Con Report: ICFA 38 (2017)

Hello, all! We’re back from ICFA 38, and still recovering. I thought I’d just give y’all a quick overview of how the con went while it’s all still relatively fresh in my mind.

We arrived Wednesday of last week after a very long day. My flight left Austin at 5:35 AM, and Shannon’s flight left even earlier. I had an empty seat next me on both my flights, so that was pretty great. I also got to read a lot of A Closed and Common Orbit, which I really enjoyed, so the travel overall was pretty great (besides having to get up so early…).

In the evening, we signed in, checked out the free table, and attended the opening ceremonies, then went back to our rooms to rest and plan out which panels we would go to for the rest of the week. I saw a name I was not expecting for one panel on Thursday, and got rather excited. More on this later.

Thursday morning, I was up bright and early and went down to work out. The hotel had a really nice workout room, and after, we hit up the cafe in the hotel for breakfast. I wandered off to some very interesting panels. The first one I went to had one presenter who talked about a novel where everyone is an amputee, and one of the amputees kills all of the other amputees. One of the other presenters rewrote her paper at 4 AM that morning and ended up talking about problematic themes in paranormal romance novels (Read: paranormal erotica). Like I said, it was… Interesting.

After a quick lunch, Shannon presented at the first panel in the afternoon. Despite a relatively small crowd, I thought the presentation went really well.

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Shannon was exhausted after this, quite understandably, so I went off to my next panel alone, with some trepidation. This was the panel I was excited about, if the name I read was the correct name, and if it was who I hoped it was. The subject of the panel was defining “epic fantasy”, which I already knew was going to be a fairly futile endeavor, because everyone has their own opinions on what defines genres, but the discussion was still lively.

And the person I was wondering about, the person on the program who I wasn’t expecting to be at the con at all, showed up. He was who I thought he was.

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On the left there is some dude named Brian Staveley. He’s one of my top 5 favorite authors, and the only one I hadn’t met yet. (I finally got to see V. E. Schwab in Austin at the beginning of March! Woo!) So, uh… Understandably, I was a little excited.

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I was even more excited when I went up to talk to him after the panel and he recognized me. Me. A fan he had never met in person, and he knew who I was. It was surreally awesome, and definitely made my week.

I think there was dinner and stuff after. I can’t quite remember, because I kinda had my head in the clouds for the rest of the evening.

Friday started off with more exercise. Seriously, it feels so good to work out early in the morning. You’re more awake and active for the rest of the day, and I love it.

The first event was a Steven Erikson signing. (I know I went to other signings at various times, but I had the most books for Erikson, so that’s the one I remember.) I had started the first Malazan book at the beginning of this year before the train that was Oathbringer hit me, and I was really enjoying it, and expect to love the series as a whole, so I was excited to meet Erikson and have him sign my copies of his series.

There was a free luncheon on Friday, where they gave out some really cool free books. Tip for if you ever go to ICFA: Go to all the luncheons and dinners. It’s worth it for the food. It’s also worth it for the books. Combined, it’s *really* worth it, and I wish I’d known ahead of time to sign up for the Thursday luncheon as well.

I know I went to several panels on Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and other such literary things, but they’re all kind of blending together by now. A lot of the papers presented were really interesting, so it was definitely worth going, though!

In the afternoon, I attended a reading with Nick Mamatas, John Chu, and Fran Wilde. All of the readings were excellent. Chu read part of a short story he’ll have in an upcoming magazine, and Wilde read all of her own story. I was really glad I went, and kinda wish I’d made time to see some of the other readings earlier in the week.

That night was the flash play section. It was unbelievably fun, and if you go to ICFA, you have to go to the flash plays. It should be required for everyone. I haven’t laughed that much in a long time. The best part is that the authors themselves are also the actors, so I got to watch Max Gladstone pretend to be drunk, declare himself a sensualist, and then get into a mock sword fight and accidentally break his sword.

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Staveley sat next to me during the play, and after, invited me to come out to the balcony to hang out and chat with people. He introduced me to several people, including his editor, Marco Palmieri. (Who also sorta knew who I was from Twitter!) I really appreciated the introductions, and got a bit outside of my comfort zone, talking to new people and stuff. It was a good experience.

Saturday started off with a very special signing. Staveley was there, signing none other than Skullsworn, his next book. His editor had them printed 2 weeks earlier than normal just so he would have copies for ICFA, and I was unbelievably excited to be able to pick up a copy early, and have Staveley AND Palmieri sign it.

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(Yes, there is actually a picture with me prominently in it. That’s how excited I was.)

I know I went to several other interesting panels that day, but the only one that sticks in my mind was the last one–a humor panel featuring Max Gladstone and Andy Duncan. It was, well, humorous.

