Happy first-day-back-after-a-con day, everyone! I spent the weekend in Michigan, surrounded by a brick wall topped with a barbed-wire fence. Sadly, or happily, the rest of the story is not as dramatic as the opening might make it seem. I was a panelist at Immortal Confusion, and for a smallish con, (around 850 attendees) it really packed in the quality. This was the first year in new digs for ConFusion, in this case the Doubletree in Dearborn. Usually, when a con has to move, they take a hit in attendance, but the organizers did their jobs well and wrangled up enough talent to pack the house.
The panel selections were varied and excellent, with enough going on at any given moment that everyone, regardless of their flavor of fandom, had a place to go and be entertained and educated by friendly, knowledgeable people. Stand-out moments for me included a testy, but necessary exchange on a panel about greater inclusiveness in geekdom between Mary Robinette Kowel, and a panel member who’s opinions regarding new fans could be summed up with “Get off my lawn.” Although I couldn’t attend because of scheduling conflicts, Myke Cole led a three-hour D&D campaign played by other authors. I heard nothing but good things about it from other attendees.
My favorite panel was probably the one I moderated with Charles Stross, Michael R. Underwood, and two other lovely people whose names I’m embarrassed to say I’m blanking on at the moment. We talked about Taboos, in both society and fiction, the relationship between the two, and the artist’s responsibility to balance the desire to pull the curtain back and start conversations about “off-limit” topics, and the real danger of normalizing or desensitizing people to them. But I was most impressed by our audience, which remained remarkably calm and civil, despite the fact we were talking openly and frankly about such charged topics as race, gender roles, rape, income inequality, and sexuality. There had been real potential for the panel to go off the rails from the beginning, but thanks to the maturity of everyone involved, it never did. Bravo.
I also must send out a real thanks to Wesley Chu and Mary G Thompson. Wes proved himself again to be a great travel companion, and Mary was a fun and understanding roomie, once she got over my gun and snoring. Both are excellent writers in their own right and either have work out now, or will very soon. Please take some time peruse the links here and consider supporting the work of all of the authors. Building an audience is the main reason we go to these conventions, to connect with fans and grow our brand.
And if you find yourself with some time to spare around this time next year and are looking for a great, low-key fan convention without all the hustle and bustle of the big boys, take a few days and check out Immortal Confusion. We’ll see you there.