Balticon – Wrapping up the review

Taking my time and reflecting on the convention was a lot more satisfactory than trying to lump all this stuff together.

The weekend was well worth the effort. The panels I was part of were good learning points for me, and hopefully for others. I got to meet, hang out and party with some very cool folks.

The convention attendance looked smaller to me than years past, but it also looked younger and more eager than I’ve seen in a while. That part gives me some hope.

BSFS announce the Guest of Honor for next year and announced that they’ll be moving to a new hotel. I’m torn about this.

The GOH is George R.R. Martin. I am not a fan, but he will certainly draw a crowd. I’m not sure it will be “my” crowd, but attendance should be up. The new hotel is in downtown Baltimore. Many, many folks are excited about this. I am not one of those folks. I remember going to the Omni when Balticon was there and I hated it. Downtown where the parking is expensive and the meals aren’t convenient. I like the current location in Hunt Valley – but that isn’t my choice. I know at least two people that have already decided that convention isn’t for them so they’ll be going elsewhere next year.

I am going. I’ve made the choice already. I know there are a lot of folks very put off by the utter failure of the registration process this year. I’m going to call it an aberration. I definitely think that invited guest should get their own line, but we’ll see how it all turns out next year. I’ll give reg a chance to right itself. I’ll give the venue a chance. It’s not ideal, but I’ll try it. Who knows, it might be amazing. I’ll be happy to be the counter programming to the GOH. Nobody said I have to go to his panels, right? I might even ramp up my art show stuff for next year. I’ve got some time for planning.

Hopefully you’ll have some time for planning and you’ll get yourself out there to a convention too. Maybe you’ll even catch me on a panel someday!

Part 3 – The Panels!

I have works of humor and military science fiction as my most recent published selections. Last year was no different. So, straight out the gate last year I got put on a panel about creating magic systems… with the guest of honor Brandon Sanderson. The room was absolutely packed and they were NOT there to see me. It went really well and the GOH was very gracious in sharing the panel.

This year – I got 3 panels that were actually dead on accurate. I didn’t know about one of them until the Thursday before the convention, but it was right in my wheelhouse so it wasn’t a big worry to me.

My panels were: Fiction Writing for Gamemasters (and vice-versa), Getting Into Short Fiction, and Writing Interesting and Effective Short Stories. I was in business – these were things I could definitely talk about!

I was the moderator for the gamemasters panel and I think it went well. I did my best to learn something of each panelist before we started, but that didn’t really work out. One of the original panel got re-scheduled, one didn’t show, one was a con staff member that suggested the panel and one gave this as his sum total bio information “…is a writer.” I try to use the information I find on panelists to mold and direct questions more toward their strong suits. Much like any role playing game I’ve ever run, I had to wing it. It seemed to work. Perhaps all that gamemaster stuff worked out for me in the long run.

I was a panelist on the getting into short fiction panel. I think there was really solid stuff there and I hope the folks that came to the panel enjoyed it. I’ll be honest – I don’t recall as much of that panel as I’d like. I had back to back panels and I recall my last one more than the first one.

The “last one” was interesting and effective short stories. I think there was a lot of good stuff in that panel. I wanted to take notes from time to time. Part of what made it so interesting was the fact that a couple of the panelists had very different views on making short stories work. I had a handful of things I think were good points and really took pleasure in response to one particular question. When asked about a short story that really moved or changed me I told everyone about a book I really enjoyed. It has been out of print since the 80s, so there were a quite a few folks that hadn’t heard of it. The general murmurs and reactions really made me smile. I like to be able to share the things I enjoy and point others toward something they might like too.

All worthy panels and really good panelists. These were probably some of the best I’ve been on yet.

And in case you’re wondering – I won’t give you the details of the story I liked so much, but it’s in this book (if you can track it down):


Balticon – A Review Part 2

Links and Connections

One of the cool things I’ve always liked about going to conventions was the chance to meet and chat with creators of all types. I hope that as a creator that I give back in the way I have always felt the con giving to me.

This year was no exception. In fact, I think I’d call it exceptional in terms of the variety of folks I had the chance to meet. I chatted with authors and artists, podcasters, programmers, students, publishers and all sorts of others. I found some amazing work along the way.

I didn’t get as much of a chance to chat with this new author as I wanted – but the art was interesting and the story sounded like it had potential:

Found a card for the magazine – and I’m signing up for a test subscription:

I didn’t get to chat with Sunny after the panel she was on, but her portal earrings were neat… I’m intrigued about the way she described her work and will likely check some of it out:

I was really taken with this artist’s work – please go and support her:

I shared a panel with the founder here:

Last, but certainly not least I got to meet and chat with Dave Robison. I am very happy I had the chance to add him to the circle of folks I know. Go and read his Magazine of speculative thought here:

There are always lots of folks at a convention like Balticon. IF you get the chance, you should get out to a local convention and get to know some of these folks!