The day ended with one final dinner, with more free books (eep), and then a party out on the terrace, where I got to talk to several more people, make more connections, and even talk to Staveley a bit more. We got him to agree to do an interview for our blog when Skullsworn is released, so look for that in a few weeks!

Travelling home was… A chore. We visited the free table every day, the bookseller’s room at least twice, and picked up books at the luncheon and the dinner. We had to transport all of this back to Austin.

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Yes, the boxes are also full of books. Mostly the books we brought with us to get signed.

I ended up checking a 50.0 pound bag and another that was around 40 lbs. I likely carried another 40-50 pounds around the airport, between my backpack and the overloaded tote bag I was using. Shannon was also carrying a bag of books, and put as many as she could fit into her carry-on luggage.

All of the books (and people) made it home safely, but I think that next time, I’m going to go ahead and ship back a box of books. Getting everything through the airport and home was backbreaking, and after a long weekend (I was up really late Friday and Saturday night forcing myself to be sociable), I would have liked a slightly easier trip home.

I did manage to read all of Skullsworn on the trip back (I finished Closed and Common Orbit sometime during the conference), and absolutely loved it. Having a good book to enthrall me on both legs of the journey made the travel seem so much shorter than it actually was.

All in all, ICFA was a great experience, and meeting Brian by surprise definitely made it exceed all of my expectations. My takeaways from the con would be this:

  • The panels are all pretty great, and don’t be afraid to try out some of the more interesting ones.
  • The readings are awesome too, especially if you go and watch authors who read with voices, and have any kind of acting background.
  • Go to all the luncheons and dinners. You’re not saving much money regardless because the restaurants around the hotel are so expensive, and you get really good food, plus free books, and it’s a great opportunity to network.
  • Don’t forget to check the free tables, and check them often. If you’re the kind of person who will pick up books on a whim, or has a long list of books you want, expect to bring a lot of books home, and likely need to ship some of them.
  • The flash plays are required.
  • Don’t be afraid to hang out with the cool people and talk to them. They weren’t at all afraid to talk to me. 🙂

I’m not sure if my schedule will allow me to go back next year, but I definitely enjoyed my trip this year. Thanks to everyone who put this conference together and made it such a memorable experience!

Road to ICFA 38: 2015 Paper

A few weeks ago, I got the news that my proposal for ICFA was accepted, making this the second time I will be going to the conference as a scholar.  I wanted to document the experience as the paper itself comes together with you guys, and report on the event itself.  The paper that is in the works currently is titled “Pre-Crime, Free Will, and Institutionalization: An Exploration of the Themes of ‘The Minority Report’ and Psycho-Pass“.  I hope to inspire you guys to visit the conference sometime, or perhaps present for ICFA 39!

For clarification, ICFA is the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts, held yearly in Orlando, Florida as a scholarly conference for science fiction, fantasy, and horror. The first time I attended was almost two years ago because of a paper I wrote in Professor Andy Duncan’s class at the University of Alabama.  He’s won the World Fantasy Award a number of times as well as the Nebula, and has been Hugo nominated, so you should check him out sometime.

But I digress.  I wanted to share with you that very paper that began my journey that hopefully will continue in the scholarly world.  It unfortunately does not have any outside sources other than the source material, which is my only regret and will be rectified for the next paper.  Additionally, it’s about 2400 words or so, so I warn you now before you get into it!  Finally, this paper has spoilers for Who Fears Death, Lagoon, and Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor, so beware!!!

Rewriting the Great Book: Subverting the Story of Zoubeir in the Works of Nnedi Okorafor

Male heroes swoop in to save damsels in distress.  A woman’s death becomes the impetus for the protagonist to take action against a great evil.  These tropes, among many others, plague not only science fiction and fantasy but also the entirety of fiction.  Nnedi Okorafor, however, is a standout example of an author who completely turns these tropes on their heads.  While Okorafor employs these subversions in all of her novels, this is especially apparent in Who Fears Death, where Onyesonwu proves again and again that she is as competent, if not more so, than her male counterparts and ultimately becomes the chosen heroine that saves the world.  This subversion is most succinctly illustrated in Chapter 39 of Okorafor’s novel, which is a self-contained story that acts as a foil to the rest of the book.  Particularly with the sacrifice of the pure maiden who ultimately receives no recognition, the story of Zoubeir the Great, Suntown’s greatest chief, embodies many of these typical devices seen in literature.  In choosing to recount it, Okorafor manages to capture all that Onyesonwu finds wrong within her world and the destiny that she is determined to change by rewriting the Great Book.

