The visual essence of SpikeCon

Last week I talked about two of my favorite things to do a science fiction convention, the panels and author readings. But another inescapable aspect of any sf convention is visual. So please join me for one more look back–and around–at the visual essence of SpikeCon.

This is a screen capture of the opening images from the SpikeCon website's homepage. It includes the list of four different conventions that came together in Layton Utah July 4-7, 2019, and shows photos 15 headliner guests, including authors, artists, editors, fans, and others. Many of them did both panels and readings.

Visuals abound at a science fiction convention. Not only in the art show–although the art show at SpikeCon was large and filled with some amazing art. But the visual essence of SpikeCon went beyond the art show.

This photo shows an art show display panel from the SpikeCon Art Show, filled with eight examples of Lucy A. Synk's space art.
Here’s my friend Lucy A. Synk’s display at the SpikeCon Art ShowTy and I acted as her agents at the show.
This photo shows an Art Show display panel at SpikeCon absolutely crammed with 15 matted paper sculptures by Jan S. Gephardt.
You knew you couldn’t escape a photo of my SpikeCon Art Show panel, right? Between the bid sheets, the stories about each piece, and the obligatory postcards advertising my reading from What’s Bred in the Bone, the was barely room for all the paper sculpture!

It also went beyond the ASFA (Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists) Lounge, Art Display, and the presentation of the Chesley Awards, wonderful though those were.

This montage from Changeling Artist Collective shows details from nominated artworks by Collective members. They are (clockwise from upper left): Melissa Gay (paperback/epub nominee); Amanda Makepeace (paperback/epub category winner); Nataša Ilinčić (paperback/epub nominee); Emily Hare (unpublished monochrome nominee); Melissa Gay (unpublished color category winner); and Collective founder Rachel Quinlan (product illustration nominee).
This montage from Changeling Artist Collective shows details from nominated artworks by Collective members. They are (clockwise from upper left): Melissa Gay (paperback/epub nominee); Amanda Makepeace (paperback/epub category winner)Nataša Ilinčić (paperback/epub nominee); Emily Hare (unpublished monochrome nominee); Melissa Gay (unpublished color category winner); and Collective founder Rachel Quinlan (product illustration nominee).

The visual essence of SpikeCon didn’t only consist of the costumes on display, either, although many of them were awesome! Adding to the panoply were many members of The Royal Manticoran Navy in full uniform. They held their MantiCon convention concurrently.

This shows a montage of amazing costumes people wore to SpikeCon. There's a man-sized rabbit marionette-looking thing; a woman dressed as a squirrel, and a samurai warrior with his female companion in her kimono.
I’m indebted to BiteMeTheFilm’s Twitter feed for the montage of wonderful SpikeCon costumes. Unfortunately, I can only positively identify Cerin Takeuchi (in the black-and-white kimono) of all the individuals shown, although I’m guessing that’s budding videographer Chad Volpe in the samurai armor.
Here's a photo of a table manned by three uniformed members of The Royal Manticoran Navy. On the table is a display in support of their charity, Big Cat Rescue of Tampa, FL.
I’m once again indebted to an unidentified photographer who posted this photo of one of The Royal Manticoran Navy’s tables (from the MantiCon Facebook page), this one featuring a display in support of Big Cat Rescue of Tampa, FL. Manticoran Navy members pictured are Bill Knight, Dakota Ferris, and Rob Clevenger, although I’m sorry to say I don’t know which is which.

Nor did the visual essence of SpikeCon only consist of the distinctive Davis Conference Center, although from the Eye of Sauron-style entrance throughout the unique interior, it added its own signature to the event.

The blogger took this photo of the entrance to the Davis Conference Center at dusk on July 3, 2019. She thought the tall structures on either side of the entrance looked like a scene from the fantasy work of J.R.R. Tolkein, Sauron's Tower.
The unique style of the Davis Conference Center in Layton, Utah, added its own signature to the visual essence of SpikeConSee hallways in several photos in this post, as well as the unusual wall decorations behind 
 The Royal Manticoran Navy’s table in the photo above this one. I took this photo on July 3, 2019, when we were setting up the Art Show. Can you blame this geek girl for looking at the entrance and immediately flashing on the Eye of Sauron?

