Salaam and good evening to you, worthy Tor.commers! I am now (mostly) recovered from my venture into the delightful crazy that is JordanCon, and now I am bound to tell you all about it. Whoo!
This year I was privileged to be the Toastmaster of JordanCon V, otherwise known as Tar Vacon, and it was pretty much one of the coolest experiences I have ever had in this fandom. And I’ve had some pretty damn cool experiences in this fandom before this, so give that statement the weight it deserves, people.
And of course, no Wheel of Time convention would be complete without me yammering on at length about it, so if you’re just DYING to find out how cool my weekend was (and your Internet connection can handle stupid amounts of pictures) please do click the link for more!
No one believes me when I tell them this, but I was actually incredibly nervous about being this year’s Toastmaster for JordanCon. Not so much for perhaps the normal reasons, i.e. getting up in front of several hundred people and talking (I was totally fine with that), but because I was so concerned about everything going the way I wanted it to. This probably makes me a control freak, but, well, we all probably knew that anyway.
BUT, fortunately for my neurotic self, everything (from my end, at least) went off without a hitch. This is due pretty much entirely to the awesomeness that is Jennifer Liang, Chair of JordanCon and general all-around amazing human being, and the team of equally amazing people she has gathered around her to run this thing, because they did lots of stuff for this con, but most importantly, they got me a desk.
I’m kidding, that is totally the least important thing anyone did for this con. Though I do have to point out that Jennifer did actually get me one, thus saving me from having to rewrite the entire gag I used for the Opening Ceremonies, so from my point of view that was buckets of awesome, but it is just a drop in the industrial vat of awesome that the JordanCon staff managed to accomplish this past weekend.
Seriously, my experience of fandom conventions in general is rather limited, but I have been assured by multiple folks, many of whom have been to pretty much every fandom convention ever, that JordanCon in particular is something special. We are small, but that just means that our awesome is concentrated.
And not so small as we used to be, either. I am told that JordanCon’s attendance jumped from 291 attendees in 2012 to 589 attendees in 2013.
Which, in case you can’t math as good as me, is, like, a lot more. More than double last year’s numbers! That? That is pretty fucking awesome, you guys.
But screw the numbers, Leigh, you may be saying, get back to important matters. Like why you so desperately needed a desk. Eh? Eh?
Ah, well. I was hoping to be able to share that with y’all, but unfortunately the video from the Opening Ceremonies is not yet ready (turns out it takes a while to clean up and format four days’ worth of video, who knew), and it appears that hardly anyone actually took pictures during the hour. I’m going to go ahead and assume that it was because my performance was so mesmerizing that people just plain forgot they had cameras!
Oh, fine. But, I can say that while it may or may not have been mesmerizing, the whole Opening Ceremonies thing went off without a hitch, and I was quite pleased with it. But rather than try to describe it to you, as soon as I do have a video link for you I will absolutely post it on Tor.com and it will be much more enjoyable that way, I hope. So, something to look forward to, yes?
ETA: The video for the Opening Ceremonies is now up! Yay!
But hey, in the meantime, here’s a teaser!
(I do have to take a second to thank my sister Elizabeth, who is a professional photo and paper restoration artist, and without whose awesome Photoshop-fu my slide show would never have worked in a million years. I also have to thank Chris Lough, of our own Tor.com fame, for coming through with an awesome WOT graphic (that one probably got the biggest laugh of the whole thing, Chris, you rock), and also Re-reader Jay Dauro and Spencer Powell of The 4th Age Podcast, without whose A/V-fu the slide show would not have been visible no matter how awesome my sister made it. I often have cause to be thankful that I know so many people who are so much more skilled at technical things than I am, but never more so than in the past couple of weeks. Y’all all saved my ass, for real.)
So, it turns out that the really bizarre thing about being the Toastmaster for a fandom convention is that when you’re busy being (functionally) the emcee of the con, you don’t have time to actually attend the con—other than the panels you’re actually moderating, of course. So in this particular report I am unfortunately unable to tell you much of anything about the vast majority of the panels held this year at JordanCon, because I just didn’t have the opportunity to experience them. Which is a shame, because there were quite a few I would have loved to attend, particularly in the Writer’s Track. Hopefully there are some attendees who would care to share their experiences of the panels I didn’t get to see in the comments?
However, I did get to not only attend but to moderate all of the “big” events of JordanCon this year, and those I can tell you about. The first one of these, immediately after the Opening Ceremonies, being An Hour With the Author Guest of Honor for JordanCon, who this year was Seanan McGuire.
