Marscon Con-Report

I am pleased to (finally) get around to this convention report.  Since this blog’s debut post, I’ve been too busy putting together my new, improved Convention Calender (see the link in the header, above) to work on this promised write-up.  Then I let this half-finished con report sit, forgotten, in draft form, for a couple weeks.  Oops.  Just to get this thing out there, I’m finishing it off and then posting it as-is, unchecked and unrevised.

Anyway, I arrived at Marscon opening day (I had considered going down to Williamsburg for the convention a day early in order to get a good parking space and get settled in early, and was looking forward to some of the Thursday entertainment they were having for early arrivals, but it turned out that waiting was a good decision — it snowed on Thursday but was clear again by the time I left on Friday).  The Hotel gave me a free upgrade to a larger suite (because it was the only King-sized bedroom available at the time), and after a few hours to catch my breath it was time for the convention.

I skipped opening ceremonies but went to the Baen Travelling Road Show, catching their upcoming releases for the year.  With David Weber in attendence, it turned out to be quite entertaining.  A few titles caught my eye (The Future Wars and Other Punchlines anthology and Catherine Asaro’s Undercity being the two I, er, remembered the titles of well enough to find on Amazon), and I had plenty of fun, but after the show I skipped a lot of programming I had planned to attend in order to eat and rest up some more — the trip down to Williamsburg tired me out more that I’d care to say.

That isn’t to say I ignored all of Marscon’s Friday programming.  Later in the evening I attended a panel entitled “Honor Bound: Working with David Weber.”  I was expecting a panel on collaborating with a (more) famous author; it turned out to be a panel on the history of BuNine Consulting.  Still interesting, but not quite what I was hoping for.

I only managed Saturday morning by having ordered a room service breakfast the night before; I overslept, skipped the 9am panel I had intended to make it to (fortunately, nothing I was particularly interested in), and if I had relied on the Marscon con suite or tried to eat in the restaurant I would probably have missed the 10am slot as well.  (Incidentally, I found the food at the Fort Magruder Hotel was significantly better this year than last year’s Marscon; it wasn’t fine dining, by any stretch, but nothing was overcooked or dry or whatnot like it was, sometimes, last year)

The 10am slot of panels included five panels I would have liked to attend.  Unable to be in five places at once, I skipped the Allen Wold Writer Workshop, Star Trek Roundtable, Myths and Realities of Fantasy Combat panel, and the Starships 101 panel in order to go to “The Care and Feeding of an Author” panel (featuring the Author Guest of Honor, David Weber, the YA Author Guest of Honor, Katherine Kurtz, and their respective significant others).  Again, not quite what I expected (there was a lot less about the sort of diet and exercise a writer needs to have, and more droll anecdotes about working with bad copy editors and the authors’ family members’ wondering whether a writer playing computer games is brainstorming or merely procrastinating).  I enjoyed myself, but I might have found many of those other panels a lot more useful.

The next panel I remember getting to (it’s now been over two weeks since I last worked on this thing) was the Pets in Science Fiction panel.  It might have been interesting, but the moderator was horribly distracted by her children (who were heckling her from the audience).  I had seen this moderator on other panels, and she’s usually an interesting guest, but the heckling kind of ruined things.

This panel was immediately followed, however, by a related panel on Horses in Fantasy and Science Fiction.  There was still a problem with this panel — it never ACTUALLY related horses specifically to Fantasy, though it did refute a few myths about horses generally found in all types of fiction — but it was very amusing, nonetheless, as two particular horse ranchers talked extensively about horse behavior.

That was pretty much it for Saturday — for some odd reason (that, from what I can tell, was unrelated to the wedding which took place at the convention, though that was my first thought), a lot of the non-musical-oriented programming ended after 6PM.  I participated in Marscon Match Guest (an audience-as-players sci-fi variant of the classic Match Game, featuring various convention guests as the celebrities) and came in second place.  I slipped down to the halls and lobby area so I could look at some of the costumes.  And I met a few times with the head of the new CapitalCon venture (though I only had time to do more than wave in passing once).

That left Sunday, which actually turned out to be one of the best “last days” of a convention I can remember.  Usually, Sunday programming is pretty sparse, and this was no exception, but both panels I attended this day were quite fun.

There was a sort of interactive worldbuilding game involving eight guests (including the aforementioned GOH, David Weber, and several other colorful characters) building a world based on suggestions by the moderator and incorporating elements from the audience.  I’m afraid I’m the person responsible for inflicting both worths with the horrible medical condition of exploding eyeballs.  Actually, I just wanted to work “eyeballs” in somewhere (this goes back to the sixth grade, when I challenged a fellow student to give me any word and I would write a story around it.  He gave me the word eyeball; I’ve been regretting the story I came up with ever since), but the guests took it and ran with it.  I can’t really do justice to the worlds that the two teams of authors managed to come up with, but if you’re on Facebook and have the right permissions you might want to check out James Beall’s take. (remember to cycle through the pictures for the whole story)

Then there was the Allen Wold Plotting Workshop.  This is different than his regular Writing Workshop (a two day event focusing on the first hundred words, or the “hook,” of your story), focusing instead on creating characters, settings, obstacles, etc.  While the regular writing workshop, which I’ve been to at several conventions, is fun (I make it a point of going any chance I can, provided there are no scheduling conflicts), and offers constructive criticism from a panel of writing veterans, I think this one is the more useful at this stage in my career.  I may very well have saved a science fiction novel I had written and abandoned half-way through (because I learned that my plot was far, far too close to the plot of Timothy Zahn’s “Night Train to Rigel,” a book I had never read), allowing me to take what I’d written and revamp the plot to something more original.  One of these days, I may even be able to get back to it… but I think I need to complete “In Forgery Divided” first, at a minimum.

And, when Marscon was over, I was able to go out to dinner with Williamsburg-local family members — a part of the family I used to see quite frequently, but (to my regret) only see about once a year, nowadays.  Had a wonderful meal (though I forget the name of the restaurant) and no-one complained about my convention-induced mental fatigue.

A few bumps in the road, but I even enjoyed the panels that weren’t what I was expecting.  Overall, a wonderful time, and I hope to go back.