Odyssey Con 2017 Report
We got to the Madison Radisson about noon, Friday, and made a quick check around to be sure everything was getting in gear. With no problems found, we had a light lunch and greeted people as they arrived. Early arrivals tended to be past members, so there were many faces we were glad to see again.
Panels started at 2:30, with “Held Hostage by the Internet of Things.” With the three members of the panel being professionals in software, hardware, and systems administration, the presentation was very informative, and proposed both dire and humorous scenarios. (“For only $39.95, you, too, can spy on your neighbors!”)
At 4PM, we had “Not Your Saturday Morning Cartoons,” “World Building 101: Milieu,” and “Making Movies with No Budget—And Other Horror Stories.” The World Building panel was the first of three aimed at creating a collaborative story world, and arrived at post-environmental apocalypse setting that had plenty of potential “plot hooks.”
Media Guest Michael Butt proved to be an entertaining raconteur with adventures of making horror movies in the wilds of Northern Wisconsin, including the shooting day for his feature, YETIS!, when the temperature hit 37 degrees below zero. The frigidity gave the acting great verisimilitude, but the camera nearly froze up--.
Georgie and I took Michael to dinner at Tandoori House, along with our friend Todd Voros. Food was good, but the service was a little on the ramshackle side. Dinner conversation was entertaining.
“Opening Ceremonies” went smoothly with the usual announcements and introductions. For the first time, there was not a humorous skit as part of the program, a pity too, since Janet Lewis had had an idea for a pun-laden “Forbidden Planet” parody, but other pressures took precedence. The announcements were followed by the Speculative Poetry Slam and Open Mike, which had some very good entries.
Evening programming started with “Odysseus and the First Odyssey,” and “Can We Make Democracy Work?” “Odysseus” looked back at Homer’s great saga and the character of Odysseus, as portrayed in the Iliad
, the Odyssey
, follow-on works such as the Theogony
, and literature through history since, wherein Odysseus is perhaps the single most often portrayed character. The traditional OddCon Karaoke also broke out in room Oakbrook 3.
Formal programming ended the day with Richard Russell’s “SF Movies of 2017”, his usual encyclopediactic review of SF in media, and the beginning of the “Filksing Intime” at Mooshenko’s, hosted by Milwaukee filkers Art and Cynthia Warneke.
Saturday morning started off with bang and four very interesting panels: “Forbidden Planet,” “20 Years of Harry Potter,” Ray Bradbury’s Work in Comics,” and “Chinese SF, an Update.”
“Forbidden Planet” discussed the classic science fiction film, and its lasting impact on the film genre and SF in general. This panel was particularly well attended. “20 Years of Harry Potter” drew an enthusiastic audience reflecting on the remarkable persistence of the “Harry Potter” phenomenon, which continues to attract new readers. “Ray Bradbury’s Work in Comics” was a presentation by the nascent Ray Bradbury museum, and highlighted the author’s works as (sometimes unauthorisedly) adapted into the comic book form. In “Chinese SF, an Update,” Dr. Janice Bogstad gave an introduction to science fiction currently being produced in China, which has been garnering interest since Liu Cixin won the Hugo award for his novel (as translated) The Three-Body Problem.
At 11:30AM, we had “Being a Grownup, the Female Experience,” “World Building 201: Plots,” “Cosplay on a Budget,” and “Lounge L33ts Presents: MMO Worlds.”
This year’s “Being a Grownup” was a follow on to last year’s panel, which was very good but by coincidence ended up being all men. We thought it was worth pursuing the female viewpoint, and had a very interesting and far-ranging discussion of the changing expectations for and of “grown-up” females, and women’s issues generally. “World Building 201: Plots” took off where “World Building 101” left off, “Cosplay on a Budget” gave tips on how to create a good looking costume without breaking the bank, and “Lounge L33ts” was game writer Erin Burke’s annual roundup of new developments in online gaming.
At 1:00PM, we had “Fantasy Movies of 2017,” “Future Habitats,” “What Makes Overwatch
So Appealing?” and “Should Governments Be Run Like a Business?” This last panel resulted in a very lively discussion, commencing with the clarifying question, “Which parts of government, and which types of business?” Which lead on to provocative proposals, such as, “If the government’s going to be run like a business, why don’t they monetize the military?” and “There’s no demand for critical thinkers, so schools should discontinue that product.”
