Category Archives: Conventions

Posts related to conventions Rob’s attended.

ChattaCon Schedule

Here’s my schedule for ChattaCon. I’ll be arriving as early as the hotel will let me check in tomorrow, hopefully around noon.

Note: Edited to add a couple of panels

My session schedule is as follows:

6pm Friday in Kelly: NeoMedievalism (A discussion on the widespread interest in medieval themes in popular culture, especially computer games, films and television, and literature and why medieval themes continue to fascinate audiences in a modern, heavily technological world. )

7pm Friday in the Amphitheater: Opening Ceremonies

8pm Friday in Roberts: Meet the Pro’s Reception

10am Saturday in Bender: Cowboys and Aliens (Writers discuss blending two or more genres, such as westerns and science fiction, or fantasy and mystery.)

1pm Saturday in Kelly: How Much Science Should a Science Fiction Writer Know? (This panel will look at writing science into your science fiction. Both scientifically-minded and non-sciency people are welcome as we try to determine how much science does it take to make good science fiction.) Additional Panel

2pm Saturday in Bender: Vikings: An Exploration (Vikings are a staple in literature, film and art. But are they more than they seem? Or less than they are made out to be? Through history, poetry and mythology, our panelists will shine the spotlight on Viking life.)

4pm Saturday in Kelly: Theogony Books (It doesn’t matter what you like in a book, Chris Kennedy Publishing probably has something for you in 2018. From bestselling sci-fi to thrillers to epic fantasy, we’ve got it all! Come see what will be released in 2018… and maybe win a free book for the effort.)

The Theogony panel, by the way, is where I’ll be displaying the Four Horsemen Wiki.

6pm Saturday in Kelly: More Than Swords (While there are plenty of fantasy soldiers who wield a sword, ax, or bow, you can also find those where magic and technology are inexplicably linked. Let’s talk about how to integrate the war and the military into fantastical settings.) Additional Panel

8pm Saturday in Kelly: Exploring Historical Fantasy (Our home world and its history provide many venues for readers’ expanding taste in fantasy literature. What times and places have fantasy stories featured and which might be open game for new tales?)

1pm Sunday in Thompson: The Power of Storytelling (A frank discussion on storytelling and its importance, power and necessity to humanity.)

What a great schedule for me. Thanks very much to Lani Brooks for all of her work.

I hope to see a bunch of you at the panels, and I’ll be around the Con Suite and at room parties during the evening.

Rob’s Update: The Windshield A Movie Screen

Weeks of 15 October – 4 November

I have finally unburied myself enough from the trip to get an update to you. Sorry for the missed weeks, but what a journey it was. It went something like this:

Council Bluffs, IA to Wichita, KS (304 miles / 304 miles total)
Wichita to Elk Falls, KS (84 / 388 )
Elk Falls to Memphis, TN (468 / 856 )
Memphis to Huntsville, AL (215 / 1071)
Huntsville to Maryville, TN (216 / 1287)
Maryville to Flat Rock, NC (138 / 1425)
Flat Rock to Columbus, NC then Tryon, NC and back (29 / 1454)
Columbus to Whitakers, NC (301 / 1755)
Whitakers to Booneville, NC (190 / 1945)
Booneville to Whitakers (190 / 2135)
Whitakers to Wilmington, NC (154 / 2289 )
Wilmington, NC to Charleston, SC (172 / 2461)
Charleston to Whitakers (318 / 2779)
Whitakers to Raleigh (55 / 2834)
Raleigh to Whitakers (55 / 2889)
Whitakers to Louisville, KY (620 / 3509)
Louisville to Wichita (697 / 4206)
Wichita to Council Bluffs (304 / 4510)

There you have it. Over 4500 miles, plus driving around cities. I went to two conventions, ConStellation and HonorCon and had a great time at both. My after action reports are at http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=856 and http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=862. I went to a big SCA event, War of the Wings. My report is at: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=858.

I saw lots of relatives, some of whom I’d never even known existed. I also met my cousins. I haven’t seen them since the 1970s. I need to make visits to the Carolinas more common so I can keep in touch. Neither ConStellation nor HonorCon are continuing as such, but I’ll go back to War of the Wings.

