Wizard World Con 2015

St. Louis Wizard Con 2015: Hey Kids! Comics! Finally!

Wizard Con has held a convention in St. Louis for three years now. I have been to all three and blogged about the 2013 and 2014 cons.

Although at times during this little review it may seem I thought this year was a disappointment, it will probably turn into one of my favorites! And for reasons other than why I enjoyed previous Wizard Cons. Opposite reason!

The first thing I noticed was the lack of vendors’ booths and lack of celebrities attending. The list of attending celebrities definitely lacked the star power of last year – Shatner and Adam West for us old folks and Nathan Fillion, Bruce Campbell and others for the younger crowd.

This year’s list left this old timer shouting out a resounding, “Who!?” People I didn’t know starring in shows I don’t watch. George Romero was the only one on the list that raised my eyebrows. It might be interesting to shake his hand and tell him how much I enjoy his work. But then another part of me wanted to slap him and say, “Look what you’ve done!”, Tara Reid, Elvira, Michael Rooker, Billy Boyd, Hayley Atwell, Jason Mewes,  Naomi Grossman, Joey Lawrence , B.J. Britt, Mark Dodson, Jason David Frank, Robin Lord Taylor,  Paige of the WWE  and a few St. Louis Rams linebackers (which I believe is some sort of local sports team). A few stars who were supposed to be there weren’t – such as Guardians’ Dave Bautista.

Looking at the guests of other Wizard Cons (Indianapolis and Des Moines) show the dearth of stars in St. Louis: Shatner, Billie Dee Williams, Robert Englund & Carrie Fisher to name a few.

(NOTE: if the “dearth” of stars includes your favorite performers … or heaven-forbid the performers themselves or someone they know reads this and thinks of it as a slam – fear not! My heart will grow three sizes this day before the blog is through. Stay with me and let me rant on for a bit longer…)

Lou Ferrigno wasn’t in St. Louis, but will be at Des Moines. Ferrigno! He’s ALWAYS at these things!

               Even the list of artists was disappointing. Indianapolis had Jim Steranko! Steranko! And while St. Louis had Michael Golden and Gary Friedrich … still … Steranko

               Neal Adams wasn’t in St. Louis, but he will be at Des Moines. Neal Adams! He’s ALWAYS at these things!

Was this a Ferguson thing? Did the local St. Louis promoters not treat the guests properly? In all my internet trolling I have not been able to find anyone even guessing why St. Louis got a bit of a short shrift on the guest list. I WAS told there was a major convention in Detroit that weekend – and it was Memorial Day weekend. Was that enough to keep other stars from attending?

And there were only about half the vendors (if that) attending than from previous years. Were they expecting a small crowd? Was it too expensive to attend (I found out the answer was no …).

And the crowd was only about half (if that) from the previous years. It seemed there were more cosplayers than non-cosplayers. Of course that day was the cosplay contests for adults and kids, but still…

But it wasn’t all bleak. In fact, when it was done I realized I had a lot of fun!

Once again I went with my sister and her family. Also attending were one of my best friends and his wife. We met their daughter and son-in-law there, too. We ran into another friend there, too. “I didn’t think you were going to go,” he said.

I didn’t plan on it, to be truthful. But my sister and her husband and two of their sons were going and asked me to join them. My wife said it was fine – she would watch our five-year-old-master-of- all-time-and-space for the day and told me to go enjoy myself.

And I did. Here’s why:

My sister and family helped me see through my solipsistic dislike of the guest list. Sissy was so happy to meet and speak with her idol Elvira (Cassandra Peterson) that she cried when she spoke to her. This made Cassandra cry. “My sister made Elvira cry!” I told anyone willing to listen.

The friend who came with me had an Elvira supplement of a Chill role-playing game for her to sign. She said she must have a copy of this in her house somewhere but otherwise didn’t recognize it!

My family wanted to meet Michael Rooker and have him sign various Walking Dead/Guardians of the Galaxy things. I got in line with them and as I left held out my hand and said how much I enjoyed him in JFK and Tombstone. He shook my hand and thanked me.

My nephew met Jason David Frank, one of the Power Rangers, last year. He showed the star his Tai Kwon Do moves and a video of their meeting was on Frank’s Facebook page and website! He got a picture with Jason and brought that picture back to be signed. Unfortunately he would not be available until 4:00, so we decided it would be our last thing before leaving.

While waiting, at different times of course, Robin Lord Taylor and the quite pretty Naomi Grossman walked past with their entourage. My sister said hello to Robin Lord Taylor and he stopped, very briefly, to thank her. Same with Naomi Grossman.

Both were very friendly and neither of then stood higher than my mid-bicep! Short people, these stars…

While the family was in line for Jason David Frank, I saw actress Tara Reid at her autograph booth. She was between signings and sitting with her aide and I thought, “why not? When am I ever going to meet Tara Reid again?” I walked up to her booth and offered my hand. I said I was a big fan and enjoyed her work. She smiled and shook my hand and said, “Thank you.” I turned away and she resumed her texting. I wasn’t going to buy a picture or pay for an autograph or picture so she certainly wasn’t going to spend a lot of time chatting with me. That’s okay, I don’t blame her. But she was polite about my wanting to meet her and that’s all that matters, isn’t it? I didn’t make any of the stars any money, but I didn’t bug them either. Fair trade. She was also very small, even sitting high up in her booth.  I doubt she would have come up to my elbow standing next to me.

There were two artists I wanted to meet. I talked with Michael Golden for a few minutes as he signed a Star Wars comic I brought and a Marvel print I bought. I told him I had that poster on my college dorm wall. I also told him what I thought of the comic – after that issue the comic had better stories and art than in the issues before. I said it was all his doing. He laughed and thanked me.

I brought a Ghost Rider book for Gary Friedrich, its creator to sign. He was scheduled to appear at Wizard Con in 2013 but had to cancel. He has had health problems. He cancelled this year, too. I was disappointed but not angry – still I could have done without lugging that thick paperback compilation around.

That was my only “meeting of the stars” I did this year.

***

               With fewer vendors, it was easier to take my time in artists’ row. They had local authors this year and I enjoyed talking to them. Who did they use to self-publish? How long have they been doing it? What were their books about? I did not spend too much time talking to them as they were there to hawk their books, not talk shop. But they did in between shilling to the other customers and I thanked them. I might even buy their books!

One author spread his debut science fiction novel into five parts. No one is going to buy a thousand-page book from a first-time author, he said, which is true. We discussed the trend of writing stories in series to bring in fans to your work. I mentioned some authors I’ve met had written a few short stories set in their fantasy worlds and gave them away from free online or as chap books to draw readers into the rest of their line. He liked that idea – maybe we’ll see some short fiction from him soon!