Seanan and Re-reader Leslie Annis, aka Lannis.
(Leslie, by the way, may be in a disproportionate number of the pictures on this post, because I managed to take precisely ZERO pictures at the con, owing to the fact that (a) I suck and (b) my phone camera sucks even more, so I am cheerfully stealing Leslie’s pictures instead, as well as a number of other folks’ pictures which I nabbed more or less at random from the JordanCon FaceBook group. If anyone wants credit for those I don’t attribute because I can’t figure out where the hell I got them from, let me know in the comments.)
Seanan would have been a great guest just solely based on her impressive resume, which now includes being nominated for a record-breaking five Hugo awards this year, but it also happens that she is awesome in and of herself. When I initially met her at the pre-con dinner Thursday night, I walked up to her and said, “Hi, you’re Seanan McGuire, right? I’m Leigh Butler,” and without missing a beat she replied, “And together we are—Wyld Stallyns!”
We got along just fine.
She was described to me later as being “a twisted Disney princess,” and that’s about dead accurate, as anyone who has listened to her squee excitedly about poisonous deadly reptiles can attest. If you ever meet her yourself, make sure to get her to tell you the story of the king cobra named Claude; I won’t spoil it, but rest assured it’s awesome. And also, while you’re at it, read her books. I have already devoured her zombie apocalypse/medical thriller Newsflesh trilogy (under the pseudonym Mira Grant), and they were pretty darn amazing. And I say that as someone who’s not even that into zombies as a general thing. Seanan is good people, and I’m glad I got to meet her.
Sadly, I was not slated to moderate any of the panels involving our other Guest of Honor, who was no less than Michael Whelan himself, but I got to introduce him at the Opening Ceremonies, and thank him sincerely for giving the Wheel of Time a truly beautiful final book cover. The original painting for that cover was on display (though not, of course, on sale) at JordanCon’s art show, along with several other original paintings of Mr. Whelan’s phenomenal body of work, and I do not exaggerate when I say it was stunning. The print book covers are lovely, of course, but there is something about seeing the real thing that just can’t compare. He is a delightful person and a wonderfully talented artist, and we were truly privileged to have him there.
(I also got to chat with Mr. Whelan at a couple of points during the con, and among other things he told me that he was deeply impressed with JordanCon, and in particular with the sheer friendliness and efficiency of its staff. And this is a man who’s been to a few conventions in his day, so y’all should definitely take that for the amazing compliment it is. Wow.)
Friday night, as I have already told, I got to go to dinner with my amazing Re-readers, so if you haven’t seen that report yet go take a look, because they are awesome, full stop. After that I once again managed to miss getting into the Seanchan Hold ‘Em poker tournament, which is becoming an ongoing gag at this point, because I have managed to miss it every single frickin’ year I’ve come to this thing, and it is just ridiculous. Next year I SWEAR I am going to make it in, y’all. Watch this space.
But, all was not lost, because we were simultaneously having karaoke in the ballroom, and I can always get behind an excuse to sing me some Dusty Springfield. So that’s all right.
Saturday I had managed to arrange things so that even though my first panel wasn’t until 4 pm, I still had to get up at 8 am in order to get ready for and attend the only panel I was on not in my capacity as Toastmaster, but rather as the proprietor of the Re-read on Tor.com. This, of course, was the “Innkeepers” podcast panel, conducted and recorded by the lovely folks at The 4th Age Podcast, and included (besides myself) Jason Denzel, Jennifer Liang, Matt Hatch, Linda Taglieri, and Melissa Craib.
It was so named because everyone on the panel had been beta readers for Team Jordan during the writing for both Towers of Midnight and A Memory of Light, and each as a result had had cameos in one of those books as, you guessed it, an innkeeper.
Well, everyone except me, of course. So really, it should have been called “The Innkeepers and a random Maiden of the Spear.”
Ha, I’m always the odd one out at these things. Never quite fit in! But that’s really totally fine with me (good to be unique, yo!), and it was super fun to be on the panel and hear some of the great stories the others had about what it was like to read the rough drafts of ToM and AMOL. If you have not heard Matt Hatch’s story about the scene with Thom and Moiraine in ToM, well, you are missing out. (I ain’t gonna tell it, but when The 4th Age folks put up their broadcast of the panel you can listen for yourself. I’ll put a link up here as soon as I have one.)
