Monday, August 26, 2013

A Non-Gamer at Gencon 2013

Our time at Gencon was cut woefully short this year due to lack of babysitting (one grandma just started a new job, and the other is a teacher...yeah, I understand Gencon's overlords don't want to hold it the same weekend as PAX or another big con, but if maybe they could hold it sometime that is not the week school begins in my state, that would be great). We arrived Friday evening and left Sunday afternoon. Because of this the weekend felt rushed, since we had to pack four days' worth of awesomeness into two, but hey, short Gencon is better than no Gencon.

Since we didn't get to Indy until 6, I assumed we'd be waiting in line a while to pick up our badges at Will Call. I figured the locals would be getting off work and coming to grab their own badges...but I was wrong. There was no wait. Not even sixty seconds. Not even ten seconds. We walked right up and got our stuff with no trouble. The guy in the booth turned out to have gone to our alma mater as well, so we chatted about that (sorry I didn't get your name, cool friendly guy!).

We were meeting a friend for dinner, but he wouldn't arrive until 9, so we wandered around the convention center a bit, discovering the arcade room, which was packed with elderly arcade games including The Simpsons and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and others my husband knew but I didn't because I never played many games back in the day- still don't, really. We checked out the card hall and the miniatures hall and Cardhalla, ran into my friend Kimberly and chatted a bit, then headed to the Rock Bottom Brewery for dinner. Our friend who was supposed to meet us at 9 didn't show up until 10:30; we were finished by then. The cute waitress busted his balls about being so tardy, but we stuck around while he ate, went with him to pick up his badge, and retreated to our hotel room at the Fairfield Inn, peeking in at the massive Pathfinder room.

The Fairfield isn't fancy, but the beds are soft, the TV has HBO and they offer a free breakfast. I will always stay in the hotel that offers free breakfast.

Saturday morning I actually managed to drag my lazy ass to the hotel fitness center, where I trudged on a cross-trainer while watching the scrolling newsfeed on CNN (only after my workout did I notice the headphones tucked behind the screens on the equipment. What a dumbass).

I got dressed (super-cute miniskirt kind of- EGL dress and stripey stockings. My friend bought the dress from Hot Topic for my birthday more than 10 years ago. When I found it in my closet a couple months back I was stoked that I can fit into it again) and we partook of the free breakfast and went to the convention center.

My first panel was “Exploring Genres: Horror”. The “Exploring Genres” panels were a new thing this year, and consisted mostly of panelists who wrote in that particular genre attempting to outline the genre and give tips for writing it. In all I went to four “EG” panels that day (the only ones I attended on Saturday, actually): Horror, YA, Dark Fantasy and Cross Genre. All were entertaining (and, in the case of YA, a genre I don't read and don't know much about, helpful). However, I still feel that the Gencon Writers' Symposium- while enjoyable- is something I might have outgrown. Most of the panels are geared toward writers who are just dipping their toes into the water. Those of us who have been doing this a while need panels with more specific topics to help further our writing education- because you're never too old or too experienced to learn, but the basics are pretty much laser-engraved into our brains at this point. 

Between panels I got lunch with friends in the packed mall food court, wandered the dealer hall and spent too much money there, bought a Magic playmat with half-naked ladies on it, ran into Booster Gold, found the Hound's fearsome helmet (how the hell could he actually see out of that thing?) and was enchanted by a little pink stuffed llama. Shut up, I needed it.

There's a funny story about the playmat. I saw it, loved it, but decided I should look around some more first. When I ran into my husband, I said, “I found a playmat I like!” and he replied, “I saw one I think you'll like too, it has a succubus and a lady in chains at her feet...”

Me: “THAT'S IT!”

So of course I bought that one, and thanks to a special deal also received a matching box and sleeves. SEX-AY!

I met up with my husband and the same friends for dinner that evening in the miniatures hall; after some back-and-forth about what we should eat, we proceeded outside to places where food would presumably be served.

