Next week is the biggest convention I attend as an author: Gen-Con. The show is celebrating its 50th anniversary. That’s an incredible run! The show gets bigger every year even without having huge celebrity guests all the time. They sold out of four-day badges a month ago!
As usual, though, the show snuck up on me. Yes, I paid for my table months ago, but since I have this crazy habit of keeping myself constantly busy, I don’t think about what else I could do at the show until it’s nearly upon me. I like to enjoy the cons I table at, so I try to attend some of the events at the show. The problem is Gen-Con is so huge, many of the events sell out months ahead of time. That isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of other events to attend, but it is a bit disappointing to see some of the more interesting things sell out that far in advance.
Another bummer is the fact that I won’t be staying at one of the adjacent hotels to the Indiana Convention Center like I’ve been doing for several years. Let’s just say things didn’t work out for that to happen. So, I had to get a room at a hotel seven miles away, which means making a potentially long commute every day to the convention. I’m not looking forward to that.
I won’t have any “new” books with me, but not because I haven’t been writing. No, my next book, Zorsam and the God Who Devours, which I co-authored with Nick Hayden and Aaron Brosman, just won’t be published in time for the convention. It’s still a few months away. (More on that later).
On the bright side, I’m happy to announce that I’ve been invited to be on a panel! (G-Fest must’ve been the start of some good luck for me). Specifically, it’s the Christianity and Gaming panel put on by the Christian Gamers Guild. I’ve attended that panel most years I’ve gone to Gen-Con, so it was a surprise and an honor to be asked to be on it. I’m not sure what to expect. It’s only the third time I’ve ever been on a panel. I’m excited.
Other than that, I’m eager to meet all my Gen-Con friends in Authors Avenue again, and, of course, all of you wonderful readers!
Forgive me, True Believers, for my delay in completing this series. I do my best to post blogs on Tuesday and/or Thursday, but that doesn’t always work out. I lead a busy life.
Before I continue with the last day of Gen-Con 2015, I neglected to mention that I witnessed the fall of Cardhalla on my way back to the hotel that Saturday night. Cardhalla is a massive display created by con-goers using cards from the many popular games at the convention (though most seemed to be from Magic: The Gathering). Essentially, it’s a “city” consisting of houses of cards. On Saturday night, con-goers throw coins at the card towers to topple them and the money is collected to be donated to charity. I didn’t throw any coins since I didn’t have any, but it was fun to watch. One large tower refused to fall despite everyone’s efforts. A guy even tried throwing a Zip-loc bag of money at it, but he missed. I kept joking that any towers left standing should be “destroyed” by Godzilla cosplayers. Because why not?
Now on to day four…
The day did start with a bit of frustration. I ended up being late to the Christian Gamers Guild/Fans For Christ worship service because Jarod and I had to pack up the car and check out before it started at 9AM. We had to be out by 1PM, and since I was going straight from the service to the vendor hall at 10AM, we had to do all of that beforehand. Eric and Jarod went ahead of me while I took the last of our stuff to my car in the parking garage below. I had about fifteen minutes to get to the service—but realized I left my 10th Doctor costume in our room’s closet! I rushed upstairs, got a new card key, rode the elevator up, and got to the room, and grabbed my costume. By the time I returned to the car, I had only five minutes to get to the service. It was fairly close by in another hotel (in fact, it was held in the same room as the Five Year Mission concert the night before), but I still ended up being five minutes late.
Regardless, I found Jarod and sat with him. Eric was helping with the service. The worship leader (whose name escapes me, unfortunately) was dressed as a bard (gotta love cosplay in church). After singing and communion, the message was, as usual, delivered by Derek White “The Geekpreacher.” He came dressed in what I’d call “LARP armor” (minus the sword) and preached on Ephesians 6:10-18 (the “armor of God” passage, naturally). He said he conducted a poll on Facebook for the title of his message: it’d either be “The Power of Fairy Tales” or “Here There Be Dragons.” The latter won, obviously. The highlight for me was hearing him get the entire crowd—the largest ever for this event—to recite the most famous line from the original Conan the Barbarian movie. He asked, “What is best in life?” The crowd replied, “To crush your enemies and see them driven before you. And to hear the lamentations of their women.” (I left the last part off unsure they’d say it. It’s a Christian service, after all).