I also toured the USS North Carolina in Wilmington, the USS Yorktown and USS Laffey in Charleston, and took the cruise to Fort Sumter. The North Carolina is the best battleship museum I’ve been to, and I’ve been on the Alabama (her sister ship), the Iowa, the Wisconsin, and the Texas. One specific extra cool thing on her is that you can actually go inside two of her 16in turrets. Tight quarters, but really neat to see. The Laffey was especially interesting, as I’d never been on a Sumner-class destroyer before. Also, I got fantastic pictures of the Yorktown as the cruise ship goes around her to get to Fort Sumter.

Fort Sumter is a place everyone should go. It’s part of a series of forts that guarded Charleston harbor and it’s fascinating to think how one would try and attack the harbor. You see fairly quickly why Fort Wagner had to be taken, and this why the 54th Massachusetts was thrown against its walls as shown in the movie Glory.

We had planned to take a more leisurely trip home, but by the end of HonorCon I was ready to get home. We drove the quick route back and did not visit Cape Girardeau on this trip as we had planned. The drive was generally smooth, though the really high winds and light snow on I-77 through the mountains north of Greensboro added a bit of difficulty factor.

Overall, it was a fantastic trip. Mom and I had a great time, though it was exhausting. From a professional standpoint, I thought it went really well, even though I barely had a chance to write anything. I’m feeling the lack, because writing is like working out, if you do it consistently it feels better.

But that’s what I’m ramping back up on since I got home. I’ve gotten a few thousand words in Brief Is My Flame, but I’m not yet back into form. That’s coming though, as I recover.

Fortunately, there’s not much travel between now and January, so I can get back into the rhythm.

Quote of the Week

Whenever I’m on a long trip, I can’t help but think of William Least-Heat Moon and Blue Highways. If you haven’t read this book, go do so. It’s a fantastic read, with all sorts of philosophical thought, history, and a sample of 1970s America.
“A car whipped past, the driver eating and a passenger clicking a camera. Moving without going anywhere, taking a trip instead of making one. I laughed at the absurdity of the photographs and then realized I, too, was rolling effortlessly along, turning the windshield into a movie screen in which I, the viewer, did the moving while the subject held still. That was the temptation of the American highway, of the American vacation (from the Latin vacare, “to be empty”).”
― William Least Heat-Moon, Blue Highways

News and Works in Progress

  • Brief Is My Flame

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

I met another of my fellow contributors to For a Few Credits More at HonorCon, Ian J. Malone. You can find him on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/Ian-J.-Malone/e/B00BJ5QO50/

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

HonorCon AAR

Greetings all

I’m finally back in Council Bluffs at my own desk with enough energy after the drive to be coherent. Go me! It’s time for an HonorCon AAR and later on today, after I actually do some writing, I’ll do my weekly update.

This was my second HonorCon. The first, I met some guy named Chris Kennedy in the bar. The second, he helped make this a fantastic con. And that’s not even counting how we all made his wife blush while, you guessed it, drinking at a bar.

I went to HonorCon only being on one panel as far as I knew, my Martin Koszta Affair panel. However, the way they structured panels there was to allow people to create panels, and then staff them themselves. Chris, being the go-getter he is, had created a bunch of panels and he invited me to join him on a bunch of others so I was kept pretty busy.

The first panel we did on Friday covered Indie Publishing: Getting Known as an Author. I wish I could tell you just what all we did in this panel, but honestly, I was a bit frazzled and I really don’t remember the details. After this panel, I spent a goodly amount of the rest of the day hanging in the con suite, and had a beer or two, but I ended up going back to my hotel room early and watching baseball.

Saturday, first thing in the morning, was a panel entitled, But I Liked That Guy! In this panel, Chris, Mark Wandrey, Ian Malone, and I discussed the value and challenges of killing off characters. Most of you know that I will kill off characters in the flow of the story, but I don’t simply kill them off constantly, as in Game of Thrones. I believe characters have to die periodically, or there’s no suspense when characters get into life-threatening situations. In swords and sorcery fiction, they have to be put in such situations and the can’t always survive. So they don’t. On the other hand, I’m not playing fair with my readers if I simply kill them off for no good reason.

My next panel was several hours later, so I lounged in the con suite for a while. This was a very good con suite, and there were some good conversations. I met an airplane mechanic who had worked on P-38s, P-51s, and F4Us in his spare time. I was fascinated to hear some of the very specific details of each type, which gave me some story ideas.

