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Friday, January 11, 2013
IllogiCon started today. I meant to go down early, and hang out as things were getting started, but of course that didn't happen. I ended up getting there around five.
The con's in a new facility this year: the RDU/Research Triangle Embassy Suites. I asked someone at the registration table why they'd changed facilities, and he said it was for financial reasons. I actually like the new place better, though: the DoubleTree, where it was last year, is a very nice hotel, but it was much further from where I live, and there are all those traffic circles. (I know they're safer than intersections. I still hate them.) This one had no traffic circles, and was right off 40. Very nice!
The space was better, too. Last year we were upstairs, and it kind of felt as if we'd been squished in as an afterthought, though I doubt that was actually true. At this hotel, we're on the main floor--though somehow the guy babysitting the desk had no idea what I was talking about when I asked where the convention was. Once again, there are two panel rooms, a game room, a dealers' room, a registration desk, a con suite, and probably a lot of other stuff that the guests never see.
I ran into friends right away: Jason Peters, his wife Megan, and Ada Milenkovic Brown, whose reading I missed by ten minutes. Oops. (Sorry, Ada. ;_;) I was just in time for the five o'clock panel. I was torn--"The Local Scene" looked pretty interesting--but all my friends were in "The State of Short Fiction," so I went there.
It was a good panel. John Hartness and Stanley Schmidt were the panelists, and spoke from very different sides of the short fiction market: Hartness is prolifically self-published on Amazon, and Schmidt edited Analog for over thirty years. Despite their differences, they were very cordial, and had a lot to say about the changes in the publishing world. The discussion focused heavily on self-publishing: its new respectability, how it can give new life to previously published (or previously unsuccessful) work, and how it means that authors don't necessarily have to wait in the slush piles anymore if they don't want to. The highlight for me, of course, was addressing Mr. Schmidt by the name on the nametag in front of him, and discovering that the tag was not his. (Protip: Find out the panelists' names before you start asking questions.)
After "Short Fiction," M. David Blake and Ada Brown and another friend and I wandered up to the con suite for sustenance. We talked shop for a while, then went our separate ways, running into Famous Author Bill Ferris when we got downstairs. I didn't feel like sitting down yet, so I checked out the dealers' room and chit-chatted with the very nice people at the MystiCon table. I am unlikely to make it to Virginia this year, but would really like to check out that con in the future.
Ducked in for the last few minutes of "World Design," and failed to notice Margaret McGraw knitting cheerfully half a row away. We texted cheerfully for a minute before realizing we were in the same room.
"World Design" was a 90-minute panel, and I'd probably have gotten a lot more out of it if I'd seen more than 10 of those 90. It was a collaborative worldbuilding activity, and the world they'd created was very involved, with a network of interdimensional portals. When I got there they were starting to get silly, and discussing what brand of donut the portals might be shaped like.
Had a very nice conversation with the gentleman at the European Medieval Arts of Arms table. I... kind of really, really, really want to take classes there now. There was a weighted practice dagger at the table that I couldn't stop playing with, and they teach broadsword and lightsaber, too. Broadsword would actually be my number 1. Someday!
Also met and chatted with the ladies at the Nerd-Vana table. They apparently do nerd-themed burlesque shows at Legends on a fairly regular basis. I don't think I've been to Legends since my sister had her birthday there on Goth Night once. Might be time for a visit!
I went to "The Liars' Panel" without really knowing what it was, and kind of regret that. The panelists were Mark Van Name, John Kessel, Jim Minz, and Alex Granados. It was a "seven truths and three lies game," only you had to pay a dollar to call someone on a lie. I had not known to bring any dollars (though I should have, having read the flier that said it was for charity), and so was able only to make the occasional wisecrack. Very entertaining panel, though.
The last panel I stayed for was "SF as Covert Commentary on the Real World," moderated by M. David Blake. The panelists were John Kessel, Tony Daniel, and Writer Guest of Honor Tim Powers. The discussion was about whether it was appropriate to use science fiction stories as a vehicle for political statements, and whether writers do it unintentionally. The consensus seemed to be "not usually" and "they'd better not," with some exceptions--someone mentioned a fondness for The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, for example, and Lewis was discussed as well.
Unfortunately, at about that point I was distracted by the realization that almost every panelist I'd seen all day had been male. I spent a few minutes counting and recounting the audience members: ten men, and ten or eleven women. The audiences in the other panels had been equally balanced, as was the crowd as a whole. I'm sure IllogiCon didn't do it on purpose, but all-male panels are a pretty old-fashioned habit to get into. Hope it doesn't become a pattern.
Overall a good first day, if pretty quiet. It's supposed to be beautiful tomorrow (it was cool and foggy today). Not sure if the nice weather will bring more people to the con, or send them out to the parks to frolic, but it should definitely be a much bigger crowd. Since it's now 5:44 a.m. on Saturday, I'm not sure how much of Saturday's program I'm going to get to, but I'll do my best to write it up here. Have a good weekend!