My Top 12 Memorable Moments From ChiCon 7

I know, I’ve made two Recap posts already on ChiCon, but I couldn’t resist sharing a few special moments I’ll always remember from the experience. Both touching and humorous, they combined to enrich the experience and the memories I carry forward from it. I think you’ll see why. I present them chronologically.

1) Surviving A New Cabbie’s First Fare. Somehow, upon arriving 90 minutes late on Amtrak, 90 minutes before my reading I might add, I wound up in the taxi of a man whose driving was an adventure. Not only did make some odd lane changes but then entered the Hyatt the wrong way and had to turn around, driving across the sidewalk and scattering the bellboys in the process. “It’s my first time,” he said, “I’m new.” I didn’t argue, just handed him the money and hurried to escape the cab.

2) Black Gate Crew Attends My First World Con Reading. I am not a big fan of doing readings. It’s just something I’ve always felt nervous and awkward about. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending how you look at it) my crowds have always been small. But this time not only did my crowd size increase but it was packed with fellow writers, many of whom were Black Gate staff. Seeing fellow successful authors like Howard Andrew Jones, James Enge and Chris Kastensmidt and a successful editor like John O’Neill not only make time to attend but express encouragement at my performance really started the Con on a great note and leant the feeling that I was on the right track as a writer. I’m grateful,

3) Recognized By Robert J. Sawyer at Thursday Dinner. My first dinner, my first night at the Con, and I run into Robert J. Sawyer at the restaurant. He recognizes me, double checks my name badge to be sure, and then introduces me to his wife and companions, inviting me to stop by the bar later and chat more. I had never met Rob and only interviewed him via Twitter, but we have interacted on Facebook a bit. Still, it was a good feeling to be recognized by someone of that caliber and it was an event that repeated itself throughout the Con as several others recognized me as well and said “I know your name, sure” as they shook my hand. For a small fish, it was a big splash.

4) David Brin Thanking SFWA Volunteers. On Friday morning, I spent two hours with SFWA Secretary Ann Leckie and Edge Editor Victoria Strauss volunteering at the SFWA table. While several people dropped by, David Brin made a point to shake our hands and kindly thank us for volunteering. It was a classy move and greatly appreciated since I have always found Brin’s snarky outspoken comments on Facebook a bit offputting and since he is “David Brin” (intimidating in itself). That graciousness won me over. What a class act.

5) Meeting and Being Teased by Robert Silverberg. In many ways, Silverberg is my Tolkien. I’ve told him so. He insists that I call him ‘Bob,” to which I replied: “I don’t know if I can.” But our first face-to-face was at his signing after I’d waited around 40 minutes in line. My quota of 3 books were the original Majipoor trilogy, and a couple were used hardbacks I’d tracked down, since I prefer getting hardbacks signed for longevity. Glancing inside one, Silverberg notes the ‘Property Of Margene’ stamp. “So, what happened to Margene? And how did you get her book?” he teases. I fumbled a bit then said I’d bought it at a library sale. He smiles, shooting me a cockeyed look. “Please give Margene my best if she survived the exchange.” I couldn’t help but laugh, he smiled, we chatted a bit more, and I left hoping he really was just teasing. I swear, I don’t know Margene.

6) A fan arrives at my signing with my book. Okay, yes, my books have been out a while. But this is really the first time someone already had one when they came to a signing to get it signed. Before they’ve bought them from me, then had me sign. So it was memorable and special to know my babies are making their way out in the world and that booksellers are being supported in the process. I only wound up signing 5 books that day, while watching Seanan McGuire’s never-ending line next to me and George R.R. Martin’s before her, but it was a nice feeling to be known before hand.

7) Moderating My First World Con Panel Ever. Not only was it my first World Con panel, but the room was packed t0 standing room only, with people waiting outside wanting to get in. On top of that, my fellow panelists included Nancy Kress, Jay Lake and Charles Stross. The lofty topic: Moral Ambiguity In Science Fiction. Having Nancy Kress, whose writing books have taught me so much, look at me for permission to talk almost made me laugh with embarrassment. Of course, that was just her showing respect to the moderator and it wound up being a delightful panel and one I’ve heard good things about from many since. In fact, we recorded it for an upcoming podcast, so you’ll get the chance to hear it soon enough.