At 3pm on Saturday was basically Chris’s version of the Baen Road Show: Theogony Books: A Big Year in 2018? I was a part of this panel both because of my story “Where Enemies Sit” in For a Few Credits More, but also because I’ve taken on the project to design and build a wiki in the Four Horsemen Universe. I’ll be starting on that today, as a matter of fact. The upshot, is that Chris will be publishing, either as author or publisher, a dozen books in 2018. And maybe more. Big doings, indeed.

After that was my Martin Koszta Affair panel. I designed this panel as a tool to discuss the ways I use history to world-build and create stories. It’s easy to say that history is a wonderful place to mine for ideas, but this panel goes into nuts and bolts and has been very well-received. However, about 15 minutes into it, I realized it wasn’t meshing as well with the audience as normal. It turns out they wanted simply to hear the history, and not about using it as a writing prompt. I adjusted, and we went farther into the possible ramifications, had things played out only slightly differently.

You may see alternate history novels about the First World War, which started in 1853. Just sayin…

We spent Saturday evening having dinner at the Bahama Breeze right next to the hotel. We being Chris, Sheellah (his wife), Mark and Joy Wandrey, Chris and Christine Maddox, Beth Agejew and J.R. Handley. We had a blast, and also talked about a variety of business things, which resulted in more work for me that I’ll talk more about when the time comes.

Sunday was another early morning, with a panel at 9am on Genre Blending: Scifi, Fantasy and More. Unlike the same panel we did at ConStellation, Chris was prepared to moderate and this wasn’t quite the train wreck of whimsy and confusion.

Immediately following was a panel discussing The Economics of Self-Publishing. This panel was just Chris and I. I don’t know that I helped the audience much, but I learned a ton.

Normally, I like to stay for closing ceremonies, but this panel was done at 11, and after a series of goodbyes, I got on the road. I wanted to get west of Louisville by Sunday night, and it was well we left as quickly as we did, given the snow and high winds in along I-77 in the mountains.

For a number of reasons, HonorCon was not terribly smooth for me. I forgot to get reservations and pre-register for example, and I had a number of other issues that are now irrelevant. I only had one panel initially scheduled, so I wondered how valuable the con would be. However, thanks to Chris, Mark, and a bunch of people I met, it turned out to be a fantastic con despite the hassles.

War of the Wings AAR

The second thing on this trip was War of the Wings, an SCA event in Atlantia. I am glad I get to do what I do, but sometimes the effort required can make things challenging.

Once again, I have to thank Master Andrixos for letting me sell in his booth. I really enjoy spending time with Drix, and there’s no doubt he’s helped me get traffic.

Now, traffic at the event for the merchants wasn’t as good as anyone hoped, and I suspect some of that is because they are still settling in with the best layout for everything. War of the Wings is a growing event, and the site is great, though tilted. However, they’re still fiddling with some stuff, including the best way to arrange the merchants. Sales were good enough that I’d like to go back if circumstances allow, but I think they’ll be better in the future.

One thing that I think we’ll do differently is that both Drix and I will get separate booths, though we’ll ask to be next to each other. There are advantages for both of us to work together, including setup and tear down, but my logistics were a little complicated because my tent was so far away from the merchant booth. We’re going to try to be next to each other at Meridies 40th Year.

While my camp was not close, I was blessed to be permitted to camp with Yorkshire Manor, one of the households in Atlantia. Included in that camp is Bryce de Byram, who is someone I knew well enough from Pennsics past to ask for space, but not much more.

I said that the effort to do this job is challenging, and where that effort can be frustrating is my fatigue after work. Not just physical fatigue either, but also the fatigue of talking to people all day long. What that meant was my hopes to get to know the people of Yorkshire Manor better, especially Bryce, were foiled. I barely was able to spend any time with them. By the time I got home, I was too tired to enjoy the group, which was a shame. Many thanks to all of them, especially Bryce, Christian Thomas (who ran the camp), and all the people who helped make it a cool place. I’m sorry I didn’t do you all justice.

As I said, I would like to go back, if circumstances allow. Now that I know how things are laid out, I think I can plan more efficiently, meaning I might have more energy to get to know some of those great people.

Constellation AAR

I’m a little late posting this because I’ve been so busy over the past week, but better late than never.