***

               I not only got to chat with authors but also some of the vendors and employees. I asked one local comic shop owner if he knew why the low vendor turn out. He did not know, except for perhaps the Con in Detroit. I asked if the rental space was too high. “No,” he said, “we pay $(blank) for this and we have a pretty big spread.”

“Is that per day?”

“No, the whole weekend.”

“That’s pretty good. You’ll make that back just today.”

“Yep.”

While my family was waiting in line an employee (I will not say who or where in case he gets in trouble for telling me) told me that stars have to give a cut of their autograph and photo op money to the Con. I asked if the guests get paid for attending. Not a lot, although they do get their rooms free. They make their money from the autographs and photo ops – what they don’t give to their Wizard Con overlords. That is why the stars have a few “attendants” the young man told me, “to make sure they don’t pocket the cash for themselves.” That’s another reason some stars need line tickets – not just for crowd control, but to keep a rough account of money made…

Hearing about the dark business side of the Con was almost as fun as hunting for comic books.

Comic books? Oh, yes …

***

               The main difference in this year’s Wizard Con was the focus on the one item that was shoved aside in the previous two years.

This year the comic book convention was about comic books.

With the thinner crowds and less vendors came more opportunities to shop for comics. Perhaps to make the weekend worthwhile, the vendors were more willing to negotiate and barter. Some of them. But I found some beauties and some comics to finally plug some holes in my collection.

I spotted a Superman from the 1970s and he charged me more than I was willing to pay. But he made me such a deal on other comics I bought I accepted it. When I got the comic home and saw was great condition it was I realized what a bargain he gave me.

There were some comics I bought for less than cover price. I can name four that I paid only twice the cover price. The rest of the silver age comics I bought (mostly Green Lantern) were within my purchase comfort zone. Since I did not have to plunk down eighty bucks to shake hands with William Shatner and Adam West, I could spend it on comics I was looking for.

Since the crowds were thinner I was able to get the comics I was looking for and not leftovers.

Since the vendors were fewer I was able to get back to the booths that I found the comics that were still there and that I could afford. In prior years I would try to go back to a booth only to “lose” it. “I think it was by this store …  no … it was by a t-shirt place. Now, which t-shirt place…”

What I mean is that I subscribe to Nihilistic Shopping. I see something I want but then go away to get it later. If I still want the item an hour or more later I will go get it. If the thing is there I will get it; if it is gone it was not meant to be. At a place like Wizard Con that usually means I do not get it – someone else snapped it up. We even joked about that waiting in line to enter the convention hall. “NO! They are all in there buying everything I wanted!”

But this year: more money, thin crowds, and fewer vendors. I was able to find the vendor that had the golden age issue of World’s Finest within my purchasing comfort zone AND it was still there. Ditto the three Green Lanterns at a silver age booth across the convention floor. This guy near the entrance still has those tabloid-size comics.

By the time the family was in line to talk to the Power Ranger my bag was full and my back was aching. Later that weekend I swam with my daughter and spent Monday walking around the St. Louis Renaissance Festival. My back, hips and thighs have not said a kind word to me yet.

Fortunately I have some sweet comics to read while I mend.

***

               You can’t talk about Wizard Con without talking cosplay. Lots of great superheroes and gamers on this day.

Aaron Rabe, who does a pitch-perfect Captain Jack Sparrow, won Best in Show for the first two years of the Con. He was on a panel this year and helped to judge – like Carol O’Connor with the Emmys you get tired of winning all the time. We met him on the convention floor and he asked us the time. He stopped long enough to take his picture with my nephews – one is a huge Captain Jack fan!

As we left we saw this group:

 Princesses

They gave us a card and said they are available for birthday parties and other events. One friend asked for several cards to give to her Girl Scout troop families. I said they will inevitably be doing my daughter’s birthday party as soon as she sees the picture.

My wife hinted that she might go with me next year. She will be less likely to stand and wait for me while I troll the comic boxes if there is a bigger crowd of friends and family there. She can visit or look around the vendor booths herself.

Some of the vendors sold age-appropriate items. For every Walking Dead bobble-head there were Annas and Elsas and Olafs…

Obviously it all depends on our five-year-old Master-of-All-Time-and-Space.

She gets scared during the climactic scenes of Sophia the First. She would be SO excited to see Captain America or Thor or Batman and faint at any Disney Princess. But then she would see a man with an axe through his neck and we will have to go home. I call this picture “this is why I don’t bring Abby to Wizard Con”…

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Although my sister took her son, who is only about two years older; I don’t think mine will be able to handle it. Even my nephew got a little skittish at that clown-puppet.

There were plenty of kids there, though. Some even younger than mine. But as I said last year and the year before; my daughter would freak out too much at some of the more gruesome cosplayers.  Hence why I wanted to slap George Romero…

But we’ll see. Now if you will excuse me, I have some comics to read…

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Copyright 2015 Michael Curry

 

 

A Visit to Wizard World 2014 Comic Con St.Louis Part Two

A Visit to Wizard World 2014 Comic Con St.Louis
Part Two
                I, my sister, her husband and their son went to Wizard Con on April 5, 2014 in St. Louis. By early afternoon I got all the autographs I wanted and had some comics and album covers signed by two of my favorite artists: Neal Adams and Mike Grell. I could not think of any other comic book artists still alive that I would like to meet. Maybe Joe Staton.
                Well, Steve Ditko of course. And Murphy Anderson. And Jim Steranko. And George Perez. And Jose Luis-Garcia Lopez. Okay, there are LOTS of artists I would still like to meet. 
                Were I able to go back in time the list of artists I would love to meet is quite long: Jim Aparo, Gene Colon, Curt Swan, Dick Giordano, Dick Dillon – all gone now.
                And I’m not talking writers – just artists here.
                But anyway, back to Wizard Con. When we last left our adventurers…
***
                My brother-in-law met, bought a print from, and got the autograph of The Crow creator James O’Barr.
                My sister got the autographs of various guests of the con:  John Bernthal (Shane from Walking Dead), Summer Glau and Alan Tudyk. Sean Astin said she looked like Juliette Lewis.
                My nephew is the only boy in a Tae Kwon Do class of adult men. They call him “Daniel-san”. Ralph Macchio was tickled to hear this and posed for a photo.
                Most thrilling of all for him was meeting Jason David Frank (a Power Ranger). My nephew did some moves for him and Jason put it on his Facebook page as one of the highlights of the Con.
                Adam Baldwin made my sister cry – in a nice way. She was (and is still) a big fan of “My Bodyguard” and Adam was so touched by her story he autographed a headshot from the movie for her at no cost.
                All of them were very kind and courteous to my sister and her son. Good for them.
                Some sad news though – the autograph tickets for Nathan Fillion and Bruce Campbell were already sold out. If they wanted to wait at the end of the line and there was still time they could ask for autographs. My family decided it was easier to wait and come back the next day. Maybe they should put this photo on some nice cardstock and have Nathan and Bruce sign it together.
 