But what is so wrong with her world that she seeks to change everything in the first place?  While the main objective of her journey is to confront her biological father, bundled in with this is the rewriting of the Great Book.  This document is both an origin story for the genocidal conflict between the Okeke and the Nuru as well as serving as a religious text for the people of the Seven Rivers Kingdom and the surrounding desert.  Therefore, changing this book is to ultimately change the narrative of the region, to put an end to the genocide, weaponized rape, and misogyny rampant in this post-apocalyptic Africa.

Zoubeir the Great’s story of how he escaped death to ascend to chiefdom is the only passage of the Great Book that is fully retold within the novel, immediately after Binta’s death.  Described as a Nuru favorite, “it’s supposed to remind you that great things will always be protected and people meant for greatness are meant for greatness” (Okorafor 242).  It begins by describing the birth circumstances of Tia and Zoubeir, the latter born in secret due to the nature of his conception while the former’s birth was, as Onyesonwu says, nothing special.  Zoubeir, of course, is recognized by the town as special and a natural leader while Tia, short and silent, is the ideal woman.  When soldiers arrive after the Suntown chief falls ill and hears of the existence of his bastard son, Tia selflessly sacrifices her life by becoming a human shield so that Zoubeir may fulfill his destiny.  And yet, even though they had chemistry between them and were by all accounts great friends, there is nothing built in her honor and she becomes a footnote in history.  The chapter ends with Onye proclaiming her dislike for the story that has turned to hatred after Binta’s death.

The most overt reason for this hate is due to the parallels between Binta and Tia’s deaths.  Binta is murdered defending Onyesonwu, though she is verbally defending her friend rather than becoming a human shield.  Both characters are described as so beautiful that even their fathers lusted after them, a recipe for an abusive childhood.  And out of the traveling companions, Binta is the shortest and quietest.  The fact that Tia is forgotten and never mentioned again in the Great Book is likely the most infuriating aspect of the story for Onye.  That essentially it was Tia’s duty, and by extension, Binta’s as well, to sacrifice themselves for the chosen one because they were poor, pure, and women.  Telling this story, then, shows Onyesonwu’s commitment to not allowing Binta to be forgotten to the sands of time.

However, this story can be viewed in a much wider context than as a commentary on Binta’s death.  The relationship between Mwita and Onye is mirrored to an extent by Tia and Zoubeir, with the roles within the story gender swapped.  Mwita, while viewed as an Ewu, is born to parents who love one another, and his birth is not significant in the way Onyesonwu’s is due to this fact.  Onye, in contrast, is the bastard child of rape by the general Daib, a great sorcerer and a man with significant political power.  Zoubeir’s birth circumstances can be viewed in a similar light, the implication being that the sexual relations between the Suntown chieftain and his mother are not entirely consensual, if at all.  Both Zoubeir and Onye are destined to do great things, while Tia and Mwita both end up sacrificing their lives in order to allow the chosen ones to live and fulfill their destinies.  Though many of the circumstances are similar, Onye also does not allow Mwita to be forgotten, as the conception of their child and the subsequent consequences creates enough chaos to allow the Great Book to be rewritten.  The gender switch, in this way, both subverts the typical heroic trope of female sacrifice as well as underlines how problematic it is.

Onyesonwu also performs the ultimate subversion of the female martyr at the end of Who Fears Death.  Throughout the novel she knows of her ultimate fate, being stoned to death by the Nuru because of her actions, and for all intents and purposes does initially allow this fate to happen.  However, rewriting the Great Book also translates into rewriting her fate.  The final chapter of the book, marked as simultaneously another first chapter, details the thought process during her escape.  After transforming into a Kponyungo, a firespitter from the desert that resides in old salt beds, she completely rejects her fate of death:

No, she was not a sacrifice to be made for the good of men and women, Okeke and Nuru alike.  She was Onyesonwu.  She had rewritten the Great Book.  All was done.  And she could never ever let her baby, the one part of Mwita that still lived, die.  Ifunanya.  He’d spoken those ancient mystical words to her, words that were truer and purer than love.  What they shared was enough to shift fate.  (Okorafor, 385)

This is a complete refutation of the duty of women to sacrifice themselves for the greater good that is integral to the story of Zoubeir and Tia.  Rewriting the Great Book means rejecting this notion of the necessity of sacrifice, and therefore also rejecting the roles that are delegated to her gender.  Women can be powerful too and save the world without becoming martyrs, with the ability to live within the new world they have helped to create.

