Another year, another JordanCon, amirite? I AM.
Haaaay, it’s your Auntie Leigh, Tor.commers! And as is my annual wont, I have sallied forth to the rather unreasonably rainy depths of surburban Atlanta to experience the joys (and woes, it develops) of JordanCon Numero Seveno, aka “Con of the Red Hand”, and no one can say I didn’t, because I have photographic evidence. Dun!
Most of which are stuffed into this post and the one after it, so ‘ware, ye of slow and/or stingy internet connections. Ye of speedy and/or free connections, have no fear. But whatever speed of data you be, I be here to verbose your ear off about it, so click on to see! IF YE DARE.
Note on the photos: As usual, my photography-fu sucks on both the quality and quantity fronts. Seriously, I tried, but most of my photos ended up unusable—except, of course, for the most frivolous ones possible.
(Apparently I can take pictures of alcoholic beverages and roosters like a boss. Shut up.)
Ergo, the vast majority of the photos in the posts of the con proper are cribbed with glorious permission from the indefatigable and talented camera of My Usual Canadian Suspect, Ms. Leslie Annis, who is the bestest EVAR and I heart her plenty lots. Other photos have been cheerfully stolen more or less at random from various other con-attendees on Facebook, all of whom will hopefully not notice forgive me for my presumption. If anyone sees anything here which is mis-labeled or wrongly attributed, please let me know and I will change it ASAP.
Gosh, Atlanta looks beautiful from above!
Yeah. But other than that, my journey to our shiny new venue for JordanCon this year went largely without mishap. The weather in Atlanta was way chillier (and wetter) than I had anticipated, but that hardly ended up mattering, since it turned out that I left the hotel precisely once the entire time I was in town. I’m… not really claiming that that was a good thing, but at least it meant that I didn’t have to regret not bringing a jacket. Go me!
A note on the hotel: it was certainly a fair bit swankier than our last venue was (though my room was oddly much smaller than at the other place), and the staff there were without exception completely awesome and accommodating folk, but I must confess that the mildly confusing and disjointed layout of the place disrupted the community feel of the con to a certain extent—at least to me. I dunno, I just felt like I spent a disproportionate amount of time tromping through empty hallways to get from one end of the place to the other, whereas the more open (and, admittedly, just plain smaller) floorplan of the Doubletree seemed more welcoming.
Also, $20 a day for a continental breakfast spread, even if it did include an omelet station, is kind of insane. I’m just saying.
But, it was still all awesome in the aggregate, so I will stop grousing now.
As it tends to be, Thursday was very chill. The annual pre-Con dinner was duly held, and I duly monopolized the attentions of most of Team Jordan, namely the delightful Alan Romanczuk (avec his equally delightful wife Amy), and Maria Simons, aka my favorite Maria in all the land. Alan received a gift for, apparently, being Alan, which is only right and proper:
Alan and Maria, by the way, are deep in the throes of last-minute Stuff regarding the upcoming release of The Wheel of Time Companion, about which I am deeply excited, but I managed not to grill them on it too much. Y’all will have to watch this space to see if I get to review an advance copy for Tor.com, NOT THAT I AM HINTING OR ANYTHING, NO NOT ME. Ahem.
I also got in some quality chat time with the redoubtable Harriet “Badass” McDougal, wherein we discussed shoes and ships and sealing wax, and I received good advice, as I always do. If you’ve never gotten to meet Harriet, trust me when I say you are missing out; she is a lady in all the ways that matter and in none of the ways that don’t. Just FYI.
After that there were several drinks, most of which were very blue, and a lot of congenial yelling, and I angered everyone around me, because…
I’M BLUE DAB A DEE DAB A DAH
Oh, now you have that song stuck in your head? AW, I’M SO SAD. MWAHAHAHA.
And then it was clearly time for bed, because bed. Whoo!
My breakfast that morning was both expensive and oddly interrogative, as some sort of survey taker person asked to join us and proceeded to ask us a whole lot of embarrassingly irrelevant Atlanta tourism-based questions. I’m afraid we rather disappointed her on that front, because we were all like, “Yeah, we’re gonna see… the hotel, this weekend. And no, we wouldn’t know downtown Atlanta if it stepped on us, sorry. We are geeks who cluster in the safe nerd warmth of our Con, and will generally utterly fail to venture from our rented lair unless for necessary alcoholic provisions. Our Bad.”
