Penguicon 2011

The pleasant yet slightly bittersweet feeling that you have experienced something wonderful but will have to wait a year before you can do so again. The satisfaction that comes from having done something well, even though you were very nervous about it. The utter exhaustion that keeps coming up in waves when you least expect it.

Penguicon, come and gone.

Those not familiar with
Penguicon haven't been paying attention. That or they were too lazy to click on a link. Shame on you. Try to keep up with the rest of the class.

Penguicon 2011: The good, the great, and the not so much.

Let's get that last category out of the way first (since it is the shortest). This year's
Penguicon was held, as it has been for the past few years, at the Marriott in Troy, MI. It is a fine hotel and has many good features. The rooms are great as is most of the convention space. That being said, lectures in the Food track are always held in a room converted into conspace which is usually crowded and a bit hot (especially during really popular panels like LN2 Ice Cream and Whiskey tasting). Also, depending on where panels are placed, you can get a bit of audio bleed through. Normally this isn't an issue but if someone is lecturing in a quiet voice in one room and the How to Flirt panel is doing bar simulations complete with music on the other side of the wall...Unfortunately, I think that Penguicon has outgrown that space.

It appears that I'm not the only one who thinks so. Next year's convention will be held at the
Hyatt Regency in Dearborn, MI. This should give us all a little more elbow room.

Moving on.

Check-in and Registration was a breeze. I think I waited all of 2 minutes combined. Granted, I did arrive right when my room was supposed to be available. The shocker was the lack of a line for Registration. I think I had one person in front of me. I am not sure how it was when Registration first opened. They started earlier than last year so I wasn't waiting for Registration to open and wondering if I was going to make it to my 4:00 panel.

Oh, and I didn't have a panel at 4:00, so that helped.

No, my first panel was not until 5:00. That's so much better.

No, seriously. It really is a lot better. I had time to get everything all set up in my room, change (into my "con-wear" I am going to need some new ties soon), scope out where everything was (almost all of my panels were in the same room), and take a quick tour of the Dealers' Room. Then it was on to Ballroom A for my first panel.

Crossovers Revisited
All right, confession time. I signed up for this one thinking that I would be sitting at a table full of people just dying to talk about how SF/F elements are creeping into mainstream books, TV shows, and movies. I figured I would say my little spiel about horror's history of mash-ups and the latest trends in literary mixtures spurred by the success of
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I even had visual aids (the book Classics Mutilated). Then I would sit back and let the other panelists talk, occasionally tossing in a bon mot or brilliant observation.

A good plan for a topic with a large number of panelists. When it's only me and one other person? Not so much.

Despite my initial concerns, the panel went really well. I made my little confession up front and then proceeded to speak from a fan point of view. Fellow panelist Steven Lake did a great job of bringing up topics and engaging the audience (which was a pretty good size considering most people were still checking in).

After this I was free for a couple of hours so I jetted up to the Food Space area to watch the Cryo Demo because it is alway fun to freeze stuff with liquid nitrogen. Then I headed out to grab a bite to eat (and a bottle to drink). I intended to attend the Personal Conflicts panel but was still munching.

I did catch most of the Green Myths panel which was interesting. It examined certain things that everyone knows to be best for the environment and whether or not they actually are. An example would be buying food from a local food co-op at a farmers market vs buying them at a chain grocery store. When examined from the standpoint of fossil fuels burned and subsequent pollution, it turns out the co-op might not be the way to go. Interesting stuff.

Then it was back to the Food Space for Whiskey Tasting. In my case it was more like listening to people talk about whiskey. There were a limited number of spaces available for the tasting portion and they were snapped up in minutes. Since I knew this ahead of time, I had purchased my own alcohol and was all set.

I left the tasting a little early to give myself plenty of time to make it to my next panel:

Why Zombies? Why Now?

This panel was cross-listed under both the Literature and the After Dark tracks. It was the only panel that I was on that was not in Ballroom A but the larger Dennison 1 room. It's a good thing that it was, because this one was packed. There is just something about zombies that draws a crowd, especially after dark. I shared speaking duties with The Ferrett, Jeff DeLuzio, Micki Hedden, and Christian Klaver. Shortly after I sat at the table one of the other panelists (I won't say who!) passed out Le Fin du Monde beer. We were talking about the end of the world after all.

