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. 🙂
Saturday at Gen-Con is always the busiest. Lots of people come in just for that day, so I decided I would minimize my time away from my table to maximize my presence. With 61,000 people attending the convention this year, Saturday, I thought, would be the best day to meet potential readers.
However, Eric and I did split on a ticket for one event the day before: meeting Summer Glau.
Mrs. Glau is primarily a TV actress. She’s been in many things (which never seem to last long, sadly), but she’s best known for playing River Tam in the short-lived but much-beloved series Firefly and its film sequel Serenity. Admittedly, I hadn’t seen the show in years. I was more interested in meeting Marina Sirtis (more on that later) than her, but figured I’d take the opportunity to meet her anyway.
What’s crazy, though, is she walked past my table on her way to the autograph area, which wasn’t far from Authors Avenue. I kinda flipped out since I wasn’t sure if that really was her. She didn’t have an entourage; there was only one guy escorting her. I knew when I walked over to get in line that it was her who walked by. (Squee!)
Eric and I—cosplaying Obi-Wan Kenobi and the 10th Doctor, respectively—stood in line for a much shorter time than expected since we had a ticket. I tried looking Ms. Glau up on Twitter to see if she’d tweeted anything about the con or to find something I could ask her about that didn’t have to do with her work. I found at an account that I learned later was fake, but it said she was an avid reader. I told Eric to hold our place in line and ran back to my table to get a copy of my first novel, Pandora’s Box. I chose that because I figured she might enjoy that one the most out of the books I’ve published (though I wonder if she’d like Children of the Wells…). Now, you must understand: I’ve given books as gifts to celebrities at cons before, and I’d thought about giving her one, but I realized she might not necessarily want it. That’s why I didn’t want to miss this opportunity.
I always knew Summer Glau was beautiful, but what struck me as we got closer was how kind and happy she was. She was gracious with fans and always smiled. When Eric and I came up to take pictures, she said we were dressed nice and offered to put her hands on our backs. With that, I said it was an honor to meet her. Then I said I was an author from Authors Avenue and mentioned that she walked by my booth and that I’d heard she was an avid reader. So, as a thank you for coming to Gen-Con, I wanted to give her one of my books. She was ecstatic and said, “I’m honored!” I signed it for her, leaving a note that said, “To Summer Glau: Thanks for coming!”
Eric joked afterward that after reading it maybe she’ll want to make it into a movie and star as the heroine. I scoffed at the idea, but a guy can dream, right? (But only if Joss Whedon is involved!) :p
(I was a bit smitten with Mrs. Glau the rest of the day. I suddenly want to re-watch Firefly).
(EDIT: I just read on Wikipedia that Mrs. Glau was homeschooled! I wish I knew that at the con!)
The rest of the day was busy but typical in the vendors hall.
Afterward, I attended a live recording of the “Writing Excuses” podcast. I didn’t realize they were recording five episodes in two hours, so I had to leave early, but it was great to see the show since I listen to it frequently.
Then I went to the Five Year Mission concert, as is my Gen-Con tradition. I got to hear songs from their newest album, “Spock’s Brain.” Yes, these guys wrote 11 songs about arguably the worst episode of the original Star Trek! It was a great show, and I bought the album. (Expect a review soon!) Yes, I still had my 10th Doctor costume, so I wasn’t quite dressed right, but nobody said anything.
I went back to my hotel room and changed into some summer-y clothes to go to the annual Gen-Con dance since the theme was “summer bash.” It was a bit more night club/rave than I expected, but it was entertaining for a while.
I want to write about the last day of the convention, but this post has already gone long, so I’ll save it for tomorrow. Until then, feel free to leave comments!
Next Time in Part 4:
Marina Sirtis, the Geekpreacher, and lots of cosplay!
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!
I’ve been going to Gen-Con since 2012, but this ranked as one of the best—if not the best—one I’ve attended. To summarize: 1) I went with some great friends. 2) Met up with all my Gen-Con writer buddies. 3) Had possibly the best book sales ever at the con. 4) Met some awesome celebrities. 5) Did some great networking. 6) Stayed at a hotel that across the street from the convention.
All this awesomeness despite a few snafus (like forgetting my digital camera and relying on my iPhone all week for photos) and my concern that Christians and the LGBT community would clash after Gen-Con got involved in the RFRA controversy several months ago.
I’ll do my best to write a decent run-down and include some photos. Here goes nothing!
Setup Day and Day One I must confess, True Believers, that I went to the con feeling discouraged. Last year I had lousy book sales, and I’ve been wondering if my attempts at a writing career were for naught (I’ll write about that later). I’d been praying for good sales to keep me going.