But hey, I think I am entered in the sweepstakes! For… something! Yay!
Then it was time for Opening Ceremonies, which I was both relieved and mildly disappointed to have nothing whatsoever to do with for the first time in two years. The Toastmaster this year was one Peter B. Slayer, of The Traveling Revelers, and his website seems to sum him up much better than I could. I do not know Mr. Slayer myself, but he gave good bourbon and/or champagne to everyone he called up to speak at the ceremony, so clearly he can’t be all bad.
I must say, though, that I think there was a tragically missed opportunity to make an incredibly in-jokey Luc/Isam reference, there. Y’all are falling down on the job, people, sheesh.
And from Dragonmount, a book of postcards from fans around the world:
Harriet clearly found both gifts just lovely. Much more lovely than my photography skills, that’s for damn sure.
Then it was time for panels! As it happened, I was on one of the first panels of the con, namely “Exploring Gender Inequality Through World-building,” with Con Board Member Aubree Pham, Volunteer Director Kristy Lussier, and Track Director Jen Halbman aka Serenla.
As you might intuit, this is a topic that falls well within my wheelhouse. (Or Wheel Of Time-house, hahaha okay sorry, stopping now.) We had done this panel last year, in fact, and Aubree said it had been so well-received that she’d revived it again this year, which was greatly heartening to hear.
And as before, it was a really good discussion, I think. Our main focus was the Wheel of Time, of course, but we also spoke about gender representation in fantasy and science fiction in general, and how that’s changed over the decades. One point made by a member of the audience I particularly liked was the reminder that when Jordan was originally writing, his egalitarian treatment of his female characters was downright reactionary revolutionary (ETA: apparently “reactionary” means the exact opposite of what I was trying to say here, oops words is hard) for someone of his generation—and of the era in which he was writing, as a great deal of the SFF of the 80s and early 90s were, shall we say, not always known for their pro-feminist proclivities.
The best statement, though, in my opinion, came from Aubree, who commented that she believed the parity of gender representation in the Wheel of Time directly contributed to the similar parity of the demographics of JordanCon itself. JordanCon, in fact, tends to skew about 60/40 in favor of female attendees (according to Aubree, I do not have the numbers to back this up), which is (as I understand it) very decidedly not the case in the larger science fiction/fantasy-related conventions. And I think that’s pretty awesome. I found it a bit startling, in fact, because I am not really a con-goer in general, and so it was something of a reality check to me to realize that the relaxed, welcoming and gender-diverse atmosphere of JordanCon (and make no mistake, I definitely feel that the third condition influences the first two) might be the exception rather than the rule. Something to consider.
I was originally only going to be on that one panel this year, but Richard Fife, Writing Track Director and general troublemaker, was having none of that, and plonked me into the “Writing Genre Non-fiction” panel. Because technically, as he pointed out, that’s exactly what all this blogging stuff is. Okay, but I still feel my fellow panelists rather outclassed me: Michael Livingston, Associate Professor of English at the Citadel, novelist and biographer Todd McCaffrey, and columnist/author Anthony Taylor.
That said, it turned out to be a fun exercise to compare my own experiences in being an online blogger to Anthony’s primary medium of print magazines, to Michael’s base in academia, and to Todd’s in being his very famous mother’s biographer. We were all doing much the same thing, in the general sense, but we were all coming at it from very different directions, and we therefore had a lively and interesting discussion about the differences in etiquette, in style, and in expectations from each avenue and/or medium. It was a good panel, I think.
Then it was time for the by-now-totally-annual Rereaders dinner!
It was a Mexican joint this time, El Azteca, and I think there were right around 25 or so of us Loonies in attendence—a few of whom were new attendees this year, which was awesome.
We were threatened with a mariachi band, but then my real troubles started:
FYI, I didn’t actually realize I had ordered an extra shot of Patron on the side until it was too late. No, really. NO, REALLY, QUIT IMPUGNING ME, YOU GUYS. Jeez. Bunch of dirty impugners, you are.
The highlight, though, was when the lovely Tina Bablok Pierce, aka Scissorrunner, presented me with a gift of my own: in honor of my WWII veteran grandfather’s recent passing, a group of the Rereaders had banded together and collected a $400 donation in his name to the Wounded Warrior Project.