The 2:30 session featured the Guest of Honor Interview with Artist Brent Chumley, whose artwork can be seen in Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition
, the Legend of the Five Rings
card game, Shadowrun
, and the forthcoming Dragonfire
deck building game from Wizards of the Coast, among others. Brent’s interview covered his formative years, schooling (running up against the “fine artists’” disdain for “illustration”), his breaking into professional game art work, and how he manages a full-time art career while living in a small Illinois town. Brent had a great deal to say, and all of it was both entertaining and informative.
Other events at that time included “Hybrid Publishing,” “Is Seeing Still Believing?” “Running A Successful Kickstarter,” and “Why We Love B-Movies.” Lead by hybrid publisher Brea Behn, “Hybrid Publishing” talked about the ins and outs of the expanding middle ground between traditional and self-publishing. “Is Seeing Still Believing?” considered the expanding ability to create alternative realities using visual editing and CGI software.
At 4PM, Media Guest Michael Butt was the interviewee, and spoke about how he decided he wanted to make movies rather than just act, his choice to work in the horror genre and his goals, and the unique challenges of making scary movies in a small Wisconsin town, such as: “It’s really hard to get a woman to go out in the woods with you and get covered in fake blood.” We also had “Storytelling Builds Our World,” wherein authors talk about the impact storytelling has had, and may have, on their own and others’ worlds; “SF in Translation”; and “Return of Tokoatsu,” the review of animation and special effects from Japan.
After the dinner break, we had Guest of Honor Speeches, the Costume Contest, and the Flash Fiction Contest winners. Brent Chumley and Michael Butt gave interesting and entertaining speeches. Brent had a PowerPoint show of his works, and the movie room showed Michael’s recent feature This Woods is Cursed
immediately after the speeches ended. The Costume Contest had half a dozen entries, all of which were very good.
This year, we were fortunate to have the winners of both the Adult and Youth Divisions of the Flash Fiction contest in attendance to read their winning works. David Talon read his story, “The Sea Breathes Salty,” in which a man is haunted by the embodiment of his past regrets, and Zoe Leonard read “A Farmer’s Guide to Growing Faceroot,” a zany and wonderful article about how to cultivate a mandrake-like vegetable. These, and the second and third place winning stories can be read at http://www.odysseycon.org/contest/contest.html
Evening programming started off with “What Makes Science Fiction an Exciting and Inspiring Genre?” “The Workings of the Crypto-Plutocracy (How the US Govt. Functions in Practice)” and the Big Damn Filksing in Oakbrook 3, which went on until 2AM.
Late night programs in the 11:00PM slot were “Sleep is Weird,” looking at what is still an unexplained phenomenon, and “It Came from the Internet,” a review of the new truly weird and wonderful content on the Web.
Checking out function spaces on the way to bed, we noted that table-top gaming was still going strong, people were enjoying programming in the movie and Amalor Anime rooms, and that the Mad Scientist’s Party was well attended.
Sunday morning started off with another strong selection of panels. “The Animals Talk, Why?” considered the continuing popularity of talking animal stories, ranging from the “beast fables” of antiquity, through Beatrix Potter and The Wind in the Willows
, through My Little Pony
, and Richard Chwedyk’s “Saur” stories. “20 Years of Buffy the Vampire Slayer” celebrated the long-running TV show. “Promotional Ideas for Books” gave tips for marketing your book, and “Portraying Accurate Military Units and People in Games and Fiction” took on some common myths about the military.
The 11:30 panel on “Heaven and Hell” was short a panelist due to sudden illness, but the survivors managed to entertain the audience by expounding on portrayals of the Underworld and the Heavens by Dante, Mark Twain, James Joyce, and others. “Get Lost” dealt with getting and being lost, in fiction and real life, and how to deal with it. “World Building 202: Characters” wrapped up the series.
At 1:00PM, “Wicked and Worse,” considered what makes a good villain, and what makes a believable villain, and why the two aren’t necessarily the same. In “Pets in Spaaace!” panel and audience speculated on the probability (or not) of your cat, dog, or other animal companion coming to the stars with you. “Movie Charades” was this year’s installment of the popular game.
Programming officially ended at 2:30PM with “Kill the Cow!”, which is the attendees’ chance to give direct feedback to the concom. After a slow start, a lot of good and useful suggestions were contributed and recorded for future planning.
Attendance was 180+, which was within range of some other recent OddCons, although down from last year. Events at-con went off with no significant hitches. There were some particularly good panel discussions, and Brent Chumley and Michael Butt were great guests. We ended the con on an optimistic note, and with several good ideas for the future.
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