Anyway, my brother Jarod and I drove the two-and-a-half hours to Indianapolis last Wednesday. To pass the time, I had Jarod read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee out loud (my car’s CD player needs repaired). We got through three chapters by the time we arrived.
Then we hit the snafus. I went to the wrong desk to get our badges, standing in line for at least 30 minutes, and was only able to pick up one event ticket since the Gen-Con website wouldn’t let me buy them for myself (but I could for Jarod). I’d forgotten I needed to go to exhibitor HQ for our badges. This involved lugging our heavy boxes of books to the other side of the Indiana Convention Center (after we’d already lugged them in from the hotel). But once there, I discovered I somehow didn’t have a badge for myself but there was one for Jarod. I figured there was a mix-up online since I had to have an inadvertently purchased badge refunded the month before when I should’ve gotten it for free. However, the convention workers gladly made me a badge on the spot. So, we entered the hall.
Or rather, the gigantic sauna. The air conditioning was off, so it was hot and humid. Couple that with carrying heavy boxes, and I felt like I was at boot camp. Jarod is particularly sensitive to heat, so he was miserable, but he was a trooper and made it through. We set-up quickly and got out of there.
We met up with my friend and co-author Eric Anderson at the Hyatt Regency, which was cattycorner from the convention center. We settled into our room—which was on the vertigo-inducing 12th floor—and then went to Steak ‘n’ Shake for dinner. After exploring downtown Indy for a little while, we turned in.
I got up early to buy some event tickets and then went to the now air-conditioned exhibitors’ hall since it opened at 9am for V.I.G.s (Very Important Gamers). I met up with some longtime Gen-Con friends like Ed Russel and my newer con friends like Jay Erickson. My “next-door” neighbor this year was Isaac Crowe. However, two tables from me was the infamous author who I can only describe as the lovechild of an auctioneer and a used car salesman. He’s the best pitch artist in Authors Avenue, so he’s difficult to compete with. He was good at getting attention. When I saw him get two sales in the first hour when I had none, I felt discouraged again, like last year would repeat itself despite me having two new books and better signage. But as the day wore on, I got a handle on things and made a decent amount of sales. I even attended a pair of writing seminars while Jarod watched my table.
Unlike some of my compatriots, I like to attend con events in the evening. So, I participated in Nexus Gaming’s “Double Blind Fighter Challenge,” a fighting game tourney where the games were chosen randomly each round and players played rock-paper-scissors to see if they got to choose their opponent’s character. One guy was so hardcore, he wore a luchador mask when playing! (He called it his “war face”). It actually did intimidate some people. Unfortunately for me, despite getting a bye thanks to having an odd number of players, I lost in the second round because of bad luck. Of the six games in rotation—which included Street Fighter IV, Street Fighter x Tekken, and Guilty Gear Xrd—I had to play one I’d only played twice: Mortal Kombat X. Ironically, my opponent was only marginally better than me. He ended up winning the whole tournament. The 2011 Mortal Kombat, was also in rotation, and I told him things would’ve been different if we’d played that. He wanted to see if that was true, so we played a few rounds after the tourney. He barely touched me. (I was prepared to eat my words, if needed). I honestly think I could’ve won that competition.
Wanting to kill some time, I perused Gen-Con’s thick program guide for any interesting events. I saw that the team who created Sentinels of the Multiverse—one of my favorite games—were demoing Sentinels Tactics for free, so I wandered over there. I’d played the game before, but figured it’d be fun. However, when I arrived, I saw they were also demoing Villains of the Multiverse, a new expansion for the card game that wasn’t out yet. Now, there was a bit of goofiness with getting in. While the event was free, priority was given to anyone who had two-dollar generic tickets, so a British fella with blue hair asked us to move to another table though we were in the middle of getting a game set up with game master (I don’t know what his official title is, so I’ll stick with this). He insisted it wasn’t because he hated us. However, after only sitting there for a minute, we were moved back to our original table to join ticketed players. It was five or six heroes against an equal number of villains, which was different than the original game where a team of heroes fight one powerful villain.
I had a blast with Villains. I played Knyfe, and she’s a beast with damage. It came down to the wire with only two or three heroes left, but by our powers combined (1,000 nerd points to anyone who gets that reference), we managed to eke our way to victory. I even scored the final blow thanks to a fellow Nate. I added him to “The Nate Collective” (an inside joke from college; I’ll explain later).
I returned to the hotel and settled in for the night while my laptop upgraded to Windows 10.
Next Time in Part 2: Panels, Dr. Forrester, and Mad Max!
A Man from Another Time Exploring Another Universe