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Convention Report: Ad Astra Science Fiction Convention in Toronto

Sunday, April 6th, 2014 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

I hit a few science fiction and fantasy conventions a year, for professional reasons, but more importantly for the fun of meeting new people and catching up with friends I haven’t seen in months. This weekend, I’m in Toronto, Canada, at Ad Astra, one of the two major literary fan-run conventions held every year (the other being SFContario).

100_0259Ad Astra is a nice-sized convention with a number of programming tracks book, TV, and movie fans, writers, costumers, and shoppers. They have a great line-up of guests. David Mark Weber, creator of the Honor Harrington series and other military scifi works, is here, as is Steven Erikson, epic fantasy author of The Malazan Book of the Fallen.

Anne Lesley Groell is representing Random House (she’s an Executive Editor) and Ad Astra also has Patricia Briggs, author of the Mercy Thompson urban fantasy series. Some returning guests of previous years are science fiction authors Julie Czerneda and Robert J. Sawyer, as well as Ed Greenwood, famed D&D creator of the Forgotten Realms fantasy world.

Some of the things I’m hoping to see include “Podcasting After Dark,” a pod-cast interview to be run by noted critic and reviewer Adam Shaftoe, “Carbine-tipped Pens,” a panel about an upcoming all-original scifi anthology edited by Ben Bova and Eric Choi. I might miss the “Steampunk Costuming for Newcomers” to catch back-to-back readings by Ottawa-area writers Matt Moore and Marie Bilodeau.

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Goth Chick News: My Halloween & Attractions Show 10th Anniversary

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image002That headline alone probably qualifies me for Black Gate’s employee assistance program – the one where you sit in a calming space and talk about your feelings with no co-pay.

Unbelievable as it may sound, at least to me, I have been dragging around the Midwest for 10 years chasing one of the largest collections of disturbing paraphernalia to be bought and sold under one roof.

Yes, it’s time once again for Transworld’s annual bacchanalia – The Halloween and Attractions Show – and the official kick off of Goth Chick News’ “season.”  This is the show’s 19th year and it is officially the largest of its kind in the world focused on the haunt industry, packing over 300 exhibitors into the America’s Convention Center in St. Louis, MO.

If you ever wondered where all the “professional” haunted attractions get their gear, well now you know.  From The Travel Channel’s top picks to Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Nights, all those realistically gross props and blood-soaked latex ‘appliances’ have to come from somewhere.

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Goth Chick News: Walker Stalker Con Drags into Chicago

Thursday, March 20th, 2014 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Walker-Stalker-Con-2014“It’s some kind of zombie convention, did you know about this?”

This is GCN photog Chris Zemko calling me last Friday night with a hot bit of industry news. Apparently a very significant event in the Chicago horror scene had eluded us (let me show you my shocked face) and Chris had just done a diving catch.

A little bit of digging turned up the information that yes indeed, Walker Stalker Con was taking place in Chicago, at one of the larger convention centers, that very weekend.

Walker Stalker Con is the brain child of podcasters James Frazier and Eric Nordhoff, who at one point apparently road tripped to Senoia, GA, where they were able to view the set of The Walking Dead and meet the actors from the show. As a result of this experience, they began The Walker Stalkers podcast to discuss the show twice weekly during its seasonal runs – and from that sprouted the inspiration for a convention.

Kicking off first in Atlanta last year, the convention focused on recreating James’s and Eric’s original experience with The Walking Dead’s cast and crew, along with actors and artists from other zombie shows, movies, and art. Due to the overwhelming response it received in 2013, James and Eric decided to host an additional annual event beginning in Chicago this year.

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Future Treasures: Mary Robinette Kowal and Blake Hausladen Read from Upcoming Books at Capricon

Monday, March 10th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Mary Robinette Kowal reads from Valour and Vanity at Capricon 2014

Mary Robinette Kowal reads from Valour and Vanity at Capricon 2014

There are lots of reasons to attend conventions. To meet your favorite authors, to network with fellow writers and editors, to browse in the Dealer’s Room (yeah!), to check out the Art Show, to attend entertaining panels.

