SC Comicon


Even though in recent years Myrtle Beach has not one but two comic conventions (XCon and Myrtle Beach Comicon), I have been keeping an eye on SC Comicon in Greenville. Last year it was the same weekend as XCon and even so I was tempted to go as it had the far superior guest list. I like the Greenville area but haven’t been there since a now defunct hot air balloon festival a few years ago, so some year seems like it would be a good idea to go.

I’ve been listening to the podcasted recordings of panels from this year’s event published by The Dollar Bin podcast. It is impressive how good each and every one of them has been. Even though I am grumpy about media guests, the panel with John Wesley Shipp was one of the best I’ve ever heard for a genre actor.

I think I have to make it a priority to push this con up the stack. They haven’t named a date for 2016, but one of these years I need to go. The previous two years have ranged from March to May, so I assume next year will be somewhere springish. I can only hope the dealer’s room is to my liking, which is less about geegaws and DVDs and toys, and more about boxes and boxes of cheap old comics. If so, step over me as I hunch over the boxes with my list until my aging back gets too sore. I can’t wait.

No Balticon in 2015

As much as I’d like to go to Balticon this year, yet again it is not happening. There is always next year (my rallying cry since 2011.) Have the fun for me!

Bag of Holding


I in no way need another bag. I have multiple backpacks provided by employers on top of the various ones purchased myself. In addition I have multiple bags that come from conferences. I have so many that I have taken to setting different ones up for different contexts. I have the backpack I take for work and work travel; I have the backpack for personal travel; I have the backpack for taking the child out to events; I have the messenger bag I like to take when I am riding my bike.

That said, despite my complete lack of need for such a thing, I find this Think Geek bag purpose built for taking to SF and comic conventions to be crazy sweet. The whole reason why I mix and match my bags is that none of them are perfect. Some have the water bottle mesh side pockets, some have the laptop compartments and the inner pocket with lots of pen and pencil slots. I love the idea of taking the needs of a specific event and crafting a bag to address it. I have probably taken all of my backpacks to some convention or another and none are perfect. And it is only $30 so not even expensive.

But I don’t need it. Really I don’t. Really. I don’t. Need it.

XCon 2010 Wrapup with My Bob Camp Story

Bob Camp at XCon 2010

This year I attended the XCon comic book convention in Myrtle Beach at Springmaid Beach Resort a few weekends ago, as I have for all three years of its existence. I’m told the attendance was the largest so far and on the growth track that one might expect for the third year of a newish regional con. I had a good time myself. This was the longest time I ever spent on the floor, getting there right at when it opened on Friday at 2 PM and staying through about 5 PM or so, and then spending another 5 or so hours on Saturday. It’s one of those things where a convention in the town you already live in is tougher to spend time at than an out of town one. When I go to Heroescon or Dragon*Con, I check into a nearby hotel and basically do nothing but the con. When I go to XCon, I still have all my normal life in play to work around.

There seemed to be fewer of the ultra-cheap comic dealers at the con this year. I do my standard heuristic where I scope out all the boxes, and then dig through the boxes in order of cheapest up. What I do is try to go through each dealer’s bargain bins thoroughly all the way, one time and one time only. It takes a while but going back and forth is a super drag and very difficult to keep track of. Thus, once I’m done I’m done. I did find a fair number of books I was looking for. It’s one of those great feelings in a comic collectors life finding books that were already on your wishlist in 50 cent or 3/$1 boxes.

Dalek at XCon 2010

There seemed to be a lot of gaming around. If I had a little more time to devote to it I would have actually tried to get into one of the games of Fiasco that were being run by Darren G. Miller. I had just read up on the game a few days before the con and then in one of those small town coincidences met Darren when he was talking to one of his friends who is also on my softball team. There was a good bit of buzz around the area with the games being run and a lot of smiling people that seemed to be having a good time. There were lots of costumes, and a thing called “Lolita cafe” that seemed to involve lots of the young women cosplayers and what one dude on Twitter wondered “how this wasn’t getting the whole venue shut down.” I never did venture upstairs to see what it was all about.

I got books signed by local comics pro Jonathan Hickman and chatted to him a little about Thor and Nick Fury, two characters he is currently writing. Over the course of my time, I tried to pick up something from a lot of the pros that had books for sale. I’d guess that I bought a little something from around half the guests at the tables. Generally if the only thing available were higher priced paintings and sketches I passed, but if you had a comic for a few bucks, I got that. I feel a little bad for the media guests every year. I never know who the people are, not many folks are talking to them and I usually just walk past them briskly.

I will have to say that one of the coolest part of the whole deal was the full size Dalek. It had a voice treatment that sounded spookily authentic and moved about like the Daleks in all the Dr. Who shows I’ve watched. I was assuming a dude had a radio control setup with a microphone and I kept looking for it. Eventually I found out there was a guy inside the Dalek. Holy time lords, that is dedication! I can’t imagine actually doing that but I’m a little claustrophobic.