(but not before I caught a picture of this rockin' Powergirl, probably the best I've ever seen)

And here's what I learned that night: finding food at dinnertime in downtown Indianapolis when there are two large conventions happening (Gencon and a biker convention, which made for some interesting juxtapositions at crosswalks; I tried playing “Biker or Gamer?” in my head while we walked but it wasn't very challenging), it's going to take some time to find food. After walking for almost an hour (with a 3-year-old kid that belonged to my friends, who I must say was insanely patient and well-behaved) we came upon the California Pizza Kitchen. We had to wait a while, but we were too tired to trek on, and when we saw the servers and bussers were all wearing geeky t-shirts (from superheroes to The Big Bang Theory) we knew our choice was the right one. Alas, our server was not the girl dressed in a full-on Katniss-from-The-Hunger-Games costume, but she was nice and apologetic when my pizza came out later than everyone else's food. I tipped her what I had (a dollar over 20%) and she thanked me at least three times, which makes me wonder what other people tip (or don't).

Side note: CPK's Sicilian pizza is way better fresh at a restaurant than frozen from the grocery.

Walking back to the convention center, we had one of Those Moments. Where someone says something so funny that the entire group starts laughing, and as soon as it dies down someone says something funny that is related to the first funny thing, and pretty soon once you manage to get a hold of yourself, you catch the eye of another group member and start howling again, and then anyone walking by who glances at this group of morons who are falling on the floor with hilarity thinks you're insane and possibly mentally deficient. What started us off was one member revealing that on an Xbox Live game, he put an icon of a horse molesting a pig on all his guns, so if someone else killed him and jacked his stuff, they would find themselves in possession of a gun proudly marked by an instance of farmyard rape. I can't even tell you what jokes that image led to, but they were all said in front of my friend's daughter, who thankfully was so exhausted at that point that she looked like a tiny, cute zombie, so hopefully she didn't remember any of it.

Sunday was my big day. At 8 a.m. I attended a Read & Critique, probably my favorite thing at Gencon (I usually try to do two, but no time this year). In a Read & Critique, you read from your selected piece for a set period of time (usually 3-5 minutes) in front of a panel of four authors/editors. Then they spend 10-15 minutes giving you hell. Well, not really. They buffet you with both praise and criticism, most of which I've found to be really helpful. I think the panelists like me because I've done this before, and I'm as good as anyone at taking criticism, if I do say so myself. I keep my mouth shut, take notes, and thank them at the end. Too many writers want to explain things to the panelists as a protest against criticism they think is unfair- which takes up time other people could be reading. I received a good mix of praise and criticism for my piece, the beginning of a novella that is a sequel to Hour of the Lotus (shameless self-promotion alert!). There was some seriously good stuff being read at this Read & Critique, so I'm optimistic about the future of specfic.

Gencon did something new this year as well, in which writers could sign up for 10 minutes with an author/editor for a one-on-one critique session. It was an intriguing idea, so I tried it out. I was paired with speculative romance author Elizabeth Vaughn. I don't write romance, but I enjoy getting perspectives from different genre writers (this is why I love writing groups). She read the first few pages of my new novel, a YA fantasy set in a Japanese-inspired secondary world. And she said it was really, really good. It was polished and precise (it needed a few details, though) and in a couple years I'd probably be on Gencon panels, not attending them. All of which raised my already-unbearable ego to soaring new heights (and gave me motivation to tackle my revisions with renewed vigor). It turns out that many of the writers she'd consulted with that day needed suggestions on points of view, tenses, grammar, etc. So maybe she was just relieved that I knew the basics already...

We hit the food trucks lined up outside for lunch. Indian tacos are more delicious than you would think. And then I got a cupcake from a van (it said 'free cupcakes' on the side in permanent marker; it looked legit enough). No really, a little old lady was selling cupcakes out of a van. I wish I could remember the name of the business on the side of the van because I would love to give her a shout-out, but I can't. The cupcakes all had Star Wars names, like 'The Darth Vader' (chocolate) or 'The Princess Leia' (almond wedding cake). I chose 'The Chewbacca' (chocolate cupcake with caramel frosting and a salted caramel in the middle). No joke you guys, this was the best fucking cupcake I ever had. If I see this lady next year I'm going to ask if she ships to my town. 

After another turn through the dealers' room, we waved goodbye to Gencon for another year and headed home to our lives of quiet desperation.


  1. 1) no pic of the little pink stuffed llama? :( llama!!
    2) I believe both The Flying Cupcake and Gigi's had cupcake trucks @ Gencon. They both rawk imo.


      It is one of these but with a leopard-print bandanna. It's also an alpaca, not a llama. How embarrassing!

      I didn't get it from Gigi's, so it might have been The Flying Cupcake. I'll look them up and see if they ship...