FantaSci 2019 AAR – Gold Edition

First off, let me just say that FantaSci was an amazing first year con. Hat’s off to Joel and his wonderful staff for putting on one hell of a convention. There have been very few conventions I’ve been to where I felt like I had come home. This is one of… two, total, with Libertycon being the other. For those of you who can’t get in under the cap for Libertycon, consider FantaSci next year. GREAT PEOPLE.

**note — some names have been REDACTED to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent. On to the After Action Report!

THURSDAY

I give horrible directions. It’s become somewhat of a running joke amongst my friends for years. Ask anyone about the McDonald’s Incident a few years back involving me, Philip “Doc” Wohlrab, and Chris Smith. I’m literally forbidden from giving driving directions. If I attempt to do so, I am told to shut my whore mouth. I wish I could say that it is “all in good fun” but it’s almost 50% serious, 50% in good fun.

So naturally, I didn’t think about giving my author buddy Kacey Ezell or her partner in crime, Marisa Wolf, directions to my house and possibilities of picking me up last during their superman drive from somewhere up above Washington, DC. Marisa had flown in from Texas the day before and had ridden down with Kacey to get me. However, upon arrival I noticed one conspicuously absent individual who (I thought) should have been picked up before me, since I was convinced he was on the way. The aforementioned “Doc” should have been already in the vehicle and we would shoot south from there. Unfortunately, I didn’t speak up or anything, and this led to a minor communication snafu. It got sorted out after some teasing (Jason doesn’t give directions…. seriously) and we picked up the fourth person of our ride and headed on down towards Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina to get an early start to this new convention, FantaSci!

We rolled in and the first person I saw was Jonny Minion, a very good friend. I sat with the vehicle and shot the crap with Jonny, catching up on everything that’s been going on since the last time I saw him, while everyone else ran to the little boy and little girl rooms (I have a bladder of steel). Then I saw Joel, the head honcho of the con, and he recognized me. I felt kinda bad about not recognizing him, at least not until I saw his name badge. Then it dawned on me why I knew this guy. LOL.

I quickly found the people I was rooming with for the night. REDACTED and REDACTED are awesome people, and were very gracious to let me sleep on their pullout bed for the night (I only had a room for two nights). I redacted their names because I am going to tease her mercilessly in a few moments and I wanted to leave her dignity intact, even if I shared this story all weekend at the con. You miss out on the con, you miss out on a few key details. #sorrynotsorry

Once I got situated it was time to grab some food. We all went to the restaurant at the hotel (side note: hotel was amazing and their staff was great, considering that they had NO idea what they were getting themselves into LOL) and some major Four Horsemen Universe plotting and planning began. I’m a peripheral author in the universe but I got some juicy bits of information that made me very, very pleased. I also got word that I could write more books for them in the near-future, which made me happy. I was sitting across from Kevin Ikenberry’s first reader, whose name I forget at the moment, and we kept laughing and shaking our heads during the sooper sekrit powwow of authors. I also ran into David and Sharon Weber at the restaurant, and getting a big hug from Sharon. They’re good people and absolutely amazing to their fans. I say “their” fans and not David’s because while David’s 6’3″ and kinda intimidating, Sharon is an absolute angel and makes everyone feel loved.

Also got to sit with publisher extraordinaire Chris Kennedy and his wife, Sheellah, and a few others whose names I forget. Jonny was there, and he’s kinda hard to forget. The others? I know I know them, but I can’t remember any names at the moment.

Best part of the meal was when Sharon had to come over and tell Jonny that he was not allowed to wear his crocheted boobies beer cozy out in public. It then went downhill from there, with everyone practically dying from laughter as Jonny attempted to rules-lawyer Sharon freaking Weber.

In nomine patris…

The funeral was lovely. LOL.

After dinner we met up in the bar where we talked about, well, everything. Four Horsemen stuff, how amazing the sales for Homeguard have been, the upcoming release of Hunter (Ezell and Wolf), and even got to speaking with Mark Wandrey about stuff he’s doing with Marisa Wolf in the near future (side note: it’s going to be epic. I listened in on their plotting session Sunday and interrupted a few times because, well, I’m me). I then went up to the room I was sharing with REDACTED and REDACTED to get some writing done on Sons of the Lion before I went to bed.

As I was writing, they came up and then an old friend of theirs joined us. What I had thought was going to be an early bedtime (before midnight) stretched into the wee hours as we talked about some cool upcoming stuff in the 4HU (Four Horsemen Universe). We finally called it a night and went to sleep.

I should mention here that before we all crashed, REDACTED told me that she snored. I laughed and said “so do I”. She reiterated that she snored unlike anything I had ever heard in my life. I repeated again “can’t be that bad. REDACTED confirmed what his wife was telling me, but again, ego is the fall of great men, and I shrugged it off. We turned off the lights and went to sleep.

At 0300 on the f***ing nose, someone decided to land a 737-700 on the tarmac in our bedroom. The screeching, squealing sound of rubbing meeting concrete jarred me awake and I freaking panicked. I shot up and looked around, trying to figure out where the hell the plane was. It was silent for a moment and I had the feeling perhaps I had dreamed about it, so I lay back down and tried to go to sleep, heart still pounding in my chest.

