Yes, I realize I’m a little late in getting this post up. It’s been hectic. Continue reading
Fencon IX was held in Dallas over the weekend (Sept. 21-23). I thought it was a great success. Of course my definition of success is pretty simple. I had a good time. In spite of some friends and/or regular attendees not being able to make it this year.
I arrived at the hotel on Friday afternoon after a long drive. The first two panels I attended were slideshows by the artist guest of honor, Donato Giancola. In the first slideshow, he discussed how he became interested in art in general and how he came to do paperback covers. The second slideshow was more about how the Old Masters and some of the modern 20th century artists influenced him. There was some overlap between the two programs, but both were worth attending. Some of the paintings he showed were from a series he jokingly called Dead Things on the Beach. Many of these haven’t been published, and they were some of my favorites. One that has been published is the cover of The Golden Rose, by Kathleen Bryan. That’s it on the right. You can see what the original painting looks like here.
Toastmaster Peter David did a great job on the opening ceremonies, throwing toast into the audience. At least until a piece landed inside one of the large bowl light fixtures.
I made a run to Half Price Books later that night with a box of items, mostly duplicates from small presses that I’d gotten in some grab bag sales, but a few things my wife wanted to get rid of. They offered me $30. It was to laugh. I thanked them, kept the books, and got considerably more (much more) than that in trade credit in the dealer’s room for about half of what I had in the box. (Thanks Willie and Zane.)
When I got back to the hotel, I hung out in the hall outside the con suite and listened to astronaut Stanley G. Love tell what all he went through to get into the astronaut program. There were some room parties that night which I visited, then went to bed.
|Finn and Simmons, Barbarians Brunching|
I bounced around several panels Saturday morning, then at noon attended Brunch with Barbarians, a joint reading between Mark Finn and Heroic Fantasy Quarterly editor Adrian Simmons. The pieces they read were good, and so was the spread.
More panels and signing that afternoon, along with a nap and dinner with Finn and Simmons. The panel on the future of space exploration was packed, with folks (including me) standing at the back. Special guest Karl Schroeder moderated a great panel on what science will look like in the far future. I missed a great deal of GoH C. J. Cherryh‘s address, but what I caught was fascinating. She was speaking on how climate change has affected empires over the historical record. I missed most of the events with the other guests. I usually spend some time listening to the musical guests, but this year I was pretty much otherwise occupied. (That’s one of the things I love most about Fencon, the music track.)
The maintenance people were working in the room across the hall from me and set off the fire alarms. The entire convention evacuated long enough to get outside and come back in.
At 5:00 that afternoon, there were a launch party for a benefit CD in the con suite. The CD is Cath, and the proceeds go to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. It’s Celtic music, probably my favorite genre, and some of my favorite artists perform on it. You can hear samples by clicking the above link. Melissa Tatum did a great job of putting this one together.
That evening I mostly hung at parties and visited with friends. I’m getting way too old to be staying up past midnight, I’m discovering.
|(Large) mammals of action: me and Todd Caldwell|
Sunday had another full slate. Donato was supposed to do a live portraiture demonstration, but he had to leave early. The two highlights of the day were the Phineas and Ferb panel (yes, yes I did attend) and the panel celebrating 80 years of Conan. If you aren’t familiar with Phineas and Ferb, you’re missing out on some of the most intelligent and creative science fiction cartoons around, one that not only gets geek culture, but treats it respectfully. If you don’t believe me, just watch the episode set in a science fiction convention. Members of the panel and audience displayed great taste in fashion, as you can see in the picture.
The Conan panel was the last one I attended, with good and thought provoking discussion. Mark Finn maintained that Conan was something of an anomaly in Howard’s work in that Conan was created for a specific market, namely Weird Tales. He says that the way women were portrayed in most of the Conan stories (Belit and Valeria being exceptions) was intended to appeal to editor Farnsworth Wright and get on the cover (and thus get paid more). As a counter-example of Howard portraying strong women, he and some of the other panelists pointed out “Sword Woman”. That was a good way to end the convention. Not wanting to leave, I reluctantly drove home.
