ConFusion 2007 Wrap-Up

ConFusion was the first regional con I ever went to, not that many years ago (I didn’t start going to SF conventions until after I sold Old Man’s War, after all), and it continues to be one of my favorites: It’s well-run, has good guests and a varied and interesting selection of fans. Basically, a fun time all the way around. This year was, happily, much of the same.

The good news for me was that last year’s “tradition” of fans coming up and kissing the top of my skull seems to have died an ignominious death, which I appreciate; sure, it was amusing to be the subject of random cranial osculation one year, but having it happen two years running would be a bit much. The only person who planted a smacker was Chuck Firment (i.e., the Guest of Honor last year what started the whole craze anyway), and he can get away with it because he’s a friend of mine, and also (as I’ve already warned him, with a maniacal laugh) next year I’m planning my revenge upon him. Bwa ha ha ha hah! Heh. Anyway, scurrilous rumors you may have heard of mass head-kissings or me being subjected to a hallway cuddle pile of furries or whatever are all simply untrue. Untrue! And I’m going to keep saying it until I believe it.

I’m also happy to say that my programming went very well; I had three panels, all of which were lots of fun thanks to the participants. The first, on Saturday, was on unusual characters in science fiction, for which I was on a panel with Anne Harris and convention Guest of Honor Elizabeth Moon, both of whom are fascinating panelists; we talked about what it means to have be “unusual” in fiction (versus being unusual in real life), the problem of characters so alien that readers can’t relate, and other various issue of interest. Later that day I was on a panel on “Committing Trilogy” with Karl Schroeder, Steven Harper Piziks, Toby Buckell and Jim Frenkel. The discussion broadened slightly to include series as well as trilogies, and we talked about the advantages and disadvantages of writing trilogies and series, both from an artistic and commercial perspective (briefly, the upside is that people like series; the downside is that if they stop liking them, you’re in deep trouble).

On Sunday, Toby and I were slotted in with Elizabeth Moon to talk about what it’s like to become a fiction writer when you’ve been a journalist; I think initially none of us had a clue about how to discuss the particular topic, but once we got started I think it became a very interesting discussion indeed. So out of three panels, I had three good ones, which is a nice batting average to have. So here I tip my hat to ConFusion programming director Rikhei Harris — she did an excellent job, at least in programming me.

For me, however, conventions are mostly about the folks I get to see there, so spending a bit of time with people I already know and people I’ve newly met is lots of fun. On the “people I already know” front there were the aforementioned Karl and Toby (and their lovely respective spouses Janice and Emily), Dave Klecha and his group of excellent pals who I have filed in my mind as “The Klecha Clutch,” and the ConFusion con folk who include Rikhei, Jeff Beeler, Matt Arnold among many others.

Among the new folks I got to spend a bit of time with was PZ Myers, the famed science blogger and the convention’s Science Guest of Honor; he’s got a nicely dry sense of humor and is as interesting in real life as in his blog. I also got a few moment to spend with Bill Higgins, the Fan Guest of Honor, who was a lot of fun to chat with and who should avoid manhole covers from now on (long story). And I met Yanni Kuznia, who I noticed actually a couple of years ago at Penguicon because she and husband can hit a dance floor and cut a rug well enough to make the rest of us look like twitching monkeys. Turns out that in addition to being a fabulous dancer she’s also a hell of an interesting person; it’s always nice when it works out like that (she and her friends were there to promote their TV show InZer0, which has a MySpace page, of course). Among Whatever commenters I spent some time with Steve Buchheit and also saw Hugh57 at my panels. I saw and hung out with tons more people than this, of course, but it’s till early in the morning and my brain is like swiss cheese. So forgive me if I missed you in the shoutout.

I’ll be returning to ConFusion next year; I kind of have to, because I’ll be a guest of honor; specifically, I’ll be the Toastmaster. You should come; we’ll be having lots of fun.

