Ad Astra was awesome!
This was the first time I've spent the whole weekend at a science fiction/fantasy convention. The only other experience I've had was a Star Trek convention in Niagara Falls years ago, and then I only spent a day at that con. This experience was completely different.
Alright, so here's how the weekend started. Friday I finished work, got home, and finished those last few bits of packing that can only happen when you're just about to leave. Then I was out the door and driving to Toronto, hoping to get there before the start of the con. I made it, with enough time to spare to check in and drop off all my stuff before heading to the opening ceremonies.
The con was packed with panels. I hit three on the first night, even with time to squeeze in some much needed dinner. I nearly had a geek out moment when I saw the two lovely ladies running the con and the Guests of Honor sitting at a table not too far away. Thankfully I didn't completely spaz out, and was able to finish my meal in relative dignity. My favorite panel of the night probably was the Working with Small Presses panel, because it gave me a greater insight into that part of the business and now I think I'll start submitting work to them before attempting to hit the big boys. I like the sense of freedom that was there. I'd have a lot more control over my book, and the panelists came across as very friendly and welcoming. This is important to note, as there was one glaring example of the opposite on a later panel.
After the small press panel there was one on World Building. It was a hoot as well. I must admit, I'm not a big fan of the Forgotten Realms, but I do have to say that I enjoyed listening to Ed Greenwood. I ended up going to a few other panels he was on and it was always a fun experience. The one on System vs. Setting for role-playing games with Ed on Saturday was a real treat.
Another nice thing about the World Building panel was hearing Erik Buchanan, author of Small Magics and Cold Magics (which launched at the con, go Erik), talk about how he ended up putting a lot of fencing terms in one of his books and the comparison between western and Eastern sword-fighting styles. I found this interesting because I love sword-fights, and I trained in Ona Ha Itto Ryu, a style of kenjutsu or Japanese sword-fighting. I had a chance to talk to Erik after the panel and mention it to him, even gave him the name of the dojo I went to in case he was interested. I always love meeting people with similar interests.
Speaking of meeting people, I originally intended to head to the Meet and Greet but somehow ended up going to the Con Suite with Liz, another convention goer, and chatting with her and a few others for the next few hours. It was amazing how quickly 1AM snuck up on us.
I was up early on Saturday, from a mixture of, I think, excitement and the fact that my body is used to getting up early for work. I was out of bed before 6:30AM and ready and willing to hit panels all day long, which I did. The first one was on the Life of An Anthology, and one of the panelists was John Robert Colombo. Now, you may be wondering why this name is important. It's because Mr. Colombo was one of the editors for Tesseracts 14, for which I sadly did not get accepted for. However, when he I got to chatting, and I introduced myself as someone who had submitted and didn't get in he asked me what I'd submitted, and he remembered it! Well, OK, he didn't remember all the details but he mentioned that he and the other editor, Brett Alexander Savory did have a discussion about it, and that Mr. Colombo graded my work as an 85. The main reason I didn't get in was that there were so many works graded at a 90 level. Still, getting an 85 out of a professional editor and creator of anthologies, not too shabby. Mr. Colombo did suggest I ask Mr. Savory about it as he might remember more, which I ended up doing on the last day of the con, and that led me to getting Mr. Savory's card and picking up a couple of books from Chizine Publications, the press he co-runs. Yeah, I'm a sucker for new books, what can I say.
I think I floated through the rest of the day. Really, I was just really blown away by how well my first submission had done. Yeah, I didn't get published, but I was a heck of a lot closer than I'd ever been, and I know my work has improved since I wrote that story. Maybe I'm not as hopeless as that small part of my brain keeps insisting I am. If I take nothing else away from the con, I'll take a renewed sense of hope that I can get my writing out there published one day.
Anyways, enough about hope and all that crap, now on to the rest of the day, or as I call it, the endless sea of panels. I don't think there was a single free moment throughout the day. In fact, there were panels I would have loved to go to booked at the same time, so I had to make choices all day long. So for Saturday and Sunday I targeted the panels that would be the most use to me as a writer, and even then I missed good ones. Oh well, just means I'll have to go next year.
Saturday night there was a launch party for Cold Magics. I ended up running into Liz from Friday night again, and found out we both went to the same university but a few years apart. Small world indeed! The party was a blast. Erik had been selling it all day long at the panels, saying there would be really good chocolate. He wasn't kidding! The chocolate was dark and had some hot pepper in it, so it had a nice bittersweet taste with a little bite at the end.
I also ended up meeting a different Liz at this party, one who is involved in running a convention out in Montreal this October. A few years ago I kept on meeting interesting women named Carrie, with a few variations on the spelling, this year it seems the name is Liz. It's been years since I've been in Montreal, and it would be nice to go to a con outside of Ontario, so I'll have to check the money situation and decide. The con sounds like it would be as much fun as Ad Astra.
Sunday was a blast as well, and I wasn't nearly as tired as I expected considering I'd only gotten 5 hours of sleep each night for the last two days. The only real negative experiences I had during the convention were on Sunday, both involving the same individual who I have now lost a lot of respect for, and that's all I intend to say on that subject. I debated mentioning it at all, but in all fairness to myself I had to put something about it out there so at least I feel better and don't have it bottled in.
Wow, this post went a lot longer than I thought it would. Final word on Ad Astra is I had fun, I'd do it again, and I have some great memories from it. The good outweighs the bad by an astounding amount.