All in all, I had a good time. I heard some of the organizational stuff about 2011 already, and I think they are going to a solid 2 day Saturday/Sunday con and getting rid of the half Friday, which I think is a good move. Overall, I think things are right where you want them to be and progressing nicely. It’s nice to have a local con and especially one that is more relaxing than the heavyweight other Southeastern cons.

So here is the Bob Camp part of the story. He was an inaugural guest at year one, and came back this year. I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of Ren and Stimpy, of which he was a co-creator. I like it well enough whenever it was on TV but I never sought it out. Still, he seems like a really great guy and folks who had talked to him report it being really fun. I would have enjoyed that and I was looking for a reason to talk to him.

Bob Camp Sketch from XCon 2010

As I was browsing through some of the magazine boxes (where I found a copy of an old Warren Spirit!), I ran across Savage Tales #5. I remember buying issue #1 when I was a teenager, mainly because of the Michael Golden artwork. As I pulled it out and looked for it, I noticed the signature on the cover painting – Bob Camp. “Hell yeah,” I though to myself and gladly shelled out the $2 for this very nice copy and took it over to Bob’s table to get it signed.

His eyes kind of bugged out when I handed it to him to sign. He said “Wow! I haven’t seen that in years. I did the painting and sold the original, and I don’t even have a copy of this issue. The only scan I have is low resolution and not that great.” My reply was to hand him the copy and tell him to keep it. “I’m not attached to it,” I said. “I’ve only owned it a few minutes.” He felt bad about just taking the magazine so he offered to do a “really nice sketch for me” in exchange for it. I said sure and went off about my business. I gave him some time and came back about half an hour later, and he handed me the Ren and Stimpy pencil sketch to the right. Check out the full-sized scan on Flickr to get a sense of what it really looks like. I really like it. He did not lie, it is indeed really nice.

So, it was neat to have this little exchange with Bob. To be honest, even without him giving me the sketch I would have given him the magazine just for the story of it all. It was a win-win. I got a nice sketch that he was selling for $20 in exchange for a magazine I paid $2 for. He got a copy of his work that he had been missing for 25 years in exchange for a few minutes of drawing time. I got to talk to him and hang out, and he seemed really happy to have the copy to scan. These are the kinds of moments I always shoot for at cons, and it was great to get one at my local show. Rock on, comic nerds!

XCon 2010 – Myrtle Beach’s Comic Book Convention

Starting tomorrow and running through Sunday Oct 24, the 3rd annual XCon comic book convention will be held at Springmaid Beach Resort in Myrtle Beach. The con was the cover story of this week’s Weekly Surge, so hopefully that will help bring some locals in. I did like the cover with it’s Marvel style cover including Steve and Robin as superheroes launching off of Springmaid Pier.

I’ve been to all of them so far and am looking forward to this one as well. It’s a no brainer, occurring in my area as it is. I tend to focus on filling in my wishlist from the cheap comic boxes. Last year there were several vendors with 3/$1 boxes and I’d be delighted to see some more of them this year. I’m also planning on getting a lot of stuff signed by area comics creator Jonathan Hickman. I met him at the first XCon and bought everything he had published at the time, which was mostly his Image work. Since then, he’s come on strong as a hot ticket writer for Marvel Comics. I just recently bought and enjoyed his Ultimate Thor so I’ll be getting that signed and chatting with him about it for sure.

One of the nice things about this con is that its the opposite of Dragon*Con or Heroes Con. It’s growing but still a pretty small regional con. You have plenty of time and room to shop, and lots of chances to talk to and interact with creators. As much as I enjoy those larger cons, they exhaust me with the bustle and size of them. I don’t mind having one at the opposite end of the spectrum in my year as well. Hope I see you there!

Write A Song in One Hour: Balticon 44

At Balitcon 44, I participated in a panel that was one of the most fun things I’ve ever been a part of at any SF or comic convention in my 25+ years of attending them. The panel was called “How to Write a Kick-Ass Song About Anything.” I went thinking it was going to be songwriters at the front of the room talking about writing songs but in fact, the brilliantly cracked minds of the organizers had something bigger in mind. Instead, people were gathered at the front of the room with instruments and they laid out the plan: We’d take 5 minutes to brainstorm a theme, 5 minutes for a chord structure, 10 minutes to write a chorus and then split up into smaller groups to write the verses.

The panel was officiated by James Durham, with Norm Sherman, Kim Fortuner and Mattie Brahen serving as the more experienced guides. I am proud to say that one of the early bits of input that steered the whole experience was mine. In response to “What will this song be about?” I threw in “Everyone seems to love the steampunk nowadays. How about something steampunkish?” As more suggestions piled up, we added ornithopters and dragons to the mix.The (metaphorical) gears engaged after that, and the panel decided it would be bluesy so we needed a reason why a dragon and an ornithopter would be down in the mouth. The group decided that the dragon had lost its flame and somewhere in there that the dragon powers the ornithopters and the loss of flame meant that the protagonist was now losing the war. This lead to the chorus “Like a toothless gear, like an empty flagon, there is nothing more pathetic than a smokeless dragon.” Rock on!

