My Geeky Weekend: A Tale of Two Cons

It was the best of Cons, it was the worst of Cons. It was a weekend of wisdom, it was a weekend of foolishness.

All right, I'll stop that now.

Actually, with the exception of the "worst," Darles Chickens'
1 did a fairly good job of describing the awesomeness of my weekend. I am starting this on Sunday night, but as I have spent less than 7 of the previous 48 hours sleeping (total), there is a very good possibility that it will not be finished until Monday.2 There is no way that it is going to be uploaded any earlier than that.

None of which actually matters. By the time you are able to read this it will have been posted. Obviously.

That's the way my brain is operating right now. It was a long but really good weekend.

Let me start by saying a little bit about
Penguicon since that is where I spent most of my time over the past three days. Actually the bulk of this post will be about Penguicon, but it is also what I am going to talk about first.

I've already mentioned my initial impressions of the hotel and its staff in the previous post.
3 I am pleased to announce that my final impression is even higher. The staff were absolutely amazing. Not only did they deal with the horde of Con-goers without batting an eye, everyone I saw was actually enjoying it. Quite a few of the hotel staff really got into the spirit of things. Some of them went as far as to don costumes themselves. All of my interactions with the hotel staff were professional and pleasant. On those rare occasions when the person I was speaking to did not know the answer to a question they went out of their way to find someone who did. In my opinion the hotel staff earned enough EXP to level up.

Yeah, I'll be speaking Nerd for the next few days.

The only downside that I saw was that some of the spaces used were a little small. I attended a couple of panels that were standing room only. This is often an issue with a popular topic or with a speaker that people want to see.

Interesting side note, I was up until the wee hours both nights and I did not hear anyone who had any complaints about the elevators, surprising since there were only three. Elevators can be a huge problem at large conventions, especially in the evening. Con attendees want to get from the main floor where almost all of the panels and dancing rooms are to their own room, the Consuite
5, or to a room party. What ends up happening are you get long lines of people waiting for their turn to choose a floor or the elevators conk out from overuse or from having too many people in them. As far as I know, neither of these happened at Penguicon this year. Part of the solution may have been people using the stairs. It is a lot easier to make this choice when the hotel only has 11 floors. I took the stairs about 75% of the time.7 The other solution is the express elevator which only travels from the Lobby to the party floor and the Consuite floor.

I think my own panels went rather well. All totaled I would give myself an A- or B+ for my participation. I am not going to go into too much detail about every panel, but here are some impressions.

Where Do the Ideas Come From
: Quite well attended for a panel scheduled at the very beginning of the convention. I finally got to meet one of the people I had been e-mailing back and forth with for months, the Literary Nifty8 Laura Resnick. We were on a number of panels together and she was amazing at every single on of them.

Writers Groups and Networking: I met another two of the people I had been conversing with Jonathon Stars and Janea Schimmel. Of all of the panels I attended, this one was held in the comfiest space. It was a little lounge area with big chairs and couches that was just perfect for a more intimate discussion. I learned about some interesting stuff in this one.

You've Written It: Now What? I was introduced to the awesomeness that happens when Laura Resnick and Jim C Hines, the literary Guest of Honor are on the same panel. This panels also introduced the phrase "You're wrong fill in the blank with "Laura" or "Jim" when the two decided that they would automatically disagree with whatever the other had said. Jonathon Stars and I kind of sat back and just watched them work.

Are We Sick of the Undead Yet? I took over the "You're wrong, Laura" phrase as I got to disagree with her on the very basic point of whether or not the undead have run their course. Janea Schimmel was also on this panel and provided some very telling insight from the library side of the discussion. There was a lot of history discussed and quite a bit of theory espoused. I still love this topic.

Who Is Your Monster? The only panel which I kind of felt like I dropped the ball on, also my only solo panel. What I had planned as a discussion of using monster preference as a means for psychological examination turned into more of a friendly discussion about monsters in general, but I was OK with that.

Comedy in Speculative Fiction Writing: I knew that the combination of Jim Hines and David Hayes would be a good one, so I was glad that my fellow GLAHWer was able to make it to Penguicon. Laura Resnick and I completed the panel which turned into a humor competition between team Laura/Jim and David/Me. I think we won despite the fact that David totally carried me.

Genre-Crossing/Genre vs. Mainstream/Lit Fic: Technically these were two panels, the first with me, Laura Resnick, Janea Schimmel, and David Hayes. For the second David left and was replaced by another GLAHWer Nicole Castle. Although they were supposes to be seperate topics, there was a lot of bleed over. The scheduling of the two back to back in the same room was a nice stroke of luck. Although we ranged off topic a bit, I was very pleased with the amount of audience participation. Always give 'em what they want, right?