This was the last Constellation, which is a shame because it was such a nice little con. There weren’t a ton of people there, but the quality of those that were there was impressive. The guests, including Mary Robinette Kowal, Orson Scott Card, David Drake, and Toni Weisskopf were great. The fans at the panels were generally interested and engaged, with some excellent questions. Also, since there weren’t so many people, we were able to interact with most of them multiple times. I love it when I can actually get to know some of the others there.

Most of my programming happened on Saturday, where I basically worked from 11am to 6pm. I love those kinds of schedules, even if they’re tiring.

My first panel was Combat in Science Fiction – Weapons and Strategy. I enjoyed this panel, though it was a little terrifying. To my right was Card. To my left was Drake. Uhhhhh…. Those two, of course, have a lot of great things to say. I managed to get a few good things in myself. One of the things that I think will be true in warfare, no matter in a fantasy universe, the real world, or in a science fiction future, is that logistics will shape how and where battles are fought. Only after I figure out what is scarce or what is required to fight, can I write combat.

After that panel, I had three straight hours at a table to sell my books. I sold a ew, but the better part of this time was spent chatting with Michael Allen, Rich Groller, and Stephanie Osborn. These are all really good authors and I like looking at their solutions to the things we all deal with, like for example the logistics of moving books around. Michael had a neat arrangement that let him move a tall bookcase around. I think, once I get my next woodshop, I can do something like what he did, only purpose built instead of adapting various things.

At 4pm I was in a panel about History in Science Fiction. Obviously, this is a perfect panel for me and I had a great time. We had a lot of great things to say, so much so that we went over.

This wouldn’t have been a problem except that my last panel of the day was immediately following. This panel covered blending genres and it was rough but fun. There were two of us on the panel, Allen and I. As I say, the history panel went long and he was also on that panel so we got started late. Plus, neither of us had planned to moderate so it took a bit to get rolling. However, this was probably the most fun of my panels. We played a game where I went around the room asking for favorite books, movies, things and then I would riff on a blended genre. Lots of improvisational fun.

I thought about going to bed early because I was tired, but ended up heading to the Moon Princess Party. I had a fantastic time and got to chat with a bunch of people. Really glad I went.

I was only involved in one panel on Sunday, and that was a roundtable discussion about endings. I learned a ton, but the most surreal moment was hearing Drake talk about listening to Manly Wade Wellman’s stories as Wellman was on his deathbed. The surreal part is that I had heard one of the stories before, related to Wellman’s time in Wichita and Kansas as a newspaperman, but I had never heard who it was that was involved. Weird how close we all are sometimes.

Constellation was also notable for being my mom’s first SF/F convention. She thought she’d be kind of bored, but ended up going to more panels than I did. Overall, take my mom to work day went very well.

It is a shame Constellation is ending. It was a great con, well run, with good guests and fans. Plus, the sequence of events on this trip are excellent, and I would have liked to have the option to do all three events again.

 

Rob’s Update: Near Tannhauser Gate

Weeks of 1-14 October

Greetings all. It’s been a busy couple of weeks, and there’s some good news to report. Though I don’t have news on a house, we’ve managed to carve out enough space for me to have a cubicle I can work in from home. I haven’t had such a thing in months.

I’ve been working on a series of small things, including some short stories in Shijuren. Also, I’ve made major progress on the website upgrade. I expect that to go live soon.

That hasn’t left much time for Brief Is My Flame, but there have been bits and pieces here and there. Scenes, mostly, or snippets of conversation. I don’t actually know how many words, because they’re in a variety of places right now, but when I get back I’ll piece them together.

Get back? Where is Rob going?

Well, let me tell you. My mom wanted to see relatives in North Carolina, so we scheduled a trip in conjunction with cons and events. We leave tomorrow and wind our way to Huntsville, AL where I’ll be at Constellation.

Then, we see a variety of relatives as we make our way across eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. On Wednesday of next week, I’ll drop my mom off with relatives and end up in Boonville, where I’ll be selling books at War of the Wings. This will be a good chance for me to get my name out to a part of the SCA I’ve not spent much time at.

Following that, we spend more time with relatives concluded by attending HonorCon in Raleigh.

Whew. I’m gonna be tired in early November, I tell you what. But I’m really excited.

Quote of the Week

I don’t know when I’ll get to see it, but I’m really excited about Blade Runner 2049. So, there seems only one quote that’s appropriate.

