Worldcon 2016 / MidAmeriCon II Recap Post
I started to break this down
day-by-day, but that would make for a mega lengthy post (who am I kidding… it’s still a lengthy post. and honestly it’s all
just one long, sleepless blur at this point), so instead, I’ll just sort of
vaguely categorize by topic and denote days when I can remember them.
AKA Brooke Pretends to be an Extrovert and Talks About Stuff in Front of People
Fun note: apparently Worldcon didn’t share my email with any of the other panelists, so I’m sure that all the other panelists thought I was total slacker by not participating in pre-con prep. I had no idea. So if I seemed ill-prepared, it’s because I was.
I had several panels over the course of the convention, but of course my first one was Pacing the Novel with Melinda Snodgrass (!!!) and Lawrence Schoen. I stumbled into the convention center about 10 minutes before my panel, got my badge, dashed off to my panel room, sat down, and realized rather suddenly that there were at least 150 people in attendance and so my heart is racing, I’m shaking a little, and holy hell, I’m sitting next to Melinda Snodgrass, and then we go into introductions. Of course, I’m first. I have no idea what to say. I am very ill-prepared. I mutter something about being a steampunk author, and Melinda prompts me to say where my novel is published, which I answer in a thoroughly robotic voice, and then forget to ever mention the title of said book. Very smooth. Throughout the panel, I’m pretty nervous, being my first panel of the con, and worrying that I am totally unqualified to be sitting on this panel, but about 30 minutes in, I start to calm down and get my bearings and start acting like I know what I’m talking about. When we get to the questions from the audience, I’m finally in my element.
I write this all out to give you a sense of how the rest of the con went, because basically, I hit the ground running and never really slowed down after that point, so I was riding on a rushing wave of false confidence and a steady stream of caffeine over the next four days. Introvert Brooke never got a chance to regain control. All the better.
And it helped that I had several people (not just one or two) come up to me later, after the panel (yay, Grey and Elliot!) and later throughout the con, to tell me how much they appreciated my input and what I had to say and thought I did really well. Apparently I smother my nervousness well, and very approachable since I’m the noob. I’ll take it.
My next panel, Happily Ever After…?, was a fun one, with Christie Meirez, Jeffe Kennedy, and Meg Frank. We mostly just chatted about what “Happily Ever After” means and discussed Han and Leia’s estrangement in The Force Awakens at length. I felt like we might could have gone into more depth on some things, but all in all, pretty good discussion.
Then I had an Autographing! Which went about as well as I expected. Three people stopped by and had a chat and got my signature (only one of them bought my book), and I stuffed my face with beef jerky and trail mix because that was also my lunch break.
Next, I did a panel on What’s Gonna Happen on Game of Thrones? with Priscilla Olson (who is an evil woman as far as her vision of the future of Westeros goes), Cerece Murphy, and Erin Underwood, which really just turned into a discussion of our favorite fan theories with the audience. It was fun. I got a cool badge ribbon.
Back to writing, I had a panel on Is Steampunk Alternate History? with Beth Cato and Shanna Swendson. After we got past the “yes, and more” answer, we got into the things we love and hate about steampunk culture, what constitutes steampunk, what makes our own steampunk special, and our favorite steampunk books. I spilled coffee on myself twice during this panel. Otherwise, great discussion, and I got to meet a fan (hi Jessie!) afterward, which was awesome. She totally fangirled and it was the #1 highlight of the convention, hands down. (Meeting readers is the absolute best, especially when they tell me how much they enjoyed my books. Most of the time, it’s only over social media, so getting to meet a real life fan in person was fantastic. And we got to chat later on and I signed a copy of my book for her—in line for autographs from Gail Carriger, no less.)
By this point, I’m just enjoying the whirlwind that is being at a SFF convention of this size. I’m running into people I’ve met online, people I’ve met at smaller conventions elsewhere, and people I’ve run into just the day before. I’m being a chatty dork.
Of course, my first panel of the day was at 10:00am (which is early as fuck during a convention, by the way), and on a serious, slightly academic topic no less: The Dark Side of Fairy Tales with Erin Wilcox, Dana Cameron, Ellen Datlow, and Sandee Rodriguez. I was barely caffeinated or cognizant and kept forgetting words in the middle of what I was saying, but overall, it was a good discussion. We talked about what makes a fairy tale different from a myth or a fable, what constitutes a dark fairy tale, how the original dark fairy tales have been sanitized but are now making a comeback. We talked about our favorite obscure fairy tales, and I recommended Franz Von Schönwerth’s The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales at least a dozen times. I dropped some serious knowledge on mythic and fairy tale structure in storytelling and how that has influenced my own writing (which I think surprised the moderator, actually). Of course, throughout this panel, I am not awake enough to realize that I am sitting next to an award-winning editor (who currently works for Tor.com and in fact won another Hugo that night for editing short fiction). I giggled nervously to myself many hours later when I realized. My apparent confidence throughout this con is hilarious in hindsight.
