Monday, September 26, 2011

Upstate Streampunk Extravaganza Prep

I'm taking a break form writing Dragon Con Reports to get ready for Upstate Steampunk Extravaganza 2011. All Steam Ahead!  AS with last year, it's crazy getting ready, updating my presentation, trying to do Powerpoint for The Psychology of Steampunk panel  for Saturday morning at 10:00), getting swag and samples of my steampunk novel, Orchidelirium, ready  for my stint at the author's table at 2:00 pm on Saturday, getting together items for the silent auction to benefit the Clemson Food Bank, not to mention garments and accessories and packing.  But this year, I'll mostly be playing instead of vending . I've been a hermit a good bit this past year, working on the novel so I'm looking forward to seeing old friends, meeting new friends, taking my survey for next year and taking photographs! Maybe there will even be some dancing at the ball.
It's been fun making swag: chapbooks with sketches of the characters and part of the first chapter of my steampunk novel, promo cards, greeting cards, bookmarkers and small handmade booklets. I only wish I'd had a dirigible stamp to add to the cover art since as it stands it's hard to tell the book is a steampunk novel. But then, there's always something else that could have been done.
By this point before a con, I'm giddy with excitement and frazzled with things still unfinished and unpacked.  I need to add finishing touches to the Powerpoint and figure out what to bring as far as steampunk gear. It's like getting ready to attend a grown up type of Disney World with all sorts of creative wonders awaiting us.  There's no predicting what other steampunkers will come up with and the sights are always astounding and inspirational - plus its been a long time since we've had a meet up and I've had a chance to talk to everyone.  Now I'll have the time. I know other people have been working hard all year, especially if they're merchants and Gypsey and Marla have put in untold hours of planning, emailing, and organizing.  
So come on out and see me at the author's table, chat a bit, pick a piece of free swag and have a great time with upstate steampunk.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Dragon Con 2011 Debriefing/Postmortem Part 2

So what's the treasure at the end of all the trudging?
It's Four-fold and more, first of all there's the spectacle, over and over again, always surprising, always different. Secondly, there's the panels, the author tracks, the comics/ graphic novel tracks, Brit track, Dark Fantasy Track, Alternate History/Steampunk track, and so much more I didn't investigate personally, then the vendor and art rooms, and last but certainly near the top of the list - those serendipitous meetings and moments.
For me I had two surprises: - The Brit track was one of the highs of my con, seeing all the DR. Who's and Tardis' (how do I make this plural?) walking around or standing in full life size 3-D reality in the Brit Track room, was a highlight. (Here's the life size Tardis in the Parade, photo by Tracy V. Wilson).
But then to see panels on all my favorite BBC shows, Being Human, Torchwood, Dr. Who and even the brief but amazing, Primeval. Unfortunately I didn't make all of these panels due to getting lost or attending other panels, but to know they available was a gift to save for next year.
I did get to the panel where all the Canadian stars of Being Human, Meaghan Rath, Sam Huntington and Sam Woodward, spoke.  Wow!  What a blast.  Before I went in, I had my doubts.  I don't have cable so hadn't seen the SYFY version and was a bit disheartened that my old friends from the BBC weren't doing it anymore. But these three actors totally swayed me. I still haven't seen their show, but onstage they were so likeable, so invested in the characters and script and such a great group who obviously already have amazing chemistry. They offered hints about future scripts and talked about the pros and cons of the show, for example how Megan, who plays the ghost was not only stuck wearing the same costume every show, but was also restricted to shoots in the apartment and not able to go on location like the Josh, the werewolf and Aiden the vampire.  Both Sams agreed her being able to act with them in the outdoor scenes. They sold me on the new version of one of my favorite shows of all time, and it was great to see them cut loose, trash the stage, knock each other all over it and then...clean the stage up.  
Also, I discovered how fascinating the academic comics track was fascinating.  Riveting erudite presentations and vibrant question and answer sections with audiences highly invested in this milieu Even for me an infrequent comics collector (I own a signed faves: The Crow, Sandman, The Girl Who Would Be Death, a number of items by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean) but I'm not a collector or even an avid reader.

