My First-Ever ConFusion Convention!

So, I meant to write about this last week, but life, as it so often does, interrupted. Last week was a big, big week. We inaugurated a Russain-aided, bloviating, ignorant, walking spray tan with a bad comb-over as our forty-fifth President of the United States, and he's been stomping the shit out of our Constitution ever since, targeting women, journalists, science, intelligence agents, and immigrants with unbridled hostility. It seems like so much more time has passed than a mere week-plus, but we only just wrapped our first actual whole fucking week with the Pussy Grabber In Chief at the helm. 

Friday, Jan. 20, 2017 was a dreary, appropriately rainy, and depressing day. Thankfully, Saturday was pretty awesome, and I spent a good deal of time hanging out with the science fiction and fantasy fandom over at ConFusion 2017. This is a fan-run convention, and one of the longest running conventions of its kind, having started back in the early 1970s and celebrating its forty-third year. It's also an event that is local to me, although this year was my first time attending.

And you know what? ConFusion was a hell of a lot of fun. I arrived there at 9 a.m., spent the day in readings, Q&As, and milling about, getting books signed. I left after the 5 p.m. autograph session to return home to my wife and son (she had broken her foot, and he's been teething ferociously, so many, many thanks to them for letting me have a me-day). I learned, first-hand, what con crud feels like, arriving home bleary eyed, hungry, and in need of a shower from hanging out with a thousand-plus readers and writers. 

While I was having fun, all around the world women, and men supportive of the cause, were marching in solidarity against Trump in the Women's March on Washington. I followed the hashtag and some of the other authors I follow who were partaking in the march, and my heart was happy at the sight of what quickly became the largest act of protest in American history. According to a report at the New York Times, attendance for the march was three times larger than for Trump's sparsely-attended inauguration (a fact that shouldn't surprise anyone, since he lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes), which was more than enough to put a big smile on my face. Trump would take to the airwaves, using his first full day in office, to condemn the media for accurately reporting on the sparse turnout for his inauguration, and then unleashed his press secretary to scold and lie to the media, so anything that helped get under his thin, orange skin was something to be applauded.

 I had a camera face-off with John Scalzi - his Nikon DSLR vs. my iPhone 6S Plus. Notice his conveniently placed copy of his forthcoming novel,  The Collapsing Empire ...

I had a camera face-off with John Scalzi - his Nikon DSLR vs. my iPhone 6S Plus. Notice his conveniently placed copy of his forthcoming novel, The Collapsing Empire...

Given the state of our nation, inside ConFusion John Scalzi joked that his upcoming release, The Collapsing Empire, was either the best-timed, or perhaps worst-timed, book title of his career. He read from Chapter Two of this book, and it was pretty damn amusing. I recently received a NetGalley ARC and am looking forward to diving into it soon. There's a few books ahead of it, but based on Scalzi's reading, it's going to be a grand old time for this little bookworm. He confirmed that the naming conventions of his spaceships are in honor of Iain M. Banks, so fans of the Culture books have a little extra to look forward to. There was also a wonderful amount of swearing by his potty-mouthed, ass-kicking heroine, which I always appreciate, and Scalzi recently received positive reviews from Kirkus and Publisher's Weekly, so I'm certainly expecting great things. Congrats, John!

Joining Scalzi for the reading panel was Joe Hill, who read from The Fireman, a book I read and enjoyed last year, and even ordered a signed copy of. He and Scalzi argued over guitarists, which culminated in a pillow fight (which I made to sure record!) at the start of the panel. From there, they read, joked, and argued over Star Wars, Marvel movies, and music. It was such a good time, and helped set my expectations for the rest of the day.

For the mid-part of the day, I hung out with Shay VanZwoll, my editor on Extinction Cycle: From the Ashes (A Kindle Worlds Novella), and got to meet her husband. Shay's been attending ConFusion for good number of years, and she introduced to me a few people, including author Ferret Steinmetz, who wrote the 'Mancer trilogy and has a new book, The Uploaded, due out in September. He told us a bit about this forthcoming release, and it's sounds superb. Shay and I pre-ordered it soon afterward. You can read a bit about it over at Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

Over the course of the day, I also got to meet Delilah S. Dawson (who writes The Shadow books as Lila Bowen), during a kaffeeklatsch she hosted for writers and attendees new to ConFusion. It was a lot of fun to pick her brain and hear her thoughts on the state of writing these days. I also got to meet some local indie authors, and authors-to-be (Hi, KC!) 

Later in the day, I attended Mallory O'Meara's Q&A. As ConFusion's Media Guest of Honor, O'Meara was on hand to discuss her role as producer for the upcoming puppet film, Yamasong: March of the Hollows. I missed the special sizzle reel screening at 9 p.m., but from what I've seen online it's a pretty intriguing project with some great star power behind it (Nathan Fillion, Malcolm McDowell, Abigail Breslin, Whoopi Goldberg, George Takei). The poster is pretty awesome, and I was able to get an autographed copy from Mallory.

In terms of autographs, I did pretty well for myself, I think. Joe Hill signed the first three volumes of Locke & Key, which I had brought with me. I bought paperback copies of Ferret's trilogy (these look terrific in print, done up in matte black covers; sexy stuff!), as well as Michael Underwood's Genrenauts: The Complete Season One Collection - also a terrific looking paperback. I also got the first two books by Patrick S. Tomlinson, The Ark and Trident's Forge

 Hey, that's me! Photo by Patrick S. Tomlinson ( @stealthygeek )

Hey, that's me! Photo by Patrick S. Tomlinson (@stealthygeek)

 Angry Robot Books was well represented at ConFusion 2017.

Angry Robot Books was well represented at ConFusion 2017.

Angry Robot Books has been one of my favorite SFF publishers over the last few years, and it was great to see them have such a strong presence in terms of author showing. In addition to Underwood, Tomlinson, and Steinmetz, Kameron Hurley and Adam Rakunas were on hand to sign books and discuss their works. My biggest regret was not being able to fit in one of the panels attended by Sarah Gailey, particularly her reading from the upcoming River of Teeth from Tor Books. I'm desperate to read that book, and with its focus on killer hippos and mercenaries how could I not be? I did get a nice little card advertising the book and showcasing the brilliant cover art, though, so not a total loss. From what I hear, it was a pretty impressive reading. 

I'd say my first ConFusion, and, in fact, my very first convention ever, was a success. I had a lot of fun, got to meet some cool people, and spend worthwhile time with authors, readers, and fans. Given the political reality outside ConFusion, spending time with a community of fans and writers provided a much-needed break from the world, as well as a good dose of sanity. I left ConFusion looking forward, already, to the 2018 gathering. I'm looking forward to diving back into this particular brand of crazy!

Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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