Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Tag: Soonercon

Jan S. Gephardt at Archon 44, with signs advertising Weird Sisters Publishing titles.

Authors of Archon 44

By Jan S. Gephardt

Last week I wrote about the artists. Now it’s time to write about the authors of Archon 44. Followers of this blog know that I recently attended Archon 44. As the “44” at the end indicates, this is a science fiction convention with a long history in the St. Louis metropolitan area. Their most recent venue is the Gateway Convention Center in Collinsville, IL.

My focus at conventions is mostly split between artists and authors. I had a shiny new book to promote, of course, with A Bone to Pick. Stranger to realize: because of Covid, The Other Side of Fear was also “new” at Archon 44. I’m happy to say I sold several of each!

Covers of “The Other Side of Fear,” “What’s Bred in the Bone,” and “A Bone to Pick.”
Jan’s XK9 books in story-chronology order, L-R: The Other Side of Fear, cover ©2020 by Lucy A. Synk; What’s Bred in the Bone, cover ©2019 by Jody A. Lee; and A Bone to Pick, cover ©2020 by Jody A. Lee. (Weird Sisters Publishing LLC).

As an old-school, fan-run regional science fiction convention, the Archon folks offer a full range of “phannish” diversions. There were a vigorous gaming presence, plus many filkers (sf/fantasy music composers and performers), filmmakers, podcasters, and others, along with the artists and authors of Archon 44. The hall costumes came out in force, as usual (See my 2018 and 2019 posts about them).

Panel Discussions with the Authors of Archon 44

Making sure I’m ready for my own scheduled panels (as well as the Art Show) is my top priority at any convention I attend. As I see it, panels are part of the reason people come. That means we panelists are an important part of the “entertainment”—an important element in the convention’s overall success. That’s why many sf cons comp the memberships of attending creatives who agree to be on panels.

But at most conventions there’s also some “downtime” between panel appearances. That’s go-to-the-Art-Show and Dealer’s Room time. It’s wander-the-convention-and-take-pictures time. And it’s go-to-other-people’s-panels time. But Programming kept me really busy this year. I asked for it, so I’m not complaining! I also had my usual stuff to carry, plus a cane (a reluctant but helpful concession). It made the logistics of photography harder.

Jan S. Gephardt with signs advertising Weird Sisters Publishing titles.
Here I am, complete with mask, signs, and S.W.A.G.: just one of the authors of Archon 44. (Tyrell E. Gephardt).

Developing Your Creative Brand

I had a couple of panels with other authors of Archon 44 on Friday, in addition to the art-oriented panel I wrote about last week. The first one, “Developing Your Creative Brand,” certainly could just as well have included artists, as well as filkers, podcasters, costumers, and more. But as it turned out, it was just two other writers and me—as well as a small but engaged audience. The other two writers, Cole Gibsen and Brian Katcher, each occupy a somewhat different YA niche.

Cole’s Experience

Cole, who was our moderator for this panel, has written YA and Romance, but her most recent book, Risen, published in 2018. It is the first and so far only one in Blood Eternal vampire series—but there’s a reason for that. She’s a dog trainer as well as a writer, and the vast majority of her time these days is taken up with her nonprofit, Got Your Six PTSD Support Dogs. That seems to be her greatest passion these days, and it’s where she’s invested most of her brand-building efforts.

Cole Gibsen’s author photo; book covers for “Written on My Heart,” “Life Unaware,” “Seared on My Soul,” and “Risen;” and the logo for her nonprofit, Got Your Six PTSD Support Dogs.
Author and dog trainer Cole Gibsen has written several YA Romance books and started a vampire series called Blood Eternal (Book One is Risen). But her current passion seems mostly focused on her nonprofit, Got Your Six PTSD Support Dogs. (Goodreads; Cole’s Amazon Author Page; Got Your Six on Facebook).

Brian’s Experience

Brian Katcher, similarly, has written a number of books, all in the YA field. He’s a librarian in his “day job,” and recently his kids began to age into his audience demographic. He’s been circling around the “contemporary YA” identity for a while. He tested the waters in YA science fiction with Everyone Dies in the End.

His most acclaim came for his book Almost Perfect, about a high school boy in a small Missouri town who falls in love with the new girl (who turns out to be transgender). It won a Stonewall Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature in 2011, but it also caught some backlash later. Brian has written about his experience for this blog. Watch for it in November!

