Ad Astra 2011 has been and gone and I was there.
It was the best of times, it was the sleepiest of times. It was an age of hope and an age of smoky hotel rooms. It is a tail of pleasant pools and greasy breakfast sausages. Oh heck, from the beginning.
The night before the con was punctuated by long bouts of wakefulness caused by minor medical mishaps. Thus I arrived at Ad Astra in an exhausted state at about 1:00 PM to find the reception volunteers already working on set up.
Being exhausted at the start of the con proved to be no real liability as I was part of a group that encompassed most of the attendees. I have to wonder if there is some kind of mild bug going around as everyone seemed to be dead on their feet. One would think it was a zombie plague running amuck. Arrr run run run away.
Back to the narrative. Checking in was somewhat annoying as I told the hotel staff what I had booked and they said the rooms with king-sized beds were all taken and I’d have to take a double. This persisted until I produced a copy of our booking contract after which a room with a king-sized bed magically appeared. I’ve learned when dealing with hotels to expect a fast one and be prepared to make it more trouble than it’s worth for them to do you over. Credit where credit is due, the staff were uniformly polite and seemed to actually care that the weekend went smoothly. I also asked for permission to put up posters and it only took two managers and me standing around wasting time for ten minutes for me to get the OK. One would think that since they have experience with this con the desk staff would have been briefed on some basic things like this but such is life.
So I was away to my room with the room stuff including my cooler and box of food. I’m cheep what can I say. Actually, more accurate to say, I’m a writer thus broke. Please sir buy a book so I don’t have to sit in the snow and burn them one by one to keep warm. The little match Girl makes sense if you make her a writer. A pot of coffee was brewed as I brought up a second load. Then it was to work. Elevators lobbies’ stairs basically any high traffic area I could think of found itself bedecked with a poster. Then I registered for the con, grabbed a shower, set up my dealer’s table, which I was once more sharing with Ira Nayman good friend and proprietor of the Alternate Reality News Service. Website: bing.search.sympatico.ca/?q=Ira%20Nayman...ca&setLang=en-CA
The table was narrower than I expected but I still managed to fit everything on. I tried giving away a free toy horse with each copy of Tinker’s Plague I sold with the thought that parents could get the book for themselves and get a little something for the kids at the same time. Can we say led balloon with bricks on? What I can say for it is it didn’t cost me any sales but nobody took a horse. Oh well, you don’t know if you don’t try. I also tried putting a notebook computer with sample readings on the table with equivalent results.
Truth to tell, before the dealer’s room even officially opened I had the first of my panels.
Fri 5 pm Salon 243 Flap you bugger, flap!
From Pegasus through the dragons of Pern mankind has dreamed of a flying steed. What are the potential up sides and drawbacks of this mode of transportation?
Stephen B. Pearl (m) website: www.stephenpearl.com
This was fun, but not well attended. Much was said about Dragons in general. Sadly physics and aerodynamics don’t really bear out a flying steed on Earth though the possibility of one on another world with lower gravity and a higher atmospheric pressure still intrigues. Of course PSI dragons like in the Dragon Riders of Pern books might still make sense.
Then to the room to quickly drop off some things where I met the shining queen of all my delights. The glorious love of my life, she who is the font of all things good. She who must be obeyed, my wife Joy. I love you honey now can you put down the rolling pin, please.
Then came the,
DEALER’S ROOM Friday 6:00 to10:00 pm
And minor variations on my spiel. Sadly the dealers’ room had no windows thus I, by in large, missed one of the first nice weekends of the year. Waaaaa. It wasn’t so bad after they resolved some heat issues though. Interestingly enough there was a stand selling boffer weapons, foam rubber replicas made for sparing. I fought boffer for a time about 26 years ago when the swords consisted of plastic pipe covered in pipe insulators and wrapped in duct tape. The blades now look far more realistic but the moves remain the same. Nice to know.
Fri 10 pm Salon 241 How Would You Survive an Apocalypse?
Stephen B. Pearl (m)Website: www.stephenpearl.com
Karina Sumner-Smith Website: bing.search.sympatico.ca/?q=Karen%20Wehr...ca&setLang=en-CA
This was fun and had a huge turnout. We discussed how we’d prepare for a disaster and the key elements. The funniest bit was when Don and I started pulling handy little items we kept close out of our clothing. I had my vest so I had my micro first aid kit. I’d remembered to put on pants
so I had my utility knife there were other toys. One of Don’s was a great sparking tool for starting fires. I’ve got to get me one of them. The audience were a whoot as their eyes just kept getting bigger. I have to wonder if they were thinking, ‘what do these guys know that I don’t?’ It was fun. We also discussed basic skills like fire building and the advantages and disadvantages of isolationism and what a good balance was. In the end it more or less came down to the fighting chance scenario, ‘You can’t be prepared for everything but there are simple ways to improve your odds of survival.’
Then I just sat there as people came in for:
Fri 11 pm Salon 241 Sex Scenes
Cheap thrills, plot device, realistic portrayal, offensive smut, sex scenes can be all of these things and many more. Authors read (5 minute maximum) and analyse erotic passages from their own fiction discussing the purpose of the scene and the functions it serves in the work as a whole. Persons must be eighteen or older to attend this panel.
Stephen B. Pearl (m) Website: www.stephenpearl.com
Sephera Giron Website: sepheragiron.com
Michael Rowe Website: bing.search.sympatico.ca/?q=Michael%20Ro...ca&setLang=en-CA
Sarah Zettel: Website bing.search.sympatico.ca/?q=Sarah%20Zett...ca&setLang=en-CA
Claude Lalumiere Website: bing.search.sympatico.ca/?q=Claude%20Lal...ca&setLang=en-CA
This started with a chuckle as Michael told me I had to move because the new panel was coming in and I answered, “I know, I’m moderating it.” The audience nearly filled the room and weren’t all weird guys wearing trench coats either. It was interesting to hear what other people thought about their sex scenes and the work they did. In the end the idea that a sex scene is an action scene and needs to be treated with the same reasoning and respect seems to have prevailed. Just when I start to think I’m a bit extreme somebody pulls out two zombies having sex in a mud pit.
