On Easter Eggs…

(I had this post in mind to write months ago, last Easter, but it wasn’t possible to write and post it back then for a variety of reasons.  Even though it’s no longer Easter, there’s no real connection beyond the name, so I figured I’d go ahead and write it now)

In 1979, a programmer for Atari, working on the game “Adventure,” was fed up with not being credited for his work. In secret, he added a feature that could be used to display his name, and never told his bosses even after he left the company. When Atari management learned of it, they considered removing the unauthorized feature, but instead decided to leave it in. Atari started adding more ‘hidden’ features for customers, calling them “Easter Eggs.”  (I pulled this bit of history entirely from the link; I’ll just assume it’s the truth and not apocryphal)  These of often fun little inside jokes, though sometimes (in software, at least) can add quite a bit of enjoyment to the game.

I like to have fun with my writing, even when writing about serious things.  Among other ways of doing so, I include ‘Easter Eggs,’ ‘Inside Jokes,’ whatever you want to call them.  Often, for me, this is in the form of ‘fantasy’ languages (for example, mid-way through In Treachery Forged, the characters partake in a Dwarven ‘Fu’Ro Bath‘), making subtle references to my other books and stories (such as when, in one draft (not the first) of The Merrimack Event‘s prologue, the archaeology expedition was digging up a building which greatly resembled the Royal Castle of Svieda; those details did not survive to the final draft, however), or giving characters certain meaningful names (like when I use one of the monuments in the city of Norre to add a expy-like tribute to the 1974 Washington Capitals season (and, in an earlier draft, to a certain Monty Python movie, but again that didn’t survive to the final version).  In my fantasy novels, many of the names I use are derived from names pulled off of international hockey rosters, and the Washington Capitals have long been my favorite team (WE GOT THE CUP! Uh… sorry; it’s been weeks and I’m still quite happy about that one).  Their inaugural season, in 1974, was an exercise in futility, however).

The difference between an inside joke and an ‘easter egg’ (at least, in this context) is that an easter egg is hidden away, but could be recognized if you know to look for it.  Most of the jokes mentioned above?  I try not to give any indication that they’re jokes, when seen in context, but it might be obvious to people in the know.  If you know Japanese, the ‘Fu’Ro bath’ was probably pretty obvious.  The archaeological dig’s discoveries might have been a bit obvious to my regular readers, if that scene had survived intact.  I’m not so sure casual fans of the Washington Capitals would recognize that particular tribute, but someone who was particularly knowledgeable on the team’s history might see it an go “wait, what?”

The trouble comes with what happens if you want your Easter Egg to refer to one thing, but readers might think it refers to something else.  I really, really wanted to name a character of a recently-written scene Ubleck the Unbreakable, who would have had an odd fondness for certain types of custard-like puddings, but would readers (those who recognized the reference, anyway) think of the non-newtonian fluid, or the Dr. Seuss book it was named after?  Or would people recognize the reference at all?  Does it even matter?

Well, sadly, Ubleck the Unbreakable will NOT be appearing in the next Law of Swords book — I’ve already cut the character and merged his role in with someone else’s, so the pudding fiend will be saved for another time… perhaps.  But at least he reminded me of something I wanted to blog about, so there is that.

Well, that was fast…

When I wrote last weekend’s post, I was thinking the decision of which convention I would attend would be a long way off. Libertycon had just ended, and there’s no way to apply to be an “attending professional” (or even to buy tickets to attend as a fan) for Dragoncon 2019 until Dragoncon 2018 happens in September.

But Libertycon was quick to start selling badges for their 2019 convention.  And Libertycon has a limited attendance (of 750 people, which includes staff and guests).

Now, the EARLIEST Libertycon has ever sold out, in previous years, was March (for a show that has usually been in late June or early July).

At about noon, ET, on the day that badges for Libertycon 2019 were first offered (July 4th), I heard that there were under a hundred badges left available, and they were going fast.  So, instead of waiting until September at the earliest (as I’d planned), I had to decide which conference I’d be going to right then.  And, well, I just barely managed to pick Libertycon before all the tickets sold out.  Libertycon’s Facebook page says that it took 5 hrs, 52 minutes and 50 seconds to go from just going on sale to selling the last badge.

I suspect there are a number of factors going into why Libertycon sold out so much faster than usual (Such as:  There is a new hotel hosting it, announced during the closing ceremonies; the hotel they were at this year was a placeholder while that one was undergoing renovations and the hotel before it was widely hated.  There was apparently a new method of ticket-purchasing that made the early “run” on tickets more visible, so where in the past the initial wave of sales would peter out at about 1/4-1/3 of the available tickets on the first day, and then all the rest of the tickets would be sold at a much slower pace over the course of the rest of the year, this time people SAW the initial rush and panic-bought (sort of like I did).  There was a date change, for this year only, moving it back a month and into a time that might be more convenient for some people.  And so on).  Regardless, I managed to get a ticket before it sold out.