Oh, man. I ain’t gonna lie, I got a little choked up. Perfect gift, you guys, you are seriously the best. Check out my Facebook page for a complete list of awesome people on this front, and please do consider donating to this wonderful charity if you can.
But then OMG, it was time for the Seanchan Hold ‘Em Tournament! (Which, speaking of awesome charities, generates an average of $600 a year for amyloidosis research—the disease that caused Robert Jordan’s passing—at the Mayo Clinic.) This is SRS BZNS, y’all. I was dashed back to the hotel just in time to sign up, and soon after was bolstered by the appearance of diverse friends and/or beverages.
And you know, I have been saying for years that I am not a particularly good poker player, but I must be doing something right, because I did shockingly well that evening, even though by the end I was actually trying to lose so that I could just go sing karaoke already, damn. But despite my efforts, I busted out third to last, and then there was only one more hand before the illustrious Bao Pham was declared the winner. Go me! And Bao, but mostly me! Whoo!
And then there was karaoke, and look, someone left me an entire bottle of honey whiskey, so I was OBLIGATED to share, wasn’t I? None of any of that was my fault. For reals.
I am ninety-five percent sure that no one is being arrested in this picture. Good times!
Saturday—In The Thick Of It
I am pleased to report that me and my hangover were totally virtuous and responsible and stuff, and managed to get to Professor Livingston’s panel “Robert Jordan’s Redefinition of Tolkien’s Fantasy” at 10 AM the next morning with the minimum possible amount of snarling and caffeine-binging, for which I really feel I should get some kind of medal for.
I had, in fact, heard this lecture before, when Michael first gave it at JordanCon 4, but I was more than willing to hear it again so I could drag other people to it as well, because it is awesome. There’s no way for me to explain its coolness without just quoting the whole thing, because like all really excellent lectures it’s all of a piece, setting up its premise, expounding upon it, and bringing it home in the conclusion, all set up with a great visual presentation that sneers in the general direction of my dinky PowerPoint shows of yore. I wish he would put it up online so y’all all could see it.
Totally worth getting up for, in my opinion. Michael, incidentally, also has a historical fantasy novel coming out from Tor this year, Shards of Heaven, which I have every intention of buying and reading, and you should too, because it looks like it’s going to be great.
This year, being rather more free of program participation obligations than usual, I was determined to try to attend more of the Writers’ Track of panels, which I have historically ended up mostly missing. So next up was “Writing in the Past”, which is relevant to my interests these days for Reasons.
Completely unsurprisingly, Mr. Awesome Historical Fantasy Professor Guy Michael Livingston was on this panel too, along with JordanCon 7’s Author Guest of Honor and seriously chill dude Saladin Ahmed, whose novel Throne of the Crescent Moon has been nominated for and/or won, like, every award, and which I have now acquired and look very much forward to reading as soon as my body stops trying to murder me (more on that later).
This was, in brief, a thoroughly awesome panel. Michael and Saladin had solid advice and extremely thoughtful opinions on the wonderfulness of primary sources, the importance of story over accuracy, concerns about cultural appropriation, and the dangers of writing a historical character’s mindset from a 21st century perspective. I wish I would have written some of it down, especially some of the very salient points Saladin made re: writing about non-Western cultures. Michael’s story about how basically everything we’ve ever thought about the Battle of Crecy is wrong, based on a recently discovered poem that some random herald had written about it only a few days after it actually happened, was another highlight that I wish I could remember more clearly. Instead, here, have my very crappy picture of the panelists (and Richard Fife!)
After this, I’d had every intention of going to the con’s Annual Pitch Critique panel, run this year by Saladin Ahmed, Tor editor and scholar Diana M. Pho, and of course Harriet McDougal, because I want to go to that damn thing every year, and every year I end up missing it. And it turns out this year was no exception, as I began feeling really not so good and a little panicky to boot, and rather than inflict myself upon anyone in this state, opted to go back to my room and catnap until that evening.
Because if previous experience is anything to go by, Saturday evening was going to be a Great Deal.
And it so, so was.
But to find out, you’ll have to go to Part 2 of my report! MWAHAHAHA!
…by, you know, clicking here. So, uh, not all that diabolical. But hey, I tried!