It’s taken me the better part of a week to get to my writeup of ArmadilloCon, but you shouldn’t take that as a negative commentary on the quality of the convention; I have, after all, had something of a busy week. And in fact, ArmadilloCon was a whole lot of fun, and I’m really glad I went, and I would definitely recommend it to any of you who are looking for a relaxed convention to meet some of your favorite writers. It was my first time in Texas, and based on how much I enjoyed myself, it won’t be the last.
I’m writing this early morning and I’m having a hard time crafting thoughts over consecutive sentences at the moment, so let me instead simply bullet-point some of my ArmadilloCon observations:
* FIrst, this is a convention that takes seriously its obligation to feed its guests; Austin is a food town and I’m pretty sure I gained five pounds while I was there. The night I arrived I was taken to Threadgill’s, at which I had chicken-fried steak and peach cobbler, and on the last night I was taken to The County Line, at which I was loaded with approximately 14 pounds of meat, across at least three different species. It would not have been a good place to be a vegetarian.
Now, I’m aware that some Austinites will be happy to show up in the comments and declare that the convention should have taken me to whatever their favorite Texas BBQ place is, or whatever, but two things: One, they were paying for my meals, so I went where I was taken, and two, trust me, these places were good enough. I didn’t have to consist on con suite cold platters. That’s an excellent thing.
* Proof that ArmadilloCon did its homework about me: When I checked into the hotel, the front desk presented me with a 12-pack of Coke Zero. Well done, folks.
* One thing I noticed once the programming started was how well-attended panels and presentations were: There wasn’t a panel I was on that didn’t have lots of butss in seats. Now, maybe this was a side effect of being the guest of honor, and people showing up where I was, but I don’t think so; I’ve done panels as a guest of honor other places that weren’t as well attended, and other people at ArmadilloCon did panels I wasn’t even on that were well attended. So I don’t suppose it was just about me.
Naturally, I liked this very much; it’s great to see folks have such an interest in panels, and I think one can both credit the quality of the programming choices and the quality of the panelists in a general sense.It was a good mix.
* One of the ArmadilloCon write-ups I read noted that this was one of those conventions where there were almost as many writers as fans, and while I’m not entirely sure about that, there certainly were a lot of writers and artists there, probably because Austin and its immediate environs (which in Texas means anyplace within a three-hour drive) is stacked with creative types, and you know us creative types. Anything to procrastinate. So, yes, a whole lot of writers and artists, and I had tons of fun meeting them. Sadly, ArmadilloCon icon Howard Waldrop wasn’t there in the flesh this year — something about a quintuple bypass surgery crimping his style — but on the final day, he managed a cameo via phone. That was pretty awesome.
* Some of my programming highlights:
— On Friday I popped into the ArmadilloCon writing workshops and give a quick five minute speech to the workshoppers about why it was okay to suck — and indeed it was necessary. I’m pretty sure this went over better than you might expect.
— A panel on Space Opera, which moderator John Picacio detoured into the aesthetics of Steampunk, which I thought was interesting (steampunk star wars for the win!) and actually, it turns out, related to the subject at hand.
— A worldbuilding panel with me, Steven Brust, Martha Wells and Warren Spector, about whom it took me a number of minutes to realize that he was the Warren Spector. In addition to being a kick-ass game designer he’s also a good panel moderator, since the panel didn’t devolve into the usual “here’s how to build a world” thing.
— The “fannish feud” panel, in which fans and pros played against each other in a variation of the old Family Feud game show. Despite my recent ascension into the role of Alpha Fan Writer, I played on the pro side, and we won (which is apparently unusual), but just barely.
— Sitting on a military science fiction panel with Joe Haldeman and Elizabeth Moon, which seemed oddly familiar, since I had done the same thing a week before. We had fun (again).
And I especially had fun with my Guest of Honor Q&A and my reading, mostly because I think the audiences in both cases were up for it and willing to tolerate my quirks, such as the fact that I pace all over the place while I talk and gesticulate like a monkey as I do so.
* If I try to mention every single cool person I met in Austin for the first time I’m going to fail, badly, because at the moment and no matter how hard I try I’m blanking on names. I blame artificial sweetener. Be assured that I met a number of very cool people and had a great time. That said, I do want to give a shoutout to my fellow Guests of Honor David Lee Anderson, Shelia Williams, Joe & Gay Haldeman, Bill Crider and Kelly Persons, all of whom were a great deal of fun to spend time with and talk to.
In sum, ArmadilloCon was excellent, and you should make it a point to go to one sometime soon. I plan on going back.