I went to a con…

This past weekend I went to my fourth RavenCon, the local science fiction slash fantasy slash gaming slash podcasting slash writing slash whatever convention. As I was getting ready to head over to the hotel for the first day, I reminded myself that there would be a lot of “attempts at conversations with socially awkward people” and I shouldn’t be too put off by this. As it turns out, there were far fewer of them than what I encountered at my first RavenCon, in part because I now have a “tribe” of folks that come regularly and with whom (for the most part) there are no awkward conversations.

In fact, I spent very little time participating in the con programming, and far more time talking with friends about anything and everything. So, I can’t really say whether this was a good RavenCon or not, except that for me, it was fantastic and more fun than I expected.

The Holiday Inn Koger Center renovated the lobby since last year, putting in a bar and lots of conversational seating groups. This became our default gathering space around meal times or between panels. At any given time, if I wandered out there, I’d see at least one person that I knew and wanted to hang out with.

I also found myself living the mantra of “where I am now is where I want to be.” Often when I am at conferences or conventions with many options of things to do and people to do them with, I will end up feeling like the option I didn’t choose would have been better, regardless of whether that is true or not. This time around, I managed to enjoy myself with most everything, at least, until the end when I was too tired to enjoy much of anything that wasn’t my bed and a darkened room.

That’s what I call a good con.

RavenCon 2008

RavenCon — it’s not just for ravens anymore.

General Grievous, Princess Leia, & nobleman of the steampunk era
photo by me

I attended RavenCon for the first time this year. It’s a relatively new con, with this being the third year of its existence. One of the reasons why I attended was because it was held here in Richmond, and because several podcasters I listen to but have never met were planning to be in attendance. Over the course of the weekend, I had a chance to chat with all but one, who ended up being unable to attend.

By now, I’ve figured out how these small-ish regional cons tend to run, so aside from doing the fangirl thing, I was prepared for mediocre panels and lots of dead spaces where I attempted to make friends with people who are quite happy to remain in their little cliques, thankyouverymuch. I quickly discovered that this con is different.

Maybe it’s because it’s so new, or maybe I just had better luck, but in the end, I have to conclude that this was the best con I have attended so far. 95% of the panels I attended were interesting and informative. While I did run into a few cliques, I managed to quickly locate the room party with the types of folks who like to talk to new people, and I was able to make a few new friends by the end of the weekend.

All in all, I’m glad I went. And, I plan to go again next year.

more photos

it’s only a flesh wound (#14)

Goblins and wizards and orcs, oh, my!

by A. Lee Martinez

In the Company of Ogres by A. Lee Martinez takes place in a world full of creatures of epic fantasies and folklore. Orcs, goblins, sirens, wizards, warriors, and the titular ogres are among the species present, as well as regular humans. Most of the story is set in one company of the Legion that provides armies for wars.

The main character, Ned, is sent to be the new commander of Ogre Company, the place where troublesome soldiers are sent, mainly because he seems to be immortal. This is a good thing, as “accidents” have befallen the previous commanders of Ogre Company. Actually, Ned dies rather frequently, but somehow he manages to come back to life every time. He has not been able to figure out why he keeps coming back to life, but that mystery becomes clearer as the story progresses.

Ned is being cared for by a magical and divine protector, and she is responsible for his supposed immortality, but she cannot protect him forever. Eventually Ned must learn to protect himself, because if he dies and stays dead, the universe will be destroyed. You will have to read the book and find out what happens, because that is all I can tell without giving away certain plot points, not to mention the ending.

I have not been able to peg down exactly the type of audience Martinez is writing for. Initially, the book seemed to be aimed at adolescent boys. The soldiering and mythical creatures combined with simple descriptions and dialogue clearly places the writing in the young adult fantasy category; however, there are some elements of the story that are better suited for a more mature audience. Although, not so mature that they have lost all sense of silliness.

Silliness is the key to a great deal of the plot. Like Ned, the reader is bounced from one fantastic circumstance to the next, never knowing exactly what will come of it and without a clear direction towards an end point. Publisher’s Weekly recommended Martinez’s debut book, Gil’s All Fright Diner, to fans of Douglas Adams, and I suspect that style of silly is what Martinez is aiming for with In the Company of Ogres.

Most of the gore in the book leans towards the gross-you-out variety, more than the freak-you-out type. Besides, what kind of fantasy book does not have at least one sword fight scene? On the whole, the book is an entertaining read suitable for most young adults, provided that their parents are not adverse to a few slightly veiled references to sexual activity.

#6

Today I felt well enough to read a book, although not well enough to leave the house beyond getting the mail out of the box. One of the things that annoys me about being sick is that I have all this time between naps to read the numerous unread books in my house, but I never feel like reading any of them when I’m ill. Of course, the book I chose to read this afternoon isn’t from my vast collection of unread tomes. It’s one I discovered in the juvenile literature section of my place of work on Sunday when I was hunting down an Ursula Le Guin book.

A Book Dragon by Donn Kushner is the story of Nonesuch, an English dragon who learns how to make himself small enough to fit between the pages of a book. One particular book, specifically, that he is guarding. Over time, the book ends up in a modern New England shop, and Nonesuch takes on the role of protecting all of the books in the shop as well as the humans who live there. This is a young adult book, but not so dumbed down to be dull for adults. The glimpses into human lives passing in front of the eyes of the dragon are an added treat for anyone familiar with Anglo-Saxon history.

Swimming in pool is nice and cool. The only way to catch a fish.

I’m selling a few things on eBay. Take a look and see if there’s anything you might want.

I’ve been enjoying the Lord of the Rings movies so far. I’m glad I finally broke down a few years ago and read the books (my parents have been Tolkein fans since they were in college). It has allowed me to more fully appreciate the humor that has cropped up since the masses started to become aware of Hobbits and Elves. Here’s an old music video done by Leonard Nimoy on the topic of Bilbo Baggins. Also, for you fans of Peeps experiments, here is the long-awaited Lord of the Peeps.

Here is a website that is supposed to be able to give you suggestions for bands you might like based on three bands you know you like. I tried several different combinations, and inevitably I would end up with a suggestion for Eden Burning. So, I think it’s more fun to play the “Degrees of Eden Burning” game with it, instead.

If I had money, I would probably buy some bar code art. It’s creative and fun, and being a librarian, I see a lot of bar codes every day.

The USA Patriot Act has put librarians in a sticky situation with regards to patron privacy. Here is one scenario that could very well become a reality. National Public Radio’s All Things Considered also ran a piece on librarians and the USA Patriot Act this evening. [link to ATC segment added 1/22/03 10:13am]

Here’s a humorous yet poignant take on the recent Supreme Court decision on the Sony Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. Surprisingly enough, this came to me via a stalwart conservative who thought it was just a joke. I think it makes a valid point.

Is the proposed Bush “tax cut” classist? Some folks, like in this opinon piece from the New York Times, seem to think so.

Feeling depressed and lonely because the world is going to hell in a handbasket? Here’s something to cheer you up!