<$BlogRSDURL$> Spontaneous Things: Karina Sumner-Smith's Blog
Thursday, April 06, 2006
Ad Astra Con Report 2006

Is this a con report? Why yes, yes it is. And here I thought I'd proven myself capable of only promising to deliver con reports, and failing utterly in the follow-through. Though now I remember why I never get around to writing and posting con reports: I write too much, and so they're loooong.

So yes, this past weekend was Ad Astra, my most favourite of local cons. And this year, I was attending as not only a local writer and fan, but also as half of Stellar Magpie, the sparkly corporate entity that had entered a pile of jewellery in the art show. So as not to duplicate info, the Stellar Magpie con report is here.

Anyway, after an early morning (arriving at work at 7:50, blech), a hectic day and a desperate scramble to get everything ready, plus a flurry of activity at the art show, the con itself actually begun. Pausing at the Bakka table to say hi to Chis and Leah and Simone, and eat some of their most wonderful sandwiches, I thought I'd just check out the official description for my first and only panel that evening, one called "Hard Fantasy" -- in essence, a panel that discussed whether or not magic in fantasy should have rules and internal consistency. (Um, this is something we need to debate?) Tired as I was, I was happy that this was one panel that I didn't have to moderate; my plan was to provide pithy remarks and sarcastic commentary, and otherwise let the moderator run the show.

I found the description. I was the moderator. I had not been notified.

I think I swore.

So, while Sarah ran off to her sex panel, I curled up at the back of the Bakka table and began to take notes. I kept nodding off. Finally, in frustration I turned to Leah and said, "What would you ask?" Leah went off on a tangent as I took notes, until I came upon a better solution and invited Leah to crash the panel.

Good thing I did. Leah is hereby voted best panel-crasher ever. She debated with Lorne and other-panelist Alexander, while I stood back and attempted to direct the destruction. I verbally poked and prodded to spark interesting debates, then giggled to myself as the volume rose (and whispered occasionally to Leah, "You're going to attack now, right?")

Favourite panel moments: "The first rule of Babysitter's Club is you do not talk about Babysitter's Club. The second rule of Babysitter's Club is YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT BABYSITTER'S CLUB!" tied with "Okay, so you’re combing your hair with elephants ..."

There was then a meet and greet. I met. I greeted. I was devastated when the container with the hot water for tea proved to be empty, then laughed aloud when another container of hot water (originally masquerading as coffee) presented itself. I realized I was falling asleep. So, gathering Sarah, we retreated to her apartment.

"You know you're exhausted," I said, collapsing onto the thin mattress of the travel cot, "when a cot feels this good." Then I was asleep.

Day two dawned overcast and chilly, but at least it wasn't raining, so that was something. I decided to wear my most kickass new necklace, a purchase I'd made only days before at the One of a Kind craft show. (Currently voted Best Purchase in a Long Time, despite the price, as it's so very me, and garnered more comments during this one day than any other jewellery I've yet owned.)

We arrived early for Sarah's 10:00 panel, "Getting Them Hooked Early," which I caught the very end of -- in time to hear Sarah talk about something I've discussed more than once, which is how for the younger generation of SF readers our first memories of space travel are not landing on the moon but rather the Challenger explosion -- or, in the generation after us, likely Columbia. (I am always most impressed with the reaction that this causes in older male SF writers, which I can only describe as shock.) Then time for my panel on "The Pros and Cons of Workshops" (which I was not scheduled to be in as far as I knew -- it wasn't mentioned to me as one of my panels, and I wasn't listed as a panelist in the book, but it was there on the back of my badge and so I said okay and went).

It wasn't as lively as the panel the night before, but still interesting enough, I'd say, though I doubt anything particularly groundbreaking was said. In the end, this was a good panel for me as I got a chance to meet-in-person and talk to Tobias Buckell, who I hadn't known was coming. (I was also unsure of whether he'd remember me at all, seeing as I didn't think he'd reached the rule of three that I apparently have -- someone has to meet or have three discussions with me before I am at all memorable. Then you're stuck with me. It's rather odd, but generally true.)

The Mythspring launch came next, which ended up being one of the highlights of the con for me. This was a public launch held in a rather large room (part of the ballroom) and the place was packed. Genevieve was able to come, which was wonderful, especially as she pitched the idea to Julie at Ad Astra in that very hotel two years earlier. Each of the authors gave a short reading, of which I think mine made a good attempt at being the shortest reading, but damn, "Safe Passage" is a hard story to read from aloud. Rumour has it that there were cookies and that they were delicious; however, I didn't have a chance to claim one before we were pushed from the room, books in hand and already having stolen ten minutes from Guy Gavriel Kay's reading.

Sarah Zettel had a book party, and with scones and tea and gingerbread, which I called fantastic and also my lunch. And there were free books! I'm not usually an Arthurian fantasy kind of gal, but she explained a little what these three were about, and now I'm interested to give them a read. They're right near the top of The Stack, right below my copies of His Majesty’s Dragon and Bryn's Doppelganger, and probably just above Cordelia's Honor and Dreams Made Flesh. (For those keeping track.)

I also had a reading scheduled for the afternoon ... which wasn't listed in the program book. (See a trend?) So I spoke to concom, who were lovely and apologetic and said that they'd just posted signs to let people know that I had a reading that afternoon. Which was fine and great until I found one of those signs, and it said my reading was at 3:30, rather than 4:30. And thus began my quest to track down all the reading signs and correct them. (The guy who was actually reading at 3:30 was rather relieved to see me correct this, as he'd been quite confused.) The reading itself went very well, and I had a decent crowd despite the mix-up. I read from "An End to All Things" because of the snarky dialog. I was also quite nervous, but am assured that it didn't show. Much.

Dinner was Julie Czerneda's pizza party, where I proceeded to eat my portion of pizza out of crusts alone. (Thank you again to everyone who kindly donated their crusts to my very hungry, non-dairy self.) Though this meant that I had a massive lump of dough in my belly as a major meal, I was happy, as a gigantic lump of dough is rarely something that my stomach protests. There were also handmade truffles, thanks to Lorne, who regretfully informed me that he'd made them with 35% cream. So I only ate one.

For the first time out of all the Ad Astras that I've attended, I finally got to see Heather Dale's performance -- and promptly became obsessed with her song "Exile." I've been singing it for five days straight. Thanks to Ruth's help, I rushed out and got a couple of CDs. The masquerade was ... masquerade-y, and my view was not at all obstructed by Don Bassie's head or his rather fluffy hair -- but only because he had to straddle two chairs to keep it that way. (Thanks, Don!)

We also held the latest installment of the Fireside Reading Series, the tradition began at WFC in Arizona when Ruth and I didn't want to go to crowded parties but instead curled up by a fire and read each other stories. We had a good crowd, all gathered together in Sarah, Jana and my hotel room. I ended up reading my Clarion blues poem, which I still can't get through without cracking up at least three times, and which was well-received by everyone there. (I was relieved, I admit. I had no idea if it'd still be funny four and a half years later.)

Sunday, I was running out of energy, much as I am now writing this con report. I went to James Alan Gardner's reading of his story from Mythspring, which was hilarious. And I had a panel at 1:00 on "How to Sabotage Your Own Writing" (because you can't think of enough ways to sabotage your work on your own, and thus need panelists' help), which I moderated. This was, I think, my favourite panel of the con, because it was relaxed, funny and kept moving.

There was a lot of programming that I wanted to see and couldn't -- readings especially -- and, as usual, I wished I could have had more time to talk to certain individuals, but overall, a great time.

Then I went home. The end. ::whew::

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 4:11 PM


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