My Keycon Roundup

Another Keycon has come and gone. Keycon is my home science fiction and fantasy convention. I’ve been attending the con regularly since I started writing and always found it to be a fun, laid-back experience. Keycon also usually has a very strong literary track of programming.

This year’s author Guests of Honour were Timothy Zahn and Jonathan Maberry. Other out of town writers in attendance included Robert J. Sawyer, Eileen Bell, Marie Bilodeau and Erika Holt. Manitoba’s SF&F writing contingent were out in force as well, with programming including myself, Karen Dudley, Sherry Peters, Ronald Hore, Chris Rutkowski, Craig Russell, Gerald Brandt (Gerald, I’m including you even though you didn’t do any panels–next year you’ll have no choice, Mr. Published author!) and Lindsay Kitson.

This year’s con really kicked off on Thursday for me. Marie launched Destiny’s Fall to a small, but enthusiastic crowd at McNally Robinson, and we went for drinks and appetizers afterwards and made plans to explore Winnipeg Friday Afternoon before the con officially started. Also, Erika gave me an awesome Inkpunks button! (Seriously, you must check out their shared blog, it’s invariably filled with awesome.)

Touring visiting writers about Winnipeg/Manitoba is awesome, and in many cases, because I didn’t grow up in the city myself, I get to experience these places for the first time, or at least, for the first time in years (I feel there is another blog post in that sentiment somewhere…). Wendy, Marie and I met Rob, Sherry and Erika at The Forks, in the Oodena Celebration Circle (one of my favourite spots in Winnipeg), and grabbed a bite to eat before exploring the market (I bought a Spider-Man toque/half balaclava that everyone was very disappointed I didn’t wear for my reading–it is now my Twitter and Facebook avatar) and taking in the River Walk, amazingly for this time of year, it was not under three feet of water. Afterwards, I took Marie to Louis Riel’s grave, and we walked the grounds of the St. Boniface Cathedral and the Manitoba Legislature before grabbing our memberships to the con and fleeing downtown just ahead of rush hour traffic.

We all met up again for a barbecue at Karen’s house (Bison burgers!) and were joined by Eileen and Winnipeg artist (and former Keycon Artist GoH) Kari-Ann Anderson, and as Opening Ceremonies were looming we made our way back to the Radisson.

One of the reasons I love attending cons is that I get to talk face to face with my twitter and Facebook pals. At the Ice Cream Social following Opening Ceremonies (where I learned we’d all missed being there for the “Also Attending” announcement–we were in the Dealer’s Room, dropping coin) I met up Dieselpunk author and Twitter pal Lindsay Kitson, who joined us for some of the evening. I didn’t take in any programming Friday, instead enjoying the many Hospitality Suites (I think the Nautilus-themed decorations of the New Cairo Club suite were my favourite–even if the drinks they served were not).

My reading was at 10:00 am, on Saturday. As such, I was expecting to be reading to Karen Dudley, who was sharing the reading slot with me, and one or two other folks if I was lucky. Instead, we had a turnout of close to twenty people! If that doesn’t sound like a lot, trust me, for a con, it is. Many attendees were new friends (and old–including a couple who paid for a day pass just to attend the reading! Thanks Mike and Hilary!), some people I know only by name or brief conversations at the con, but a handful–completely new to me. My publisher, Turnstone Press also printed chapbooks that held the first chapters of Thunder Road and Food for the Gods, and Keycon was kind enough to hand these out with their program books. It was an amazing experience, and I’m grateful to everyone who came and listened so attentively, and who seemed to really enjoy what they heard.

This year’s panels attended included: Does it always have to be Good vs. Evil (Timothy Zahn–whose Heir to the Empire is the post-Empire Strikes Back highlight of the Star Wars franchise in my opinion–and Craig Russell, author of 2011 Aurora nominated Black Bottle Man). Storytime with Marie, where Marie Bilodeau told the story of finding the perfect ending to the first story she sold (if you’ve never checked out her storytelling you’re cheating yourself of an amazing experience). Feminism in Fantasy was more a discussion of feminism and women’s issues in general than in fantasy specifically, but I thought the panelists did a good job (Marie Bilodeau and Karen Dudley (panel crasher!) moderated by Keycon stalwart LeAmber Kensley). Stereotypes in Speculative Fiction (Jonathan Maberry, Marie Bilodeau) which didn’t have a lot to do with the topic at hand, but was still tons of fun as Jonathan is an amazing storyteller.

Drinks with Jonathan and most of the attending writers followed, where we talked vampires, folklore, politics, American views of Canadians and vice versa, bourbon and why the Zombie Apocalypse will be all Jonathan’s fault. Jonathan knows a lot about science, folklore, and shares my love of Knob Creek bourbon. He even enjoyed his first Canadian beer, a Fort Garry Pale. I also got to meet and chat with up-and-coming Winnipeg writer Tara Lee Baxter. She loves the Norse stuff too, so I can’t wait to read her book someday.

I cut my con a day short this year–for my Mom’s birthday–but I’m already excited about next year. The Stars Are Right is the the theme, 100 years of H.P. Lovecraft, 50 years of Doctor Who, 30 years of Keycon. So far confirmed as a guest is Innsmouth Free Press editor Silvia Moreno-Garcia, who is also co-editor of Fungi, which contains my story “First They Came for the Pigs”. I’m really looking forward to meeting her, and participating in all the eldritch horror that Keycon has to offer.

Write on!

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