ArmadilloCon Wrapup

(Picture of me at ArmadilloCon taken from here, because even though I brought a camera I never bothered to take it out, because apparently I’m an idijit. Thank you Merbrat!)

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.

21 Comments on “ArmadilloCon Wrapup”

  1. Dude,
    The reason they take you to Threadgills is because that’s where Janis Joplin got her start.

    I was there last March. Ordered a chicken sandwich. It was butterflied… in other words, a chicken sandwich as big as my head.

  2. Nah, they took the GOH’s to the World Headquarters version, which is in tribute to the old Armadillo World Headquarters Saloon which is now covered by the office building next door, my office was right over the exact location of the Armadillo (which might explain some of my behavior at times). The Threadgill’s that Janis sang at is on North Lamar, and that location got the first liquor license in Travis County after Prohibition ended.

  3. He almost didn’t make it to Threadgill’s on Thursday night. His driver was a guy from Houston. ’nuff said.

    John’s arrival at Threadgill’s got him his first standing ovation of the weekend, I think.

  4. I hoped you’d see those pictures!
    I was going to email the link, later (in case).

    I wanted to get more of Teh Silly during the reading, but I was trying to not ‘flash’ you much. Kinda hard to read after that.

    You were great fun as a GoH, *and* an all-around nice guy!

    Mad skilz at gift-giving, too! (Velvet Wesley)

    oh, and a pretty decent writer! I am truly enjoying “The Android’s Dream”. (what are you doing reading this drivel! Get back to work on sequel! *cracks whip*)

    Much Bacon,

  5. I grew up in Austin, and every time I go back, I visit both Threadgill’s and the County Line. Those were good choices.

  6. I think the con picked wisely with Threadgill’s and County Line. Both excellent.

    This was my first year at ArmadilloCon and I’m already preparing to go back next year. It’s a great bunch of folks.

    Nice to hear you read and meet you and the other authors. I have so many new books to read! (This is a good thing.)


  7. It was fun getting to know you a little better over those ginormous platters of charred animal flesh at County Line.

    BTW, the Threadgill’s dinner was a bit of a departure this year. Traditionally the Thursday dinner is Tex-Mex. Normally we try to get the guests dowtown to see the bats over the weekend, so the chairs chose Threadgill’s (a fine Austin institution) to allow for bat viewing on Thursday evening instead of trying to cram it in during the weekend. I actually like that idea, and I think it’s more relaxing for all involved.

  8. As one of the “suck” artists you spoke to on Friday, I’ll again reiterate how much I needed the inspiration that day. It was a pleasure meeting you. And, folks, if you get the chance, make John share his story of the trials he had in crafting Zoe. Highly entertaining stuff.

  9. regarding con suite food: had you come to the con suite, not only did we have Coke Zero, but various hot foods(except for breakfast) as well. I readily admit we don’t compare with Threadgill’s or County Line, but Melissa puts a lot of effort into providing a variety of tasty offerings, cold, hot and room temperature, and those who come to the con suite are usually pleasantly surprised.

    She’s also glad to have constructive suggestions for next year.


  10. You’re right about ArmadilloCon and panels. I don’t understand it (compared to other cons), but it’s frequently standing room only.

    Hope to see you at other Texas cons. FenCon in Dallas (early October) is another good one.

  11. Oddly enough, Austin is also a great city for vegetarians: Kerby Lane, Magnolia Cafe, Mother’s Cafe, and many others.
    Also, the flagship Whole Foods has an amazing cafe.


  12. I was going to upload my scanned-in program
    (add it to the pix from the con), but I realized flickr
    would be too small to read the GoH “Bio”.
    It really *is* priceless!

    John? You wanna scan yours and post it?
    D’oh! You probably have the original…duh.

    btw, Con Suite food was wonderful!
    Yes, I happily fed the tip jar!


  13. I should note I wasn’t complaining about the ArmadilloCon con suite’s food selection; merely noting that I was not only eating there while I was at ArmadilloCon.

  14. Hey John,
    You were a great GoH from the panels to Fannish Feud (I emailed a few pics to you, not sure if they made it to your home email) to the GoH Q&A (dang, you’re not only smart but a really funny guy!). Hope you make it back to Texas in the future. Moved my family here from southern CA back in 2000 and we love it. Lots of great people and tons of things to do and see, and, of course, places to eat.

  15. It was great sharing peach cobbler with you, John, not to mention all the great music talk with you and David Lee, and I’m glad you enjoyed the weekend even if I did mug you in the dealer’s room. ;-)

  16. You could have done much, much worse than County Line and Threadgill’s. Not the VERY finest BBQ around but quite possibly the best in Austin proper (the best BBQ, period, is in little towns about 90 min drive out of Austin).

  17. Speaking as one of the wannabes who was trying not to suck, thanks. It took a while for the full import of your talk to sink in. It’s important to write even if you think it sucks, not necessarily because it may finally become nonsucky, but because it’s important to keep the creative juices flowing. You have to keep the skids greased.

    And also, thanks for just being a decent guy. I had a chance to talk to you face to face a few times later, and I found you remarkably easy to speak with. I found that even though you are the latest big hot thing, you’re still a regular person, and I very much appreciated you not throwing a lot of attitude at a newbie. Danke.

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