Dragon Con 2011 Debriefing/Postmortem Part 3

I made a saecond eventful trip to the vendors room where I saw many items I could barely live without but must due to finances, such as this Gears corset. I
'd have to say one of the highlights of my  Dragon Con 2011 experience was meeting Kimberly Richardson, editor of Kerlak Enterprises, a small active publishing house.  It was my second trip to the vendors room.  The first two times were very crowded, first time Brian and I left after a few steps due to claustrophobia and the 2nd time we toured around with John, who kept prompting me to talk to the editor at Pyr about my steampunk novel, Orchiderlium, but I was too nervous.  It was only my first time at the con and I hadn't prepared anything to say, just had some cards to publicity cards to hand out about the book.  So I didn't speak then, just handed one of the cards to one of the writers.
But as I looked around for myself, I saw the book Drams of Steam on a table covered in books and had to go over since I knew one of my favorite authors and a great all around guy had a story in the anthology.  I'd wanted to get it for a while so I asked the woman at the table if Nick would be there since I wanted another autographed copy, like with Thomas Riley.  She told me he wasn't and then we just jumped into a conversation about Nick, writing and small presses and I asked if she was a writer.  She then introduced herself as the editor for Kerlak Enterprises Inc..  Wow, that was cool and instead of being nervous I just told her how I knew how much work she did because I was an editor too.  We talked about how we loved reading new submissions of steampunk stories and how the quality was so high and how different they all were and went on to speak about other aspects of the field and I suddenly remembered my cards and handed one to her.  She stopped and took the time to read the blurb and then commented on how beautiful the card was.  Wow, that was cool.  And instead of being a needy author, I just went on talking to her about books and steampunk.  It was so easy.  She then grabbed her business card, wrote her personal email on the back and told me that next time they opened up to steampunk submissions to send her a story.  Wow!  That was unexpected.  And she was so nice and knowledgeable and appreciative of the authors she works with. She's an author of The Goth Librarian, so knows the business from both sides like I do.  So it was great to walk way with signed copies of Dreams of Steam and The Goth Librarian as well as with an editor at a publishing house which loves steampunk like I do!
I met a number of authors, editors and attended a number of author's panels.  I can see there will be a future dilemma as to whether I consider Dragon Con as a business trip and focus on networking with authors and editors or whether it's a vacation and I attend the Brit and Dark Fantasy tracks.  There is only so much time in a four day weekend.  Brian and I attended the Neil Gaiman panel. This was on the Brit Track since Neil wrote a script for Dr. Who which aired this past year. First off Neil was not there - it was a track about Neil.  This was the only panel I felt lacking since it didn't go into as much depth as I'd hoped. Brian informed it was a fan panel which is different from an academic panel.  I know a good bit more about a number of Neil's books then some of the panelists, and the panelists didn't quite know how to engage the audience, but once the audience jumped in a lot more.  And after I spoke about the awesome button key marketing for Coraline where amazing boxes of memorabilia were won by people all over the world, I was surprised in a room of 200 or 300 that I was the only person to take a child to see the Movie (my granddaughter, Kendall and she loves Neil as much as I do).
I also attend the Pyr Books panel as John suggested and it was well worth it with a number of the authors and a highly invested editor/publisher who knew the complex plots of over twenty of his releases in the dark fantasy and steampunk genres. It was a fascinating talk with a number of the authors present and the editor gave out lots of sneak preview info on upcoming releases, even cover art sans titles. I was even more impressed when the editor explained how Pyr uses only original art, no Photoshop on their covers, and hires models if a figure is part of the artwork - and the artwork is gorgeous.  As a small press publisher with Shadow Archer Press, I always used original art too and believe it makes for more collectible books. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dragon Con 2011 Debriefing/Postmortem Part 1