From there, we split up into two groups. I’m not sure how the other group worked, but ours had a lot of fun writing the first verse. There were definitely people in the room who were kind of watching in bemusement, but for the people who were engaged and throwing out suggestions, every single person had an idea or word or phrase that ended up in the final song. By and large, people worked together quite good. I can tell you that every point at which someone revised something I had suggested, the revision was better than the original. For example, I suggested “broken gear” in the chorus, and later on, someone else pointed out that “toothless gear” worked better with the dragon theme, which is absolutely true. I told James later on that the only thing I would have changed is to change the ground rules such that no one can ever tell anyone else “No” to any suggestion. The only possibility is to come up with alternatives that people feel are superior. It’s kind of a dick move to say “Your input isn’t good enough”, and I think it is much better with less stress to just put in something else. The mode of operation should always be to take the best suggestion on the table, and if you don’t like it then improve it .

With that said, it was all good. The two groups exchanged just enough information so that we could keep the narratives making sense. With no real coordination our group set the stage with a first verse and the other one resolved a lot of stuff. It was kind of freaky how well the two independent verses worked when we put them together. The musicians played and the room sang the song through a few times, then we performed it to record a few times and we were done. Holy moley was the whole thing fun, beginning to end. It was funny how Mattie Brahen, an old school filker and the only panelist not in our new media subscene, started out really skeptical and eventually really got into it. I talked to her in the hall afterwards and she admitted that at the beginning she was pretty sure we were all crazy. She may have been right.

I stand by my belief that this is in the top five SF con moments I’ve ever had. It demystified a lot of the creative process and showed how the songs weren’t these perfect gems that popped into being but something you work and work and work until it becomes what you want from it. The talent of the musicians and the very tight constraints helped a lot. We had 50 minutes total before we had to leave the room, so the song had to be written and recorded with no room for spinning wheels. If they ever do this again at a Balticon, I highly recommend you try to be in that room.

Special Correspondent for Technorama

I’m still barely dribbling out the con reports from my trip to Balticon and in that time since I’ve been writing them, I’ve been to a whole other con, Heroescon in Charlotte last weekend. I had a lot of fun there, did comic shopping and autograph hunting and all the things a fanboy does at a good sized comic con. This year I also did a few interviews as “special correspondent” for the Technorama podcast. Thanks to Kreg Steppe for lending me his H2 for an hour to walk around and interview a few folks and then toss it back to him for him to do the actual work of making a show from them.

Check out the episode here and let me know what you think. It was a blast to be able to do this work outside of my own shows and just cut loose. I highly recommend it to all podcasters. It really is invigorating.

My Balticon 44 (2010) Wrapup, Part 2

Part two of Balticon by strobe light.

Saturday evening: I was on a panel at 5 PM with Phil Rossi, Norm Sherman, Dan Tabor and Thomas Gideon. It was called “Art, Music and Literature in an Age of Technological Reproducibility.” We talked about creative commons licensing and the ethics of piracy and how not to freak out when people lift your creative work. It was a fine panel and I think we all acquitted ourselves just fine. Afterwards I had dinner with Gideon, Mistress Jett, Dan Tabor and MA in the PA (who knitted my bad ass Jayne hats), and Kevin Crosby. Kevin gave me an enormous amount of legal advice that I can use for my movie, not really specific answers but ways that I should be asking the questions. It was all great.

After coming back from dinner, we ran into Phil Rossi in front of the hotel. I asked if he needed any help loading in, and he said no, “… But. I could use a guitar tech to help keep these guitars in tune.” This is where it got a little weird. I found out later that Phil was under the impression I was a guitar player, which I am not. I played bass when I was younger but stopped 22 years ago. I asked if he had a tuner, and offered to do it if he couldn’t find anyone else more qualified.

I went and did some other stuff and then went back to the room a little before the show and we committed that I would do the job. It sort of became like a waking version of one of those anxiety dreams, where I’m on “stage” (really the front of a hotel ballroom) with only minimal ideas of what I’m doing. As Phil traded guitars between his acoustic and electric, I’d take them off to the side, plug them into the electronic tuner and go. I said before that I’m not a guitar player but I’m not color blind and I can read the difference between red and green LEDs. The first time I tuned Phil’s acoustic I had a true bit of stress because I could not get the B string right. I wasn’t sure how much song remained, whether this guitar was going to be used the next song or later, and how much longer it would take or even if I could ever get the damn thing right. Finally, I turned loose of it about 45 seconds before Phil was looking for it. Bullet ducked.

