Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Tag: Tyrell Gephardt

the logo for Archon science fiction convention

Because Archon’s Doing it Right

By Jan S. Gephardt

I am happy to report that I’m going to Archon 44 after all. Why? Because—and only because—Archon’s doing it right.

The Email That Changed Everything

At left, a vaccination map of the US, shows Missouri’s vaccination rate is less than 55%, and Illinois is less than 70%. At right, the most current chart available at publication time shows that on Sept. 20, 2021, there were 207,974 new COVID-19 cases in the USA.
The vaccination map at left is by Josh Renaud, courtesy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The chart at right is from The New York Times, via Google.

You may recall that a few weeks ago, I very reluctantly decided to withdraw from this year’s FenCon, a Texas science fiction convention that my son and I have come to love. I had been watching the COVID-19 trends in the St. Louis area and growing more and more convinced I’d have to do the same with Archon. But then I got the Email That Changed Everything.

“The Archon Chairs have decided to require vaccination OR a negative COVID test within the previous 72 hours,” the email said. “Documentation is required for both. . . There are no exceptions to this policy.” This is such an unusual and—sadly—BRAVE position to take in this part of the country that I actually gasped.

Archon 44 Co-chairs Alan DeVaughn and Scott Corwin are boldly going where many regional convention chairs have feared to go. And while they’re at it, they’re going “all the way.”

The state of Illinois has mandated masks for indoor public spaces for anyone older than 2 years old,” they wrote. “The mask must cover your nose and mouth, unless you are eating or drinking. If you are asked to put your mask on by an Archon staff / committee member and choose not to comply, you will be asked to leave. There are no exceptions to this policy.”

At left, protesters hold up signs with slogans opposing vaccine requirements. At right, protesters from a different group hold up signs with anti-mask slogans.
At left, protesters demonstrate against vaccine mandates (photo by John Lamparski, via The Atlantic). At right, anti-mask protesters in Kalispell, MT (courtesy of the Flathead Beacon).

Archon’s doing it right.

Yes, Archon’s doing it right, and I couldn’t be more pleased. I plan to honor their commitment to follow both science and good sense in the best way I know how: by coming with my books, my artwork, and my work ethic. I’m scheduled for nine events and panels—and I plan to show up for all of them as well-prepared as I can possibly be.

I’m also going to do everything in my power to promote their event—for example, on this and my other blogs, and on every social media platform where I have a presence. Because Archon’s doing it right, they have earned my heartfelt gratitude and loyalty.

If anyone reading this was on the fence and wavering about coming to Archon, please make this policy your deciding vote for going!

Oh, and a word to the wise: book your hotel reservations (use the link on their homepage to get the convention rate) as soon as possible. Historically, they fill up fast!

This montage shows views from Archon 42 and 42, held in 2018 and 2019. Above are two art panels. Below, two views of the Gateway Center, one in sunshine and the other in rain.
Top L, artists Brent Chumley, Rachael Mayo, and Allison Stein discuss creating fantasy creatures in 2019. Top R, Rachael Mayo and several attendees discuss art materials at a 2018 panel. Below, R-L, we had much sunnier weather at the Gateway Center in 2019 than 2018. (All photos by Jan S. Gephardt).

I Have History with Archon

As I noted in the article on my Events Calendar, Archon has been around for a while.

The “44” in Archon 44 means this annual convention has been around for a while. G., Warren, Pascal and I all went to earlier Archons when we were just starting in fandom. And a few years ago, Ty and I started going to them again. If you follow my blog, you might remember posts I’ve written about hall costumes at Archon 42 and 43, and the Art Show.

It’s a well-established convention, run by people who generally know what they’re doing and find excellent ways to make it a good weekend for attendees.

After years in the funky, rambling, since-demolished Henry VIII Hotel in St. Louis proper, the convention has found an excellent new home in the Gateway Convention Center and DoubleTree Hotel in Collinsville, IL.

Throughout my career, I’ve had some great moments, and met some wonderful people at Archon.

