the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘conventions’ Category

at least until next year.  Here’s my write up on the panels I attended.  Good thing I wrote up notes while I was there, and typed up a draft of this a few days after returning. It’s been a few weeks now, and my memory is starting to get fuzzy!  If you’ve seen my previous Confusion posts or the after action report I did over at SFSignal, some of this might be a repeat.

tldr: Panels at Confusion were full of awesome. Lots of surprisingly deep conversations happening.

With a heavy emphasis on genre fiction and literary tracks, panel topics included everything from trends in urban fantasy to worldbuilding, to using (or avoiding) bad language, finding an agent, polishing your manuscript, characterization, researching vs making-it-up, and about a gazillion author reading readings.     There was also a large science track of programming,  gaming, anime, weaponry demos and lots of Doctor Who.  Guests and Attendees included many from our community – Cherie Priest, Mike Carey, Saladin Ahmed, Tobias Buckell, Ian Tregillis, Myke Cole, Wesley Chu, Jacqueline Carey, Peter V. Brett, Bradley Beaulieu, Seleste deLacey, Sarah Zettel, Brian McClellan, Lucy Snyder, Sam Sykes, Laura Resnick, Justin Landon (of Staffer’s Book Review), Peter (of Odd Engine) Steve Drew(of reddit/r/fantasy) and more.  Cons are where friends meet up, and where new friends are met. I got chatting with new author Matthew Thyer, and went home with a signed copy of his novella, The Big Red Buckle (it takes place on Mars and is very cool, btw).

During the daytime, confusion is a family affair, and there was full programming for the 10 and under crowd, and the 10-15 crowd as well. This year had a few special events. Saturday morning was Author D&D which took place in the atrium. So long as you weren’t distracting the D&Ders, anyone could observe.  Watching the authors roll their characters in the bar the evening before was pretty surreal as well. I am in a bar. Surrounded by famous people. Who are also drinking, but they are rolling dice and filling out character sheets. Absolutely surreal.  Another special event was the live reddit AMA. we were lucky enough to have elquesogrande, aka Steve Drew, who runs the Reddit Fantasy subreddit.  For a few hours on Saturday afternoon, about a dozen authors were furiously typing away on their laptops, answering your AMA questions.  Convention attendees were welcome to stop in and ask questions, say hi and take photos. there was also Scotch in that room.  it smelled magnificent.  although they are out of date now, you can read all the AMA’s here.

Authors at the Reddit AMA see those gauntlets at the front of the table? no, not the bottles of Scotch, the gauntlets.

Authors at the Reddit AMA

I’m one of those geeks who loves going to the panels at conventions. Hearing experts discuss something interesting for an hour? um YES.  Here’s a few words on the panels I attended (and by “a few words”, I mean more than you ever wanted to know).

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I’ve been teasing everyone for about three weeks now that I learned how to build a Dalek.  Welllll, I didn’t so much learn how to build one as I sat and listened to two guys talk about how they had built one.  It was a panel at Legendary Confusion, a fan run scifi and fantasy convention held in the Detroit area. This con typically has a lot of Doctor Who themed programming, and let me tell you, there’s just something surreal watching a 5th Doctor climb inside a Dalek and drive it around, being chased by a posse of giggling children, most of whom are dressed as Doctor Who characters.


let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

Saturday evening was a panel called Dalek!!!, by Alex Drummer and Kevin McCloud. it was basically their adventures in Dalek Building 101.  Here’s what they had to say:

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In the 1970s, the BBC provided plans for building a Dalek, which were intended for high school shop classes. The details plans are now online  (I didn’t write down the exact website, but a quick google search found this, this, and this), along with a huge community of dedicated builders with tips on everything from eyestalks to electronics.  As part of their presentation, they showed slides of the Dalek in different stages of being built.

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This Dalek, which has been to multiple local conventions in the great lakes area, was built as part of a grant.   Inside the base is a wheelchair base, so you can literally ride around inside the Dalek.  It comes apart in three pieces: the skirt, the shoulders and the collar.

The shoulders and the head

The shoulders and the collar.  Yes, that is an antique paint roller and a plunger. the black material that goes around the bottom of the shoulders is a dark mesh, so the driver can see out.



The arm and gun are mounted on foam balls so they can easily be rotated and manipulated from inside. All in all, it cost about $800, and other than the wheelchair base the majority of the bits and pieces came from JoAnn fabrics and Home Depot.

It's hard to see, but this is the inside of the collar. the "J" shaped handles are how you move the arm and the gun.

The  inside of the collar. the “J” shaped handles are how you move the arm and the gun.


During the panel he took the Dalek apart and then at the end everyone was allowed to go up and see the pieces up close.  In fact, it had to be taken apart, because the base is 2″ wider than a normal door frame. Then we carried the pieces out into the hall, put it back together, he climbed inside and drove it around followed by a giggling, shrieking posse of children, many of whom had come right from Masquerade and were still dressed in their Doctor Who themed costumes.

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fuzzy picture is fuzzy. you’ll just have to trust me that this was beyond adorkable.