Overall, the whole thing was kind of like those anxiety dreams I still have to this day. Usually in them, I’m in a test that I am not prepared for or realize it is the end of a semester and I forgot to drop a class I long since stopped attending. Standing just offstage tuning guitars that I’m not exactly sure how to work is pretty similar to that. It was a good experience though. I really dig Phil’s music and was glad to be a minor part of it. Check out Phil’s stuff, for Dobbs’ sake!

My Balticon 44 (2010) Wrapup, Part 1

I have a bad habit of starting chronological convention wrapups, being too detailed and burning out before I finish. Instead, I’m going to recap this year’s Balticon anecdote by anecdote. I will feel no compunction to do it in any particular order or in any number of posts. I’ll write until I feel done and hit publish, then lather rinse and repeat.

Overview: This year definitelly felt smaller and less crowded overall. There seemed to be fewer big literary guests and a lot of groups that had hallway tables in previous years weren’t there this year. I saw a few tweets from people that seemed bummed by this year. However, from my experience of mostly participating on the new media track with some forays into broader fandom at times, I thought it was even more fun than last year. I did a few things differently. I ended up not even deploying my promotional stuff. I didn’t stress about keeping stickers and flyers stocked around the con. Instead I focused on really rocking the three panels I was on, seeing friends and having fun.

One of the rules I set for myself was to not repeat meal partners anytime during the weekend. If I were invited to dinner and I had already dined with anyone in that group, I had to pass. It worked quite well and I avoided the comfort zone of locking in with a few people and socializing only with that small group. I like it so much I think that will become my standard con MO from here on out. I also made a point of trying to talk to as many people as possible and being open to as broad a set of shenanigans as possible. That worked out pretty well for me and I’ll get to some of those anecdotes later.

Saturday night: Viv Schubert organized a “nerd prom” that was held in one of the programming rooms. I helped set up some of it after being a spontaneous guitar tech (that will be its own anecdote later.) Kevin Crosby and I ran cables and secured bits of Tee Morris‘ DJ setup at the head of the room. When things were in hand there, I went up to my room and changed in to my costume. Anyone familiar with me or this blog knows I have one and only costume to wear at SF conventions. It was my “Señor Muerte” costume consisting of the luchadore mask I bought in Portland OR and the tights and wrestling boots bought for me by my wife, ring ready gear mind you. When the voting came time, all the participants in the nerd prom costume contest lined up into a gauntlet or catwalk where we all walked down and back to show off our costumes. Mine was the very last name called (only the character, I didn’t know we were supposed to put real names on there.) As I walked to the head of the room, about one second before I got there I hatched a plan to do my catwalk in a combination of a stomp and a monkey walk. I did a jump at each end and returned to my place.

In one of the odder moments of an odd night, a guy who was already wearing a wrestler costume that included a kid’s prop WWE belt. This guy, who I didn’t know and never got his name, gave me that belt to become part of my costume. “I’ve got 9 more at home, you should have this.” Thank you, dude who I don’t know. I heard later he was trying to hand it to me during my walk but I hope I’m giving away no secrets if I tell you “Mexican wrestler masks are the mortal enemy of peripheral vision.” This prop belt had no fastening hardware but I remembered from setting up the room where the duct tape was, and Phillipa Ballantine was kind enough to tape it to me. I am pretty sure that I’m the only person in that room whose costume became more ornate and more complete as I attended the party.

After about 10 minutes, they announced the winners in a few categories. I had a joke about the voting being rigged ready to go when they announced “Prom King” and it was me. At that point, I knew for a fact it had to be corrupt but it was in my favor so I kept my mouth shut. I joined the Prom Queen, Helen “Cynical Woman” Madden at the front of the room. We put on our sashes, tried to put on the crown and tiara but both were already wearing headgear that precluded it so we had to do the best we could. It was a completely insane amount of fun. I wore my “Prom King” sash all the rest of that night, and all day the next day. In order to make it the maximally Andy Kaufman-esque street theater I refused to explain the origin of the sash to anyone that needed to ask. The rest of that night involved having many conversations with many people, which was a complete blast. I also got kicked out of the hotel bar, in a full luchadore outfit, for carrying in a cup to talk to people. In retrospect, I should have taken the bar manager and put him into the atomic piledriver.

That’s all I can take for tonight. Many more tales of shenanigans later.

XCon in Myrtle Beach is NOW

Myrtle Beach’s comic book convention XCon is happening this weekend at the Springmaid Beach Resort. This turns out to be a huge weekend in the Grand Strand with multiple Oktoberfests, the fall bike rally, the Live Oak Art and Music Festival plus I’m sure other stuff. It’s going to take an unusually early trip to the dog park just to get this all in.

I’ll be spending what time I can out at the XCon convention, shopping for comics and getting books signed by the creators . I’m looking forward to meeting Roy Thomas, Frank Brunner, Joe Staton, Jonathan Hickman and the other creators. I could use some escapism. Hope to see you there!

