Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Goddamn You, Mike Resnick

Last year I found out about a little SF/fantasy con in Cincinnati called Millennicon. It just so happened that 2011 was the con's 25th anniversary, so the Husband and I attended. We had an awesome time (read my con report from last year over at Yellow Menace) and so going back to Millennicon 26 was a no-brainer.

The con begins Friday afternoon, but what with babysitting considerations and all, we couldn't get there before about 7:30 p.m. There was no line at registration (there wasn't last year either). We'd pre-registered so picking up our badges and programs was incredibly simple and quick. The registration staff, at least at this point, was friendly and polite (unlike the veeeeeeery stressed registration staff you usually see at larger cons). Because we arrived so late we missed a couple panels that looked like they were interesting: Avengers vs. X-men and a Carcassonne match (all you Carcassonne players should be thanking your lucky stars too, because I am amazing at Carcassonne and would have handed all of you your asses). We weren't able to stay for the dance, not because we're too old to stay up past midnight- although we are- but because we had other plans. We don't get babysitters very often, so we used to opportunity to see John Carter as well (notes: similar to the book, fun to watch, Woola is the best and most of the production budget probably went to buy self-tanning cream for the Red Martians). We stumbled into the house just before midnight so we could recharge for Saturday.

Saturday morning we arrived a bit late to the 10 a.m. panel Once Upon a Time There Was a Grimm. I hadn't read the program description closely enough, so I was terribly disappointed to find out that the focus of the panel was two TV shows I had never heard of (we don't watch TV- and I'm not being all superior here, we really don't. We watch stuff on Netflix. Our little digital box isn't even hooked up to the TV. No annoying commercials on Netflix). When I realized the panel wasn't actually about fairy tales, the Husband and I made a slick getaway to the Art Show and Dealers' Room. The Art Show was pretty impressive, lots of nice, reasonably priced artwork (lots of dragons). The Dealers' Room is small but well-stocked, though I was saddened by the lack of used book sellers (there were a couple last year) and small presses (only one). Half of the room was taken up by steampunk costumery (is that a word? It is now), which doesn't interest me in the least. There was also a new book dealer, a couple jewelry crafters and some art/stuffed shoulder dragons/fantasy weapons etc. booths. I bought a necklace to go with my awesome Gencon costume (check back in August to see the post-Gencon pics), and a CD by Tom Smith, a famous filker in the geek community and a hell of a funny, friendly guy. Last year he sang a song that almost killed me; literally, I was laughing so hard I almost choked to death. It's about fairies. Here's a video; ignore the dumb animated bits and just listen to the song. But not while eating or drinking anything.

We had lunch at the Max & Erma's attached to the Holiday Inn. I had soup and salad, he had the biggest hamburger I have ever seen. Service was woefully slow, but we didn't mind. I suppose they were short-staffed, and to be fair the menu notes that when buy the kind of hamburger my husband chose, it takes a little longer than a normal hamburger (my policy is that if I can't lift it with both hands, I won't eat it. He has no problem using utensils to eat a hamburger).

After lunch we hit a reading by local-ish lovable curmudgeon and multiple Hugo/Nebula award-winning author Mike Resnick. He read a couple stories; one a brand-new one he'd just sold that week, and the other an older one. He said it was his first award-winner (from the American Dog Writers' Association, which should have tipped me off) and was called “The Last Dog” (another clue I should have fled). Instead I stayed, he read the story and I bawled like a little bitch with a skinned knee. Seriously. I can't take dog stories. Here it is in audio, if you want to embarrass yourself in the privacy of your own home:


After we fled, me wiping my eyes, we went to Coming Out of the TARDIS. It was a panel supposedly built around stories of geek 'coming out' experiences, and how people reacted to their revelations of geekery. I guess I have been lucky, or maybe I just tend to read my audience better (I'm not going to bring up Batman: Knightfall and the psychology of Azrael with the other library story time mommies, for instance, but I will with co-workers who are comic fans), or maybe I just don't give a shit what anyone thinks of me, but I can't say I've ever been shunned for being a fan. At any rate, halfway through an interesting discussion it got derailed into a debate about what was wrong with the J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie and never really seemed to get hauled back on track.

After that was Short Story to Novel Transition, featuring Resnick and several other authors. I assumed it was a panel offering tips for short story writers to segue into novels (one of the panelists did try to do this, as she apparently assumed the same thing) but it was much more a debate about whether a new writer should start a career with a novel or by doing short stories first. Resnick, in classic style, seemed to be pissing off the rest of the panel by stating that new writers should start with a novel, should write what publishers ask for and never sell a story to any markets that don't pay SFWA professional rates. While I thought his advice was wise-to an extent, if you want your career to be lucrative- I also thought he was coming from an older time. He doesn't seem to take advantage himself of the opportunities offered by e-publication very often, which are a godsend to a new writer. But then, I have already violated all his rules, so perhaps I am biased. I always enjoy hearing him talk about writing, even if I don't always agree with him. Resnick says exactly what he thinks, always, which is not a bad quality when you are trying to learn from him.