Then it happened again, only this time I was awake for it. I sat up and looked over at REDACTED‘s wife. A third time and I had identified the source of the noise. Holy sh*t did she snore. I mean, she HAD warned me in advanced, and I had blown it off like “whatever”, but sweet merciful baby Jesus… this was something I had NOT been prepared for. I’ve slept through a freaking hurricane while in the Navy, didn’t even budge during the Northridge Earthquake of 1994, but this? This was a whole new level of DAAAAAAAAAAAAMN. I actually thought that REDACTED had forgotten her safe word at one point (I kid, I kid….. kinda).

I joke above, but having a deviated septum and sinus issues are hell on anybody. I really hope she can get it fixed soon because that can’t be healthy.

I did come prepared though, and I had earbuds for my phone. I popped those in, put on my music playlist, and went back to sleep.

FRIDAY

They weren’t kidding.

I was quiet as a mouse getting out of bed in the morning. I didn’t want to wake up the REDACTED‘s, since I am an early riser. I stumbled/found my way to the restaurant and got some breakfast. I don’t remember all who I saw, since I remained uncaffeinated for far too long, but I’m pretty sure I ran into the Weber’s again at breakfast. I also snagged Joel and managed to get my registration info from him and be officially a panelist at FantaSci for the weekend. Rejoicing could be had!

Afterwards, Doc, Kacey, Marisa, myself, and author Rob Hampson went to visit Baen Books HQ. That is always a great visit, and we got to meet up with Tony Daniels, Chris Ruocchio, and Jim Minz. They also have another employee and I ALWAYS forget her name and I am so, so sorry about this. While there we ran into David Weber’s co-author, Jacob Holo, and his wife, H.P. They were super cool people but I had a panel at 2:00, so Rob and I headed back while everyone else went to lunch.

On the way back, Rob and I plotted. We are evil. It was glorious. Fictional characters are gonna die.

My 2:00 panel was about Space POG’s (Persons other than Grunts). It was a new thing for me, since I had no idea beforehand what exactly a POG was. However, I do know how to wing it, and with Rob’s help (I kinda forced him to join me as a panelist so I wouldn’t be alone) we made it fun. I made certain that everyone would be joining us in the fun by the opening (with apologies to David Weber):

You are Hydroponics Technician 2nd Class Wally Whatsyername, serving aboard the HMS Vengeance and patrolling the far-reaches of the Star Kingdom’s borders. Suddenly the People’s Republic of Haven Navy ships appear and start launching missiles at you. Your battle station is in Hydroponics Bay 2, so you grab your squirt bottle and prepare to tend to your garden. Your last coherent thought before the missiles detonate is ‘Not the rutabagas!’

Yeah, good times.

After that it was Opening Ceremonies, which was a lot of fun. Got to meet Timothy Zahn again, and did not fanboi on him (much). From there it was dinner, which was pretty good, and then… I’m not entirely sure. I think we ended up at the bar. Friday night is a bit of a blur.

Oh! Friday night was the test demo of the new Four Horsemen: Omega War card game. I played as the MinSha and squared off against the Besquith, Asbaran Solutions, and Carthwright’s Cavaliers. The Besquith got their asses handed to them, and nobody messed with the MinSha (I turtled and dared them to “come at me, bro”. No shame in this.) It’s pretty easy to learn card game but you do need to learn to pay attention (I was guilty of this a few times). They didn’t have the card that I helped design yet in play but the game designer was very excited about bringing in my card in the near-future. I’m very glad I backed that Kickstarter.

SATURDAY

Saturday was a good morning. Got some food and almost made it to the Baen Traveling Road Show but… overslept. However, I did hear that they showed off Corruptor and talked about me for a bit (yay!). From there I went to a few panels and hung out in the dealer’s room, eyeballing a Peacemaker t-shirt that Joy Wandrey had for sale (I bought it Sunday), and generally made some new fans and friends.

I know I had a panel on Saturday but I can’t remember what it is. I think it was about Handwavium and How Much is Too Much? Not a lot of people showed up for that one so I pretty much pulled everyone into a circle and we complained about what authors do too much handwavium in their writing (Hi! My name is Jason, and I’m a handwaviumholic!). I pretty much derailed everything when another gentlemen and I agreed to disagree about Tom Bombadil in the Lord of the Rings. Good times.

I didn’t attend the eating out dinner at the Merc Guild outing, instead meeting up with Evil Penguin (Brent Roeder, evil neuroscientist at large) and having dinner in the restaurant. I realized that we had never sat down and actually talked before and we both were amazed to discover that we had quite a bit in common. It’s always nice to actually get to know people. You discover a lot of commonalities.

I got caught up doing something else after dinner and ended up missing the release party of Hunter by Kacey Ezell and Marisa Wolf, which meant I also missed the surprise birthday party for Kacey as well. I felt like an utter tool because I had known it was going to happen for a long while but I’m an idiot who forgets things at the worst possible moment. Plus I ruined the cookies I was going to bake for her. Not ate, but… well, let’s just say that butter is a key component to making this cookie recipe.

