Con Review: Westercon 58

Westercon58by Tee Morris

 

Westercon 58
July 1-4, 2005
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

For people who have never attended a Westercon, this is a “floating” con sponsored by the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society but hosted by various fan groups along the west coast, southwest and northwest regions.

Let’s get the unpleasantries out of the way first. Out of the three years that I’ve attended, programming has always proved a challenge. This year, I submitted my ideas for panels and didn’t heard anything in reply. After several e-mail requests I was finally told to check a programming grid online. The grid was awkward to read, not exactly printer-friendly, and color-coded with green for “open” panels and blue for “closed.”

There was a lot of blue staring back at me.

I attributed the awkward manner in which guests were supposed to check the programming grid for themselves to Westercon’s decision to have the Con Chair serve as head of Programming. This is a lot of responsibility for one person to shoulder and should have been delegated better. I did manage to get panels though—all of them solid, fun panels that I looked forward to.

The Westin Hotel of Calgary was our host, and with “early bird” programming commencing a day early the Dealer’s Room was open for setup. I was at the Dragon Moon table alongside The Sentry Box, one of the biggest and most popular Calgary-based gaming/book stores; Edge Publishing (another Calgary-based publisher); and OnSpec Magazine. The Dealer’s Room had a lot to offer in books, jewelry, clothing and other cool stuff.

My first panel was “The Independent Press: Myths and Mythconceptions,” featuring Dragon Moon author Valerie Grisworld-Ford and myself alongside Danita Maslan (launching her debut novel, Rogue Harvest) and independent comic book artist Andrew Foley. The questions from the house (and from the panelists) foreshadowed a great con as the curiosity level from the fans and panel participants was sincere and engaging.

Dragon Moon Press publisher Gwen Gades hosted “Just Tell Me What You Want,” a two-hour seminar on what to send publishers, for both art and manuscript proposals. Robert J. Sawyer (with special guest Edo Van Belkom) presented his own solo panel, “Ask a Professional Anything,” a chance to find out what really goes into making a professional writing career. “Making a Reading Work” was my own two-hour workshop where readings, character voices and foreign accents were explored.

With all the workshops and panels, you would think Canadians are a serious bunch. Hardly. They also know how to have fun with their SF/F, as was evident with “Chicks in Chain Mail,” a panel about the popularity of kick-ass women in the genre. This panel had everything going for it—it was recorded for broadcast on Canadian radio with seven panelists, and I was the only guy on the panel… and I had to go to the bathroom.

With the first question, “What are the panelists opinions of wearing chain mail bras and, if you have, how do you deal with the chafing?” I knew this was going to be one wacky ride. The microphone eventually reached me and I finally uttered, “I’m the only guy here, I’m feeling very insecure right now, and I have to pee. Hello, Canada!” With a standing-room-only attendance, this panel was a real hoot, reminding me why this topic is a favorite of mine at cons.

Canadian Scapers were a VERY strong presence at Westercon. I was invited to participate on “Farscape: Beyond the Miniseries,” provided I prepared materials for this panel. This lead-in presentation to a widescreen showing of Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars was run by Nicola Wood of FarscapeCanada.com. I’m glad I invested time and funds in creating a sampler DVD of Farscape clips as Nicola gave a PowerPoint presentation of carefully constructed battle plans, ranging from donations to libraries to support for the upcoming Joss Whedon epic, Serenity.

Finally, Westercon 58 hosted the most book premieres I had ever seen at a weekend convention. On Friday, Danita Maslan launched her debut eco-thriller Rogue Harvest, the latest title from Robert J. Sawyer Books. EDGE Publishing launched two books on Sunday: Courtesan Prince, by Lynda Williams and Tesseracts Nine, edited by Nalo Hopkinson and Geoff Ryman. It was on Saturday when Dragon Moon held the biggest launch: Legacy of Morevi, Not Your Father’s Horseman, and Dominion. Dragon Moon’s launch also had the largest number of authors in attendance, with the most collective miles travelled: Valerie Griswold-Ford (from New Hampshire), Lai Zhao (Hong Kong), Michael R. Mennenga (Arizona), Evo Terra (also Arizona), J.Y.T. Kennedy (Alberta) and me (Virginia). The Canadian fans exceeded my expectations in their turnout.