The rest of my time at Penguicon was spent at various panels, hanging out in the dealers’ room and at the bars. Due to my own schedule I missed most of the Smithee Awards, but I was able to help
Gingerdead Man win the award for Most Ridiculous Premise. The Science and Society panel sparked some lively discussion. I was able to speak to one of the panelists later that evening in the Consuite as well. I found the Open Soda panel fascinating. I never knew what went into the creation of the soft drinks that I sampled every year. I also got my very own 2L (since I helped back them in their fundraising activities). My flavor was pomegranate, tangerine, and vanilla. It's quite yummy and I don't expect it to last more than a few more days. I ended the evening by laughing myself silly at Cinematic for the People, a live performance of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 variety.

Easily the oddest thing I attended was a panel on the Food Panel track entitled Will You Eat This? In my case, along with many of the others in the room, what "yes." The things I sampled included cuttlefish, a century egg, and the surprisingly tasty balut (boiled fertilized duck egg). I ended my taste test by eating a ghost pepper. Yes, I sweated profusely and cried a little. It was badass, but not as badass as the guy who ate two.

Saturday morning I bid a sad adieux to my great parking spot and jetted over to my other Convention destination for the weekend:
Motor City Nightmares. In fact, if I have any real complaints it would be that both conventions fell on the same weekend so I was not able to attend both. However, there was no way I was going to miss the chance to associate with my horror friends, so off I went.

I believe I mentioned before that I was planning on being there on Sunday and had my programming scheduled accordingly. As it turned out, I had a big chunk of Saturday free. Neither the
Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers nor the Motor City Haunt Club (both of whom had tables at MCN) were in need of my presence as staff, so I switched up and went on Saturday morning. I picked up a number of very cool items. Pictures of these have been posted on the Zuckerberg Experiment if you are interested in seeing them. I loved the fact that Doug Bradley (who played the character of the lead Cenobite "Pinhead" in all of the Hellraiser movies) was selling a shirt featuring Pinhead and the phrase "Pinhead Says: No Remakes Please, It Is A Waste Of Good Celluloid,"9

Hell yes, I bought that shirt. Bradley also autographed the DVD sleeve for
Hellraiser and my copy of his book. He was very charming and approachable, quite the gentleman.

I also got Michael Rooker to autograph the DVD sleeve for
Slither and my copy of the PS3 game Walking Dead: Survival Instinct in which he voices the character Merle Dixon. If all goes as planned I will get Norman Reedus' autograph at Motor City Comic Con in a few weeks. Then I'll have a video game signed by both of the Dixon brothers. That's a lot of nerd cred right there.

Naturally I did a little shopping. Besides the tee shirt I have already mentioned I picked up some Halloween decorations from the MCHC and some birthday presents at MCN. I purchased a new game and an expansion pack for a game that I have, a book by A Lee Martinez, and a Mother's Day present for my Mom at Penguicon.

All of the Celebrities at MCN were nice, happy, and took time to actually talk with the fans who had come to meet them. They obviously remember that while it may be just a short exchange in a weekend full of short exchanges for them, for the fan in question, it is a really big deal. The horror folk go out of their way to make sure that the fans get a moment that they will remember with joy. The same can be said for the Vendors. The GLAHW has made a lot of friends over the years at various conventions. MCN is usually our first opportunity to see them each year. One of the members described it on Facebook as feeling like homeroom on the first day of school.

If asked thhe best thing about either con I would answer the attendees. There is something about getting together with a group of like minded individuals who are interested in the same aspects of literature, film, what have you. There have been huge inroads made towards the acceptance of the geek culture, but there is still a negative connotation that can spring up in any conversation. I can't tell you the number of times that I have gotten a weird look when someone reads one of my geektastic tee shirts or discovers that I write horror fiction. I heard this feeling summed up best by an attendee who was wearing a Darth Vader mask and pink tutu:

"The thing I like best about Penguicon is that you can be accepted for being who you are, no matter what it is that you happen to like. It's like everything that anyone was ever made fun of for in high school? All of that is OK here. It's the coolest."

Yes, it certainly is.

1 Author of
A Sale of Two Titties

2 If we're lucky.

3 Which also won't be uploaded until Monday at the earliest.

4 One thing is definite, I will make sure that I upload this before you read it. Yeesh.

5 A room or rooms run by volunteers who provide free food for attendees. Penguicon has free beer if you are of age and some of the best beverages made by the brilliant minds of our local Open Soda staff. I didn't see the coffee made with caffeinated water this year, but I may have just missed it.

6 It is just what it sounds like. An individual or group (usually a group) will host a party in one of the hotel rooms. There is almost always alcohol and music. Some of the best room parties are thrown at writing conventions by small press publishers.

7 My legs are complaining about it tonight.

8 A Nifty is kind of like a GOH in that they are someone who the convention feels will draw their own audience. Previous GOHs are listed as Nifties when they return in later years.

9 If you don't know why this is hysterical, you need to go back and watch
Hellraiser right now. Go ahead. I'll wait right here.