8 ) Mitch Bentley’s Art Show Award. Despite my friend and frequent cover artist Mitch Bentley being the first to greet me upon my arrival at the hotel, I didn’t make it to the art show until Sunday, my first free day of the Con. Imagine my delight when I found Mitch’s booth and discovered a cover I had commissioned for my ebook release of the Davi Rhii prequel story “Rivalry On A Sky Course” had won him a Judge’s Choice Award. Mitch’s art has always moved me. I knew I wanted him to do my book cover from the minute I first saw it at ConQuest 41 in Kansas City, May 2010. Since then we’ve collaborated on two novels and this ebook with more in the works. More over, the covers are inspired by the stories and scenes within them, so I am thrilled to see Mitch recognized for his work, especially stuff my own work inspired.

9) Resnick’s Recognition. I had seen Resnick in passing several times and even-handed him some Brazilian coffee grounds I’d brought for him, but apparently he was so exhausted he didn’t recognize me (many had this issue due to my new Sellect ‘stache I learned) until I handed him a signed copy of the novel he blurbed. Then he did an “of course, I hadn’t realized that was you” thing and we spent a delightful 45 minutes hanging out. Resnick has been a good friend and mentor to me and I had not expected to get much time with him at a Con where he was GOH, let alone “alone” time, so it was a delight. But the priceless look on his face when my identity connected was a highlight for sure.

10) Listening In As Silverberg and Dave Kyle Reminisce. Spotting Silverberg in the Dealer’s Room Sunday, I brought over a few more books I had not gotten him to sign and overheard a comparing notes of two long time SFF community members discussing Cons, books, life, genre and much more. It was the kind of moment that one loves being a fly on the wall. Then Silverberg saw the Ace Double I was carrying and commented: “Look Dave, this book is almost as old as you are.” Kyle quipped: “It’s in far better condition.” We all laughed and then Silverberg signed it. Their discussion though could have been a panel in and of itself.

11) An Accidental Anthology Pitch. One friend I managed to run into a lot was Jamie Todd Rubin, who gathered a bunch of us Sunday afternoon in the bar to hang out. Patrick Swenson was there, along with Kay Kenyon, Louise Marley, Jennifer Brozek, Jay Werkheiser, and later Tod McCoy. It was a fun group and we found all kinds of stuff to talk about. But somewhere along the way we happened to discuss sports, and I–off the cuff–mentioned I hoped to do a Space Sports themed anthology one day. Next thing I knew I had three very excited writers pitching their stories. Two of them would be reprints. And they were talking it up. I hadn’t intended to make it a project immediately, as I already have three in the development hopper, but Champions: Spec Sports is now in the works and I found myself gathering ideas and writers the rest of the evening. A memorable way to start an anthology project for sure.

12) Watching Friends Accept Hugos. John DeNardo won for SFSignal to which I contribute, and Kij Johnson and Ursula Vernon won for Novella and Graphic Novel. Cat Valente and Seanan McGuire were amongst Podcast winners for SF Squeecast. Of the five, I know John the best but it was still a delight to see people I have chatted with multiple times and respect get such recognition. The fact that I helped contribute with my votes was a bonus.

As I stated in my Recaps, it felt a lot like I’d come of age and transitioned from fan/wannabe on the sidelines to full fledged community member and that an encouraging feeling only aided by moments like these ten. If you went to World Con, what were your most memorable moments? I’d love to hear about them.

For what it’s worth…


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince(2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exodus will appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Books For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Lost In A Land Of Legends (forthcoming) appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012.  His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on World Encounters and Space & Shadows: SpecNoir with coeditor John Helfers, both forthcoming. He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

 

WorldCon Recap, Part 2–A Family Reunion & Coming Of Age

In yesterday’s recap, part 1, I talked about the things I did during WorldCon. Today’s post may interest no one but myself, yet since I found WorldCon to be profoundly moving on several levels as an experience, I still want to talk about that aspect as well. In many ways, for me, ChiCon 7 fell somewhere between a coming of age and a family reunion. It was a business trip, too, yes, but felt instead more like a gathering of family and old friends, reunited to celebrate their commonalities and enjoy their common passions, and, in my view, that’s exactly what a good con should be.