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain…” – Roy Batty, Blade Runner

News and Works in Progress

  • Short stories
  • Brief Is My Flame

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • Nothing new to add, but more will be coming during the trip.

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

My story in For a Few Credits More involves a Peacemaker, but Peacemakers in the Four Horsemen Universe have their noses in all sorts of places. Kevin Ikenberry, who assisted me to make sure we were consistent, put out a full length Peacemaker novel. Here’s his author page on Amazon for the rest of his stuff: https://www.amazon.com/Kevin-Ikenberry/e/B00ASFBXT4/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1.

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

Rob’s Update: Mechs in Action

Week of 10-16 September

Greetings all and welcome to release day!

For a Few Credits More, the second anthology in the Four Horsemen Universe is now available at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075LGF41H

I want to thank Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey for letting me play in their sandbox. If you like military science fiction with mechs, this is the universe for you.

My story, “Where Enemies Sit” talks about a lieutenant on his first deployment. The title comes from the Havamal which begins:

All the entrances, before you walk forward,
you should look at,
you should spy out;
for you can’t know for certain where enemies are sitting,
ahead in the hall
(Larrington, Carolyne. (Trans.) (1999) The Poetic Edda, page 14. Oxford World’s Classics)

Let’s just say the lieutenant finds enemies sitting where he did not expect.

Anyway, I’m very excited to become a part of the Four Horsemen Universe, and hope to be allowed to contribute more. “Where Enemies Sit” has spawned a number of ideas for me that I will try and fit between writing in Shijuren.

Speaking of which, I’ve done a little, but not much. With all the upheaval in my life, I simply haven’t written much. I’ve done a number of other projects, though, and have been clearing the decks of some assembled things that have also needed attention.

I’ve got a series of SCA events to attend over the next three weeks. I’ll be at Queen’s Prize Tournament, which will give me an opportunity to visit with my apprentice. The week after, I’ll be in Grimfells with my booth. I’ll also be selling at the Gryphon’s Fest event.

I hope to have copies of For a Few Credits More there, but it may take a while.

With that, I’ll get back to work.

Quote of the Week

Also from Larrington’s translation of the Havamal is a much more famous passage:

Cattle die,
kinsmen die
you yourself die;
I know one thing
which never dies:
the judgment of a dead man’s life
– The Havamal, Stanza 77

News and Works in Progress

  • Did about 2k words in Brief Is My Flame this week. Not much really, but I’ve been scribbling out and recording notes to hopefully make the writing much quicker when everything settles down.

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

  • Last week I did my NFL prediction at http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=839. There are also eight other blog posts breaking down each division. They’re linked in this main post.

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

I’ve put both of them here before, but this week’s spotlight again goes to Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey, whose Four Horsemen Universe is blowing up. In fact, over the next few weeks, I’ll be linking to other authors in For a Few Credits More.

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

Rob’s Update: Surviving the Dragon

Week of 3-9 September

Well, I survived DragonCon. I have an AAR up at: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=798. The TL:DR version: the logistics of 80,000 people in downtown Atlanta limit the fun, but there’s still lots of fun to be had.

Now I’m back home, sorta. We found a house and put in a bid. In fact, I signed the accepted counter-offer while in Atlanta. We went through the inspection yesterday and, for a house built in the early 50s, it’s in fantastic shape. There are quibbles here and there, and a couple of things we’re going to ask from the sellers, but by and large, nothing we can’t fix.

Exciting times.

Now we just have to make sure the financing goes through correctly. I get there are reasons for all of this but man this process is frustrating.

As for writing, I’ve done a little here and there, but for the time being it’s going to be iffy. Between the move and planned trips, time has been an issue. I did manage to get a good start on a particular thread while at DragonCon, though.

Now, the time has given some ideas a chance to percolate, so it’s not been unfruitful. Also, I’ve come up with a good short story idea that I’ve been dabbling with. I can’t finish it until I get access to my books, which are currently packed up, though.

The big news next week is that my opportunity to be “And More” will arrive as For a Few Credits More will be released on the 15th. I’ll have a link for you next week.

Tonight, the NFL season starts. I’m so ready. I’ll be writing my NFL Preview during the game so expect that post late tonight.