Viewed more broadly, the story of Zoubeir and Tia, and by extension the Great Book as a whole, reflects the social and gender norms of both Onyesonwu’s world as well as parts of our own.  People of the Seven Rivers Kingdom look to this story and “hope the girls will want to be like Tia the good young woman and the boys like Zoubeir the Great” (Okorafor, 242).  But what does this mean exactly?  Zoubeir is the strong male figure, who commands respect among his classmates and is forever remembered by history for his achievements.  Tia is quiet, of small stature, and puts up with physical abuse, as well as possible sexual abuse, from her father.  Her life is snuffed out to help a man fulfill his destiny, and she is never recognized for how vital her role really was.  She is even marginalized at her birth, the midwife staying with Zoubeir’s mother rather than Tia’s “because she had a feeling that this woman’s child was a boy and the other woman’s child was a girl” (Okorafor, 243).  Women, then, are marginalized in the Great Book, not worthy of recognition, always having to take a back seat to the desires and destinies of men.  After all, Zoubeir’s existence is the product of a man who was not content with the four wives he had, Onyesonwu criticizing this by saying “honestly, was this chief not the stupidest man on earth?  Why couldn’t he be happy with what he had? Why couldn’t he focus on things other than his carnal needs?  He was the chief, no?  He should have been busy” (Okorafor, 243).

This gender dynamic is readily apparent throughout Who Fears Death.  From the female circumcision required by the Eleventh Rite, to Aro’s initial refusal to take Onye in as a student due to her gender, to Mwita’s struggle throughout the novel to come to terms with being delegated to the role of healer and companion of the great sorcerer, the inherent misogyny in Onye’s world is on full display.  Mwita’s frustration with not passing his initiation is the best example of this.  Time and time again, throughout the novel, he expresses his distaste for the situation, seen in great detail in his outburst upon arrival at the nomadic town of the Vah where he states “I should be the sorcerer, you should be the healer.  That’s how it’s always been between a man and a woman” (Okorafor, 253).  Onyesonwu explains how this is the one aspect she dislikes about Mwita:

Those old beliefs about the worth of and fate of men and women, that was the only thing that I didn’t like about Mwita.  Who was he to think he was entitled to be the center of things just because he was male?  This had been a problem with us since we’d met.  Again, I think of the story of Tia and Zoubeir.  I despise that story.  (Okorafor, 254)

Her hatred of the story of Suntown’s greatest chief is yet again expressed, this time in a different context, in her frustration with patriarchal gender roles.  Yet, if Onyesonwu had been born a boy and thus fit society’s narrative, as she was supposed to, she would have been a tool of Daib’s in his eradication of the Okeke.  Her character is a deviation from the norm, a subversion within itself.  Against all odds, against the prejudice she faces for being both Ewu and female, she changes the world for the better.  It is only natural for her to hate the story of Zoubeir and Tia in this context.  The story reflects what needs to be changed about the world, what she views as the intrinsic problems that are at the heart of the conflict.  It is no coincidence that she states that the story is a favorite of the Nuru, the race that both subjugates the Okeke and enjoys all the privilege that she is denied because of her mixed race and gender.

Okorafor also laces her other novels with similar subversive themes, particularly with her use of African female protagonists.  One facet of Akata Witch, for example, explores how Sunny handles prejudicial treatment due to her gender and her status as an albino Nigerian-American.  Her father throughout the novel shows a preference for his older sons over his daughter, culminating in an outburst toward the end where he insinuates that Sunny leaving the house for long periods of time will end up with her pregnant, as her grandmother did (Okorafor, 338).  Sunny also has to prove herself to the other boys on both teams during the soccer tournament at Zuma Ajasco.  As girls are not traditionally allowed to play in the match, she is required to show skill above and beyond the average player on the team she tries to join in order to earn the right to play in the first place.  The other team also underestimates her during the match because of her gender and throws jeers at her such as “girls belong on the damn sidelines” (Okorafor, 260).  However, Sunny uses this underestimation to her advantage and becomes the talk of the festival because of her incredible skill at the game, even compared to Pele by the spectators.  Through this, she opens the avenue for other girls to be able to play in future tournaments.

Lagoon, too, employs similar themes with the characters Adaora and Ayodele.  Adaora, a marine biologist, finds herself at the beginning of the novel at Bar Beach after being assaulted by her husband, who due to the influence of Father Oke begins to think that his wife is a witch.  Adaora has to come to terms with her husband’s religious revival and his subsequent misogynistic treatment of her, a much different picture of the man she originally married that built the lab in the basement of their home.  Ayodele, the ambassador of the alien species that arrives in Lagos, decides to portray herself as female even though she is a shape-shifter.  This opens her up to many of the negative stereotypes against women regardless of being a different species, highlighted in a scene where Moziz, the boyfriend of Adaora’s housekeeper, thinks kidnapping Ayodele will be simple because “she just woman; she no dey harm” (Okorafor, 57).  Regardless of this treatment, however, both Adaora and Ayodele, along with Anthony and Agu, become the impetus for change within Nigeria.

