I had a fair number of panels this weekend, many of which went very well, but a lot of my con was plagued by me NOT KNOWING WHEN THE LIVING HELL TO SHOW UP.
For instance, Friday--for some reason I got it into my head that my first panel ("Roundtable Discussion: What are You Reading?") was at 7 pm. I got dressed and headed out around 6:30 pm. I got there with 5 minutes to spare and started freaking out because I could not find a space anywhere in the hotel parking lot. I happened to see my fellow panelist, Bryan Thao Worra
, walking up the sidewalk and so I shouted to him and asked him about overflow parking. I might even have said something like, "Well, I'll see you fifteen minutes. If not, you'll know I'm still hunting up parking!" I'm surprised he didn't look at me and say, "What are you talking about?"
Because our panel didn't start until 9 pm.
Bryan said that he'd heard that it was okay to park in the lot for the Wildlife Refuge Center, so I did, despite actual posted signs that said, "NO HILTON PARKING." I decided to risk it (spoiler: I was fine) and I dashed in, figuring I'd quick stop and register, because if I was late my fellow panelist at least knew I'd be on my way shortly. I'm glad I did, because in my manilla program participant packet was my schedule. WHICH CLEARLY SAID THAT MY FIRST PANEL WAS AT 9 PM.
Suddenly, I had almost two hours to kill.
MarsCON, I have decided, is a weird con. Don't get me wrong, I like it. I go every year. I kind of consider it the opener for the con season. But, given the situation with the parking lot, you'd figure I'd have no problem finding someone with which to pass the two hours hanging out. Nope. I don't know if it's the way the hotel is laid out, or the fact that I don't do much with the extremely popular musical track, or that the party floor is nine stories removed from the paneling area, or everyone else is invited to secret parties to which I did not get the memo/invite, or what, but I would NOT have guessed that this con apparently attracted between 900-1,000 people. I would have thought it was half that. The halls seemed empty.
This is also not necessarily a down side. I mean, it's nice to have a con that is not as overwhelmingly crowed as say, CONvergence. BUT, one thing that I told Minicon
when preparing for my Guest of Honor gig there this year (in a matter of weeks!!), it's actually almost better to overbook me as a panelist than to leave me with huge swaths of time with nothing to do. As an extrovert, I really do feed off the high energy of a con. If I'm sitting and staring at the wall wishing I had a book, I crash. It's a lot harder for me to ramp back up to my "performance level."
So, I can't say that, by the time I actually sat down next to Bryan in the "Eagle's Nest" conference room, I was super peppy.
I did, at least, think ahead and prepared a list of stuff I'd been reading over the past few years. Bryan recommended a number of poetry books--like, full length books. Later, when i saw Bryan again, I thought to ask him a question that I should have at our panel, which is, is there a proper way to read a book of poetry? Are you supposed to just start on page one and power through? I've never done that with the few books of poetry that I own (granted at least half of them are Shel Silverstein
). Mostly, I randomly pick poems and read them. There are Marge Piercy
poetry volumes I own where I'm sure there are still dozens and dozens of poems unread, because I just never hit that page when I was leafing through. Bryan confirmed that that's totally how it's done, so I guess I haven't been missing some key to appreciating poetry all these years.
Because I'm a weird combination of extrovert and morning lark (opposite of you night owls), I went home directly after my panel.... oh, right, there was another reason I did that, too. I texted home at one point to let people know I'd arrived too early and wouldn't be coming home until after 10 pm, and I got a text reply informing me that our problem kitty, Inky, had peed all over the basement floor. Everyone was apparently very upset about this because Mason didn't see the mess until he plopped our brand-new beanbag chair right into the center of it. There was worry that it was completely ruined FOREVER. Problem kitty is also usually my responsibility, so everyone was mad at me for not being around to do the clean-up on aisle 5. (Before you assume the worst from my family, my responsibilities include one that I fail all the time. I'm supposed to pill our cat, because he has fewer accidents when he's consistently on his Prozac. My family rightly surmised that if he was peeing inappropriately, it was because I had forgotten to pill him. When he pees inappropriately when I'm the one who forgot to make sure he got his daily pill, it stands to reason I should be the one to deal with the fall out, as it were.) So, I rushed home to change kitty litter and to wrestle a pill into Inky.