My Dragon*Con Schedule Reminder

I’m reposting my Dragon*Con schedule. I did it a few weeks ago but to keep it current in blog world I’m doing it again. I decided to drive in early Friday morning rather than spend Thursday in ATL. I’d get there too late for anything useful anyway, so I might as well reserve that evening for last minute preparation and to spend it with my wife and dog.

The one thing I continue to need help with is publicizing of the “Podcasting Tips for Working Writers” panel. There is a constituency of writers that will be at Dragon*Con that are exactly the people I’d like to reach and be of service to but I’m not sure of the best way to communicate to them that this panel exists. If you are a writer, have writer friends who are going please spread around the link love and/or invite folks via the Facebook event linked below.

Finally, for my personal friends or any internet friends that want to get together, starting Friday at the butt crack of dawn we enter “crazy chaos zone” and it won’t end until I cross I-285 on my way out of town Monday. I’m up for dinner and/or drinks with anyone that can mutually arrange it. If you’re my friend and don’t have my cell, email me before Friday morning and let’s exchange cell numbers. I will swallow my pride, hold my nose and use my dormant Twitter account for the duration of the con. It sucks but this is really the one good use it has in my life. If you follow that, some basic telemetric coordination can be achieved. I hope to see and hang out with my friends, make new ones like I always do and generally live the good life with the best of Southeastern fandom. I came up through Georgia SF fandom in the 80s so my roots in this shindig are deep. See you there!

Podcasting Track Kick Off!

Friday, September 4 at 1 PM, Hilton 204

Panelists: Dave Slusher, Scott Sigler, Len Peralta, Veronica Belmont, George Hrab and moderated by Swoopy

Join some of your favorite podcasters as we take the temperature of the Podcasting world, and talk about some of our best moments of the past year.

Facebook Event for this panel

Podcasting Tips for Working Writers

Saturday, September 5 at 2:30 PM, Hilton 204

Panelists: Mur Lafferty, Dave Slusher, Michael Stackpole, Scott Sigler, Christiana Ellis, P.G. Holyfield

A discussion with authors and podcasters who have turned the art of the podcast novel into a formula for publishing success.   

Facebook Event for this panel

Reality Break – LIVE!

Sunday, September 6 at 10 PM, Hilton 204

Panelists: Dave Slusher, Keith R. A DeCandido

Come be in the audience for a live taping of the Reality Break podcast with author Keith R. A. DeCandido. He is currently the author of the Farscape comic books from Boom Studios. Keith has a bibliography longer than a yeti’s arm and there is a good chance than everyone at Dragon*Con has read something he has written.

Facebook Event for this panel   

Social Media Overload

Monday, September 7 at 1 PM, Hilton 204

Panelists: Dave Slusher (What? I’ll have to dragoon people to joine me if there are no others.)

Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Flickr – Are we still creating content or just floating along on the stream? Discuss the pros and cons of social networking as it pertains to podcasting.

Facebook Event for this panel

All in all, that’s a highly reasonable schedule. I’ve certainly done many more panels in a single convention. The biggest bummer about the way Dragon*Con is organized now is that there seems to be little or no overlap between programming tracks. I attended Dragon*Con as a science fiction guest every year from 1993 to 2000 and would love to be back on some of the SF panels again, but once I got slotted in as a Podcaster track guest that seemed to be it. I’m not a big enough fish to catch anyone’s attention across tracks, I guess. I’m just happy to be going and doing this one more time.

My Dragon*Con Schedule

Here are the things I’ll be doing at the upcoming Dragon*Con convention. I’m trying to get things together and have created Facebook events for them. I’m doing one live taping of Reality Break and then two of the three other panels are ones I suggested and am moderating. That’s a little heavier responsibility load in terms of making the wheels go so I’m trying to get it together up front. For those 98% of you already on Facebook, feel free to RSVP via the events and spread them around, especially to your Dragon*Con goer friends.

Podcasting Track Kick Off!

Friday, September 4 at 1 PM, Hilton 204

Panelists: Dave Slusher, Scott Sigler, Len Peralta, Veronica Belmont, George Hrab and moderated by Swoopy

Join some of your favorite podcasters as we take the temperature of the Podcasting world, and talk about some of our best moments of the past year.

Facebook Event for this panel

Podcasting Tips for Working Writers

Saturday, September 5 at 2:30 PM, Hilton 204

Panelists: Mur Lafferty, Dave Slusher, Michael Stackpole, Scott Sigler, Christiana Ellis, P.G. Holyfield

A discussion with authors and podcasters who have turned the art of the podcast novel into a formula for publishing success.   

Facebook Event for this panel

Reality Break – LIVE!