The visual essence of SpikeCon was more than the sum of its many interesting parts. I hope you’ve enjoyed taking one more look back with me at what was for me an extremely enjoyable convention.

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to SpikeCon’s homepage for the graphic gestalt of when, where, and who were headliner guests; to Google Image Search and Changeling Artist Collective for the Chesley Awards montage; and to BiteMeTheFilm’s Twitter feed for the montage of costumes that offers a small, tantalizing taste of the amazing creations that wandered the halls. Also thanks to MantiCon’s Facebook Page for the photo of one of the Royal Manticoran Navy table and display supporting Big Cat Rescue of Tampa FL. All other photos were taken by me, Jan S. Gephardt, with permissions as needed. If you wish to re-post any, please include an attribution to me as the photographer, and a link back to this post. Thanks!

Still time to create a better world

The Artdog Quote-Pairing of the Week 

This image is a typographical rendering of an Audrey Hepburn quote, "Nothing is impossible. The word itself says 'I'm possible.'"
This is a combined image: a photo of a bamboo forest from the viewpoint of a camera pointed straight up frames a quote-image from Phil Harding: "What if we are wrong about climate change and we create a better world for nothing?"

Enough naysayers persist in positions of power to dangerously impede efforts to mitigate climate change. Most insist nothing is wrong with the world. Others claim it’s impossible to do anything

But “impossible” is what the unimaginative tend to call the problem we haven’t yet solved.

One of the most useful things we can do for our future is work hard to vote all of the former out of office. The other thing we must figure out is how to ensure that the second group (the “impossibles”) were too pessimistic. God help us all if they’re right, but meanwhile it’s our responsibility to build a better world.

I kicked off last month with a video about climate change refugees. It featured a call to proactive action. This month, I’ve been pairing quotes about being proactive in one’s life with quotes about climate change. If we resolve there’s still time to create a better world, then we also must resolve to try!

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to Faster-To-Master’s “Growth-mindset quotes” page, for the quote from Audrey Hepburn. I also appreciate the two sources I accessed to create the Phil Harding quote-image. They are Phil Harding’s own website, which provided the quote (Ref. 91f), and AliExpress, which provided the cool view of a bamboo forest looking straight up. Note the reference image is the same bamboo forest picture, without the superimposed quote.

Are you feeling it yet?

The Artdog Image(s) of Interest

Are you feeling it yet? I don’t think anyone in the world lives a charmed enough life to avoid bumping up against the effects of climate change in recent years. No matter how hard they close their eyes, cover their ears, and try to make it go away by ignoring it.

My montage of four photos showing dramatic aspects of climate change is titled "are you feeling it yet?"
Are you feeling it yet? The signs are all around us (photo credits below).

Are you feeling it yet? In my area recently we’ve been feeling it in the form of extreme weather,from historic flooding to a recently-broken heat wave that blanketed well beyond half the USA in feels-like-triple-digits humid misery

Are you feeling it yet? Earlier this year it was more wildfires in the mountain west, although we might miss a super-violent hurricane season (had enough of those lately, thanks!). Unfortunately that doesn’t mean sea-level rise is slowing down. Just the opposite: it’s speeding up!

Are you feeling it yet? Sorry to say, we all are. What steps are you taking to fight it? The future will never forgive us if we give up now.

IMAGE CREDITS: I created a montage of four representative photos for today’s post. I am grateful for them to the following, clockwise from upper left: Youth climate change protesters photographed by Gary Calton for The Observer, as posted online by The Guardian; a storm flooding Prince Edward Island‘s Oyster Bed Bridge, as photographed by Don Jardine and published online by Maclean’s; insanely hot weather blisters an unnamed city in a photo by Ralph Freso of Getty Images, published online by Grist; and the Maryland Climate Coalition stages a protest in a photo credited to them and published in online by Public News Service.

