "Creating Emotion-Driven SF/F Speculative fiction is often called the fiction of ideas, but wonderful ideas will never see print unless they create an emotional impact. Learn to begin with emotion and then wrap the story around character to affect the reader.
Mary Rosenblum (M) Michael Ehart Joshua Palmatier Richard Wadholm" Mary is one of my favorite panel mods, and this was a very good panel. Too bad it was so late, but the attendance was still good, and there were a lot of really good insights on the subject. A short trip to the VIP lounge, a hall wander to a couple of parties with a crowd including my wife, Kat and her husband and others. Such old fogies, we toddled off early.
Sunday started with "How the web is changing the face of politics. Web pages, YouTube ads, email, the internet has allowed even minor candidates to get their message across. How will the internet continue to change to the political process?
Michael Ehart (M) and others---" I arranged for two of the leading techno-political operatives in the state to join us for this one panel, Noemie Maxwell and Ray Minchew, and they did not disapoint. Lively, and substansive, and clearly a success measured by the amount of hallway discussion after.
Kat bailed me out on this panel "Too Many Women Are there too many female characters in Fantasy/Horror? Do girls rule or are is it an illusion? Does gender matter to readers? sales? writers? Does fantasy need more men (like Mars Needs Women)?
Michael Ehart (M) Joshua Palmatier" as Joshua had a flight change and couldn't make it. It was a hoot, very well attended, and we weere able to persuade a number of male readers to try some of the fantastic female writers out there.
The on to-- "We've Broken Their Code, Sir!" Encryption is often an important part of many stories, as well as modern security systems, but often times they leave the reader scratching his head. One author has codes broken in days by an expert who knows the system in use, another declares that messages using some strange code are absolutely unreadable without the key, not just for computers today, but for computers in use a billion years from now. Who is right? Come join us while we discuss where encryption started, where it is now, and where it is going.
Michael Ehart (M) Judith Herman JT Traub"--- my last panel with judith, who continued to amuse. Part techie and part show-biz, this was a hugely attended panel, and geeky as all get-out. had a great conversation with Judith in the green room after.
"Strangest story ever read We've all had the experience of finishing a science fiction or fantasy novel/story, sat back and said "huh?". Come prepared to talk about the strangest story or novel you've read in these past thirty years.
C.A. Scott (M) Michael Ehart Stoney Compton" Wow, did we come up with some weird stuff! C.A. Scott was unable to attend, so Stoney and I swapped moderator duties. Everyone was suffering from con fatigue, so there as a bit of con-rumminess that was entirely appropriate. Good ending to a great con!
Overall, it seemed better attended than last year. As always there was a huge number of wonderful costumes. sadly I was so heavily booked that I only was able to attend the panels I was on, but the variety of those was delightful. Lots of old friends there, Jay Lake, Bruce Taylor, a hall nod to Greg Bear and a glimpse of Astrid, and a dash past their daughter Alexandra who was sitting in a hallway, many others unmentioned (and some unmentionable!) great art everywhere, and much laughter.