Hey all! So as you probably know from my other posts, I spent all of last weekend (and then some) at a four day local SFF convention, Balticon. Now, I’m no stranger to cons, I’ve been to our local anime convention many times and last year I even made it out to World Fantasy Con when it was in town, but this was my first ever Balticon (for some reason I’ve never gone until now!) and it sure was an experience. It definitely won’t be my last, I’m already planning on going again next year. 🙂
Guests of Honor this year were Scott Lynch and Elizabeth Bear, with Artist Guest of Honor, Charles Vess. Also Attending, R.F. Kuang, winner of this year’s Compton Crook award, and Nicky Drayden, last year’s winner. There were a ton of other more local authors such as Sarah Pinsker, K.M. Szpara, Arkady Martine, Vivian Shaw, Sherri Cook Woosley, Gwendolyn Clare, Ruthanna Emrys, Leah Cypess, Scott Edelman, and many others.
My husband went with me (a large part of why I finally decided to go–I needed a buffer to bring down my anxiety) and he had a great time too. There’s a ton of different types of programming for all sorts of SFF fans, everything from RPGs to table top gaming, to panels, movies, book signings, music, etc. They also had a bunch of kaffeeklatsch’s but I didn’t go to any of them this time around–I’m not so sure I’d do good at sitting and chatting with authors, I get terribly awkward at small talk with people I don’t really know (this is something I’m trying to get better at!).
On Friday night we went to check out Sarah Pinsker’s concert. Fun times! Sarah’s music is fantastic. I’m a little sad it was only half an hour. Mostly Friday was spent getting our bearings and scheduling out the things we wanted to do during the rest of the weekend. After Sarah’s concert we headed home for the night.
Saturday morning I went to a panel, But I’m Not a YA Author: Women Authors in SpecFic, which was pretty interesting. I usually pick panels based on authors I want to see who are on the panels, or if the subject interests me. This one was both. I thought the discussion of how women author’s works are sometimes viewed or mis-categorized pretty fascinating.
Other things I did on Saturday:
- Elizabeth Bear GoH Interview
- Sarah Pinsker, Elizabeth Bear, and Scott Lynch book signings
- Podcasting on the cheap panel
- Reading from Vivian Shaw, Arkady Martine, and Karen Osborne
- Best New Novels panel
- Duke and Duchess Podcast Live recording
- Weird Tales and the Problematic panel
I think one of the most fun things we did on Saturday was the Duke and Duchess Live Podcast, which was something I hadn’t even had planned to go to but Liz Dukes was at the Best New Novels panel and mentioned the topic would be conspiracy theories around the Kingkiller Chronicles and I couldn’t resist. It was great. They gave us all tin foil hats to wear and a pouch of capri sun. The Best New Novels panel was pretty fun too, even though I did already hear of / read most of the books that were mentioned, I still wrote down a few titles that were new to me. 🙂
The worst thing on Saturday was the podcasting panel I went to. I thought this would be an informative panel, and it was, the panelists were great, but it really got off to a rough start. The moderator was terrible. He had moderated another panel we went to on Friday and both times he would go way off topic, contradict the panelists, didn’t really direct the conversation, did way too much talking himself. I don’t think it was intentional, he just seemed enthusiastic? But then on Saturday’s panel when the discussion wasn’t being driven at all, one of the panelists decided to step up and asked the audience a question to get an idea of what would be useful to discuss and the moderator snapped at her really awful, accusing her of trying to take his job. It was super awkward and really, really, really unprofessional imo. Honestly, I hope someone reported that guy to con ops (and I kind of feel bad that I didn’t but I’m trying to step away from my ‘tattle tale’ ways and I don’t know if it was really my place? or maybe I blew things out of proportion? Maybe I should still send an email?). I don’t know. But either way I decided NOT to attend the other podcasting panel on Sunday because I think he was also scheduled to moderate that one and at that point I wasn’t going to anymore panels he was moderating. But, after that incident things did get, for the most part, back on track and the other panelists were true pros and had lots of great info to pass on. I took lots of notes!
Anywho. Sunday! My husband went off to play a game of Traveller and I went to the From Fanfic to Pro panel. This was quite a fun panel and it was interesting to see how
some authors started honing their craft first with fanfiction or even started writing fanfic after writing original fiction first. Part of the reason I loved this panel was that it took me back to my fanfic days (ah, I miss the old fandoms I was part of back in the day), so there was a nostalgia factor.
The other really fun thing I did on Sunday was go to Sarah Pinsker and Arkady Martine’s joint book launch party. They each did a short reading from their works and then everyone had snacks and just hung out and chatted for a bit. It was very informal and just a fun little party.
Other things I did on Sunday:
- Love Stories in Genre Fiction panel (romance, yessssss!)
- Recent Trends in YA panel
- Reading from Leah Cypess, Sherri Cook Woosley, and Ruthanna Emrys
I was going to go to Charles Vess’ signing but then I ran into him and Sarah Pinsker in the bar (they had an event together where Sarah read one of her stories and Charles illustrated it while she read) and when I stopped over to take a look at the drawing (he was still finishing it up) he said he’d sign my book for me then. Such a nice guy! Also, I loved all the readings I went to, but I was especially glad to get to hear Sherri read again because she’s so great at readings! If you ever get the opportunity to listen to Sherri Cook Woosley do a reading, I highly recommend you go. 🙂
By Sunday evening I was super tired and we left a little earlier and then we headed back on Monday for three things.
- Discovering the Works of the Queen of Space Opera panel (about Leigh Brackett)
- 30th Anniversary of Sandman panel
- Arkady Martine signing
Overall, Balticon was an excellent time and I got to see a lot of people that I only see once or twice a year at these types of events. It was fun hanging out with other fans of SFF for a weekend! I’ll definitely be back.
Here are the books I bought at the con:
Here are the books that I brought with me and got signed:
Books I bought at the con and then had signed:
My copy of Stardust that Charles Vess signed:
Some other signatures for your viewing pleasure:
And, that’s a wrap! I think my next con is not until the fall, near DC, Capclave. If you’re in the area, definitely consider checking that one out–Martha Wells is going to be a guest of honor this year. Can’t wait!