Panels and readings at SpikeCon

Panels and readings are among my favorite things to do at science fiction conventions

This is a screen capture of the opening images from the SpikeCon website's homepage. It includes the list of four different conventions that came together in Layton Utah July 4-7, 2019, and shows photos 15 headliner guests, including authors, artists, editors, fans, and others. Many of them did both panels and readings.

Yes, I know this makes me “sercon” (oldstyle fan-speak for “too serious to be any fun”). But I’ve decided I’m just gonna have to “own it.” Diss me if you must, but I like going to panels and readings where I can get new ideas and listen to interesting stories more than I like going to parties where I can’t hear what anyone is saying and most of the people are drunk.

This is the "Editing vs. Beta Reading" panel at SpikeCon. Yes, there is a massive difference, and it was well explored by the panelists. They are, L-R: Multimedia author Dan Wells, Headliner Editor Susan Chang, freelance editor Melissa Meibos, author C.H. Hung, and author/freelance editor Joe Monson.
This is the “Editing vs. Beta Reading” panel at SpikeCon. Yes, there is a massive difference, and it was well explored by the panelists. They are, L-R: Multimedia author Dan WellsHeadliner Editor Susan Changfreelance editor Melissa Meibosauthor C.H. Hung, and author/freelance editor Joe Monson.

I’m happy to report that there were some excellent panels and readings at SpikeCon this year. As I sometimes do, I discovered that I kept bumping into some of the same interesting people over and over at this convention. Of course, that’s partially because many of us have similar interests, and partially because, although some 1,100 memberships were sold to SpikeCon, for a variety of reasons only about 850 people showed up.

The "Privilege and Passing in Genre Fiction" panel at SpikeCon provided a lively and informative discussion of the ways in which characters in our genres reflect (or sometimes misrepresent) issues faced by many people in real life. The knowledgeable and wise panelists are, L-R: Inez Aguilar R., Aften Brook Szymanski, Jayrod P. Garrett, C.H. Hung, and B. Daniel Blatt.
The “Privilege and Passing in Genre Fiction” panel at SpikeCon provided a lively and informative discussion of the ways in which characters in our genres reflect (or sometimes misrepresent) issues faced by many people in real life. The knowledgeable and wise panelists are, L-R: Inez Aguilar R.Aften Brook SzymanskiJayrod P. Garrett, C.H. Hung, and B. Daniel Blatt.

This explains why several of the people in some these pictures are the same people as the ones in other pictures! In fact, the identical same group was scheduled together for two different panels I attended. Lucky for their growing group of devoted followers, they had a range of different things to say each time.

Here's the "Write What You Don't Know" panel at SpikeCon, and no, your eyes do not deceive you. This is the exact same group of panelists from the picture above. Some of them traded seats just to mess with us. But they were every bit as wise and interesting when they talked about doing your research and seeking new understandings as they were on the previous panel. For the record, they are, L-R: Aften Brook Szymanski, C.H. Hung, Jayrod P. Garrett, Inez Aguilar R., and B. Daniel Blatt.
Here’s the “Write What You Don’t Know” panel at SpikeCon, and no, your eyes do not deceive you. This is the exact same group of panelists from the picture above. Some of them traded seats just to mess with us. But they were every bit as wise and interesting when they talked about doing your research and seeking new understandings as they were on the previous panel. For the record, they are, L-R: Aften Brook SzymanskiC.H. HungJayrod P. GarrettInez Aguilar R., and B. Daniel Blatt. 
This was possibly the most valuable panel I attended at SpikeCon."After the Action" discussed the trauma writers inflict on their characters in terms of realism in fiction and the effects of trauma on real people. The discussion also quickly ranged into the effect of our fiction on real people--our readers, who may themselves be trauma survivors or have loved ones or associates who are. The uniquely qualified panelists are: L-R: Amy White, an author, librarian, and puppeteer with a trauma survivor in her family; Retired Marine Col. Jonathan P. Brazee, prolific author of military sf; psychologists and social workers Cerin Takeuchi and Anna Marasco; and author and sworn law enforcement officer Griffin Barber.
This was possibly the most valuable panel I attended at SpikeCon.”After the Action” discussed the trauma writers inflict on their characters in terms of realism in fiction and the effects of trauma on real people. The discussion also quickly ranged into the effect of our fiction on real people–our readers, who may themselves be trauma survivors or have loved ones or associates who are. The uniquely qualified panelists are: L-R: Amy White, an author, librarian, and puppeteer with a trauma survivor in her family; Retired Marine Col. Jonathan P. Brazee, prolific author of military sf; psychologists and social workers Cerin Takeuchi and Anna Marasco; and author and sworn law enforcement officer Griffin Barber.

