By Jan S. Gephardt

I’ll spare you the Charles Dickens opening line, but DemiCon 33 Weekend really was the best and worst time I’ve had at a convention in ages. Regular followers of this blog have already figured out that I came home from it with a bad cold.

No, it wasn’t classic “con crud.” That’s some new thing you contract at a convention, when you encounter something your immune system can’t fight (possibly because you partied for several nights in a row). I came to DemiCon 33 with a scratchy throat, desperately hoping it would go away. It didn’t. Among other things, that really cut into the partying (like, ended it before it began).

I stayed masked, did my best to socially distance, and I washed my hands a lot. Since my son Tyrell Gephardt and I were teamed up for all our panels, I “let” Ty do most of the talking (for once – like I had a choice!). And I hope to God I didn’t become a vector of con crud to anyone else! It really was the worst I remember feeling at a science fiction convention, ever. But when you’re that far from home and you’re part of the program, you do your best.

Demicon 33’s welcome table.
The welcome table by the front door offered new arrivals information about DemiCon 33 and some of its features, as well as free face masks and hand sanitizer. (5/6/22 photo by author).

DemiCon 33 Was the “Best Time” Part

It’s really a pity and a waste that I was sick, because DemiCon 33 itself was awesome. The con committee did everything they could to welcome people back to con-going safely. Everybody seemed really happy to be there (that I saw), and they were all very warm and welcoming. A longtime friend gave me a tin of mints when I ran out of throat lozenges.

I took pictures in the hallways before they got really full. That was partly out of respect for people’s privacy, and partly because I tried to avoid crowds (or at least stay distant from them). I wasn’t coughing too much (and I was masked) at Opening Ceremonies, but after that I kept a lower profile. Don’t imagine from my photos that no one came, however. They did, and many of them were absolutely fabulous in their hall costumes.

But at a convention where one of the first people I met was a young person handing out “In Science We Trust” badge ribbons, people were (mostly) taking sensible precautions. Part of what makes this year a contrast of the best and worst time is that we’re all really lonely for a good “fhannish” get-together with each other, but we know we have to be careful.

Two hall costumes and a display-model T.A.R.D.I.S. from “Dr. Who.”
Fender Jack (AKA Corey) and Spencer the Klingon model their costumes outside the Missouri Room on the lower level of the convention hotel. Upstairs, a mock-up of Dr. Who’s T.A.R.D.I.S. stood by the front door across from the welcome table at DemiCon 33. (5/6-7/22 photos by author).

The Art Show

The DemiCon Art Show had a new crew at the helm, bringing the operation more fully into the 21st century via electronic record-keeping. They overcame tech glitches at the beginning. But I’m sure they fought for most of the weekend with the hotel’s less-than-stellar Internet service. Why do convention hotels so rarely provide good Internet?

The overall quality of the artwork I saw was outstanding. One of the best, in my opinion, was the wearable art piece called Dandy Lion. I didn’t get to the Masquerade, so I don’t know if it was entered there, but it’s a genuine piece of artwork all on its own.

I saw new work from longtime art show favorites Sarah Clemens and Theresa Mather, and I was impressed by the excellent craftsmanship and creative range of “Random Fandom.My own display was small compared to some in the past, but I’ve been busy with a lot of non-paper-sculpture work (writing, blogging and working on Weird Sisters Publishing  projects) during the Pandemic.

Jan’s DemiCon 33 paper sculpture display and a closer view of the mini-3D maps on the display table.
My paper sculpture display was small compared to some in the past that took up several panels, but I recently discovered that the mini-3D maps display much better lying flat, so I was glad for the corner of the table. (5/6/22 photos by author).

The Best and Worst of Panel Experiences

Ty and I were Team Gephardt at our panels – they scheduled us together for all three, and that was it. Just us. I had the best and worst time there, too. Best, because Ty is fun to partner with on a panel. He’s witty, well-spoken, and knowledgeable. Plus, we had excellent, (relatively) large, and very interactive audiences. That always makes it more fun.

