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A Norwescon 40 Debrief

A Norwescon 40 Debriefing

Norwescon 40 is over. I have returned from the land of hotels, fast food, long-term parking, and airplane noises. (Just kidding SeaTac, you know I love ya.) This means it’s time for a con debriefing! This is the post where I recap my experience, share photos, and talk about what happened during the convention.

K. M. Alexander and an Andorian
I met this surly Andorian wandering the halls.

This debriefing will be a bit different from previous posts. I wasn’t tied to a table, and so I got to experience the convention as an attendee as well as a professional. I really enjoyed my time. Let’s break it down by day and hit the highlights…


Thursday, Day 1

This was the quietest of days for me. I worked that day, so I didn’t show up until the evening. Once there, I checked in, got the lay of the land, said hello to a few friends. I managed to take in a few panels and checked out the art show opening before I went to the Small Publisher Party. The party was super crowded. I came late and learned that fashionably late means “no room” something completely different compared to art show openings.


Friday, Day 2

I started the day off with “Advanced Self-Publishing.” It was a great panel with a great moderator (Thanks, Tori!) and really we didn’t have enough time, and this panel could have easily lasted several hours. Loads of information was shared. I hope the audience enjoyed it and learned something in the process.

Afterward, I hung out with Elliott Kay, Annie Bellet and her husband Matt, their friend (and another fellow author) Ann, and the indomitable Jason Vanhee. We talked shop and chatted about everything. It was nice getting to know everyone. (Fun fact, Matt Bellet is the Daredevil featured in my post from last year. I had no idea.)

[Left] This Handmaid was my favorite cosplay costume of the weekend [Middle] Colossus by Josh Foreman [Right] Where I ended up on badge ribbons
[Left] This Handmaid was my favorite cosplay of the convention [Middle] Colossus by Josh Foreman was on display at the Norwescon Art Show [Right] Where I ended up on badge ribbons

My second panel was “Worldbuilding: Alien Cultures that Don’t Dehumanize.” I feel like it was a bit too narrow of a topic, but the discussion ended up being pretty good. Plus, I got to meet Rhiannon Held who ended up on two other panels with me as well.

I attended “Hated It!” that evening, and it was a highlight of Friday. The panel was a celebration of hate towards pop-culture properties moderated by Jason Vanhee. The audience filled out cards of things they enjoyed, and the panel hated on them. Much shade was thrown. As a result, I now hate Arrival, c’est la vie.


Saturday, Day 3

Steve Toutonghi showed up! Steve, Jason, and I spent most of the day together. Which was great. (Next year we need to get Steve on some panels.) My day was packed. My first panel was a return from Norwescon 39: The SF/FANTASY BATTLE ROYALE. It was wondrous, and as expected, it was my favorite panel. They moved us to a bigger room and we nearly filled it. Once again, Matt Youngmark hosted, Erik Scott de Bie and I returned, and we were joined by newcomer Jason Bourget. We made a good team. It was hilarious and raucous. In the end, I regret picking Malcolm Reynolds over Robin Hood the Cartoon Fox. I feel like it set up a chain of events that propelled us toward a painful outcome. Much to my chagrin, Deadpool won.

Ugh, Deadpool.

I hate Deadpool.

Bacchus/Dionysus was wandering the halls
Bacchus/Dionysus was wandering the halls on Saturday.

Thankfully, I was able to wash away the disappointment of the Merc with a Mouth’s championship by discussing “The Changing Landscape of Worldbuilding” which I really enjoyed. My fellow panelists were sharp, and I think the discussion was helpful.

Finally, I wrapped up the day on an evening panel that I had sat on from last year: “Location, Location, Location: Horror’s Unsung Character.” We quickly decided that Location wasn’t unsung in horror at all, it was horror. Plus the audience was great! There was loads of discussion. I like panels that feel more like a chat among friends, and this was absolutely one of those.


“You can put lipstick on a pig, and it can still be worth kissing.”

— In the “Call to Action” Panel


Sunday, Day 4

My morning panel reunited me with Annie Bellet and Rhiannon Held. 10 AM on the last day of a convention can be rough, but a lot of people showed up! We jawed for a while about Urban Fantasy worldbuilding. It was one of the best panels I was on, the crowd was engaged, the room was packed.

Sites from around Norwescon
[Left] Michael G. Munz as Heisenberg, the one who knocks [Middle] Pair of Daleks lurking under the stairs [Right] A cool (highly detailed) steampunk ensemble.

I had one more panel at the end of the day on worldbuilding in Post-Apocalyptic fiction, then had a few meetings before finally calling it a day. When I got home, I was exhausted. I had grand plans to write, but I sat down on the couch, and my body refused to move. I ended up watching Escape from New York on Netflix since my brain didn’t want to do anything else.