At this point, I haven’t gotten a hotel room (I usually never buy a badge for a convention until after I’ve secured a room, but the hotel the convention is hosted at is under renovation, and rooms cannot be reserved until September, at the earliest).  I don’t know whether I’ll drive or fly (confession time:  I’ve never flown in a plane, before; a balloon, yes, as a kid, but never a plane.  I’m thinking of changing that for this trip; however, I can’t even book a flight, yet, because the dates are a touch too far out), though I know I won’t be taking the train (despite there being a famous train museum in Chattanooga, I could not find any train rides that go there from where I live).  Meanwhile, according to Google Maps, it’s an eight to ten+ hour drive.  The most I’m comfortable driving on my own in a stretch is five hours, and at present it looks like I’ll be going by myself, so that would probably make it a two day trip (though if another person were going along, we could take “shifts” in the driver’s seat and probably make it in a day).  Or I could (as one person suggested) take the auto-train to Atlanta, and then drive the rest of the way… though that might take longer than either of the other two options.

As far as other considerations go, it’s far too early to worry about anything else.  I suppose I could try and apply to convert my badge over to a guest badge at some point, but I think it’s a good idea to attend a convention as a fan at least once before applying to be a guest there.  Maybe I could get a table in Author Alley?  Although that would require bringing books with me (which, if I fly, might be problematic), and I still haven’t attempted an Author Alley-type of sale at one of my more local and familiar cons.  We’ll see, I guess.

But, at least for right now, it looks as if I’ll be going to Libertycon next year.

I’d better finish my next book so I can afford to pay for it all, then.  (And if you want to help, you can always buy one of my books).

Deciding on Conventions…

(Once again, I’m a day late posting my blog.  It seems I’m always doing this, nowadays — I’d make the switch from (ir)regular Sunday postings to (ir)regular Monday postings official, but then I’d probably not get them out until Tuesdays!)

Libertycon (the science fiction convention, not the political one of the same name) was this past weekend. Much of my Facebook feed these past few days has been all about it (coincidentally, I’m sure. It has nothing to do with the fact that many of my Facebook friends are authors, and almost all of the Facebook groups I’m a part of are writing or sci-fi\fantasy related).

It’s been fun watching everything that’s been going on. There’ve been pictures of interesting panels galore, stuffed manatees and mastadons, and even a dancing cow. (No joke — an author was selling her books by agreeing to dance around in a cow onesie for thirty seconds to a minute (depending on product) each time someone bought one of her books).

I have never been to Libertycon.  I’ve wanted to go (precisely BECAUSE so many of my Facebook friends are regulars, there), but every year I’ve tried to budget for it, I’ve had something major stop me — for example, an air conditioner failing at just the wrong time, forcing me to instead spend that budget on a replacement air conditioner rather than a convention (it’s 100 degrees outside, as I’m typing this, so I REALLY hope that doesn’t happen again, any time soon.  As it is, the AC is barely keeping up).

I’m still hoping to be invited back to Ravencon as a guest in 2019, but after seeing all the Libertycon-related posts I thought I might try, one more time, to go there as well next year, even if I can’t go as a guest.

I felt much the same, last September, when Dragoncon was happening and so many of the same people (and then some!) were attending.  Unlike Libertycon, I’ve been to Dragoncon before (once).  It’s utterly massive, and while quite fun it’s also a lot of work, even if you’re just attending (as I was).  I generally prefer smaller conventions, and it can be a bit overwhelming, but at the very least there was no lacking of things to do the one time I went.

While it’s too late for 2018, I was thinking of applying to be an “Attending Professional” (what many smaller conventions call a guest) of Dragoncon in 2019.  If accepted, it would be a big step in my career — the largest con I’ll have been a guest (or “attending professional”) at, and the first “non-local” convention I’ll have guested at.  Assuming they accept my application, that is.

The thing is, Libertycon is a small con, like I prefer (they have an attendance cap to ensure that).  I’d probably have a lot more fun there than I’d have at Dragoncon (though it’s not as if going to Dragoncon would be a huge burden — I’m sure I’d enjoy attending there, as well).  It’s a more social event — I’d probably be able to do more socializing than I have since a couple years before I published “In Treachery Forged.”  Just attending such an event (even not being a guest) would probably be pretty good for business.

I can only manage two to three conventions a year, and I’m already planning on Ravencon next year.  Due to the efforts and costs of traveling, I’ve only got the budget and time for just one of those two events, not both.  Assuming I go to either, that is — I could stick to just one convention next year, or try for somewhere more local where I have a better shot at getting a guest slot.

Decisions, decisions….