Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Armadillocon 31 post-mortem

Armadillocon 31 happened this past weekend in Austin, and as I indicated earlier, I attended the shindig. I didn't have any panels on Friday, so before things got going, I ventured up to my sister-in-law's house in Hutto to drop off my clothes and such, then made stops at Austin Homebrew Supply to pick up corks (with which to bottle mead) and Dragon's Lair to pick up some gaming dice (with which to introduce the girls to D&D, seeing as how they lost my other sets of gaming dice by scattering them about the house years ago). Scott Zurbeck and his band of conspirators had a fine art show set up as usual, despite the late cancellation by the artist GoH Stephan Martiniere(who sent his artwork along anyway, great guy that he is). I had dinner at Fuddrucker's--a nice, jalapeno-laden burger--with Scott Cupp and Wilie Siros and a woman who's name escapes me at the moment. Scott's toastmaster address during opening ceremonies was entertaining, and made even moreso by persistent heckling by a certain female member of the audience. The meet-the-pros mingle afterwards was a fun scrum of conversation, highlighted by the unexpected arrival of Michael Moorcock, an event which I detailed in a previous post. I hung out shooting the bull with Joe Lansdale, Bill Crider and Scott for a good while, then checked out the parties before heading off around midnight.

Saturday started off with an autograph session in the dealers' room. I was gratified by actually signing a few things--several copies of Voices of Vision: Creators of Science Fiction & Fantasy Speak (whoo hoo!) along with a couple of copies of Fast Ships, Black Sails. It's nice when you don't have to sit utterly ignored by everyone for an hour. Improving on things immensely was the presence of Alexis Glynn Latner and Anne-Marie Thomas. Thomas was a new face for me (there were quite a few at this Armadillocon, which I take as a good sign) with a new academic book out called (modestly enough) The Science Fiction Handbook. My cursory look through it piqued my interest. I used to review this kind of work all the time, and it struck me as very accessible and thoughtful. Apart from the horribly unfortunate and misguided inclusion of "Minority Report" in their list of landmark SF films (when challenged, she admitted it had been included more on the strength of Philip K. Dick's original short story than on the movie's own shitty merits) I could find little fault with it. Definitely another addition to my ever-growing Amazon Wish List. I also--shock of shocks--had folks come up and ask when I'd post the next installment of Memory, since I'd left off at a pretty dramatic cliffhanger a month or so back. So it seems like some people are reading it. Must. Write. More.

Immediately after the autographing session came the City Building panel, which I moderated. Other participants included Scott Lynch, Sharon Shinn, Martha Wells, Rob Rogers and Vincent Docherty. I found it to be a stimulating panel, the more narrowly-focused topic bringing out a different conversation than the traditionally broad "Worldbuilding" panels that dominate convention programming. It didn't hurt any that Docherty actually works in real-life city design, and added a veneer of authority to the discussion. That, and the fact that Lynch is big into medieval sewer systems. No, really.

After the panel let out, I ended up joining Chris Nakashima-Brown, Maureen McHugh, Jessica Reisman and several other folks (who I've naturally forgotten the names of) in a lunch run across the highway to a Dim Sum restaurant. I'd never eaten Dim Sum before, and the concept of small portions brought around on carts for selection and sharing amongst those at the table took some getting used to, unsophisticate that I am. The food was quite good, though, and visually evocative of the exotic foods Chihiro's parents help themselves to early on in Spirited Away. Good stuff. Sadly, I had to drive back to New Braunfels after that for Monkey Girl's year-ending swim team banquet. That means I missed some ace programming, including the famed Texas panel (with Joe Lansdale, Howard Waldrop, Neal Barrett Jr., Lou Antonelli, Scott Cupp and Elizabeth Moon!) and the newest tradition, the "Fireside Chat" (with Waldrop, Don Webb, William Browning Spencer and James P. Hogan). Drat. Monkey Girl was honored as one of the "Dolphins of the Year" for her success at various swim meets and advancing to state, so I can't complain. I just wish these groups would check my schedule before counter-programming these events!

Returning that evening with a couple of bottles of mead in tow, I set up shop at the Space Squid party, and shared my homebrew hone wine with everyone. Lots of happiness from party-goers at that. Unfortunately, I'd forgotten my camera's flash back home (The Wife used it while photographing the swim banquet) so the evening's pictures didn't turn out so good, and ended up blurred or grainy or skewed color in the poor light. But the beer and mead and other liquors flowed freely. Mark Finn wore a fez. I got to finally meet Bill Parker and discuss the Texas in 2013 bid and why San Antonio ended up as the host city instead of Dallas, which I'd assumed had been a done deal. I talked a little with the Aggiecon folks, and most pros have cautious optimism that this bunch of students will turn around that foundering convention. ConDFW, FenCon and Apollocon all had nice spreads and a steady ebb and flow of people. I lost count of how many people I talked with, but at the Texas in 2013 party John Picacio had the show-stopper when he pulled up on his iPhone the photo of me on a toilet and showed it to all the partygoers. There was also some talk of using my homebrew powers in support of the Texas in 2013 bid, which could be fun, if challenging. Will have to see how that thread plays out. Good times.

Sunday started off bright and early with my last panel of the con, Editing Wholesale. Here, I was seriously outclassed. Other panelists were Chris Roberson, Keith Lansdale and Jim Frenkel. The description of the panel was "How is editing novels different from editing anthologies," which presented a problem for me, since I've edited neither. My background's in journalism, and I was fiction editor at RevolutionSF for three years, but that's not the same. To his credit, Frenkel heroically tried to engage me meaningfully in the discussion, but when your professional anthology experience amounts to one canceled contract and several "really great" proposals editors want to read the final product but not actually publish it themselves, well, there's not much wiggle room. Note to publishers: You can easily prevent this from happening in the future! I've got the proposals ready to go, with A-list talent, too. Call me!

Done for the day, I caught the Academic SF panel and was entertained by the lively back-and-forth going on. Another newcomer that I'd crossed paths with over the course of the weekend but not actually gotten to speak with, Nancy Hightower, brought a high level of enthusiasm to the table. Anne-Marie Thomas was in her element, so to speak, and Mark Finn was in full-on Robert E. Howard scholar mode. With all that going on, you might think the other panelists, Kim Kofmel and Jessica Reisman, might be overwhelmed, but it was a remarkably balanced panel with excellent contributions from all involved.

Afterwards, I wandered around a bit, chatted with some folks--including Brad Denton, who's novel Buddy Holly is Alive and Well on Ganymede is about to become a major motion picture--but ultimately decided to head home early rather than stick around for Waldrop's con-closing reading, simply because I had to prep for Monday's research excursion to La Grange. But this was one of the best Armadillocons in a long time (and that's saying something, because it's been on a roll for the past 5-6 years or so). The number of new faces was amazing. In addition to the afore-mentioned Thomas, Docherty and Hightower, Taylor Anderson was an imposing presence and had good things to say about incorporating history into genre works. Sadly, I didn't get to introduce myself to him, either. If these new faces get to become regulars, it might almost make up for the fact that Walter Jon Williams doesn't come 'round anymore.

Lots of photos were taken, and all have been posted at The Wife's website in the Armadillocon 31 gallery. Enjoy.

Now Playing: Michael Kamen The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

1 comment:

  1. Scott Cupp5:43 PM

    The other diner on Friday was, of course, Willie's sister, Nina Siros, who was one of the partners at the old Adventures in Crime and Space and current landlord of stately Siros Manor.