Oddcon X Afterthoughts

I liken going to OdysseyCon last year as a non-gamer opening up Zork for the first time. I had no clue what to expect, I found myself in unfamiliar surroundings, and there was a good chance that I could possibly be eaten by a grue.

Luckily the con was small enough that people were happy to point me in the direction I needed to go. Even better, I got a chance to sit down and talk with people about subjects that I never spoke about except through email lists and online forums.

This year, I gave back to my first con experience by doing more active participation in Oddcon. And this year proved just as bit as fun and enlightening as last year’s:

  • I did my first "public" reading ever. This was different from the reading I did up at Urbana or at the Intervarsity Arts Festival last year, in that I read in front of people I didn’t know. My reading was jointly done with Nick Ozmet, who read a chapter from his online story "Knight Terrors" (I wound up reading Future Perfect). Only a couple of people showed up, but the room they had us read in was surprisingly cozy, so we got to chat with the people in a more casual manner, so that went over pretty well.
  • I had a couple of chances to hang with Tobias Buckell, one of the Guests of Honor, as well as sit beside him on a spoof panel, "White Men in SF" (which was, predictably, about white men in SF). Got to talk with him a lot about the writer’s life and juggling parental duties. Also got him to tell stories about World Fantasy which made me realize that at some point, I have to stop putting off not going and find a way to go (although it’s not going to happen this year. Sorry. But some things absolutely have to be first priority in my life right now…)
  • I also got to hang with fellow authors Alex Bledsoe and Sarah Monette. Last year, I was a little intimidated by Sarah, so it was nice to meet her again. Also, funny story with Alex. I first saw him last year when my husband and I attended a Midwinter Renaissance Festival on a date. I recognized Alex’s name from twitter, and he was reading a selection from one of his books. I meant to go over to listen, but then I got caught up by someone telling my fortune through numerology, which was fascinating, but ultimately useless. By the time I managed to wrench myself away, Alex was done, and I was too chicken to go up and talk to him. Again, very nice to meet him under a more casual setting.
  • I got to hang out with Jim Frankel, Tor editor, Harry Turtledove, the other literary Guest of Honor, Monte Cook, the gaming Guest of Honor, and a bunch of other writers and editors at the bar…because I could. And it was fun to talk shop with them. I didn’t say much to Harry Turtledove because of the intimidation factor. But he’s a nice guy. I hope the next time I meet him, I’ll have something more to talk about.
  • I did slam poetry…which wasn’t too shabby.
  • I saw a Dalek Tortoise. Really. No lie. If you don’t believe me, here’s a picture:
  • dalek tortoise

Ask me to tell you the story sometime.

So all in all, this year’s Oddcon was a lot of fun. I got to hang with writers and talk about the writing life, and I came away refreshed and inspired to get back to my writing.

There was a lot mentioned about Wiscon, which takes place next month. At some point, we did the numbers and we realized that while World Fantasy is definitely the most important con to go to for writers, Wiscon is the largest feminist SF convention, capping their members at 1000. It will be very interesting to see how Wiscon will play out. I’m getting very, very excited!

I bet there won’t be any Dalek tortoises there, though. But then again, I could be wrong.

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Oddcon Thoughts

So this past weekend, I attend my first science fiction/fantasy convention ever.

It’s not like I’ve actively avoided cons when I was living in Chicago. I knew about WindyCon and Duckon and Anime Central (my sister went to that—kudos to her). It’s just that I thought they looked sort of…weird. I had no great desire to go to a place where people walked around in costumes and going to panels where they debated what really killed the Star Trek series (hey, I liked Enterprise, that is, until it started going all weird and angsty and dark).

Plus, I didn’t really have anyone to go with. I wasn’t about to drag my hubby to one, although it’s possible he would’ve enjoyed himself, and most of my friends were SAHMs with young kids. I just couldn’t see myself bringing a bunch of moms and kids and watching them gawk as a dude dressed as Xena strolled by. Well, okay, I can see that, and in hindsight, it would’ve been hilarious…Also, the Guests of Honor seemed to be people who had their stuff self-published, and suddenly, they’re an “expert”…

Okay. So I did actively avoid the cons in Chicago.

