For those of you that don’t know, this last weekend I went to Armadillocon 38. If you’ve never been to or heard of Armadillocon, it’s described on their website as “Austin’s Literary Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention”, but that doesn’t feel right. It’s a little dry. No, it’s an amazing event for writers and fans of genre/speculative fiction, full of energy and fun and love of the craft. It’s like slamming two Monster energy drinks, running two miles, and then laying in a field of hypoallergenic fluffy bunnies.
There are two big components to Armadillocon, the Writer’s Workshop, and the panels. The Writer’s Workshop runs all day Friday, and is a great place to meet up and coming writers as well as a solid group of professionals. Since this was my second year back, I got to see a bunch of familiar faces on both sides of the table, as well as meet some great new people. In the case of Joe Monti, I got to meet him again for the first time, as he recognized me, but neither of us could figure out where it possibly could have been from. My working theory is that either I’ll have to travel back in time sometime soon, or that I’ve got a doppleganger traveling the northern writing circles. There were some great pros there, and so I don’t leave anyone out (they were all awesome) here’s the entire list: Marshall Ryan Maresca, Amanda Downum, Mark Finn, EJ Fischer, Urania Fung, K. G. Jewell, Stina Leicht, Joe McKinney, Joe Monti, Patrice Sarath, Tex Thompson, and Wes Chu stopped by at the end. Look these folks up, buy their books. Tell ‘em Fred sent you.
The workshop had a group lecture/writing exercise/panel/Q&A followed by breakout sessions for critique on stories we had submitted in June. My group consisted of myself, the three other workshop participants, plus our professionals, Patrice and Urania. I’m not going to lie and say it was easy. There wasn’t much in the way of sugar coating and my manuscript had its fair share of red and blue ink, but that’s how you learn, y’all. You get knocked down, and you get up again. (they are never going to keep you down… sorry… not sorry). And Patrice and Urania were there with just the right words to help me back up, and help me find the path of where my story needed to go. (Side note, if you have a flying city, ALWAYS know how high that city is. Basic world-building). All in all, writer’s workshop, big success.
I’d love to go into details of which panels I went to and who spoke on them and how awesome they were, but I was there from 4pm-11pm Friday and 10am-11pm Saturday so I’ll try to keep it to just the highlights. Tex Thompson gave a world-building seminar that was worth the price of admission on its lonesome, Stina Licht chaired a great panel on how modern science fiction mirrors the fairy tales of old, panels on dystopias, and writing for the game industry, and the best comic books released last year, the art of the short story, writing what you don’t know, and Law Enforcement in SciFi/Fantasy. That one was moderated by Mike Cole, and was where I had one of my two most fan-boy moments in the con. I mostly just stammered and rambled, but he was pretty cool about it, and signed my copy of Gemini Cell, so yeah, awesome. He is a great dude.
I also managed somehow to get invited to dinner with several of the pros again (this time thanks to Clay Hackett being an awesome guy, and me stopping by to say hi right as they were heading to get food). But yeah, people there were approachable, even for a super introvert like me.
Sunday mostly saw me at readings. Derek Austin Johnson and Jamie Lee Moyer read excerpts from novels that you’ll want to check out as soon as they get published, and Abby Goldsmith read a short story that managed to encapsulate everything I can’t yet do in anything under 10,000 words. Moving, self contained, and a fascinating glimpse into a well defined world. Something to aspire to. The rest of the day was mostly spent in conversations with folks around the bar (turns out you can do BarCon without drinking), with people gradually drifting away as it came time to head home.
That evening I went to the post-con dinner with the organizers, their family, and a few of the guests and attendees. I can’t think of many better ways to wrap the con than to stand on the back patio of County Line, stuffed full of BBQ, talking about Star Trek Deep Space Nine with Joe McKinney, Joe Monti, and Wes Chu while watching turtles swim lazily in the river.
To make a long story somewhat shorter, if you’re in to Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Romance, Horror, or any other genre fiction, and you can make it to Texas next summer, you really should consider coming to Armadillocon. Amazing panels, amazing staff, amazing people.