I then accompanied the Husband (a biochemistry researcher and Ph.D) to Science: Love It or Hate It. We, as you can probably guess, love it. None of the panelists were researchers, which is not knocking them, but the Husband had been interested in the opinions of other researchers on the first line of Science (we always pronounce it with a capital S). What we heard was rather the old generation war: young folks today aren't interested in science, they have computers to do everything and can't use slide rules/the abacus etc, CNN science articles are idiotic (well, we all agree there). The conversation might have come around to other topics, but the Husband wanted to slip out so we did. After peeking in at the Tom Smith concert (“I rule you, you rule me/Someone rules us secretly/It's a vast conspiracy/the Illuminati Polka!”).

Next up was Shuttle: Reflections and Predictions, with the Guest of Honor, SF writer Tobias Buckell. The panelists seriously knew their shuttle history, but diverged when it came to the 'predictions' bit. The large audience was very involved and knowledgeable themselves...all except for me. Once the Science started being thrown around, my barely-functional brain bowed out. I got a whole scene written in my new werewolf story, though.

6 p.m. Was Winter is Coming, obviously a George R.R. Martin panel (more specifically, a discussion on how the first book in A Song of Ice and Fire was translated to the screen in the HBO series). I got to bitch about the lack of The Hound in the first season, so I was totally happy. There was also more interesting discussion on casting and predictions for the second season, which starts next month; we saw the first season after a wonderful friend DVR'd it and then recorded it on VHS for us- those were big, bulky things with tape in them that we watched before Hulu, kids.

Finally we ate dinner at Skyline. I am an anomaly in the larger world; I prefer watery, sauce-y, sweetish Cincinnati chili to real chili. I had a 3-way (I love to tell people this who don't live around here, their eyes get really wide), a coney and a Pepsi. I always have to have a coney, no matter what else I am eating. I will make room in my stomach for a coney; anytime, anywhere.

We wandered back in time for a speculative poetry panel (specpo?), What Rhymes with Gamera (camera?). The Husband writes poetry and was intrigued by the idea of a market for specpo. The single panelist, Matt Betts, was super-knowledgeable (he's a specpoet himself) and very willing to answer any questions. Even though I write prose exclusively (I have NEVER been a poet, I just can't. Funny how things people tend to think of as easy- poetry, kids' books- are usually the hardest to write), I thought the presentation was interesting and the huge packet of specpo resources and examples was interesting to read.

Then we hit the Masquerade. Millennicon is not a costume con by any means, and most of those costumers are RenFaire types or steampunk fans. The Masquerade had eight entrants, all of whom were quite good. It ended earlier than expected. I'd mentioned to my husband that I wanted to hit up MadLibs SlashFic (with a panel name like that, how could I not?) just to see what it was about, and then I would slip out. He declined to attend with me, which was too bad for him because instead of staying 15 minutes I stayed almost the entire hour. Originally I stayed because there was only one other audience member there and it would have been awkward to walk out, but pretty quickly I got into it, coming up with the most exotic verbs my decently expansive vocabulary holds. I think 'exsanguinate' was the evening's winner (I didn't mention to the very funny panelists that I learned it from an episode of The X-Files...you know, the one where the identical girls end up being clones of this mad scientist lady and kill their parents?). Eventually some other participants rolled in and I left, more because I pitied the Husband than because I wanted to leave.

Sunday morning we hit the con bright and early at 10 a.m. for Geek Pimp Squad. The program description was a little vague so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect (the name of the panel was definitely promising though). It turned out to be about how technology has seeped into every level of society; even janitors have to be computer literate to order new stock. The discussion covered what would happen, in our hyper-connected country, to the people who are unable or unwilling to learn, and which worker class 'geeks' mostly belong to (uhhh...retail worker here, and proud of it). It was a very interesting discussion.

After that we hit the art show and dealers' room one last time; I bought a dragon print (by Theresa Mather, www.rockfeatherscissors.com) and the Husband bought a cool space print. I found a sparkly stuffed dragon for the toddler, which immediately became A.) the nemesis of The Superhero Squad and B.) the pet of the people who live in his Fisher-Price dollhouse. A real double identity there!

Last panel of the con was Death of the Bookstore. This subject is of particular interest to me because, well, I work at an independent bookstore. The large and involved audience discussed with the panelists the fall of Borders, the rise of e-books and the crushing blows dealt by Amazon. It definitely left me with a few things to think about.

After that, sadly, we were done with the con and had to return to real life (the babysitter-my mom- had to leave for the 2-hour drive home, bless her).

Millennion 26 didn't entirely live up to my expectations, formed after last year's con, but it was certainly a weekend well-spent. I had hoped for more writing-related panels or literary panels, but-as the saying goes- you have to be the change etc etc, so I'm thinking that next year I will fill out a handy programming submission form and host a couple myself. Maybe one about real fairy tales...

I'd like to thank a couple people for making my experience that much more enjoyable and useful: Denise Verrico, a Columbus-based author who kindly answered my questions about the women writers' organization Broad Universe (admission application sent yesterday!) and Ariyana Dragonwagon, one of the MadLibs hosts who was a lot of fun and who complimented me on the dress I wore Sunday (vintage 70's blue boho prairie, ebay, $15), and also Ramon Crespo (who must work every local con there is, as I have seen him at two others), who issued my initial invitation to Millennicon last year and who paused in his busy day to speak to me in the dealers' room. People like you are the reason I love cons!

The Verdict: We'll be back...

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