Covers for Brian Katcher’s books “Playing with Matches,” “Almost Perfect,” “Everyone Dies in the End,” “Deacon Locke Went to Prom,” and “The Improbable theory of Ana & Zak.” Also Brian’s picture.

It’s Never Too Late: Becoming a Successful Writer After 50

This was originally conceived as a “solo” event, a talk by Author Guest of Honor Alma Katsu. She convinced the Programming folks to open it up to additional “mature” authors of Archon 44. They reached out to several of us, which is how I ended up as the moderator.

Alma was right. We had a “deep bench” when it came to writers who are achieving success after age 50. Our conversation explored the reasons why we delayed our assorted launches into writing. Most came down to needing to earn a living while learning the craft and rearing children, which is certainly my story.

Alma Katsu at a book signing, and her “Taker” Trilogy.
This photo of Alma Katsu was used for her Archon 44 Guest of Honor photo. Her “Taker” Trilogy melded paranormal, historical, and romantic elements. Since then, she has focused mostly on historical fiction, with paranormal elements mixed in. (Goodreads; Amazon).

The Inevitable Question

We also had a chance to address the inevitable question, “if you were so talented and dedicated to your craft, why didn’t you start earlier?” I, for one, enjoyed calling out the entitlement and privilege that underlies the question. As if, of course, it’s that straightforward. As if, of course, everyone else in your life would be perfectly willing and able to support you until the literary world recognized your brilliance. And as if, of course, a true genius can only be devoted to one art.

So many fallacies! So little time! It was good to have a chance to stick pins in them. Not entirely surprisingly, all the panelists were women (imagine that), although men certainly can be subject to the same delays and issues.

Here’s a look at my other co-panelists. I’ve included a bit about their work in the cutlines.

Deborah Millitello, with her fantasy “Baramayan Chronicles” books “Mourning Dove” and “The Wizard and the Warrior.”
I discovered that Deborah Millitello is somewhat elusive online, but I found an author photo and a fantasy duo, the “Baramayan Chronicles.” (Word Posse, Amazon, and Amazon).
Lettie Prell with covers for “The Three Lives of Sonata James” and “Dragon Ring.”
Author Lettie Prell is best known recently for her wonderful short fiction, much of which is available online, some for free. Her novella The Three Lives of Sonata James is available as an ebook. So is her only novel to date, Dragon Ring. (Amazon, Lettie’s website, and Amazon).
Rachel Neumeier with Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and two 3-book series from her prolific collection: The “Tuyo” series and the “Death’s Lady” series.
Originally a botanist, Rachel Neumeier now writes Young Adult fantasy novels, raises and shows dogs, and works as a tutor. She has written numerous books. Among the most recent are her three-book “Tuyo”(at left) and “Death’s Lady” (at right) series. (Amazon, Rachel’s website, and Amazon).

The Space Races

Saturday’s panels started with one I’d really been looking forward to. The introduction to “The Space Races” read: “Some stories have mankind becoming more and more homogenous until race is no longer an issue. Others have racial, religious and other groups all heading off to colonize their own ‘home planet.’ Which do we think is more likely, and are there positive aspects to both systems?”

Anyone who’s read my work knows I am pulling for a diverse future, based on the understanding that a diverse system (of any sort) is more resilient. In every age, the centers where different people from different backgrounds have been able to come together (ideally, mostly in peace) are the most vibrant, creative, and prosperous. I was all ready to pour cold water on the idea that “divide or homogenize” are our only choices.

Alternative Views

Unfortunately, I didn’t find much backing for my idea among other authors of Archon 44. Rachel Neumeier, one of our panelists, took an evolutionary genetics point of view. She wasn’t interested in cultures, so much as biology. We’ll either inevitably homogenize or break into multiple sub-species variants, was essentially her take.

The other two panelists, Grant Carrington and Adrian “A. J.” Matthews, pretty much fell in with the “we’ll self-segregate” philosophy. Their predictions seem based on the idea that most people prefer to be comfortable, and differences make us uncomfortable. Therefore, if we make it to space, we’ll settle in our own little separate places, our “segregated neighborhoods” and “gated communities.” I’d love to think we’ve learned better, but contemporary trends do seem to make my take look too optimistic.