When I got to Madison, I heard about OdysseyCon and checked out the website. The first thing I saw was that Tobias Buckell was attending as Guest of Honor, and hey, I knew that name. Then the whole RaceFail thing happened and, whaddyaknow, some of the LiveJournalists and other authors involved were going to be in attendance too, including Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. Then Tobias Buckley bowed out because his wife was having twins (good for him!), and he’s been replaced by oh, some guy who, I don’t know, made the NY Times Best Seller list but I never heard of him. But by that time, I decided. Oddcon was too good to pass up.

So out of all that, what did I get out of Oddcon?

  • The panels I went to were informative and fun. Some were geared towards writers, but some were fantasy/scifi in general. There were a few that definitely had some in-jokes I didn’t get, but all in all, not bad.
  • I got to meet Patrick Rothfuss, who has one freakylooking beard. But once you get over your fantasy of hunting him down with a pair of scissors, shouting, “AT LEAST MAKE IT EVEN FOR GOD’S SAKE!!!!!!!!!”, you find that Patrick Rothfuss is a pretty laid-back and absolutely hilarious guy. And his debut book made it on the NY Times Best Seller List. AND he won the Writer’s of the Future Contest in 2002. That’s stuff I’d like to do.  Edit: I finally got around to reading his book, The Name of the Wind. You can find my review of it here.
  • Yes, there were people playing D&D. Yes, there were people doing LANgames. Yes, there were people dressed up. But there were also regularly dressed people there too. And oddly enough, I got to know my upstairs neighbors, who I wasn’t expecting to see there.
  • I also didn’t expect to see Jim Frankel, Senior Editor of Tor Books. Actually, I knew that he was coming from the Programming schedule, but I didn’t actually think I would actually meet him and have actual conversations with him. Which was nice. He was gracious, casual and fun to talk to.
  • I got to meet a couple of LiveJournal people whose names I recognized from the whole RaceFail thing—including Moondancer Drake, who can really rock a Stetson. She was fun to talk to, and I really enjoyed getting to know her (and her 6-year-old, who is a sweetie).
  • And yes, I got to meet Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, who at first pretty much intimidated me, as well as Sarah Monette, who does some collaborative work with them. But they’re pretty easy people to talk to once you get to know them. I even screwed up courage to talk with them and about RaceFail. I didn’t want to be confrontational, but I had some genuine questions. I think it was a good conversation overall, and I generally had fun. In fact, this general ease of talking to these well-known authors led to…
  • A most surreal late Saturday night when somehow, I don’t know how exactly, I wound up hanging out with Bull, Shetterly, Frankel, Monette and a bunch of other writers at the hotel bar. Being that it was past my bedtime anyway, and the fact that I’m sitting with well-known authors and a senior editor of Tor, it sort of blew my mind. Then on Sunday, some more friends and I went to have Thai food with Rothfuss and his girlfriend. And I found myself thinking, being a writer ROCKS!
  • Oh. I won a garlic/ginger grater at an art auction.

So there you have it. My first con. I had a great time, and people kept telling me that I chose a good one to attend. Oddcon was small enough so that I didn’t get lost in the shuffle, but prestigious enough to pull in a couple of big names, but small enough that those big names could mingle easily with the rest of us. Everyone tells me that if I liked Oddcon, I would love Wiscon, since it’s gained quite a name for itself over the past few years. I’m looking forward to that, although I’ll only be able to attend that Friday’s events.

There are some things I learned from Oddcon that I’ll take with me to Wiscon. 1) Read up on not just the Guests of Honor, but also people who’ll be attending panels. I’m still kicking myself for not getting to know Sarah Monette more.

2) Bring business cards. For the first two days of the con, I completely did not have anything with me to pass out. Actually, that wasn’t such a bad thing, since I got to know people first before I started handing cards out to them. But I had to put a reminder on my laptop because I’ve fallen out of the habit of carrying my cards with me.

3) Don’t bring a 4-cheese toasted bagel with garlic and tomato cream cheese to a panel. Especially since the con had food there. I didn’t need to stop at Einstein Bagels for breakfast. But dang…it was good. Smelly, but gooooood…

4) Plan to help out at the next con. Which is one thing I definitely intend to do. Who knows, maybe I’ll have a book contract by that time. And then I’ll be the one chasing people down the hall with a big styrofaom mock-up of my book cover, cackling madly. Well, Pat Rothfuss didn’t actually cackle when he did that. But it still looked cool.