Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Back from ConDFW

As I have mentioned previously, I had a great line-up of panels at ConDFW. With the change in my job schedule at the start of the year, I was able to attend all three days, Friday through Sunday. I roomed with Keith West, and shared a table with Stoney Compton.

The panels all went great. Attendance overall this year seems to have dropped. No one seems to have a unified con theory about this. The host hotel - The Hilton Dallas Lincoln Center - is more upscale than might have been expected, but they had a great room rate. I suspect they are strapped for clients right now because there is horrible construction going in the Dallas North Tollway/LBJ area.

When I got there, it took me some time to figure out how to actually access the hotel, and at some point I was on both the northbound and southbound Tollway. Keith said he also had trouble navigating the immediate area of the hotel as he arrived.

I wonder whether the location dissuaded some people from attending; also, while the hotel cut a great deal on the rooms, everything else remained pricey. People complained the restaurant was pricey; a panini sandwich was $17, the breakfast buffet was $24

Saturday was Valentine's Day, which may have also been an issue for some people. Patricia and celebrated Valentine's early, but many people probably wanted to do something that weekend.

Generally, when not on panels, I tried to be in the dealers room. I sold a number of books; I was pleased that "The Clock Struck None" is still selling well.

My first panel was right off the bat at 3 p.m. Friday. In this case, and almost all others, I was impressed that all panelists made it. In fact, the only panelist who skipped out did so for a 3 p.m. panel Sunday when the weather looked threatening.

The panelists were "into it" and it showed. I moderated that first panel (I moderated four of the six panels I was on), with Julie Barrett, Melanie Fletcher and Rie Sheridan Rose.

The subject was alternate history - it was entitled "For Want of a Nail". It went extraordinarily well, and I think we all - panelists and audience - got a lot out of it. The high point for me was when I cited the 1999 Outer Limits episode "A Stitch in Time" as an example of time travel causing alternate history, and Melanie Fletcher totally agreed with me. She remembered Amanda Plummer won an Emmy for her portrayal in that episode.

I repeated the joke I made last month on Facebook, "If I ever see anyone step out of time portal with a gun, and they ask, "Are you Lou Antonelli?", I'm going to reply, "Nope, I'm Larry Antonelli, Lou Antonelli is my cousin. Are you looking for him? Does he owe you money, too?"

At 5 p.m. Stoney Compton and I shared an reading hour. We flipped a coin earlier in the dealer's room, and he won. He choose to go first, and read from his book "Whalesong". I read a 20-page excerpt from my work in progress, "1985". It was very well received.

I caught up with Keith in the hotel room later and we got all caught up. Late that night I caught dinner in the hotel restaurant and got that $17 panini.

Saturday I did the Q&A with Guest of Honor Sherwood Smith. It was easy as well as a pleasure. I had never met her before, but she is friendly, easy-going and a great story-teller. I enjoyed it, as well as everyone else.

I moderated the panel at 4 p.m. on "The Death of Cyberpunk" with Katherine Sanger, Chris Donohue. Michael Ashleigh Finn and Bill Ledbetter. This panel ranged far afield - the topic was a great jumping off point for discussing a lot in the field - but everyone was knowledgeable and engaged.

I had my formal signing at 5 p.m. and shared the table with Larry Atchley, but didn't sell any books then, people had already been buying them.

Both Keith and I had expressed a desire NOT to leave the hotel for food because of the traffic issues, but Stoney had a GPS and a mini-van, so we headed off and enjoyed a great dinner at the Tasty Greek on Belt Line Road in Addison. This was the place I took an entourage back in September - including FenCon Guest of Honor Eric Flint - and forgot they close at 8 p.m. (we ate at The Mongolian Grill instead). Stoney was one of the people I led on the previous wild goose chase, and found out why I had wanted to go there before. Both he and Keith agreed it was delicious.

That night I visited the party thrown by the New Orleans for 2018 WorldCon bid. They have my support, and I hope they get it.

Sunday I had three panels. The panel on Steampunk at 1 p.m. was the last one I moderated. Again, great line-up of panelists: Stephen Sanders, Shanna Swendson, Michael Finn and Rachael Acks. I was embarrassed to be ten minutes late, but I got caught up in a conversation in the dealers room.

The high point, personally, was when - a I am prone to do - I made a point citing something from journalism, and Finn said he thought I was like all newspaper editors all rolled into one - Lou Grant, J. Jonah Jameson, etc. That tickled the crap outta me.

At 1 p.m. I was a member of the panel on Interstellar Archaeology, with Sherwood Smith, Michael Finn, Rachael Acks, Scott Cupp and Mel White, the moderator. This is really not a panel, more like a fun activity.

At 3 p.m. I was on the panel "Adventuring in the Age of Chivalry", with Rie Sheridan Rose, Frances May, and moderator Melanie Fletcher. At this point, I was getting tired, and I awkwardly tried to start the panel, forgetting I WASN'T the moderator. Melanie gently snapped me back to reality!

I was on the road by about 4:45 p.m. I had a strange thing happen at the end when I was planning to leave: Someone parked so close to me in the garage I couldn't get in the car. I couldn't get in the drivers door because of my girth, and I don't have the agility to clamber over the console or the seats.
I stopped a few con goers in the garage and one of them helped me by sliding in the door and pulling the car out for me.

Over the course of the con I interviewed Rachel Acks, Mark Finn - who runs the movie house in Vernon - and Jeremy Brett from the Texas A&M Librraries, for stories I am doing as managing editor of Creative Spot magazine.

In addition to the usual suspects I served on panels with, I visited extensively with John Husisian (No. 1 fan) and Julia Thompson, another fan. Always good to see them!

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