Yes, yes, I know you’re all desperate to read 3500 words about all the panels I attended,  who stole the show at Opening Ceremonies, how I introduced myself to Sam Sykes, and what Cherie Priest was really doing in the bar on a friday night (rolling for an assassin).

but more than that, you want to read about how to  build a Dalek.

but even more than that, you want to see photos! Okay, here ya go! (Dalek building post is coming soon. Sooner than the post about panels)

2014-01-17 15.49.39 smallthe foldable keep-in-your-pocket panel program, or at least part of it.  they tease!  making it look like it’s possible to get everything done that I want to get done!

He greeted you in the lobby

He greeted you in the lobby

Authors at the Reddit AMA. see those gauntlets at the front of the table? no, not the bottles of Scotch, the gauntlets.

Authors at the Reddit AMA. see those gauntlets at the front of the table? no, not the bottles of Scotch, the gauntlets.

Yeah, those gauntlets!

Yeah, those gauntlets! Tobias Buckell shows us how he really feels about them  being fully articulated.

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Short Legendary Confusion write-up here.  Longer one coming soon.

but what’s important is that I cosplayed Sabetha Belacoros. Click the link if you don’t know who I’m talking about.  A very kind and patient friend made the dress and the jacket. The hat fucking rocked.

Pics or didn’t happen, you say? feast your eyes on this, baby, because I’m having a shameless egotistical moment.

this is my favorite photo. frankly I think I look stinkin’ adorkable in it. Even though I look like a hobbit.




without the props, so you can see the jacket a little better. the trim is some polyester black velvet I had sitting around and was so slippery it had to be sewn on by hand.

2014-01-18 10.26.30 small Read the rest of this entry »

Warning: massive photo dump ahead.

Continuing my post from yesterday about the awesomeness of ConText26, on Saturday afternoon we went to a few more panels:

What Editors Want, with Faith Van Horne, John Joseph Adams, Jason Sizemore, and Scott Sandridge. This was one of my favorite panels.  They talked about common errors seen in manuscripts  (such as not following submission guidelines, the story submitted doesn’t match the style of genre of the publication,  bad grammar), the author-editor relationship, and how the anthology editor decides what order the stories should in be. Frustration with not being able to take great stories came up more than once, where an editor was putting together a themed anthology and had to reject an excellent story simply because it had nothing to do with the theme.

Faith, John Joseph Adams, Jason Sizemore and Sandridge

Faith Van Horne, John Joseph Adams, Jason Sizemore and Scott Sandridge

A big part of the discussion was What Do Editors Really Want?

- how did you put a different spin on the idea?

- how is your approach different to everyone else who has used the same device?

- originality is better than polish

- how is your character different? what do they care about? Why should the reader be interested in them?

- humor is a plus. Just make sure you are laughing because the author wrote it as a humor piece!

During the Q&A time I asked how they each got into editing, and what steps someone who is interested in that aspect of the business should take.  The advice was to volunteer as a slush reader to get a taste for it.

next, was:

Non-Human Characters, with Elizabeth Bear, Matthew Cook, Linda Robertson, Dave Creek, T. Lee Harris, and Scott Sandridge.  Another excellent panel! Be the character an animal, alien, shapeshifter or humanoid who isn’t human, they can’t just be the classic Star Trek “dude in a rubber suit”, or the person with nose ridges and lots of ear piercings. The authors talked about their techniques for writing non-human characters, which included tossing a lot of questions out to the audience. What sensory experiences does your character have (maybe they depend on smell?)? just because we are  base-10 doesn’t mean other creatures will be, especially if they don’t have 10 fingers.  What about symbiotic relationships? If you are on an alien planet, the environment of that planet will affect everything about the creatures who live there, everything from their physiology to their economy to their moral culture.

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I got to do a bunch of cool stuff last weekend.  Once of them (which encompassed all the other things) was attend ConText26, a science fiction and fantasy convention in Columbus, Oh.  As you can tell by the number after it’s name, ConText has been around for a while. Geared towards writers and publishers, this is a smaller convention. There was probably around 200 people there. In this case though, smaller is better. It makes for a casual and friendly atmosphere in which to learn and network.   As a “fan, non-writer”, I was in the minority. Nearly all the other attendees were writers, or involved with publishing, and interested in learning more about the craft.  I’m not a writer, but I was still fascinated by everything. Beyond panels and seminars, ConText offered a Filking concert, a Flash Fiction contest, a mass autograph session, a dealer room (to buy books to be autographed!), author readings, and of course, evening parties.

The best part was that I got to spend the weekend with my friend Elizabeth. She runs Dark Cargo, and she’s my partner in crime over at Bookstore Bookblogger Connection. She showed me around Columbus’s cool Victorian neighborhoods, took me on a bookstore adventure, introduced me to the local pizza and beer scene (Pies and Pints, FTW!), and generally ensured that I would have a #bestweekendever.  I met up with my friends John and Paul as well.


on Friday:

First panel was Liz Coley’s How To Make Your Words Shine. This was mostly about revising your drafts to get your manuscript ready for submission.  Everyone knows the basic grammar rules, but she touched on more subtle writing concepts, like adding sensory and textual descriptors (use your senses other than sight!), verbal patterns that it is easy to fall into (such as using too many adverbs) and other tips.  In my brain, what she was talking about was the engineering behind the artwork, the act of putting in the foundation last so the surface can glimmer with the texture you originally planned for it.  She suggested using the “find/replace” function to make sure the same words or phrases aren’t used over and over again, or twice in one sentence.