I was on several panels, myself, but you’ll notice they aren’t featured here. I don’t have pictures of panels I was on, or of my reading at SpikeCon (though it was gratifyingly well-attended! Thank you!!).

I may not have a picture from my own reading at SpikeCon, but I did get photos of the authors who read before and after me. Mike Substelny, L, read his as-yet-unpublished but wildly funny and satisfying time travel story, "Plan Madison."
At R, Erika Kuta Marler read a story from an anthology in the Eden's Outcast universe.
may not have a picture from my own reading at SpikeCon, but I did get photos of the authors who read before and after me. Mike Substelny, L, read his as-yet-unpublished but wildly funny and satisfying time travel story, “Plan Madison.”
At R, Erika Kuta Marler read a story from an anthology in the Eden’s Outcast universe.

This is largely because it’s hard to photograph oneself in such situationsTyrell Gephardt, my son and regular convention partner who usually photographs my events when possible, was almost invariably scheduled on his own panels at the same times. 

But trust me. They were brilliant. And there’s always a chance the topics of some of those panels and readings will turn up someday as the subjects of blog posts in the future.

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to SpikeCon’s homepage for the graphic gestalt of when, where, and who were headliner guests. All other photos in this post were taken by me, Jan S. Gephardt, with the permission of their subjects. If you wish to re-post or use them, please include an attribution to me as the photographer, and if possible include a link back to this page. Thanks!

We have to try

The Artdog Quote-Pairing of the Week

This quote from Theodore Roosevelt says, "It is hard to fail but wore never to have tried to succeed."

The task is immense. The stakes couldn’t be higher. Our rainforests have often been called the “lungs of the Earth.” But they’re disappearing in literal clouds of smoke. Or in caravans of logging trucks. Or they’re being mined, unsustainably replaced, dried out, and otherwise destroyed at a truly devastating rate. It won’t be easy to reverse that trend, but we have to try.

Rainforests, like coral reefs, are extremely valuable to our planet’s survival. There are things we can do to help save them. But we must do them now!

I kicked off last month with a video about climate change refugees. It featured a call to proactive action. This month, I’m pairing quotes about being proactive in one’s life with quotes about climate change. It’s not too late to mitigate the effects–we must resolve to try!

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to Faster-To-Master’s “Growth-mindset quotes” page, for the quote from Theodore Roosevelt, and to The World Counts, for the informational graphic about rainforest loss. Many thanks also to Skyrail Rainforest Foundation, for the featured image.

Apocalyptic vision?

The Artdog Image of Interest

We don’t have to suffer all the disasters to discover we must run for our lives. It only takes one. But the apocalyptic vision in this week’s Image of interest evokes a range of them.

Sean McCabe’s illustration (originally created for Rolling Stone) emphasizes his point with images that call to mind hurricanes, fires and floods. Climate change not only is real, but it’s displacing more and more of us. We owe it to ourselves to act now, before this apocalyptic vision turns to reality even more than it already has.

This photo illustration by Sean McCabe for Rolling Stone uses a variety of photographic images to evoke hurricanes, fires, and floods in an apocalyptic vision of cars in a bumper-to-bumper race to escape a city being destroyed by climate disasters.

ILLUSTRATION CREDIT: Many, many thanks to Sean McCabe and Rolling Stone, for this apocalyptic evocation of the devastation that can lead to displacement of climate refugees.

Where are we?