EDIT: Here’s a video of his sermon.
I was surprised by how many people attended the con on Sunday. It was different sort of crowd, too. The usual 4-day attendees were there, but since Sunday is “family day” at the convention, many new people came. While I wouldn’t say it was as busy as Saturday was, it was still very active.
Regardless, I myself didn’t do as many exciting things that day. Eric left by early afternoon. I mostly interacted with some amazing cosplayers and sold my books. I even found I had returning fans! One guy even came by saying he remembered me from last year, having bought and read Destroyer and The Day After, and wanted more. I barely said two sentences before he grabbed both volumes of Children of the Wells and Pandora’s Box. It was the easiest $35 I’ve ever made.
The big highlight for me was meeting Marina Sirtis, an actress most famous for playing Deanna Troi on Star Trek: the Next Generation. While I wasn’t smitten with her like I was Summer Glau the day before, Mrs. Sirtis has had a greater influence on me since I’d been a Trekker since age three and was reared on both the original Star Trek and TNG. I didn’t have to wait long to see her since the line was short. Because of that, though, Mrs. Sirtis spent a few minutes with each fan talking with them as they got photos and/or an autograph. Like with Mrs. Glau, I intended to give Mrs. Sirtis one of my books. In this case, a copy of 42: Discovering Faith Through Fandom since one of my entries is about Troi. I wasn’t sure if she’d accept something with such strong religious overtones, but I thought I overheard her say to someone in line ahead of me that her husband was Catholic, so I thought I might have a chance.
When it was my turn, I got a photo with her and had a wonderful chat, telling her that I’d realized that one reason TNG resounded with me as a child was because Picard reminded me of my Dad and Troi reminded me of my Mom. “You must’ve had an awesome Mom,” said Mrs. Sirtis. “I did,” I replied. I seized the moment and gave her the book, explaining that it was a devotional for geeks and nerds. She was noticeably surprised by this. I then said I wanted her to have a copy as a thank you for coming since I wrote about Troi in an entry. “Let me read it,” she said. I turned to that page and she read it. “So, you use stories like this to illustrate the Scriptures?” she asked. “Yes,” I replied, simultaneously nervous and excited. “Thank you so much. I’ll read this on the plane back to England.”
I walked away a happy fanboy.
Safe to say when 4PM tolled, I was sad Gen-Con was over. Not only was it the four best days of gaming, it was four of the best days of my year. 🙂
One of my rules during the exhibitor hall hours is that I won’t be away from my table for more than two hours (and I must have someone at the table at all times). This is so I can slip away and go to one or two events during the day with minimal damage to sales.
I say this because on day two of Gen-Con, I attended the Christianity and Media Panel, an annual event held by the Christian Gamers Guild and Fans For Christ (two ministries Eric and I are part of). I’d always been curious about this panel. The organizers and attendees always spoke highly of it. Heck, in 2008, one panelist was Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons (it may shock many Christians to learn he was a man of faith). I was told I’d have a chance to do a short plug for one of my newest books, 42: Discovering Faith Through Fandom. The panelists this year—whose names suddenly escape me, sadly—were representatives from Zombie Orpheus Entertainment, a Christian-run independent film studio, and Geekdom House, a “church” for geeks. It was a wonderful discussion moderated by Derek White (aka the Geek Preacher). Even a Captain America cosplayer I met on my way there attended. Ironically, as a joke, one of the panelists answered their last question by saying, “Forty-two,” since it that covered everything, to which Derek said something like that was coming up. Then I stepped up and gave a short spiel about the book.