Part of this was the result of having peers who are up and coming alongside me or just a step ahead nominated for Hugos. It’s hard to measure who’s at what level, I suppose, and these are people with whom I have struck up close friendships. But watching guys like John DeNardo and Brad R. Torgersen and Patrick Hester be nominated for awards was personally moving. Regardless of that fact that one won and two lost, it was like an endorsement that our generation is welcome to the party, and I shared a sense of pride with them and achievement in that, though I had little to with Brad and Patrick’s work (I do regularly contribute to SFSignal).

Another part was having writers whose names I recognized but whom I’d never interacted with telling me they recognized my name and knew of my chat, etc. It was affirming to know that I’m more established than I realized and the respect given made me feel like I’d transitioned to one of the gang rather than a fandboy/wannabe/outside looking over the windowsill. Oh sure, standing next to Robert J. Sawyer and Robert Silverberg and such was a bit fanboy-inducing and probably always will be. Both have suggested I call them by their first names now and my internal voice keeps saying: “I don’t know if I can.” But they were both incredibly friendly and kind and it’s an honor to count them peers and friends.

It was also really exciting to be treated as an equal on panels with the likes of Charles Stross, Jay Lake, and Nancy Kress. For newcomers Lissa Price and myself, it could have been intimidating to share a panel with them, but I was assigned to moderate and all three treated me as if I were an equal. Nancy and Jay even went out of their way to compliment my efforts, which was quite kind. Full disclosure, Jay and I had lunch before the panel and have struck up a friendship over several years despite this being our first face-to-face encounter. And I have bought a story tentatively from Nancy for an anthology. But the next panel with Kay Kenyon and Carol Berg went much the same. And it was a feeling extended throughout encounters with numerous luminaries in the field.

There’s a voice inside most authors, I think, that constantly suggest we’re not good enough, not worthy. That calling ourselves an author alongside those greats we admire is far too presumptuous, perhaps, or that we have to earn our way a bit more first. For me, while I consider humility both healthy, advisable and a sign of maturity, it still is nice to feel accepted as a peer by such people. And it’s an honor I hope to live up to so they never come to regret it, if that makes any sense. It felt like I came of age from fan/wannabe to full on member of the club, as a result, and that was emotionally rewarding after some very hard months and years on a personal and professional level.

I was also honored and quite pleased when artist and ASFA president Mitchell Bentley won one of eight Judge’s Choice Awards at the World Con Art Show from judges including Irene Gallo for his cover of “Rivalry On A Sky Course,” my Davi Rhii prequel story. I commissioned it on a very thin budget and gave him a percentage of books sold in  exchange. He’d done beautiful covers for the books, and I wanted to maintain the look of the series. Plus, I enjoy collaborating with Mitch a lot. I am so pleased for him at the recognition for his fine work and, on top of that, for the fact that the Judges recognized its quality and the Con Chair bought the piece, rewarding him in yet another way. Congrats to Mitch! And gratitude!

Were there disappointments at WorldCon? Being ignored by a couple of people I once called friends for some unknown offense was a bit offputting, yes. So was missing connections with some people I really wanted to meet and never seem to encounter at Cons. The Hugo after parties shutting out of friends from the celebration annoyed me. And there were some lines and priceyness issues from time to time. I also wish my book sales had been a bit better. Three books out of 60 was a smaller ratio than I would have liked.

But those complaints are overshadowed by the magic I experienced with all the wonderful people I met. Truly it was like Schmidt Family Reunions we hold every three years that I’ve attended in that past. Meeting online friends like Jamie Todd Rubin, Howard Andrew Jones, James Enge, Madison Woods, Tim Ward, Brad Torgersen, Annie Bellett, Jay Lake, Cat Rambo, Barb Galler-Smith, Matt Forbeck and more for the first time and reuniting with old friends I hadn’t seen in a while like Saladin Ahmed, Mike Resnick, John O’Neill, Chris Kastenschmidt, and more. Add to that meeting so many past #sffwrtcht guests, including luminaries like Silverberg and Sawyer, and it was a really good experience for networking and family building. Howard Andrew Jones and I commiserated tonight on FB about how much we’d bonded with people online, making face-to-face encounters rather natural and not awkward. It’s amazing what social media has created for networking and relationship building.