 
                (This is a Wizard World photo taken during of of their photo ops.)
                While I waited for my family to get Sean Astin’s autograph a familiar face approached – it was my cousin from Peoria and his brother. Let me explain: my cousin is actually his father-in-law. My cousin’s daughter married JP. So he is my first-cousin-once-removed-in-law. But he’s still my cousin. And his son and my daughter are nearly the same age and like to play at family reunions. Yes, my cousin’s grandson and my daughter are only six months apart. The age-span between my oldest and youngest cousin is 33 years. My oldest cousin had two children before I was born. A long-lived family are we.
                His brother is no blood relation to me whatsoever, but I remember him from the wedding. It was fun to talk to them for a few hours.
                They got some photos taken with Sean Astin and William Shatner. I was very disappointed in the photos – Shatner’s especially. You can tell it was done in a rush and it could have been a cardboard cut-out as un-animated as it looked.
                Now granted Shatner is in his 80s and sat on a stool for an hour as a parade of fans stood next to him for a photo. I’d be a little weary, too. But if it were my picture I would hope for a smile or something…
                But then again, when are you ever going to get your picture taken with Bill Shatner? I really am torn between saying this is quite cool and being aggravated at his lethargy!
                My family and I walked through the artists’ alley. This was when my brother-in-law got his print from James O’Day. We found ourselves at Mike Grell’s booth (my second visit with him). He was drawing a commission and my nephew and I discussed his technique as we did with Neal Adams.
                Mike said, “The most important tool you have is the eraser!” He held up a well-used piece of rubber. “Not just for mistakes! Look…” Mike opened up his portfolio and showed my nephew eraser marks made to look like speed lines and clouds and leaves.
                “He uses the side of his pencil and the eraser to create the illusion of texture,” I said. I used to draw a comic strip … so I know of these things, you see…  Thanks again Mike Grell, for your time and patience encouraging a young child to practice the art!
                We met more friends before we left: the local comic store (Fantasy Books – their wepage is (http://fantasybooksinc.com/) had a booth and one of the workers recognized me. I’m either very recognizable or I buy too many comics there.
                As with last year, the Best in Show for Cosplay went to my friend who does a pitch-perfect Captain Jack Sparrow. He NEVER breaks character, but his smile when he saw me was heartening. My nephew (who had never met him and didn’t know I knew “Jack”) wanted a picture and Jack grabbed my sleeve and pulled me into the picture. Great fella – he deserved to win.
                My nephew turned 10 this past autumn and I wanted to hire Jack (I hesitate to use his real name without his permission) to entertain at the birthday party. He agreed, but we cancelled when my brother-in-law hired his co-worker Chadto entertain.
                Chadis a member of the 501st Legion Midwest Garrison www.501stsithlords.comand does cosplay all around the mid-west. He does a great Darth Maul and let my nephew pose with him in battle-ready stance! When we left there were other youngsters waiting for their pic with the evil Sith Lord!
                Here is a photo I found on “Jack’s” Facebook page of him and Chris together. I would have loved to have been there. I wonder if they know each other?
 
                Cosplayers abounded at the Con – of course that night was the contest, so everyone was parading around the booths. Were there that many players on Friday and Sunday?
                Lots of Doctor Whos in fezzes and lots of Star Trek, Star Wars and comic book characters. There were also lots of people dressed in costumes from video games. Even my sister had to ask what some of them were dressed as.
                One delight was watching two little girls taking their picture with Batman. “Thank you Batman,” one of them said and hugged the solemn dark knight. Both of the girls had “Hello Kitty” backpacks. Were my daughter there she would have been more interested in the backpacks.
                My wife asked if she would have found anything interesting there. Probably not, unfortunately. There was not much in the way of musicians performing and the panels probably weren’t to her liking. She doesn’t shop nor cares much for autograph-hunting.
                I would love to take my daughter to “meet” Batman and others. But not now. There were other children at the con – four years old and younger – but my daughter doesn’t like scary costumes. Hopefully by the time she is old enough to enjoy watching the cosplayers the zombie fad will have passed and there won’t be too many people drenched in blood with axes sticking out of their faces.
                One of my complaints from last year was my having no knowledge of even the existenceof panels during the con! I assume that is because it was the Con’s first year in St. Louis and it was not well organized. Not so this year. Although their website still did not mention panels, they were included in the program booklets. And another change this year was that we attendees were provided program booklets with which we may peruse the various panels. See how such little details like that can escape a Con organizer?
                Clydeattended some panels and so did JP; and they enjoyed them. I did not attend any panels. Most of the guests had Q&A sessions, there were movie previews and panels celebrating the anniversary of the Voltron franchise. None of this was my cup of tea. Not that I have anything against panels – I spent the first two days of Gen Con doing nothing BUT panels. See my blogs on Gen Con for details: http://michaelgcurry.blogspot.com/2013/08/prose-and-cons-agencon-2013-report-day.html
                But the panels at Wizard Con … meh. If the panels were subjects you enjoyed – I hope you enjoyed them! One I did not attend that piqued my interest was one featuring Bill Finger’s granddaughter. It would have been nice to meet her.
                St. Louis Wizard Con 2014 was more of a success than in 2013 – which in itself was very successful! Will there be one next year? I’d bet so.
                Will I go? Probably. It’s a good place to find old and rare comics. Expensive, but I can’t find them anywhere else – even online. If Neal Adams and other comic artists are there I will get their signatures on my favorite comics. I might even pay to commission some original artwork.
                If there are no big stars that make me ooo and aah; that’s okay.
                This year was much more fun than last year – probably because I met more friends there and knew more people as guests, artists, cosplayers and even exhibitors. Here’s hoping for many more successful years for Wizard Con!
                I’ll see you next year!
Copyright 2014 Michael G Curry