Sunday, September 6 at 10 PM, Hilton 204

Panelists: Dave Slusher, Keith R. A DeCandido

Come be in the audience for a live taping of the Reality Break podcast with author Keith R. A. DeCandido. He is currently the author of the Farscape comic books from Boom Studios. Keith has a bibliography longer than a yeti’s arm and there is a good chance than everyone at Dragon*Con has read something he has written.

Facebook Event for this panel   

Social Media Overload

Monday, September 7 at 1 PM, Hilton 204

Panelists: Dave Slusher (What? I’ll have to dragoon people to joine me if there are no others.)

Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Flickr – Are we still creating content or just floating along on the stream? Discuss the pros and cons of social networking as it pertains to podcasting.

Facebook Event for this panel

All in all, that’s a highly reasonable schedule. I’ve certainly done many more panels in a single convention. The biggest bummer about the way Dragon*Con is organized now is that there seems to be little or no overlap between programming tracks. I attended Dragon*Con as a science fiction guest every year from 1993 to 2000 and would love to be back on some of the SF panels again, but once I got slotted in as a Podcaster track guest that seemed to be it. I’m not a big enough fish to catch anyone’s attention across tracks, I guess. I’m just happy to be going and doing this one more time.

More Heroes Con Wrapups

Me and Derek Coward

More Heroes Con wrapups come in. I’m glad I got to meet and hang out with Derek Coward. I was a little surprised that the show was not as explicitly social as many such gatherings. Had I known that you could get in with only a wrist band like a record show, I’d have brought my own name badge. I like to know who I’m talking to at these shows and I like them to know who I am.

It seems like Heroes is really a dealers room with a con outgrowth from there. That room is the beating heart of the show and while other things happen, they are not the main event. There are panels and programming but a fraction of what you’d expect from a SF convention with 10% of the attendees. I went to exactly one panel in my one day. Even with doing stuff all day to the point of exhaustion, I still didn’t get as much dealers room “digging through boxes for back issues” time as I wanted. It was kind of hilarious as I took my want list to a cramped 3/$1 dealer that every single guy (and they were all guys) stepping over each other and digging through had their own printout of issues they were looking for. It just made me realize that I was really and truly with my people. One guy had the best format I’ve ever seen. I might steal it for my list next year.

These observations are not a bad thing per se. This con is just different from others, long may it wave.

Here are some reactions from other people to this year:

  • Liz Baillie posts her wrapup of the convention, which is not so wildly positive as some. I bought some stuff from her so I did what I could to keep her in the black on the trip.
  • Tom Spurgeon interviews Dustin Harbin about organizing Heroes Con and this years outing specifically.
  • Alec Longstreth posts about his experience. I also got some of his stuff at the con and am looking forward to reading it.
  • Apparently they announced the formation of Rantz Hoseley’s Longbox Digital Comics project on Sunday after I left. I’m interested in seeing how this works. I’d be willing to use digital comics as my issue or two I try to see if I want to actually buy the paper version. I’m not sure if I’d ever buy them exclusively but I can see a place in my comics reading experience for digital comics.
  • Derek Coward records his thoughts on Heroes Con at Comic Book Noise.

I’m glad I went and I’m already looking forward to next year. Like I say “Happiness is a stack of comic books too big to carry.”

Heroes Con Wrapup

Here are some Heroes Con wrapups by people I hung out with: one from Andre and one from Derek. I’ve attended before but the last time was in 1991, so it’s almost like a brand new con to me. A few quick observations from my side:

  • In a lot of ways, it seemed less like a convention and more like a record show. It’s the only fannish con I can remember where you can get in without a nametag, only with a wristband. In certain ways, it feels like the record shows I used to go to in hotel ballrooms. Even when people had nametags, they were hard to read and about useless for conveying the basic information of “who is is person?”
  • The center of the con is the dealers room and everything else works out from there. There were panels but compared to similarly sized events, it was a tiny proportion. It’s all about the sketches and the books. That’s not a problem to me, but it is kind of different from most things I attend.
  • I want someone to draw me a cartoon with this as the caption: “Heroes Con 2009: Happiness is a stack of comics too big to carry!”
  • I was only at the show for Saturday and that wasn’t enough. We went to Carowinds Friday night. I think we could do the same thing but start one day earlier and it would be perfect. Maybe Friday when many folks are at work it would be easier to get autographs.
  • I tried my best to support indie artists. I bought stuff from Alec Longstreth and Liz Baillie and Little House Comics. I also bought a whole lot of 3/$1 and $0.50 comics from longboxes. As I trolled through them with my wish list printout, I’d look to my left and right and there were other guys all with computerized print lists checking off issues as they found them. This gave me inordinate joy, kind of like the bee girl at the end of the ” No Rain” video. I was with my people, even as we jostled each other and got in each other’s way.
  • The Hampton Inn seems like the place to stay. It was relatively cheap, only a block and a half away and pretty good. The pool was inside which bummed out people who had the plan of sunning by poolside. I know at least one pro was staying there because I saw him at the front desk on our way to dinner.
  • I had a great time. Next year I hope to partake of some of the night life and not be so exhausted the whole time. Staying an extra day would help a lot with that.