Photos from the “writing side” of Archons 42 and 43, held in 2018 and 2019. These photos show a variety of people engaged in panel discussions, readings, and demonstrations.
At left, EMT Kevin Hammel conducts a highly informative 2019 presentation on gunshot wounds, for writers who want to get it right. Top center, a 2018 panel on Diversity in SF, which included, L-R, Jennifer Stolzer, Kathleen Kayembe, Camille Faye, and Debbie Manber Kupfer (M). Top far right: I prepare for my reading in 2019. Below center L-R: Donna J. W. Munro, Marella Sands, and Christine Nobbe chat with the audience before their readings in 2018. Below R, Jennifer Lynn discusses Shamans, Druids, and Wise Women in a 2019 presentation. Photos by Jan S. Gephardt, with the exception of one (guess which) by Tyrell Gephardt.

But that was then. What about Now?

ecause Archon’s doing it right, I’ll have an opportunity to show off my new book (readers who’ve followed this blog in recent weeks probably noticed I have one) sooner than next February (looking at you, Capricon 42). And I’ll get to display my artwork in an in-person display for the first time in almost 2 years.

“A Bone to Pick” by Jan S. Gephardt, envisioned as an ebook on the left and as a trade paperback on the right.
Jan’s new book A Bone to Pick became widely available in a variety of formats after Release Day, September 15, 2021. Cover artwork © 2020 by Jody A. Lee.

I’m scheduled for an autograph session on Friday, a reading on Sunday, and seven panels (several of which I’m moderating). I love doing those things, because they give me opportunities to have great conversations with other panelists and audience members. I get to meet creative, interesting new people (and so can you, if you’ll join us at Archon). And I also get to re-acquaint myself with people I haven’t seen for a while.

I’ll come equipped with an expanded collection of S.W.A.G., badge ribbons and bookmarks for all (or—if that last order doesn’t arrive in time, at least most) of the books and stories Weird Sisters Publishing has produced so far. If you’re a subscriber to my monthly newsletter, and you tell me so at Archon, I’ll even have an exclusive-offer “I’m a Member of the Pack” badge ribbon for you.

Here’s Jan at her Autograph table, surrounded by S.W.A.G.
Jan at her Capricon 40 autograph table (photo by Tyrell Gephardt).

Introducing “Stripped ‘Scripts”

Also because Archon’s doing it right, my son Tyrell will have a first opportunity to present his new service to authors, called “Stripped ‘Scripts.” Through it, he’ll bring his skills as a developmental editor to a new audience.

What’s a developmental editor, and why would a writer need one? In the movie industry they’re sometimes called “script doctors.” While that name gets applied to services from high level plot-revision to hands-on rewriting, the idea is basically that when a plot or a manuscript has gone off the rails, dead-ended somewhere, or developed another kind of structural dysfunction, all hope may not be lost.

A good developmental editor can look it over and offer an analysis. They’ll often have a better idea of what’s wrong and how to turn it into a structurally sound story than an author who’s “written themself into a corner” and run out of ideas. I’ll freely admit that my stories have benefitted from Ty’s “big picture” view. I also appreciate his fresh takes on cultural adjustments to varied technical innovations, and his martial-arts expertise.

Here’s a photo of Ty, along with his business card for Stripped ‘Scripts
Photo and developmental editing business card design are both courtesy of Tyrell Gephardt.

Because Archon’s Doing it Right, We can Relax and Have a Great Con

I know I’m not the only science fiction fan who has missed going to conventions. I’ve blogged elsewhere about why I love science fiction conventions. Not rubbing shoulders with other writers and the fans who keep us afloat has been disappointing, but necessary during the pandemic.

But although it seems as if it’s taking forever, it’s now in our power to make this fourth wave the last one. It’ll be a bit longer, no thanks to the purveyors of an unprecedented flood of misinformation. But we can do it. Spread the word. Speak up in support of those who are doing it right. Kindly (if possible) help to educate those who are sincerely confused.

Science, technology, and government services (sometimes government really isn’t the problem!) have given us the tools we need. They’ve placed research, growing understanding of this virus, and three phenomenally effective vaccines within our grasp. We’re the taxpayers who’ve underwritten much of this historic work. We now have the right and privilege to avail ourselves of these new tools and understandings.