Later, I had a panel on Game World, Fiction World: RPGs and Authorship with Monica Valentinelli, Gareth-Michael Skarka, Kij Johnson, and Jason Hill, which was a great discussion on how to take an RPG world and turn it into a story, talking about what strengths and weaknesses you need to be aware of, how to take the mechanics of a game and weave them into a story as the basis of a magic or combat system, and what you need to focus on when writing a novel based on a homebrew world. Honestly, I felt like we could have kept talking for another hour, but alas.
My last panel of the convention was a light topic (thank god, because it was also at that ass-crack of convention dawn, 10:00 am) on Meeples for Peoples: Playing Games with Everyone! with Christine Taylor-Butler and Katherine Wynter (Jaylee Jones was a no-show, unfortunately). We got to talk about our favorite games and how awesome it is to be a board-gamer right now, with a little bit of discussion about how to bring more people into the board game world. A great end to my panel schedule.
AKA Brooke Meets People and Pretends to Be Cool
So there’s this thing at conventions where when the daily panels and event stuff is over, everyone hits the bar to socialize and schmooze and whathaveyou. I am not much of a bar person and don’t really drink unless I’m at home, so the thought of striking out and schmoozing with strangers over alcoholic beverages is a foreign concept to me. Still, it’s What You Do at these things, so I hit the bar at the end of the day to get my schmooze on.
Luckily, I was with a friend of mine (yo Brittany Constable), so at the very least, I knew I wouldn’t be awkwardly standing in a corner by myself, if it came to that, but luckily, my first night at the bar, I found Gareth Skarka cloistered in one of the couch nooks and immediately made a beeline toward him. Yay, person I know! Gareth and I were on a gaming panel at ConQuesT back in May and followed each other on Twitter, and that was as good as a reason as any to ask to sit with him. He introduced me to his wife, Laura, as well as Richard Shealy (who I consequently kept running into throughout the rest of the con and who is a wonderful conversationalist) and Lee Whiteside, who I discussed various bookcons with over the next hour or so. It was great getting to know Gareth better, after having met him briefly at ConQuesT, and I would now gladly meet up with him and his wife whenever I happen to be in Kansas City in the future. Yay friends!
Friday night, Brittany went home instead of sticking around (I don’t blame her), so I went to the bar by myself, but immediately found Gareth and his wife again (and crashed their dinner), and sat down for a good chat with them and Richard Shealy again. Alyssa Wong (!) stopped by for a bit and we traded panel horror stories, and later, C.C. Finlay and Rae Carson (!!!!!) stopped to talk, but because I was afraid I might literally squeal if I dared say anything in the presence of Rae (she is one of my Top 5 Most Favoritest Authors), I merely made eye contact and smiled awkwardly. Multiple times. She probably thinks I’m a weirdo.
Over the course of Gareth and his wife’s dinner, I found out about a party Tor was throwing a few blocks down, and invited myself along (yes, I’m that person). We went, getting rained on en route, and travelled to the top floor where said party was underway. It was loud. And packed. Laura and I circled around the room, found the bar (no Guinness sadly, so I didn’t get anything), and then the food table, where I awkwardly consumed some pungent cheese while searching the rest of the room for someone I recognized. I spotted John Scalzi like a fleeting ghost across the room. He was there and then he wasn’t. Mary Robinette Kowal was typing away in the corner, and I saw several people who I had been on panels with, but didn’t want to disturb their conversations and be a nuisance, so I left them alone. Thankfully, I spotted fellow Harper Voyager author Auston Habershaw (The Saga of the Redeemed) and glommed onto him, politely butting into his conversation group and meeting several new people who I had a blast talking to. I handed out all of the business cards and bookmarks I had on hand over the course of the night, and I met Sarah Beth Durst, also a Harper Voyager author (The Queen of Blood, out next month!) and talked to her for a bit before I eventually headed back to my hotel room to sleep.
Friday was a really long day.
Next day, I got to meet David Pomerico, head editor at Harper Voyager, and later that night, I had dinner with a handful of Harper Voyager authors (Bishop O’ Connell, Lexie Dunne, Beth Cato, Auston Habershaw, and Becky Chambers), plus friends and spouses at The Dubliner, so that was awesome. Next came the Hugo Awards, which I went to with Auston and my friend Brittany, and afterward, we hit up the bar and ran into the people we had met at the Tor party the night before. We stayed and chatted for a bit with them, then I hunted down Tex Thompson to say hi, and waved at Gareth and Laura from across the room, before Brittany and I briefly met Auston’s agent, Joshua Blimes, and then headed back to the hotel to sleep. I was exhausted and knew I needed to rest if I was going to make the trip home the next day.
AKA Brooke Learns Some Stuff
So, I went to a ton of panels, hoping to squeeze as much value as possible out of the convention while I was there, which meant I was in back-to-back panels from the time I showed up on Wednesday, until about lunchtime on Saturday, when I was so worn out I just couldn’t absorb any more information. I hit a few more panels on Saturday and Sunday, but not nearly as many as I did Wednesday through Friday. I will probably write up a separate post for the panels I went to, because I took some really good notes that I want to share for those of you who might find it informative, so quick rundown of what you can look forward to from me:
Major Minor Characters, on writing memorable secondary characters.
and Perilous Adventures, defining grimdark and how to balance it in a
3D Battles, how to write dynamic fight scenes in space.
at You! Writing Fight Scenes, how to write dynamic fight scenes on Earth.
in Speculative Fiction, how to incorporate mythology in writing fiction.
that Clue! Writing Mystery Fiction, how to write a compelling mystery plot.
of the Villain, labeling and writing psychopathic villains.
