Sunday, January 12, 2014

Prompt: Con Report: Illogicon, Cary, NC

First convention of the year! And by “convention” or “con”, I mean science fiction-fantasy-speculative fiction convention, if there were any doubt. So great to be “in my tribe” for the whole weekend – and to share it with Daughter, who’s becoming quite comfortable with the con scene.

This is the 3rd year for Illogicon, my second attending. I particularly enjoy it as a small, relaxed con with a *lot* of people I know. I spend as much or more time chatting in the halls, bar, and room parties as I do in panels.

The convention is held in Cary’s Embassy Suites, a lovely hotel with a particularly nice lobby/dining/bar area, full of plants, water, and koi. Huge koi. That follow you, begging for food. The con space was mostly at the far end of the hotel’s convention space, and there was a major area formal banquet in the prime event space on Saturday night. There were some bemused expressions and raised eyebrows atop some sparkly formal gowns and tuxes, I’ll tell you!

Panel schedules are light, but they run three rooms throughout the weekend, with lots of good topics covering a broad variety. I hear there was a lot of gaming going on as well, but I am as usual oblivious…

There was a lot of costuming, and they hold a hall contest rather than a formal staged contest. Did I take any pictures? No. Not one. Seriously. That’s something I really need to try to do more of at conventions – I love all the imaginative costumes!

The dealers’ room was in half the space from last year, which I know crowded the dealers, but also made it feel busier and cozier. Two booksellers, hooray! Several familiar faces around the booths – I can’t buy from everyone, alas!

I didn’t make all the panels I wanted to, but here’s what I did manage:

Trivia for Chocolate
Rich Sigfrit moderated trivia questions across a spectrum of fandom for Steve Long, Justin Andrews and Erica Coogan to answer before each other or the audience. Winners got chocolate. A good time was had by all.

Creating Fantasy Religions
Ed Schubert, Gail Martin, Diana Basteen, Deb Killeen, James Maxey and Misty Massey talked about religions real and imagined in the fantasy genre. Best line: “If your planet’s religion includes dressing up and worshipping together in a sacred building once a week in fancy clothes, that’s just ‘Presbyterians in Space’!”

Best F&SF Novels of 2013
Sam Montgomery-Blinn and William Lawhorn shared their own favorites and solicited audience recommendations to add to our to-read lists. I added:
  • We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler
  • The Shining Girls, by Lauren Beukes
  • TimeRiders series, by Alex Scarrow
  • The Best of All Possible Worlds, by Karen Lord
  • The Shambling Guide to New York City, by Mur Lafferty
  • The Accursed, by Joyce Carol Oates
  • Love is the Law, by Nick Mamatas and Jemiah Jefferson
  • Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson
  • Love Minus Eighty, by Will McIntosh
  • Feed, by M.T. Anderson
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Saenz
  • 1920: America's Great War by Robert Conroy
  • Vicious, by V. E. Schwab
  • The Unbound, by Victoria Schwab
  • Hild, by Nicola Griffith

Misty Massey Reading
Misty read a short story set in her Mad Kestrel world, a charming retelling of the Cinderella tale. With Pirate Theater, as performed with small plastic pirate figurines by Daughter and her friend. We gave Misty a pirate rubber ducky – I am sure she already had one, but she was charmingly pleased with it.

YA Dystopias
Liz Wood and Betty Cross led a roundtable discussion on YA dystopias, including favorite and upcoming books and movies. Daughter and her friend were particularly engaged in this discussion, having read a lot of the modern books. I was impressed that a lot of young (20s) people were mentioning classics like 1984, Brave New World, and Farenheit 451 as favorites, and wanting modern movie versions of these stories. What was missing from the discussion was a clear statement of what constitutes a dystopia – which became an interesting party conversation later on.

The Sherlock Dilemma
Misty Massey, Gretchen McHenry, Indie Lamb, Andy ?, and two other non-credited panelists engaged each other and the audience in a spirited discussion of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s archetypal characters and their many incarnations and long-lived popularity. Of note for potential interest (to me): Neil Gaiman’s “Study in Emerald”, and the TV series Young Sherlock Holmes (especially for the stained glass window scene/storyline).

Mary Robinette Kowal Reading
Mary read an additional chapter (after Chapter 10) from the UK printing of Shades of Milk and Honey. This series is new to Daughter and me, and we’re looking forward to diving in. Mary is a delightful reader, giving distinct voices to each character, as well as a lovely narrator’s voice. She also shared a brief shadow puppet play, then turned the stage around to show us how it’s done.

Of particular note in her talk were the Doctor Who references in each of her Glamourist series novels. Dr. Smith appears in the first. David Tennant is described as a doctor in the second, and Patrick Troughton in the third, complete with fez. An historical aside: in 1817, Lord Bryon was in Venice, and often referred to travelling companion John William Polidori as “the doctor” in his frequent journals and correspondence. Mary posits this as an explanation of sorts for a notorious two-week gap in Byron’s notes, letters, and journals. And in her 5th Glamourist novel, Dr. Hartnell appears, with companion Martha Jones.

Also of interest was a discussion of the beautiful book covers. Too beautiful, in fact, because they do not match Mary’s clear descriptions of her main character, Jane. When asked about her “fantasy Hollywood cast”, Mary noted Downton Abbey’s Laura Carmichael (“Lady Edith Crawley”) as perfect for Jane, and Lily James (“Lady Rose MacClare”) as perfect for Melody. She lamented Nathan Fillion’s lack of short curly black hair and British accent for the part of Mr. Vincent. (I personally think neither of these are unrectifiable, so dream away!)

Also of interest was Mary’s work to create a “Jane Austen translator” – a collection of all the words used in Austen’s works, used as an “anti spell check” to catch non-Regency language in her manuscripts. This is “open source” and available on her website:
I have known Mary’s name, but not her work until now. She is an absolutely charming and gracious guest, astonishingly talented and creative, and a lovely person. I am looking forward to reading more of her stories!

Dogs in house

Time writing
2 hours, lots of research and interruptions

January word count


  1. I'm glad you summarized these panels, Margaret, as most of them are the ones I missed by either not being there or in a different room.

    Random stuff: I really enjoyed Gaiman's "A Study In Emerald" as a fun mystery piece with more than one subversion.
    I was also amused by the difference in covers in Mary's "Shades of Milk and Honey" series -- the portrait on the American first edition was far more Lady Edith-like than the model being used for later books and reprints.

    1. Thanks, Sam! Yes, I had heard about the cover differences, and it was fun to get some of Mary's "take" :)
      Enjoyed seeing you at the con!

  2. Hi Margaret, I finally remembered the 2013 release was The Archived by Victoria Schwab. The Unbound just came out this month.

    Bill Lawhorn

    1. Thanks so much, Bill! Yes, I saw that the Unbound release date is Jan '14, but I didn't note that above. Thanks for the clarification - and a great to-read list for me to enjoy! I enjoyed the Illogicon panel.