This was a fun examination of zombies in popular culture from a number of different views including literature, philosophy, psychology, and medicine. The inclusion of someone who had done charity work in third world countries was an interesting extra.

[From the It's a Small World/Is There Anyone She Doesn't Know file: one of the panelists was someone who attended school with R and with whom she had just reconnected via Facebook.]

My panels done for the day I wandered around the hotel, hitting a few of the room parties before heading off to sleep.

I am not really sure how, but I managed to be up, showered, and fed in time for the 9am panel on Social Learning/Hackerspace. I am glad I was because it was just fascinating. I never knew that there were places where kids could go and learn in a non-threatening environment while doing hands on experiments.

Then it was time for my next panel:

Humor in Writing

Yeah, it can be a little difficult to be funny at 10:00 on a Saturday morning. That being said, I think Steven Lake, Daniel Hogan, Jim Hines, and I did a pretty good job of amusing and enlightening the audience.

At this point I took a break from the Con to run home to see the puppies (because I just couldn't go a whole day without seeing them!). I got back in time to catch most of a lecture entitled Skynet 1.4 in which Richard Herrell examined recent advancements in computing and robotics to discern how close we were to having the robots take over. At the end of the lecture we were divided into five groups: two humans and two robots which tried to figure out how to annihilate. I was in the fifth group, the one which was called to the front of the room and told we were robots disguised as humans and sent off to infiltrate the human groups. That’s right, I was a Cylon! Then it was off to learn how to make cheese in the Food Space (or in Penguicon terms: Open Source Mozzarella).

ML joined me for a little while and even sat through my next panel:

It's OKAY the First Draft is SUPPOSED to Suck!

Stephanie Osborn, Brandon Sanderson, Jim Hines, Lydia Nyx, and I discussed the finer points of first drafts, editing, having others read your work, more editing, and finally more editing. The Guest of Honor moderated and did an excellent job of including everyone at the table.

ML and I then walked around a bit, each dropping a little money at the Ties that Bynde booth. After dinner and drinks she headed home and I headed off and I caught most of a lecture on home storage (which I understood about 80% of. I might have done better if I was a little more sober). Then I went to one of my favorite things at Penguicon: The Smithee Awards (with my new creation: the Doctored Pepper). I always find this hysterical. I just feel bad for the poor people who sift through some of the worst movies ever made to find some of the worst clips ever filmed which then get nominated in categories including Most Ludicrous Premise, Stupidest Looking Monster, Worst Science, and my favorite Cutting Butter With A Chainsaw.

Sunday was a relatively short day for me as far as con went. I chatted with some people in the Con Suite, then went down to my last panel (and the one which I suggested):

Writer's Groups

I was a little concerned because one of the panelists (Stewart Sternberg) had been in a previous group that I belonged to. I was also concerned that Jim C Hines would think I was stalking him since this was the umpteenth panel we were on together. Both concerns were unfounded and the panel went really well. I got in some shameless plugs for the
Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers. Most of the people who attended this early morning panel were interested in finding critique groups, but I still had a bit to say.

At this point I was pretty much done. There weren't any panels I was dying to see and quite frankly, I was going through a severe case of puppy withdrawal. I hung around just long enough to get my discount (I got a reduced rate because I was on so many panels!) then headed home.

While I was waiting (in the Dealers Room -- no, I didn't buy any books or tee-shirts!) someone came up to me and said that he had enjoyed listening to me on the panels he had seen and asked if I had a business card. Of course I didn't, since I had packed everything away in the car. Fortunately I was parked close and ran to fetch one in what can only be described as a reserved and professional manner. It was a great way to end Con.

All in all I had my usual great time. I think that I am actually becoming more comfortable not only with speaking in front of groups but also in my own knowledge and experience. I feel a lot less like a sham and more like someone who actually belongs behind the table talking to people.

Yep, I'm already looking forward to next year.