Covers for Grant Carrington’s “Down in the Barraque,”Time’s Fool,” and “Annapolis to Andromeda.” Also, a photo of Grant playing guitar by a microphone.
Author Grant Carrington has been publishing short science fiction since at least 1971. Meanwhile, he pursued a career as a computer programmer for Goddard Space Flight Center and other academic, corporate, and government entities. He also sings and plays guitar. His three books are widely available from Brief Candle Press. (Amazon).
The 5-book Veronica Nash series starts with “A Dangerous Quality.” Adrian “A. J.” Matthews wrote them.
The writer behind the 5-book Veronica Nash historical fiction murder mystery series. Adrian “A. J.” Matthews hails from Britain, but he currently lives in Ohio. (Amazon; Archon 43).

Sustainable Creativity

Once again, this topic could have been addressed by creatives in any field, but the folks on the panel were all (except for me) there solely as authors at Archon 44. Meg Elison and Christine Amsden rounded out the panel. The prompt for the panel said: “Maintaining a creative routine during life’s interruptions, whether big or small.”

As the moderator, I had imagined we might talk about some of the issues involved in remaining creative during Covid lockdowns, but lockdown was a topic everyone else wanted to put in the rearview—and then floor it, looking straight ahead.

Christine, who is legally blind, talked about the digital tools she uses to deal with her disability. We discussed more timeless issues for remaining creative, too. How do we balance our time? How do we manage an outside job and writing? What about interruptions from kids and other family members, including companion animals? Our answers, as timeless as the questions, boiled down to setting reasonable boundaries, being flexible, and persevering, whatever comes.

Meg Elison’s many books include “The Book of the Unnamed Midwife,” “The Book of Etta,” “The Book of Flora,” “Find Layla,” “Big Girl,” and “Near Kin.”
Author Christine Amsden may be legally blind, but it doesn’t stop her from writing. She is probably best known for her 7-book Cassie Scot paranormal series. (Christine’s website; Amazon).
Science fiction writer and feminist essayist Meg Elison is a multiple award honoree and a prolific author who “writes like she’s running out of time.” (Amazon).

Virtual Pros and Cons

Even as the moderator, I wasn’t sure where this panel would go. The topic was efforts by sf conventions and individual creators to stay active and deliver content in the midst of a pandemic when everything went virtual.

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. The small audience and one of the panelists, massage therapist and filker Jan DiMasi, all had deep experience as conrunners who’d had a baptism by fire over the past two years. They’d learned far more than they ever expected to, about the ins and outs of virtual conventions, and were eager to compare notes and “war stories.”

A Tale of Two Publishing Experiences

The other panelist besides me was another of the authors of Archon 44, Elizabeth Donald. She is founder and coordinator of The Literary Underworld, a journalist, and grad student pursuing dual masters degree programs at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. As her bio says, “In her spare time, she has no spare time.”

She spoke about the challenges of producing journalism conventions online, and described a downturn in business for The Literary Underworld, when they were no longer able to travel to sf cons. This provided a contrast with Weird Sisters Publishing’s experience. Since we are currently introducing ourselves almost exclusively online, we’ve seen our sales grow during the pandemic.

Elizabeth Donald, with covers for her books, “Setting Suns,” “Nocturne: Infernum,” and “Moonlight Sonata.”
Journalist and dark fiction author Elizabeth Donald has won several awards for her fiction and has written many books, including the “Nocturnal Urges” and “Blackfire” novel series. She is the founder and coordinator of The Literary Underworld authors’ group. (Elizabeth’s website; Amazon).

The One Reading I Did Go To!

As longtime readers of this blog know, one of my favorite things to do is go to other authors’ readings. I’ve blogged about readings at SoonerCon several times. Also at DemiCon, ConQuesT, FenCon, a Worldcon, and a NASFiC. But the only reading I attended at Archon 44 was my own. I’d asked that it be scheduled later in the weekend, so I’d have more time to promote it. Programming obliged, and scheduled it on Sunday of the convention. So, out of all the authors of Archon 44, I only got to listen to Van Allen Plexico and Kurt Pankau.