I've decided that Dragon Con is a mini quest, sort of along a geek/freaky hero's journey with many trials and rewards along the way.  My friend and author, Brian K. Ladd, found an apt metaphor for the first trial which requires standing in a ticket line as it circles and snakes around the Sheraton Hotel in order to start the adventure.  The first treasure -  a valuable 2011 Dragon Con 25th anniversary pass. When he called the line an ouroroboros, I should have realized we were in for major character building adventures and mishaps, despite the rush of getting that pass.
I was graciously invited  by Megan and Brian to join them at the con. Brian was presenting a panel for the Academic Track on how women were depicted on comic book covers by three companies, so our first mission was for Brian and I to set off in search of the academic lunch at at Ted's Montana Grill. This proved to be quite interesting in many ways and I met a variety of presenters and their significant others and we shared rambling conversations. The man who started the entire concept of the academic track is the well known Professor Awesome who regaled us with stories and by the entire evening asked about purchasing the entire catalog of Shadow Archer Press books for a second publishing line he's developing.  Alas, this is probably not in the stars, because I don't own the copyrights, I just obtain one time rights and then they revert back to the poets and authors. But it was an amazing offer and a very good omen. And something totally unexpected.

After lunch we set off again on another trek. Megan, who chillaxed at the hotel was our personal oracle looking up directions etc. A great help since I'm a first time Dragon Con novice and Brian had only been once.  
Dragon Con is 50% trudging, along with 40,000 to 65,000 other people during the four days, spread over 5 hotels and 4 downtown Atlanta blocks. At this largest Sc Fi/Fantasy Con in the world, there are numerous subcultures and genres trudging up and down hills, around, in, between, over and under hotels, up and down escalators and elevators and staircases, out the wrong door, back in, channeled through the airwalks, burrowing into the lower levels, all while suffering dehydration nourishment. Dragon Con is heat and sweat, the din of 40,000 excited or exhausted voices punctuated by a spectacle like none other on earth - a freak show extraordinaire and a test of your senses so complete, you're in sensory overload within one minute after stepping into the lobby of the Hilton, Hyatt or Marquee. (The Sheraton and Westin being more staid and peaceful, until the Sheraton staff decides to perform their dance routines).
My first impression is the costumes, of course and the first hour or so of walking is spent in a sort of trance looking this way and that simply following Brian through the labyrinth of lobbies, hallways, and vendor rooms. I learned getting lost, many times for hours, (I heard of one person lost for 4 hours)  is a common initiation stage for the novice. All due to watching costumes and not which entrance to which hotel I had started at. The glassed over airwalks where you shuffle in a congested but polite line over the roads, gives you a better view of the scope of your mobius strip journey, but offers few clues on how to avoid getting lost. 
Being late is another initiation ritual. Finding that panel or fellow traveler (frequently dislocated as if they'd been kidnapped by the wooden Tardis stationed in a corner of the Brit room) is part of the gauntlet flung at your aching feet.  Suffering, travail and at times, panic, are prerequisites before you can be fully assimilated into the Dragon Con mindset and able to appreciate the full smorgasbord of freaks, monsters, scantily clad women, steampunkers, super heroes, Dr. Whos, Darth Vaders, Transformers, mechanical creatures, cutsey and villains.

It occurred to me, thanks to a valuable discussion with Brian and the night before on comics and graphic novels, how these creations are similar to myths, and the acting out a passion for discovery of all creatures, human and otherwise is part of our own journeys, even to the point of acting it out.  When Brian explained to me that Joseph Campbell was one of George Lucas' professors, it started to all make sense.  As a student of Carl Jung, I knew how the various archetypes are always lurking just below the surface in our subconscious awaiting recognition and release. In the Bacchanalia/All Souls/Dragon Con Disco/ there are times they erupt. We must respect their oddities, quirkiness or terrifying appearances as sublimated parts of the human psyche.
Every culture has held festivals of a sort to let these creatures run free, or even amok, lest they harm or control us the remainder of the year. So is it any wonder, that the only photo of me from the con is one I begged from Darth Vader?  Anyone who has worked with me on Fissure or Shadow Archer Press, would not be surprised.
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