MarsCon 2018 AAR

As usual, I stayed up too late the night before.  I was at work, doing an overnight shift, and I played around on my computer until past 0100.  I will never know why I feel compelled to do this to myself.  I feel like a little kid who is afraid she’ll miss something if she goes to bed.

For the record, this is happening right now.  It’s 0129, and I know it’s going to hurt to wake up in the morning and drive to BWI to get Risa.

But I’ll do it!  Because Risa!  WOOOOOOOOO!

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Yeah, getting up sucked.  🙂  One of these days, I’ll learn not to do that to myself.

In any case, I woke up on Friday and eventually made it out the door and onto the road to drive to BWI to pick up my friend Marisa.  The timing worked out really well, because all I had to do was drive up to the curb and she hopped in.  It was like we’d planned it or something.  😉   Then we headed back to my house, because in my infinite wisdom, I’d forgotten a jacket and some other necessaries.  So Risa and EZ got to hang out for a bit, which is not to be missed.  EZ may be my soulmate, but he’s definitely Risa’s partner in comedy crime.

Jacket and necessaries acquired, Risa and I set off for a 3 hour road trip down to Williamsburg VA.  The drive is usually a pretty one, through some of Southern Maryland’s rural and Amish country.  It was pretty this time too, but in an otherworldly, etherical way.  For whatever reason, thick fog banks draped large swaths of the route, and it looked like something out of Silent Hill whenever we crossed a bridge and disappeared into the featureless white on the other side.

But we made it, got checked in, and headed to the Con.

First on the agenda:  getting badges.  My first impression was that MarsCon is a very well organized convention.  It was super easy for me to get badged as a pro, and Risa easily purchased her membership onsite.  We met up with Chris Kennedy for a few minutes, and then it was time to dive right in to the panels.

I will say this:  this was the busiest panel schedule I’ve had yet.  10 panels over the course of 2.5 days.  And they were frequently an hour apart.  It was exciting and the topics were enjoyable and interesting… but it was busy.

My favorite panel of Friday night might have been the “Ready, Set, Flash!” panel, where the audience supplied the details and my fellow panelists and I had to compete to tell a story in 5 minutes.  Hilarity predictably ensued, and I won one of the rounds thanks to the creative and blatant use of profanity in the very first line.

Friday night, Marisa and I headed back to the hotel relatively early, and then proceeded to stay up till 0200 talking about politics and plotlines, etc.  Because, you know, slumber party!

Saturday morning, Risa met up with a friend for breakfast and I made my way over to the Genre Blending panel at the crack of eleven.  We had a really good time there, and Chris Kennedy did a great job moderating.  I confessed out loud to being “genre fluid”, as in, I just can’t pick a genre to play in… they’re all so great, I want to play in them all!  I also had the pleasure of sitting next to Guest of Honor Carrie Vaughn, who was extremely nice.  I really enjoyed chatting with her during the panel and in the green room afterwards.

Marisa joined me in the green room shortly thereafter, as did Drew Avera.  Drew was one of the other panelists on the “Ready, Set, Flash” panel, and he told us that he had a new idea.  He wanted to do short, two-minute interviews with various authors to find out why they started writing and what their process is.  He’s calling it Author Mechanics, and it’s super fun.  Both Risa and I interviewed for it.  You can find Drew’s channel here:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCw10Jav-mHgYheGsIiHrp5g  Go check them out. 😊

I had a total of six panels on Saturday, but the highlight was the Baen Books Travelling Roadshow and Prize Patrol.  Hosted by Baen Empress and High Priestess Toni Weisskopf, the Roadshow has a long tradition of irreverent commentary, beautiful artwork, and free books.  😊  What’s not to love?  I got to give away a signed copy of Forged In Blood, (which, by the way, just won the 2017 Preditors & Editors Reader Poll for Best Anthology!) and talk about the projects I’ve contributed to.  I also got to talk about D. J. Butler’s Witchy Eye, because I nearly bounced out of my chair when Toni brought up the slide. 😊  I recently read this masterpiece (yep.  I said it.  It’s a MASTERfreakingPIECE!) and relished the opportunity to share my enthusiasm with the crowd.

After the Roadshow, Marisa and I met up with Jim MInz and our friend Erin at an Italian place called Maurizio’s for dinner.  There, we proudly claimed the title of “that table” as we proceeded to laugh long and hard at one another’s stories and quips.  The food was to-die-for good, too, as were, I’m told, the pomegranate limoncello margaritas.

One more panel on Westerns in SF and Fantasy, and then Risa and I met up with Chris and Mark for some 4HU/Assassin strategy talk.  We were joined by the lovely Sheelah and Joy, as well as by Erin.  We proceeded to talk about alligators and headbutting them, geese and getting smacked by them, school and work and travel… all the things, as Risa says.  Definitely all the things.

But more importantly, we brainstormed and discussed the future of the Depik race and the 4HU as a whole… and I think you guys are really going to like where this is going.  So buckle up, fans.  We’re going for a ride!

Sunday morning’s 1100 panel came a hair too early, thanks to our late night on Saturday, but we made it.  The panel was titled Theogony Books and Beyond, 30 Books in 2018.  There, Chris Kennedy shared the future of his various imprints, including Seventh Seal Press, which publishes the Four Horseman Universe.  Though the panel was but lightly attended, it was very exciting.  I can’t wait to see everything come to fruition in 2018.

Not the least of which is Assassin!  Chris announced at the panel that Assassin will launch on 23 February, 2018.  Just over a month from now!  So, if you’re excited to learn more about the catsassin race, get ready!  😊

Overall, I really enjoyed Marscon.  The programming was a lot of fun, even if I felt completely slammed with panels.  One suggestion I have for the staff: I prefer when a panel has a predesignated moderator, who can prepare questions and sort of steer the discussion.  Every panel I was on had someone step up to moderate (including me, once), but I do think it’s better if the moderator can prepare in advance.

Other than that, though, everything was really well organized and ran so smoothly, it didn’t seem as if the con was crowded at all.  I was amazed when I heard what the attendance numbers were.  Either those numbers (1500?) were way off, or the flow was just that good, because it felt as if a fraction of that many people were there.

Thanks again to Crystal Smalling and all of the staff at MarsCon for putting on a kickass event.  I was so pumped to go, and I’d love to return again next year!  I highly recommend this con to anyone looking for a break from the midwinter blues.  😊  Great time.