Tuesday, August 20, 2013

GenCon 2013

There's a first time for everything they say, and last week/weekend was my first ever GenCon, the "best four days in gaming," held at the Indiana Convention Center, August 15th to 18th, in Indianapolis, Indiana. I was a participant in the GenCon Writer's Sumposium, but also there as a fan and a curious former (and now I suppose it's time to admit renewed) gamer. My interest in RPGs has been growing over the past few years. I've acquired two shelves worth of new manuals. I count dozens of friends in the RPG industry. Pyr has published an RPG tie-in novel. I'm backing quite a few RPG Kickstarters... It just seemed like a good thing to go and do.

So, I arrived on Wednesday where good friend Howard Andrew Jones (The Desert of Souls, Pathfinder Tales: Plague of Shadows) picked me up at the airport. We checked into the Omni, then checked out the convention center, where we ran into friend James L. Sutter, Fiction Editor at Paizo, and New Friend Wesley Schneider, Paizo Editor-in-Chief. Then it was off to the Old Spaghetti Factory, for the Writer's Symposium dinner, where I got to meet Bradley P. Beaulieu who I've only ever known online, among others. Afterwards was the Diana Jones Award party, where I met Monte Cook, Matt Forbeck, and Wil Wheaton. The night ended in a long discussion in the lobby of the Omni with Paizo Publisher and good friend Erik Mona.

Thursday I had lunch with Wolfgang Baur of Kobold Press, who I've known online for a while but never met face to face. Really good guy, who makes really good game product and publishes some really good How To books (every fantasy author should read the Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding.) Afterwards, I had most of the day to walk the floor, where I met Rick Meints and got to congratulate him on the success of The Guide to Glorantha Kickstarter.

That night, I got to sit down at the table and play an RPG run by Howard Andrew Jones, alongside Saladin Ahmed (Throne of the Crescent Moon), Dave Gross (Pathfinder Tales: Queen of Thorns), Scott Lynch (The Republic of Thieves), and Howard Tayler (Schlock Mercenary: The Sharp End of the Stick,Extraordinary Zoology). My friend and author Joel Shepherd (recently returned from New Delhi) was there was well, as part of a three con tour in support of his just-released 23 Years on Fire. (Joel and I haven't seen each other in the flesh since 2006, so spending so much time together was fantastic.) I also got to spend  a little time with Mary Robinette Kowal, who came in that evening.

Friday things kicked into high gear with four panels on the symposium, starting with back to back 8 and 9am panels! I was on a 2pm "Magic and Mysticism" panel with Brandon Sanderson, when afterwards, Rachel Feld, Director of Retail & Consumer Marketing came up to me. She was the one person I didn't get to meet a few weeks ago when I flew up to NYC a few weeks ago to meet everyone in Sales, Marketing & Publicity working on my book, there with Brandon, and so we were both thrilled to discover the other at GenCon. And Friday night roommates Howard Andrew Jones and Scott Lynch and I, along with Joel Shepherd, got, off-campus to Bosporus Istanbul Cafe, where the stuffed eggplant was incredible!

A word on the Writer's Symposium. I had no idea such an enormous and valuable symposium existed. Over 50 authors took part, including heavy hitters like James Dashner, David Farland, Mercedes Lackey, Patrick Rothfuss, and the aforementioned Sanderson. With over 110 hours of programming and so many talented panelists, I would be surprised if there is a larger and more star-studded genre writers symposium anywhere in the US. Marc Tassin deserves incredible kudos for pulling this off, as does his helper Molly Findley and everyone on his team who worked to make this happen. The symposium has apparently been growing every year. I hope GenCon knows what a valuable side-track they have running! 

Amazingly, the 8 and 9am panels had over 100 attendee (the room held 200 and often looked full) while the afternoon panels sometimes (though not always) had fewer. Marc explained that this is because the game rooms open at 10, so unlike other cons, early morning is prime time here. This about killed me. I lost my voice entirely, but still managed to give my solo "ScripTips" screenwriting for novelist talk on Saturday. I got my voice back for it, but the effort ragged me out completely.

Saturday afternoon I met up with good friends Matt Wilson (Chief Creative Officer, Privateer Press) and Miles Holmes (Gameloft game designer, but look for his Road/Kill Kickstarter coming September 9th!). Then we were joined by John Scalzi (The Human Division) and Liz Smith (Dammit Liz Productions). Then it was off to a dinner with Pierce Watters, Erik Mona, Chris Self from Paizo, Tom Doherty (founder Tor books) and Tom Doherty Jr., and some folks from Margaret Weis Productions. A wonderful time, which finished with Tom Doherty telling me stories about the crazy days of Chicago magazine distribution.

One last night of drinks with the Writer's Symposium, one final Sunday morning panel, one last coffee with Scott Lynch, then Howard Andrew Jones and I rode away into the sunset, though he had to lend me a suitcase to get all the RPG manuals I'd bought home!

You were a great con GenCon. I'll definitely be back! Not sure if I'll be there next year or if it will be the year after. Let me roll for initiative.


Tom Doolan said...

As a lifetime gamer, welcome back to the family. :)

And I am having serious Con Envy now. Hopefully I will get to go in the next couple of years. :)

Lou Anders said...

Thank you. I really enjoyed the con.