I came to the reading prepared to read any of several works. After all, both The Other Side of Fear and A Bone to Pick both were “debutantes” at Archon 44. A query revealed that some in the audience remembered how I’d read the first chapter of my then-newly-in-progress draft of A Bone to Pick at Archon in 2019. Did I happen to have something like that to share?

As it happened, I did have an early scene from my first draft of Bone of Contention. I call it Shady and the Not-So Diplomatic Appscaten. I read it,, it was well-received, and I later turned it into a downloadable “extra” for subscribers to my monthly newsletter. If you’d like to read it, scroll down for a way to subscribe!

This banner shows a cover I fabricated for my newsletter subscribers’ downloadable copy of “Shady and the Not-So-Diplomatic Appscaten,” with the selection’s first line: “Shady couldn’t see the entity on the bench in Glen Haven Park . . . but she could clearly smell it.”
I made this banner for my newsletter subscribers, after I created a downloadable version of the selection I read at Archon 44. (portrait of Shady ©2020 by Lucy A. Synk; photos from 123rf).

What did the Others Read?

A current work-in-progress gave Van Allen Plexico his material. He read the opening for his upcoming work Solonis: Master of Space and Time, from his “The Above” series. Previous books in the series are (in order) Lucien: Dark God’s Homecoming, Baranak: Storming the Gates, and Karilyne: Heart Cold as Ice.

Van Allen Plexico with his “Sentinels” series.
Longtime and honored writer Van Allen Plexico has been writing short fiction for anthologies recently, but he’s probably best known for his 9-book series “The Sentinels,” illustrated by Chris Kohler. He also hosts the White Rocket podcast. (Amazon; Amazon).

Kurt Pankau read a selection from his science fiction western High Noon on Phobos. Yes, “science fiction westerns” are a thing. The selection he read was pretty campy, but the story was set on a megastructure in space that involved an agricultural component (elements I’ve thought about a lot). I looked into it later, and decided to give it a whirl.

In the long run, I found the justification for rangeland and livestock on a modified ringworld around the Martian moon Phobos to be far-fetched. But this book doesn’t take itself at all seriously. It’s played for laughs, and I did laugh. You can read my review on Goodreads.

Writer Kurt Pankau and the cover of “High Noon on Phobos.”
Author Kurt Pankau is a computer engineer in St. Louis who most often writes short fiction, but he made an exception: his “silly space western,” which he originally published under a pseudonym. (Kurt’s website, photo by Kathy Schrenk; Amazon).

IMAGE CREDITS

I have seriously overdone it with the images on this one, and I undoubtedly could have broken this post into several. But I only have time to post once a week, and you’d still be reading about Archon 44 a month from now, at that rate. To make up for cramming them all into one post, I wanted to represent each author with their own small montage. To keep this section from being about a mile long on a post that’s already too long as it is, I’ve tried to make sure the credits are listed in each cutline.

A cartoon-style rendering by Matt Frank of a person in fantasy armor, or possibly an anime-style mecha is part of the SoonerCon 28 header image used to promote the June 2019 science fiction convention.

Other readings at SoonerCon 28

Authors, Reading–Part Three

In the last two weeks I’ve published photos and information about readings I attended at SoonerCon 28.

Part One profiled science fiction, alternate history, and fantasy readings.

Part Two spotlighted two fantasy and two alternate history writers.

Today’s authors include one each who write fantasy, science fiction, and middle-grade whimsical “creepy stories.” Since each brought a physical copy of their book and was kind enough to hold it up for me, I did composites of each person.

In this composite photo, at right, fantasy author and Fantasy Writers Asylum imprint editor Julia S. Mandala shows the cover of her epic fantasy Blood Songs. At left, she reads an excerpt from it. Author Laura J. Underwood sits in the background and listens.
Fantasy author and Fantasy Writers Asylum imprint editor Julia S. Mandala shows the cover of her epic fantasy Blood Songs at right. At left, she reads an excerpt from it. Author Laura J. Underwood listens in the background.
In this two-part photo composite, at left author Lou Antonelli reads an excerpt from his novel "Another Girl, Another Planet," while David Carrico listens in the background. At right, Lou holds up his book to show the cover.
At left science fiction author Lou Antonelli reads an excerpt from his novel Another Girl, Another Planet, while David Carrico listens in the background. At right, Lou holds up his book to show the cover.
In this composite photo Middle-grade "creepy stories" writer Kim Ventrella shows off her latest book, "Bone Hollow." At left she reads an excerpt. At right she holds up the cover to the camera.
Middle-grade “creepy stories” writer Kim Ventrella shows off her latest book, Bone Hollow. At left she reads an excerpt from the beginning. At right she shows us the cover. Her earlier middle-grades book, Skeleton Tree, dealt with similar themes.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this three-part “book tour” of Soonercon 28, via photos of some of the authors who did readings there.