Quote of the Week

I’m not a huge Neil Gaiman fan. Yes, I know that makes me a heretic. However, I do love this quote.

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
Neil Gaiman, Coraline

News and Works in Progress

  • New short story. It’s a secret 🙂
  • Brief Is My Flame (12k)

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

While Van Allen Plexico let me have space at DragonCon, it was Brett Brooks and his wife Allyson who did much of the work manning the booth. You can find Brett’s Facebook author page here: https://www.facebook.com/brettbrooksauthor/. He has a fun and whimsical take on the Noir detective.

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

If you think you received this email incorrectly or wish to be unsubscribed, please send an email to shijuren-owner@robhowell.org

DragonCon AAR

Greetings all

I have survived my first DragonCon. It’s probably not my last one, but I have to have a good reason to go back.

Much of DragonCon is fantastic. Lots of incredible costumes. Lots of cool stuff to buy. Lots of interesting panels. Lots of celebrities. Lots of parties. All of this is great.

Thanks to the generosity of Van Allen Plexico and Brett Brooks, my books were on display in the Artists Alley section. None sold, but a bunch of bookmarks were given out. It can’t hurt, and since I didn’t actually pay anything it’s a net win.

I got to see several friends up for Dragon Awards. Some won, some lost, but it’s still cool to realize the quality of writers I’m earning a place among. I had a great time hanging out with Barflies. I should have actually spent more time with them and other writers and publishers.

The Hyatt House, where I stayed, had a fantastic staff, and my roommates, who I’d never met prior to Thursday, were all pleasant to deal with, even though five of us squeezed into a suite.

I gamed a lot, playing in four Pathfinder Society scenarios including two specials, which are a blast. I also played in an ad-hoc game on Thursday which was hilarious. I was the second to die. This will come as no shock but it was because my character couldn’t keep his mouth shut. I also played in some random games in the large gaming area. Cards Against Humanity is always fun, especially with the alcohol flowing, and DragonCon is one huge party.

But the execution of the event seemed oddly amateurish. As if this wasn’t the 30th time they ran this, but the first or second.

For example, I spent most of my time gaming once I figured out I wouldn’t be needed in a booth. I decided to play Pathfinder Society, and so I looked for PFS registration area. This was on the 2nd floor of America’s Mart Building 1, in the far corner, about as far from the entrance as could be.

That’s not necessarily a problem, but the directions on the boards and the app weren’t terribly clear, and the actual Pathfinder Society games were on the 1st floor of that building. There was room enough for the registration area to be in that same room, but for some reason they chose to put those tables up a floor on the other side of a big building.

Since the biggest complaint I have relates to traffic control, it will come as no surprise I look at this particular weirdness as emblematic of the con. All of those who wanted to just play Pathfinder Society could have been arranged in one particular area, but by setting things up as they did, it added congestion at the one set of escalators available.

Unfortunately, this was not the worst traffic control mistake they made. DragonCon runs along a ridge in downtown Atlanta. The hill is substantial, but there are walkways between buildings and other things that ameliorate such problems. Still, it’s not easy to get around, and climbing up and down that ridge can suck.

The vendors were all placed in the America’s Mart, Building 2, which  was a fine choice in many ways. It certainly had room enough. However, it was located at the far end of the con at the bottom of the ridge. Again, with walkways and such it’s not a big deal. Also, the main entrance was on the upper side of the building, which was closest to the other convention buildings.

But there was apparently a problem with this arrangement and in the middle of the con they suddenly shunted all access to the vendors to the downhill, farther side of the building. This meant you had to go up three extra sets of escalators. Oh, and those walkways? They closed them off.

Let me repeat. In the middle of the con they closed off all entrances to the building that held the vendors but the farthest, least convenient entrance possible.

All of the maps that said where to go to see the vendors became instantly wrong. Few of the people doing traffic control knew the exact directions. To get to the vendors, one had to hunt at the far end of the con to find the one way in.

This is again where the amateurish appearance comes to the forefront. It is not like they haven’t used these buildings before. It is, after all, the 30th time they’ve had this event in Atlanta. I get that it has grown and they’ve had to adjust, but it seems incredible to me that they couldn’t anticipate the traffic flow.

By comparison, GenCon, which is similar in size, manages all of this nicely. It’s busy and there are people everywhere, but you know where to go and they are much more efficient with their traffic flow.

