My Deep South Con 50 Experiences

The lobby chairs were pulled into an irregular circle and we slouched in them comfortably. It was Sunday night and all the events of DeepSouth Con were complete. Many of the guests and most of the attendees had already departed for home. Those of us who remained clustered together talking. In many ways it was like the closing scene of the pillow fighting episode of Community where two characters keep hitting each other with pillows for hours because they know the minute the pillow fight is over, then so is their friendship. We sat there and talked late into the night because once the talking stopped, DSC 50 would be done.

Conventions are hard to sum up in a single blog post, because a convention is not a single narrative, it is a multiplicity of interwoven stories. Many of them rely on in-the-moment humor which is hilarious, but can’t be retold because the context is no longer present. This convention’s running joke for Howard and I was Rosie’s Cantina, which was recommended as a restaurant choice on our first night. Our liaisons, Robert and Laura Nigg, attempted to find it, but multiple cell phones came up with multiple locations and driving directions, so we went somewhere else. However Rosie’s Cantina did not go away, We saw signs and advertisements just about every time we left the hotel. Huntsville was taunting us with the existence of this Mexican restaurant. Two different concierge’s recommended it, so on the third day we resumed the quest and succeeded.

In the end the food was solid Ameri-Mex fare, nothing particularly special, but we felt satisfaction in finding the place and eating there. Rosie’s Cantina was an oft referenced source of humor for us and the others who shared our quest. Conventions are made of stories like these, small experiences which become shared contextual humor between the people who experienced them. Since the convention-going population is fairly small, we’ll run across these same people again in a few years. Then we will regale others with The Quest for Rosie’s Cantina in such a way that reconnects us and brings others into the laughter. Many times over the weekend I played audience while others shared their mutual remembrances. This is how communities are made and reaffirmed.

One of my treasured parts of the convention was meeting Lois McMaster Bujold. I’ve read every book she’s written multiple times. Lois’ words and thoughts express some of my experiences so well that it is simpler for me to reference her words rather than finding my own. I very much wanted a chance to talk to the person who created those words. I was pleased that more than one opportunity arose.

Here is Lois talking with Dr. Demento while Toni Weiskopf of Baen stands and speaks to David Drake. Yes, that is a total name-dropping sentence. Yes I had the opportunity to converse with all of those people. This is part of the attraction of conventions, particularly smaller ones. Everyone there is in awe of someone else. These admirable people are all people who are quite happy to sit down and talk about writing, music, food, exercise, pets, and a host of other topics. While I was feeling honored and pleased to be included in conversations with Toni and Lois, they were both feeling fangirl squee about getting to speak with Dr. Demento. I found Lois to be a wonderfully pleasant person. Our conversations tended to be short, as there were many people around, but each time it felt as if I’d picked up a long-running conversation with a long-time friend. It almost certainly did not feel that way to her, which did lend an imbalance to the conversations. I did get to ask her about the narrative structure of the Sharing Knife series which is so very different than her other books. The structural differences threw me off during my first reading of them because I’d expected the familiar structures of her other books. I’m pleased to know that these differences were a conscious and deliberate exploration, rather than a result of being lost in the story. I was certain that had to be the case, but she confirmed it. I also noticed that Lois attended panels all the time. Many of the pros I know are busy at conventions and rarely attend a panel unless they are participating in it. I know that is the case for me. I have a hard time sitting in the audience listening when I feel like I could add to the discussion. I’m reconsidering that. If Lois, with all her experience in writing and fandom, finds things to learn in panels, perhaps I should try to be more teachable as well.

I did attend some panels at DSC. I even got to moderate for a panel where Howard was one of the panelists. It is always a little odd for me to moderate Howard, rather like long-time dance partners switching which partner leads. I felt the panel went well and several people corroborated that opinion.
Howard was, of course, on many panels. Conventions schedule their GoHs pretty thoroughly. One of his panels was about designing aliens, his co-panelists were Tedd Roberts, Travis Taylor, and Stephanie Osborn. I’m told that video of this panel will hit the internet after a quick editing pass. I’m also told that it was fantastic and that everyone will want to see it.

Howard and Travis Taylor of Rocket City Rednecks hit it off really well. After listening to Travis’ stories, we’re convinced that we need to get our hands on all the episodes because it is like Mythbusters with more materials science and physics. Plus, Travis made us laugh all weekend long. Some of that funny must end up in the show too.

Howard and John Ringo did a joint panel, which has also been recorded for future internet viewing, though I’m told that one will take longer to clean up and prep. They hauled almost the entire audience from that panel into the dealer’s room where The Missing Volume was selling both John and Howard’s books. This made Glennis quite happy, and us happy too. Howard and John even stole the autographing table from the hallway. No one minded because it was empty at the time and we un-stole it forty minutes later when John and Howard had to head off for a panel.

This convention was one of the few where Howard was able to announce a Watch Howard Draw event. Fans gathered around while Howard scribbled out comics. Howard was quite glad to get some work done (He always feels behind) and he loved having the relaxed environment to converse while doing it.

One fan even had a Schlock themed birthday party

Yes that is a cake. There was also a little sculpture for the birthday guy. Howard signed it.

I knew that DeepSouth Con had a hard science fiction, history of southern fandom, and funny music focus. These are not areas of expertise for me, so I expected to mostly drift through the weekend in observational mode. I did play observer quite a bit, and I paid more attention to photography, but then I was pulled in. I had several long and deep conversations which left me thinking new thoughts to think. There was a small group of attendees who gathered around me after a panel and we held our own mini panel/discussion about organizing life to support creativity. It was extremely gratifying to be sought out that way, and I’m very glad that some of the things I said seemed useful to them. There is nothing better than turning one of my experiences into something useful for someone else.

A particular shout out is owed to Gray Rhinehart here. I’d never met him before this event and knew him only slightly online. But we talked for hours. This is also one of the hidden treasures of conventions, when I meet someone new and their current concerns intersect with mine. Conventions give me friendships which last long after the convention is over. Conventions give me chances to renew friendships begun at a previous convention. I’m learning to be patient and play the long game in building a writing career. I don’t have to push to have the critical conversation with a particular agent / editor/ author, because there will be another chance. This chance is not the only one.

Huge thanks are due to Toni Weiskopf. This show was her baby. She pulled together a dream team of Southern convention runners. I think this may have been one of the smoothest-run convention I’ve ever experienced. I did not hear any of the usual politicking or kvetching which I’ve come to believe is inevitable when highly stressed people care very much about something but have different opinions about how it should be done. We are so glad that she included us. This was exactly the weekend we needed it to be.
To close out this very long convention post, I leave you with a photo of Dr. Demento dancing on stage with a pair of belly dancers.