At Heroes Convention

I’m here in Charlotte a few blocks from the convention center. I’m looking forward to attending Heroes Convention tomorrow. They just had a piece on the con on the 11 PM local news that makes me even more anxious to get there. I brought my full want list of comics I’m looking for, a few issues of things to get signed, and a bunch of stickers and fliers for my various projects. I had considered bringing my Marantz but opted not to because I’m here for fun, not to work it. I do have many of my Reality Break business card and will be handing them out freely.

I know for sure that my friends Andre Pope, Kreg Steppe and Derek Coward will be attending tomorrow. I don’t know how many if any of my friends from Atlanta and Augusta comics fandom (many of whom I haven’t seen for 20+ years) will be there. If you will be there, say hi. I’m leaning my balance of convention travel more towards things like this than Podcast Expo type conferences. I’ll go to the comic podcaster panel tomorrow, get some comics signed, shop for comics until I can’t take it anymore and generally try to have a big time. I think we’ll pull it off too.

A Heroes Con Publicity Offer to All

I’m going to attend Heroes Con in Charlotte in 2 weeks. I’m willing to make this offer to any podcaster or anyone with stuff to promote. Send me your flyers, stickers, postcards or whatever promotional material you have. I’ll take it to the convention and put it on the freebies table there. If there are any left over, I’ll take them to Dragon*Con in September and again, if there are leftovers I’ll take them to XCon Myrtle Beach in October. This offer will remain open until I get too much stuff to carry, if that ever happens.

If you are interested in having your stuff toted around, drop me an email to dslusher at and I’ll hook you up with shipping information. The only thing I ask of people who want to take me up on this deal is to get going on it sooner than later. The two days before the con I’ll have plenty of my own details to deal with. I need to get everything I’m going to take with me in hand by Wednesday June 17th.

This whole deal is in honor of Kreg Steppe of Technorama, who last year was good enough to go to a Kinkos near the convention center, pick up my Reality Break flyers and then distribute them around. Thanks, Kreg. I’m just trying to spread that kind of love around.

Balticon 2009 in Strobe Flashes

Dave Slusher

I’m really bad at doing thorough con wrap-ups, as evidenced by the fact that I usually don’t actually finish them. I though about presenting my Balticon 2009 wrapup as a compressed novel in honor of the recently late but always great JG Ballard but that turned out to be really difficult. Imagine that. That is now a scratched idea.

I’ll present a series of snapshots of my weekend. It won’t be as exhaustive as I was exhausted. I met a whole lot of great people that were new to me and basically had a blast the whole time. As always, I missed a few names here and there and will forget to mention people and things. This cannot and will not be a complete document of the event, just a quick strobe light version of quick shots.

  • Paul Fischer invited me something like five times before I could accept this year and I’m glad I did. I met him for the first time, along with people I was either meeting for for the first time really talking to such as Phil Rossi, Earl Newton and Annie Turner, A Kovacs aka A Real Girl, Ross Scott, Tom Vincent, Matt Wallace, John Cmar, Jim Van Verth, Erk and many many others. You note that this list is mostly dudes, that’s because I’ve already met most of the ladies at previous events. I prioritize, you see.
  • The biggest downer of the way it was set up was that there was not a lot of mixing of new media track people and science fiction people. I randomly saw Keith R.A. Decandido in the bar on Sunday afternoon which led me into chatting and then attending a concert he was doing that night. If not for fortuitously seeing him, I wouldn’t have otherwise known he was there. There are multiple other stories like that. I made a specific point of going and talking to some of the SF people but it took work. I’d love to see more mixing, and I suggested an explicit mixer: something like a “SF folks and Podcast folks party” .
  • I saw from her blog late Sunday night that Kathryn Cramer and her family were at the con. I’ve been reading her blog for years and wanted to at least just say hello to her and tell her that I am a fan. As it happened, I got up Monday morning and went for a swim in the hotel pool. A few laps in she and her family also got in! It was slightly awkward to introduce myself wrapped in a wet towel, but I did it anyway because I Am That Guy.
  • Monday in the dealer’s room, late in the con, I was specifically looking for some John Brunner books. I wanted non-collectible cheap copies I can take to the beach without worry, and specifically I wanted books that were the transition from his 50’s schlockier style into what we know from the The Shockwave Rider and Stand on Zanzibar style books. As I was shopping, Kathryn’s husband David Hartwell was walking by. I don’t know the man, but I stopped him and introduced myself to him. He gamely helped me and browsed the shelf with me. He suggested Squares of the City as the closest available to what I was looking for. Bearing in mind I’m a complete stranger, I thought that was just a cool moment. He suggested I try Darrell Schweitzer, who also thought over the question and suggested The Whole Man as a good one but didn’t have a copy with him. I’m not sure what those guys were thinking about the whole deal, but I can’t imagine that old guard SF people have a problem with youngish (relatively) fans trying to broaden their understanding of the field.
  • Panelist Eye View