I get it. I get that 80,000 people are hard to deal with. However, closing off all but one of the six or so available entrances to a huge building does not seem like a good answer to me. They also did this to America’s Mart Building 1, which held all of the gaming.

Clearly they could afford people to check badges at every door, because all of the closed entrances had people stationed there turning attendees away. No, for some reason, they were convinced that restricting access to one door on each of these two buildings would provide the most efficient traffic flow.

Given that I spent most of the con in these two buildings, I’m particularly frustrated by this. I will say, other parts of the con might have had better traffic flow, though it didn’t seem like it from what little I saw. I saw a lot of miscommunication amongst people working the con. Some confusion is to be expected, but not as much as I saw, especially related to traffic flow.

Again, I should emphasize that there was much to enjoy. Best cosplay con I’ve seen, no doubt. I really enjoyed the gaming that played.

But they do not seem to have a good handle on the logistics of 80,000 people. It’s a tough thing, alright, but other places have managed.

Perhaps the answer is to move DragonCon to Indianapolis, which could handle it just like it handles GenCon. Maybe there are solutions in Atlanta. I don’t know enough to even guess at solutions. What I do know is that their ConCom needs to figure that out.

Will I go back? Maybe. I’m inquiring on different room options and prices for next year to weigh the choice. I’m likely to go if I’m ever fortunate enough to be a finalist for a Dragon Award. I do have friends there I enjoy, including some new gaming friends.

There’s definitely fun to be had at DragonCon, but it’s an open question whether it’s worth the expense and hassle. We shall see.

Rob’s Update: Off to DragonCon

Weeks of 20 August – 2 September

Greetings all

Sorry I didn’t make a post last week. I spent most of last week up in Omaha looking at houses. We’re going to put in a bid later today, I think, depending upon the details. We’ll see how it goes. In past houses, I’ve been on a serious time crunch. I’ve a lot more time flexibility now, so I’m not as inclined to bid full price now. I don’t necessarily expect to get a yes on the first offer, but you never know.

Anyway, it’s an exciting time.

I did write a bit, but it was more in the way of refining stuff that had already been done, so I’m still hovering around 10k on Brief Is My Flame.

My weekend was filled with an SCA event near Omaha. Giulia and I camped, which meant we got a chance to hang out with friends much more than we have recently. We’re also in the process of combining our camping resources, and that’s been somewhat humorous as we both have our ways of doing things. Unfortunately, it rained on Sunday morning, so Giulia has deal with spreading out, drying, and folding a bunch of wet canvas.

She has to deal with it because I leave for my first DragonCon tomorrow.

I’ll probably spend a goodly amount of time at Table 22G. Van Allen Plexico and Brett Brooks have generously offered me a corner of their booth to place my books. Come buy something from all of us.

The rest of my time I’ll be pretty feral. I’ll probably see if I can play in a Pathfinder Society scenario or two. Maybe some panels. Be at Barfly Central a lot. I don’t have any real schedule so I can actually enjoy a con for a change.

I’m also excited to go watch the Dragon Awards, where a number of friends are nominees, especially the military SF/F category. I voted for Cartwright’s Cavaliers by Mark H Wandrey. Frankly, this category was full of books I enjoyed, but the tiebreaker was that it’s the first in Four Horsemen Universe. Yes, I’m now a part of it, so I’m biased, but this is already becoming an awesome sandbox and there’s lots more to come. However, it was a tough choice, given the competition. One of these days I’ll have a military fantasy series set in Shijuren, and I can hope I’ll be in this list myself.

I’m ready to get this party started.

Quote of the Week

Instead of a normal quote like most works, I’ll send you to a Twitter hashtag feed, which is a list of whimsical quotes overheard at DragonCon:

https://twitter.com/hashtag/overheardatdragoncon?src=hash

You shouldn’t need a Twitter account to see that list, by the way.

News and Works in Progress

  • Brief Is My Flame

Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions

Upcoming Events

Spotlight

As I said, Van Allen Plexico has graciously allowed me to put my books on a corner of his DragonCon table. If you come by the table, make sure to take a look at his stuff. For those not at DragonCon, here’s his Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Van-Allen-Plexico/e/B002QISYCA/.

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at rob@robhowell.org. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.

Have a great week, everyone.

Rob Howell
Author of the Shijuren-series of novels

Currently Available Works

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