Last weekend was Penguicon 7.0, Michigan’s science fiction and open-source programming convention. It’s a media mix that has worked amazingly well, and this is, IMHO, the best convention in the state.
I did get a rocky start when I arrived Saturday morning. Once I registered I found I didn’t have a separate list of the panels I was on, and due to a printer’s error the print in the actual program book was really, REALLY tiny. So tiny, in fact, I had to have someone else read through it to find my name.
Then, it turned out that the hotel got very strange about the con suite and food. The compromise reached involved the hotel closing down their restaurant for the weekend and turning it into the con suite. But they wouldn’t let the con use the kitchen. So, instead of the nice sit-down breakfast I had been anticipating (I like a nice breakfast and this hotel put up a good one), it was a v. v. long line up with a paper plate for eggs cooked on a Foreman grill. I have it on good authority they will not be returning to this hotel next year.
But after that, everything settled in and a good time was had. The programming at Penguicon is HUGE. Tons of guests, tons of panels and presentations and classes which for the most part run incredibly smoothly. The first panel I went to was on Social Networking for the Author, which had a very knowledgeable panel and was only slightly delayed by the arrival of the Acme Delivery Yak (no, seriously).
The first panel I was on was Self-Publishing: How not to Get Totally Screwed. This was a big panel. It also had every single guest Sarah on it at once. There was me (the Light Sarah), Sarah Hoyt (the Dark Sarah), Sarah Monette (the Leftmost Sarah) and Elizabeth Bear, who’s first name really is Sarah, so she was the Secret Sarah. There were some guys and stuff on the panel too.
The room was really full and the discussion was very good. My attitude about self-publishing has changed a great deal in the past couple of years (as you might guess from my participation in Book View Cafe), but I think a lot of people still see it as a way to get their masterpiece before the public without any Nasty Editors (TM) screwing it up, rather than the difficult small-business venture that it is. So, I’ve gone from saying “don’t do this,” to “do this if you want, but be aware of exactly what it is your doing, what it is likely to do, and not do for you, and LOOK OUT FOR SCAMS!”
After that, I went to the bar to hang out and grab some hot food with friends, and then it was off to the next panel. “So, You Want to Quit Your Day Job?” I quit my day job in 1998, so I had expeirence with this one. Again, every single Sarah was on the panel, making me wonder if they’d run some kind of algorithm while setting up the program. Also well attended, and a good discussion, much said about the pros and cons, the lack of benefits, about the importance of maintaining good physical and mental health.
From there it was “The Universe in a Grain of Sand,” a world-building panel. And again, it was filled with Sarahs. I was beginning to suspect conspiracy by this time. I love world-building. It’s one of the really fun parts of the job. It is vitally important, however, to follow through and consider consequences. I’ve been on some of these that were all about where and how to put the space rocks, but this one was very much about creating cultures and magic systems.
Wow, this is getting long. I will wrap up by saying if you want to see more pictures of the con, CL Anderson has posted some good ones. More later.