Setting is a crucial part of any story. Answering the question, “Where are we?” in a satisfactory way is essential, both in life and in fiction. I’ve blogged about maps and their importance to fictional worlds in a previous post, but I’ve once again been thinking about them a lot, recently

In my post “Welcome to Rana Station,” I introduced the environment for the fictional world of my “XK9 novels.” But that post only began to open the door a little bit on the world I’ve been working to create

Here's a view of a 3D model I made to help me visualize scale and sight lines on my fictional Rana Habitat Space Station.
I used printouts to scale from Google Maps, glued to a curving “1/4-torus” model in 2017. Each piece was a map of a location I knew well from real life. It was an attempt to visualize size, scale, and sight lines on Rana Station.

The lives of my characters unfold in a very particular series of settings, each with distinctive geographical features. To answer the “where are we?” question–to make these settings come alive in my readers’ minds–this writer needs to envision them in rather specific detail.

This colorful 3D model ultimately didn't provide a good model of terraces and drainage on Rana, but it was helpful to test the idea.
Here’s another 3D model, which I subsequently abandoned for a number of reasons. But it gave me a bit more of a feel for how the terraces might lie in relationship to each other, and what kind of drainage patterns might develop.

That means I have to make a map. Actually, it means lots and lots of maps, of varying things at varying scales, for varying purposesRoad mapstransit mapsmaps of Corona Tower’s layout and crops, maps of the local parksfloor plans, and more.

This is a 2D map of how residence towers and crop layouts might look on one of Precinct 9's terraces, with a rim-road and double maglev track.
This is a 2D map of how I thought residence towers and crop layouts might look, on one of Precinct 9’s agricultural terraces. The horizontal shapes in the lower part of the map represent a two-lane rim road with a sidewalk next to the crop rows and raised beds, a protective berm at the rim, and double maglev track on a level several meters below the lip of the cliff-like primary terrace.

Each new scene or setting demands its own answer to “Where are we?”

This picture consists of three, 2D park space drawings. The one on the left includes a soccer field, the middle one includes four tennis courts, and the one on the right includes a playground and two tennis courts.
As part of my efforts to figure out how the parks could have been laid out in the spaces alongside the transit switchbacks I describe in the books as connecting primary terraces, I designed several different park spaces. I envisioned the parks with multiple elevations, paralleling the switchbacks.

Of course, no paper sculptor is going to think of maps purely in terms of two dimensions. I needed to add 3D elevation, to make sure the terraces, stairs, ramps, and switchbacks would work as I envisioned them. In some cases, I found that they did. In others? Not so much!

This is a 3D model made to help figure out how the switchbacks between primary terraces on Rana Station might look.
I made this 3D model in an effort to figure out how the switchbacks between primary terraces on Rana Station might look.

Figuring out exactly how Rana Station works has produced a long series of maps and 3D models, over the course of years. Some worked better than others. Some, I’ve abandoned altogether. And some, like the three little “Park Sections” I put on my Art Show panel at SpikeCon, I’ve subsequently had matted and displayed as art.

Here's the Four-Tennis-Court and Terraced Lawn Space 3D model, developed from a 2D map drawing.
Here’s the Four-Tennis-Court and Terraced Lawn Space 3D model, developed from a 2D map drawing. With matting help from my husband Pascal and our friend Randal Spangler, I prepared them for display at SpikeCon this month.
This is the Fútbol Park Space 3D model, developed from a 2D map drawing.
This is the Fútbol Park Space 3D model, developed from a 2D map drawing. With matting help from my husband Pascal and our friend Randal Spangler, I prepared them for display at SpikeCon this month.
This is my Playground and Tennis-Court Park Space 3D model that I developed from a 2D map drawing.
This is my Playground and Tennis-Court Park Space 3D model that I developed from a 2D map drawing. With matting help from my husband Pascal and our friend Randal Spangler, I prepared them for display at SpikeCon this month.
This is a photo of Jan S. Gephardt's art show display panel at SpikeCon in July 2019, featuring her paper sculpture
This is a photo of my Art Show display panel at SpikeCon in July 2019, featuring her paper sculpture, including the three “Park Space” models, near the center of the display.