But the thing I find most delightful these days is author readings. There’s something about hearing beloved characters brought to life right in front of you by the author herself that’s truly magical. In just the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to attend readings by Peter S. Beagle, Gene Wolfe, Neil Gaiman, Patty Templeton, C.S.E. Cooney, Martha Wells, Fredric Durbin, and Steven Erikson, among many others.

It’s also a great way to discover new writers. I make it a priority to attend as many readings as I can by writers I’m not familiar with. And let me tell you, that’s really paid off — I’ve discovered some of my favorite new writers because I had an empty 30 minute slot between the Firefly panel and the midnight showing of Destroy All Monsters. Over the decades, that’s included people like Charles Saunders, N. K. Jemisin, Mark Sumner, Bradley Beaulieu, Alex Bledsoe, and — believe it or not — George R.R. Martin.

Take my advice: if you find yourself in a place where professional storytellers are willing to stand before you and entertain you, take advantage of it. You won’t be sorry. You can attend that anime panel next year.

A few weeks ago, I was at Capricon 34 in Wheeling, Illinois, with a few other Black Gate staffers, including Patty Templeton and Steven Silver. We didn’t have a booth — we haven’t bothered with one since the print version of the magazine died in 2011 — and I’m still getting used to being able to wander without being tied to the Dealer’s Room. I didn’t get to attend everything I wanted to — I missed Wesley Chu’s Saturday morning reading because I was mailing back issue orders at the post office — but I did catch some terrific panels. And, not too surprisingly, the most surprising and entertaining events at the convention were three readings, from Hugo-Award Winning author Mary Robinette Kowal, Strange Horizons editor Mary Anne Mohanraj, and self-published writer Blake Hausladen.

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Legendary ConFusion

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

howard confusion 2014

That’s me having a good time at the con. Myke Cole’s in profile directly behind me. Photo by Al Bogdan.

ConFusion is a regional convention in Detroit, well organized by friendly staff who cook up interesting panel topics and are always on hand if you have any issues or concerns. The attendees are friendly and ask great questions of panelists, and there’s a larger author presence than I’ve usually seen at smaller conventions. If you’re actively trying to avoid well-known writers when you head to the bar, or even walk down the hallway, you’re out of luck.

I’ve made it a regular stop every year for the last three, when Saladin Ahmed first invited me up, and I’ve  been looking forward to the return trip all winter.

I arrived in the Detroit area early Friday morning and then spent the day wandering around with my brother-in-arms (well, words), John Chris Hocking, and we had a fantastic visit, then a wonderful meal with his wife Cinda. Afterwards, Chris  took me to three great Ann Arbor bookstores: The Dawn Treader, The Vault of Midnight, and Aunt Agatha’s, an award winning bookstore specializing in mystery. Given my newfound interest in noir (discussed here and here), it was a great place to be, and Hocking, being a noir expert, was a fabulous guide — not to mention a generous one. Not only did he present me with several duplicates from his own collection, he insisted on purchasing  a number of books for me that I HAD to read. I eagerly accepted them. I don’t know that Hocking’s suggestions have ever steered me wrong.

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Goth Chick News: Ending “The Season” at Days of the Dead

Thursday, November 21st, 2013 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Days of the Dead Chicago-smallIt is with a heavy sigh that the Goth Chick News team bids farewell to another “season” of Halloween fun but not before attending one last hurrah.

Days of the Dead is a four-city, tour de force of all things horror that rolled through Chicago last weekend.  In addition to a copious list of movie celebrities, this year’s event boasted the largest number of industry vendors ever to attend the Midwest show; including special effects artists, set dressers, authors and indy film makers.

Bigger events come through Chicago, but Days of the Dead has the monopoly on panache.

Let’s wade in shall we?

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New Treasures: Cold and Dark

Monday, October 14th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Cold and Dark-smallI couldn’t go to Gencon in August. I had to work. Someone had to — the rent on our spacious rooftop headquarters here in downtown Chicago doesn’t pay itself.