Going to readings is a great way to learn about interesting new books you may never have heard of. It’s also a fantastic way to meet authors and interact with them in a small-group setting.

Next time you go to a science fiction convention, I strongly recommend that you try going to some of the readings!

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to SoonerCon 28, and artist Matt Frank, for the header image. All other photos were taken by me at SoonerCon 28, June 7-9, 2019, with the express permission of the persons being photographed.If you wish to reblog or use them, please include an attribution to Jan S. Gephardt as the photographer, and if possible provide a link back to this post. Thank you!

A cartoon-style rendering by Matt Frank of a person in fantasy armor, or possibly an anime-style mecha is part of the SoonerCon 28 header image used to promote the June 2019 science fiction convention.

More readings at SoonerCon 28

Authors, Reading–Part Two

Last week I posted about several authors whose readings I attended and enjoyed at SoonerCon 28. But wait! There are more!

I hope you enjoy this series of posts. Wherever I could, I’ve linked the authors’ names to their websites and/or books, so you can learn more about any who interest you.

Catherine Cooke-Montrose reads an excerpt from a fantasy work in progress, on an iPad at SoonerCon 28.
Catherine Cooke-Montrose reads from a fantasy work-in-progress, inspired by the Byzantine era. She’s recently been republishing her Mask of the Wizard Trilogy (formerly published by Tor Books) on Amazon under the author name Catherine Cooke.
Adam J. Whitlatch reads an excerpt from his novel "War of the Worlds: Goliath," at SoonerCon 28.
Here is Adam J. Whitlatch, reading from his book War of the Worlds: Goliath,
Jeff Provine holds up a smartphone to show an illustration from the selection he was reading. It was a post on his "This Day in Alternate History" blog.
Blogger Jeff Provine read from This Day in Alternate History, a fascinating concept for a blog, in my opinion.
Laura J. Underwood reads part of her story, "The Demon of Mallow" at SoonerCon 28.
Laura J. Underwood read from her 2011 story The Demon of Mallow, set in the same mythical land as her 2013 book, The Lunari Mask.

I have one more “Authors, Reading” collection to share next week. I hope you’re enjoying this series.

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to SoonerCon 28, and artist Matt Frank, for the header image. All other photos were taken by me at SoonerCon 28, June 7-9, 2019, with the express permission of the persons being photographed.If you wish to reblog or use them, please include an attribution to Jan S. Gephardt as the photographer, and if possible provide a link back to this post. Thank you!

A cartoon-style rendering by Matt Frank of a person in fantasy armor, or possibly an anime-style mecha is part of the SoonerCon 28 header image used to promote the June 2019 science fiction convention.

Readings at SoonerCon 28

Authors, Reading–Part One

I’m apparently weird, but I enjoy going to readings. I attended a lot of them at SoonerCon 28, and thought you might enjoy seeing the photos I took of the authors. You may have heard of some or all of them.

SoonerCon 28tried to group their readings thematically–but sometimes the authors didn’t get the memo, so we had kind of a nice smorgasbord. I hope you enjoy this series of posts. Wherever I could, I’ve linked the authors’ names to their websites and/or books, so you can learn more about any who interest you.

