FantaSci 2023 AAR — The “It’s Still This Week” Edition

Once again Joel Lyons and crew put on an amazing FantaSci. Thanks to all the volunteers who worked their tails off to make sure this year’s FantaSci went off without too many hitches.

But before the con started… dinner at The Angus Barn in Raleigh, NC!

Joining us was our host, Flight Doc (name protected for security reasons 😀 ), Mark and Joy Wandrey, Marisa Wolf and her husband, Jeremy. Christopher L. Smith, Mark Stallings, Jon Osborne, and Jacob and H.P. Holo. Food was fantastic (Flight Doc challenged me to eat the tomahawk 52oz steak so I did… not sure why everyone else was so surprised) and we had a good time. I also got to chat with Jacob for almost all of dinner as we talked about his Gordian Division novels (co-authored with David Weber) as well as his upcoming Honorverse trilogy he and David are writing about Edward Saganami. If you’re a fan of the Honorverse then you know that name.

Friday morning I had to go into work because quite a few Baen authors were coming in to record for the Baen Free Radio Hour podcast. These were four of our “new to Baen” authors — Marisa Wolf (you’ve seen her in my CHICKS IN TANK TOPS anthology, as well as quite a few books in the Four Horsemen universe), Monalisa Foster (who has appeared in many Baen anthologies the past few years), Howard Andrew Jones (sword and sorcery guru who has been editing and writing fiction for 20+ years), and Gregory Frost (he’s been writing for a long time now as well), though Gregory was calling in remotely for this one. Sean, our media relations guy, kept them all on point and answering questions about each of the coming debut novels from Baen this year (well, Marisa’s is coming in Spring 2024, but it’s close enough, damn it!).

While they were doing that, I was talking (once again) with Jacob and H.P. Holo. Toni Weisskopf, Publisher and Editor of Baen Books, was with us as well. We talked about various novels and just random stuff we all loved. There may have been pitches involved as well. Then, they all went out to lunch while I finished getting packed for FantaSci!

Fun side note part one — sometimes the Hilton app likes to mess with you. For us, it meant putting in the wrong Hilton hotel when I added it to Google maps for direction. Whee!

So we were two hours late getting there…


Anyway, upon arrival I was inundated by everyone wanting to say “Hi!” Unfortunately, I was brain-fried and exhausted, and I apologize for snapping at people to “just give me five minutes, damn it!” My check-in was delayed (“So sorry, sir, even though you requested early check in… but we can call you when the room is available!”) and I had a panel in ten minutes, so I was now past panic mode and nearly into meltdown mode (Jason in meltdown mode wants ice cream and to be stuck in a dark corner to cool off… I had sweat pouring off me and it was disgusting). Fortunately, Alpha Reader Collyn spotted me and offered to let me stash my stuff in her room until mine was ready (reminder: send her the finished version of MONSTER HUNTER MEMOIRS: FEVER).

Side note part deux — the hotel naturally called me in the middle of my first panel.

Anywho, first panel I was totally unprepared and mentally shot to hell. Thankfully, this wasn’t the one I was moderating (that was after). I walked in and saw Rob Howell, who had the misfortune to be moderating and unprepared Jason on “Dude, Where’s My Muse?”–

(Unintended segue time, sorry. I was looking at the schedule just now trying to remember who was on the panel with me and it turns out I was supposed to be moderating this one as well. Oops!)

–and H.Y. Gregor, Kevin A. Davis, Patrick Chiles, and C. V. Walter were on the panel as well. Overall it was a solid panel, though I might have been a little harsh when someone asked about how you deal with writer’s block (no such thing! you have writer’s procrastination!). I also ate my dinner in the middle of the panel (I know, very rude, and I didn’t share, but it was the first time I’d eaten all day and I was about to be murderous). After this I was able to get my stuff from Collyn’s room, check in, and actually breathe for a minute and apologize to people I’d been snappy towards when I first arrived.

The next panel I was, of course, late to because I was trying to prepare for it (ha!). I walked in and everybody just sort of stared at me. I actually stopped to see if I was in the correct room (I was). Fortunately, I can throw crap together in a hurry and was able to keep the panel rolling smoothly and get the audience involved a bit. The panel, “Turning Tropes On Their Head,” was actually a fun one because we all inadvertently put tropes in our writing — but the fun part is subverting said tropes to make the story even better (like killing the Chosen One in the prologue!). Jacob Holo (a very forgiving man, it turns out), Alussa Hazel, Declan Finn, Jo Boone, and Richard Hailey did a great job and we managed to keep everyone entertained as we shared out best tropes — and our worst.

I had a few hours to breathe so I started making the rounds to ensure everyone was doing well. Spotted Doc Wohlrab, Tara and Brian Urbanek, alpha read Kelly Ludwig, and a few others whose names are in the veil at the moment. Since I’d eaten dinner (rudely, I will reiterate) during my first panel, I was feeling much better and more myself. There were a ton of old friends and new ones to be seen, but I was on a little mission.

I was going to win the heart of Jolene.

Now, backstory time: Jolene’s Dating Game is a NSFW event EVERY person must experience once. Every year “Jolene” hosts a dating competition as contestants try to… win? Yeah, that sounds fair. Win a date with Jolene. BUT — they must do it as one of their characters from one of their books.

At least, this is what I was told. Apparently they’d changed the rules this year and everybody had neglected to mention this to me beforehand (exact quote after the panel: “we didn’t realize you didn’t know the rules but nobody had the heart to stop you”).

Deep breath. Exhale.

So I wrote a sonnet for Jolene and I was actually excited to be on the panel. Not because I really wanted to win a date with Jolene, no. I’m competitive. I just wanted to win and damned if I was going to lose to… crap, I don’t even remember who was all on the panel with me.

