How I Survive Conventions

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019 | Posted by S.M. Carrière


Conventions are portals into the wonderful. Like portals, though, they can be a little scary to step into. Image by alan9187 from Pixabay

Good evening, Readers!

As of the writing of this, I am coming off of a wonderful three day speculative fiction convention in Ottawa. I’m of course, talking about Can*Con. I’ve mentioned it before. It was a hectic, people-ly, wonderful weekend. As wonderful as it all was, conventions, even 2019 Aurora Award winning ones (I had to brag. I had to), can be tricky for me to navigate. I am an extreme introvert – hardly a unicorn in the spec fic crowd, I know. While I love to be around my friends, or even friendly people, it can quickly become exhausting and even terrifying. Here’s how I survive a three day stint of extreme peopleing.

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Create Your Character Backstory with Style: Call to Adventure from Brotherwise

Saturday, October 12th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Call to Adventure-small

I attended Gen Con for the first time in roughly fifteen years this year, and let me tell you, it was an experience. Wandering the massive Exhibit Hall — which quite literally took me three full days  — drove home for the first time just how truly enormous the modern board game market is. 50,000 excited attendees packed the halls and pathways connecting over a thousand vendor booths, displaying thousands of new releases and tens of thousands of games. It was so packed it was sometimes impossible to move.

For a gamer whose very first gaming convention (CanGames in Ottawa in the late 70s) had maybe 250 attendees, it was a revelation. Fantasy gaming — like comics, role playing, and fantasy films — has gone mainstream in a big way. The tiny hobby I was once a part of is now a multibillion dollar business. Fantasy and Science Fiction were the dominant genres, but there were plenty of family games, wargames, and strange unclassifiable titles.

But it’s still about the games. I realized early that it would be impossible to take in every new title of interest, so instead I started at one end of the Exhibit Hall, taking pictures with my iPhone. I  made my way methodically up and down each aisle until I arrived, three days and many hundreds of photos later, at the far end, with a record of every new game of interest. I can’t cover them all of course, but I can discuss a few here on the blog. And I’ll start with one of the first games I ordered as soon as I returned from Indianapolis: Call to Adventure from Brotherwise Games.

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Goth Chick News: “Fright Fest?” I’ll Be the Judge of That…

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Goth Chick 2019 Six Flag Fright Fest

Every September for the last 20+ years, “The Season” has begun the same way – with a special sneak preview event at our local Chicagoland Six Flags amusement park called Fright Fest. Saying I look forward to this is a significant understatement. Like the whole kid calendar revolving around Christmas in A Christmas Story, the whole Goth Chick year revolves around Halloween, and Fright Fest has historically been the high-water mark that kicks off the festivities.

Though every year has not necessarily been created equal,  one can usually expect copious decorations, a large number of staff in very high quality costumes (the Edward Scissorhands of one past year is still one of the best I’ve seen), and multiple themed “zones” throughout the park such as an alien zone, a zombie zone, etc, where everything is kicked up a notch. Some years back, Six Flags made the patron-sensitive decision to split the park in half for the protection of younger visitors. Enter the gate and go right, the experience is of more the pumpkin and skeleton varieties; go left, and a very high-quality wolfman could chase you half a city block. In other words, the experience was definitely “adult.” In addition, there were 5 to 6 “haunted houses” each year, again, ranging in intensity. However, the “headliner” houses, of which there were usually two, were high-quality experiences with good special effects, great décor and plenty of actors delivering the scares.

Alas, that was previous years.

Though Fright Fest 2018 had shown a marked decline, I didn’t want to call it a trend after one season. However, this year clinched it and I could not be sadder.

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Thoughts on Our Ecosystem

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019 | Posted by S.M. Carrière


This is one of mine. I’m working on getting better.

Good morning, Readers!

One of my favorite conventions, Can*Con, is rapidly approaching (sure, it’s the only convention I can afford to go to, it being in my hometown, and all, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that it is, in truth, a wonderful convention), and I’m excited. This excitement, however, is also tinged with not a little trepidation. There are many reasons for this, but foremost among them is anxiety. I am anxious for a number of reasons.