And because Archon’s doing it right, we now can do it at a science fiction convention!

IMAGE CREDITS:

Many thanks to Archon’s Facebook Page, for the logo header image. The map showing vaccination rates in the United States was created by Josh Renaud for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The chart of COVID-19 cases in the United States is regularly updated by The New York Times, accessed 9/21/2021 via Google.

The montage images from Archon 42 and 43 are all by Jan S. Gephardt except for one, taken by Tyrell E. Gephardt (of Jan’s reading). Ty also took the one of Jan at her Capricon 40 autograph table. Moreover, he provided the photo of himself, along with the image of his “Stripped ‘Scripts” business card.

Many thanks to all!

These are most of the books we donated to the local library, so they'd find good homes and we didn't have to haul them across literally half the continent. (Photo by Tyrell E. Gephardt)

The Library Liberation Project

My son and I (with occasional help from my Beloved) have embarked upon a project we’ve long dreamed about. We call it the Library Liberation Project. When we moved into our current home (30 years ago come June 1), I declared that a back room addition the previous owners had used as a rec room was to be the Library.

Some of the family couldn’t imagine what we’d do with a whole room just for books, but others laughed and said, “It’s perfect!” And for many years, it was a good study and writing space, with my office tucked in a back corner amongst the stacks.

Here's a corner of the Library in 2004. Yes, it usually looked a lot more lived-in, but we were getting ready for a party, so I even dusted and vacuumed!
Here’s a corner of the Library in 2004. Yes, it usually looked a lot more lived-in, but we were getting ready for a party, so I even dusted and vacuumed! Sixteen years later, the lamp, the chair and the coffee table have passed on, but we’ve added lots more bookshelves. And loads of other stuff.

Some days I’d walk into my library, take a big, blissful sniff, and revel in the scent of being surrounded by books. Somehow ebooks just don’t smell the same. The Library was a place of liberation back then.

Tragedy strikes. Repeatedly

About a year and a half after I took the picture above, our family began a sad but inevitable process. My brother-in-law Warren died, at way too young an age, at the start of the summer of 2005. Before the end of that season, I’d also lost one of my aunts.

By 2007, stuff had begun to pile up.
By 2007, stuff had begun to pile up.

went to California with my father to settle my aunt’s estate. It was small and relatively simple to handle. But I would benefit from that apprenticeship in the years to come. Aunt Betty was also a writer, and I brought a few of her things back home with me.

They took up a small corner in the Library, but that would only be for a little while. Till I got photos digitized and organized, and went through her papers. The books from Warren found homes on the expanding board-feet of bookshelves. The art supplies and fun boxes and bags . . . well, I’d figure out a good place soon.

Another loss, another deluge

The next year my mother died. Gigi and I struggled to get her house cleared out and ready to sellNot sure what to do with all her stuff–and too heartsick to face sorting through it–we hauled it all to Kansas City.

Some went into storage, and some to my house. Gigi didn’t have room. She was still cleaning out the home she’d shared with Warren, and struggling to deal with abrupt widowhood.

By 2009, the burgeoning piles of stuff in the Library were accumulating at a much faster rate than I could keep up with it.
By 2009, the burgeoning piles of stuff in the Library were accumulating at a much faster rate than I could keep up with it. The Library was beginning to need Liberation, but I already had too much to do.

Piled higher and deeper

My mother also had a library in her home. She’d managed to confine it to one long wall of floor-to-ceiling books in her house, but when she passed away, my library suddenly had a whole new wall’s worth of books to assimilate. Yes, I got rid of a few. But Mom had some really cool books!

I only discovered later that some of the stuff from Mom’s house had originally belonged to my grandparents. And some of that had belonged to their parents or siblings. I had unwittingly joined a grand family tradition of accumulating inherited boxes full of stuff.

The year after that, my father-in-law passed away, and my mother-in-law began to downsize. More things arrived at our house, bit by bit. Year by year. And the Library took the brunt of it.

My kids went off to college and took some of the excess furniture–but a few years later they came back. With all of the same furniture, plus lots of new books. Then my other aunt became ill. My daughter went out to California to care for her, but eventually that aunt, too, died.