A Visit to Wizard World 2014 Comic Con St. Louis Part One

 
A Visit to Wizard World 2014 Comic Con St. Louis
Part One
                In April St. Louis held its second Wizard World Comic Con. For a refresher – here is the site to my blog describing last year’s experience. http://michaelgcurry.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-pros-and-cons-inapril-st.html
                This year I went with my sister, brother-in-law and their ten-year-old son. I ran into them last year and this year we decided to go together. They are regular attendees of CONtamination each year also in St. Louis, but it was cancelled for 2014. So they decided to take their money to the Wizards this year. They weren’t disappointed.
                I have concluded that Wizard World Comic Con is the world’s most expensive flea market. They had a lot of great stuff there, don’t get me wrong. But most of it was eeeeeeex-pensive! I found a few great posters and some fairly-priced comics. I also found a bin of the original Kenner Star Wars action figures from the 1970s and 1980s. The figures from the “Return of the Jedi” used to be rare and worth a bit. But here they were for $5.00 – about what they sold for 30 years ago. Maybe next year I’ll buy up the ones I didn’t get then. By the third movie I was 20-years-old and not too interested in buying them. Thirty years later it is a different story. I was more interested in buying the small display cases for the figures.
                My sister, bro and nephew were very excited about the guest list. Most of them were available not only for autographs but photo ops. There was an additional fee for those. Last year the list of stars didn’t thrill me; probably because it was Wizard World Comic Con’s first year in a new town and no one knew how successful it would be. They needn’t have worried.
                It was an equal smash this year, so the roster was a little better. Lou Ferrigno, according to my sister, is a frequent guest of these things. Bruce Campbell was a huge draw. Half the cast of Firefly was there: Adam Baldwin, Nathan Fillion, Summer Glau and Alan Tudyk. Wrestler Chris Jericho, Ralph Macchio, Sean Patrick Flanery and Sean Astin were all there for autographs, panels and photos. 
                And this time there were guests that excited me! William Shatner, Adam West and Burt Ward. Woot!
                There was also a Doctor – Matt Smith (the 11th? I’ve lost track) and Karen Gillan (who played his companion Amy) were there for panels, autographs and photo ops. They were the most popular guests with the longest lines. When their autograph times were announced, the noise level of the crowded auditorium rose as people raced to the autograph booths.
                I decided not to ask for Smith’s and Gillan’s autographs – my money was budgeted for Shatner, Ward and West.
                When my family and I first arrived we did some comic book shopping. I helped my nephew find some old cheap comics that were age appropriate. Most comics from my era – the 1970s – were age appropriate of course, but finding stories that was done in one issue was harder. My nephew is a Batman fan, though, so finding cheap Batman comics from the 1970s or before can be tricky. You gotta know where to look. Brave & Bold and World’s Finest are fine choices. I also found him some Justice League of America and I decided to get him hooked on Legion of Super-Heroes. I found plenty of those in the cheaper bins.
                During the long day I also found some reasonably priced silver-age Green Lanternand Legion comics. I found a good golden age World’s Finest and an unbelievably cheap Feature Comics in nice shape. At the Graham Cracker comics kiosk I pointed out the first X-Men comic to my nephew, the first Spider-Man (Amazing Fantasy as well as Spider-Man #1), the first Thor (Journey into Mystery) and my sister was thrilled when I showed her the first appearance of Swamp Thing (in House of Secrets) all on display along with many others.
                While comic hunting, I groused many times at seeing comics I paid full price on in the dollar bins. Later I said I was equally pleased to see comics I paid full price on selling for $70.00 or more!
                We were there about fifteen minutes still digging through bins when I heard a familiar voice. It was by very dear friend Clyde and his wife and adult daughter – also doing some shopping. His daughter mentioned on Facebook that they bought many a fun item and her photos showed many a cosplayer and panels they enjoyed that day. Clyde has yet to write about Wizard World Comic Con, but he has a wonderful series of blogs on comics and related topics here:  http://playmst3kforme.blogspot.com/2013/06/weve-got-you-covered-10-great-comic.html
                Because of our work schedules I have not been able to chat with Clyde for some months. It was nice to catch up!
                After a bit more shopping we decided to get the autographs we wanted done.
                We were near the booths for Adam West and Burt Ward and began there. My sister told me she was bringing her DVD of their Batman movie from 1966. I thought that was a great idea and brought mine too.
                Burt Ward was a friendly and chatty gentleman. He showed us pictures of his dogs and explained how he cared for them and fed them the proper food so that some of them, at 25, play as actively as dogs half their age. His web site is here: http://www.gentlegiantsrescue.com/
                He autographed and personalized our DVDs. My nephew was so nervous he hardly said a word. I told Burt how much I enjoyed his work as Robin (other than some voice work he has done little other acting).
                Adam West was also just as kind and, although they made us rush along, we had enough time to shake his hand. I told him how much I enjoyed his pilot Lookwelland he appreciated that. When he shook my nephew’s hand I said to my nephew, “You realize you are shaking the hand of a man who acted with the Three Stooges.” Whether Adam West was playing me or not when I said they he leaned back in his chair and offered me his hand again. “The Outlaws is Coming, that’s right!” he said, sounding amazed. Hey, I’m a fan of both him and the Stooges, what can I say? It was the Traveling Wilburys of film!
                William Shatner was another matter. He, Nathan Fillion, Bruce Campbell and Matt Smith required queuing in feeder lines long before the autograph schedule. You had to buy the tickets ahead of time. I didn’t know that and luckily Shatner was not sold out. I waited much longer in line that I usually have the patience for. “How long were you in line?” My sister asked later. “I got in line in 2014; I got out in Stardate 3097.4.” Once the autograph session started it went pretty quickly – not a lot of time to gush. I shook his hand and told him I loved his work. He thanked me while autographing a photo I selected from those offered. Surprisingly I didn’t have a lot of Shatner books or pictures. I had a commemorative magazine from Star Trek II with a nice pin-up of him, but decided not to hunt for it. I mentioned I was an attorney and his Danny Crain was a very realistic portrayal and he thanked me. By this time he was signing the lady behind me (her name was Tracy – we got to talk a lot during our months in line) and I was being herded out.
                That finished the autograph-hunting of Wizard World Comic Con for me. My family wanted to get into a few other lines so I said I would meet them back “here” and went to the artists’ alley.
                I found artist/writer Neal Adams’ kiosk earlier to sign two Power Records for which he did the cover – one of Batman and one of Superman. “Do you still have the records?” “Yes, home safe and sound,” I said. My nephew is a budding artist (another nephew Dirk is a professional comic book artist) and we stood and watched Neal draw. I told my nephew I thought Neal was one of the greatest comic artists ever – he drew a head-shot of Batman (a commission for that day, no doubt) while we watched. I told my nephew to watch how he draws lines and circles. My nephew was just as thrilled to look at all the posters and other artwork surrounding Adams. My sister had a cell phone photo of a sketch my nephew did and proudly showed it to Neal (there was no one in line at the time). I asked Neal when he started drawing. “Four,” he said. I told my nephew he had six years to catch up. Thank you, Neal, for allowing a ten-year-old to watch you make your art!
                But Neal Adams had his own kiosk away from the artist alley. There I met Mike Grell – an artist whose style very much compares with Neal Adams. In fact, Grell took over the art chores of Green Lantern after they brought back that title after its run with … Neal Adams. Neal Adams and Denny O’Neil produced a now-legendary story arc, but not enough to revive slagging sales. The title was cancelled and brought back a few years later with O’Neil writing, but now with Grell drawing.
                No one was in line at Grell’s booth so I introduced myself and shook his hand. “When I started reading comics, I read your Green Lantern and your Legion and Warlord. When I moved to Batman, you moved too. You drew every comic I loved as a kid. Thank you.” He thanked me and held his hand out again. I gave him my Green Lantern #90 (his first) and First Issue Special #8 (first appearance of his Warlord) to sign. He only charged me a dollar. Considering what I paid before that for signatures (including $40.00 for Neal Adams), I almost kissed the guy.
                Both Mike Grell and Neal Adams were very friendly and happy to talk to me. They were both very courteous and appreciative of this fan-boy. Meeting them was the highlight of the Con for me.
                I was torn as to what to bring from Grell to sign. I wanted to bring a Legion comic; then a Sable. I wanted to bring his first professional work (an Aquaman back-up in Adventure) – it would have been cool to ask him what he remembered of it. But I am glad I took what I did.
                Next was the kiosk of Ethan Van Sciver, who (among other works) drew Green Lantern Rebirth (don’t ask). He signed it graciously.
                I walked along the other artists displaying their work. I took a few cards – I am always on the lookout for artists to do covers for my novels. There weren’t a lot of science fiction-y art unfortunately. There were darn few fantasy artists, either. I did enjoy the fantasy art of h-eri (like her Facebook page at IvoryDragonStudios) and I think she could design a great cover should I flesh out the fantasy novel I have outlined. 
               Most of the other artists were comic-book oriented. Good stuff throughout!
                So I accomplished all my goals for the Con! I met who I wanted to meet and got some nice swag!
                In the meantime, my sister’s family was having the times of their lives…
                To be continued …
Copyright 2014 Michael G Curry

