Not Getting The Con Crud and Other Take Aways From NorWesCon 35

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It’s been nearly 10 days since the last day of NorWesCon 35. I didn’t make it to even one panel or exhibit on Sunday. I was exhausted. I took in a lot of experiences, information and more. So, it’s taken me a while to process, but I still wanted to share with you my impressions from the “Premiere Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention.”

As was my experience last year, the people watching was the absolute best part – that and Manhattans that the Double Tree’s bartender, Rich, made. His interpretation on my favorite fancy drink is the second best in the greater Seattle region, as far as I’m concerned. The costuming was great and for some reason I made very little use of my camera. I get so caught up in the moment, so intrigued by what I’m witnessing that I forget I’m carrying the godforsaken thing and don’t take photos (really bad habit for a former award-winning photographer, too!).

Martius Catalyst shows up at NorWesCon 35.

There was an interesting booth that was lobbying to make Scott Bakula the next Doctor. I would say they were one of the most passionate organizational tables. The SteamCon table was once again nearly unapproachable due to the giant weapons and baby carriage and large costumed-crowd, which was shrouded in a cloud of snoot, unfortunately. Not sure what caused the unapproachable nature of that table – it could have been the woman who had tinted glasses for which she wore more like reading spectacles and looked down on those approaching. For a hotel full of a large percentage of shy introverts, that would be difficult to overcome, I believe. My inference was validated by many conversations I overheard. Most notably the one I overheard between two very die-hard Trekkie fans and one Star Wars fan (all three in wicked cosplay attire) about not only how they felt snubbed by this particular lobby table, but also what the whole steampunk thing was all about. I stayed out of that conversation; I wasn’t feeling the need to necessarily ‘defend’ the culture. I think people need to discover things like that themselves. However I did hand them some Martius Catalyst bookmarks and asked them to do exactly that – find out for themselves.

The most approachable table was the costuming folks and the CryptiCon folks. Good on them. They figured out the way to make themselves big-deal enticing and yet approachable.

The art exhibit was fabulous and if I wasn’t already a John Picacio fan, then this show gave me even more reason to do so. I snagged a discarded program so I can frame the art by him found in the program. Just stunning. I never did find out who won the people’s choice in art (until just now). There was many nice pieces and I wish, once again, that I’d had some funds to purchase some. There were pieces from a few artists in particular that I wanted:  Chris Sumption, Aimee Stewart, Steve Lestat, Ryan MacLeod, Jeliza, David Lee Pancake, Michael D. Duquette, and Todd Lockwood. There was a brand new artist, whose work truly got me excited, and she actually was a part of the art tour that I went on, but she didn’t have contact info, etc. I gave her my card to send me her info, but I haven’t heard yet. I loved her stuff, as well as the others above, because it inspired me or made me want to write a story about the piece or for the piece. Regardless, if you’re of the art-buying persuasion, I would say go check out their work.

Lisa Mantchev (right) with her muse and bard, Kiri Callaghan (left) at Mantchev's NorWesCon 35 reading.

The Philip K. Dick Award Ceremony was great to witness again. The free coffee come that time of night was a real bonus (the brownies weren’t bad either). My husband, upon my request (so we could discuss later) tried to watch via the streaming and it was a bit of a fail – it didn’t have sound and then when the sound kicked in the volume was so low you couldn’t hear anything. I have much respect for this literary award and have often said I’d love to be a nominee one year. But, the whole process, web site presence, all of it needs to match the prestige. Not sure where the breakdown is because the NorWesCon folks give it much respect and energy…Like I said, I’d like to see it appear even more prestigious and professional to those that aren’t aware of the award as I am.  The winner – Simon Morden, for his THE SAMUIL PETROVITCH TRILOGY, didn’t make my short list. But I’m batting zero for guessing who would win. In the last six years I have not been able to pick who actually won. Maybe next year I’ll do better. We’ll see.

The vendors were cool and when my hair decided it was going to be annoying beneath my hat, I found some nice baubles, pins and ties to get it under control, so I could focus again at the writing and publishing and art track panels I wanted to attend.

Mary Robinette Kowal gives a reading and a puppet show. Fun! (at NorWesCon 35)

As was the case last year and this, I loved the readings the best. The con organizers did a fairly good job of finding a room that inspired a cozy feel for most of the readings. Some of the bigger readings likely could have used a bigger room – I’m thinking of Mary Robinette Kowal, Lisa Mantchev and the Broad Universe (which I’m going to seriously check out). Unfortunately I missed Jay Lake‘s reading on Thursday due to a two-hour back up on I-405 and I-5 and he was understandably scarce for me to say Hi to him. At least our paths didn’t cross that I saw.

But all in all the readings were very well organized and I’ll likely attend many more next year. I do hope, however, as far as other panels go, the NorWesCon organizers trim down some of the subject matter – some of the topics were too broad for one hour. More importantly there should be a stern reminder to the moderators that they are moderators and not panelists. Some of the moderators monopolized some of the panels (which I know happens at every conference I’ve ever attended). It’s especially disquieting when the moderator positions themselves in the very center of the panel and is continually contrary and disagreeable – even when they clearly agree with a panelist with which they are arguing. Argument for the sake of argument is just dull for the attendees. We didn’t come to hear the moderator soapbox. Moderate for goodness’ sake. Kudos to everyone arriving on time and getting out on time — at least for the panels I attended. Nice job there.

The biggest success of my NorWesCon experience this year? I didn’t get the con crud. I left a bit prematurely Saturday evening than I had planned and just slept through Sunday. I missed an additional reading by Philip K. Dick award nominee Jean Johnson, but I got to talk to her after the awards ceremony, and that was great. I was able to convey to her that I thought her novel, SOLDIER’S DUTY, was well-written and captured the recruit’s spirit very, very well. It was nice to connect with another writer like that. Looking forward to the next in this series of Johnson’s novels, as I’m looking forward to NorWesCon 36. Next year I hope to maybe have a con buddy for at least part of the experience and will again attempt to get a room so I don’t have drive back and forth – that killed some of my ability to cosplay and stay for some of the later panels (e.g. screenwriting 101, which I really could have used this month!).

Jean Johnson reads at Philip K. Dick award ceremony from THE SOLDIER'S DUTY, the excerpt where Ia gets her nickname. It was brilliant!

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