And then I arrived home riding the waves of these emotions and highs and found these waiting for me:

Yeah, I know, “you got mail”– big deal, right? BUT the Locus contains a mention and my name’s on the cover of Talisman. Because Locus mentions my new book, The Returning, and my 3rd short story ever, written in 2009-10 then revised and sold in 2011, finally made it to print in Tales Of The Talisman, becoming my first print magazine appearance as a fiction author. It also is my first illustrated short story, not counting the cover for “Rivalry On A Sky Course’s” ebook, of course. “LaMigra’s” alien monster comes to life. Based on my time in El Paso, it’s the story of a culture clash that happens when two Mexican illegals get taken by aliens they mistake for Border Patrol.  As each side reacts differently than expected, it’s a fun examination of setting and culture on the border. But I’m biased as the writer, of course.

It’s a good feeling to achieve yet two more successes on the heels of a great Con. How was your World Con?


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince(2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exodus will appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Books For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Lost In A Land Of Legends (forthcoming) appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012.  His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on World Encounters and Space & Shadows: SpecNoir with coeditor John Helfers, both forthcoming. Beyond The Sun and Spec Sports anthologies are also in the works. He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

 

 

 

 

ChiCon 7 Recap, Part 1–What Happened During The Con

It’s hard to wrap my mind around all that happened for the past four days in Chicago. For me, this turned out to be the best Con experience ever on all levels. I’m so happy I decided to go in spite of my financial struggles and very grateful to the support and encouragement shown me from so many corners.

The highlight of any Con is usually relationship and networking but I think it was doubly true of Chicon 7 because I had the chance to meet so many people I’ve gotten to know strictly online the past few years, all for the first time. Jamie Todd Rubin, Jean Johnson, Jason Sizemore, Maurice Broaddus, Janet Harriett, Jay Lake, Brad Beaulieu, Cat Rambo, Madison Woods, Stina Leicht, David Boop, James Enge, Howard Andrew Jones, Chuck Gannon, Brad Torgersen, Robert J. Sawyer, Robert Silverberg, Myke Cole, John Helfers, Lissa Price, Nancy Kress, Tim Akers, Adam Christopher, Charles Stross, Jason Waltz, Courtney Schafer, Barb Galler-Smith, Cat Valente, Nancy Fulda, Randy Henderson, Michael Flynn, Nnedi Okorafor, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, John Picacio, Annie Bellet, Alastair Mayer, Matt Forbeck, Tim Ward, Brad Wheeler and Jack McDevitt were all new face to face encounters. (I likely forgot some too). Plus I renewed and built acquaintance with many I’d met before. With some I talked business, with others just chit chat on all kinds of topics. With some, I panelled. With others, I moderated. With others, I drank and ate. And with almost all, I laughed.

My first ever WorldCon panel was a reading that took place 90 minutes after I arrived on severely delayed Amtrak train and after a scary taxi ride which involved sidewalk and wrong way driving and which the driver explained with the comment “I am new.” The reading, however, went very well. I had listened to Nancy Fulda and another reading prior to that. And I read two passages I have read before. Authors and editors made up the audience and complimented my reading for days after, which made me feel good. I really don’t like readings and they make me nervous. It was good to know that I might actually be better than some at it.

Volunteering at the SFWA table brought new encounters with David Brin, who impressed me with his kind consideration, Edward Lerner, Alan Dean Foster and many others. The SFWA Suite with its relaxed atmosphere and free provisions was a godsend and privilege. The Green Room and Con Suite also came in very handy in this regard. 15 meals over 5 days, I paid for 7 and four of those were during train trips. Pretty amazing blessing. My roommates, Don Mead and David Steffen, also turned out to be easy to get along with and fun. Don and I had met before but David was new. They took me to the Codex breakfast Saturday which was a nice opportunity as well, since I have been interested in Codex for a while.  My signing Friday with Nnedi, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Mike Flynn, Seanan McGuire and others was quiet but did sell three books and an ebook and have one person who already owned the book come to get it signed. Book Universe sold at least one more copy and Larry Smith also had copies which I got Jean Johnson, Mike Resnick and Patrick Hester to sign.

Friday lunch was with Maurice Broaddus, then later I did the signing and attended Saladin Ahmed’s packed reading before Friday night dinner with the Black Gate folks, including editor John O’Neill, Howard Andrew Jones, James Enge, and also Rich Horton and Jason Waltz of Rogue Blades. Great people, great conversation, and a lot of fun. Then had Bar Con time with Cat Rambo, Brenda Cooper, Tom King, Matt Forbeck, John Helfers, Madison Woods and several others and also attended the Night Shade Party and met some former and future sffwrtcht guests, caught up with Jeremy Lassen, etc.