First among those reasons are the sheer number of people. There will be a lot of them. Some of them will be important-types. Some will be just regular folk like myself. Being a very small, unimportant fish, struggling to grow, being surrounded by much bigger, more successful fish can feel a little suffocating. It’s difficult to get seen, and harder still to be heard.

One of the reasons I so love Can*Con is how, despite how it has continually grown, it hasn’t forgotten those of us who aren’t so big and important. When I first turned up there, I purchased a table to sell my one and only book, a self-published collections of short stories and poems called The Dying God & Other Stories. It was the only thing I had. Despite having only one book, and despite it being a self-published thing, I was welcomed warmly.

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Goth Chick News: Wizard World Chicago and a Goth Chick Wannabe

Thursday, August 29th, 2019 | Posted by Chris Zemko

Wizard World Goth Chick 1-small

Let me start by painting you all a picture. Everyone’s favorite Goth Chick comes to me (Black Gate photog Chris Z.) and says “Guess what…you get to write the article for Wizard World Chicago this year!”

“Excuse Me?…What?…Who approved this?”

Apparently even Goth Chicks need a vacation away from the world of Horror and Mischief at Black Gate magazine. Who knew? Anyway, I headed down to the Black Gate office complex by myself and made my way down to the Goth Chick bunker. Upon arriving, I noticed it’s a lot creepier then I remember. I called “Big Cheese” John O and he said, “Just don’t stare at anything with eyes.”

“OK…well here goes.”

So this past weekend, Goth Chick News headed over to the 2019 edition of Wizard World Chicago. This year’s production included guests such as Jeff Goldblum (A Goth Chick Favorite), John “Vinnie Barbarino” Travolta, Zachary Levi (Shazam) and the flippin “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”!

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John W. Campbell was a Racist and a Loon: A Response to Jeannette Ng’s Campbell Award Acceptance Speech

Saturday, August 24th, 2019 | Posted by Rich Horton


Jeannette Ng

I don’t think I have anything much to add to the commentariat’s discussion of Jeannette Ng’s Campbell Award acceptance speech. But why should that stop me?

The simplest thing to note is this — however you parse the word Fascist (and I would parse it differently than many), John W. Campbell was a racist, and a loon. (However you parse THAT word.) His ideas about how we should best be governed were, if not Fascist by a strict definition, not exactly democratic, to say the least. He cheered on the Kent State massacre, for goodness’ sake. He was sexist too, though in that case I think maybe he was just “a man of his time” — his racism, however, was definitely more virulent than the norm. And loonier! (See his editorial suggesting that black people preferred to be slaves.)

And on those grounds I have no complaint with Ng’s speech. Yes, she misidentified the magazine Campbell worked for (and has apologized for that) — but, heck, she was excited and nervous — these things happen.

The real point is — and I think Alec Nevala-Lee deserves tremendous credit for clarifying this — that “we”, as the SF field, especially those of us who’ve been around a lot longer, kind of ignored how whacko — and downright harmful — Campbell’s views could be. It’s not that they weren’t known — he trumpeted them in the pages of Astounding! — but people tended to sort of excuse them — “Oh, John was just trying to stir conversation,” that sort of thing. It’s pretty clear that he really did believe many or most of the things he wrote. And we should have, collectively and individually, been more forceful in standing against those ideas.

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The Games of Gen Con 2019

Saturday, August 17th, 2019 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

WarChickenIslandThe summer conventions are winding down, as school starts back up. I have previously mentioned games I discovered at Origins Game Fair earlier this summer, and our intrepid leader John O’Neill has hinted at some of his own exploits in the wilds of Gen Con. John and I usually run into each other when we’re both at the same convention, but Gen Con is massive enough that it’s no surprise our ships didn’t cross paths, particularly since I’m usually busy enough moving through the exhibit hall and participating in demo games that I rarely make it these days to many of the Writer’s Symposium activities … held in an entirely different hotel, as Gen Con has spread tendrils, Cthulhu-like, throughout all of downtown Indianapolis.

This year I’d like to begin my discussion of Gen Con gaming discoveries on the weird end of the spectrum, with War for Chicken Island. This successful Kickstarter funded with over $160,000 and is slated for an October 2019 release. They had a prototype at the Draco Studios booth, but weren’t running complete demos, so I can’t speak to the game play. But this is a game where you fight for control of an island of chickens, using miniatures of crazy battle-ready chickens. I don’t need a full demo to know that I’m interested.

