Capclave is my local science fiction convention. It takes place in Gaithersberg, Maryland, not too far from my house, and it is the convention that I have attended most frequently. This year marks the fifth year that I've come up for the fun. Each year I've become a little more involved in the convention. Last year was my first year sitting on panels at Capclave. Yesterday, I set a personal record for the number of panels I sat on in a single day.
I left the house just before 7am and arrived at the convention hotel at about 7:45 yesterday morning. My first panel of the day was scheduled for 9am and I was moderating the panel so I wanted to make sure I was here with time to spare, especially since the participants on this panel included the convention guests of honor, John Scalzi and Nick Mamatas. Also on the panel was Morgan Keyes. The subject: “Online Presence.”
There was a pretty decent crowd when the panel got started and the room continued to fill in as the panel progressed. I'd moderated two or three panels prior to this one and so I'm still learning. I did my best to prepare questions that would make for an interesting and lively discussion and I think for the most part that is what we got. A number of folks told me afterward that they really enjoyed the panel and I was glad to hear that because I was probably more nervous than I showed moderating this one.
When that panel was over I had a gap in my schedule and filled the time wandering around the convention area. I stopped at the dealer's room and browsed but didn't buy anything. I used to love the dealer's rooms when I first started coming to conventions. Over time, I've found that while I enjoy browsing, I generally don't buy anything. Most dealers rooms no longer carry the kind of thing I'm most interested in, old copies of Astounding. Sure, they will occassionally have issues from the mid-1950s or early 1960s, but I'm looking for issues from the mid-1930s to mid-1940s and these just don't seem to make appearances in the dealer room.
I also spent time finding friends that I was looking forward to seeing here. I saw Bill Lawhorn, convention programmer extraordinairre shortly after I arrived. Almost immediately, I ran into Brian Shaw and Ej Lawrence. Later I ran into Meagen Voss, Bud Sparhawk and David Bartell. And at some point, I also ran into Kat Otis.
At 12:30, I had my first-ever public reading. I owe a debt to Bill Lawhorn, not only for putting me on programming here, but for giving me a time slot for reading. The list of people reading yesterday was long and distinguished and I felt pretty darn lucky to be a part of that list. I was a little nervous just before the reading, but I had a larger group than I expected (I think I was expecting an empty room). I read two stories: I started with a story called “The Negative Impact of Climate Change on the Unusual Beasts of the World” and after that I read a short, humorous piece called “When the Aliens First Made Contact.” I think the reading went over pretty well. Someone took a picture of me while reading and posted it on Twitter so there is photographic evidence of this milestone event in my writing career.
My schedule was wide open between 1 and 5pm and much of that time was spent in the bar with a large group of people that came and went. Bud Sparhawk and Lawrence Schoen were there. David Bartell and I spent a long time talking shop. Brian Shaw and Ej Lawrence hung out with us for a while. John Scalzi stopped by and curled up into one of the comfy chairs in the bar. There were other people there whose names I can't remember at the moment, but it was a lot of fun. Gatherings like that are often the most socially fun parts of science fiction conventions. I experienced that at Worldcon and I experienced it again here yesterday and it was delightful.
At 5pm, I was moderating a panel on “The Golden Age of Science Fiction.” Tom Doyle was on the panel but our third panelist was not at the convention so I enlisted David Bartell onto the panel and it turned out to be a surprisingly lively discussion with the audience as much a part of the “panel” as the panelists. I was worried I hadn't prepared enough to get a discussion through an hour but it turns the discussions were so lively I didn't get to all of the topics I wanted to cover.
Right after that panel I went into a panel on “The Unwritten Secrets of Writers Groups” in which we discussed the pros and cons of different kinds of writers groups. I tried to plug the Arlington Writers Group as much as I could, but was also candid about what I thought worked and didn't work in these groups. The other panelists were very good and I think the audience members probably got a good deal of useful information from this panel.
You'd think that by 7pm, I'd be done for the day, but I still had two more panels to go. I made my way back to the bar and my gang of cronies was still there, so I joined them for a while and eventually convinced the bartender to put on the Yankees game1. I had something to eat and then just before 10pm, I headed over to my next panel, “Who Are the Early Masters of Modern Science Fiction?” In addition to myself and Tom Doyle, the panelists included Michael Dirda, Darrell Schweitzer, and was moderated by Doug Fratz. This was probably my least successful panel. I just didn't have much to contribute. My experience with science fiction goes back to about 1937 and from that point through the 1940s, I'm pretty well versed, but the panel decided to focus on writers even earlier and I found myself out of my depth. Fortunately, the other folks on the panel knew their stuff and I had the best seat in the house.
That panel almost went over and I had to dash out to make my last panel of the day, “Shortest Fiction.” I was listed as the moderator but I was wiped out, and this was another subject about which I don't have a great background. Fortunately, Larry Hodges stepped in to moderate. The panel included Diana Leacock, Craig Alan, Loewen, and Jennifer Pelland. This panel turned out better than I anticipated, despite the fact that the panelists outnumbered the audience.
When that panel ended at midnight, I was done. I headed up to the at which I'd last seen Bill Lawhorn, found he was still there, and promised him that I'd blog about what a fun time I had at Capclave once again this year. Of course, it's not over. I've still got one more panel, this afternoon at 1pm.
I really did have a great time yesterday and every time I end a fun day at a convention like Capclave, I always think to myself how lucky I am to be a science fiction writer–and fan.
Oh, and I do have some pictures, but no time to post them at the moment.
- Yes, I know that they lost in extra innings, but the really awful news was Derek Jeter's fractured ankle. ↩