This mapping and modeling process is far from over. The “Where are we?” questions continue to develop.

IMAGES: All the photos in this post were taken by me, Jan S. Gephardt, of my own models, maps, and 2019 SpikeCon Art Show panel. If you wish to use or re-post any of them, please do me the courtesy of an acknowledgement and a link back to this post. Thanks!

Ailing coral reefs matter

The Artdog  Quote-Pairing of the Week 

The image shows a quote from Leo Babauta, "Do what matters, now," and an hourglass that's running out of sand at the top.
This informational image is a photo of a boat on the water, and the words: "Coral reefs are disappearing twice as fast as the rainforest. About one fifth of the world's coral reefs has already been lost or severely damaged. Another 35% could be lost within 10-40 years."

If we’re not worried about the world’s ailing coral reefs, we’re fooling ourselves. Coral reefs are not only vital to our oceans, but there are important things we can do to help them.

I kicked off last month with a video about climate change refugees. It featured a call to proactive action. This month, I’m pairing quotes about being proactive in one’s life with quotes about climate change. It’s not too late to mitigate the effects–including helping bring our world’s ailing coral reefs back to health.

Let’s do what matters–and coral reefs matter. We must act now.

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to Quotabulary’s “Quotes about being proactive” page and Buzzle for the illustrated quote from Leo Babauta, and to The World Counts for  the informational image about the decline of the world’s coral reefs.

No casual snapshot

The Artdog Image of Interest

Because who doesn’t love a great mountain picture in mid-July, this is an image from National Geographic. Do you recognize the mountain?

This photograph is no casual snapshot. It shows a breathtaking 360-degree view of a tall, pointy mountain in the middle of a snowy mountain range.

If you said “Everest!” you’re right. This actually isn’t one picture, however. It’s 26. And it’s no casual snapshot.  

Photographer Renan Ozturk prepared for eight months. Then he and his team trekked high into “bring your own oxygen or you will die” territory to launch a specially-modified drone.

This high-altitude photog and his even-higher-altitude drone achieved the amazing feat of a 360-degree panorama (if you join the left and right edges of the picture together, they match), and it was a nail-biter to the bitterly cold end.

Not only has Everest been a particularly deadly mountain to attempt this year, but the intense cold at that altitude was a battery-killer, too. Ozturk had at most 15 minutes of flight-time . . . and that’s if the wind cooperated. Which it almost never did. He and his team racked up a lot of failed tries before they nailed it. 

The words "Perseverance: if at first you don't succeed, try, try again" are reversed in white on a royal blue background in this image.

This is how the pros make it look easy. You thought this was just a beautiful mountain picture at first, didn’t you? 

Eight months. 

Bitter cold. 

Technical innovation. 

The Death Zone, for pity’s sake!

So, next time you’re embarked on a creative journey and start getting discouraged, remember Renan Ozturk! (and don’t forget your oxygen). 

IMAGE CREDIT: All honor, reverence, and awe are due to the intrepid Renan Ozturk and his intrepid team, on assignment for National Geographic, for this astounding image! Dude, you are amazing!

I also want to thank MEME for the, um, meme.

What’s holding you back?

The Artdog Quote-Pairing of the Week

This is a dark red square with the quote: "The best way to predict your future is to create it." by Stephen Covey
This image is an informational graphic from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. It says: "Climate Change is a health threat. Rising temperatures lead to longer allergy seasons and can make air pollution worse. This can increase the risk and severity of asthma attacks and cause more allergies."


While we’re creating our future, why not take pains to create the best one possible?
 Who would choose more and worse asthma and allergies? We still can do many things to mitigate the effects of climate change. What’s holding you back?

I kicked off last month with a video about climate change refugees. It featured a call to proactive action. This month, I’m pairing quotes about being proactive in one’s life with quotes about climate change. It’s not too late to mitigate the effects

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to Kirk Weisler for the Stephen Covey quote, and to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America for the facts on our breathing future if we don’t act now! Many thanks also to Patch, of Tampa, FL, for the Featured image illustration.