22 Comments on “ConFusion 2007 Wrap-Up”

  1. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you The Lord of Toast, Griller of Cake to her Majesty the Queen, He Who Toast Must Obey, The Man From Oster, Third Duke of Toastberry, Master of The Staff of Life…

    Toastmaster John Scalzi!

  2. Not to mention all around nice guy and possessor of fabutronic California Ninja abilities and Friend of Pirates (FOP?). Seriously. The pirates love him (no, I’m not going to relate the story, let us just say it was probably less traumatic than the cuddle pile experience, but only barely). And the Ninja Powers, well, I did see Sclazi escape another attempted group kissing by running up the wall and then crawling along the ceiling. And then, he disappeared right in front of me. One second, all glory and celestial choir and I blinked and the Mightly Scalzi had vanished from sight by blending into the golden wallpaper. It was amazing. The choir was bummed for an hour until they found him again.

  3. I guess I should say that the shouts of “Kiss, or ye walk the plank” distracted from the evening’s other entertainments.

    (The pirates there are actually very nice people, and generous.)

  4. Glad you made it home safely – I’m still working on that. Fighting the poor visibility on I-75, I decided to get a room at the Hampton Inn in Bowling Green, OH. I knew somebody was going to have an accident – I didn’t want it to be me.

    A no-brainer – I could drive on I-75 with truckers spitting salty spray onto my windshield, or I could sit in the hot tub at the Hampton.

  5. Hm. Honestly, that’s a new one. Usually my family’s got “Klecha Clan” (or Klan if they’re being alliterative and don’t care about associations), but that’s a new one. I’ll have to share that with those of ’em that don’t read here.

    BTW, my littlest brother (the one in the red Nintendo hoodie, dunno if he was around us when you were) is applying to Chicago for grad school.

  6. Hey Dave, good luck to your brother. And the Klecha Klan are fabulous people to hang around with, thanks for letting me glom on Saturday. They’re hilarious.

    There was somebody many moons ago asking about Charlie Stross’ t-shirt. The group that sells other Cthulhu shirts (still haven’t seen the Cthulhu pants) was at Confusion. Here’s a link to some of their stuff:

    Their own wesbite doesn’t seem to be working.

  7. changterhune – Before you hear lies from Chang Terhune himself, we thought we’d tell you the truth: without us, his old action figures, he’d be nowhere. He loved science fiction from way back and began reading it at an early age, but it was through us that he acted it all out. That’s what led to the writing. He watched a lot of science fiction shows like Star Trek, U.F.O, and movies, too. But we were always there to do his bidding. And it’s like they say: you always forget about the little people on your way up. Oh, the 70’s and early 80’s with him were good times! He’d use these blocks and make all the crazy buildings for us to be in his stories. I gotta say the kid’s imagination was pretty damn fertile. Oh, he had friends, but they just weren’t into it like him. He was like the Lance Armstrong of action figures. And of science fiction. At first, when he began writing in the eighth grade, we didn’t mind. He still made time for us. And we knew that when he was holding us in his sweaty little hands and he got that far off look in his eye, he’d come back to burying us in the back yard or - god forbid! – blowing us up with firecrackers. But it was worth it for a part in one of those stories. We loved him for it. He kept us around even when we were minus a leg or two - or even a head. In that mind of his, he found a use for all of us. Then he discovered girls. October, 1986. It was like the end of the world. One day we’re standing in the middle of this building block creation he’d pretended was some marble city on a planet near Alpha Centauri and the next we were stuck in a box in the closet. Not even a “See ya later!” Nope, it was into the closet, then we heard some high-pitched girly-giggles then silence. We didn’t see him for years. We got word about him once in a while. Heard he took up writing, but it was crap like “The Breakfast Club” only with better music. We couldn’t believe it. Not Charlie. What happened to those aliens with heads he’d sculpted out of wax? Spaceships? Those complex plots? All gone. For what? You guessed it: Girls. Emotions. “Serious fiction.” I tell you, it was like hearing Elvis had left the building. During our two decade exile in the closet, we heard other things about him. He went to college. He wrote a lot, but not much he really liked. We knew it even then. It was like he didn’t dare write science fiction. Some of us had lost hope and just lay there. Others kept vigil, hoping for a day we didn’t dare speak about. Then we heard he’d stopped writing in 1996. Did he come to reclaim us? No. He took up music for ten years or so. He took up yoga. Once in a while, he’d visit us in the closet. But it was half-hearted. His mind was elsewhere. Then one day, he really did come back for us. One second we’re in the dark and the next thing we know we’re in a car headed for Massachusetts. Suddenly we got a whole shelf to ourselves out in broad daylight! Then he bought a bunch of others form some planet called Ebay. He’d just sit and stare at us with that old look. But why were we suddenly back in the picture? He had a wife now, who didn’t mind that he played with us. So what had happened? Turns out he’d never forgotten about those stories. He’d been thinking about all of us and the stories he’d made up and then remembered he’d been a writer once. From the shelf we could see him typing away. Before long he’s got a whole novel together! Then he’s working on another one. Word is there are two more in the planning stages! Some short stories, too! It’s good to see him using his imagination again. Its good to know he never abandoned us. He returned to his true love of science fiction. We hear the stories are pretty good. Someday we’ll get one of the cats to score us a copy of the manuscript. Man, it’s good to be out of the damn closet! --- I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me
    Chang, on Safari

