Stellarcon 36: March 2-4, 2012

The Opening Ceremonies with specials guests Michael Z. Williamson, Albin Johnson, James and Tera Fulbright, Brad Sappington, Chris Weed, Mark Poole, Patrick Rothfuss, Michael A. Stackpole & John Kovalic

Droid R2-KT meets a young admirer

Two young participants in the Humans vs Zombies game (indicated by the green headbands) stop in the ConSuite, which was neutral territory









Stellarcon, the science fiction convention I’ve attended the longest, is a small, friendly convention held the first weekend in March at the Best Western in High Point, NC. For my first few years at Stellarcon, I stayed in the hotel, but four years ago the hotel had no rooms available when I called to make a reservation. That presented no great problem since my daughter and son-in-law live an hour away from High Point. After attending Mysticon in Roanoke, VA, the last weekend in February (see my post about Mysticon 2012), I drive down to visit them. So in recent years, I’ve commuted to the convention from their house, and the beautiful weather this year — warm enough to go without a jacket — made the drive quite pleasant.

ConSuite workers

Trying on a gown in the Ladies Room

Klingon couple taking a break in the ConSuite







One of the joys of attending this convention is meeting up with friends I’ve made there and only get to see face-to-face at the convention. In between the panels and other con activities, we had time to catch up in the hallways and over lunch in the ConSuite and dinner in the hotel bar.

Panel: Hard Science Fiction with Paula Jordan, Gray Rinehart, Speaker to Lab Animals, Jim Minz & Michael Stackpole

Panel: Religion in SFF with Theresa Bane, Teresa Frohock, Diana Bastine & Janine K. Spendlove

Panel: Where Do You Get Your Ideas? And Other Stupid Questions with John G. Hartness, Paula Jordan, Tera Fulbright & Marilynn Byerly








Most of the convention panels and activities are located in two perpendicular hallways on the first floor, and each room was labeled with the panels/activities scheduled for that room. The Dealers’ Room offered the usual items for sale: books, posters, knickknacks, artwork, jewelry, T-shirts, costume clothing, swords, knives, and much more. Convention attendees could also bid on the impressive artwork displayed in the Art Show and check out the displays that lined the main hallway.

SONAR presenter Duncan Langoise

SONAR presenter Amy H. Sturgis

SONAR presenter Paula Jordan







The convention introduced a new program called SONAR — the Symposium On Nerdy Academic Research — with half-hour presentations on topics such as: Sim City — For Real or “Tourturing Sims for Fun and Profit,” presented by Keith Bisset; RPGs: Rocket propelled Grenades, Worldwide Technical Overview and Rules of Thumb for Writers and Gamers, presented by Duncan Langoise; In Search of Fringe’s SF Ancestors, presented by Amy H. Sturgis; A Brief Understanding of Menes, presented by Devin J. Miller; Time Lord of Infinite Space, presented by A. J. Hartley; Women in Combat, presented by Chris Berman; Worldbuilding 101, An Introduction to Star, Planet, and Sentient Alien Design, presented by Paula Jordan; and more.

The SONAR presentations I attended were packed with information, which the presenters had to rush through to squeeze into the half-hour time period. I hope Stellarcon continues this program next year and allows an hour time slot for each presentation to enable the presenters to give an in-depth talk and have time to field some questions.

Gallifrey Pirate Radio host Davey Beauchamp

Gallifrey Pirate Radio panel: Jaysen Buterin, Rich Sigfrit, Angela Pritchett, Drew Meyer, Allegra Torres & Theresa Bane

Some of the audience for the filming of the Gallifrey Pirate Radio episode







The panels I attended were also informative, interesting, and fun, though I often had the typical convention problem of wishing I could be in two places at one time. Most of the panels I attended had to do with writing, but I also watched the filming of an episode of Gallifrey Pirate Radio where host Davey Beauchamp and the panelists talked about what’s new with Dr. Who (and were thrilled with the large audience present for the filming).

The contestants for Artists vs Authors SF Pictionary

Moderator Danny Birt has the authors pick a topic from the can

The winning artists -- Mark Poole and John Kovalic






Another fun event was the annual Artists vs Authors SF Pictionary, where the artists and authors compete. The audience is divided in half (I was on the artists’ side) and joins the fun by trying to guess what the artists/authors are drawing. You might think the artists would have an advantage in this game, but the authors have won more often. This year, however, the artists — Mark Poole and John Kovalic — topped the authors by a sizable margin.

Character Building Workshop with Samuel Montgomery-Blynn, Steve Long, Patrick Rothfuss & Gray Rinehart

Character Building Workshop with Samuel Montgomery-Blynn & Steve Long

Patrick Rothfuss & Gray Rinehart in the Character Building Workshop







The Character Building Workshop, whose panelists included gamers and writers, provided good suggestions for building compelling characters. Patrick Rothfuss advised describing a character using only two or three specific, salient details: one that implies a lot of additional things about the character, a second that is somewhat contrary to the first, and perhaps a third. Samuel Montgomery-Blynn recommended giving each character a flaw, and Steve Long suggested using a trope in a different way. Gray Rinehart pointed out that the story’s antagonist does not have to be a villain.

Panel: The State of Harry Potter with Scott Vaughn, Karen McCullough & Nicole Givens Kurtz

Libraries of the Future with Davey Beauchamp, Nicole Givens Kurtz & Teresa Frohock

Panel: Strong Female Characters with Diana Bastine, Michael Z. Williamson, Teresa Frohock & Chris Berman







In closing, I have to send a big thank you to Fran Harris of Obsidians Caldera. I purchased a lovely copper necklace from her in the Dealers’ Room, but she had no earrings with her that matched. She offered to make a pair and send them to me. They arrived today, and they are beautiful. Thanks, Fran!

Fran Harris with a customer in the Dealers' Room

The necklace & earrings crafted by Fran Harris

Panel: Research for Writers with Theresa Bane, Paula Jordan, Karen McCullough, Speaker to Lab Animals & Amy H. Sturgis








For more about the convention guests and panels and more photos, check out my Author Chronicles post, Stellarcon 36 – 2012.

Panel: Storytelling in Video Games with Patrick Rothfuss, Brad Sappington, Chris Weed, Allegra Torres & Michael A. Stackpole

More of the audience for the filming of the Gallifrey Pirate Radio episode


About J. Thomas Ross

Since retiring from a career as a high school English and history teacher, I've been pursuing a career as a writer. My main interest is in writing novels, but I've also written short stories and poetry and done a little editing on the side. I am currently working on a Young Adult novel. One of my poems - "Winter" - won an award at the 2010 Philadelphia Writers Conference, and you can find my fantasy short story "A Rock Is a Rock Is a Rock ... Or Is It?" in the anthology Tales of Fortannis: A Bard's Eye View, which is available in print and Kindle format from Amazon and as an e-book from Double Dragon Press.
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