To celebrate this incredible launch, Dragon Moon authors had reserved a suite for the weekend, dubbing it “The Dragon’s Den.” We rearranged the furniture so we could feature a bar, plenty of space for guests and a direct route to the bathroom. In one corner of the room, we had our books for sale and along the wall we had on display the covers of Dragon Moon titles. The iTunes Party Shuffle was fired up with my eclectic Science Fiction/Fantasy mix (inspired by Nth Degree’s own party mix) and the party was underway. We only had one rule for this celebration: If you spew, you clean it up and you pay for any damages. That’s it. A beautiful Dragon Moon Press cake—that we forgot to serve at the book launch—was finally cut and served to the guests, many of whom had attended our premiere. By eleven o’clock (and as it was Calgary, the sun was just setting!) the suite was in full swing. Outside on the balcony, my roommates Val and Lai shot me narrow-eyed looks as Michael R. Mennenga and I indulged in cigars. I gave myself an hour tops for my energy as I had done three panels, manned the Dragon Moon booth and premiered a book. I was running on empty and was hoping to make it to midnight.

2 a.m. That was when the last guest left, the signs on the door came down, and the room was cleaned. All three of us were stunned at the amount of leftover alcohol, so we agreed that maybe another party was in order for the following night.

After another day of panels, we decided not to wait for a formal start to the party to break in our two OnSpec shot glasses. The Dragon’s Den beverage of choice: Captain Morgan’s 1680, the drink of pirates and privateers everywhere. These may have been double-shot glasses to the land-locked Calgarians, but we “maritime opportunists” regarded them as singles… all night long.

Now what made this particular—completely off-the-cuff—party crazy was not that we were encouraging people to drink our leftover alcohol, but that the Canadians were bringing contributions to a party that was supposed to rid us of all alcohol. Valerie and I did what only good pirates could do: we shot whatever people brought us. There was “Sour Puss,” a raspberry liquor. Then some peach schnapps. The rum. And finally, a pink tequila mix called Baja Rosa. After being caught by digital cameras performing the Tragically White Boy Dance, I retired to the balcony, again with the guys, enjoying a good Cuban stogie and a beer. I honestly didn’t think this party could get any odder after some party guests spontaneously began performing yoga…

…until two words passed from party guest to party guest: Pool Party. The Westin’s pool was still open after midnight and some of our Dragon Moon regulars were in the mood for a good soaking. The room cleared pretty quickly and I bravely slipped into my black Speedos [Ah! TMI—ed.] and headed out for some hot tub fun.

The post-con crash lasted about a week, and that was on account of Westercon being nothing less than incredible. An amazing time, beyond any other con experience I’ve known.

 

Book Review: The Fantasy Writer’s Companion

FantasyWritersCompanionby Michael D. Pederson

 

The Fantasy Writer’s Companio
edited by Tee Morris and Valerie Griswold-Ford
Dragon Moon Press, 280 pp.

Yes, a sequel to The Complete Guide To Writing Fantasy. I won’t dwell on the silliness though. Instead let’s cut to the chase… How’s the book? It’s not the all-purpose reference guide that’s going to revolutionize the world of fantasy writing, but then it’s not supposed to be. What it is is entertaining and pretty darned useful. Like the Complete Guide, the Companion is mostly written by authors from the world of small press publishing, however they’ve added some more recognizable names this time around like Wen Spencer and Will McDermott.

The Companion’s thirteen chapters cover a wide range of subjects including “Developing Alternative Magic Systems,” “Writing for RPG and Media Tie-Ins” and “Writing Fantasy for the Young Reader.” With a different author tackling each chapter there’s a wide range in the quality of advice being given. Most chapters give a useful (if somewhat general) view of their topics, a few only skim the surface, and a couple are downright inspirational to the aspiring fantasy writer. Evo Terra’s section on “Herbalism in Fantasy” provides great tips on creating and naming plants and also gives a thorough laundry list of plants and herbs and how they can be used. And Lai Zhao’s chapter on “Worldbuilding in Asian Cultures” is an in-depth (32 pages) and indispensable starting point for anyone that wants to write an Asian-themed fantasy.