 

             


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Prose and Cons: A GenCon 2013 Report Day Four: Goodbye Farewell and Amen

Prose and Cons: A GenCon 2013 Report
Day Four: Goodbye Farewell and Amen
           
            I had nothing scheduled for Sunday. I wasn’t sure if we would even be there that day when I bought my tickets some months before. Bill had a ten o’clock RPG game he hoped would last only four hours. If we made the 2:40 bus, we would be home by 6:00 p.m. Otherwise it would be 8:00 or even later. Neither of us wanted that.
            So up at 5:30, breakfast at 6:00, in the van by 6:30, bus at 7:00, GenCon at 8:05.
            I took the now-familiar route to the three symposium rooms to see what was available. The ticket-taker was there – he explained that this morning was dedicated to paid, limited-to-eight-people-only sessions where the panelists reviewed and critiqued an attendees story. He said there were a few openings if I was willing.
            I brought some stories with me but left them in the van twenty miles away. I declined his generous offer.
            “Would you like a poster?” He offered me a poster signed by Brandon Sanderson showcasing his latest series “Steelheart” out next month. Brandonwas one of the panelists and is known (among other things) was the writer who took over the Wheel of Time series after Robert Jordan’s death.
            Another poster was signed by James Dashner for his new book “The Eye of Minds”. He was also a panelist. His book “Mazerunner” will be released as a film next spring.         
            “I was given one of each of these Friday,” I said.  They gave out the posters after a symposium. “I’m going to donate it to my library.” It helped that I am married to the Assistant Head Librarian and have been driving and sharing a motel room with the Head Librarian all week…
            The ticket-taker smiled. “Would you like some more?”
            “Sure.”
            “I’m here until noon. Come by before then and I’ll give you all you want!”
            The Con held a non-denominational service at 9:00that morning. I joked with Bill that I should go in and chant “Ai! Ai! Cthulhu fhtagn!”  He advised against it – if only because others at the service may join in.
            I stayed by the Exhibit Hall doors this final morning. I wanted to be amongst the throng entering at 10:00 a.m. If that damn free demo of the Lord of the Rings card game by Fantasy Flight Games was full again; I give up.
            Only one man sat at the LoTR table! Even the host hadn’t made it to the table yet. When he arrived the three of us played for a half hour. It’s possible to play the game solo but it is very hard to do. I’m glad I got to play with even one other player – and the host also played along so that made three. Fun game!
            I had another goal that day. Over the past three days I walked past a booth for McFarland Books. They publish non-fiction books about all kinds of pop culture. Business secrets of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. MST3K and the art of critique. The majority of their books are about baseball.
            “Tell us your book idea to one of our editors,” a sign said.
            I was intrigued and spent the night before perfecting my pitch.
            I spoke with one of their reps and my pitch made them laugh.  I mean in a good way – I’m sure I’ve made many an editor laugh, but this was intentional.
            I won’t tell you the idea because it is MINE! MINE!! But she encouraged me to check their website for their submissions guidelines and gave me the card of their acquisitions editor. I checked the web to research the company and it is up-and-up; not a vanity publisher but a legit paying one!
            I mentioned to her I wrote a memoir about adopting our daughter. She said they did publish a memoir last year about international adoption and I should send an inquiry about mine.
           
