Prose and Cons: A GenCon 2013 Report
Day Two: Friends of Friends
The second day of my first GenCon started like the first: up at 5:30 (4:30 my time), big breakfast at the motel, to the bus at 7:00, chatted with Vern the driver and our few fellow travelers, jump off the bus at 8:03, ran to Room 245 for my 8:00 session and apologized to the ticket-taker for being late. Again, he said it was fine, smiled and let me go into the panel discussion already in progress.
I was at the con for the writing seminars and symposiums. Friday, today, was a lighter load compared to Thursday’s all-day marathon. I had seminars at eight, noon and four, five and six.
The 8:00 panel was on the Business of Writing – taxes, websites, Twitter and Facebook pages, agents, etc. One of the panelists was writer Elizabeth Vaughan (www.eavwrites.com). In the course of the panel she said she was a bankruptcy attorney.
Have you ever run into a coworker at a grocery store? Or has a church member or other group walk in front of you while waiting at the drive-through at McDonalds? Who are you and how do I know you? Oh, you’re not where I am used to seeing you. A judge and I like to eat at a local restaurant with our families. It’s unsettling seeing him in shorts. He probably thinks the same of me…
Did she just say she was a bankruptcy attorney? I was too busy taking notes; I must have heard that wrong.
But no, she repeated it.
At the end of every session the panelists handed out five paperback novels (“prizes”). One person at the noon session gave hers back because she already won the same book yesterday. I leave as they announce the winners – as I usually have no luck at such things. This gets me to the door by the time they are finished and back in line quickly to re-enter the room for the next session.
But this time I walked to the panel table. There were the usual well-wishers and follow-up questions. I was the last one in line to talk to Elizabeth.
“Did you say you were a bankruptcy attorney?”
“I am too!”
Oh, she laughed as I asked, “Where do you practice?”
“I’m the Chapter 13 Trustee staff attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. Toledo. Where do you practice,” she said.
“Southern District of Illinois.”
“Then you must know Tony Wiese (a pseudonym for the Chapter 13 Trustee staff attorney).”
“Tony and I went to law school together. We’ve been good friends since 1989.” (Despite the pseudonym, it WAS true – I only changed the name to protect the innocent…).
Small world! And she looked familiar, too. Had she ever spoken at a NACBA (the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys) conferences? No, she hates speaking in front of huge crowds – these panels were more her speed. “It’s not really that much different,” I said.
I’ve spoken at conferences. Not the thousands of a NACBA convention, but around a thousand at small attorney conferences.
The room was to be cleared for the next session and Elizabeth moved away from the table. “It’s so wonderful meeting you,” I said. “It’s nice to know you’ve cut a path for bankruptcy attorneys. I hope it’s not a case of ‘we’ve only got room for one bankruptcy attorney in the market…’.”
She laughed and assured me that was not the case. I thanked her for her time and she told me to say hello to Tony.
My first encounter with a professional writer, other than standing in line waiting to lavish praise and have a book signed. It thrilled me. And relieved me.
Attorneys become writers. John Grisham and Scott Turow are at the top of the list. But a bankruptcy attorney (she had a private practice and was a Chapter 7 Trustee before her current position) who does – present tense – what I do. Exactly what I do. And she has found time to make a second career as a writer. My heart lifted and I was so encouraged walking to the escalator to spend the rest of the morning in the Exhibit Hall.
This was my first time in the Exhibit Hall where I wasn’t watching the clock. Yesterday I had two one-hour gaps. Now I am free for three hours.
I walked past the tables of Fantasy Flight Games where hosts gave one-hour demos of their board and card games. The “Lord of the Rings” table was full and in session.
Another table just started a session of “Letters from Whitechapel.” The host asked if I was interested, since I was watching the table.
“Oh yes, thank you!” I had the game at home (being something of a Ripper-ologist) and read through the rules but had never played. Two others joined us – the host had to explain the rules for a fourth time but seemed not to mind.
It’s a complicated version of Battleship. The host plays Jack the Ripper and moves about the game board – a map of Whitechapel, England. He moves along the map on 100 or so numbered dots at three moves per term. We the players have to guess which dot he is on and arrest him. If he makes it back to his home dot (selected at the beginning of the game – the players do not know the number), he wins that day. If he wins five days in a row, the players lose.
In the meantime the fiend is killing prostitutes! Prostitutes are markers on the board. He kills one on, say, Dot #75. He makes it home in five turns, so he MUST be within fifteen dots of 75. The next day he kills a prostitute on Dot #18. So when he heads home we know it is near 75 (he has fifteen rounds to get home or players win). If a player crosses a space the Ripper moved through, the host places a yellow disk on the space. This way we can trace and track the Ripper’s movements.
Complicated? Oh yes. Fun? Oh yes yes!!