I decided to actually get some rest that night so I begged off late night drinking charades (although I did go and see the karaoke… less said, the better. My friends are wonderful writers but singers? Not so much. It looked fun, though) and went to bed. I had early morning panels to attend.

SUNDAY

0900 panels are the devil. There, I said it. There is just something inherently evil about getting up that freaking early and trying to make coherent conversation. I’m usually pretty chipper in the morning (post-caffeine) but Sunday I was dragging. I made it with about 1 minutes to spare and got situated as we talked about Music That We Write To. I don’t remember who all was on the panel with me besides the Holo’s, but it was a lot of fun and I discovered new music to write to. It went all over the place and had some very good audience interactions. I particularly enjoyed the crowd making suggestions for some music and others sharing what they use as a “kick-start your heart” playlist for writing. Other than the ungodly time, this was a great panel.

I then high-tailed it over to my 1000 panel (sorry to the gentleman who was trying to talk to me after the panel. My handler is awesome and was simply trying to make certain I wasn’t late) where we talked about Writing Believable Science Fiction with Chris Kennedy, Mark Wandrey, and Jon Osborne. This was probably my favorite panel at the con, since I got to give Mark a lot of crap (it’s what I do best) and make “titty bar gunfight” references while talking about dialogue during fight scenes (we were talking about Bright). As I said before, this panel was lots of fun.

Closing ceremonies were next, and I was obviously exhausted because people told me that I looked exhausted. *shrug* Yeah, I was pretty tired. I didn’t sleep well the entire weekend. But still, big shout-out to the crew of FantaSci. The issues were minor and the “Yell at Joel” session was actually pretty short.

I did want to give a huge medal to the guy who was running the Merc Pit (snack room). I went up there multiple times over the weekend and they guy was ALWAYS THERE. It was as if he simply lived in that room and made sure it was always stocked with snacks and drinks. I don’t know who he was but he deserves a medal. You hear me, Joel? A FREAKING HUGE MEDAL.

From here we simply hung out and talked for awhile. I did some writing while Mark and Marisa plotted a 4HU novel, and then we got ready for dinner. Kacey, Marisa, her siblings from Connecticut, Doc, and Bubba (Brian Gnad) all went to hibachi for dinner. The udon noodles were well worth the cheating on my diet, and then Coldstone for shakes afterwards because it was Kacey’s birthday weekend and we ALL DESERVED MILKSHAKES. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I promise.

Dead Dog Party time, and by this point I was pretty much half-asleep. You know a con is good when I can recognize that I’ve had too much fun. After talking with a few of the people working the con I headed back down to the bar and hung out with Chris Kennedy Publishing authors, which there seemed to be about 20 of us attending. I decided to call it a night and start reading Hunter, which I’d picked up earlier in the day.

About halfway through it dawned on me that I knew precisely how to wrap up Sons of the Lion so I got off the couch and started writing. Poor Doc (on whose couch I was crashing for the night) had to listen to me clackity-clack on my keyboard for an hour while I wrote the ending scene of Sons of the Lion. It came out okay (need to go back and fix some stuff earlier in the book) and I went to bed at last.

MONDAY

We packed up and left early, since Marisa had her flight in the evening back to Texas and they had a long drive ahead of them. On the way home I continued reading Hunter, and unbeknown to me (at first) Marisa was posting a play-by-play of my comments and noises I was making while reading. It made for some hilarious comments but eventually I was forbidden from speaking because Doc hadn’t read it yet and I was in danger of committing spoilers.

There was much fun to be had at my expense.

Doc and I were dropped off at his house so that Kacey and Marisa could save themselves 90 minutes of driving (I live in the boonies of Virginia) and he drove me home. On the way we talked about writing and his upcoming move, as well as my impending cross-country road trip, and we made noises about meeting up since our paths might cross. That would be epic because my co-author Chris Smith is meeting up with him already, and the three of us could leaving burning cities in our wake on Epic Road Trip America Tour of 2019.

I got home, did some chores, and was in bed at 8:00PM. I was pooped. I did do a little writing but most of it was me simply trying to sleep.

Okay, so where to begin? Thank you to Joel and his staff of numerous volunteers for putting on an amazing con. I had so much fun and it was nice to be able to relax and enjoy the company of friends and family. Next year they’re planning on more fantasy and YA, so I know I’ll be attending if they’ll have me. The Mercenary Guild Fan Group kickoff celebration went very well. I heard we’re around 200 people already joined, and it’s still in it’s infancy stages, so that’s going to be great. As always, I love meeting up with Kacey, Marisa, Doc, and all others who made the weekend amazing. I don’t make cons awesome, I’m just lucky to be a part of a larger group who I call my chosen family who do this. For those of you who can’t get tickets to Libertycon because of their cap numbers, may I suggest FantaSci as an alternative? It had a very similar feel to it. Relaxacon to the max.

If I didn’t mention you in here, it’s not because you aren’t amazing, but because I forget things and names and faces and everything else. You are appreciated, I just… forget.

Thank you FantaSci, and I hope to see you next year!

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