So, you may have noticed that I haven’t been posting as frequently around here in the last couple of weeks… but rest assured, it was all for you, dear fans. You see, the reason I haven’t been posting, as you may have gathered, is because I was run off my feet (and had my typing fingers thoroughly occupied) with preparations for Pop Seagull Publishing’s first con… Polaris 25!
Now that I’m officially back, and caught up on my sleep, I’m passing all the fun details on to you, with a day-by-day breakdown of everything I did, and how it went. I’ll just start by saying that if you didn’t join us at Polaris this year, you missed out, big time! We were giving out coupons for free (yes, free!) e-copies of Flood Waters Rising, I wore an awesome costume, and sat on some really fun and interesting panels spanning topics from animation to memes to Stephen King.
But, if you missed us this time, there’s still hope! You can catch us at SFContario this November, in scenic downtown Toronto.
So, without further ado… on to the con report!
Friday was a long, hard day, due more to the fact that I was running on about four hours of sleep than anything that actually happened at the convention. I managed to barter a ride from my mum in return for watching her pets for the weekend, and we got off to a good start, leaving at about 2:30. I tend to like to get to Polaris around 3:30 or 4:00, as the baggage carts aren’t usually all gone by then, because it’s still early, and it allows for a little bit of time to get rooms/tables etc set up before panelist registration opens.
The hotel, as usual, was wonderful. Polaris has been at the Sheraton for three years now, and what they lack in space, they make up for in hospitality and quick service. I didn’t have to wait through more than two people in front of me before being promptly checked in, and when we had noise complaints the one night, the hotel dealt with it immediately with no argument. We only had two real problems regarding the hotel, and both were resolved quickly. Once, Robin’s room key de-magnetized, and they forgot to deliver the cot I’d ordered by check-in. Both problems were easily solved by a two-minute trip to the concierge desk. Additionally, despite the heat wave, the hotel was always at a comfortable, cool temperature everywhere we went.
The only real complaint I’ve heard from anybody comes from our roommates: apparently the buffet is terrible, and overpriced. They paid $26 for cold pizza and macaroni and no service from the waiter, plus gratuity was mandatory. However, if you don’t want to bring your own food to con (my strategy of choice) there is an amazing food court in the mall attached to the hotel with pizza, Chinese, Thai and Indian food, all at reasonable prices. I dined there twice this past weekend, and an order of chicken chow mein that furnished three meals, plus pop, only cost me $5.45, and was delicious enough that I ate it all. The Starbucks in the lobby is also good if you just want a snack.
After check-in, supper, and a brief nap, I joined my roommates Natalie, Kyle and Josh in a trip around the dealers’ room and various other vendors lining the hallways. I was glad to see that Rob St. Martin was there, and that he had started his own publishing house (about time!) and had produced a sequel to the highly engaging teen airship pirate epic, Sunset Val. Yes, you know you have to read it just from the description. I’m going to be writing a review on both books soon, but more on that later. Erik Buchanan had also produced another anthology story, which I was happy to see, being a big fan from way back.
Other than the books, though, I was rather disappointed with the dealers’ room this year. There were a couple of good artists, Robin being one, and a guy doing somereally great Tim Burton/Edward Gorey stuff being another, but I found that a lot of it was either the same people that are there every year, or just stuff I wasn’t particularly interested in. It seemed to be very stuff/collectibles oriented this year, and I tend to like to see more new authors and people selling clothing or accessories. They did have a few clothing/accessories vendors,
but once again, it was mostly all the same people, and I’ve either bought something from them, can’t afford them, or, in the case of the fan-related t-shirts, I just really don’t wear that kind of thing. I would really have liked to have seen someone with a couple of Japanese Pullip dolls or something among all the collectibles, but alas! there never seem to be any. So, while my
wallet was saved from potential devastation by the presence of irresistible shinies, I would have liked perhaps a little bit more temptation.
After the dealers’ room, I spent some time hanging out with Robin at his booth, where he was selling comic book, sci fi and video game-related pin-ups. We were lucky enough to meet someone right off the bat who was a fan of his work on the internet, and Robin got to receive some much-appreciated in-person fan love. If you want to see Robin’s work, check out http://denofnotorious.blogspot.com… but be warned that some pictures are adult and not safe for work.
I stayed at Robin’s table until 10pm, when the two of us packed up his table to go to a panel he was moderating on the upcoming movie adaptation of Stephen King’s The
Dark Tower series. Seeing as Robin ended up being scheduled alone, and I was a big enough fan of the series to be moderating the next panel on the new Dark Tower book that is coming out, I sat on his panel to keep him company and help spread out the opinions. It was a good panel, if sparsely attended, and I found out some really cool Victorian Literature trivia that I didn’t know before: apparently, Robert Browning’s poem ‘When Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came’, the poem that inspired King’s series, was in its turn inspired by an obscure
quote from Shakespeare’s King Lear. It may seem small, but these are the kinds of little Easter-eggs that nerdy scholars like myself just love.