Author Brian Trent poses with a copy of his book "Ten Thousand Thunders," before reading an excerpt for it.
Author Brian Trent poses with a copy of his science fiction book Ten Thousand Thunders, before reading an excerpt from it.
Marguerite Reed shares an excerpt from a new short story at her reading. Fellow author Brian Trent listens in the background.
Marguerite Reed, author of Archangel and many shorter works, shares an excerpt from a new short story at her reading. Fellow author Brian Trent listens in the background.
Susan P. Sinor reads from her alternate history novel, "The Hunt for the Red Cardinal," while her co-author-husband Bradley H. Sinor listens.
Susan P. Sinor reads from her alternate history novel, The Hunt for the Red Cardinal (associated with Eric Flint’s 1632 series), while her co-author-husband Bradley H. Sinor listens.
Author David Carrico reads his short story, "The Hair of the Dog", set in the alternate universe of Eric Flint's 1632 Series.
Author David Carrico reads his short story, “The Hair of the Dog”, set in the alternate universe of Eric Flint’s 1632 Series.
Dennis McDonald reads from his short fiction “Moon and Shadow,” from the magazine "Morpheus Tales."
Dennis McDonald reads from his short fiction “Moon and Shadow,” from the magazine Morpheus Tales.

These weren’t the only readings I attended at SoonerCon 28. I’ll profile more authors in future posts.

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to SoonerCon 28, and artist Matt Frank, for the header image. All other photos were taken by me at SoonerCon 28, June 7-9, 2019, with the express permission of the persons being photographed. If you wish to reblog or use them, please include an attribution to Jan S. Gephardt as the photographer, and if possible provide a link back to this post. Thank you!

Kansas City represents, at SoonerCon 27!

The Artdog Image(s) of Interest 

I hope you can endure one more post about SoonerCon 27, held June 22-24, 2018 in Midwest City, OK. This one’s about Kansas City artists at SoonerCon 27.

At left is my SoonerCon 27 Art Show display; at right is my friend Rachael Mayo, another Kansas City-based artist who specializes in dragons. One of hers, titled Shadowgorge 4, very deservedly won a Peer Choice Nucleon Award in the Professional Artist category. She came in second to John Picacio, which is not doing badly at all.

Rachael and I weren’t the only Kansas City artists in the SoonerCon Art Show, however. Fellow Kansas Citian Allison Stein filled several panels with her small, one-of-a kind mixed-media artworks featuring quirky animals with attitude.

Also present but not exhibiting work in the Art Show were Kansas City author/artists Sherri Dean and James Hollaman.

IMAGES: Both photos in this post were taken by me (Jan S. Gephardt); in the case of Rachael’s photo, with her permission and cooperation (I asked her to smile. This is what she gave me. Twice. “That is my happy face,” she said). If you wish to reblog or re-post these images, please attribute both me and Rachael, and include a link back to this post, if possible. Many thanks!

Over and con too soon!

I’m freshly back from SoonerCon 27, and what an excellent convention it was! They had some great guests, excellent programming and fun special events. One blog post (or even several) couldn’t do justice to it, but here’s a small taste of what I enjoyed most.

SoonerCon 27’s lineup of featured guests included: L-R: Lloyd Lee BarnettGlenn GarlandJerry BennettCarrie VaughnJohn PicacioStan LoveLarry Nemecek, and Selina RosenHere they are at Opening Ceremonies on Friday, June 22, 2018.

One last time at the Reed Center in Midwest City

As ever, the people-watching at SoonerCon 27 was delightful, whether one was on the upper-level concourse, at the Artists Alley on the lower level, or in the Dealers Room.

Some of the many talented people who showed up in costumes at SoonerCon 27.
Some of the action in the Artists Alley at SoonerCon 27.
One corner of the Dealers Room–pardon, the Exhibitors Hall–at SoonerCon 27.

This was SoonerCon’s final year at the Reed Conference Center in Midwest City, OK. Next year they’ll shift to the first weekend in June (oh, goody! Back-to-back with ConQuesT!) and relocate to the Embassy Suites and Convention Center in Norman, OK.

The Art Show and “World Peace Through Chocolate” Artists Reception

I hope they can give the SoonerCon Art Show, capably run this year by Marcia Bull and her excellent crew, more room at the Embassy Suites, because we were really crammed in there pretty good, despite having both Reed Center Ballrooms A and B.

The “World Peace Through Chocolate” Artists Reception was pretty crowded inside the Art Show itself, but maybe they’ll have more room next year. Photo taken with permission of the Art Show Staff.
The artwork of John Picacio, the Artist Guest of Honor, was the first thing you saw when you stepped inside the SoonerCon 27 Art Show. During the reception, a whole lot of people stepped inside! Photo taken with permission from the Art Show Staff and John Picacio.