I found Chaosium’s kiosk. Chaosium is a role-playing game company that publishes (among others games) “Call of Cthulhu” – one of my favorite RPGs. The salesmen were nice and courteous, but busy. They didn’t have much time for me to gush at how much I loved their RPGs. Perhaps I expected the crew to be creepier, I suppose, haha. Didn’t stop me from buying a few books of course…
Yesterday I spotted a banner for a kiosk that sold books on clearance. It had a very thorough collection of RPGs – all 50% off. One row of books proclaimed “Buy 1, Get 3 Free”. I looked at some of the selections and doubted I could find one book, let alone three more. There was a complete collection of Mystic Eye Games RPGs. Of course I have all those.
At the bottom of the first shelf, in the “C”s, I found the payload. Here were more Call of Cthulhu books. Kneeling to avoid tripping the throng around me, and with my kneecaps filling with fluid, I found four books.
Another kiosk was an independent publisher that released two Cthulhu-World War II scenarios. You could buy the modules that used the “Call of Cthulhu” rules or another companies’ rules. I bought the CoC books.
Sense a theme here?
By now my backpack was quite heavy!
I passed the autograph kiosk and there were Peter Davidson and Walter Koenig and two others. The line was longer than the day before, but manageable. My original plan was to get their autographs today when there was more time. I was lucky enough to take care of that the day before.
I flashed back to Wizard Con earlier in St. Louis, where an over- one-hour wait to get a guest’s autograph was common.
No so here.
I wonder why? There were more people here, but the focus at GenCon wasn’t necessarily on guest autographs (that seemed the chief Con money-maker at Wizard Con). As I mentioned in a previous blog – perhaps Wizard Con will be better organized at its second St. Louisconvention.
I passed the musician kiosks. Musicians can make money creating original soundtracks for gamers! Renaissance-esque songs for your medieval or fantasy-based RPG or LARP (live action role playing), heavy metal for your cyberpunk game, etc.; all can be commissioned.
One booth hosted Dan the Bard, ie Dan Marcotte. He was not there, but his assistant told me about his commission work. I looked at his CDs. One caught my eye. Hey, I own this one! My brother-in-law gave it to me. He performs as Jesse Linder or Jock Stewart at Ren Fests all over the country.
Dan the Bard sold mostly CDs at his booth, but he had a compilation DVD of various Renfest performers with photos of the contributors …
…and there was Jess’ picture! “There’s Jesse Linder,” I said to the assistant, “that’s my brother-in-law!”
What a sweet surprise seeing a photo of my brother-in-law on a DVD on sale at GenCon! I was tickled for a second time that day!
Oh, and here is Jess’ website: http://www.3pintsgone.com. He plays guitar and sings in a group called 3 Pints Gone. Look at the website. Buy something. Go see them.
I strolled through the Exhibit Hall after my noon writing panel and passed the Paizo Games area. They release other games, but Pathfinder RPG is their bread and butter. A crowd gathered around a long table stacked with paperback books. I saw a few copies of “Death’s Heretic” by James L Sutter.
“Oh,” I thought, “there’s the paperback I brought with me to read. Oh, and there’s James L. Sutter signing copies.”
I introduced myself and he asked if I read the book.
“Yes, I’m enjoying it so far. In fact I brought a copy of it to read at the con! Would you sign my copy?” I reached into my heavy backpack for my paperback copy. I read it earlier that morning while waiting for my noon symposium!
He was proud that I brought his book for my casual reading!
That afternoon I lurked at Fantasy Flight’s “Lord of the Rings” card game demo table. The four players (the maximum for the demo) were in the middle of a game. An hour later I went back. It was filled with new players. An hour later, yep, new players. I kept missing my chance to jump in.
By now I was grabbing anything free a kiosk was giving out – magnets, pins, cards with websites that leads you to samples of books and RPG rules. I think at the end the weight of my backpack cracked my clavicle. Just kidding. Close, but kidding.
I ended the day with three seminars. I left the 4:00 session to get in line for the 5:00. I made it to the door when they called my name! I won a book! Woot! I went back to the panel table to pick up “Master of Devils” by Dave Gross.
The line to get into the 5:00 session stretched to the elevator! There were over a hundred people in line by now. It was the only session where every seat was taken. After the casualness of all the previous sessions, this one was cramped and hot.
Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon were on the panel. The couple has written almost 100 books. They are legends in the fantasy genre.
They were both very friendly, willing to share their experiences and knowledge and gave great advice.
Larry Dixon had the most memorable line of the symposium. Question: “Can you have good storytelling with no plot?”
“Three words: ‘Previously, on Lost’.”
At Wizard Con I was pleased to run into my sister, her husband and my nephew. At Gen Con I was pleased to have dinner with my other sister, my nephew and my niece. I called them at the end of my last session. They were already at the convention center watching the cosplayers after spending the afternoon in Indianapolis. We met and spent the next two hours at a downtown Italian restaurant.
We talked and gossiped. I hope my niece and nephew enjoyed the evening with their foul-mouthed uncle.
It was a wonderful meal with wonderful company.
They drove me to my motel. This time it was Bill’s turn to be fast asleep as I came in late.
And the evening and the morning were the second day…
Copyright 2013 Michael G Curry