In the back and forth with the kitty trauma, I ran out of minutes on my phone and so I also had to problem solve THAT on the fly at the hotel (it involved finding the business center and logging into TracFone)... it was, shall we say, an inauspicious beginning to my con. My only consolation (?) was that Bryan had had to deal with a puking puppy all day, too. (I don't know that that actually made me feel BETTER, per se, but at least my misery had company, as it were.)
So, that was Friday.
Saturday... let's see, I started my day off with probably the highest energy panel of the con for me, "Marvel Cinematic Universe." We talked a lot about "Black Panther," of course. We had two PoCs on the panel--Rob Callahan
and a young woman named Kianna--so we were at least spared the awkward that is a bunch of white fans yammering on. Kianna had an interesting take on Killmonger (whom, it seems, is often misread by white people) and Rob talked a lot about the Indigenous response to the movie. That was probably the best panel of the con, for me.
Oh, but I forgot that my Saturday morning actually started way before that panel, when I was at home frantically making a powerpoint presentation because I realized when I got my schedule the night before, I was still the ONLY person on the "Manhwa/Manhua Explosion," and I thought, that as hard as it was going for me to fill an hour all by myself, I thought it would be even worse if I couldn't show visual representations of what I was talking about. I want everyone reading this to know one thing. I HAVE LEGITIMATELY NEVER MADE A POWERPOINT PRESENTATION BEFORE IN MY LIFE. Yet, the program is simple enough that I managed to cobble together ten or so slides before I left for the con.
I did, however, spend some of the downtime between the MCU panel (at 11 pm) and my solo presentation (3 pm) making more slides and genuinely TRYING to prepare... Even though I had no idea whether or not the room would actually have AV equipment that I could use. (Spoiler: it did. MIRACULOUSLY.)
So, I can't say that the "Manhwa/Manhua" panel was an unmitigated disaster, because I did attempt to mitigate it, but... I mean, there's a reason I prefer panel discussions. When there's at least one other person there, you have a CHANCE at a dialogue. I did tell my audience that I was not an expert, and that I had, in fact, proposed the panel because I wanted someone ELSE to tell me more about it....the other thing I warned them is that I could only talk about what *I* was reading and, frankly, what I read is SMUT. (Did I mention they put this in the "teen" track!?) But, the audience was sympathetic and somehow we limped through it.
My last panel was at 7pm and it was called "Writing Humorous Science Fiction and Fantasy." I... might not have been in the best head space for that particular panel. For one, I had had to kill a lot of downtime. Much of which was taken up by the other problem with the MarsCON hotel, which is they are in a virtual food desert. The Mall of America is within spitting range, but to go there, one has to be willing to leave their parking spot (or, I suppose, have enough time to hop the light rail.) There is a hotel restaurant, but the restaurant seems to always been chronically understaffed (I swear the SAME surly waiter who served everyone last year, served us again this year.) The hotel also has a kind of convenience store, but it's stocked with the sort of convenience store food that we have in this part of the country.... sandwiches wrapped in plastic that are fresh, but which have clearly sat around long enough for the various condiments to have made the white bread soggy and gross, you know? The con suite serves food, but it can not feed a multitude before having only pumpernickel as a bread option in the PBJ room.
I'd had lunch with Naomi, her family, Rob Callahan and his friend Jei. We braved the restaurant and heard a lot of cool stories about Jay's students (they teach at a Native charter school). I'd kind of blown my con budget on that --not that I really had one, but the food at that restaurant is not varied enough--or cheap enough--to warrant a lot of return visits, so I ended up eating a couple of hotdogs in the con suite. I will say? That hungry, those hot dogs tasted AMAZING.