The Friday night “World Peace Through Chocolate”Artists Reception spilled out of the Art Show into the ConSuite area, dubbed “Ten Forward.” The chocolate very quickly disappeared, of course. But we all stayed peaceful.

Panels and Readings 

There were way too many interesting panels and readings to see everything I wanted to! I had a reading and five panels (to my delight, I got to moderate ALL of them! Yes!), and yes, I enjoy staying busy at an sf con, so that was just fine by me. I don’t have pictures of my own events, but here are glimpses of some others I did have a chance to attend and enjoy.

I didn’t have as many chances to listen to author readings as I like, but I did enjoy the trio of Urban Fantasy readings on Saturday morning by (L-R) Trakena PrevostSeth Skorkowskyand Rosemary Clement-Moore.
It would’ve been lovely if the “Black Panther and Intersectionality” panel had been scheduled for two hours and the biggest ballroom–but we had a fascinating discussion, and the room was packed. Panelists, L-R: Kimber ChessmoreTrakena PrevostShai FenwickVickey Malone KennedyJeff ProvineTyrell Gephardt, and Dan Erickson.
The “Because, Aliens!” panel discussion ranged far and wide, from the gradual thinning of hominid species in prehistory, through cryptozoology, genitalia, and would you believe . . . Torah? Panelists, L-R: Tim FrayserTyrell GephardtGloria OliverSelina RosenLinda L. Donahue, and Mark Alfred.
Scheduling the “Do Cons Still Matter?” panel at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday of the convention probably skewed the bias of the audience and participants just a tad, but it was fun to get perspectives from individuals of several different generations, who participate in several different subgenres of fandom. Fielding questions from an engaged audience were (L-R) panelists James MurrayTim FrayserSummer Rain Cosplay, and Caleb Haldane.

Like all good things, eventually the weekend had to end. The magic, along with the costumes and propsgame paraphernaliaart show, and panel discussions, went back into their boxes till next time.

Lowering the “boo” during tear-down and pack-up after the con. This skeleton had spent the weekend suspended over an Artists Alley display, beneath a simulated Pit of Sarlacc. How often do you get to see that?

I thoroughly enjoyed SoonerCon 27. Kudos to Con Chair Aislinn Burrows, the SoonerCon Committee, and the Future Society of Central Oklahoma! You put on a GREAT convention. I’m already looking forward to SoonerCon 28!

IMAGES: All photos were taken by me (Jan S. Gephardt), with appropriate permissions. If you wish to re-post any of them, please do so with an attribution to me as the photographer, and a link back to the post, if possible. Many thanks, and I hope you enjoyed them!

Surprise Encounter

The Artdog Image of Interest

Surprise Encounter (2015-2018), a one-of-a-kind original mixed media paper sculpture by Jan S. Gephardt.

This is my newest fantasy paper sculpture, titled Surprise Encounter (2015-2018). I’ll be showing it in public for the first time at the SoonerCon 27 Art Show, June 22-24, 2018.

It features two of my favorite fantasy creatures, dragons. As in all of the Gemflower Series, they are tiny dragons, but still quite fierce! Their iridescent wings and bodies consist of several layers, including touches of interference metallic acrylic paint on the scales and feathers of the uppermost layer. The flower, based on a Gerbera daisy, has four layers of petals. The image area of the sculpture is approximately 8 X 9 X 0.375 inches.

IMAGE: I took this photo of my original paper sculpture, Surprise Encounter. Feel free to re-post this image, as long as you include the information that it’s artwork by Jan S. Gephardt, and link back to this page. Note: I apologize that the photo has a shadow of me in it! I had to work on a very tight time frame this week getting ready for the convention, and–well, this photo is better than nothing, I hope! I’m working on developing a better system.

Soon at SoonerCon!

I’m on the road again this week.

This time I’ll travel with my fantasy paper sculpture artwork (including a new piece! Stay tuned for this week’s Image of Interest!), an excerpt to read, from my soon-to-be published sf novel What’s Bred in the Boneand a whole sheaf of program notes to SoonerCon 27 (I’m moderating five panels this weekend).

I hope to see you there!

SoonerCon 27 is this year’s edition of what has become one of my favorite science fiction conventions in recent years. Held at the Reed Center in Midwest City, OK (near Oklahoma City), features a nice location, normally a great crowd of science fiction and fantasy fans, and a strong lineup of professional guests.