Up Your Prose, how to revise a novel well.
Fantasy Creation for the Bold, about writing non-Western fantasy, ethnic
and cultural identities, and how to use real world history and culture as
and Equality in SFF, approaches to writing both.
a scientific look at immortality and how we can achieve it.
Questions to Ask When Creating a Fictional Culture, world-building.
Narrative Tricks, various ways to write engaging, compelling fiction.
Media for Writers, how to be effective at it (hint: be a person, not a
- When the Magic Goes Away, the relationship between science, reason, and magic.
AKA Brooke Geeks Out at People
So, inevitably, at a SFF convention, you run into people you admire and who create things that you love. Worldcon was no exception. As I said before, I made eye contact with Rae Carson, which is about all I could reasonably expect myself to do without being weird and awkward, and I don’t think I even managed that. The truth is, I have this… thing… where I want to meet my idols and these authors and creators who I admire, but I want to do it on equal ground. I don’t want to be the gushing fan who runs up and fangirls ecstatically and mumbles something unintelligible before running away with an awkward shriek. Because in a sense, these people are my colleagues, and eventually, I want to be their equal. I don’t want to be remembered (or forgotten) as yet another fan of their work, but as a colleague, someone else in the field. And maybe that is terribly pretentious of me, but there it is. I have a complex, I’m sure.
So, I generally just try to be polite, make small talk, maybe mention their books if I’ve read them, maybe mention that I’m a writer if it’s relevant (or if they ask), and then thank them, say “great meeting you”, and part ways. It’s hard! A lot of the time, I want to gush and squeal and fangirl obscenely, but if I learned anything at Worldcon, it was self-control in the presence of my idols and/or people who are way more famous than I am.
At the Writing 3D Battles panel, one of the panelists was John G. Hemry AKA Jack Campbell, who wrote the Lost Fleet series. I went up to him after the panel just to say hi and that me and my husband both loved the Lost Fleet series, and he gave me a copy of The Dragons of Dorcastle, which was the coolest thing ever. I thanked him profusely, bemoaned the fact I did not have a copy of my own book to give him after telling him that I was a writer, and he advised that I keep one on hand at all times (which I did for the rest of the con), then I gave him a bookmark, thanked him for the brief talk, and left.
Friday, I went to a signing for the newest Wild Cards novel, High Stakes, and met George R. R. Martin for the first time. He was nice, as expected, and completely at ease despite the fact that there were hundreds of people there to see him. I expect he is used to it by now. He liked my tattoo, and so we made small talk about that, which took a funny turn when I told him I drew the design and he asked if I meant that I tattooed it myself. Heh. That was fun. Caroline Specter and Melinda Snodgrass were also at the table, and I chatted with Caroline for a minute about the gaming panel that we were on together at ConQuesT, and Melinda liked my D&D/Mad Max: Fury Road tee (“I Roll, I Die, I Roll Again”).
Then I moved onto the next table of authors and met David D. Levine (Arabella of Mars) in person, who was absolutely pleasant to talk to. I told him I was really excited to read Arabella but didn’t have a copy with me for him to sign (agony!). Luckily, there were copies available on the premises, so after I got the signatures of the rest of the Wild Cards authors, I grabbed one and ran back in for him to sign it. We chatted for a few minutes more, and then I left because I was in the way of people wanting his signature (though, I would have been happy to just sit down and chat for the length of the signing). Maybe someday, we’ll both be on the same side of the table and can have a proper conversation.
There were lots of authors I saw who I admire but didn’t have the guts to actually go up and talk to. I’m shy. I did get Etiquette and Espionage signed by Gail Carriger, which was cool. She’s super nice, and I was only slightly awkward. I passed Elizabeth Bear and Scott Lynch on the street at one point and didn’t notice until Auston pointed it out. I’m oblivious to the nth degree.
I later met David J. Peterson, who wrote The Art of Language Invention and is a language consultant for several TV shows, like Game of Thrones, Defiance, The 100, and I’m sure there are more that I’m blanking on right now. He was super awesome, and we talked for a bit while I maintained a neutral expression and tried not to geek out too much. (Hi, David!) Yet another person I could have held a mega-long conversation with had it not been weird for me to pull up a chair and sit down behind the autographing table and mine his brain for knowledge. Meeting him and getting his book signed was literally the only reason I stuck around so long on Sunday, so I’m glad that I got the chance since I missed his panel on language in SFF the day before (curses!).
And by happenstance, because I stuck around for a bit, I ran into John Scalzi and his wife—in front of the Iron Throne, no less—and had a brief chat with him, thanking him for hosting me on his blog a couple of weeks ago for my book release. He gave me a business card as proof that I met him, and it is literally the best business card ever made.
I had a blast. And because I felt I deserved it, I bought myself a crown.