July 04, 2005

   CONvergence

As you may have guessed, I spent the weekend at CONvergence. And it was a wonderful con.

This was my 4th year attending this Con, my second year as a pannelist and the first year that I displayed my jewelry in the art show. It was also supposed to be the first year that I read some of my work. That however didn't happen due to a scheduling glitch for which the programing heads appologized profusely. It was OK though since my throat was not in the best of conditions and it leaves me with another first for next year.

The most exciting thing that happened (for me anyway) was that both of the watches I put in the show went to live auction. Everything else except the headdress was also sold. At live auction, the auctioneer was tipped off that I was in the room, so he had me stand up and answer a few questions about the work and whether I would bring more next year (Yes most deffinately yes!). Before I managed to finish answering his questions and sit down, the bids had risen from $17 to $50 and they rose further from there to $70. I nearly passed out. The other watch didn't get quite as high, but it was sold late in the auction. All together, I'm going to be getting a check that will more than cover our expences for Con this year.

Now for the cronological notes:

We arrived fairly early on Friday and were able to check into the hotel, even though check in time wasn't supposed to be until after noon. So we put our stuff in the room and then went to check in at the Art show and register. I had a little trouble registering because they had listed my badge under my writing name, not the name on my driver's licence (despite the very detailed note that I had sent them about the distinction). The Art Show went smoothly and we headed back to our room to discover that our key cards didn't work. So back down to the hotel desk and three new keys. Which also didn't work. Back to the desk and this time 4 new cards and a reminder of the hotel's promice to make your stay perfect to which I responded "You missed perfect at the last key exchange." I suppose I could have insisted on a discount, but I didn't feel like it since there was a long line of con goers behind me waiting to check in.

We didn't have any responsibilities on Friday, so we wandered around and met people. Chatted and read party posters (the best was for CLODS - the Costumed League Of Disposible Sidekicks). Then we went to the first of many panels with the guests of honor - Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon. It was supposed to be about Valdamar, but we were warned right at the begining that they weren't planning to stay on topic - and they didn't. The conversation ranged all over the place. It was hillarious and very enlightening. They stayed on the topic of writing for the most part (except when they recited their wedding vows "Your eyes" "Your ass"). We learned that Misty had just signed a new seven book contract that includes a few Valdamar books. She is also working as the head author of Harlequin's Fantasy/Romance line. She took the job with the stipulation that Harlequin hire Fantasy editors for the line and they put the Fantasy first. She said that Fantasy fand deserve respect and they won't like a traditional romance with a costume change. It's got to be real Fantasy with romance. Larry says the research has been fun.

After that I headed back to the room to start the July writing marathon. I managed a full hour of writing on fiction and about 45 minutes of working on my research paper for Sociology. I got well over 1000 words in on Gargoyles's egg. It needs a lot of editting, but at least the story is getting into the computer. I have all of August to edit it.

I skipped opening ceremonies becuase I just wasn't up to being in that big of a croud so I joined Sweetie in a showing of Full Metal Alchemist in Nippon - the anime viewing room. I don't usually watch anime, that's Sweetie's thing. But I thought this one was a good story and well done.

After that we started party hopping. There are a lot of parties to see at Convergence. So we started at Consuite and worked our way around the second floor parties until we got to the USFO (Universal Speculative Fiction Organization). We were invited into the room by a vampire asking "do you want to be alienated?" What could we say. We went in and learned all about the USFO and met most of the board members. We had some good conversations and enjoyed the stump the experts game (in which I won a cat-woman action figure). We enjoyed ourselves so much we ended up spending most of our time there. We eventually moved on and saw some other parties, but we didn't stop for long in any of the rest. We were tired and went to bed around midnight.

Saturday morning started with writing because I woke up before panels started. I got my hour of writing (and then some) out of the way. Then headed off to the first pannel of the day. Science vs. Theology. It had potential, but the pannelists got stuck on the question of whether the two topics were talking about the same things. I left after 20 minutes.

I found an old friend to chat with until the next panel started and we caught up on all that has been happening in out lives for the last year while watching one of the younger members of con (a two year old) play with the star display balloons. Then it was off to the Raptor center demonstration. Mercedes and Larry joined the voluteers from the raptor center in telling stories about the birds they've taken care of and giving facts and figures about raptors. The raptor center brought three birds with them. A red faced screach owl, a periguen falcon and a bald eagle. They were all wonderful and just mugged for the crowd. They would do something cute anytime they thought the crowd was paying too much attention to the humans - after all they were supposed to be the stars.

After that I headed off to my first panel - Etiquette at the Gaming Table. It turned out that one of the other panelists was from the USFO party Friday night. We gabbed a bit before the panel actually started. Once it started though, we kept the pannel on topic and nice (after all it was about etiquette). It turns out that all four of us on the panel had pretty similar views on ettiquette, just different ways of saying it. Basically it came down to either "the GM is always right" or "don't slow down the game". After that we gave a lot of advice on how to deal with players and GMs who were less than polite during a game. Everything from how to tell a player that he was annoying to how to teach a new GM how to keep control of a game. Most of our answers were "take the person aside, praise something then tell them about the problem." At the end of the panel we were all mobbed by audience members who wanted more personal advice and we had to extricate ourselves with excuses of being on another panel and here's my email if you want to talk further.