My Programming Schedule:

Friday:

5:00 p.m. – Steampunk & Alternate History: a Primer – Jan moderates; fellow panelists: Julie Barrett, David CarricoK.W. Jeter, and Bradley H. Sinor.

8:00-10:00 p.m. – Art Show Reception.

Saturday: 

10:00 a.m. – “SF Sampler” Readings by Walt BoyesJan S. GephardtA. Lee Martinez, and Adrian Simmons.

12:00 noon – Finding Light in Tales of Darkness – Jan moderates; fellow panelists: Cary OsborneTed PennellaAdrian SimmonsSue Sinor, and Seth Skorkowsky.

3:00 p.m. – Murders, Mysteries & Mayhem – Jan moderates; fellow panelists: David CarricoRachel CaineLee KilloughSeth Skorkowskyand Craig Wolf.

5:00 p.m. – From Science Fiction to Science Reality – Jan moderates; fellow panelists: Astronaut Stan LoveLou AntonelliClifford “Kip” McMurrayRichard Morgan, and Adrian Simmons.

6:00 p.m. – Art Auction.

Sunday:

11:00 a.m. – You’ll only Last a Week: A World Without Water – Jan moderates; fellow panelists: Adrian SimmonsDeborah ChesterPaula Helm MurrayRook RileyThe Dream.

A photo from the doorway into last year’s SoonerCon Art Show.

Don’t miss the SoonerCon 27 Art Show!

I’ll have a brand-new paper sculpture on display at this year’s SoonerCon Art Show. It debuts in the art show on Friday 22nd. It also will go live as my Image of Interest on Friday.

Please watch for it–and come to the show, if you’re at SoonerCon!

IMAGES: Many thanks to SoonerCon 27’s website for the opening header. I took the photo from outside the Art Show last year at SoonerCon 26. Feel free to re-post it, but please include an attribution and a link back to this post. Thanks!

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). 

Tales of ConQuesT (48)–The Art Part

My home science fiction group, the Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society, put on their annual convention this weekend. I always enjoy ConQuesT, held each ear in Kansas City on Memorial Day Weekend–but I must say that this year’s ConQuesT 48 was even more fun than usual.

There are many reasons why it all came together so well for me, but here are a few highlights from the “Art Part.” Always first and last, for me, there is the ConQuesT Art Show.

Literally first, because I was once again the “shipping address” for the show. A few years ago I was the Art Show Director, and although I’ve now gratefully handed that job over to a talented and responsible young man named Mikah McCullough, his apartment is a tad on the “small side” for a large pile of incoming boxes of art. Thus, on the first day of the convention I haul not only my own artwork, but also all the mailed-in work from all of the wonderful artists who participate from afar.

My “White Clematis” variations available so far.

I’m showing a collection of new multiple-original artworks at sf conventions this year, the “Guardians” series (four separate designs) and the “Clematis Collection,” which so far consists of three Artist’s Proofs of White Clematis Panel with Golden Dragons, (honored with a rosette as Art Director’s Choice at DemiCon 28 earlier this month), and an edition limited to six smaller pieces titled White Clematis with Dragons. A one-of-a-kind original from this collection, featuring purple clematis flowers and titled Gold and Purple, should be ready to debut at SoonerCon 26 in late June.

I also had a new, one-of-a-kind original to debut at ConQuesT 48, Nose for a Rose. Here’s a glimpse, along with a look at my display at the convention. This is all you’ll see of it, however–it was purchased by a collector on its “maiden voyage.”

It’s always fun to show and sell my artwork, and to help put the Art Show up and take it down. But another joy for me is participating in panel discussions at science fiction conventions–and I was part of several at ConQuesT 48. They’ll be the subject of my next post, coming soon!

IMAGES: Most of the photos on this post are mine. Since I’m the Communications Officer of KaCSFFS, I’m the one who put together the ConQuesT 48 banner. It features a logo design by Keri O’Brien and a photo of the lobby of our convention hotel, the Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center, which provided the photo. All the other photos were taken by me, of my artwork (and other personal effects). The cat is my daughter’s. Her name is Sora and she is Queen of the Universe (just ask her). All of the photos are available for re-posting, as long as you attribute them and provide a link back to this post or to ConQuesT, as appropriate.

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