Through using the foil of the story of Zoubeir and Tia, Okorafor has managed to highlight the status quo of the world of Who Fears Death.  It represents everything Onyesonwu wishes to change about the society around her, the epitome of what she finds problematic.  It is the system that has allowed for so much death and destruction, the system that has kept her from living a normal, peaceful life.  Rewriting the Great Book thus means destroying the racism and misogyny of the Seven Rivers Kingdom, in hope of creating a world where the story of Zoubeir and Tia is not possible.  Where sacrifices will be remembered and revered rather than being forgotten, or optimally become completely unnecessary.  Most significantly, though, with the reveal of the setting being the post-apocalyptic Kingdom of Sudan, Okorafor makes it impossible to ignore the connections her novel has to the world around us.  This becomes especially apparent with her inclusion of similar themes in books set in our world.  She forces us to see what is wrong with our Great Books, our status quo, our gender and racial norms.  She makes us, through the story of Suntown’s greatest chief, realize just how problematic the tropes prevalent in fiction are.  And above all, in this sense, urges us to do as Onyesonwu has and rewrite our own destinies.

Sasquan: Day 5

The last day of WorldCon was a bit of a wind-down day. The Hugos were over, the big events had finished up, people had started departing already, and the majority of the others were planning to leave before the day was done. In general terms, it was the tail-end of the convention.

In the morning, I had to get up and check out of my hotel, which involved packing on my own. Because I had bought a number of books from the dealer’s room, I had to mail a box of books back home—which I am anxiously awaiting—which was yet another new experience. Thankfully, check-out went without a hitch, and I was able to bag check my suitcase at the con so that I did not have to haul it around the rest of the day.

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The box of books. Exciting stuff inside!

After checking my bag, I attended a Kaffe Klatche hosted by Dan Wells, which was great. Not only is Dan humorous and friendly, he’s also very smart. He talked about the books he has out, mental illnesses, and spoke at length—as prompted by our questions—about future plans. Dan’s upcoming novels excite me more than anything he’s written so far, and he’s written some great stuff. The upcoming movie made from his first book sounds fantastic, and I am eagerly anticipating its release.

Unfortunately, because I was attending Dan’s KK, I missed the Kate Elliott signing. I’ve been enjoying her books lately, including on my flights to and from WorldCon, and I was looking forward to meeting her. However, I still enjoy the books, and I expect–and hope–that I will have the chance to meet her at a future con.

I did make it to two panels, The Great Debate, in which Brandon Sanderson as The Lord Ruler debated Patricia Briggs as Asil for the vote of the attending crowd. It was easily the most hilarious panel of the con, and even though Brandon lost the vote, I’m glad that I went. After that was the “writing long series” panel which, while I did not get much new information out of, was still educational and gave me a chance to see some favorite authors.

I had been intending to talk with Peter and Brandon after the last panel, say a last few goodbyes, but apparently Brandon’s flight schedule did not allow it. Since my flight was not scheduled to leave until 9 PM, I sat around the con and ended up meeting up with some friends I had met during the week who were also going to be on the same flight as me. I am thankful that I did because, after we went out to dinner and made our way to the airport, our flight was cancelled due to mechanical issues, and we had to go across and spend the “night” in the local hotel. I got about 3 hours of sleep, and our morning flight left at 5 AM. It was nice to have friends through the ordeal, especially as it was my first time traveling without a group.

I made the 5 AM flight, and I’m finally home, resting up in the 2 days I have before the school semester begins. It’s going to be exciting. I’m going to do a general recap post of WorldCon in a few days, but my general impression of the con is incredibly positive. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and I’m already trying to plan out which con I can attend next year to meet even more of my favorite authors. Right now, WorldCon 2016 is much closer to home than this year, and they have Tamora Pierce as their Guest of Honor, so I would be delighted to attend that one again, though I will try to consider my other options as well to find the most exciting con I can attend (over the summer, while school is out.). If you have recommendations, please let me know!

Sasquan: Day 4

By yesterday (Saturday. It was yesterday when I originally wrote this post.), I had come to accept that pretty much anything I could learn and hear on a general panel is something that I could also have learned online or in a book, especially if it’s writing related. Therefore, I drilled down and focused on connections and autographs, things that I cannot get in some way just by being online.

I did attend one panel, but I can not even remember what it was—it obviously wasn’t incredibly important. (Looking back on the pictures, it was a

I did attend 2 Kaffee Klatches, with Mur Lafferty and Joshua Bilmes. The KK with Mur was a delight—she’s an excellent author and a nice and funny person. I’ve been a fan of her I Should Be Writing podcast for years, and I’ve read both of her Shambling Guide books, so I was excited to finally meet her. The KK was really informal, and it provided a nice opportunity to get to know Mur and her other fans.

