This last weekend I took the journey to Portland for Orycon, Oregon’s science fiction and fantasy convention. I traveled down with writer Donna McMahon, Clint Budd, the Aurora Awards administrator and their friend Heidi. The drive from Vancouver can take 5-7 hours so it’s much more fun to travel with others and gave me a chance to catch and talk shop.
Like many fan oriented conventions (there are professional conventions that don’t always have fan tracks) there are panels and workshops in the area of gaming (from live action, roleplaying, to board and card games), costuming, writing/publishing and media. Some cons focus more on one area over another. There can be a Star Trek con or a Star Gate, which would have a heavy media track.
Orycon’s theme this year was dark fantasy. They usually invite pros, giving them a free membership in exchange for serving on several panels. I had a midnight horror reading, where I read “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha” newly out by Cutting Block Press and in Horror Library Vol. 4. At one point I think there was supposed to be three readers but one never showed. Instead S.D. Perry read from her novel, as yet unpublished. She is the author of many Resident Evil and Star Trek books. As is the case with a horror reading her piece was visceral and horrific, in the sense of the crimes of the people and what they are driven to. Of course, a writer must describe the scene enough that we can see it and S.D.’s excerpt did that very well. We had a small audience, but one of the con’s few foibles was to not include the readings in the lists of the panels. There were about five or six panels on at any time from about 10am to midnight. The readings were on a separate page, which meant many people missed them.
This probably explains why, for my second reading, no one showed up. Also, I had questioned the con in putting me down for two readings, as I’m not a big name author and won’t reach even the minor notoriety of people wanting my autograph until I sell a book. My second reading was at 1pm and you would think that it would get more people but there are just too many panels to attend and people already have to pick and choose. The panel range did seem to be quite good, with everything from the usual fan and filk tracks to workshops (in writing, costuming and other aspects) and covering various sciences or how to write/publish.
Some cons are also great for meeting new people or reconnecting. I re-met Mike Drindenberg, a very good Portland artist who I had last seen at a World Fantasy con. I ran into old friend and writer Dave Smeds and met Steve Perry. I also got a chance to see a couple of friends who live in Portland. One is a fan and the other a fan and film student who wants to get into more writing.
I also did two panels, though some people do more. They were on urban fantasy and on gore vs. terror. Good panels have good moderators who keep the flow going and keep one or two people from monopolizing or getting off track. The moderators for these panels did a great job. They were different as suits the topic and the first had more audience participation than the second, but I think the audience enjoyed them. I find that these panels sometimes get my gears turning on old stories and how to rework them or on new stories to create. Also every writer needs to let the reading community know who they are and this is one way for people to become familiar with your name. In the era of tight financial constraints usually writers have to do some self promo even if the publishers are advertising.
The con had a dance and sometimes, like VCon’s tiny one, they’re very bad. This one had a large space with an okay blend of music from those classics like Rocky Horror songs, to German technopunk…something for everyone. I got a chance to dance with a lot of space to move, which I love doing. All in all the convention was a very pleasant experience and if the con can just fix their program guides to have a better font and include the readings in the main section, it will continue to be a popular convention.