Overall, the book has a tendency to cater more to its authors than its readers—allowing them to reference their own (often obscure) works rather than citing more common fantasy writers (Tolkien, Brooks, Moorcock) when giving examples—but if you’re looking to “add flavor” to your writing this is a great source for new seasonings.

Con Review: Arisia ’05

Arisiaby Tee Morris

 

Arisia ‘05
January 21-23, 2005
Boston, Massachusetts
http://2006.arisia.org/

With fellow author and con-hopper Tony Ruggiero grudgingly meeting up with me at the Plaza Hotel, I was returning to Beantown after two years. In 2003, I visited Arisia and was impressed by the convention. I skipped a year just to give other January cons a try, but the return to Boston reminded me of just how good Arisia is and how I should make the trek north more often.

The weekend began with a smooth check-in at the Plaza Hotel, something I will say was a huge improvement from the last visit. In 2003, Arisia had a “hotel liaison.” Guests and con-goers needed to contact the convention, Arisia would then make the reservation via the liaison, then the liaison would confirm the reservation with the con, and then the con would confirm with the guest. It was chaos with many attendees sitting by their luggage wondering, “What the frel happened to my room?” This year, the reservations were handled directly by the Plaza. No frack-ups. Well done, Arisia.

This year’s Arisia appeared busier than 2003. With such a busy con, I salute the Boston fans running this weekend without incident or mishap. All my best to Sheila Oranch and her staff for creating tracks with great topics, easy to meet schedules and plenty of items to keep attendees busy. And extra bonus points to the con staff for commandeering the Plaza Hotel’s private channel for showing favorite SF/F/H television series and movies during the con.

The panels themselves were extremely well attended, two of the most impressive turnouts on my schedule being “The SciFi Superiority Complex: Elitism in SF/F/H” and “The George Lucas Bash-a-Thon.” The Elitism panel was a bullet-sweating moment, as one of the panelists and half the audience had read my article on this very topic appearing on StrangeHorizons.com. The discussion was passionate, spirited, and still talked about hours later. As far as “The George Lucas Bash-a-Thon,” I think the last time I had that much fun on a panel was at Balticon 38 with Mike Pederson, the Lamplighter-Wrights, and other panelists talking about Harry Potter with a ballroom filled to capacity. The jokes flew, left and right, along with the frustrations, and this panel was—much to my elation—captured and “enhanced” (with clips from Star Wars and credits) for posterity by Astronomicon’s Con Chair, Wayne Brown. I had two more panels planned for Sunday…

…but it is here where Arisia took a wild, wacky and windy turn.

Saturday afternoon, Tony and I were enjoying some downtime in the bar and watching TV. What was on, you ask? Not the New England Patriots. Not a replay of the Red Sox’s winning game. Not even a repeat of Battlestar Galactica, featuring Richard Hatch’s return to the series.

No, the TV was tuned to The Weather Channel.

We were all watching as a Nor’easter (one of the biggest and baddest in the past century) was heading our way. The lucky ones on the fringes of this storm would get six inches of snow. At the least. And the fringes of this storm were places like Manassas, Fredericksburg, and Washington, D.C. The more beer we drank, the closer the storm came, and around us attendees and local guests all said the same thing: “Eh, we’ll just ride it out. It’s not going to be that bad.” Tony and I, on the other hand, decided the best course of action was to call Amtrak and brave the storm before it hit Boston full force. Saying our goodbyes, Tony and I managed to grab one of the last cabs available in the city. The storm, it appeared, was moving faster than The Weather Channel predicted. The Plaza charged us for only one night’s stay—again, another pleasant surprise—and Amtrak was apparently having a very good day. By the time we boarded the train, Logan Airport had officially shut down. When we left Boston, the Nor’easter was on top of us. Fourteen hours later, I stepped off the train in Quantico.

I was told by guests who rode out the storm that Arisia extended itself an extra day. The Plaza was hospitable, trying not to fleece those guests unexpectedly forced to stay. Things were getting a little tense when the hotel kitchen reported that supplies were getting low, but in the end there were no “missing guests” followed by a “Dahmer Party Special” from Room Service. Logan reopened two days later and everyone made it home safely, with a few fun stories to swap with friends, post on blogs and write about for premier magazines.