The California tsunami

And left us all her stuff. This time I went out to stay with Signy in my aunt’s condominium for several months, while we sorted through decades of accumulated wonderful things. Yes, she also had a full wall of books, but I was out of space and then some (of course, I still brought some of them home).

I read all I could, and wrote several blog post book reviews while I was at it. If you’d like to read them, I reviewed The Keepsake byTess Gerritsen,  The Sentry by Robert Craisas well as The Innocent and The Sixth Man, both by David Baldacci. We donated a large trove of hardback thrillers and mysteries by well-known authors to the local public library (they were delighted) before we left town.

These are most of the books we donated to the local library, so they'd find good homes and we didn't have to haul them across literally half the continent. (Photo by Tyrell E. Gephardt)
These are most of the books we donated to the local library, so they’d find good homes and we didn’t have to haul them across literally half the continent. (Photo by Tyrell E. Gephardt)

Donation mania

That wasn’t all we donated. We never found a good auction company or estate liquidator, and the Realtor was eager to get the place emptied so it could be staged. So we made lists and lists and lists of donations for tax purposes, and then we donated stuff. Clothing by the bales and bags, some of it designer items. Household goods till the local donation center personnel began to recognize us. We even found a place to donate much of the furniture.

But we still had to rent a 16-foot box truck to get the rest of it out of her place. Who knew a three-bedroom condo could hold so much stuff? We hauled it to Gigi’s place first. She didn’t take exactly half of it, but she took a lot. Even so, what was left was enough to swamp the remaining clear spaces at our house.

When we arrived home from California, emptying the truck loaded up our living room. It deluged our dining room. And let's not even talk about what it dit to the Library. Except, not talking about it didn't make it go away.
When we arrived home from California, emptying the truck loaded up our living room. It deluged our dining room. And let’s not even talk about what it dit to the Library. Except, not talking about it didn’t make it go away.

Stop! Stop!

But wait. There’s more! My mother-in-law moved into a nursing home. My father moved from his large home at the lake to a smaller place, then to a condo near us. In both cases a select few cherished or useful objects arrived at our place, along with other stuff that “needed to be gone through.”

We kept trying to live our lives, throughout all of this. To build businesses. Write books. Deal with medical emergencies, and my daughter’s chronic illness. We kept intending to go through all the stuff, but there was never time.

Well, now it’s time.

The Library Liberation Project is ON. We broke down and rented another storage unit last October. The one from last decade, after my mother died, had long been cleared out and closed, and we’d hoped to handle further inflows “in-house.” So, yeah, we caved. 

At this point, it's hard to find any floor space at all in our once-spacious Library (the pet fence is up to deter the dogs). If ever a Library needed Liberating, it's ours!
At this point, it’s hard to find any floor space at all in our once-spacious Library (the pet fence is up to deter the dogs). If ever a Library needed Liberating, it’s ours!

Retreat to the caves!

But we needed some slack. We were like one of those sliding-tile puzzlesbut with no empty space to slide a tile into. The rental’s not cheap. When I say “we caved,” I mean that literally as well as figuratively. Not far from our house is an underground storage facility in a repurposed mine. The good part is that it’s naturally temperature-controlled. You may also have seen it featured on my friend Lynette M. Burrows’s blog.

In 2020, we hope to reclaim our Library for real. We got a slow start in the last quarter of 2019, but we’re determined. But The Artdog needs a better StudioWeird Sisters Publishing needs a real office, and the Gephardts may not be as reliant on the “dead-trees versions” of books as we once were, but we want our Library back! And the Library Liberation Project will (eventually) get us there. We hope.

2020 vision

You may periodically receive updates on our progress in this blog space. You may also periodically see fewer or shorter entries, as I juggle the time requirements to factor in the Library Liberation work. We didn’t get into this situation overnight, and it’ll take a lot of time and hard work to get us out.

I hope by talking about my quest, I may encourage you to tackle any accumulating problems that may be developing in your life (before they get this bad!). Or perhaps you may just enjoy laughing at the crazy woman with a knack for inheriting mounds of interesting stuff. Either way, I hope it’s interesting.