Anyway, I found myself feeling a little... professional jealousy towards MaryJanice Davidson
, who was on the humor panel with me. MaryJanice Davidson was someone who was hot when I first started publishing paranormal romances as Tate, and sitting on that panel with her gave me a stab of the classic green-eyes "why is SHE still publishing, when I'm not." That kind of threw off my game. Luckily, the panel was totally ruled by Ivery Kirk
(Melissa Buren) who co-wrote a book with possibly the single greatest title for an erotica ever: TIMEBANGERS:One Does Not Simply Walk Into Tudor.
I ran into a friend, Jason, after the panel and I told him that what was especially weird about my reaction to MaryJanice Davidson was that it caused me to attempt to talk seriously about the topic of humor in SF/F. Jason looked aghast and was like, "What? You? I would have wondered where my Lyda was and demanded a refund!" And, yeah, see, this is my con persona... and, of course, the one of the dangers of running into someone you long considered a rival (I was told I couldn't use DROP-DEAD GORGEOUS for a book title of mine, because MaryJanice Davidson was putting out a book that same year with the same title.) I think I was thrown too because sometimes you set up in your mind this kind of rivalry and the other person LITERALLY has no idea who you are. (Davidson totally give me a blank look when i said i wrote paranormal romance as Tate Hallaway).
Anyway, so that one was kind of a bust, despite how cute and hilarious Kirk/Buren was.
Today was another WAIT, WHEN AM I SUPPOSED TO BE THERE days. Shawn told me that my first panel was at 1 pm today, and, since she'd been right about the 9 pm one on Friday, I believed her. So, I'm sitting in my chair, cat on my lap, thinking about having a nice, relaxing morning when I decide to look at my printed schedule. Oh no! According to my sheet, I'm actually supposed to have an 11 am panel. I quick throw things together and rush out the door. I get there, miraculously find parking in the lot, jump onto an opening elevator and arrive at Krushenko's at 11 am SHARP. Only, Eric tells me that the schedule has been changed. My 11 am panel was moved to... 2pm.
Now, I could have stayed, but I'd already run out once to get Starbuck's so I thought, no, I'm going to go home, go grocery shopping, have a decent lunch and come back for my 1 pm panel. That actually worked out really nicely. By chance, I even arrived at my house in time to introduce myself and Shawn to neighbors who are moving in across the street from us. I had a nice sandwich at home and headed back. Two panels in a row, in the same room, on similar topics. The first was "Androids, AI, and Gender Theory" and the second was "Artificial People in Science Fiction." My favorite fellow panelist (besides Naomi, of course,) was Justin Grays
, who was on both. Post panel, I instantly cyberstalked him and became FB friends, etc., like you do in this, the era of social media.
So, that was my con in a nutshell. I think the only awfulness of the con was the audience member in the Gender Theory panel who wanted to insist on an old-fashioned and outdated (and now considered offensive) term for intersex people. But, the panel dealt with the person quite gently, IMHO, but there are always some people who take the changing terminology as some kind of personal affront, it seems. I mean, "Oops, my mistake, [use correct term offered]" is the easiest response. It's also okay to say, "I didn't know it had changed," once, but then go away and Google, for crying out loud. The panel is there to educate to some degree, but the topic was not changing terminology, so... time was wasted on that.
There were a few other awkward moments in the two Sunday panels, but, I think, for the most part, people were unintentionally awkward, instead of malicious... which I guess makes it a little better? I hope so, anyway. (For broad context, let's just say things get weird when white people try to explain away reasons for slavery.... even in the out of historical context and about why we might have clones.)
I dashed home after that, too, because WEATHER is supposed to be on its way. In fact, Saint Paul schools just closed in anticipation of another afternoon storm tomorrow. (I imagine the superintendent does not want to deal with another situation like last time.) I think it's the right call, but if it ends up raining all day tomorrow and not snowing, people will no doubt say he was too hasty. Honestly, the poor guy can't win. I think it was smart to err on the side of caution this time, however.
Right, that's me to bed. Hope you guys all had a good weekend.