In 2003, Arisia was a bumpy ride with illness, reservation mixups and a longer than usual train ride. In 2005, it was a mad dash to Amtrak through a nasty Nor’easter. You would think I would read the signs and say, “Maybe I shouldn’t do Arisia. MarsCon is closer, and Chattacon in Tennessee is less northern.” So what are my plans for January, 2006?

After a weekend like this, what can I say other than, “See you in Beantown, baby!”

 

Con Review: GalaxyCon 2

by Tee Morris

 

GalaxyCon 2
November 13-14, 2004
Greenbelt, Maryland

Media con. Two words that strike terror in the hearts of writers everywhere.

While all media cons are not created equal, there is a consistent thread between them all: Authors Approach At Your Own Risk. It’s not the fault of the con organizers (sometimes). On a whole, the people who attend media cons think authors are nice but are a far cry from James Marsters, Virginia Hey, Nana Visitor, or George Takei. The bottom line is that media cons are for television and movie stars. Authors are invited to take a place on the second tier unless they are media tie-in authors. Only then is there a bit of elevation in your class status, but not by much. That being said, I got an invitation to attend GalaxyCon 2, a new media con held in the Beltsville/College Park, Maryland area. I was invited because a friend of mine was organizing the weekend and thought the con needed more authors. The other reason I got the invite was because I am a raging fan of Farscape and Gigi Edgely was on the guest list.

Now, as I have painted media cons with this rather dark brush, I should say there are exceptions to this rule of media cons and their regard of authors, Toronto Trek was one such exception. I now add GalaxyCon 2 to that list of exceptional conventions. For such a young event, the atmosphere was pleasant and its operations (and their security… kudos to the security!) were professionally run. There was also a hint of down-to-earth camaraderie. While media guests usually remain sequestered from the rest of the guests, all the GalaxyCon guests shared the same room for autographs. There was just something cool about Battlestar Galactica’s Richard Hatch and Farscape’s Gigi Edgely stopping by your table to say “Hi” and even talk geek with us working SF stiffs. Not only were these two a lot of fun to chat with, but both of them were jumping into the spirit of the con, feet first. I found it refreshing that these two actors, one who is fresh off the success of a mini-series and the other a pop icon of 70s SF, refused to bite the hands that fed them and made a conscious effort to meet and greet the fans.

I also need to give props to Jewel (Firefly) Staite’s husband, Matt, and Gigi’s traveling companion, Marcos. Instead of trying to remain invisible, the guests’ Significant Others were also taking part in the fun; and when offered a CD of just Matt and Jewel singing karaoke together, Matt said “Well, what about pictures of everyone else? I want memories of the people we meet.” Pretty classy.

And speaking of karaoke, that was an unexpected bonus of the weekend. I have attended cons that invite celebrities to grab the mic and stumble their way through the classics. At GalaxyCon, Gigi, Richard, Marcos, and Matt (who did encourage wife Jewel to join her in a duet) all took the stage. Sadly, Angel’s Mark Lutz doesn’t do karaoke. Perhaps he was afraid of coming across looking foolish. Buffy’s Robia LaMorte was also quite hesitant until a gauntlet was thrown… by me. In response to the audience’s coaxing, Robia cried out “But I don’t know the words!” to which I came back with “Well, you could try acting.” Yes, when in doubt, aim for the ego, and actors jump like beans from Mexico.

The overall con attendance was low (which I can only attribute to a lack of advertising and promotion); but what GalaxyCon lacked in numbers, it compensated with a sense of fun and genuine sincerity. I was impressed with the attendees, all of whom were warm, enthusiastic, and having a great time. I was also a little disappointed in the lack of programming, the bulk of panels were reserved more for the media stars, but this did offer plenty of time for autographs, workshops, and a few eye-popping multimedia presentations that included the Richard Hatch-financed proposal video for Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming. (In a word… WOW! Too bad Universal and Skiffy’s Bonnie Hammer didn’t share the sentiment.) Still with its light programming schedule and two-day run, Sunday afternoon rolled around, guests and activity began winding down, and goodbyes were exchanged between staff and guests, goodbyes that were quite heartfelt. “This is one of the best times I’ve had,” Hatch admitted. That is something con organizers really appreciate hearing.