Next up for me was, of course, The Big Panel, otherwise known as the A Memory of Light panel, with the ever-awesome Team Jordan: Harriet McDougal, Brandon Sanderson, Maria Simons, Alan Romanczuk, and Peter Ahlstrom, along with a room stuffed to the rafters, and moi.
And even though I was moderating it, I actually ended up having very little to do on this panel other than wrangle the microphone; staff member (and half of Team Moiraine) Kristy Lussier took care of making the audience cry with her lovely tribute to the final novel and its fans, and the audience took care of coming up with pithy and intelligent questions to
grill ask Team Jordan with. So I enjoyed that quite a lot, really.
I will not even remotely attempt to recap what questions were asked, mostly because it’s not necessary; there will be video posted of the panel soon, and if you can’t wait till then, you can always listen to the audio recording our Jay Dauro has graciously posted for the Intarweb’s edification.
The panel concluded with the traditional gift to Harriet, undertaken this year by Theoryland’s Matt Hatch, who presented her with what I think is a frankly wonderful gift: a leatherbound book titled Read and Find Out, filled with the collected archives of everything Robert Jordan ever said online concerning the Wheel of Time. Chats, interviews, blog entries, etc., all gathered in one place and organized by date.
It was really beautiful, you guys. Matt and his cohorts truly outdid themselves, and Harriet obviously loved it. Well done.
Immediately following the AMOL panel was the award ceremony for Deep South Con, which is (as I myself said when introducing the ceremony) the south’s premier regional Science Fiction Convention, held every year in a different southern city. Each year the DSC gives out awards to those fans and professionals who they feel have contributed outstandingly to southern fandom. It was a lovely ceremony, and fittingly concluded by awarding this year’s Phoenix award posthumously to South Carolina native Robert Jordan himself.
Harriet, of course, accepted on his behalf, and you may be interested to know (I certainly was) that this essay is why there is a mention somewhere in AMOL (which I will find, never you fear) of one or more dead mules. So as to qualify it as “southern literature,” of course. Heh.
Then, of course of course, we had THE COSTUME CONTEST. Which was epic on many levels, but mostly because of the just stunning level of craft and talent the contestants showed in making and wearing their costumes. Here, have a slew of pictures!
Our own Re-reader Deana Whitney, aka Braid_Tug, as a Brown Aes Sedai.
The Littlest Aes Sedai and Warder. Awwwwwwww.
The Ta’veren from a Mirror World, with Kiley Kellermeyer Daniel, Marisa Grooms and Sophie Decaudin. This one was my FAVORITE. So awesome.
Olver and Bela!
Patrick Minze as a Tairen High Lord.
John Harp and Murasaki Emerson al’Aevon as very sassy (and badass) Tinkers.
Shaidar Haran! Run away!
And then my OTHER favorite:
Leslie Annis as Elmindreda. LOOK at that dress, y’all. Wow.
My favorite part is how when she was on stage, she pulled out no less than five knives from her dress, and then pulled out a wooden spoon, which she informed me she had stolen from Mistress Laras “in case I needed a spanking spoon.” Ha!
(Yes, that’s a spoon I’m holding, as I crack up laughing.)
Speaking of cracking up laughing, he may not have won (or been eligible, technically), but for my money Wilson Grooms had the funniest costume at the con:
Our winners, in a probably-hard-to-see group picture, sorry:
Including our 1st place winner, a lovely and frightening lady whose name I somehow cannot find, as an Eelfinn:
Other random costume pictures!
Our wonderful Con Vice Chair James Liang as an Asha’man.
Our also wonderful Board Member Aubree Pham as an Aes Sedai.
Leslie with our just as wonderful as the other two Art Show Director April Moore, as Cadsuane.
Min, Mat, and Graendal.
Multiple Re-readers in costume! (Deana Whitney aka Braid_Tug, Sharon Jones Eiben aka Sulin, Holly Finnen-Stewart aka Branwhin, Leslie Annis aka Lannis, Tina Bablok Pierce aka scissorrunner, and Ron Garrison aka Man-O-Manetheran)
And, of course, no JordanCon would be complete without me getting to “stumpbump” Mr. Rand al’Thor, aka our other Art Show Director Paul Bielaczyc:
Because we are classy.
So, so classy.