For me at least the excuse was true (and I think for all the others as well, just not the same panel). But I had another stop to make before the panel. I was handed the superhero cape at the end of the etiquette panel. This is a cape that signifies the con super hero and should be passed around the con to as many people as possible. So having recieved it I needed to go to the bridge to get my button and sign the cape. Then I needed to find someone else to pass it on to before my next panel started. So I stopped a random guy in the hall and asked him to take it. It's a wonderful way to make con goers meet each other (although at convergence that's not too much of a problem - there aren't many cliques, sure there are groups but not cliques).

Worldbuilding came next. We had one member of the audience asked to be on the panel, and the panelist who were there couldn't come up with an excuse to say no. Too bad, because I don't think that he actually had any credentials to be on the panel. The rest of the panel consisted of a editor/publisher (whose job was to check authors' world building among other things), two published authors who have created their own worlds, me with my geo-chemistry background as well as experience building worlds for both games and stories, Sweetie who has also created full worlds for games. For the most part the panel agreed that it was important to know 10 times more about your world than you tell your audience. But we all had different methods of getting to that knowledge. Each of us started in a different place (our "guest" member insisted that if it was similar to earth just use earth among other absolutes). I start with the plate techtonics and work my way up from there. Others started with story needs, gods, cultures or characters. Most of the questions from the audience dealt with how do you keep all that information straight (the answer was "notes, lots and lots of notes, file cabinets full of notes). Then there were specific questions about audience members own world problems. And again we were all mobbed (except the "guest") after the panel to offer more specific advice on where to start research and other such things.

Then we stuck around for the "Adventures of Larry and Mercedes" wich was them talking about their real life adventures which are as fun and interesting as their fiction. We laughed about all their wild adventures - most of which started with the phrase "so I had this car" Larry was, and still is, a muscle car and racing fan (Nascar doesn't count, real racers can turn left AND right). So they spend much of their time traveling either to cons or to racing events or for other reasons (Larry also likes to shop and Misty will tell you about how she gets packed in the car like lugage - but of course she laughs well telling it so it can't be all bad).

Then it was back to the room for dinner. Sweetie mad chili and brought the crock pot to heat it in - we were living in luxury this weekend. We rested for a while then went off to socialize before the live auction in the evening. We skipped the masquerade because I didn't feel like dealing with the crowd. Sweetie went to the Incredible anatamy while I sat in the auction and laughed at some of the antics. Larry Dixon showed up to auction off some Lord of the Rings related items as a charity for the Raptor Center (an organization he had only just learned of this week but which has become his favorite charity). Woo was that fun. That man sure knows how to play to a crowd and there is no doubt that he truly loves his fans.

I found sweetie gabbing with a couple of new people when I left the auction. We made a couple of friends then. Blathering on about role playing and worldbuilding with a bit of etiquette thrown in - turns out the people he was talking to had seen both panels. We had intended to go party hopping after that, but kept running into friends along the way that by the time we got to the party rooms some of them were already winding down for the evening. We did make it to the superhero's break room, the Anime Deture party (just in time for a showing of the HampsterDance movie), and then went to visit Edna Mode in the Incredibles room. The lady there was a short costume designer (and wow what she has designed) who managed to get all the manerism and voice of Edna mode just right. We made it to the room about 1:30.

Sunday I didn't wake up in time to write, I'm going ot have to make up for that later today. We packed up quickly so that we could get checked out before panels started. We also took the time to fill out registration forms for next year (and if I'd been awake enough I might have noticed the hotel registrations forms as well). Then we went and checked out of the Art Show and I got the recipt that tells me who bought what and for how much. With the car all packed and more gabbing done we headed off to the next panel.

Writing inteligent non-human characters. I'm not actually planning that right now, but it's good to know about it. Besides Mercedes Lackey was on that panel so I knew it would be good. I also think that it's always a good idea to keep up with as many writing techniques as possible. I don't use them all, but it's good to know about them. The panelist all use animal models to build their non-humans. But caution against anthropomorphising. A truely non-human race will have different motivations, cultural habits, and perceptions.

Then it was the "All-but-post mortem" where the committee heads all sit around and listen to our complaints and suggestions. I've never gone to one of these, but I did want to comment on my registration problems and suggest that the elevators be monitored to prevent over crowding. It turns out they had tried to get elevator monitors and I'd missed all the requests for volunteers. I got many appologies for the registration mix up and a promice to work out how not to let it happen again (since they know I'm not the only writer who doesn't write under their leagal name). Other than that I was surprised at how petty people could be at these. I never realized that anyone hated badgers so much. I do my best to be sure that every badger sees my badge and never have any trouble. I'll admit that some badgers can be rude but that's not a reason to hate the system. Others were upset about parties not being welcoming enough (like con has anything to do about that).

Then it was time for my last panel: keeping your characters balanced. This is at 3:30 on Sunday afternoon so we were all a little punchy. We started with a bunch of jokes about balance beams and outriggers. Then we delved into the complex issue of what is a balanced charater which came down to making sure that your story delt with your character's weaknesses as much as their strengths if not more so. Make your character grow from their experience and don't let your audience be sure that your character will or won't make it (that is match the challenge to the character). After that we slipped off into how to keep the angst from overwhelming the books (which ended in a "beat up on Harry Potter" stint).

After the traditional mobbing the panelists session, we were off to collect the dog from mom in Hudson and then home for some much needed sleep. Can't wait for next year.

Posted by Becca at July 4, 2005 01:12 PM