Rob’s Ramblings: ShadowCon 2020 AAR

Rob’s Note: I’m starting a Monday column for whatever I want to write about. This will include reviews, sports, other interests, and, obviously, AARs.

The first convention of 2020 is in the books! ShadowCon 2020 was fantastic. I had a great time, sold books, and learned a ton.

ShadowCon is a small Memphis convention run by an SCA household name Shadow Legion. Obviously, that means there is a huge SCA presence at the con. It’s not just the SCA, though, as Memphis has an active SF/F creator community.

In the past, I have actively tried to avoid having a dealer’s table *and* sitting on panels. However, a dealer’s table opened up at the last moment and I decided to pounce on it.

The reason to avoid doing both remained, but this would be my first con in a while and I thought I’d have the adrenaline to push me through the challenge of back-to-back 12+ hour days. Also, since ShadowCon is only on Friday and Saturday, I didn’t have to worry about doing too much on Sunday.

Whether I thought things through well or not, this turned out to be an excellent decision. I was, in fact, busy. I did, in fact, get exhausted. However, I also sold a bunch of books I would not have otherwise.

I did three panels as well. One was a panel on adding mystery elements to SF/F. This is the first time doing that panel. I don’t think I organized it well, but that happens the first time one does a panel. I like the core of the idea and I’ll do it again. Also, it’s a panel that would work better, I think, with more people than me on it. I was up against Opening Ceremonies, so many of the other authors were there instead. Nevertheless, it was a solid panel, with 5 people who got at least a little something out of it.

I also did my Martin Koszta panel again. Unfortunately, this was at 8pm on Saturday and I only got two people there. Worse, in one way, they were both experienced writers and that panel is aimed more at people starting to dabble in history as an inspiration. It may not have been terribly effective, but the story is so fun we all enjoyed it.

My favorite panel discussed specific methods one can use when you get stuck. I was joined by a couple of other writers and we had a decent sized audience. It went really well, and I think I’ll add that one to my list as well.

ShadowCon advertises itself as a “relaxacon,” which means the social aspects after the official events are important. Friday night I hung out and chatted until about midnight.

Saturday night, however, I was up and chatting until about 4am. Allan Gilbreath is a hoot! He’s also very smart. He and Robert Allsup talked about some of the specifics of writing screenplays, especially those for TV. Much to think about, and I do want to try my hand at that.

They also gave me an idea for my Mag Reviews, which I think I’ll play around with.

One of the anticipated highlights was spending time with Bill Webb. He’s in a couple of the Phases of Mars anthologies and I hadn’t really met him before. He’s a really sharp guy and I’m really glad I aimed to spend time with him. I suspect we’ll work together in the future.

Last year at ShadowCon I felt a little out of the loop. This isn’t really surprising as I often struggle the first time at a con to know where I fit in. It’s also not surprising, then, that the second time I’m at a con I’m much more aware of things, more confident, and therefore more productive.

I never stop learning these things, of course, but I realize I should factor this in my calculations more than I do. I shouldn’t necessarily discount a con where the first time doesn’t click a ton. I need to pay attention to why it doesn’t click, because if it’s just that I was feeling a bit out of the water it might be a great con, I just need to go a few times.

ShadowCon has now locked itself into my normal rotation because of this year. I’ll be doing more cons with a dealer’s table, even if no one else is there. It’s hard work. I just need to consider how many panels and how much other stuff is going on at the same time.

Thanks to Aubrey Stephens for handling the panels and Gunder Johanssen for handling the dealer’s room. Thanks to Bill Webb for introducing me into the Memphis creator scene.

And thanks to all who bought books, chatted with me, and helped me a have a great time.

I’ll be back next year.

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