Thanksgiving at the Chapman-Ferguson household has been stolen by a viral grinch infecting my mother. We’re planning to reschedule the meal to Saturday and not invite any guests so as to allow her to dine, though I’ll still be taking on the cooking. In the interest of that, then, I want to write a post that has nothing to do with Thanksgiving whatsoever.
I went to OryCon for the first time last year. It’s an annual convention for lovers of and creators of science fiction, fantasy, horror, alternate history, and many other genres. In equal measure, OryCon–whose recent convention was their 37th–draws published authors, costumers, scientists, steampunks, vampire LARPers, gamers, sculptors, bards, and many combinations. All my favorite people: passionate, funny, and appreciative of beauty. It’s where I got my best advice on the agenting and publishing process, that I’m still using today.
Last weekend’s convention was just as much fun as the year before, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I found myself back. Instead of trying to encompass it all at once, I’ll list the top ten moments of the four days.
- I hung out with Morgan Dienst, dear friend and housemate from the last three years. We decided to start a worldbuilding project, and over the course of a nighttime walk threw out ideas. Our best three were a giant tree where equally giant raindrops deposit ores on the outer leaves, a world with random pockets of faster or slower time, and the crown jewel, Thricia, a world composed of three worlds where people revert to the next in the cycle at the stroke of midnight.
- First Page Idol, a competition where writers anonymously submit the first pages of their books and the panel of celebrity judges raise their hands when they would stop reading. I had gotten some good reception of the first five pages of The Valley of Steel, so, feeling good, I volunteered to read all the first pages out loud. This made it significantly more stressful to read my own–especially since others before me had been stopped. In the end, I confused the judges but made it to the end of the first page. Got solid feedback, too, so as to make it wholly positive next time.
- Panels, of which I went to several. One of them was about the DARPA Robotics Challenge, and its presenter concluded by showing this video, proving that the best way to defeat the robot uprising is by closing your door. At another I met William F. Nolan, author of Logan’s Run and some other stuff. At one about the Prime Directive, a combative man in the row behind me roared that the Star Trek concept was anti-science. The best, I think, was the one about historical authenticity in fantasy, where I was advised to base my spaceport off 19th-century Liverpool. But I keep remembering new ones.
- Readings. These were the prime locations for me to pick up swag. At one, I got a chance to offer critique on an alternate-history Rome novel, where Mark Antony died to save Julius Caesar from his assassins. In return I won a book called Apotheosis, whose short stories continue on after the awakening of the Elder Gods to explore the lives of the survivors. The other one I remember best involved an Edwardian setting with a magic system based on equations. Good stuff.
- I won NaNoWriMo. I know, I know, I didn’t tell you I was doing it. I was too busy doing it. I started and finished my fourth novel, Rafter’s Rats, in November, and you’ll definitely hear about it soon as I start to edit. I had to rush my computer down to the hotel lobby to finish before the end of the day on Saturday, but it was worth it. Maybe now I can finally focus on those short stories.
- Gaming is offered almost round-the-clock during the convention, with a huge variety of games to choose. We always try to play several things nobody owns. Winners include dragon/phoenix-flavored abstract strategy Tsuro, where up to eight people can destroy each other in startlingly zen fashion, and the classic game about the destructive celebration after a dungeon crawl, Red Dragon Inn. Which apparently has more expansions than Settlers of Catan. Who knew?
- Artemis, which is a spaceship bridge simulator that is totally unrelated to Star Trek. It’s an interesting game in a lot of ways, with tactics and decisions and stuff, but the main appeal for me was of course yelling. “Enemy ship at bearing 243!” “Torpedoes loading, captain! Awaiting your command!” “Yee-haw! Let’s blast the bastards into a new nebula!” I haven’t had this much fun shouting numbers since I was at sea.
- Costumes. The highlights included Greg, Steven, and Amethyst from Steven Universe, a Korra, a Wendy from Gravity Falls, lots of miscellaneous steampunk/vampire stuff, and of course my friend Nick Caton and his daughter Kaeldra as the Yip-Yips from Sesame Street. I myself went as a ranger from Babylon 5.
- Music. The PDX Broadsides fixed “If I Die Young”! “If I die young/and become a zombie/shoot me in the head/don’t forget to double-tap…” I can feel good about getting that stuck in my head again. The other best moment there was probably their Adele/Catan parody, called–as if there were any doubt–“Rolling in the Sheep.“
- The last one can’t be summed up as easily, but mostly it’s that I’m glad events like OryCon, GearCon, DragonCon, and hell, even FurCon exist. In these days when Apple and The Big Bang Theory have made nerdiness mainstream, when the most popular kids in school are amped for Game of Thrones every Sunday, it’s good to remember that there are people everywhere who turn to such events to feel human. There’s no animosity at a con, no faction-fighting, hardly any awkwardness: just people animated by passion, having a great time sharing it. People who would be in shells anywhere else are open and engaged here. I don’t want to set up a hierarchy about who does or doesn’t deserve to be a geek–just to remind everyone that some deference is owed to those who needed this stuff first.