IMAGE CREDITS

Most of the photos in this blog post were taken by me, Jan S. Gephardt. The one of my late aunt’s collection of thrillers and mystery novels was taken by Tyrell E. Gephardt. Feel free to reblog or re-post any you may find helpful, but please only do so with an attribution and a link back to this post. Thanks!

All the artwork at FenCon's art show is being prepared in this photo.

Artwork at FenCon

The Artdog Image(s) of Interest

displayed my artwork at FenCon XVI. You might remember I mentioned that in my mid-week post.

I spent a large chunk of time Thursday on the FenCon XVI Art Show. That was “setup day,” when the tables and display panels went up, and then the first of the art (the mail-ins and the work of artists able to arrive today) did, too. 

The artwork at FenCon is coming together at last in this photo of progress in setting up the art show as of about 5:00 Thursday evening.
Here’s how much of the artwork at FenCon XVI had been set up in the Art Show by about 5 p.m. Thursday. I’m not sure whether you can tell by comparing with my photo from last year, but t’s a much larger space than they had for last year’s Art Show.

As much as possible, all the rest of the art went up Friday, preferably before the Art Show opened to the public on Friday at 2:00 p.m.

Artist Guest of Honor Peri Charlifu

Peri Charlifu is one of the most talented and generous human beings I know–and I don’t think I’d get any naysayers if I asked others who know him if that was a fair characterization. He’s this year’s Artist Guest of Honor at FenCon XVI, so of course Ty and I found him working as hard as any member of the Art Show staff. His artwork at FenCon this year is a glorious bounty, and he gave me permission to photograph his artwork and post it online.

Rhonda Eudaly helps Peri Charlifu set up his artwork at FenCon.
Thursday Art Show setup with Rhonda Eudaly (L) helping Peri Charlifu (R) set up his display in the FenCon XVI Art Show.

I’ve taken full and gleeful advantage of his permission to photograph and post about his artwork at FenCon. He knows I love to tell my readers about cool new artwork that I encounter. 

Furthermore, he dares me or anyone else to take his ideas and execute them as well as he does. It’s a dare I would never take. I’ll happily promote him and his work till the world looks level, but the only way to get a real Peri Charlifu piece is to buy it from HIM.

Here's another look at more of Peri's commitment to bringing artwork to FenCon.
Peri Charlifu brought a dizzying array of artwork to FenCon XVI. They include awesome ceramics, sets, and kits, as well as 2D work.

If you’re on Facebook, I invite you to wander through the in-depth gallery of his work I posted on my Artdog Studio Facebook Page, as well as the Tale of Peri Potter and the Sorcerer’s Bowl, which involves a fun story about Peri, the author Rhonda Eudaly, and the special alchemy of artists inspiring each other.

Some of the artwork at FenCon has more than its share of unusual visual, "Petunia's Bowl of Prophecy" is definitely one of them!
This deceptively simple piece of art, Petunia’s Bowl of Prophecy, 2019, by Peri Charlifu, is partially from the mind of Rhonda Eudaly, the author whose manuscript is hooked under the edge of the pot. Read the story of how he inspired her, then she inspired him on my Artdog Studio Facebook Page.

My own artwork and that of Lucy A. Synk

Since DemiCon, I’ve been acting as an art agent for my friend Lucy A, Synk–or at least, my son Tyrell and I have been. I contact the show and manage the paperwork, but usually it’s Ty who puts up the show. And it’s also usually he who takes it down afterward. So of course we brought her artwork to FenCon.

All of these pieces of artwork are ©2019 by Lucy A. Synk. Each is a one-of-a-kind original. (Photo by Tyrell E. Gephardt, 2019).
All of these artworks also are ©2019 by Lucy A. Synk. Each is a one-of-a-kind original. 
(Photo by Tyrell E. Gephardt, 2019).
I also had artwork at FenCon. Thank goodness, my panel wasn’t quite as crowded as the one at SpikeCon, but almost.

