Snapshots from SoonerCon 26

I always plan to do better with my social media at sf conventions than I do. I get involved, and forget to tweet or upload Facebook photo albums. So I thought, “Why not make a blog post from a collection of things I should have posted from SoonerCon 26?”

Wait. What’s SoonerCon 26, you ask? It’s a science fiction convention held in Midwest City, Oklahoma (metro Oklahoma City), that brings together some of the best aspects of literary, media, gaming, comic, and costuming conventions. 

This year’s edition began Thursday, June 22 with a Writers’ Workshop, headed by Workshop Clinician Jody Lynn Nye, and ran through Sunday, June 25, 2017.

Since it is such a multi-focus convention, their theme this year was a nod to a three-ring circus, “Welcome to the Show!” Toastmaster–er, Ringmaster Selina Rosen did full justice to this theme in her Opening Ceremonies performance.

L-R: Jody Lynn NyeLarry NemecekSelina Rosen in Ringmaster garb, Matt Frank, and Todd Haberkorn, at Opening Ceremonies.

As ever, my first stop upon arrival (well, after checking into the hotel and Convention Registration) was the Art Show. It had a larger area this year than in recent past years, but still seemed cramped to me, and the straight-down-from-above lighting was not terribly illuminating for fantasy paper sculptures in shadowboxes or deep mats (too much shadow, not enough art visible). There was a lot of wonderful art on display, however, and despite the crowding it was well worth the look.

Art Guest of Honor Peri Charlifu brought a large and imaginative collection of gorgeous ceramics and prints. Featured Guest Mitchell Bentley also brought a wonderful, colorful display of his astronomical and illustration work, and other attending artists brought a nice variety of interesting work.

My art display at SoonerCon 26

Other highlights of the Art Show for me included a large, new painting in Angela Lowry’s display, two new paintings by Dell Harris, and a lovely display by Hazel Conley. Perennial favorites Sarah ClemensJim Humble, and many others also mailed in artwork to the show, to expand the selection brought by attending artists.

Some of the most magnificent artwork this weekend was wearable, however–remember, one of SoonerCon’s strong areas is costuming. Here’s just a small sampling of the wearable art walking around the Reed Center this weekend.

SoonerCon 26 offered up a nice collection of interesting and thought-provoking panels for attendees of varied interests. These touched on podcasting, comics, film, writing, art, and media (specific discussions geared to fans of individual shows or franchises, including Star TrekStar WarsDr. WhoHarry Potter, and a wide range of others).

The witty committee behind the “Worst Novel Ever,” L-R, seated: Phillip Drayer DuncanVickey Malone Kennedy, Craig WolfTyrell Gephardt, and KC-area fan James Murray. Behind them, standing: Larry Nemecek, facilitator (with microphone) and the unflaggingly-gracious Leonard Bishop.

A pair of wildly funny “SoonerCon @ Midnight” panels assembled a committee of quick-thinking wits and writers (including my son Tyrell Gephardt) to develop the “Worst Novel Ever” (held in the bar, where else?). The next day, a group of equally talented quick-draw artists conspired to create the “Worst Cover Ever” for it. In between gasps of laughter, I could only conclude that convention chairman Leonard Bishop is the “Best Sport Ever.”

Probably my most gratifying moment this weekend was when the couple came up to me after my reading and asked, “Where can we buy your book?” I urged them to watch this blog for further updates, and I’ve been smiling ever since. I hope to have actual news about that very soon!

Literary Guest of Honor Timothy Zahn shared thoughts about his SoonerCon experience at Closing Ceremonies. To his right (our left) Artist Guest of Honor Peri Charlifu, and on the other side Writers Workshop Clinician Jody Lynn Nye attend to his comments.

Most of my panels dealt, not surprisingly, with writing, art, or some combination of the two. Using your creativity for Fun and Profit (focusing on best practices for creative small entrepreneurial businesses) and Imaginary Creatures: Essential to Fantasy? (with panelists from both art and writing backgrounds) definitely touched on both of my art forms.


Ethics and Art focused pretty exclusively on visual-art intellectual property, and the protection of both the creator’s and others’ rights.


Failing Better shone a spotlight on the rejection-fraught lives of writers, and how to deal with setbacks in a way that leaves one (a) not suicidal and (b) better equipped, going forward.

By far the best-attended of my panels, however, was the one titled A Girl is . . . about persistent gender issues, both outside of fandom and within. It quickly became apparent that not all “within fandom” groups are the same, when it comes to views on gender equality. Experiences of younger women–particularly some of those in the online gaming community–reveal we’ve come less far than we’d like to think.

All of these panel discussions struck me as worthy of possible future exploration in blog posts. If you’d like to see one or more, please leave a comment about it.

All too quickly, SoonerCon 26 came to an end. Time to strike the photo-background sets, fold up the tabletop games, and pack the costumes or new T-shirts into suitcases. But I enjoyed it thoroughly, and I’m looking forward to coming back next year, if all goes as planned.

IMAGES: The green header-banner is from SoonerCon’s website. The other photos are my own snapshots, taken by me at SoonerCon 26 (they may be reposted online with an attribution of Jan S. Gephardt as the photographer, and a link back to this post). 

