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!

Traveling to ICFA 38

Hey all! Shannon and I are currently in Florida, at the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts conference, ICFA 38! Shannon is presenting a paper tomorrow (Thursday), and has spent the last several weeks making sure it’s in great shape. I’m excited to hear her deliver it, it’s really well done. Because of all this, we’re really busy, and don’t have a full Wednesday post for y’all this week.

We will get you a full con report soon, and I can probably talk Shannon into posting her paper as well. I still owe you a WorldCon report for last year–that’s in the works, and will be out eventually. I’m reading a lot of books now that I’m done beta reading, and oh, it feels sooooo good. 🙂 More about those books later too, of course.

For now, here’s a picture of us WAY too early this morning, waiting for our flights out of Austin.

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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!