The Bilmes KK was quite the opposite. Bilmes is the president for life of a literary agency which represents, among others, Sanderson, Brett, and Charlaine Harris. He’s a much different person from Mur, and the KK was run much more strictly. We went around the circle and introduced ourselves, then asked a single question which he answered at length. At the end, we talked about submission. It was very educational, and also, I expect, will be a valuable connection in the future. I did not, however, get any kind of personal connection or conversation out of the KK. I found both KKs to be highly valuable, and I am glad I attended both, they were just completely different.

After that, it was time for some fun. I went to the signing up some up-and-coming kid named George R. R. Martin. You should look up his stuff. Some of his books are pretty good, and he might be big some day.

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Then I went through the Sanderson signing line, getting him to do dueling signatures for me. I’ll do another post once I get home and can unpack everything about the dueling signatures, which is a project I quite enjoyed working on. I felt a little silly going through his signing line after hanging out with him for dinner and playing Magic with him, but I did it and he was nice, as always. I also helped out to a small degree with directing his signing line, an enjoyable task that I would like to do more of in the future.

Post Sanderson, I went to dinner with Alice and Lyndsey. The food was decent, and the company was great.

The big event of the day was the Hugo Ceremony. I debated not going, simply because of all of the debate and nastiness surrounding the various parties contesting the award this year. However, while I am definitely intending to attend future cons, I’m not sure when I’ll get back to another WorldCon, and I knew it was going to be a historic Hugo ceremony regardless of the outcome, simply due to the number of voters. So, I went. I ended up sitting next to The Peter, which was awesome, and Scott Lynch and Elizabeth Bear were sitting a few rows in front of me.

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Hugo Crowd.

The ceremony itself was run by David Gerrold and Tananarive Due, who did an excellent job of entertaining the crowd and moving through the various ceremonies of the evening which had to happen before the awards themselves were given out. And then the awards were given out.

Wes Chu won the Campbell award, which set the tone for the night. Wes was the only non-puppy nominee on the slate and, in the opinion of many, the best writer of the group. I’ve read his latest book and it is freaking amazing. He deserved this award, and I expect that he would have, at the least, come in second even without the puppy nominees, if not outright won the award. He got up on stage and gave what I felt to be the most hilarious speech of the night, and had parts of the crowd in hysterical laughter.

During the ceremony, the grim reaper and a Dalek both put on appearances, keeping the mood as light as possible. They were quite well done, and I got a group picture with said dalek after the ceremony. The organizers put their full effort into making the ceremony as good as they could, and I personally think they succeeded.

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L-R: Nate, Alice, Dalek, Peter, Lyndsey, Me.

The rest of the awards proceeded apace, with many of the expected nominees winning. Before last night (Saturday), there had been a total of 5 “No Award”s given over the entire course of the Hugos’ 65-ish year history. Last night, as you’ve probably heard, there were another 5. All of the puppy-dominated categories were completely shut down, and the awards were tense for both the presenters and the audience.

The best novel award was presented by Kjell Lindgren, from the International Space Station. The award went to The Three-Body Problem, the first translated work to ever win a Hugo novel award. It was an amazing experience, and regardless of everything else was a historic moment for the Hugo Award.

I’m glad that I attended the ceremony, and I think that, regardless of the politics surrounding it, several awards went to deserving winners–Wes Chu in particular. Looking at the long-lists, I think the biggest travesty was that The Slow Regard of Silent Things didn’t even get a novella nomination. Regardless, I attended the Hugos and then crashed so I would be a little rested for the last day.

Sasquan: Day 3

If you missed them, here are my posts for day 1 and day 2.

It’s common wisdom that the value in attending cons is networking. I’ve come to realize rather quickly that panels, while awesome for learning, are not excellent for networking, because the panelist/audience member interaction is usually limited. And the kind of things that usually happen on panels are ones I can find later on the internet, especially at the bigger panels, with the authors I really want to see.

For day 3, I dressed up as Steelheart from Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson. It was the first time I’d done a cosplay of any sort, and I have to say that it was a blast. The costume itself was as simple as you can get, but it was still recognizable, and the people who know who the character was said that they liked it. I’m definitely glad that I did it, and I want to do something a little more interesting next time. I’ll have to think about that one.

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Steelheart cosplay.

I only managed to attend one official panel yesterday, the Writing Excuses live recording. They recorded 3 episodes, and it was entertaining and educational, both for the podcasts themselves (which you’ll be able to get online in the next few months) and for the experience of seeing all of the behind the scenes work that goes in to making these things really work. Their audio equipment set-up is intense. After the panel, I managed to snag Dan and Howard for some autographs, and then run off to Wesley Chu’s Kaffe Klatche.