So, with more knowledge than I had before, and with a handful of coupons handed out, I sat and waited for my panel to begin. And waited, and waited. Apparently, the audience for the Dark Tower panels had left the building after the first panel, so it was a good thing that I pitched in on Robin’s. I filled the time I would have been spending on the panel filling out my masquerade entry forms, then caught the tail end of Robin’s panel on bad video game adaptation movies.
From there, everybody from our room did a brief stint at the Star Trek themed dance downstairs (loved the decor, and got a stuffed tribble) and then headed up to Klingon Karaoke just in time for Yellow Bird of Prey. After about a half an hour of re-connecting with some old con friends, and listening to a drunken rendition of ‘American Woman’ that was truly brilliant, we decided to call it a night. On to Saturday!
Saturday morning was mostly spent watching Robin’s table while he did panels, and so there’s not much to say there. My day really started in the afternoon, when I sat on a panel discussing internet fandom and its impact with author and scholar J.M. Frey. In my humble opinion, the panel was a smashing success, provoking much discussion on the role of fandom in the creation of today’s artistic products, and allowing us panelists, as a couple of creators, to speak directly to fans about the benefits and limits of fan-creator interaction. My main points, from the creator’s point of view, were that:
1. Artists want to entertain you. They’re not out to screw you.
2.Sometimes, as much as artists want to be open about the circumstances that cause their products to be objectionable to fans in order to find a solution, they may be contractually obligated not to say anything, or it may be too hard to explain.
3.Sometimes, if you really, really want something from an artist or company, you have to be willing to pay for it.
I also gave out more coupons and got to talk to some people about my work, which was fun.
My next panel discussed fandom memes and their uses and implications. It was a fun panel, with lots of laughs and lots of audience member participation, which I always love to see. We all agreed, at the end, and I am certainly going to recommend to the programming committee, that we should have a panel next year on the psychology and societal implications of trolling.
After my two panels were done for the day, Natalie and I retired to our room to prepare for the masquerade. After two hours of make-up and a lot of finagling, the results were as follows:
Pretty cool, eh? I had a lot of fun wearing it, but unfortunately, neither me nor Natalie won any prizes this year. I chalk this up to the fact that there was really intense competition this year (and there’s no shame in losing to the best, right?) and the fact that there seemed to be a bit of a bias toward historically themed and girly costumes.
Having said that I’m not upset about not winning anything in particular, as I had a really great time just wearing the costume and giving people joy with it, I did have some beefs with the masquerade that didn’t really have to do with that. First of all, it seemed like, despite the plethora of worthy entries this year, the judging panel insisted on giving multiple awards to the same few costumes. Couldn’t some of the honorable mentions, at least, have been spread out?
I also have misgivings about the new policy accepting strictly historical costumes, now that I’ve seen it in action. I was originally excited about this, as I don’t normally do fan costumes/cosplay style character costumes, in favor of creating something original, but after seeing the proportion of awards that went to historical costumes at what is supposed to be a science fiction fan convention, I’m starting to wonder if this year’s masquerade didn’t miss the point somewhat. I have no problem with giving a small proportion of awards to really
deserving historical costumes, but shouldn’t the bias still be toward fan costumes, at a fan convention? Just saying.
After the masquerade judging was announced, Natalie and I stuck around the dance for a while, then headed for bed. Overall, Saturday was a good day, filled with friendly new faces and lots of great discussions. Now, on to Sunday!
Sunday started, for me, with the con writing workshop, hosted by celebrated author and editor Julie Czerneda. I’ve been to a ton of mini-workshops at cons, and this was by far one of my favourites. With Julie’s guidance, we created concepts for SF stories, starting with items of scientific conjecture and moving into more complex notions of plot, character and setting. The reason I liked this workshop is because I came away with lots and lots of ideas, and, honestly, a better starting point for creating SF stories than I have previously had. I’ve wanted to do SF before, but struggled with how to work in the science when I’m, honestly, not even close to being a scientist. I think, after this workshop, I feel a lot more empowered to do what I need to do.
I also met a lot of other nice authors at the workshop, including Michelle LaFramboise, bilingual author and illustrator, whose graphic novel I bought and plan to review. Michelle also came to my next two panels, which was a fun way to connect with another author.
My last two panels concerned the year in animation, and the final installment of the Harry Potter series. Not too much to recap here, although they were fun, but suffice it to say that I was really happy with the year in animation, and so-so on the last Harry Potter. Yeah, I know a lot of people loved it, but I had criticisms, most of them to do with pacing, tension and direction of the actors.
Anyway, after a long and rewarding weekend, and lots of coupons given out, we headed home to bed. At five pm. Bed never felt so good!
Tomorrow, I start my series on con reading that I promised, where I review things I’ve picked up at con that I’ve liked or just want to discuss. These posts will start out being fairly frequent, but will spread out as I have to read the newer ones, being spaced with ‘Things I Love’ posts and other news.