            At noon I returned to the symposium area. The ticket-taker gave me a box full of signed posters.
            “Brandon Sanderson signed all these?” I said. His signed posters outnumbered James Dashner’s 10-to-1.
            “Yes, I’m surprised he didn’t get writer’s cramp,” he said.
            “If he can write a thousand-page Wheel of Time book, he can sign a few hundred posters.”
            He laughed and gave me a huge and heavy cardboard box filled with signed posters.
            My wife can paper the library walls with them, give them to other libraries in the system and hand them out at the ILA convention in Chicagoin October.
            The ticket-taker smiled and thanked me. He gave me his card.
            Um…
            The ticket-taker was Marc Tassin. He is an editor and author. His website is www.marctassin.com.  He called himself the GenCon Literary Coordinator.  Much more impressive title than ticket-taker I admit…
            Marc Tassin.  He has a story in the anthology “Steampunk’d”.
            It’s sitting on my night stand.    
            The writing panels were finished by noon. Let me tell you about some of the panelists … those whose names I remembered to jot down, that is …
            Maxwell Anthony Drake (www.maxwellanthonydrake.com) soloed two panels I attended. He is an excellent teacher and his presentations are on his website. I never got to thank him personally for his excellent classes. The best I can do it hype his new series of books at www.GenesisOfOblivion.com.  There you can read the first five Chapters for free. He has planned (so far) three books on the saga and also has two novellas set in the same world. He was also one of the panelists in the Sunday critiquing sessions. I wish I had brought my backpack with my sample fiction that morning!
            Geoffrey Girard (http://www.geoffreygirard.com) was on the horror panel. His latest book is called “Cain’s Blood”.  He is also releasing a YA version (or companion) to the book called Project Cain.  Two versions of the same book released at the same time … wowsers.
             Kerrie Hughes.  She was on several panels, including the my first one. I saw her in the convention hallway but disappeared amongst the throng before I could thank her. I doubt she was avoiding me personally… Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/kerrielhughes.
            Scott Lynch (http://www.scottlynch.us/) was also on that very first panel and on several others. Check out the website – impressive body of work. As with most of the panelists, I never got to thank him for being a speaker for the weekend. His knowledge of the craft was impressive!
            Gregory Wilson (http://www.gregoryawilson.com/) was another panelist I didn’t get to thank. I’m sounding redundant, but another impressive writer who thankfully shared his thoughts and opinions on how to improve your skills.
            I recognized Richard Lee Byers’ name as soon as he placed his name card on the panel’s table. He has several Forgotten Realms novels under his belt. His Wikipedia page is here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Lee_Byers.  I spotted him in the Exhibit Hall and spoke to him for several minutes. We talked about the knack of writing short stories vs. novel-length stories. Some people just can’t tell a story in 7,000 words; I’m one of them!
            There were so many more panelists whose names are lost to me. I didn’t start writing down names until after the first day and I apologize to everyone I did not list. You deserve to be listed here too.
            While lugging the ever-more-heavy box of posters around the Exhibit Hall, I walked through Author’s Alley and spoke with a few. There were two that intrigued me enough to talk with them for some minutes…
            I met Amanda G. McGuire (www.aghowl.wordpress.com) at her booth. She was there for her series “The God of Death; A Jesse Skull Novel”.  She described it as piracy in a post-apocalyptic world. Sounds cool.
            J T Hartke shared a booth with Maxwell Alexander Drake. You can read the first four chapters of his new book at www.DragonsoulSaga.com.   I talked with him for several minutes about his work. Nice guy!
            I ate lunch and took more cosplay photos all while struggling with a disintegrating cardboard box. My back and legs will get their revenge tonight, cramping as I try to sleep.
            Today was children’s day and there were more kids attending and cosplaying than on the three previous days. By early afternoon yesterday I missed my wife and daughter almost to the point of triggering depression. It was the longest I had been away from either of my babies and I yearned for them terribly.
            I almost offered a few parents my last twenty to have their kids hug me and call me daddy. But it wasn’t worth the felony charge. As much as I loved GenCon, I don’t want to be gone from them that long again.
            About 1:15 I found Bill still gaming in a ballroom of the Mariott next door. I sat on a very comfortable chair and read my book. At 1:50 he came out – his game was done. And so were we. Back to the food court to await our 2:40 shuttle to the van and then home.
            Mercedes Lackey and three others from the writing panels came down the escalators from the Mariott and walked into the D&D playing hall. I caught up with her and asked for a photograph. She was happy to pose with me.
            She was on two panels in the writer’s sessions, but those were packed full of fellow fans and writers. I didn’t get the chance then to thank her; I did now…
            She also autographed three book plates for me. The five of us talked about the writer’s panels and how much I enjoyed and learned from them. They encouraged me to email the Con with my praise. I certainly shall.
            Time was becoming my enemy. It was getting dangerously close to 2:40.  What was I going to say to Mercedes Lackey? “Sorry, Ms. Lackey, wrap this up, I gotta go…”
            Even from the little I got to know her, if I explained the situation, she would have sympathized and let me go.
            But I didn’t need to worry. I shook hands with all of them and raced back to Bill’s table. We made the bus…
            …and pulled into my driveway at 6:00.
            And the evening and the morning were the fourth day…
Copyright 2013 Michael G Curry

 

Prose and Cons: A GenCon 2013 Report Day Three: Settling In

Prose and Cons: A GenCon 2013 Report
Day Three: Settling In
            On Saturday, my first writing seminar didn’t begin until ten. I hoped to sleep in, but my ride to the bus pick-up left at 6:30, so another early day.
            We had a new bus driver – Vern took his granddaughter to a car show in McHenry, IL if you must know – and we fellow-travelers helped the new driver with his route.
            One early bird sitting behind me told us about his lucky day yesterday – he won a raffle to sit with “Star Trek TNG”/“Stand By Me” star Wil Wheaton in a charity game he hosted. Wil was there not as a guest but to host a charity gaming event.
            I told him to tell Wil I said “hello”. He won’t remember me, but I represented Wil in a lawsuit against a convention promoter who didn’t pay him. I mostly spoke with his mother/manager – this was in the very early 1990s – but I did represent him.
            I had two hours to kill before my first seminar. I walked to the rooms holding the symposiums to see if there were any subjects that interested me – there weren’t.
            The ticket-taker of the past two days was not there. He was either on break or couldn’t be there that morning. In his place was the bankruptcy attorney-writer I met yesterday – Elizabeth Vaughn.  She was the gate-keeper/time-keeper/attendee-herder for the early morning.
            Since she was between symposiums I spoke with her about successfully juggling writing and work – since we did the same kind of work – and how our area of the law, with its strict structure, helps and hurts genre writing. Sometimes you want to write fluidly and sometimes very plot-heavy. After a day of Slot-A-never-ever-fits-into-Slot-B style of lawyering, it’s nice to free-form with magical elves and beastly trolls.
            I spent the early morning taking photos of cosplayers. That’s the term for people who dress up at cons. “Who is he supposed to be?” I said a few times. Some cosplayers dressed in a certain style rather than a specific character (manga, steampunk and zombies as opposed to a comic book, movie and TV characters). 
            A sampling: 
Winner, Most Comfortable Costume…
                                             


 

Boy, I hope they won something!
           
         
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
             My symposiums were at ten and noon. After that the day was mine until seven. At 7:00I would attend a reading by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon.
            When my writing panels were done I went back to the Exhibit Hall.
            The free demo of the Lord of the Rings card game by Fantasy Flight Games was full again and again. I kept missing the chance to jump in!
            Remember the book I won at a symposium the day before?  It was “Master of Devils” by Dave Gross. That afternoon Dave was at the Pathfinder booth signing copies of the book.
            I unloaded yesterday’s back-breaking booty into my large suitcase the night before. My backpack now contained only my notepad, pens, some of my stories, books and snacks for the day. It was comfortably lighter.
            “Dave, I won your book at a writer’s symposium yesterday, would you sign it?”
            “Sure,” he said.
            “I’m sorry I can’t gush about how wonderful the book is but I only got it yesterday!  I haven’t even opened it!”
            He laughed, signed the book and said that was perfectly fine. I thanked him and introduced myself to the other authors not engaged with other fans. I told them how much I enjoyed their self-contained novels.
            I stopped past Dan the Bard’s booth and he was there. I introduced myself as Jess’ brother-in-law and we talked about other Ren Fest performers we knew – I was sad to learn one couple had broken up.  He asked if I wanted to hear a tune. I asked him to play “My Work Doth Bite the Devil’s Bum.”  He had a nice crowd around him when I left.
           