We proved this later that evening, when we respectively DJ’d and Emcee’d the DANCE HALL OF THE TOWER. Which deserves all caps because wooooow. Let’s just say, it’s probably a very good thing for all our collective dignities that there aren’t that many pictures of it around. There are a couple, of course, but this is probably the only one I care to acknowledge:
Which is me and the lovely Sarah Nakamura, of course.
Though I did actually dance at the dance, I spent most of it sitting at the DJ table, hijacking Paul’s iTunes and rearranging his playlist (hey, if he wanted to hear those songs in that order he shouldn’t have left me alone with his laptop), in between yelling into the mike with perhaps more enthusiasm than discretion. I was… kind of a lot, y’all. I may, at one point, have actually exhorted people to “wave your arms in the air like you just don’t care.”
I know, I am a terrible person. In my defense, though, everyone in the room did it!
They also listened to my imperious demands that they participate in the silent auction, which this year was raising funds for the recovery of Ben Wolverton, son of sf author David Farland. David was supposed to appear at JordanCon this year, but he had to cancel his appearance when his son Ben suffered a very serious accident which left him in a coma and his parents with astronomical (and growing) medical bills. JordanCon’s board of directors then promptly decided to donate all proceeds from the silent auction to the Wolvertons, because they are awesome like that.
All told, the auction raised $4318 for Ben (thanks to Finance Director Chris Cybert for the figure), which is amazing. But even so, that will barely make a dent in the Wolvertons’ medical bills, so if you can, please go here and donate. (You can also contribute, of course, by buying David’s books, which benefits you as well as Mr. Farland!)
The auction ended at elevenish or so, but the party went on till 2:30 in the morning, and the only reason it ended then is that they told me I had to kick everyone out. Those people would totally have partied till dawn, y’all, because our dance was, as the kids say, totally bitchin’. I’m not kidding; we were throwing down so hard that not one but TWO different wedding parties from elsewhere in the hotel abandoned their own receptions to crash ours. Awesome. For once WE were the cool kids, eh?
All things considered, it’s probably a very good thing that my Toastmaster responsibilities essentially ended at that point, because Sunday, to the shock of precisely no one, found me feeling a tad delicate. Also virtually speechless, because it turns out that five-plus hours of bellowing into a microphone makes your vocal cords a little, shall we say, angry with you the next day. Who’d have thunk it.
So Sunday was mostly spent wrapping things up and breaking things down and eating greasy food and hanging out with all the people who I’d really not had time to socialize with before that point—including Harriet herself, of course, and Maria and Alan and even Brandon for a few minutes before he got sucked back into the unending Magic: the Gathering game which I think had been going more or less continuously for the entire length of the con.
And that’s… pretty much that. So here, before I wrap up, have more random pictures!
Two fifths of the Team, I give you: Alan Romanczuk and Maria Simons. Mwah, dahlings.
Harriet McDougal and that Leslie chick, again.
Brandon Sanderson and some other random chick!
Team Moiraine, aka Sarah Nakamura and Kristy Lussier.
Me and Re-reader Nadine Lippuner, aka travyl. (She gave me chocolate!)
The infamous Looney Theories panel, who apparently feel no need to let the ending of the series bar them from making up crazy shit. As is Right and Proper.
Me and Richard Fife, who gives good shoulder.
The indomitable Jay Dauro, Linda Taglieri, and Tricia Grant Irish.
The delectable Grooms clan, avec archer.
Me, Leslie, and THE PADDLE. You’ll understand when you watch the video.
Your Toastmaster, just before the Opening Ceremonies began.
Aaaand there are about a zillion more photos I could share with you, but I think you get the idea. In sum, it was a wonderful crazy sometimes frantic but always fun weekend, in which we celebrated what may be the ending of a series but is only the beginning of everything else.
I am honored to have been this year’s Toastmaster for JordanCon. It was a lot of responsibility, but I had a metric ton of fun doing it, and would totally do it again if I am ever offered the opportunity. I feel pretty safe in saying that most everyone else there had fun as well, and if I had even the slightest amount to do with contributing to that fun then I will consider it a job well done.
If you were there this year, I love you all, you’re like butter. And if you weren’t there this year, why dontcha come on down next April and sit a spell? You’ll be glad you did.
See you next year!
Leigh Butler is a writer, blogger, and apparently giant microphone hog, who runs The Wheel of Time Re-read and The Read of Ice and Fire on Tor.com. She lives in New Orleans, and is now wondering if her relative lack of dead mule possession means she’s breaking a rule somewhere. Oh well.