(Warning — the following contains words put to paper by an exhausted author who didn’t sleep well last night after arriving home. Reader discretion is advised)
I should point out immediately that FantaSci 2021 was a huge hit. I don’t know how many people there were off the top of my head but everyone I spoke to said they would probably be back next year, which makes me happy. A con less than a four hour drive from my house? Yes please.
We rolled in on Thursday afternoon and immediately ran into my co-author (and very good friend, bestselling author, and roommate for the weekend) Chris Smith. It’s amazing how much you can miss your friends after a year of almost face-to-face meetings. Yes, Zoom and other apps helped a bit, but nothing beats seeing someone in person (and drinking a beer with them).
Since I had nothing else going on, we hung out in the outdoor porch area and spun tall tales of just how miserable our lives have been since we last got together. Philip “The Docfather” Wohlrab and Brian H. joined us, and then we hung out and shot the breeze until it was almost 0300. We called it a night at that point because the key to surviving a con is to remember that it is not a sprint, but a marathon. There’d be plenty of time for carousing the following two (for them, three) nights.
Friday morning we rolled out of bed to search for some food. Had to be quiet because roommate was still asleep (the wuss). While out in the lobby deciding on where to eat (and what) we ran into the International Lord of Hate, Larry Correia, and his wife Bridget. Larry and I are collaborating on a Monster Hunter project titled Monster Hunter Memoirs: Fever… just in case you hadn’t heard. 😉
Larry and Bridget hadn’t eaten since they left Yard Moose Mountain the day before and were ready to kill for some food. Since this would be bad, the four of us drove over to Cracker Barrel for some breakfast.
Side note: I thought my midsize sedan was roomy until Larry sat in the front seat. Since Bridget is taller than I am, I got to sit behind Larry. 6’5″ does not translate well in a small car. I understand having an oversized SUV now.
While at breakfast we talked shop a bit and basically devoured everything the server put in front of us. I normally don’t like cheese with my hash browns but that morning it was to die for. Plus, it was interesting watching them interact with one another while talking with us simultaneously. Larry and Bridget, as always, are an awesome couple and work together very well as Team Correia. It’s a good model to follow for relationships.
We headed back to the hotel because Larry had a panel at noon (my first one would be at two) and ran into a plethora of people. I don’t remember them all (because as I apologized to them all at the time, I can remember names, and I can remember faces, but I can’t put names with faces unless I’ve known you for a very long time). However, I was happy to see many old friends from Libertycon here.
My first panel at 2PM was called Jump Shot. On the panel with me was Ian J. Malone and Stephen Simmons. Ian was way more prepared than either myself or Stephen so we decided he was the moderator. Unfortunately, we were competing against two other panels with bigger names, so we had only one attendee. However, we talked a lot of baseball and it was unanimously agreed that the best rule change MLB could have at the moment is to get rid of the pitch clock and the DH rule.
After this I had a few hours until my next panel, so I found my way out to the outdoor patio. The hotel had very comfortable sofas to sit on out there, and there was a nice breeze with fans… well, next thing I know someone is shaking my shoulder and telling me I was going to be late to my next panel. Great — not even a dad and taking afternoon naps already. *sigh*
The next panel was titled Kill ’em All, and the schedule planner was very wise indeed. Chris Smith and I teaming up on a panel is always comedy gold and worth the price of admission, in my not-so-humble opinion. We have years of experience being on panels together and have gotten to the point where we know how to set up a joke for the other without any planning whatsoever. Doug Burbey and Dr. Robert E. Hampson joined us as we talked about the best kills we’ve had in books. My favorite actually was a scene Chris wrote in our collaborative project Kraken Mare. Great panel with a very engaging crowd, all of whom seemed to be fully on board with the idea that the more explosive the death scene for the redshirt, the more honor there is in the death for the tuckerization.
Since I had nothing else to do on Friday, we hung out on the porch and accepted offered drinks from random people who wanted to talk about stuff I couldn’t talk about yet. Primarily, details regarding MHM: Fever. I’ll repeat here what I told everyone else: it’s going to be awesome and that’s really all I can say. However, someone discovered I have a weakness for hard cider, and the intense
questioning with bribery torture began. Finally, after three hours of rigorous beer drinking torture, I broke and admitted that the main character of MHM: Fever’s name was Chloe Mendoza. Everyone who had already read Monster Hunter Bloodlines picked up on that name immediately. That seemed to satiate the bloodthirsty hounds (thankfully — more beer and I might have given up the Court of Feathers… ooops), and they wandered off as I managed to drag myself to bed. It was only just past midnight. I must be showing my advanced years with my inability to hang. 43 is creeping up on me, you know.
I was up early on Saturday morning, hangover-free, as is my superhuman ability (which seems to draw the ire of all who I tell about it, which is, admittedly, everyone who appeared to be nursing a hangover… still don’t understand why they hate me so much). The Baen Roadshow was scheduled for 10AM (ouch) and someone was handing out mimosas for those who needed them. Good plan but then, superhuman powers here. I was told I needed to be at the Roadshow, so I wandered in and hung out while Bean Books Head Honcho Toni Weiskopf gave out free books to people in the crowd. A surprisingly good turnout, considering the hour, and we got to see lots of new covers, including Lydia Sherrer and John Ringo‘s first collaborative project.