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Writing Excuses with guest star Gail Carriger.

The Kaffe Klatche was informal and relaxing. 10 fans sitting around a table, chatting with Wes about his work. He’s a really nice guy, and the other attendees were interesting people with good questions and comments to add to the conversation. Kaffe Klatches are quite worthwhile for making connections, and they’re also a good relaxer point in the middle of an intense day. Sign-ups, at least here, were quite competitive, so make sure you watch for those so that you can get the authors you want. I opted to not attend Sanderson’s KK, because that would be me being too greedy with his time.

Instead, I spent the afternoon in the autograph area, tracking down other authors and getting books signed and personalized. I managed to get Ken Liu, Elizabeth Bear, Katherine Addison, Wesley Chu, Kameron Hurley, and Scott Lynch to sign books for me yesterday. It’s amazing to meet that many authors, even if it is for literally less than a minute each while they scribble in your books. And those signed books are treasures that I can take home and keep forever, they are my preciouses.

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Me with Scott Lynch.

I had dinner out with Alice, and stopped and chatted with several other people I’ve met, at various points, both authors and fans that I’d previously only known online. The air quality was horrible, to the point that you could see a faint haze inside from the smoke, and the convention put up signs on every door leading outside warning about the air quality. Thankfully, it looks like it has cleared off this morning, so I may try to do some more touristy things this afternoon, though that time will likely be taken up with packing to make sure I can get all of my books home. (I’ll do a round-up post when I get home, of all of the books I bought and books I got signed.)

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The Haze.
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The Sign.

The last event of the day was the Magic: The Gathering tournament with Brandon Sanderson. It was a draft from the latest Magic set, Origins. It was huge fun, and I met a lot of cool people while playing. I went 1-2 in the actual tournament, so I didn’t even come close to winning, but for my 1 out-of-tournament game with Brandon, I won. Yes, I beat Brandon (once) at Magic. It was worth being up until 2 AM to do that.

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Cutting Brandon’s deck before playing Magic with him.

And so begins the last full day of the con. I’m off to breakfast a few hours later than usual, but I got enough sleep, so I’m still feeling pretty good. 🙂

Sasquan: Day 2

Day 1 was really cool, but it had nothing on Day 2.

For starters, the most traveling I had to do was a mile-ish walk. My phone still says that I walked about 5 miles yesterday, and I totally believe it, but that was the entire distance I travelled. No plane flights or anything. And I was able to get up at a reasonable time, after going to bed at a reasonable time, and getting a reasonable amount of sleep.

After grabbing a delicious breakfast at the Satellite Diner (where I’m headed to eat again as soon as I finish this post), I arrived at the convention hall a little early, and figured out where most of the rooms are. That place is a long, thin maze, and I know several people got lost at various times. Still, I had a little bit of extra time, and the dealer’s room wasn’t open yet, so I sat around the entrance hall and met up with Alex Ristea. He seems like a cool guy. 🙂

The first panel I attended was on the food of Spokane, a panel during which the panelists recommended various local restaurants, several of which I now intend to try out. The second panel was one on Future Pharma that was a bit of a let-down. It had the potential to be very interesting, but it just never quite made it. Several audience members decided to inject their “expertise”, and… Eh.

The third panel I attended was much, much better. It was a live Ditch Diggers recording with Mur and Matt, accompanied by Kate Elliott, Aliette de Bodard, and several other cool authors and an editor. The panel was hilarious, and the comments made were intelligent. The audience had a lot of really cool people too. For example, I recognized Kameron Hurley in the back.

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Ditch Diggers Panel

After that, I took a break for lunch in the con suite, where I met Peter Ahlstrom, Brandon’s personal assistant. So that was cool.

Then was Brandon’s official reading. He read a scene from Stormlight 3 that was awesome. There are no recordings of this online, as Brandon has asked that they not be posted publicly until after his Shadows of Self tour in October. He took about half of the time to do a Q&A session also. There are recordings of that one that will go up online. I’ll post the one I took if nobody else has posted one by the time I get home. I also managed to get myself a copy of the Con Double, Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell/Perfect State, from Peter.

After the panel, I skipped out on my next panel to stand around and talk with Alice and Peter. I got to meet Karen, Peter’s wife, and Emily, Brandon’s wife, as well as several cool fans. Alice and I presented Peter and Brandon with their Sanderson Army shirts, designed by the amazing Nikki. (Alice and I wore our shirts all day yesterday, too, and got several appreciative comments.)