    The panels I was on were all fun. My talk Friday night was lightly attended but still worth doing and quite edifying. Thomas Gideon posts on the “broadcast vs peer media” panel in his con wrapup here. Before this weekend I didn’t already know Chris Lester and Phil Rossi, but I had a good time with them on the music in podcasting panel. The final one was the “Social Media Triage” panel with Evo Terra, which is the sole reason I created my Facebook account. Previous to this, I had resisted for years. In 50 minutes he walked through my mostly default, newly created shell account and pointed out to me and the audience things that could be one to make the account more effective for the goals I want to achieve. Really good stuff.

  • I was a little shocked at how early things shut down and Sunday night and how dead they were Monday, but in retrospect both were probably for the best. The bar closed down at 1 AM Sunday and I was still in the market for shenanigans but going to bed was better advised than what I would have done if the contrary was available.
  • I had a lot of fun walking the social graph (literally, like, walking). At one point I sat down at Mur Lafferty’s table and as people came and went I ended up talking with David Moldawer for a long time. The conversation ranged a lot of places and he asked if I was familiar with Hugh Macleod. I said that not only was I but that I explicitly referenced his “Sex and Cash Theory” about keeping your day job in my Friday night talk. David reached in his bag and pulled out a copy of Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity and gave it to me. It’s not published for a few weeks, but I have it in my car as I type. Right on! Thank you, David, you kind kind man.

There is undoubtedly more, but I’ll publish now and make other posts later. Publish early, publish often, don’t sit on it waiting for perfection. That is what I preach, no? I had a great time. Thanks to everyone who invited me, made the con possible, talked to me, and so on. It was a great weekend, well worth the 9 hour drive each way.

Balticon Hangover

I’ll attempt a writeup of my Balticon experience later today. This is no promise, considering that I never actually finished my Orcycon 2006 or Dragon*Con 2009 wrapups. Yesterday I had a panel from noon to 1 PM. I drove straight from my panel to Baja Fresh for lunch (second time that weekend eating there!) and from there got directly on the road home. It took right at 9 clock hours to get home, although I had a fairly long dinner break thanks to the fine citizens of southern Virginia, the tourists driving through and their very weird and complicated Subway sandwich orders.

One of the observations from the con really came home to roost in my last minute there. Tom Vincent was reminding me that “I have until Dragon*Con to get that thing we talked about done.” It was a few seconds into this conversation that I realized we weren’t talking about one big idea that will require some thought leadership and effort to make happen, it was an entirely second one from later in a conversation and one that I had forgotten about. At that moment I realized exactly how idea-rich and time-poor my existence is.

I have no grasp on how most people’s lives feel to them, but I have enough important, fun, needs-to-be-done things on my plate to consume at least the next few years and probably much longer. Some of these are personal projects, some are commercial, some are altruistic and communitarian but all need to be done (This is all on top of a pretty full day job with responsibility for building infrastructure for a fast growing company.). Rather than sit on these ideas, I’ll make an effort to throw some of them out into the world and see if they can perhaps get traction without my direct involvement. I’m not possessive and wanting to take credit necessarily, I just want the kind of world that exists after they’ve been implemented. Keep watching the skies!

Thanks to everyone that invited me to Balticon and spent a little of their preciously finite convention time hanging out with me. Huge blast, I should have done it years ago.

Balticon Rocks

I’m having a great time at Balticon. I’m shocked that it is early evening Sunday. I’ve been doing stuff practically non-stop since I got here and yet there are many many things I have yet to do, people I have yet to talk to and so forth. I’ve seen Brenda Clough and Keith DeCandido in the halls but not had a chance to talk to them. I briefly talked to Charlie Stross. If there is one flaw in how this has worked, I’ve spent lots of time with the podcast and new media people but not nearly enough with the SF people. That I bridge both worlds is great and I like it but it does make it hard to get everything in. I wish there were more events and activities that crossed over between two populations. I’m holding out hope for the hotel bar this evening.

Thanks to Paul Fischer for inviting me. It’s a blast and I feel even more the schmuck for not getting up here sooner. Y’all rock this house!

Off to Balticon

I’m heading out the door for Baltimore. I’m ahead of schedule, let’s hope that’s a good omen. I’m doing a Reality Break interview at 7 PM and then I’m giving my talk at 10 PM tonight. There is some talk that all programming in the room its in will be live streamed. If that’s the case, I’ll post the information about the stream to the blog with as much warning as I can.

I’ll have stuff packages in Baltimore. It might be an exercise in useless optimism but I’m bringing them anyway. If you always wanted one but didn’t get one and will be at Balticon, now is the time, citizens! See you there.