Certain members of our staff did attend that august gathering, however. I’m not going to point any fingers, but I will point you, without comment, to Howard Andrew Jones’s GenCon Writer’s Symposium 2013 and Andrew Zimmerman Jones’s three-part (three-part! That’s how much fun you can have at Gencon) Post-Convention Recap. That’s right. While some us were putting in long hours, trying to finish that scathing expose on the use of polluted air in model zeppelins, everyone on staff named Jones got to go Indianapolis to party. But I’m not bitter.

I’m lying. I’m totally bitter. What’s a guy got to do to keep up with the Joneses around here? It’s not just all the fun they had; it’s the fantastic loot they brought back. Like Cold and Dark, a new RPG of gritty science fiction horror from Chronicle City – publishers of Dungeonslayers, Achtung! Cthulhu, and the upcoming Punktown – which draws inspiration from Pitch Black, Dead Space, and other classics of dark SF. Here’s the back-cover copy:

Centuries from now mankind lives on in the Sirius galaxy, an enormously vast and dense system of stars. It’s a greedy industrial society run by corporations and the Governmental Industrial Complex. The onslaught of strip-mining has stirred something terrible best left buried and forgotten.

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GenCon 2013 Post-Convention Recap – Part 3: The Pathfinder Booth

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

One of the most fun booths at GenCon (a land of many fun booths) is the Paizo booth. They have their own table with nearly round-the-clock author signings and great promotional giveaways, plus they produce fantastic gaming products … this year, having topped previous years in all categories. Their goblin masks were ubiquitous throughout the convention hall, though I did miss the Goblin flash mob on Wednesday evening. But I did have an opportunity to spend time at the booth and talk with CCO Erik Mona about the new developments with their line of games.

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

PathfinderRotRLDefinitely the biggest hit at the Paizo booth was the release of the first boxed set in the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game (Amazon, Paizo), a massive box containing nearly 500 cards. The demo area where they were running through the game was packed and I never actually made it into a demo slot, though I did watch a few of them.  When I arrived on Thursday morning, there was a line nearly halfway down the wall of the Exhibit Hall, consisting mostly of people who were buying this game.

This isn’t a simple card game, but instead a roleplaying campaign in a box. It can be played by 1 to 4 players – that’s right, it can be played solo – who create a character, and then build a deck of equipment, allies, and magic to help progress through the events of Paizo’s classic Rise of the Runelords adventure path.

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GenCon Writer’s Symposium 2013

Friday, August 30th, 2013 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

gencon writerA few short weeks ago, I was in Indianapolis for GenCon, which is almost certainly the pre-eminent gaming convention in North America and probably the world. It’s obviously the place to be if you love table-top gaming, but if you enjoy board games or related interests, it’s also a fine stopping point. What you may not know is that tucked away in one corner of the convention is an exceptional resource for writers.

Let’s face it: there’s so much interesting gaming stuff going on — chances to try out various new games, or to visit with friends from far lands — that you might not think the Symposium is worth your time. But you can take in as much of it, or as little of it, as you desire. Panels start as early as 8:00, which is two hours before the doors to the Great Exhbition Hall open. And these aren’t just dull panels where those behind the podium wander in and ask “now what was this panel about again?” You’ll find pros and semi-pros who are willing to discuss the subject with care and at length.

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Gen Con 2013 Post-Convention Recap – Part 2: D&D Party Time!

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Drizzt Do'Urden, wielding his codpiece of holding, awaits the birthday festivities at Gen Con 2013

Drizzt Do’Urden, wielding his codpiece of holding, awaits the birthday festivities at Gen Con 2013

After a pretty full first day at Gen Con 2013, things were really just getting started for me.

At about 5:00 pm, I headed a couple of blocks over to the Indiana Repertory Theater for a Dungeons & Dragons press conference I’d been invited to. Following the press conference was to be the big Dungeons & Dragons party, which was celebrating not only the launch of The Sundering … but also the 25th anniversary of Drizzt Do’urden. (We even had cake!)

So, let’s lay it out here: Dungeons & Dragons is going through some massive shake-ups. Last year, I liveblogged from their keynote address, where the Powers-That-Be formally announced their intention to tie the D&D Next transformation of the rules in with a Forgotten Realms storyline called The Sundering.

This year, we got a lot more information about exactly what this will look like on the implementation. Plus … there was an open bar and a murder! But first, the gaming news.

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