Read the rest of this entry »

well, I’m off to ConText, in Columbus OH.  electronic gizmos have been charged, car has been washed and gassed up. Friends will be met, new friends will be made,  books will be drooled upon and purchased (you drool on it, you buy it). Also, there will be beer. Copious quantities of beer.

While I’m enroute to C’bus, you should totally enjoy my latest Convention Attention post over at SFSignal!  Con curious?  Want to go to one but aren’t sure what to expect? Not sure if there are any near you? The goal of this series of columns is to shed some light on what Cons are all about and what happens there. And hey, if you’re at one in the MidWest, and you see a short redhead running around, give a good loud shout of “Andrea!” and see if she turns around. ;)

Michael deLuca, Alastair Reynolds, Howard Andrew Jones, Brian McClellan, Saladin Ahmed

Michael deLuca, Alastair Reynolds, Howard Andrew Jones, Brian McClellan, Saladin Ahmed at ConFusion, 2013

apologies in advance if your comments get stuck in moderation. Blog, e-mail, and twitter access will be limited for me this weekend.


Over the weekend we went to the GrandCon gaming convention in Grand Rapids, MI. See here for the photo dump post. There was gaming, there were demos, there were oversize plushy dice, there was a promise of kittens in a blender (relax! it’s a card game!), there was an excellent dealer room jammed with comics, artwork, boardgames and more, there was artwork and RPG’ing and cosplayers and epic amounts of geeky fun.

On a lark, I decided to go to the Saturday afternoon Worldbuilding panel. I haven’t read Dragonlance since junior high school, but seriously, who doesn’t want to hear Tracy Hickman, Ed Greenwood, Steven Schend, and Jeff Grubb talk about creating giant worlds for all their friends to come play in? And when I say “world they’ve created”, I mean shared worlds. A role playing world that is designed for other people to add to and build on. These guys give you the basic rules and foundations, and the other game designers get to go crazy (to a point) building scenarios.

Jeff Gruff, Steven Schend, Ed Greenwood and Tracy Hickman

Jeff Gruff, Steven Schend, Ed Greenwood and Tracy Hickman

Topics of discussion included what happens (for good and ill) when others begin making unexpected changes to your world, the difference between designers making changes to the world and gamers and DMs making changes to the world, why creators shouldn’t get too attached to anything in the space, the complexity of religion in role playing worlds, copyright and legal issues when writing tie-in novels, building sympathy for villains, and the limitations of computer games, just to name a few. The conversation was dominated by Hickman and Greenwood, which was fine, because Ed Greenwood is an excellent speaker with decades of experience. I want to buy this man a beer just so can tell me a story. Tracy Hickman as well, wonder speaker, a lifetime of experience, plus experience dealing with the publishing and marketing aspects of the industry. I’d like to buy both of them a drink so they can tell me stories all afternoon!

These two guys have been living the dream their entire life, and listening to Greenwood and Hickman bounce ideas off of each other was definitely a  highlight of the weekend.

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We have returned, victorious from GrandCon!  A new gaming convention in Grand Rapids, MI, GrandCon featured pre-scheduled gaming events, a ginormous gaming library you could sign games out from, a Pathfinder competition, table top roleplaying, game demos, a really nice dealer room,  seminars, and more.   I’m happy we got there early in the morning on Saturday, as the registration lines only grew and grew into the afternoon.  I heard at one point that over 1200 badges were printed and that they ran out of programs.  I think they’re gonna need a bigger hotel/convention location next year!

There was also an adventure to a brand new comic/gaming shop in the city, and an unintentionally SFnal dinner involving LED lights in a sushi presentation.

While I write up a longer post about the super cool World building panel that was presented by Tracy Hickman, Ed Greenwood, Steven Schend and Jeff Grubb,  you should enjoy these photos.

photodump commencing in three. . . .  two. . . . and we have lift-off/photo dump!

These huge cardboard monsters were set up in the lobby, they were part of an oversized gaming demo for King of Tokyo



The game comes with regular sized dice, and regular sized cardboard characters that go on a regular sized board, but throwing big plushy dice is so much more fun!

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Today I’m over at SFSignal talking about Conventions. It’s a new column over there, Convention Attention!

oh, also, this.

btw, this is just the beginning of a kick-ass awesome week. stay tuned!

About this redhead, etc.

Redhead is a snarky, non-politically correct 30-something who reviews mostly science fiction and fantasy and talks about all sorts of other fun scifi and fantasy geekery. She once wrote a haiku that included the word triskaidekaphobia.

This blog contains adult language and strong opinions. The best way to contact her outside of this blog is twitter, where she is @redhead5318 .

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