(edit: it was Katie Cross, Marisa Wolf, and Michael Morton trying to win a date with another author, Theresa… like I said, I did not know the rules!)

So I channeled my character Quintus Fox, best bounty hunter across 17 sectors, and descendant of the great Civil War era doctor, Tobias Fox. And I laid it on thick, if you know what I mean. Juicy. Meaty. Thicky. Goodness.

Dear God, that was a mistake.

Since nobody had told me beforehand that I had the rules all mixed up, I was a bit confused during the opening segment when Theresa gamely talked about what she’s looking for in that “special someone.” I rudely butted in (in it to win it, baby!) and I talked about how (“No offense, ma’am, but I been waitin’ years for my chance at the luscious Jolene!”) I was more interested in the host than the contestant.

It was all downhill from there… wayyyyyyy downhill.

And for those of you who were there, no I did not keep the sonnet I wrote.

So after the dating game (no, I did not win, much to everyone’s disappointment), I found the Stormbreakers Merc Company (one of the many mercenary units in the Four Horsemen Fan Club) who graciously allowed me to Tuckerize them in THE MISFITS (coauthored with Kevin Ikenberry). They started throwing stuffed animal squirrels at me (“RELEASE THE SQUIRRELS!” became a common battle cry) and showed me another patch they’d made after one particularly memorable moment from the book. It was pretty awesome.

Saturday morning found me with some free time on my hands so I headed over to the dealer’s room. I’m actually a little ashamed because I didn’t buy anything this year. It’s not that I didn’t like anything. I just forgot.

The first panel for me on Saturday was “Worldbuilding,” moderated by H.P. Holo. Joining us were Howard Andrew Jones, Bill Mulligan, Jon Osborne, and Mark Stallings. I feel like there was someone else on the panel but I don’t remember. Anyway, we talked about worldbuilding and how we go about building our worlds in the creative sense. One of my key issues was religion in any fantasy or SF world, and just how many there are. My favorite Babylon 5 episode involved the monotheistic Minbari being introduced to the 67+ religions representatives from Earth and how shocked the Minbari were at the idea.

After that I had to go and prep for the Baen Traveling Roadshow. This was fun as always and we were able to talk about MONSTER HUNTER MEMOIRS: FEVER (coauthored with Larry Correia), and other Baen Books coming this year. It’s always cool to see new authors being able to get up in front of a crowd and talk about their upcoming new release. Plus, I got to hang out with Chris Smith (co-author and troublemaker sibling) in the back while Toni yelled at us for being too noisy during the Road Show (sorry!).

Okay, so I screwed up on this next panel. I was exhausted at this point and I’d been fed (dangerous combination) so when I showed up to my next panel, I found that the Blibbering Humdingers (I think that was the group’s name) still playing their set. Since I know from experience how long it takes a band to tear down, I begged off and went back to my room for a quick nap… and promptly overslept, barely making it to my next panel, “Researching For Your Story.”

This panel was actually very informative and I got quite a bit of good advice from the others as we talked about how we research for a story and what we each tend to focus on. Howard Andrew Jones focuses on the lay of the land while I usually went with the historical backstory. Robert E. Hampson was interested in the evolution of science. Jacob Holo was a mixture of Rob and myself, while D.T. Read was pure science and character driven research (I think…). It was probably the most instructive panel I was on the entire weekend and I listened more than talked on this one. I’m always interested in learning new ways to be a better author.

My last panel of the weekend was up next. It was one I’d always wanted to be on and yet had never managed to get invited. “No $h!t There I Was…” was one of those panels you had to be there to enjoy. I shared a Rex story (T. Rex stories were always great) and also told the story of Trash Detail. I’m telling you, some of my fellow authors have seen or done some wild stuff in their lives!

Our one hour panel actually stretched into two, and then we were eventually chased out after 3 hours because they needed to close the room up. I went into the bar area for a while and then headed to bed. I was exhausted and needed to sleep.

Sunday morning we finally got to spend some time with Johnny Minion at breakfast. I hadn’t seen him in almost a year and that’s far too long in between visits. After breakfast I packed up and then went and joined Rob Hampson selling books at a table. Business was brisk despite it being Sunday morning and I was able to clear out quite a bit of my stock (yay!). Once that was finished we waited around, said goodbyes, and then… caravanned to lunch at Big Al’s BBQ.

God I love that place…

Managed to pick up a leaky tire on the way home (boo!) and finally got in around four. Considering we really only live 30 minutes from the con hotel, taking so long to get home is indicative to the growing traffic problems in the Raleigh-Durham triangle. The roads aren’t good enough to handle the growth, and it’s really starting to show.

Once again, thanks to Joel Lyon and staff for putting on one amazing convention. FantaSci is moving to April in 2024, which means… I don’t know, not competing with March Madness? Oh, I bet it’s because Joel also helps run MarsCon (which is in January) and a little more time between them helps him recover and plan for FantaSci. Yeah, that makes sense.

If I didn’t tag you, I’m sorry. My brain was absolute mush for three days after. I was actually surprised I remembered how to get to work.

Thanks FantaSci! I’ll gladly come back in the future if you’ll have me.

**edit — I am a horrible person. I forgot to mention that the amazing and talented Melissa Olthoff not only kept me alive this weekend from angry fans who were a little peeved after Kevin and I killed some of their favorite characters, but she also kept me supplied with coffee and introduced me to chocolate foam.


One thought on “FantaSci 2023 AAR — The “It’s Still This Week” Edition

  1. Sounds like you had one helluva good (but hectic) time overall. Thanks for the detailed con rep.


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