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