Monday, September 20, 2010

Fencon post-mortem

Well, I'm back from Fencon. It was very much a mixed bag. Somethings went very well, others not so well.

First off, to be honest with myself, I pretty much went into the weekend under a pall. I had a regularly-scheduled check-up the previous Monday, and the test results came in Thursday night. They weren't good. For the first time in many years, my diabetes shows signs of deteriorating. This will result in my first visit to an endocrinologist soon. Needless to say, I wasn't happy, and a bit depressed. Then again, I've never believed in ignoring unpleasant realities, and so I plan to do what it takes to keep my health on a steady upswing.

I left East Texas Friday afternoon and arrived in Dallas maybe ten minutes late for my book signing. which was at 6 p.m. Didn't matter much, nobody wanted anything signed - from me as well as anyone else, from what I could tell.

I attended the Open Ceremonies, which had some funny stuff: Con Chair Julie Barrett singing "She's a Scientist" (to Monty Python's "He's a Lumberjack") was hilarious. The video parody of Star Wars set to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" done by Music Guests of Honor Jeff and Maya Bonhoff had everyone rolling in the aisles.

But then there's the "off" stuff. Some lady in the audience had a "Borg rabbit" that kept heckling the speakers. I think it started to weird out Toastmaster Joe Lansdale out (a difficult thing to do). Spider Robinson participated in the con "virtually", via Skype, and that's how he did his bit during the Opening Ceremony.

The poor quality of the video image reminded me, at least, of how far technology still has to go. I don't know Robinson, and have never met him, but he seemed to be putting up a brave front in the face of great sadness. The death of Jeanne seems to have been a terrible blow.

I held forth in the bar with the usual suspects - Bill Ledbetter, Adrian Simmons, Kathleen Cheney, Boyd Taylor and Michelle Muenzler - and had some great conversation. I stayed for the weekend at my mother-in-law's in Oak Cliff, and I was in bed by midnight.

I was unhappy to realize the next morning that I had completely forgotten to pack any shirts. I knew I would be able to buy a shirt of some kind in the dealers room, but my first (and only) panel of the day was at 10 a.m. so I moderated the panel on "Publishing and Art Scams" wearing a blue t-shirt.

Pat Elrod was the real spark plug here; she has a wealth on information on the subject and is passionate. Lillian Stewart-Carl also had some great tales to tell, and David Anderson added good examples from the art side of the genre. The members of the audience got a good run-down of the subject.

I had fewer stories to tell, and David Harvia also hung back a bit, but overall, it went very well and the many people in attendance probably are the wiser for it.

That was my one event of the day. After I bought a FenCon t-shirt, I spent the rest of the day visiting or dozing off in a chair. I stopped and visited with Joe Lansdale in the dealers room and got caught with his latest collections, "The Best of Joe Lansdale" and "Sanctified and Chicken Fried" - good stuff there.

That evening, the previously named usual subjects, plus Rob Rogers, drove up Midway Road and up to Belt Line and had dinner at a Middle Eastern restaurant. I enjoyed the ethnic cuisine - very hard to come by in East Texas - and since I had the best view of the belly dancer, I was quite satisfied.

Sunday I had three panels scheduled in a row, from noon to 3 p.m., and my reading at 10:30 a.m., but no one attended it, so I had more time to rest. Now, all weekend the con suffered from last minute changes as panels were swapped and flip-flopped, and that really kicked in for my next panel, "Don't Quit Your Day Job" which was moved up an hour. The audience and panelists both numbered three, as Melanie Fletcher, Adrian Simmons and I gave a real "one on one" approach. The people who were there, however, heard some good stuff.

The panel on Tesla & Co. - Mad Scientists had a much larger audience. The problem here was that the moderator, Bark Kemper, and I, are much more extroverted than the other panelist, David Gray - a real nice guy, but rather soft spoken - and in the end, I started to feel uncomfortable.

The panel on Time Travel had a half dozen guests, including Moderator Robert Sawyer, Sarah Hoyt, Frank Summers, Stephen Patrick, and Bill Ledbetter. I think the audience really enjoyed it. I was a bit nonplussed to see it segue into religion, especially in a direction I wouldn't have predicted.

I left Dallas at 3:15 and was back in Mount Pleasant in two hours. That's the last con for the year. While there, I accepted an invite to guest at Conjour at the University of Houston next year, and I decided to attend Soonercon. Of course, I will attend ConDFW in February.

That's enough for today.

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