Did I sell a lot of books? No. Did I make any contacts? No. So what did I get out of GalaxyCon? Quite a lot. I made some new friends with the I-Maniacs, the GC Staff, and a few young fans of SF/F. I sang Sinatra’s “My Way,” arm-in-arm with Richard Hatch, Marcos, Matt, and a score of guys. I talked web design with Gigi Edgely, and I also got a gem of a story concerning The DaVinci Code that will be providing a lot of laughs in future talks. This was a con that I walked away with many wonderful memories, and a con that reminded me of exactly why I genuinely enjoy this weird and wacky genre of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

 

Con Review: FantaSci 3

by Tee Morris

 

FantaSci 3
July 24, 2004
Chesapeake, Virginia

I first paid a visit to the Chesapeake Public Library when traveling with Tony Ruggiero and Walter H. Hunt during the Semper SciFi Tour. Along with it being an impressive building with terrific facilities—the staff headed by Jim Blanton—the three of us were given a warm reception by those attending the panel discussion. We enjoyed the evening immensely, and that was when Jim began to tell me about FantaSci 3. Tony had already volunteered me for the day-long event, but as it was so close to my wife’s projected (note, I say, projected) delivery date, I could only give a tentative “Well, let’s see how things go.” As first pregnancies go, my baby daughter showed up far earlier than the doctors and the sonograms indicated. Along with the arrival of a healthy baby girl, I could also celebrate the fact that I was not going to miss out on this one-day event held in Chesapeake, Virginia.

As many of you read in my review of Clovercon 2003 [Nth Degree #10], I am not a stranger to small cons. Provided they are done right, small conventions can be just as rewarding and as fun as the bigger weekends like Balticon, Arisia, or Philcon. Clovercon was not one of these small conventions done right. FantaSci 3, however, was a one-day event that I would love to see extended into two.

Jim Blanton is the first con chair that seemed to be enjoying every minute of running from Point A to Point B, checking to make sure that the guests were happy and the program panels were running on time. His enthusiasm was contagious, even to me! Instead of a con staff looking as if they would cut you down with a lightsabre, Jim and his staff of two were having as much fun as the attendees, and those attendees were making the most of this one-day celebration of science fiction, fantasy, and fandom. The turnout was very impressive (if not slightly unsettling to the rest of the library’s staff) for FantaSci—a collection of anime fans, dealers with hard-to-find comic books or CCG extension packs, and local Star Wars enthusiasts displaying prop reproductions, detailed models, and costumes galore. (And yes, even the Scapers made a showing with a booth promoting the upcoming Farscape: Peacekeeper Wars!) I shared a table with author Tony Ruggiero, and we spent the afternoon meeting, greeting, and enjoying the company of FantaSci. Now don’t let FantaSci fool you—they are only in their third year but they did have a terrific special guest show up for the morning, and no, I’m not referring to their local hero, Tony Ruggiero or me, the new proud papa. No, I refer to the master of late night macabre, the scientist who knows no shame when he shows the best of the worst B-grade horror movies. I speak of none other than Dr. Madblood.

If you’re not in the Southeastern Virginia area, you probably have no clue of whom I’m talking about. Before I knew Elvira and long before I watched Joel achieve orbit in the Satellite of Love, I had to get the rabbit ears on my television just right to pick up the fuzzy signal from Norfolk. Dr. Madblood was the first “late night-comedy-creature feature” I had ever seen on television, and there was something a bit nostalgic and a little reassuring to know that he was still on the air and doing his thing. (With the direction of programming the SciFi Channel has taken, I’m surprised Dr. Madblood and his gang haven’t pitched their show to them.) His crew were putting their full support behind FantaSci, getting the word out on the air about this one-day convention.

I only had one panel, immediately following Tony’s one panel, and then we hosted a Writers’ Workshop as a finale to FantaSci, and the only feedback that reached us was positive. At the end of the day, we made certain to let Jim know how much we enjoyed ourselves and that FantaSci is destined for bigger and better things than just a one-day event. Jim would love nothing more than to see his brainchild grow, but that would require a growth in attendance and (no offense intended to Tony or myself) “established” names in the genre. While small press authors have no issues with selling their works out of their suitcases, some larger press authors may turn their noses up to that. It would be their loss because FantaSci was time well spent, and I am already counting the days until next year for FantaSci 4.