After presenting Brandon with his shirt, which he really liked, he invited us out to have dinner with him and some of his other friends.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Brandon invited me out to dinner.

Give it another minute.

Of course, you don’t have to be psychic to know what I said. Of course I said yes!

So, uh, I also missed the panel after that, because I was kind of wandering around in a daze. I did make it to the dealer’s room, where I grabbed the Wes Chu books I didn’t already have, and found the library edition of Firefight, which I also did not have. That makes 2 more Sanderson books in my collection. 93 down, 127 to go (Yes, I’m counting.).

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YA Panel.

I did make it to Sanderson’s second panel. The topic was the various subgenres of YA. It was moderately interesting, but, as a friend on Twitter observed, it was made up of SF authors who happen to write YA. This con does not bring in YA authors, which is a little unfortunate. Still, it was a pretty cool panel. Also, Peter was wearing his Sanderson Army shirt, which was totally awesome. (I think Nikki hates me now. I don’t blame her.)

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Peter wearing his Sanderson Army shirt.

After relaxing for a bit in my room, I went to dinner. I managed to behave myself, I think (I hope), and not pester Sanderson as a fan. Also in attendance were several beta readers and Dan Wells, and it was honestly the coolest thing that has even happened to me.

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Dinner

I’m not exaggerating about that. That was the coolest, most awesome thing that has ever happened to me. Yesterday, August 20, 2015, was the best day of my life (So far, but good luck topping that one.).

After that, I was mentally and physically completely exhausted, so I came back to my hotel room and crashed. Now I’m up for day 3, and off to grab some breakfast before another series of amazing panels.

Sasquan: Day 1

So I arrived at Sasquan yesterday. For those of you who don’t know, that’s the World Science Fiction Convention, usually referred to as WorldCon. This year, it’s up in Spokane, Washington. This is my first big con, and I’ve been planning this trip since around December of last year, when it was confirmed that Brandon Sanderson would be attending the entire time.

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Packing was fun. 🙂

I had to get up at 4:30 AM to start my day, so it was a really long one. Thankfully, travel was relatively uneventful. It was my first time traveling by myself, so it was an interesting experience. Thankfully, my flights were relatively on-time, my luggage made it here in one piece, and I was able to catch a bus to the con for $2 quite easily. Check-in at the hotel was easy, and even if the room is so posh I’m literally sinking into the bed as I write this… It’s worth it. The convention center itself is easy to navigate once I have my map oriented correctly. I hope my travels back are just as uneventful.

Registration was relatively easy, even if it did take half an hour to get through the line. Once I got through, since I had preregistered, I was given my badge in moments!

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I’m, like, officially at WorldCon now.

The thing is, being my first big con, I don’t really know anybody here. I think the only person here I’ve ever met in person before is Brandon himself, and he meets so many fans, I’m fairly sure that he won’t even remember meeting me before, even if Peter (who is also attending) does know who I am.

But that’s what the internet is for! I’m meeting people left and right that I only previously knew on the internet. I was on the plane with Dave Robison of the Roundtable Podcast (His voice is SO recognizable. Like, wow.), Mur Lafferty was on my bus from the airport to the hotel… I actually got to meet and talk to Dave in the registration line, and he now recognizes me by sight. I met Alice Arneson, more commonly known as Wetlander, who does half of the Stormlight Archive reread over on tor.com and is a long-time Sanderson beta-reader. I’ve talked with her several times on the internet, and she’s a super nice person.

The only panel I made it to yesterday was the Opening Ceremonies. They were worth it, though. A Native American storyteller from one of the local tribes came and sang a traditional song and told several traditional stories. He had an incredible stage presence, and the audience, myself included, was captured by his imagination and performance. After he spoke and the guests were introduced, we were treated to a video recording from our special guest of honor, Kjell Lindgren, who is currently living on the ISS, and who will be teleconferencing in at least a few times this week to do panels.

After that, Alice introduced me to the con suite, where there are apparently free snacks for participants 24 hours while the con is going. It’s kind of awesome. While there, she introduced me to Joel Phillips, another Sanderson beta-reader and owner of the signed and numbered #1 copy of A Memory of Light, for which he had to camp out 2 weeks in below-zero weather. I almost tripped over Charles Stross.

I decided to subsist on snacks for the evening, since dining around here is so freaking expensive. I’m only planning to go out to any of the nice restaurants to eat if I’m going with a group of people and it’s worth it for the connections and friends made. I crashed in my way too posh hotel bed, utterly exhausted after being up for… something close to 18 hours straight. I walked about 5 miles, and I’m sure that’s going to be demolished by the amount of walking I’m doing today. I have a lot more people I’m looking forward to meeting (Sanderson), and today I start hauling books around to get signed. Until tonight, everyone!