Balticon – A Review In Parts

I’m trying something new this year. Normally I review my convention experience all in one big lump. I’ve taken a day or two now and I think there’s too much to cover and do justice with one lump. I know I prefer shorter posts when I’m checking my news feeds a lot of the time. That being the case I’m going to set these lumps of review to pop up at different times. Hopefully this new review strategy will be a good one – you’ll have to let me know!

Here we go with part one – the general stuff.

I truly enjoy going to Balticon. I’ve been going for a long time. Not as long as many folks, but long enough. I look forward each year to seeing old friends, making new ones and generally having fun. This year was no exception.

I was invited as a guest / panelist again this year. I love that I have the chance to do this. I hope it is something that continues. I also signed up to be part of the art show this year. While I wasn’t ready to try to sell any of my art, I wanted to be part of the show and see what it was all about.

Making sure I was actually on the guest list was difficult. I work on staff for other conventions, so I know things can be difficult. I tried, really tried to be patient. It seemed to pay off, even if the paperwork I got was later than the deadline it gave inside.

So – guest stuff arranged, art stuff sent in and confirmed I was ready.

The registration / sign in stuff at the con itself was not. I’m certain that social media exploded with anger and frustration over this. I’m also certain that the convention staff is aware of everyone’s opinion so I’m just going to describe it as bad. That is perhaps the negligent misuse of understatement, but 4 lines and 2+ hours later I had a badge with no staple or ribbons, my original schedule, the remake and a suggestion that I look for the app for the schedule as that was likely more up to date than anything printed that I’d been given we’ll just stick with bad.

I figured in the midst of all this I’d go and get set up for the art show. Except they weren’t ready. Again, I’ve been on staff – I know things can get behind. I could always come back later. You know, later when the crash that hurt registration so much had the chance to affect art show sign in. The art show folks were diligent and helpful to me as a newbie and I really had very little to worry about. I took it all in stride and got stuff hung up.

By the time I got past all that I really wasn’t feeling the con groove. The wife and I skipped out and headed for dinner. There were panels we’d thought of heading to, but the changes were such a mess we skipped them altogether.

Friday was a struggle, but no worries – there would be more to the weekend!

And there was. I had some excellent panels. I’ll break them down more in another post, but they were right on target for me.

Seeing old friends and making new friends (even by way of shared misery in line) was just as fantastic as always. I can think of at least a half a dozen folks I normally see at the convention that didn’t make it this year. I don’t know numbers but I got the feeling that attendance was down quite a lot. The mood seemed to be less festive than I’d seen in the past. I didn’t see the array of hall costumes I’d seen before. Maybe I was just missing something or not in the right place at the right time – but a busy con shouldn’t need the right place at the right time to make it work. The right place and right time should be just about anywhere at a con.

Maybe I’m jaded? Maybe it was me?

I’ll post more through the week – I think that’s enough for now.

Balticon 49

I was told that I am bad at self promotion. I know this is true. I am going to attempt to be better about getting info out there.

This (Memorial Day) weekend I will be attending Balticon 49. I have been going to Balticon for a long time (though not as long as many – I believe my first was 27 when Don Maitz was the artist GOH). I will be a guest / participant as well as an artist in the art show. I do not have confirmation that I was in time for a “meet the artist” time slot – but I do have 3 panels that I will be on. They are:


7:00 PM Fiction Writing for Gamemasters (and Vice-Versa) Derby
Eric Hardenbrook (M), PC Haring, Neal Levin, James Daniel Ross

They’re different skill sets, but have much in common. How does the prose writer learn to function in real‐time? How can an experienced gamemaster apply their skills to a self‐contained, linear story?


12:00 PM Getting into Short Fiction Salon C
John Skylar (M), Scott H Andrews, 2015 Compton Crook Winner, Eric Hardenbrook, Samuel Lubell

Online publishing and new press opportunities have created a renaissance in short science fiction and fantasy writing. Our panelists discuss where to go to find short stories and novellas to read, who and what a reader new to the sub-genre should look for, and why shorter works of SF/F have persisted and thrived.

1:00 PM Writing Interesting and Effective Short Stories Pimlico
Joy Ward (M), Eric Hardenbrook, Joshua Palmatier, Bud Sparhawk, Martin Berman-Gorvine

How do you make a large world without a large word count? Making a big story out of a small space.

I am looking forward to the convention – hopefully I’ll get to see you there!

Behind the curtain

“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”

Love that bit.

Yes, I’ve been off here doing lots of things. One of those things is (hopefully) getting my web posts to automatically cross post to Facebook again. It broke for a while, but hopefully it is better now.

The other thing I’ve been working on is getting ready to go to Balticon. A few weeks ago I met the requirements, paid the dues and joined the Baltimore Science Fiction Society and have gotten to go to the meetings and hear some of the behind the scenes stuff. You know what? Still excited to go. I’m so happy that they’ve made me an invited guest again this year.

The other thing I’ve been working on is something I’ve only run past a few folks as an idea… Well, I’m in. I’m going to display some of my art at the art show at Balticon this year. Forms submitted and received, prep work in full swing.

I’m really nervous about it, but I’m doing it. I’ll post the results as the weekend progresses. Until then, much more work to do!