 

Book Review: Billibub Baddings and the Case of the Singing Sword

BillibubBaddingsby Michael D. Pederson

 

Billibub Baddings and the Case of the Singing Sword
Tee Morris
Dragon Moon Press, 288 pp.

The author describes this book as “The Lord of the Rings meets Mickey Spillane.” Cynics will say that Glen Cook has already mined that concept about as deep as it can go with his Garrett P.I. stories but Morris has struck on a rich vein here. A magical mission to protect his homeland of Acryonis sends the dwarven warrior Billibub Baddings and nine magic artifacts through a Portal of Oblivion and into our world. Billi ends up in Chicago in the late 1920s and the magic items are scattered across the globe. A­fter acclimating to life in the Windy City, Billi sets up shop as a private investigator. When the inevitable beautiful dame hires him to investigate the death of her mobster boyfriend, Billi discovers that every gangster in the city is searching for The Singing Sword. The sword doesn’t really sing but it is one of the magic doodads from Acryonis and, in the wrong hands, could bring about Really Bad Things. Will Billi beat Capone and Moran to the sword? Well, of course he will but there are enough clever twists along the way to keep you turning the pages. Morris cleverly plays the clichés of fantasy, detective, and gangster stories off of each other in a carefully plotted, subtly witty, action-packed thriller. I haven’t enjoyed a cross-genre detective story this much since Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. And with nine magic items on the loose you can bet that there will be plenty of sequels; Billi discovers in this volume that the Nazis have one of the artifacts so you just know that he’ll eventually end up fighting Sauron… er, uh… I mean Hitler.

 

Con Review: Clovercon 2004

Cloverby Tee Morris

 

Clovercon 2004
March 19-21, 2004
St. Louis, Missouri

Where to begin?

When you throw a con, this should be the first question you, the Con Chair, and your staff of dedicated volunteers should ask before the first con attendee arrives. Exactly where do you need to begin to throw a good con? Do you book your guests and then concentrate on the programming? Or is the focus of your weekend concentrated in gaming tournaments, side-stepping the need for the obligatory guests of honor or panel discussions? Or is your plan to kick back with fellow fans and revel a few days away in a three-day party?

Where to begin?

A simple question that needs a simple answer, and with CloverCon 2004, a con in St. Louis held on the week of St. Patrick’s Day, this is a question that should be answered before their 2005 con.

Where to begin?

CloverCon is only in its second year, but they are in desperate need of deciding what kind of convention they want to be. At present, their biggest obstacle is deciding whether or not to be a convention that features guests, panels, and activities, or if they are a “Relaxicon” where Programming is as casual as the con’s attendees. If it doesn’t come to a conclusion as to what it wants to be, Clovercon may fall to a Leprechaun’s curse of bad luck and misfortune in attracting special guests.

I was traveling with Tony Ruggiero from Virginia, hardly “around the corner” from the Show Me State, but we found out that Clovercon’s Media GoH Bob Bergen (the voice of Porky Pig from Cartoon Network’s Duck Dogers) was flown in from Los Angeles, so there was an assumption that this event was ambitious and ready to come out of the box strong. Both of us were assured before flying out there that a schedule for programming would be in place, even though the website (www.clovercon.com) provided vague information for those interested in the weekend. We arrived at registration. No schedule was ready. We got word from the con chair that there would be a schedule in place by Saturday morning, so Tony and I assured ourselves this long trip was not in vain.

