It's Monday afternoon as I write this as it took that long for my brain to reboot. Ad Astra 2012 was a blast but extremely exhausting. I'm glad I took today off so I could nap and recover.
So where to begin on this? This was my first year as a panelist and I have to say I was extremely nervous going in. It didn't help that things were a bit chaotic the first day of the con and the registration for the panelists wasn't available until after 5 for some and later for others. That's not a criticism though. The convention recently transferred to a new hotel and I heard rumblings there were technical issues behind the scenes. Considering how bad it could have been I think the Ad Astra volunteers did a great job of running with things and should be commended on it. I hope things go smoother for them next year.
The funny thing is, the closer I got to my first panel the calmer I became and as soon as it started any nervousness I had disappeared, which is even more amusing to me as my first panel was about introversion. It was fun! I'm an avowed introvert. I spend a lot of time in my own head-space considering things and not a lot of time talking, so I was a bit surprised at how much I actually had to say and that I didn't find myself stumbling for words all that often. In fact, I'd like to think I made a useful contribution to the panels I attended. (The final determination on that of course rests with the audience of those panels.)
A lot of what I experienced is due to As Astra being a very welcoming convention. That was especially evident on the Introversion Is Not A Bad Thing panel as I remember someone making a point that at conventions the norms are hugely skewed in favor of introverts as to make people who in mainstream society would appear closed off suddenly becoming raging extroverts. (I exaggerate for effect of course.)
During that panel a term for those who straddle the line between introverts and extroverts came up - ambiverts. Those are people who can be introverted or extroverted, or at least communicate effectively with both sides, as the need arose. It was a great panel, and a wonderful way to start the convention.
I was honestly amazed at how well attended the panels I was on were, especially the one on criticism. That was one I expected the panelists to exceed the audience (which did happen in a couple panels I went to as a guest rather than a panelist). Even the panel I had on Sunday at 10:00AM was pretty well attended, and the audience didn't seem terribly hung over either. The only one that really didn't work out was the Lost Girl panel. Due to a scheduling conflict my fellow panelist was double-booked, and when only one attendee showed up we made the decision to transfer over to the Sherlock panel she was also scheduled for in the next room.
The final panel I did was one on book trailers, and I honestly don't remember signing up for it and was worried I'd have nothing relevant to contribute. I really find most book trailers tedious and have absolutely nothing to do with their production and distribution. I was honestly worried I'd be an outsider slagging on the whole idea while marketing mouthpieces said what a wonderful promotional tool they were, yadda, yadda, yadda. The reality was much different.
First off, the marketing people who were on the panel were intelligent and truly passionate about the books they sold and that came across. They were also willing to put up their own work for evaluation and listen with an open mind to the feedback provided. Passion can't be reliably faked, and I can usually tell when someone is nodding while thinking I'm a jerk for stating honestly that something didn't work for me. So I have nothing but praise for my fellow book trailer panelists, though I do think the person who created the first trailer we watched, thankfully not produced by anyone in the room or any company they were affiliated with, should be smacked upside the head not only for creating something so horrible but for posting it online. It was bad, very bad, so bad it became good and then crossed back over to bad again.
Aside from panels I attended three book launches, a couple parties, and came in second place to Toronto's resident super-villain Dr. Holocaust in an evil laugh contest, which wasn't so bad as the Doc went all out and I did get some compliments on my own laugh. I may have pulled something in my back to do it though. Time for some evil laugh training before my next attempt.
One of my fellow panelists said in conversation that now that I've started doing panels I'm doomed to keep on doing them, and you know, I think he's right. At Ad Astra 2012 I got to see a lot of old friends and made a few new ones. I'm looking forward to next year.