Nothing like a convention to kick you out of your rut and get you refocused!

This was SFContario’s inaugural year. A friend in my writing group told us about it earlier in the year, so I added it to my calendar knowing that I was going to need a break. The timing is a bit unfortunate, scheduled as it is in November at the same time NaNoWriMo is going on, but American participants have to deal with Thanksgiving in the middle of their NaNo-push so really, who am I to complain?

And I’m terribly glad I went. I ended up filling a Moleskine with notes (that I still have to go through once I can sit down for a few minutes), I’m utterly sleep deprived, and rejuvinated. A success in my books!

Here’s the highlight reel.

Con Pros:

I liked that the Con was centered (sort of) close to the downtown core. I’m pretty much a Con-newbie, having only gotten to go to Ad Astra twice these last two years, and World Con last year. Except for back around the the turn of the century (ha! I love saying that), Ad Astra’s current local is at the top of the Don Valley parkway in Toronto. It is not travel friendly unless you have your own vehicle (and even then, I might quibble). And one you are there, you’re stuck. You have to book your room at the Con and you are pretty much committed to eating there. But SFContario, like World Con in Montreal this year, was within a 15 minute walk from the main bus depot, meaning I could solo the event no problem. I booked at a neighboring facility, an odd duck of a B&B, partly to save money and partly to have some peace and quiet. True solitude is a luxury for me these days.

They had a great lineup of panels and an impressive list of guests. Robert Sawyer and Julie Czenada, recently up in Sudbury for SF event at Laurentian, were there (and I was way too shy to even approach them to say hello … sign), as well as new favorites of mine Robert Charles Wilson, Karl Schroeder and the delightful literary hooligan Peter Watts. Jo Walton was there, and in fact sold me the copy of Tesseracts 14 I picked up for a friend. I ended up heading back to the dealer’s room to pick up her book Tooth and Claw recommended on another panel. Headliners Michael Swanwick was quiet and thoughtful, with a strong playful streak, and the dynamic duo of editors Patrick and Teresa Neilson Hayden were a hoot! I could have listened to them all day.

Con Cons:

Not too many. It was small, almost cozy, but this is its first year. The layout was much more functional than I find Ad Astra is at their new hotel (though I am getting used to it, slowly — give me another couple of years!), all essentially on the same level. I would have liked to have seen a larger dealer’s room and I see that being a potential problem down the road if they do get more vendors. The hotel is a small one, and I am not sure now much more space the hotel has to offer.

The registration booth did not have all of its items ready for attendees. About two hours after I’d payed my membership, when I was swinging by to go to the next panel, I overheard someone saying that they had the restaurant guide and a few other pamphlets. Signage in general was lacking but the space was small enough that it didn’t take long to get the hang of. But that’s to be expected. Things like maps and restaurant guides should be, ideally, in the Convention booklet, IMO. The less pieces of paper I have to carry around and not lose, the better. Kinks to work out for next year. The staff manning the registration booth were knowledgable and friendly, which is always a good sign.

I also came back after buying way too many books, but that’s not really SFContario’s fault. *grin*

Overall: It was good, and I’ll absolutely go again next year, though with any luck I’ll be able to rope some members of the writing group into going, NaNoWriMo be damned! It would be cool to get in on a Convention right from the get go. Hell, it would be awesome to be able to volunteer! Lucky, lucky, you Toronto folks.

Of course, the last Con Con is an entirely personal one. Once again, I shied away from going to the Con Suite, or checking out any of the parties or social events. Not that its a big surprise to anyone, just something I struggle with. Years of wall-flowering have left me pretty well plastered there, a permanent fixture. I’m brave when I am in a group (some might even say boisterous), but invisible on my own. Something to work on, I know.

Like NaNoWriMo. I am so close to making up the words I didn’t write while I was away. Though, I did work a little on the iPad on the bus ride down. Tonight is a write-in. The goal is 1,000 words, but if I can push that to 1,800 I can be caught up tonight. That would be all kinds of awesome, though I’ll need to do some mind mapping/outlining, and soon!

(Edited for strange autocorrects…)


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