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Lost in the Halls at Gen Con 2019

Saturday, August 3rd, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Gen Con 2019-small

I’m here on site at Gen Con for the first time in…. wow, I don’t even remember. Fifteen years, at least. Last time I visited Gen Con it was in Milwaukee, if that’s any clue. It now fills (and substantially overfills) the spacious halls of the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis, where tens of thousands of gamers meet friends, play games, try out new games, play the legendary NASCRAG tournament, and wander through the jaw-dropping Exhibit Hall.

I’m here for the first time in over a decade because I was invited to speak at the Writers Symposium, on topics like Submitting Short Fiction, What Happens to a Story After You Submit it, and Does Advertising Work? I’ve been very impressed at how well organized the Symposium is — it’s run like an excellent mini-convention just for writers, inside a much larger enterprise. And it’s attracted some top-notch speakers, including Howard Andrew Jones, Bradley P. Beaulieu — whose talk on Tension on Every Page was really terrific — the charming Anna Smith Spark, Black Gate blogger Clarence Young, writer and interviewer Seth Lindberg, editor Diana Pho, and many, many others.

Of course, we’re here in the name of games, and games new and old were everywhere. The enormous Exhibit Hall (pictured above) was filled with hundreds and hundreds (and hundreds) of game companies showing off their wares. I didn’t get to spend nearly as much time in the Hall as I wanted — and you could spend weeks in there, believe me — but I did find countless treasures, many in the generously stocked Goodman Games booth at the far end. Over the next few weeks I’ll share the details here. But in the meantime, I have to run to my next panel, Reviews and Reviewers: How to Find Them, How to Keep Them. Wish me luck!

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Goth Chick News: Feeling at Home at the Oddities and Curiosities Expo

Thursday, August 1st, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist


We here at Goth Chick News have the pleasure of covering several trade shows annually, dealing with a variety of topics on and near the horror industry. Many of these concern haunters both professional and amateur who pour their money and talent into one month a year when the U.S. embraces all things scary.

But as the band Ministry told us in 1986, for some every day is Halloween, and in 2018 a show came through Chicago which catered to this crowd in particular. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend its premier in the Windy City but corrected that in late July when the Oddities and Curiosities Expo came back through town, drawing together precisely what its name implied; two show-floor levels of artists specializing in the odd and curious.

Targeted toward “the lovers of the strange and unusual,” the O&CE describes itself as…

The first and Original Traveling Oddities event. We have expanded from 2 cities in 2017 to 8 cities in 2018 and now for 2019 we have 16 cities! We want to support local/national vendors, dealers and small businesses by giving them a place to sell and feel welcome. We have vendors on all spectrums of weird, creepy and unusual. Our goal is to bring like-minded people together and have events that people truly enjoy.

Organizers Tony and Michelle have partnered with Ripley’s Believe It or Not, a taxidermy school, suspension artists (read, people hanging from their piercings) and over a hundred vendors and craftspeople to put on an exposition which more than lives up to its name.

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The Games of Origins Game Fair

Monday, July 29th, 2019 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Shadowrun Sixth World Box-smallMy first science fiction convention was 2001’s Eeriecon III, in Niagara Falls, NY. This was a literary convention, where almost all of my time was spent lapping up the wisdom of authors and scientists, discussing worldbuilding, sociology, magical systems, story structure and narrative, and all manner of other things of interest to writers, both old pros and aspiring novices.

These days, I make less of those literary conventions, and have migrated more into gaming conventions with the family. Less intellectual stimulation, perhaps, but it’s a much more active environment, with more to do. And though the intellectual discussions are perhaps not as rigorous (rule lawyering aside), there is no shortage of mental stimulation … let alone sensory stimulation … at these gaming conventions.

The most recent of these gaming conventions I attended was the mid-June Origins Game Fair, in Columbus, OH. This was my second year making that convention, and I’ve got to say that I somewhat prefer it to the more overwhelming GenCon. There is a bit less spectacle, a bit less overt consumption (you can, for example, actually walk through the exhibit room without colliding into people … usually), and more of an emphasis on just playing fun games.

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