It was a great convention. I’m looking forward to next year, although I’m not sure how big the convention will be. Worldcon will be held less than a month prior, and it will be in San Antonio.
|Ardath Mayhar, not afraid to use computer or gun|
Martha Wells posted a notice on her blog a few minutes ago that Joe Lansdale is reporting Ardath Mayhar has passed away. Mayhar was an SF/F author and SFWA Author Emeritus. She was probably best known for her novel Golden Dream: A Fuzzy Odyssey, one of several sequels to H. Beam Piper’s Fuzzy series.
I don’t have any details other than what I’ve written above. When more details become available, I’ll post them here.
I met Ardath a few times over the years at different Texas conventions. I don’t recall all of them; the ones in the 90s are a little vague. The first clear memory is when she attended the first Fencon in 2004, although I know I had met her previously. She may have been at one or two other Fencons. I hope there will be a memorial for her at this year’s event.
Ardath was a short, stocky lady who wore her hair in a tight bun, looking every bit like someone’s sweet grandmother. She often had knitting in her hands, I suspect in part because the needles could be used as weapons. For a while she allegedly carried a gun in her purse. I don’t know if she ever actually did, but it would be consistent with her personality and makes a good story, true or not. Ardath was the embodiment of feisty. Until she was physically unable to do so, she would go for walks in the snake infested woods near where she lived in East Texas.
Ardath was a blast to talk to. The last time I saw Ardath was at the 2007 Nebula Awards in Austin, Texas, where she was awarded the title of Author Emeritus. I sat in the lobby with several others and visited with her, mostly just listening. I knew it was a rare opportunity I was unlikely to ever have again. Someone else later voiced the same thought.
Aradath Mayhar was the type of character we don’t have enough of these days. She was also an accomplished writer. I have several of her fantasy novels I’ve never gotten around to reading, in addition to the things I have read. I may discuss one of them here later this year.
As usual, there was much more on the programming than I had time to attend. I didn’t make it to either slide show by the artist guests, Vincent DiFate or Stephan Martiniere. Not because I don’t like those artists. I do. It was just that there were other things conflicting with their slideshows.
Rather than try to sum up the whole convention, I’ll hit some of the high points of the events I attended, then post some pictures.
My favorite panel was the one Saturday afternoon devoted to Phineas and Ferb. Yes, yes it was. It was the most fun I’ve had at a panel in years. I hadn’t had a chance to check the schedule in detail before I left, so it was only coincidence when I put on my Perry the Platypus T-shirt that morning. Really.
I met Phillipa Ballantine (see my review of Geist) and Tee Morris. They were a lot of fun. I hope the convention brings them back. In addition to being two of the nicest people, they were also funny, high energy, and more approachable than many professionals I’ve encountered.
Other good panels include remembrances of the Shuttle, discussions of near space exploration (more than I was able to attend), and a panel on publishing scams that could have been twice as long and still not exhausted the subject.
There were plenty of room parties, although I found it offensive that the hotel posted a uniformed security guard in the hall near where the parties were being held.
Finally, one of the things I like most about Fencon is there is an entire track of programming devoted to music. This, I’ve discovered, is a great way to keep me
financially solvent out of the dealer’s room occupied when there’s not a panel or reading I want to attend. I just read and listen to the music.
I had a good time and came back much more relaxed than when I went. (I really, really, really needed the break)
|Phineas and Ferb Panel|
|Toastmaster Brad Denton signs for a fan.|
|Tee Morris and Phillipa Ballantine|
|Lou Antonelli channels Harlan Ellison by writing in public.|
|Attendees came from the North, South, East, and West|
|Publishing scams panel|
Who’s Who in the pictures, if not identified in the captions:
1. l. to r. : Gloria Oliver, Shanna Swendson, Perry the Platypus, Cathy Clamp, Todd Caldwell, Rhonda Eudaly
2. Brad Denton and Steven Silver
6. L. to r.: A. Lee Martinez, Rachel Caine, Tee Morris, Cathy Clamp, Selina Rosen, Amy Sisson