IMAGE CREDITS: Unless otherwise noted, all photos are by me, Jan S. Gephardt, and they may be re-posted or reblogged freely, as long as you attribute me as the photographer and include a link back to this post. Many thanks! 

If you wish to reblog or repost images of Peri Charlifu‘s workartwork, please attribute him as the artist, and provide a link back to his website. I’d also appreciate it if you’ll identify me as the source, with a link back to this post, please.

If you wish to reblog or repost Lucy A. Synk’s artwork, please attribute her as the artist and Tyrell Gephardt as the photographer, and link back either to Lucy’s page or to this post. Many thanks!

The visual essence of SpikeCon owed a lot to its venue, the Davis Conference Center. In this photo we look through a glass side entrance at the nearby mountains.

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!

Becoming Weird Sisters Publishing

Gigi Sherrell Norwood

Regular readers of this blog (if you are one, THANK YOU!!) may recall that I’ve published at least one guest-post by my sister, Gigi Sherrell Norwood (Orchestra Dreams). 

What you may not know is that she is herself a talented writer, and she’s also the widow of science fiction writer Warren C. Norwood.

Yes, we’re kind of a cottage industry all in the family (and that’s not even counting the emerging editorial expertise of my son and frequent sf convention companion Tyrell Gephardt). 

It was perhaps inevitable that we’d do the writing/publishing equivalent of saying, “Hey! Let’s put on a show!” (note: Gigi has a BFA in theatre).

The result is Weird Sisters Publishing LLC, a small press publishing enterprise registered (as of February) and operating out of Kansas. As you might guess from our name, Gigi’s studies included an emphasis in Shakespeare. And, we must face it, we’ve never exactly been conventional. 

“Weird Sisters” just kind of fit.

We’re starting our enterprise with my debut novel, What’s Bred in the Bone, to be released in May, as well as an urban fantasy novella by Gigi, titled Deep Ellum Pawnlater in the summer. 

We hope to follow that soon with more of my XK9 novels, and six of the novels in Warren’s catalogue, the rights to which have reverted to his estate (AKA Gigi). We plan new covers, and a full range of formats. 

Gigi also is in possession of two unpublished novels by Warren, and we are in pursuit of other titles whose ownership is less clear.

Gigi has several other novels in her backlist, not written in collaboration with Warren (she collaborated on some of the Time Police series with him, as did Mel Odom). 

We’re not currently seeking submissions for Weird Sisters Publishing, but that might change in the future. We plan to focus on character-driven science fiction, urban fantasy, and related works.

IMAGES: Gigi provided the photo of herself. It is used with her permission. Cover art for What’s Bred in the Bone is ©2019 by Jody A. Lee, and is used with her permission.

Morning after

The Artdog Image of Interest

Multiple levels of the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center, quiet for one sparkling morning. Westercon’s done. -Photo by Tyrell Gephardt.

My son Tyrell Gephardt took this picture last Monday at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center, before we left town after Westercon 71/MALCon 6. It was a “waiting” kind of quiet. Presumably some other event is coming soon. But we loved the play of light and shadow on multiple levels in this view of the atrium.

IMAGE: Many thanks to Tyrell Gephardt for taking this photo and allowing me to use it. If you wish to retweet, reblog, etc., please attribute Ty as the photographer, and include a link back to this page. 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!

My DemiCon 29 Experience

I had a good time at DemiCon 29 this year. It’s an intimate convention, about 500 or so attendees, and as with all science fiction convention experiences, each person’s reaction may differ. The things I look for in an sf con tend to be networking opportunities, a good Art Show, and interesting panels (to be on, and to attend).

The Iowa Writers’ Panel featured readings by (L-R) Rachel AukesLettie PrellAdam Whitlatch, and Shannon Ryan.

Networking

Since it was a smaller convention, there weren’t as many attending writers and artists as one tends to see at larger cons. This can be both good and bad. It’s a chance to get to know a few of one’s fellow “pros” better because of frequent interaction–but you make a limited number of contacts. Since I get along well with most people, I generally find at least a few people with whom to have a good conversation.