Quick Thoughts/Highlights

  • The staff of volunteers was great. Thank them.
  • The social media team killed it this year. Follow them.
  • The cosplay as always was wonderful.
  • People were really open and friendly and accepting. I appreciated that.
  • It was awesome spending more time with a few local authors. In particular Jason Vanhee who hung out with me all weekend. But also Steve Toutonghi, Elliott Kay, Annie Bellet, Matt Youngmark, Nathan Crowder, Rhiannon Held, and so many others.
  • My fellow panelists were great. There was a lot of mutual respect and some substantial discussion. I’ve heard there were issues in other tracks, but I have no complaints. The last thing I want to do is waste people’s time. I don’t think we did that. So, yay us!
  • It became apparent to Rhiannon Held and me that there needs to be a panel next year on Weird West. I’m totally planning to suggest and offer to moderate it. So if you’re into horror and cowboys, keep your eyes peeled.
  • I soft-pitched Coal Belly to the audience in one of the worldbuilding panels, and I heard a lot of positive reactions. Yay! It made me excited to keep working on it.
  • I sold books! I didn’t expect that, but I had a few readers return for the next book in the series. Also had some people approach me after panels as well looking to pick up a copy.
  • Not having a table meant I wasn’t in the Dealer’s Room all that much. But I did see a few friends from there. I was a bit bummed we didn’t have time to chat more.
  • It was great to see so many of the same folks in so many of my panels. (Including a lot I remember from last year.) Y’all have good taste.
  • Goodspaceguy was there.
  • I sat in on a few readings. I need to do this more, I always really enjoy them. Both Hayley Stone and Jeremy Zimmerman did a great job. I’m glad I caught both readings.
  • There were quite a few panels I missed because of conflicts. (A few of Elliott Kay’s, at least one of Jason’s, and the Gamemaster’s Manifesto podcast to name a few.) Which is a bummer. But, with a programming track as substantial as Norwescon that is bound to happen. In times like these, I wish I could split myself like Dr. Manhattan.
  • I managed to get up to the game room briefly. It’s lovely up there! I should play a session next year.
  • My one complaint: there needs to be more contrast on the name badges. I appreciate the artwork, but the whole point of the badge is to read folk’s names. When you can’t do that the badge is sorta failing its purpose.

As always, Norwescon 40 was great. I really liked the freedom of not having a table, and would absolutely consider doing this way again. I loved interacting with the Norwescon community, they’re warm and always welcoming.

As for future plans, I’m attempting to get into Crypticon for May, and Lilac City is coming up in June, and I’m hoping to make it to Orycon 39 this November. We’ll see. You can keep track of where I’ll be next and check out previous debriefings from previous conventions on my Upcoming Appearances page.

Thanks for an amazing Norwescon 40. I’ll see you at 41.


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My Reading List for 2016

We’re nearing the end of the year, and as tradition dictates now is the time when I compile a list of the books I have read (to see previous years: 2013, 2014, 2015). I’m not the fastest of readers, but I try to remain consistent. This usually correlates alongside my Goodreads reading challenge. The books in this list are books I read for pleasure; I don’t count research material. Likewise, graphic novels and short stories get counted separately in their own list.

This year I was offered up another challenge, this time by my friend and fellow author Steve Toutonghi. He challenged me to read more classics than anything else this year, and I accepted. By the time I had finished, over two-thirds of the novels I had read where from the classic or modern classic category. Not bad!

Since this list tends to be long, I forgo reviews, but you’re welcome to follow me on Goodreads where I do occasionally review books. At the end of each list, I will call out some of my favorites of the year. As before, all links will go to Amazon as a default, but if one of these books sound interesting to you, then I would encourage you to visit your local independent bookstore and purchase through them. It’s important for your local economy to buy local whenever you’re able.


Novels:

  1. Join
    by Steve Toutonghi
  2. Partials (Partials Sequence, #1)
    by Dan Wells
  3. The Great Gatsby
    by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  4. Slaughterhouse-Five …again.
    by Kurt Vonnegut
  5. Wise Blood
    by Flannery O’Connor
  6. Brave New World
    by Aldous Huxley
  7. The Aeronaut’s Windlass (The Cinder Spires #1)
    by Jim Butcher
  8. Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse #1)
    by James S.A. Corey
  9. The Old Man and the Sea
    by Ernest Hemingway
  10. Beta Reading
    by REDACTED
  11. Life on the Mississippi …again.
    by Mark Twain
  12. Beta Reading
    by REDACTED
  13. Dracula …again.
    by Bram Stoker
  14. This Census-Taker
    by China Miéville
  15. Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire #1)
    by Mark Lawrence
  16. Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings
    by Jorge Luis Borges,
  17. The Illustrated Man
    by Ray Bradbury
  18. Great Expectations
    by Charles Dickens
  19. Iron Council (New Crobuzon #3)
    by China Miéville
  20. The Scar (New Crobuzon #2) …again.
    by China Miéville
  21. Hondo
    by Louis L’Amour
  22. The Hell Bent Kid: A Novel
    by Charles O. Locke
  23. Ravencroft Springs
    by Logan L. Masterson
  24. Perdido Street Station (New Crobuzon #1) …again.
    by China Miéville
  25. Dark Matter
    by Blake Crouch
  26. True Grit
    by Charles Portis
  27. Animal Farm …again.
    by George Orwell
  28. Lord of the Flies …again.
    by William Golding
  29. The Handmaid’s Tale
    by Margaret Atwood
  30. Kindred
    by Octavia E. Butler
  31. The Gunslinger …again.
    by Stephen King
  32. To Kill a Mockingbird …again.
    by Harper Lee
  33. Call of the Wild …again.
    by Jack London
  34. 1984 …again.
    by George Orwell
  35. Wuthering Heights
    by Emily Brontë