That pitch worked. Eric and I donated ten copies of 42 to the CGG/FFC table, half of which they sold on day one. The rest flew off the shelves after the panel, so people had to come see me to buy them. Then they flew off my shelf! Seriously, this book was my hot seller for the weekend. If I include the donated books, Eric and I brought 30 copies of 42 with us. By the end of the weekend, I only had one left! (In which case, you should definitely buy yourself a copy on Amazon). 😉 😛
As the day came to a close, Eric joined me at the table, which was good because I needed someone to attend to customers while I had one of my most interesting and profound experiences at the convention. A young man who described himself as an “accidental hipster” came to my table and asked me to pitch one of his books. I told him about Ninjas and Talking Trees (which you should also buy on Amazon. Hehe!) Since I mentioned it was largely about subverting tropes, he started talking about a fantasy world he had been building for two months. We spent at least 45 minutes talking. This dude told me he’d been going around to all the writers and talking with them, but none of them gave him this much time. He wanted to become a writer, but he spent so much effort world-building, he didn’t know where to start. While he’d never read Tolkien (accidental hipster, remember?), I could tell this guy’s mind worked like his. He struggled with depression and wanted to use writing as an outlet for it. My prayers go out to him. He has loads of potential.
As the place closed down, I went over to the author signing area next door where I met Trace Beaulieu, a puppeteer who operated and voiced the original Crow T. Robot and played Dr. Forrester on Mystery Science Theatre 3000. He even had the original Crow puppet with him! I only got to see him for a few minutes since it was closing time, but it was worth it. I’d hoped to see him again later in the con at his booth, but I was super-busy on Saturday and he left Sunday morning. 🙁 At least I had this time with him.
After dropping stuff off at the hotel, I returned to Nexus Gaming to participate in another fighting game tourney. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t let me pay the admission fee with cash. I had to get tickets. The problem was the line was so long, I wouldn’t be able to get them in time. I was upset. So, I ended up spectating. I was annoyed because, once again, I think I could’ve won if not for bad luck. This was the “Obscure Fighter Challenge.” Despite the name, Nexus made players play what they considered to be some of the worst fighting games ever—one of which I owned and had played since childhood! The first was Karate Champ, followed by Sonic Fighters (they played it on a PS3, but I’m sure it’s older than that), and finally Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Tournament Fighters on the NES. The last one is the one I own. Argh. Lesson learned.
After perusing the program again, I decided to go demo Villains of the Multiverse again. It wasn’t quite as exciting as the night before, but I did learn that unlike in previous versions of the game, the villains were controlled by players, which took it from a cooperative game to a competitive game. I thought about playing a villain, but settled on playing Legacy, who’s my mainstay. He makes everything better. And we heroes did win. Huzzah!
I forgot to mention that the night before, Eric and I met Adam Rebottaro, the lead artist for the game, and took a photo with him. He even signed my copy of Sentinels!
Finally, Jarod and I went to the Circle Center Mall theatre to see their annual Throwback Feature. This year is was Mad Max 2 (better known as The Road Warrior). I hadn’t seen the film in its entirety for years, so I jumped at the opportunity. What’s crazy is it was only $5.50 a ticket (normally $12.50) and I got to pick our seats. I’d heard of theatres like that but had never been to one, even in Fort Wayne (which is “big city” to me). But then this theatre blew my mind—all the seats were recliners! As in full-sized La-Z-Boys! Complete with a button-operated footrest, a cup holder, and swiveling tray.
Best. Theatre. Ever!
Oh yeah, and the film was still great. In fact, it looked even better on the big screen.
Next Time in Part 3:
Summer Glau, my cosplay, and Five Year Mission!
Finally getting fed up with parking garages and their fees, I decided I would park closer to Lucas Oil Stadium. It meant walking a block to get to the Indiana Convention Center (I probably walked just as much getting out of the garage), but it was half the price. I also had to go in through a different entrance on the opposite end of the ICC, which left me a little confused, but I found my way around.