Smaller conventions also are great if you like more interaction with fans. The panel discussions tend to be more interactive, which offers an opportunity for delving deeper into ideas and information a given audience wants to explore. You never know who you may meet, or what areas of unexplored expertise or new ideas they may have.

Christine Mitzuk, the Artist Guest of Honor at DemiCon 29, gave a painting demonstration, and talked about her career.

Art Show

Smaller conventions often have smaller art shows, but DemiCon had a pretty good representation of “the usual mail-in suspects,” including Sarah ClemensTheresa Mather, and David Lee Pancake, as well as attending artists. Smaller conventions are places where local artists and talented beginners can gain a better showcase. The Artist Guest of Honor was Christine Mitzuk. I enjoyed interacting with her at programming events, and having a chance to see her beautiful work.

Sunday’s Creative Process panel at DemiCon 29 featured (L-R) Christina HenryAuthor Guest of HonorJan S. GephardtChristine MitzukArtist Guest of Honor; cartoonist and writer Daniel Mohr; and writer/historian Rob Howell. (Photo by Tyrell Gephardt)

Panels 

I would have liked a somewhat wider range of panels, but as I gathered (after the fact), to get a panel scheduled, one of the would-be panelists had to suggest it beforehand. If I’d figured that out sooner, I’d have suggested several more ideas, myself! I’m used to a different system–but never mind. I enjoyed the panels in which I did participate.

I especially enjoyed the readings, though I unfortunately had to miss the readings by Lettie Prell. I did get a chance to hear Adam WhitlatchRachel Aukes, and Shannon Ryan. I also had a chance to do a reading–but unfortunately, they scheduled mine opposite the Masquerade (DemiCon is WAY into costumes and cosplay). I had a small but enthusiastic audience of one (and he wasn’t even related to me! My son Ty was scheduled for something else opposite my reading).

One highlight was the chance to work on several panels with Rob Howell. I’d met him earlier, and I’ve been on panels with him before. He brings a sense of humor and a rich depth of knowledge to every discussion.

The Trans-Iowa Canal Company takes a curtain call at the end of their humorous DemiCon 29 Opening Ceremonies performance.

Other highlights 

DemiCon offered a range of other activities besides panels, readings, and the art show. As noted above, there was a Masquerade, there were room parties every night, and Opening Ceremonies, as usual offered a new performance by the Trans-Iowa Canal Company, or TICC, a group of comedic actors who present skits with an sf or fantasy bent.

Assorted visions from DemiCon 29: (L-R) Susan Leabhart, Fan Guest of Honor, with friend; the laser-light show at the Karaoke party Friday night; Something you just don’t see every day, a giant pink inflatable flamingo in the hotel lobby.

IMAGES: All photos except the one with Jan in it (which is by Tyrell Gephardt) are by Jan S. Gephardt, taken with permission where applicable. If you wish to re-post them, please don’t alter them, but do please give an attribution, and embed a link back to this post. Thanks!

Memories of the 2017 NASFiC

Perhaps you’d like to see a presentation my son Tyrell Gephardt and I prepared, about our experiences at this year’s North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC), held anytime the Worldcon is not in North America (which it is not this year; it’s in Helsinki).

We hope you enjoy(ed) it–we certainly enjoyed our time there. We’ve also shared this presentation with KACSFFS, our local Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society, both at the July meeting last Saturday and on the KaCSFFS Blog (scroll down).

Ty and I also spent a couple of days afterward, wandering around in fascinating Old San Juan. It’s possible some of the thoughts and photos from those peregrinations may end up in future blog posts here!

IMAGES: At least half of those in the NASFiC presentation, are by Jan S. Gephardt. Most of the other photos in the presentation are by Tyrell E. Gephardt; the remaining photos (credited at the end of the NASFiC presentation), and also the Featured Image at the top of the post, are from the official website of the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino, where the NASFiC was held. Many thanks!

Authors, reading

I attended DemiCon 28 last weekend. It’s a science fiction convention in the DesMoines, IA area (technically, Urbandale), where they had an art show, masquerade, panel discussions, parties–the full gamut of things I have learned to anticipate at sf conventions in my decades-long career of attending them.