But it was the worst, because the longer into the convention we went, the less voice and energy I had. I could croak a few thoughts, but Ty carried them, especially on Saturday. We were prepared, however. From the time we’d received our schedule, we’d been thinking about our topics. Then we put our heads together to find common themes, suggest possible lines of discussion, and make notes we could share in common.

Topics ran a pretty wide gamut. On Friday night, when I still had something of a voice, we led a very well-read and engaged audience in an “If This, then What?” set of adventures in alternate history. By Saturday, when it was time for “Smoke and Mirrors Steampunk,” I could still talk, as long as I kept it short (a great trial, to be sure!). And I had begun to sound like a foghorn. It’s a good thing Ty knows his Steampunk. Someday we’ll have to do a joint blog post on the sticky ethical wickets this subgenre presents, and its clouded future.

Photos of Jan at ConQuesT in Kansas City (in 1985 and 2012), plus at Archon 43 (2019).
I’ve been going to conventions for quite a while, and participating in panels almost as long. But I don’t think I’ve ever been completely unable to participate on a panel or reading before. (See credits and panelist identifications below).

As Saturday Waned, So did my Voice

I got a respite for my voice – and a chance to do one of my favorite “con things,” attend another author’s reading – after the Steampunk panel. Adam Stemple writes in an amazing range of genres, including horror, literary fiction, and heroic fantasy. Adam set up his three books on How to Write Fantasy Novels, then read completely other things: The Boy from Buanfar, Werewolf Elegy, and a great piece of character development from Galloch, second in the Mika Barehand Trilogy. Wonderful, funny, engaging stuff. Highly recommended!

By Saturday evening’s “What are an Artist’s Rights Online?” panel, I could say only about one word to every four to ten of Ty’s. But we had a good, sound outline, resources at need, and he is well-versed on many nuances of this topic. The audience was a little smaller, but they were interested and had great questions, which I’m happy to say that Ty answered very well.

Finally it was time for my long-anticipated reading. A straight hour of nothing but XK9s and me. I was doomed! Except, I wasn’t. It was the worst and best of times at a reading. Worst, because I could barely speak. Best, because good ol’ Ty came to my rescue yet again. He did an outstanding cold reading of What’s Bred in the Bone Chapter One, “A Walk in the Park.” If you’d like to see what he read, click here or on the Chapter title.

Adam Stemple reads at DemiCon 33.
Author and writing guru Adam Stemple read from several of his works, while displaying his How to Write Fantasy Novels series. (5/7/22 photo by author).

Yes it was the best and worst of times at a convention for me. But Demicon 33 itself was 100% awesome!

IMAGE CREDITS

I (Jan S. Gephardt) took all the photos used in this post, except those noted below. They were taken during DemiCon 33, May 6-7, 2022. Where people are shown, they gave me permission before I clicked the shutter. I particularly wish to thank Fender Jack (AKA Corey) and Spencer the Klingon for allowing me to photograph their costumes, and Adam Stemple for allowing me to photograph him during his excellent reading.

I don’t think I was ever sure who took the “historical documents” that show me at ConQuesT, but I can identify my fellow panelists. In the 1985 photo they are L-R: Dell Harris, Ken Keller, me, and the late Roland Schmidt, my former co-teacher and a fantasy watercolorist. BTW, that’s my calligraphy on the name cards, done back before desktop publishing made them easy to print.

In the 2012 photo that’s me on the left. Tracy S. Morris sits in the middle with her book Bride of Tranquility. At the right is fellow Kansas City writer, artist, and longtime sf fan Sherri Dean.

Finally, I owe Tyrell Gephardt thanks for photo of me at Archon 43 in 2019, preparing to do a reading. And most of all, I owe him an unending thank you for all he did to make the best and worst time I ever had at a DemiCon an overall positive memory!