"For the sake of humanity, join in Bitterwood's revolt." - Kirkus Reviews

Sunday, June 3, 2007


I spent Friday and Saturday at ConCarolinas in Charlotte. This was the most panel intensive con I've ever attented. I was on 4 back to back panels Friday night, then wound up moderating 4 panels on Saturday (I was scheduled to do 3 of them, and wound up getting drafted for the last when the moderator was unable to attend the con).

Among the highlights of the con were seeing my fellow Codexians Alethea Kontis and Ed Schubert. I hadn't seen Alethea since DragonCon back in August, so it was good to catch up with her. She was there plugging her many projects, including her picture book AlphaOops, the anthology she coedited Elemental, the books currently being published by her small press Nyx Books, and, of course, her upcoming Dark Hunter guide. Ed was there promoting his work on Intergalactic Medicine show and pulled off the most impressive feat of writing I've witnessed in many years.

Ed was on the panel I had to moderate at the last second, a panel called the "Quick Write," where teams of writers have only 7 and a half minutes to write an entire short story. Ed's team consisted of Steve Cross and an audience member (who's name I didn't write down, alas). The challenge was to write a story using randomly generated prompts from the audience... and the prompt's turned out to be Napoleon, Kuala Lampoor (I'm sure I just misspelled that), an inkpen... and when I asked and audience member for a genre, he said, "musical." The team rose to the challenge, with Ed writing the ending, and managing to write actual song lyrics to bring the story to a close. I didn't write down the lyrics, alas, so I can't repeat them here, but the entire room was laughing so hard it really doesn't matter.

Of course, the in the first round the other team also knocked my socks off. It consisted of Robert Buettner, Glenda Finkelstein, and Debra Killeen. In the first round, they wrote a story about a scientist who is given a cardboard box and opens it to find a recently killed baby t-rex head inside. I've attended several quick-writes at various cons, and this was definitely the most professional sounding story I've ever seen produced in seven minutes. The amazing thing was that, for three writers, I couldn't tell where one writer's work ended and the next's began. I picked up a copy of Robert Buettner's first novel, Orphanage, and I'm looking forward to checking it out.

I also wound up on two science panels with Stephen Euin Cobb, host of the podcast "The Future and You." The two panels sort of blended together as we discussed such exotic concepts as transhumanism (which I'll loosely describe as the theory of what humans will be once they are no longer human), how to plausibly travel outside the solar system without falling back on any exotic physics like warp drives or hyperspace, and how science may be becoming indistiguishable from magic for a majority of people.

I feel a little guilty about skipping out on the Sunday part of the con. I planned to only stay Friday night so I could save money on a Saturday night hotel room. Ah well. Now I know. Next year, I'll budget the extra time and cash to get the full con experience.


Abbie said...

It was good to see a familiar face at ConCarolinas. Glad you decided to go. We will have to talk sometime about what other cons you are planning to hit up...
Looking forward to reading Bitterwood!

James Maxey said...

Good to see you too. My other cons this summer will be Readercon in Boston in July, Trinocon in August in Raliegh, and Dragoncon in Atlanta in September. (I hope... I haven't gotten approval of guest status yet for the last con, but last year I didn't hear from them until July.)

One fun thing about cons is that the more you attend, the more you get to know the guests, since they often overlap from con to con. For me, it gets easier at each con to strike up conversations as I see more and more familiar faces.