            By two o’clock I had enough. I was weary. Bill called it Convention Crud.  I went up the stairs to the ticket-taker and gave him my 7:00 pm ticket to the Mercedes Lackey/Larry Dixon reading (there was no cost, but you needed a ticket) and said I was unable to make it and he could give it to a deserving fan.  He thanked me. “You could scalp that for a couple of grand…” I said.
            I called Bill and told him I would head to the Wal-Mart drop-off and take his van to the motel. When he was done that night, he can call me and I would meet him there. He said that was fine.
            The bus left at 2:40 and I was at the van by 3:00.
            My key was in my tan pants pocket. Those pants, however, were in my suitcase in the motel.
            I took another taxi ride to the motel (so much for saving money on parking). I walked across the highway to a Mexican restaurant. And by this I mean a restaurant for Mexicans. I love it; honest-to-god-Mexican food.
            I decided against the goat tacos and went with the chorizo tacos instead. I ordered the chicken with cream. Well, I tried to…
            “Arroz con pollo y crema…”
            “What are you trying to order, senior?”
            “Arroz con …”
            “You can point to it.”
            “Uh, that.”
            “Gracias.”
            I exaggerate; the waitress was very nice. But I thought my Spanish was better than that…
            When I left I told her how good the creamy sauce was. The extra hot sauce provided in a separate small metal bowl made the tacos especially yummy, too!
            Saturday night I re-arranged my booty – all the books in my backpack and clothes that I wouldn’t need Sunday in my suitcase. I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening catching up on Facebook, preparing my notes for my blog, outlining some story ideas and going to bed early for a change.
            And the evening and the morning were the third day…
Copyright 2013 Michael G Curry

Prose and Cons: A GenCon 2013 Report Day Two: Friends of Friends

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.
            …
            What?
            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?”
“Yes.”
            “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.
            Wow.
            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.
            Wow.
            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.
            Why?
            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

 

Prose and Cons: A GenCon 2013 Report Day One: Old Friends

Prose and Cons: A GenCon 2013 Report
Day One: Old Friends
            The shuttle dropped us off at 8:03 a.m. The seminar started at 8:00. I walked into the convention center at the west end. The symposium was at the far east end.
            I marched a city block, up an elevator and to the door of the seminar. I apologized to the ticket-taker for being late. He said it was fine and said I could go in and have a seat. That early in the morning the 200-seat room was less than a quarter full.
            This was my introduction to GenCon.
           
            My sister asked what GenCon stood for. I didn’t know but guessed it was named after the city of Lake Geneva – where once upon a time the company that created Dungeons & Dragons had their headquarters. The next day I discovered I was right! It WAS named after Lake Geneva.
            GenCon is a gaming convention and features gaming industry creators, genre authors and artists, costumes, movies and classic and new games of every sort. 
            Role-playing, table-top, live-action, card games – even an arcade. They did not have Galaga. Thank god. If it did I would still be there. Ah, the fortunes I lost pumping quarters into that game in the early 1980s…
            They had Ms. Pac-Man, too. I didn’t play that – it wouldn’t be the same without a pitcher of beer and a pizza waiting across the restaurant while “Freebird” blared from a jukebox.
            41,000 people went to GenCon from August 15th through 18th this year.
            Most of my first day was spent in this little room listening to writer’s symposiums. For the next three days I would listen to panels discuss career building, short fiction vs novels, creating characters, plots and storytelling, what is mystery, what is horror and what is adversity?
            I learned so much and met some wonderful and friendly authors – all of them willing to share and discuss the craft with us amateurs (we amateurs … us … we …) . Some were tired (and probably hung over), but every one of them shared their experiences and gave advise. Not one was of the “that’s-MY-secret-and-I-don’t-want-the-competition” type! This is not the place for the sulking and brooding. It was a joy to attend and to meet all the wonderful, professional authors.
            GenCon is not cheap and you need to go out of your way to save money. I went with some of my gamer friends. They had been there before, I had not.
            We stayed at a motel near the airport – Bill (one of the gamer friends) had points to spend so the entire motel cost was free. For $50.00 we could drive to one of four pick-up points throughout the day and a bus would take us to the convention center. It had to combine some routes due to lower-than-expected participation so their schedule changed – the bus from the Wal-Mart on LaFayetteleft at 7:00, not 7:05. We made it on time that first day anyway…
            But with combined routes it arrived at the convention hall at 8:00 instead of 7:40.  This meant I was late for both of my 8:00 sessions on Thursday and Friday. But both days the ticket-taker welcomed me and said it was perfectly fine to go on in.
            I hope the bus service did well enough to make money. It encourages me to want to return to the Con if there is an easy way to get there (shuttles ran from seven in the morning until three at night!). Since it costs the same as two days of parking downtown, if you are there for more than three days you’ve saved money. That is never a bad thing. More quarters for Galaga…
            It is advised you take some food and drink. You don’t want to pass out from hunger in Hour Three of a four-hour game session. I was more practical – I did not want to spend five bucks for a bratwurst and three bucks for a bottle of Diet Coke. I loaded up on granola bars, peanuts, and bottled water. They had water fountains at the center, but the water was just colder than room temperature. If you wanted the cold stuff, either bring it yourself or shell out the coins.
           