    Memo to self: Don’t kiss Sclazi’s sweet fuzzy skull at Boskone in February.

    2nd Memo to Self: Avoid furrie and plushie orgy with Scalzi at Boskone.

    3rd Memo to Self: Bring Pirate repellent to Boskone.

  8. You are correct about Elizabeth Moon. In addition to being plain old nice, she’s led quite the interesting life. I need to read more of her stuff. I have “Speed of Dark” which is wonderful and somewhat of a tribute to one of her sons, who is autistic, albeit, from what I gather, very high functioning.

    Hopefully, you got to hear her great story about the sale of one of her series to Jim Baen (I think it was Baen).

  9. Interesting subject about the upside and downside of trilogies and series.

    I wonder if you have considered as a downside the fact that some people may be reluctant to buy their first book in a series precisely because they know that it is part of a series… and the larger a series is to begin with, the more reluctant one is to commit to it.

  10. That’s where I would disagree with the panel, that series can have overarching story lines, but they are individual stories that you can enjoy by themselves. Trilogies (quintologies, pentarchs, etc) are all based on one story and require previous knowledge of the earlier books. Brust’s Vlad stories is a series, Jordan’s Wheel of Time is trilogy cubed.

    The problem, Riccardo, is that by the time the third (or fourth, etc) book is printed, even if it’s a successful series of books, the first may no longer be in print, although most publishing houses will re-release earlier books with the printing of the latest. But the one thing I’ve seen and heard from the editors at cons is that this may not always be true. An example would be annecdotal evidence from Glen Cook’s “Black Company” books (which are excellent, but with the release of “Water Sleeps” I wanted to pick up the earlier books to give as presents. They were very hard to find in brick and mortar stores).

  11. *!&#@!**&! furnace!

    Otherwise, I may very well have been included in that whole “Klecha Clutch” dealie, as it was fully my intention (before my furnace blew up–not literally–and washed away my weekend plans) to lech on to and tag along with Dave’s cadre of friends for the weekend, at least until they decided to chase me away.


  12. You *believe* the head kissing is over. Having a year without kisses to the head may just be a way of lulling you into a false sense of security.

    You know, perhaps just by the mere existence of this post, others may come up to you at various conventions around the country and kiss you on the head. They are invited to do so, of course! :)

    I know I’m in trouble next year. I just don’t know how it’s going to happen, but I know it’s going to happen. It’s going to be worth it. If only *one* person kisses you on the head unexpectedly at a Con within the next year… oh yes, it will have been worth it.

    See you in April!

  13. John, if you’d like, I can give you one of the skulls of mine from the pirate ship and you can make people kiss that instead…

    It’d give ‘kiss Scalzi’s skull’ a whole new meaning.

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