This year’s guests were a very strong lineup. We had Brandon Sanderson, author of the Mistborn series, The Stormlight Archive series, Elantris, the “Alcatraz” series of children’s books, and who completed the Wheel of Time series after the death of Robert Jordan.
We also had Margaret Weis, author and game designer, who co-wrote the Dragonlance novels, as well as the series Darksword; Deathgate Cycle; Star of the Guardians; Sovereign Stone; Dragonvarld; and The Dark Disciple, as well as other stand-alone works. She currently owns and manages Margaret Weis Productions, Ltd., which currently produces the Firefly and Battlestar Galactica role playing games, among other properties.
Our third guest was Marjorie Liu, author of the Dirk & Steele series of paranormal romances, the Hunter Kiss series of urban fantasies, and who has written for Marvel comics for Dark Wolverine, NYX, X-23, Astonishing X-Men, and other books. She is currently working on her creator-owned comic Monstress, published by Image Comics, and had been engaged by Marvel to work on a forthcoming comic starring Han Solo, to be set in the time period between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.
We got to the hotel with no problems, despite the unseasonably crummy weather, got checked in, and registered with the con, also picking up keycards for spaces we had access to, such as the Con Ops “Inner Sanctum,” and “Mooshenko’s” (Suite 102). We were pleased to see that everything appeared to be in good order and the Con was spinning up to speed nicely.
Margaret Weis and Paul Wiesner got us launched at 2:30 with the panel, “Firefly’s Children,” which discussed the impact the late, lamented TV series and movie have had on subsequent series such as “The Expanse,” “Dark Matter,” and others. Paul and Margaret were well informed on the subject, and the good sized audience took part enthusiastically.
At 4PM, we were running at full bore, with five items going: “Writing for Comics,” with Marjorie Liu and Jennifer Margret Smith, her editor; “Bodily Autonomy and Agency,” with Catie Pfeifer, author Paul Dale Anderson, and Athena Foster; “The (Annual) Massively Multiplayer Online Game Panel,” with “Mad” Matt Winchell and Erin Burke; “Beginners CosPlay” presented by Lynn Laakso and J Patrick Laakso; and “Translating the Future,” by engineers Lee Schneider and Todd Voros. After checking to see things were running, I attended the MMO Game panel, and was truly impressed by the vast depth of knowledge the presenters had on this vast and rapidly changing industry.
5:30PM was dinner break, and we went to the nearby Tandoori House (formerly Maharaja) for dinner along with Tor Books editor Susan Chang, writer and game designer Bill Bodden, and friends Jim Leinweber, Todd Voros, and Tracy Benton. The food there was very good, but the service was somewhat impaired by the new ordering/billing system, in which the server inputs orders on a tablet. This was a new thing, and the staff wasn’t completely adept with it, and the system locked up when attempting to print out our bills. That said, the food was all excellent, as was the company.
We got back to the Opening Ceremonies skit in progress, and were sorry to have missed the beginning of what was one of the best in years, and amusingly politically pointed. Wisconsin farmers had discovered ways to make cows fly using “moogic” which made them a potentially clean transportation and power source, and that “moogic” cheese could be used to sustainably power cars and trucks. Their efforts are nobbled by the villainous “Hay Brothers”, Oklahoma oil magnates, and further hindered by “Governor Crawler,” who has signed laws outlawing “Moogic” research. However, virtue triumphs when the golden dragon who lairs atop the Capitol dome is invoked, squashes the bad guys, and extolls the restorative power of Moogic for everyone.
Then, the winners of the Speculative Fiction Contest, judged by author Beth Cato, were announced, followed by readings, and the Speculative Poetry Slam and Open Mike.
While Karaoke was being set up in Oakbrook Room 1, panels resumed at 9:30PM, with Richard Russell facilitating “An Evening with Mrs. Byrne,” the dictionary game of peculiar definitions; and “How to Act Like a Grownup (For Better or Worse)”, with a panel consisting of Todd Voros, artist Steven Vincent Johnson, author Alex Bledsoe, and editor and agent Jim Frenkel. Although often funny, this panel was also affecting and sometimes serious. Jim Frenkel spoke sincerely about the wonder and terror of being a father, a sentiment echoed by Alex Bledsoe, who allowed that he didn’t always feel grown up enough for the job. Steve Johnson spoke about the process of his metamorphosis from youth to man. Todd Voros spoke about dealing with loss in the untimely death of his wife, and the joy he has found in mentoring young people, though childless himself.
(As it happens, no women volunteered for this panel. I think I will propose “How to act like a grown-up woman” for next year--.)
At 11:00PM (yes, we run late), “Mad Matt” and Erin Burke presented “Tokusatu,” a survey of the past year in Japanese “special effects” films, a classification that includes science fiction and fantasy. Marjorie Liu, Alex Bledsoe, and author Melissa F. Olsen talked about “Urban Fantasy, World Retooling” at Mooshenko’s. Karaoke ran late into the night. There was some miscommunication about late staffing for the main game room, which had to close at 11PM, although the secondary table top game room stayed open. There was also LAN gaming in the Gammon room, which seemed to be in continuous use.
Brandon Sanderson Offical Website: http://17thshard.com/
Margaret Weis Official Website: http://www.margaretweis.com/
Marjorie Liu Official Website: http://marjoriemliu.com/
Bill Bodden: http://billbodden.com/
Steven Vincent Johnson: http://www.orionworks.com/
Alex Bledsoe: http://alexbledsoe.com/
Melissa F. Olsen: http://melissafolson.com/
Brea Behn: http://www.breasbooks.com/
Beth Cato: http://www.bethcato.com/
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