            I spend Day One in seminars and symposiums – from eight until five with one hour free at 11:00 and 1:00. I wish I wrote down all the authors and editors on the panels, but I didn’t think to do that until later in Day Two.
            Pathfinder, the role-playing game company, gave away five of their fiction paperbacks at the end of each session to an attendee that “purchased” a ticket.
            Most sessions were free and if there were seats available after all the ticket-holders went in, anyone could attend.
            I won’t go into ALL the things I learned – editing your own work, speech tags, active-passive verb usage, self-publishing, maintaining professionalism, the vile adverb, dialogue usage, self-promotion and on and on. I hope you will see the results of my work as I get published haha!
            At the end of each session they announced the winners of the paperback books.  Attendees had to leave the room to re-queue, even if you were in that same room for the next session. I hoped I could just sit in the middle and stay there all day. Nope. I suppose it prevents some folks from staking their claim in the front row and staying there.
            The ticket-taker was also the ringmaster – he walked in with a “5 Minutes Remaining” Sign, brought in the books (and presumably pulled the winners names from the ticket pool), organized the lines of participants and got coffee and drinks for the panelists. He had a few helpers but otherwise he did the leg-work for the entire 3-1/2 days. 
            The symposiums (writing, role-playing game design and artwork) were all in rooms whose hallways overlooked the entry to the exhibit hall and a game room (I say room – it was half a city-block long and filled with enough tables and chairs for thousands of gamers). At 9:45Thursday, they had opening ceremonies – a band, a speaker, and thousands of people talking and cheering. I do not have the best hearing even in a quiet room – twenty years of rock music and a screechy toddler have seen to that.  I could barely hear what was being said – and the panelists had microphones! Fortunately, the ticket-taker closed the session room doors thereafter. Thank goodness.
            On my way to the 8:00 symposium that first day I waited for the elevator to the second floor. Later I realized it was quicker to walk down the hall to the escalator. But for now I waited for the car with three custodians. One of them, taller than me, asked, “Michael? You don’t remember me, do you? We went to school together.”
            He was taller than me, heavy-set and African-American. “Donnie?”
            By now we were in to the elevator, “No, man, I’m just kidding.” We laughed.
            “You could have been Donnie, it’s been thirty years…”
            I was not interested in any of the 11:00writer’s sessions so I went down the escalator to the Exhibit Hall.  
            The Exhibit Hall contained hawkers of role-playing and board games, books, clothing, DVDs, artwork, booksellers and publishers.  The larger companies – Paizo, Fantasy Flight and Mayfair among others – had rows of tables with games set up for one-hour play exhibits. If they had room, you could sit and play for free. If it piqued your interest, you could pay for a full session in one of the gaming rooms. Of course, you could buy the game, take it home and play all you want. The game is available in our kiosk for only …
            I entered one end and hugged the wall. At the far end a yellow banner read “Clearance Books” – ah! I must check that out at my 1:00break.
            A booth sold game dice – several did, this was the first one I saw – and I bought a set of polyhedron of my own. This was one of my four goals for the Con.
            If you don’t know what polyhedron dice are … BOY are you reading the wrong blog. Dice aren’t just six-sided squares anymore – there are also dice with four sides, eight, ten, twelve, twenty and even thirty and one hundred. I need more dice like I need more blood sugar, but it is GenCon. I HAD to have a set of dice from GenCon. I asked the salesman if I could get my money back if these things roll crappy. “I’m just kidding, thanks.” He laughed and bid me a good day. 
            There were dice specifically packaged from GenCon, but they looked like ordinary dice in a GenCon box. Meh… If they had GenCon 2013 etched on them I’d be interested.
            A few booths later I saw a vendor selling large-sized dice. I bought a 20-sider and percentile dice each the size of a golf ball for my daughter to have. Will this help her leave MY dice alone? Of course not. But these ARE hers. They were purple – her favorite color. Goal Two was complete.
            At the back of the Exhibit Hall I checked the time on my cell phone. It was 11:30. My next writing panel started in thirty minutes.
            I realized I was in front of the Guest of Honor autograph booth. Twenty feet away from me at the end of a common-feeder bank-like line maze was Peter Davidson and Walter Koenig signing autographs and posing for photos. There were ten people in line. I was eleventh.
            I asked an usher if I could get both to sign autographs or did I have to re-queue? She said to tell the main usher I wanted both and he would take care of me. He asked the first four people in the line “Davidson? Davidson?” and a few raised their hands.
            “Koenig? Who’s here for Walter Koenig?” The rest raised their hands.
            When it was my turn I asked, “Both?”
            “Okay, you’ll get the next one that’s free and then come back here to me and you’ll be next when the other one’s free.”
            He waved me to Peter Davidson. I knew him as Tristen Farnon from “All Creatures Great and Small” in 1979. My mother loved that show. A few years later he was the fifth actor to play Dr. Who (oh shut up you Cushing completists – you know what I mean). While he signed a photo for another attendee I talked to his assistant. “Can I get him to sign two photos (they had a stack of several photos I could choose)?”
            “Yes, of course.”
            I shook Davidson’s hand and told him how much I enjoyed his work at Tristen and the Doctor.
            “Thank you.” He autographed the photos, one for me, one for my sister (Goal Three).
            “I especially enjoy your commentary on the Doctor Who DVDs, they are wonderful to hear and your sense of humor really came through.”
            “At first they didn’t want us to do it. All we did was giggle and make fun of the other actors. But the fans loved it so they kept it.”
            I said I wished I could have seen him in Spamalot. I saw a production in St. Louis and I knew he was a Python fan from his DVD comments.
            “Oh yes, it was tremendous fun, I was glad to be part of it.”
            An usher dressed as the Brigadier took our photo and I shook Davidson’s hand again and thanked him.
            I went back to the usher and some seconds later I was face to face with Walter Koenig.
            Chekov from Star Trek (the original show) and Bester from Babylon5, a show I have never seen (no comments! Just get over it!). He also had roles in Mannix, the Virginian, Columbo, all kinds of great 70s shows.
            I hope he was feeling well.  He looked feeble. He was hunched and spoke in a whisper. I thanked him for his great work and I appreciated his signing my photo (he also had several prints available to sign). “Thank you, sure…” To be frank, it was disappointing compared to the energy of Davidson. But Koenig was pleasant and appreciative and I was thrilled to meet him! Walter Koenig!! Maybe he was sick; maybe that is just his way… that’s okay. Walter Koenig! My first Star Trek star! Heehee!
            His assistant took our picture. He looked perky and energetic in the photo.
            Goal Four. I was done! If I had to go home right now … I’d be happy!
            Happier than I was a 5:00. All my symposiums, sessions and panels were done. I called my sister. She was to pick me up for dinner and take me to the motel.
            She was sick that morning, could we have dinner tomorrow night?
            Of course, I said. No worries, you just get some sleep and feel better. Big brother loves you!
            I called Bill. He gave me a key to his van, so I told him I will take the bus to the Wal-Mart and drive to the motel. When he gets on the bus, call me and I will pick him up.
            I still don’t quite know what happened, but that afternoon Bill went back to the motel and had to take a taxi in to the convention center. He signed up for a game at seven. There was no van to drive back from the drop-off point.
            Lisa, the other gamer who drove to the Con with her daughter and a mutual friend Anna, wasn’t done until 9:00 that night. I wasn’t going to wait that long.
            The bus dropped me and others at the far end of a Wal-Mart parking lot. I called a taxi from the nearby Staples which took fifteen minutes to get there. It was such a beautiful sunny day I didn’t mind waiting outside. The next morning my head, face and arms were sunburned as I waited for the taxi.
            Am I the only person who goes to GenCon and get a tan?
            The taxi drove to the motel; I ate a gyro at a nearby restaurant, walked back to the motel and went to bed.
            Bill came in just before mid-night. He woke me but I fell back asleep quickly.
            And the evening and the morning were the first day…
Copyright 2013 Michael G Curry