Mark Van Name does a reading from his novel No Going Back at Balticon in 2012.

And they had author readings.

In my experience, author readings at large conventions by “big name” authors can be standing-room-only events. Author readings by mid-list or relatively unknown authors tend to be the orphan stepchildren of convention programming. If anyone shows up for one, that counts as “wildly successful.”

Some promoting, arm-twisting, and recruitment of friends and family to fill the audience may be required, for newbie writers. We may have loved listening to people read us stories in grade school, or be passionately attached to our audio books and podcasts as adults, but somehow getting people to attend readings at sf conventions continues to be kind of a heavy lift.

As some of my more persistent blog-readers may have noticed, I’m a writer who’s poised on the brink of having a novel to release into the wild. It’s gone through multiple drafts, been professionally edited, and I’ve done all I can to make it the best novel it can be. The time has come to start making people aware it’s coming.

I asked for a reading at DemiCon. Better yet, I got one–although I wasn’t scheduled for many other programming events where I could promote it. I made fliers (with advice from my son about copy writing), and invited everyone I could.

P. C. Haring read several interesting excerpts from his novel Slipspace: Harbinger.

I also was able to connect with a couple of other authors, who also had readings. One of them was P.C. Haring, who’d been scheduled for a reading that morning at 9:00 a.m.

Now, in the normal world, 9:00 a.m., even on a Saturday, is a fairly reasonable hour. At a science fiction convention–especially one with as many lively room parties as DemiCon 28 has, a 9:00 a.m. panel on Saturday might count as cruel and unusual punishment.

I’d noticed this scheduling earlier, and commiserated with him. Then, on an impulse, I offered him the second half of my scheduled hour from 4-5:00 p.m. This was not entirely altruistic on my part: my voice tends to give out after half an hour or so of reading. In any case, he accepted the opportunity. We had a nice attendance–the room was about half-full. I read my first chapter, then he read excerpts from his book. Before we knew it, the hour was over and we’d all had a pleasant listen.

Then we gathered up as many of the audience up as possible, and trooped across the hall to listen to Lettie Prell read from two of her short works. The first, “Emergency Protocol,” is a flash fiction (very short) piece that will be published by Analog Science Fiction and Fact at a future date. It is wonderful: watch for it.

Prell then read excerpts from The Three Lives of Sonata James, a thought-provoking story that’s been reprinted in Some of the Best from Tor.com: 2016, and The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Two, edited by Neil Clarke. Good stuff.

Did I gain anything by encouraging my audience to also listen to P.C. and Lettie?

Could/should I have filled my entire hour, all by myself? Well, certainly I had enough material to read (assuming my voice held up). And from comments I got later, the audience would have been game for listening to me. So maybe I made the wrong call. If you look at it from the point of view that all authors are in competition with each other, then I definitely did. Nice guys finish last, and all that.

But I don’t see the world as a zero-sum game, and I especially don’t look at writing that way.  I cannot possibly write fast enough to be the only author someone reads (unless they read ver-r-r-r-r-ry slo-o-o-o-o-o-owly, indeed!). Even much more prolific authors ultimately can’t. Everyone’s readers are also going to read other authors’ work.

Therefore, I’d rather be a resource, a connector, a person who introduces people to others they may also like, in any given network. I fundamentally do not believe that any given group of writers (or artists) are competing, so much as conducting parallel enterprises. If we conduct our careers in friendly, cooperative ways, as far as I’m concerned, we all gain, and actually might expand our own networks a bit in the process.

IMAGES: Many thanks to the Balticon Podcast, for the photo of author Mark Van Name giving a reading from his novel No Going Back. There aren’t very many photos of that particular activity (author readings at sf cons), so I was relieved to find a good one! The promo card for my novel, Going to the XK9s, is a combination of my copywriting and design, much improved by comments from my son Tyrell Gephardt, and an illustration I commissioned for promotional purposes, by Jeff Porter. The cover art for P. C. Haring’s novel Slipspace: Harbinger is from his website. The illustration for The Three Lives of Sonata James is by Kevin Hong. It is posted here courtesy of Goodreads. Many thanks to all!

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