My first panel after that was actually one I knew very little about. Fantasy Gaming was supposed to talk about how playing RPGs helps authors build worlds, and while I’ve played some RPGs in the past, I didn’t borrow any of that in my fantasy novels, preferring instead to pull from actual lesser-known mythological beings from history (the Malaysian mythos are particularly fun). Fortunately, Stephen Simmons, Christopher Woods, and Jon Osborne knew much more than I did and helped me out.
Side note time: I was actually getting real-time quotes from the Care and Feeding of Authors panel, where Larry Correia and David Weber were being teased by their respective wives. David wasn’t there, since he had a deadline to meet and was up in his room writing, and I heard a rumor Larry was hiding in the corner laughing the entire time, but it was hilarious when the words “boom boom time” were mentioned as a way for stress relief. With this crowd one could never know if it was a comment on going to the range and shooting, or something else…
While on my Fantasy Gaming panel, I asked Larry if he wanted me on the Future of MHI panel, since, well, you know… he responded back positively and I was on my way to crashing the Guest of Honor’s panel. Heh heh…
Truth be told, I was a little nervous for some reason. I’ve done hundreds of panels before, and been on panels with Larry even, but this one just felt different. Larry has some amazing fans and suddenly all their attention is focused on me… yeah, nerves. However, Larry knows his stuff and we were rolling pretty smoothly. It was really hard not to give out too much about MHM: Fever since it’s exciting, but we somehow managed. After, I was off to another panel, this time a reading. I was going to be reading… nothing. I didn’t have anything I could read at the moment, so instead I opened an Ask Me Anything panel. A few people showed up and wanted to know about my current and future 4HU projects, which I gladly spoiled the hell out of. So three people (besides myself) know about Sunshine, Child of the Stars, and why she is such an anomaly. I also talked about The Executioners, which I will be writing with Matt Novotny.
Funny story: I was outside hanging out with a few other authors and Matt asked me if we could write a book together. Jokingly, I think, but then I responded with “sure… want to help me out with The Executioners?” I think I floored him a little. I’m looking forward to working on it with him. He’s got a unique style and voice that I think will work well with Lieutenant Mayhem (me).
My last panel of the weekend was a late one. Do You Want To Join My Anthology? featured myself, Mike Massa, and Monalisa Foster. I think between the three of us we’ve been in over 50 anthologies, so we gave a lot of pointers to new and aspiring authors on how to get into anthologies. Plus, as a bonus I was able to explain the process of building an anthology, since I am in the process of it at the moment. It’s always strange to be on the editor side of things. Gives me a new perspective on it, and I have a lot of respect for those who do this all the time.
After this panel, I was exhausted. Hung out on the back porch for a bit but turned in early. I was wiped out. Like I said before, it’s a marathon and not a sprint. I must have forgotten this sometime Saturday.
Sunday was a whirlwind of shopping after breakfast. I hit the dealer’s room and picked up a few shirts and a bag from Mystik Waboose. From there I started saying my goodbyes because I thought we were heading out early to get home in time. That quickly changed as I realized I was on “The List” for dinner with the Correias and the Webers, so we stayed much later than intended. Finally got on the road around 8 or so and rolled back into Casa Cordova at or around 1 in the morning. Cats seemed interested to see us, but I went straight to bed. This morning was going to come early and I needed some rest.
I didn’t really understand just how much the pandemic and subsequent closure of, well, everything had damaged society on a deep and fundamental level until I spent time normalizing this weekend. It was a little awkward at first because, at heart, authors are introverts and socializing with our “tribe” is something that only gets easier with time. With the shutdowns, socialization for us introverts became rare and we retreated into the psychological armor we’ve built up over the years to protect us. This was a pretty tame con when compared to massive stuff like Comic Con and DragonCon, but it you could feel the energy from everyone who was there. We needed this more than anything. Social interaction, as a species, took us to the moon. Taking away human interaction, depriving people of sensory stimulation, is akin to torture. Why do you think locking someone up in solitary confinement is considered punishment for the worst offenders in prison? Heap that onto a people who need the emotional support of their friends and fans, and you create a lot of trauma that will take years for people to recover from. Everything could go back to normal tomorrow and you won’t really feel like a part of the “community” until months, even years later. The damage has been done, but conventions allow us to pick up, rebuild the community, and remember what it’s like to be the social animal who craves physical and mental contact with our peers.
Kudos to Joel Lyons and the hard-working staff of FantaSci. For a second-year con, they were outstanding and responded well to when snafus happened. Yes, snafus happen at every con, but what differentiates a good con from a great one is how the staff responds. FantaSci did a good job responding to any and all problems, and were constantly roving around and checking in on authors and guests to make certain we were okay. That sort of attentiveness is always nice.
Will I be back to FantaSci next year? If they’ll have me, then hell yeah. It’s relatively close to the house, has a great staff, and most of my con family attended. I know I missed people and I am really, really sorry if I’ve forgotten to mention you here.