Saturday was lunch with Jay Lake, a friend I’d never met face to face, then my first group panel ever for WorldCon–Moral Ambiguity in Science Fiction–was also my first time moderating at WorldCon and was a fabulous experience. With names like Nancy Kress, Charles Stross and Jay Lake on the panel, I was prepared to just keep to myself and ask questions but all deferred to me to lead them and our interactions were a lot of fun. The standing-room-only audience seemed to enjoy it and we got many compliments after. Recorded it for a possible future podcast. Then I went to moderate Vivid Character Building which had Kay Kenyon, Carol Berg, Teresa Frohock, and Randy Henderson and I waxing about how we create characters. Fun but challenging to cover in such a format with broad strokes. Also recorded.

That pretty much wore me out for Saturday so I went back for a brief nap then hung in the bar with Jamie Todd Rubin, Kay Kenyon, Louise Marley, Jay Werkheiser, Lisa Montoya, Patrick Swenson, Tod McCoy, Jennifer Brozek and some others, a great time. Somehow in the midst of it my Space Sports anthology idea became more than just an idea and I now have a fourth antho in the works. Then on to Pink and Blue Party to celebrate and the TOR party as well. Sunday, my free day, I slept in then hung with Jean Johnson and her mum, Madison Woods, Patrick Hester, John DeNardo, Robert Silverberg, David Kyle, David Boop, Brenda Cooper, Nancy Kress, Cat Rambo, Patrick Swenson, Jennifer Brozek, Glen Cook and others. I also attended the only panel I got to in which I didn’t participate and which was a GOH panel and wound up hanging out after with Mike Resnick who had failed to recognize me like so many others due to my mustache despite speaking with me several times, one of which I’d given him gifts. It was a funny moment of recognition and we had some good laughs after. He introduced me to Jack McDevitt at long last and a few others as we walked the dealer’s room together and chatted.

Sunday night was the Hugos and it was an emotional night despite my seat in the back row boonies and a packed crowd. Having peers who are friends and coming up alongside nominated and win was touching and exciting. It added to the feeling I got from other encounters there that I had come of age and graduated from fan/wannabe into a pro member of the group. When writers whose names you know also know your name, even those you have not spoken with, its humbling and encouraging. All the more so when you become friends. Was happy with several friends’ wins including Ursula Vernon, John DeNardo, Ken Liu, Jim Hines, Charlie Jane Anders, and Cat Valente, amongst others. It was a typical award ceremony but fun to be in the room for the first time.

The after parties were a disappointment. They made it private for a while first and had rude security and for those of us with travel and early panels, it became a bust. I did finally run into a few winners and congratulate them, including E. Lily Yu, Betsy Wollheim, Liza Trombi and the Locus gals, John DeNardo and JP Frantz. Then hung with DeNardo, his wife, daughter and Patrick Hester for a bit after before bed.

Monday’s early Faith In SFF panel, which, ironically, I proposed, turned out a disappointment. Someone else moderated despite knowing I’d proposed the panel and allowed it to turn negative in ways that I don’t think were helpful. It also became more of a survey than fruitful discussion in many ways. Michael Flynn was a surprise addition and I felt he contributed some of the most helpful comments if there were any. Altogether, if I had it to do over, I would not have proposed doing that panel with others and just led it on my own with a few invited participants or at least would have skipped out on this version. Oh well. Between Sunday night’s party fiasco and that panel then low book sales and a rush to leave, Monday was mostly a bust but did get to sit down and chat a while with Jack McDevitt, who’s fantastic.

Also, Mitch Bentley’s cover from my Davi Rhii prequel ebook Rivalry On A Sky Course won Judge’s Choice Award in the ChiCon 7 Art Show so that was pretty thrilling for all involved.

That’s pretty much what went on from my perspective. Another post will go up tomorrow on some thoughts and feelings about the World Con experience.  You can find that post now here: http://bryanthomasschmidt.net/2012/09/06/worldcon-recap-part-2-a-family-reunion-coming-of-age/


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince(2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exodus will appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Books For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Lost In A Land Of Legends (forthcoming) appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012.  His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on World Encounters and Space & Shadows: SpecNoir with coeditor John Helfers, both forthcoming. He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.