When Saturday morning came, so did the schedule. It was bad enough they had me on panels from 10 am to 4 pm with no breaks, but at 12 pm I was scheduled for three different panels in three different locations. “I was up until four this morning putting the schedule together,” said the Con Chair. It was clear that this schedule was, in fact, thrown together with no thought, care, or concern. Tony and I, grabbed breakfast and coffee, sat down, and rescheduled our events, giving ourselves uptime and downtime throughout the day. (A personal note: I doubt if many guests, literary, media, or otherwise, would do something like this. As Clovercon was a new convention, this luxury was offered. Tony and I were also determined to make the trip worthwhile.) Unfortunately, reprogramming our individual Programming did not solve all the issues Clovercon’s lackadaisical attitude spawned. Unlike past new conventions like JerseyDevilCon and ShowMeCon (another local St. Louis SF/F con) that would hold panels in convention rooms, meeting rooms, and (in some cases) hotel rooms, panel areas for Clovercon included the hotel lobby, bar alcoves, and a large banquet room. Perhaps the hotel had nothing else to offer, but what Clovercon offered were not great places for panel discussions. Panel setup was also given an overly casual approach. Media GoH Bob Bergen was told for his voice workshop that “people would just help themselves to chairs when they walk in.” For the price of Clovercon’s (or any con’s) admission, its staff needs to tend to details, provide for their paying customers, and assist their GoHs in presenting their panels or workshops. If this issue remains unaddressed, this con might find it difficult booking GoHs and assorted guests of any kind.

With this being said, why am I planning to go to CloverCon in 2005?

Again I ask, where to begin?

I have visited many cons in my first two years as a writer, but Clovercon featured some of the nicest, sweetest people I have met in fandom. The con staff were thrilled to be there and went out of their way made all the guests feel welcome. The St. Louis hospitality started with a pickup from the airport. A very nice touch. Then we were told that the CloverCon staff had bought several kegs for the weekend in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, so beer at the bar was free until Clovercon’s kegs ran out. (They were empty before Saturday night!) Opening Ceremonies was a mandatory event for all guests. It was mandatory because all the guests, not just the GoHs, were featured and introduced to con attendees present on Friday. That was a very nice, formal introduction. Another impressive trait of Clovercon was its Dealers’ Room. Along with two weapon makers that brought enough inventory to arm a small country, there were collectables (one in particular featured an impressive Farscape collection), anime, and fabrics that would make Hollywood seamstresses swoon! Finally, matching the enthusiasm of the Clovercon staff, the St. Louis fans were extremely amicable. While I still consider myself a “new kid” in the SF/F/H arena (and will for some time, I think), it means a great deal to me when fans welcome me into the fold, making a genuine effort to get to know me and my work, and welcoming me to “the SF/F fandom family.” At Clovercon, they went out of their way to do so. These fans (including the “Pudge Weasels” who inducted me and Tony into their club!) made the trip worthwhile and provided enough motivation for me to plan for Clovercon 2005.

It is this core of people, both Clovercon’s organizers and attendees, that will help this con achieve its potential. I can see it. Only in its second year, Clovercon could very well be a weekend of “Aeryn (Sun) Go Braugh!” and green beer served alongside blue Romulan Ale. I can see that spark. I think this con could grow to be a classic con if its staff buckles down and commits itself to holding a wonderful weekend of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, St Patrick’s Day style. The desire is there. The heart is there. The potential is there. But for Clovercon to reach that pot of gold at the end of the convention, they’ve got to get their act together in Programming, preparation, and a dedication to being what kind of convention it wants to be. Otherwise, CloverCon could fade away, much like a rainbow.

 

Book Review: Morevi

Moreviby Michael D. Pederson

 

Morevi: The Chronicles of Rafe and Askana
Lisa Lee and Tee Morris
Dragon Moon Press, 512 pp.

It’s high fantasy! It’s historical fiction! Two, two, two books in one! A very clever setup. Rafe Rafton is a privateer for Henry VIII, Askana Moldarin is Queen of Morevi in the world of Naruihm. Thanks to a rift in the space-time continuum (yes, it’s an old and tired device but this is fantasy not SF, call it magic and everyone’s happy) our heroes are able to cross between the two worlds. It’s been done before but Lee and Morris have fleshed out both worlds so fully that this worn-out plot device works better than it has in years. The story… Rafe and his crew are hired by Askana to root out a conspiracy that threatens her throne. After rescuing her from assassins the group travels back to England to recruit allies. The following adventure brings us magic, intrigue, romance, tragedy, beasties, and one heckuva climactic battle. The book does have some flaws though that would have been fixed with a more thorough editing job—it’s nearly 150 pages before the concept of magic is introduced, the ending comes too far after the climax, and there are some glaring anachronisms—but I’ll always overlook a few flaws if the characters are good, and these characters are on the verge of stepping off the page and raiding your fridge. This is true swashbuckling adventure!