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Mike Aragona - Freelance Writer / Editor

Convention Venture

Con*Cept 1999 - Location: Montreal - Dates: October 1st through October 3rd, 1999 — Getting back into Science Fiction

You would think that going to a local convention would excite me more than an out of town one, but you'd be wrong. This year marked Con*Cept's 10th Anniversary as a Sci-Fi Con. The only other time I went to Con*Cept was in 1995 to meet Spider Robinson. I can't say if the reason I stay away is that Con*Cept is more a Sci-Fi convention than a Comics or Media convention. Maybe because it's local and thus I don't stay at the hotel, making me feel somewhat removed from the events? Maybe because it's local and there's no sense of urgency to being here? Or that the people I see at the con are the same people I see in the streets? I'm not really sure. But, in an attempt to make a connection, I agreed to be a panelist this year. The result is that I'm on 4 panels today (Saturday). This got me and Chantale a full weekend pass to the event. We didn't make much use of the passes on Friday, though. There wasn't much in the way of programming and thus only dropped by to pick up our badges and walk around briefly. We did bump into Janet Hetherington, Ronn Sutton, Eric Theriault, Louis Lachance, and Mark Shainblum on our way to meet up with Jeff, though. But that was it for Friday.

So, this morning, after the customary too-little sleep, I got to the Days Inn Hotel (right across the street from where I currently work, co-incidentally) at a bright and early 8:30am. Sat by the terrace room facing the outdoor pool and decided to write for a bit.

The first panel I went to was on using Sci-Fi as a teaching mechanism and/or as a course in schools. Julie E. Czerneda was the moderator and she did a great job using a couple of examples and explaining how to use pieces to stimulate children's imaginations (and adults, too! :) )

A panel titled "From Private to Public Realities" came next and I had no idea why I was on it! :) I spoke about fighting against people's general misconceptions of my line of work (ie; comics in general and adult comics in specific) but the discussion on a literary bent became quite interesting once Candas Jane Dorsey took it that way. It was strange getting to talk to her prior to her finding out that I'm involved in a project for her with Janet and Mark!

From there, I headed to the Consuite for which I was supposed to be involved in a "Café Chat with the Editors". But, the schedule I had been giving prior to the Con wasn't the final version and in the final I was no longer part of that chat! It didn't matter, though, as listening to David Hartwell, editor of TOR books, was very informative.

It was at this point that a hunger headache kicked in. I needed sustenance and so I headed to the Green Room with Jeff where I got a couple of sandwiches and a couple of cups of coffee. That didn't help as much as I'd hoped. But, 2 Actiprofen tablets and 15 minutes later, I was ready again. I checked out the Dealer's room and then went to listen to Candas Jane Dorsey talk on Speculative Fiction (ie; Canadian Science Fiction). Again, an interesting look at the history of Canadian Sci-Fi Publishing.

After her, came the Media Guest of Honor, Max "Rom" Grodenchik. He put on a funny and warm presentation and the audience thrilled and laughed to his DS9 stories (from his days on the set of ST:TNG to his auditions for DS9) and his voice-work ("Mooooogie!"). It's spooky how he doesn't look too different from Rom, and a little like a warped version of Christian Slater :)

The panel ended and I made my wan up to the Green Room with him, chatting briefly about the con and travelling (he had been told that Con*Cept takes in about 400 attendees and so he thought they would all be in the room at the same time! :) We explained to him how Con*Cept is a much smaller, thus "comfier" and "homey-er" convention :) ) He was also in the process of learning to speak French, so we had some fun trying out some lines :)

I walked about and chatted with Janet until 4pm and then caught her panel with Michel Lacombe, Ronn Sutton, Louis Lachance, and Thiery Labrosse on "Comics as a new Heretical medium" where we chatted on Animation, Vertigo, the Superman lawsuit, and violence in comics.

Afterwards, I once again hung out in the Green Room chatting with the other guests. Chantale came by for 6:30pm and we walked through the Dealer's Room and the Art Show before heading otu to the panel Jeff and I were on (with Llyod Penney, and Chris Krejlgaard of Parsec) on the "Legitimacy of Fanzines". It actually turned out to be the best panel on Fanzines I've ever been on in my 5 years of Panelling!! I guess it really helps to have (a) other guests who are really into zines and have knowledge of it, and (b) an audience who knows what zines are all about! Another big bonus for me was having Chantale in the audience :) It just felt nice having her see me in a new "element" :)

8pm was the time for the Masquerade but I became so weak due to the heat that Chantale and I headed to the Green Room for some food and cooler air. Spoke to some of the ConCom folks and by the time I'd regained my strength, the masquerade was over. So, we then caught a brief 3-D Space Presentation and went home (as we didn't need to hang around for the room parties).

Sunday October 3, 1999:

Sunday morning and panels were all on Sci-Fi Writing and Publishing, starting with Josepha Sherman and Julie Czerneda in the "Sci-Fi Workshop" to Josepha, David Hartwell, Chris Krejlgaard, and Janet Hetherington on "Reading Between The Lines" (which was on how to pitch to SF houses).

I picked up "A Thousand Words For Stranger" by Julie Czerneda and got her to sign it, promising her a review. (I've got less than 3 weeks to read it and write up a review to give her at Primedia! :) ) I also picked up "Son of Darkness" by Josepha Sherman since I promised her I would if I walked by and it called to me ( (it was a con-long running joke between us :) )

I spent the next 2 hours in the Green Room, eating and chatting with the other guests (spending considerable time with Ronn Sutton as I drooled over his latest Elvira pencils). I headed out to hear Max talk again (half-giggling to myself since I knew from speaking with him just prior that he'd partied a bit too much the night before :). That was another fun hour and I even got to take a picture with him (with him wearing his Ferengi teeth, too!)

Between 3 and 4pm, I met with Janet, Mark, and Candas Jane Dorsey of Tesseract Books on a new anthology for next year (more in another section). At 4pm, Tesseract Books launched their latest anthology, Tesseract 8, and announced next year's project, Hypercube - The Illustrated Anthology of Canadian Speculative Fiction, edited by Mark and Janet with me helping out on the Production level! Once the ceremonies died down, I bid adieu to the crowd and headed home to begin planning the rest of the year :)

Convention Highlights:

  • - Meeting and speaking with David Hartwell, Josepha Sherman, Julie Czerneda, Candas Jane Dorsey, and Max Grodenchik
  • - Actually having a lot of fun at a convention I wasn't expecting much from
  • - The nice treatment I got from the ConCom folks
  • - Having Chantale share the convention with me

    Convention Mind Blowers:

  • - Getting the details and officially announcing the Hypercube project by Tesseract books!

    Convention Results:

  • - Pumped for Primedia 99
  • - Excited by the Hypercube project
  • - Renewed vigor for writing
  • - Exposing myself to Canadian Sci-Fi
  • - Agreed to return next year! :)

    (Convention Venture (c) Mike Aragona. All rights reserved. No reproduction or retransmission of this article is granted without written permission of Mike Aragona)

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