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

I SELL OUT, or MICHAEL CURRY, CORPORATE WHORE

I SELL OUT, or MICHAEL CURRY, CORPORATE WHORE

There will soon be advertisements on my blog.

I don’t mind.  As long as the ads aren’t intrusive – pop up mid-sentence for example. You can always scroll past the ads to read these pithy posts.

My blog has viewers all through the world. Just last month there were 11 views from Russia and 4 from China. People from Sweden, Brazil and Indonesia have also looked. If you type “George Harrison discography” in Google my blog is second. How cool is that? I’ve had views from the Netherlands and New Zealand, but that is probably my cousin and my wife’s cousin respectively. In the USA viewership creeps up to a hundred!  Most of it may be me reading and editing my own stuff. There is no better editor than the “send” button. The real number may be a quarter to a half less.

And true, these numbers are peanuts compared to some bloggers, but I’m very happy with my “viewership”.  That’s why I decided to ruin it all by allowing advertisement.

Before the company that places the ads does so, I still have to be “approved” by them. This means they read through my blogs to make sure I do not espouse any nasty things: pornography, excessive profanity, telling you how to hack into NORAD, drug contents (there goes next week’s post…), selling beer, tobacco, prescription drugs, weapons, designer knock-offs, adult or mature content and “(c)ontent related to racial intolerance or advocacy against any individual, group or organization (sic)”.

The last one made me curious.

And got me thinking …

In fall of 1980 I was in high school. Most of the memories I have of high school are of selling things. Education was third of fourth down the line. We sold things to raise money for the band, we sold things to raise money for club functions; we sold things to raise money for class trips.

We sold everything from candles to cantaloupes. Well, alphabetically those aren’t that far apart…

We sold everything from pens to pizza.  Hmm, those aren’t that far apart either…

That fall of 1980 we students were herded into the gymnasium to meet a salesman. He was to show us our next big sales project. I don’t remember what he wanted us to sell and I don’t remember most of his pitch. I only remember one line….

“The school’s top-selling student will win a chance to go see the Presidential Inauguration.” His next line provoked a response from me. I was third row from the back.

“Wouldn’t you like to see next year’s Inauguration?” he said.
“Depends on who wins,” I said. It got a laugh from my fellow students. He laughed too and went on with his presentation.

I was serious, though.

Flash-forward to 1988. I was a DJ in Carbondale and part of my job was making commercials. Liquor stores, record stores, clothing stores, Wicca and New Age boutiques, you name it.  One boutique wanted a sinister commercial. Their first ad was pulled because the “spokesman” was a little boy who spoke of selling “sacrificial knives”. Was this a Satanic Rites store? My ad had the same script, but I read it, not a 10-year-old. Behind my voice was the omnipresent “Tubular Bells” and me chanting “Mary Had a Little Lamb” backwards. I told my supervisor it was the Lord’s Prayer backwards and had to play it back to prove it was “Mary…” when the General Manager threw a fit.

But I refused to do a political commercial. “I’m not going to be the spokesman for this guy. He’s running against a man I know and a friend of my family. Enn. Oh.”

I’m surprised I wasn’t fired. But they gave the commercial to someone else. My guy won in a landslide, by the way.

I avoid politics in this blog. If you read between the lines, you can probably tell where I stand. The following paragraphs will likely clear things up for you…

My Facebook page is filled with memes, articles and my own political rants. But I don’t want to do that here (this blog being the sole exception). And I don’t want the advertisements on my blog to do it either.

I’m not allowed to have any “(c)ontent related to racial intolerance or advocacy against any individual, group or organization (sic)” in my blog. What if the ads do? What if it contains ads for Chic-Fil-A or advertises Orson Scott Card’s Enders movie out this fall?

What if it is an ad for Papa John’s or Hobby Lobby – whose billionaire-owners refuse to provide health care for their employees? True, by doing so they will lose one-tenth of one percent of one day’s profits, but …

Or Wal-Mart who refuse to pay their employees a living wage and allow the people who make their products in fourth-world countries (those countries that don’t even reach the level of a third world country…) to live a below-starvation-level “life”? Those that haven’t been killed in factory fires, of course…

What if an ad asks you to vote for someone whose website shows scope-sites on certain politicians and who dares to play the victim when one of their mindless followers shoots the certain politician?

Perhaps even mentioning this will make the ad company “deny” placing their ads with me. Well, that’s okay – if those are the kinds of ads they place.

Gold scams, weight-loss scams, timeshare scams; those I can accept those.

We’ll see how it plays out; but if the ads piss me off enough I may withdraw from it.

In the meantime, enjoy the blog. This will be my only politically-tinged rant. I promise. More comics, Beatles and nerd-culture blogs to come.

Copyright