The first event I attended was an unusual one: a Christian worship service. It was put on by the Christian Gamers’ Guild, a ministry that works with people who play role-playing games. I’d say that about 200 people attended. There I learned more about the CGG and their sister ministry, Fans For Christ. I was excited to learn there were three (them and GameChurch) reaching out this the nerd/geek subculture, which has been ignored by the mainstream church for years. Anyway, we sang a few classic hymns and had communion using little packets of grape juice with wafers on top. Then we got to hear a sermon from Derek W. White the “geek preacher.” He began by showing everyone his new pair of dice, which he’d bought from one of the vendors. One was a 10-sided dye with the Ten Commandments, and the other was a 14-sided dye with the seven deadly sins and the seven great virtues. “So together, this is my random sermon generator,” he said, rolling the dice. “I can get 140 sermons out of this.” Someone in the audience added, “So, is humility a d10 or a d20?” He used Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as his illustration.
(I just realized watching the video that you can hear me because I sat next to the cameraman!)
With 10 a.m. fast approaching, I hurried to the exhibitors’ hall—and ran into this little punk:
This is the Dalek owned by Who North America. I’d seen it a few times during the convention, but I’d never seen it do anything. I walked by it and saw that its head was swiveling around, as if surveying the scene. I got my camera out to snap a picture—and it looked right at me. I stepped to the side—it followed me. Here’s what followed:
Me: It must have a motion sensor. It follows me. Dalek: This Dalek has a mutant detector!
Yes, True Believers, not only could it movie, it could talk! I don’t know if it has pre-programmed responses or if someone (Nick Briggs?) was hiding somewhere and improvising lines in response. So, I decided to mess with it.
Me: How’s the extermination business? Dalek: Humans are easy to exterminate!
I went to my table and went back about an hour later. This time, I decided I would really mess with the Dalek by insulting it. This was my best exchange with it.
Me: Why don’t you use that plunger to do something useful, like unplug a toilet? Dalek: Daleks do not make house calls!
I asked someone at the Who North America booth how they got the thing to talk, and he replied, “We tickle its chin.” “Good answer,” I said.
I returned to my table, and a few hours of slow book sales followed. It was easily the slowest day of the convention. I was chatting with someone, trying to make another sale, when what I guess you could call a band of traveling minstrels called Water Street Bridge entered my row and broke out into song in front of my booth! “Party at your table!” the patron said. Their music I would describe as folksy, although on their website they say they play even more. I’d post a video of their performance, but it’s too large to post on this site (lame!).
Their violinist seems to be the most talented. She is crazy! She broke her bow right as they finished. Regardless, their performance was a great surprise. Here’s a picture:
The convention officially ended at 4 p.m. I packed up, did some book exchanges, purchased a few things, said goodbye to my fellow writers, and headed out. Thankfully, my boxes were much lighter than they were when I arrived. I had around 80 books total, and left with less than half of them. This was good because I had to watch a bit farther to get to my car.
I miss the convention. It was invigorating going to something so fun and nerdy. Creativity saturated the air with all the cosplayers, gamers, writers, artists, and musicians. It was…intoxicating. If it’s possible to get drunk on creativity, I did. It was great fun being among thousands of like-minded people.
Regardless, I also realized how much this subculture needs Jesus Christ. While most of the people there were kind and considerate, there was still immorality. That’s why I was glad to learn about three ministries working in this subculture. I hope to somehow get involved with them in any way I can. Perhaps I have found my mission field.
::steps down from soapbox::
So, there you have it. Gen-Con. It was so much fun, I signed up to return to sell books next year! I’d like to take an assistant with me, so if any of you are interested, drop me a line and I’ll put you in contention.
COMING SOON: My first vlog! The topic: selling books at conventions.
A Man from Another Time Exploring Another Universe