Then I was off to collect Joy and we hit the panelists’ green room. The beer was cold the company good and all was right with the world except for the fact that Joy and I were both dead on our feet. We hit the sack around 2:00 AM then I had trouble sleeping.
The next day I got up and had the hotel restaurant’s breakfast bufay. It was adequate but the sausage was a bit greasy and the verity wasn’t much. On the up side it was only $5:00 for room guests and the coffee wasn’t bad. I then hit the pool, which is round and was a lot cleaner and not as hot as last year. It’s not a good workout pool but for playing in it’s fine. Trust me; I’ve been a lifeguard longer than most of my associates on pool deck have been alive. The safety equipment was surprisingly good for a hotel pool.
That done it was time for the Da du dummmm….
DEALER’S ROOM 10:00 AM TO 6:30 PM
Sat 12 pm Salon 343 Book Signings
How to present yourself. Preparation. Ways to succeed. Dealing with store managers and staff and the all important bathroom break. Horror Stories success stories and would anybody like an autograph?
Stephen B. Pearl (m) Who is the joker he seems to show up a lot. Website. www.stephenpearl.com
Timothy Carter Website: www.timothycarterworld.com
Tim and I kicked it back and forth telling war stories and giving hints about how to get book signings and how to make the most of them. The audience was small but appreciative and engaged. Over all, a pleasant panel.
As the day wore on I worked my booth grabbed a bite in the panelists’ green room until the dealers’ room closed.
After this I had a meeting with the owner of Dark Dragon Publishing where I was told that my Paranormal / occult adventure novel Nukekubi was accepted by Dark Dragon. It should be on the shelves in a few months time. Yaa, yippy, hurray. See the author almost lose it in front of a business associate and dance in the streets. This is good news. I am happy, can you tell?
After this wonderful news it was time to grab a bite and drop in on the SFContario party before running off to catch part of a concert by Heather Dale. Heather has a lovely voice and a collection of songs that touches the soul. Lovely concert with a very appreciative audience. After this we raced to the Con suite to drop in on the book launch for Triptych by J.M. Frey. This was quite an affair with a cake that was magnificent in appearance. Sadly due to industrial hearing loss I don’t filter background noise well so in the room I was as good as deaf thus we didn’t stay long before we trotted off to check out the Yuri’s Night celebration in honor of the first man in space. Sadly the party had moved some place with no forwarding address so we hit the green room then went to bed.
That night was really annoying. The hotel is non-smoking but someone decided that they could poison the air for the others around them. I was awakened about an hour after turning in by the rancid stench of tobacco. It was strong enough that the person could have been in the room with us. Opening the balcony door helped flush it out but by 3:00 AM I’d had enough and called the front desk to complain. Antihistamines followed and I was finally able to get to sleep. Hate me if you will, but my right to breathe trumps someone’s right to commit slow suicide! Nuf said!
The next morning I was up before eight and got everything I could out to the car then:
DELEAR’S ROOM 10:00 AM TO 4:00 PM
Sun 11 am Salon 343 Reading: Stephen B. Pearl
Nobody showed up. Sniff,
it happens, better luck next time.
Sun 12 pm Salon 243 My God They're Slamming You Again
Minority religions worship many gods that most consider myths. How much sensitivity is appropriate to show in using these figures in fiction? Are the gods of another fair game for slander or is it fair to portray them as in the myths or better to avoid them entirely?
Stephen B. Pearl (m) Website: www.stephenpearl.com
Derwin Mak Website: bing.search.sympatico.ca/?q=Derwin%20Mak...ca&setLang=en-CA
This went well and reviewed some of the shows that were really insulting to various religious groups as well as acknowledging those that have tried to be fair and are deserving of praise. The most telling statement was that in a vacuum of information people believe what they see on television. That and that the producers of TV don’t care about a relatively small group of people if they can milk the majority for cash. Over all, a very good panel with a simple message. Be honest about people and if you don’t know crack a book.
Sun 1 pm Salon 443 I'm Very Flattered, But
The challenge of writing characters and scenes that reflect a sexuality other than your own. Showing proper respect, author comfort zone, understanding the other, fear of inadvertently offending and or giving real people the wrong impression. A discussion of these and other factors.
Stephen B. Pearl (m)
Gemma Files WikIpedia entry: bing.search.sympatico.ca/?q=Gemma%20File...ca&setLang=en-CA
This was another panel about tolerance and respect. Generally agreed that getting the emotion and personal dynamics right of a sexuality not one’s own was the difficult part. Also that there is a tendency for heterosexual writers (such as myself) to try to superimpose a heterosexual dynamic on homosexual characters and it comes off as false. (Who knew)? Oh and an added bit of stupidity apparently the proper English term homosexual in now only acceptable in scholarly works. If you know my view that proper English must be the safe fall back from political correctness you can guess how I feel about that one. If I offend someone using the proper English term it’s their problem! English is a beautiful expressive language and this PC BS is destroying it. Grumble, Rant, grumble. Wiping the rabid foam from my mouth now.
It was a good panel with some good points.
Then back to my table to coast out the day. I then collected the posters packed up and went home forgetting a folding chair in the process. And so went Ad Astra 2011 for this weary traveler on the road of life.
It was a far far better thing I did then I did last weekend. It was a far far more exhausting night than I have known since my last con.