What’s your positive difference?

The Artdog Quote of the Week 

We know Dr. West speaks the truth. We can only do so much on our own, no matter how selflessly we dedicate our lives to making the world a better place.

That “only so much” can amount to a lot, depending on our skills, calling, and opportunities–but save the nation? Save the world? That’s a wider scope than any single human being can compass.

That’s why allies are so important. If we seek to make changes for the better, our efforts are multiplied through work in concert with others. Whatever your cause, whatever the troublement in the world that troubles you most–it troubles others, too.

Find them. Make common cause with them. Work together to create changes that no single person, no matter how influential, can create on his or her own. Not only can “many hands make light work,” but many hands can span a vastly greater distance.

And make a vastly greater difference.

IMAGE: Many thanks to Better World Quotes, from The Emily Fund for a Better World.

A “pawsitive” difference for Hospice patients

The Artdog Image(s) of Interest

This week’s “making a positive difference” (perhaps I should say a “Pawsitive” difference) Image of Interest is drawn from a video. Anyone who has followed this blog for a while has undoubtedly picked up on my love and respect for service animals of all types, but this week’s image is important to me for several reasons.

First, I have a family member whose certified Emotional Support dog has recently become a crucial part of winning her battle with addiction. Second, this week has been especially tough for several of my friends as a mutual acquaintance has gone into Hospice care for the final stage of her life.

I have long been an advocate of animal therapy for a variety of situations. this includes supporting children’s reading with dogs, therapy animals in hospitals and hospice settings, and service animals that assist the disabled, or help those with health issues (diabetes and seizure disorders to name just two) stay on top of their conditions.

Does your pet have the makings of a good therapy animal? Purebred or rescue, critters with the right temperament can make an incredible difference. I hope you’ll find inspiration in this video, which features the work of several different therapy dogs, including Lanie, who’s featured in our photo above.

IMAGE and VIDEO: Both the still photo and the video about San Diego Hospice therapy dog program demonstrate their well-deserved reputation as a “pioneering organization in end-of-life care.” Unfortunately, this program closed in 2016. I’ve chosen to post the images anyway, because they still demonstrate some of the best positive aspects of therapy animal work.

The choice is ours

The Artdog Quote of the Week 

We all know about Jane’s choices. From the very beginning, she took the opportunity to step up, to observe, to think independently, to choose compassion. No one’s perfect, but sometimes they’re the perfect person for a particular job.

Our quotes this month focus on making the world a better place. Jane did, and does, amazing things. She has demonstrated she has the will and the determination to do things that make a massive difference–for chimpanzees, and for people, too.

What opportunities lie open before you? What passions call to you, for your labors of love? What callings ignite your energies to work for a better world?

Say yes to them.

IMAGE: Many thanks to A-Z Quotes for this image!

Cleaning up our act

The Artdog Image(s) of Interest 


Last week’s Image of Interest opened my month’s Image theme of volunteering in our community as a way of making the world a better place. That photo showed kids working in a food pantry. This week it’s a photo from 2011, of the results from a cleanup effort along the Huron River. 

It reminds me of the sequence in the movie Spirited Away, when the Stink Spirit comes to the bath house for a much-needed cleansing . . . and of the aftermath left behind.

Water quality matters–just ask Flint, Michigan. Does your calling lead you to aid efforts that promote water conservation and anti-pollution efforts?

IMAGES: Many thanks to The Ann Arbor News, for the Huron River cleanup photo. I am grateful to Ouno Design for the image from the 2001 movie Spirited Away, from Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli.

What does it take?

The Artdog Quote of the Week

Nelson was onto something, although “making the world a better place” is a massive goal, when we take it in the abstract.

So don’t look at it that way!

Luckily, we don’t need to have godlike powers to make a difference. As our last quote noted, it simply takes acts of kindness (random or otherwise), and the willingness to do something.

So speak up for what’s right. Pay it forward. Be gracious to those around you. Do something nice for someone, just because you can. Support a cause you believe in. Recycle. Think before you talk, or act, or hit send/post/reply. 

It really is in your hands.

IMAGE: Many thanks to The World Food Program’s Pinterest board, “Food for Thought–Inspirational Quotes.”

The value of volunteering

The Artdog Image of Interest 

One of many places where volunteers can make a world of difference is at your local food pantry.

One of the best ways you can make your world a better place is by volunteering in your community. Most places have a wealth of opportunities to volunteer.

Consider: animal shelters; food banks, soup kitchens, or homeless shelters; parks or beaches; libraries; retirement homes, nursing homes, or hospitals; charitable organizations; county elder resources, and many others. Most communities have a volunteer resource coordinator of some sort. Keep looking till you find the best fit for you!

The most amazing thing about volunteering for the betterment of your community is how good it can be for you! Making a difference in someone else’s life is a satisfaction few other pleasures can match.

Haven’t tried it? Consider doing it now!

IMAGE: Many thanks to AdmitSee for this post about the Lion’s Heart program for teens and its post “7 Easy Ways to Volunteer in Your Community.”