When selecting my favorites, I decided to disregard any books I had previously read from the running. (Twain’s Life on the Mississippi, Miéville’s The Scar, and King’s The Gunslinger are some of my favorite books of all time and it’s really not fair to compete with those.) I read so many good books this year it made picking my faves tough. While there were many I enjoyed, I settled on three. All were new to me, and they all not only challenged me but lingered in my mind long after I had finished.

Favorite Novel of 2016:

Kindred by Octavia ButlerKindred
by Octavia E. Butler

This book is stunning. Bulter is one of the preeminent science fiction writers of our time. Her prose is sharp, her plot intense, the portrayal of the slave/master relationships in antebellum South shook me. I found myself dwelling on Kindred weeks after I finished it.

Favorite Novel Runners-up of 2016:

The Handmaids TaleThe Handmaid’s Tale
by Margaret Atwood

There is an art to writing a book so captivating and yet so simple. The regressive dystopia of Gilead is terrifying in its believability. It’s strange to think this book was written in ’85 yet its criticisms of gender relations, religion, and power are still as poignant as ever.

Join by Steve ToutonghiJoin
by Steve Toutonghi

My friend Steve’s debut novel, like the others, stuck with me long after I had finished. His examinations on individualism, mortality, gender, and consciousness were thought-provoking, engaging, and whip-smart. I knew when I finished that Join would end up here.


Short Stories:

  1. Last Boy in Aster
    by Drew Gerken
  2. Binti (Binti #1)
    by Nnedi Okorafor
  3. Ravencroft Springs: The Feast of ’69
    by Logan L. Masterson
  4. A Study in Emerald (Currently available in Fragile Things) …again.
    by Neil Gaiman

Four isn’t enough to rank favorites, but Drew Gerken’s story stood out. It lingered with me more than the other three and I continued to think about Kacee, Fin, and Aster long after I had finished. Seek it out. It’s very much worth your time.


Graphic Novels:

  1. Prophet Volume 2: Brothers
    by Brandon Graham (Author & Illustrator), Simon Roy (Author & Illustrator), Farel Dalrymple (Illustrator), Giannis Milonogiannis (Illustrator),
  2. Black River
    by Josh Simmons (Author & Illustrator)
  3. Wytches, Vol. 1
    by Scott Snyder (Author) and Jock (Illustrator)
  4. Bitch Planet, Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine
    by Kelly Sue DeConnick (Author), Valentine De Landro (Artist)
  5. Saga Volume 6
    by Brian K. Vaughan (Author), Fiona Staples (Illustrator)
  6. Penultimate Quest Vol. 1
    by Lars Brown (Author & Illustrator)
  7. Penultimate Quest Vol. 2
    by Lars Brown (Author & Illustrator)
  8. Penultimate Quest Vol. 3
    by Lars Brown (Author & Illustrator)
  9. Catbeard Vol. 2
    by Matt Nelson (Author & Illustrator)

Favorite Graphic Novel of 2016:

Bitch PlanetBitch Planet
by Kelly Sue DeConnick (Author), Valentine De Landro (Artist)

From the get-go, Bitch Planet sets out to be subversive, and it’s not apologetic. Playing off the women-in-prison exploitation films the comic twists the genre to be a smart satire about modern culture, feminism, and humanity.

Favorite Graphic Novel Runners-up of 2016:


Penultimate Quest Vol. 1Penultimate Quest
by Lars Brown (Author & Illustrator)

See! I don’t always read serious/dark comics. Occasionally, I step outside of my comfort zone and read something lighter. Lars Brown’s writing is witty and fun, and the characters are memorable. A must for role-playing game fans and people who like jokes.

 

catbeardbook2

Catbeard Vol. 2
by Matt Nelson (Author & Illustrator)

Yep, it’s back! I picked up and thoroughly enjoyed the second Catbeard book. Attentive readers remember that the first book was one of my favorite graphic novels from last year and Vol. 2 was even better than the first.


So there is my list for 2016, a lot of amazing books and some fantastic short stories and graphic novels. For the next year, I’m returning to my roots and focusing on primarily science fiction and fantasy. In particular, books I’ve passed by in my stack on my quest to read classics. I could use a little escapism right now, and it’d be therapeutic to get lost in another narrative for a time.

Are you looking for a good book? Want to see my reading lists from previous years? Check any of the links below and see what I was reading in bygone days.

 2013 • 2014 • 2015 

Next year, why not join me? Goodreads does a reading challenge every year, and I am an active participant. First, follow me on Goodreads (leave me a review while you’re there), and once the New Year arrives, participate in the Goodreads Reading Challenge for 2017.