Ad-Astra 2015 Wrap-Up

Another year, another Ad Astra. This convention has really become my home-con and this year only cemented that feeling, thanks largely to the incredibly hard work of the programming team, including my friend Angela Keeley. I’ve been to cons where the barcon was the highlight of the entire convention, and, despite some wonderful barcon memories from this time around, this was not one of them.

I’m afraid I didn’t get to attend many other people’s readings and panels – being on eight panels and having brought my wife and six-month-old daughter along, I was basically running from panel to diaper pail and back again. But I had a wonderful time on the panels; particularly on the unexpectedly robust comedy track, which I was fortunate enough to get onto three of the constituent panels.

And that’s what I’d like to contribute a few minutes to.

First up was the Merciless Deconstruction of Things Other People Like panel with Adam Shaftoe, David Blackwood and Mike Rimar. In this early hint to the madness that would follow the audience learned about how:

  • The rebel alliance were (possibly theocratic) malcontents with no unifying political purpose other than overturning the apple cart of the Empire.
  • The Empire, meanwhile was as strategically dumb as a bag of hammers.
  • The crew of the Serenity were thinly veiled confederate soldiers stealing medicine from the citizens of a highly liberal democracy – the Alliance.
  • The truck on Knight Rider was wider than the roads it drove on.
  • There was only one Latino in the entirety of Blade Runner’s LA.
  • Harrison Ford is almost as bad at accents as he is at flying airplanes.
  • The United Federation of Planets was an oppressive military autocracy similar to North Korea only with cornucopia machines.
  • And SO much more

The next panel of my ad-hoc comedy tour was the slash fic panel. Things got off to a monstrous start when David Blackwood described the love lives of Alien and Predator. I added an entirely-non-perverted (shifty eyes are shifty) solution to Guardians of the Galaxy that completely negated the third act. Michael Matheson read a bizarre story of Ms. / Pac Man as a trans noir detective in a city of darkness and posession. Angela Keeley then brought the roof down (killing everybody) with the most terrible Harry Potter slash fic ever committed. Possibly excepting My Immortal. But probably not. After the audience was raised from the grave, we were joined by Beverley Bambury and Marie Bilodeau for a reading of Skinhead Hamlet. I’m sure my old Shakespeare professor Paul Werstine would agree this is the greatest achievement in the editing of the play in its storied history.

There was another bad reading (not-necessarily slash) the next night. This time Angela and I were joined by Erick Buchanan, who managed to find the true badness in a powerfully dramatic reading of a famous fantasy best-seller. I provided a treatise on waffles, magic swords and elf-murder. Angela actually read My Immortal. Lacking much of the needed cast for our repeat performance of Skinhead Hamlet, we kind of split after that, though a few of us hung around to educate certain deprived friends as to the joy of Charlie the Unicorn and the Forest Nymph Vine.

Lots of other things happened. My book cover was officially revealed and the launch date was publicly announced. There was a con-long drinking game (mention the Hugos? Drink!) Barcons, loud parties, scotch tastings, swimming pools, an invasion of hockey playing children and their bemused parents, swords!

Oh yeah, and I had a really nasty head cold the whole bloody time!

Loved Ad Astra to bits. Going there every year feels like going home.

Yeah, well neither has Shakespeare (Ad Astra roundup)

I haven’t written here for a while because, to be honest, I haven’t had anything to write about. Sorry.

But there was this convention that I got back from yesterday and I’ve been digesting it in my head. Happily this was a much, much more pleasant experience than my last con experience.

Here’s a roundup of the highlights from my perspective.

Sat on a panel about Stephen King moderated by Rio Youers. He’s an amazingly fun guy and has a true passion for King. So that was great, and I felt a little bit outclassed. It sucks that the panel was scheduled opposite the opening ceremony and the panel was just barely outnumbered by the audience. Happily Rio’s later reading was much better attended, and his demonic typewriter story was wonderfully manic and creepy.

Had an amazing time on the swords panel with K.W. Ramsay and Erik Buchannan. Some hilarity in that we were mostly in some state of Saturday Morning At A Con, but nobody lost an eye, we had great engagement from our audience and it’s always fun to play with swords.

Next year, gladiator pit. We have to make that happen.

Speaking of awesome audience engagement, Derwin Mak and I managed to have an amazing talk about SF/F from China, Japan and Korea later the same day.

And then the madness began. Readings by Matt Moore and Rio Youers provided me with a much needed horror reading track to enjoy. Matt totally teased with his incomplete reading of The Leaving which is apparently available legitimately online, sadly I didn’t catch where so tell me in the comments!

I stopped by the Brain Lag party and picked up a copy of Hugh A. D. Spencer’s new book, Extreme Dentistry. Hugh introduced me to the… delights… of traditional Mormon Cuisine. Thanks Hugh. Thanks.

And then there was Michael Matheson and Matt’s reading from The Empire Striketh Back.

Full details of the madness that transpired at that event can be found on Michael’s blog. Needless to say it was an absolute riot. I will definitely be down for this brand of convention hi jinks again. Angela Keeley’s reading of My Immortal was transcendent. I contributed a truly awful piece of Star Wars / Pacific Rim flash fiction which I might be enticed to post here with sufficient peer pressure.

Sunday found Adam Shaftoe, K. W. Ramsay, David Lamb and I sitting in the green room chatting when each of us realized he had to go to a panel. Imagine our somewhat bemused surprise when we discovered we were all on the same panel. Adam has done an excellent job of summarizing that panel on his blog, and I strongly recommend everybody go read it.

All in all what Ad Astra proved is that a convention attended with a bunch of great friends who all relax and have a good time together can very easily become a very successful convention. Many laughs were had. Many books were bought. We may have even learned something along the way.

And, hey, I just read a bunch of horror authors I didn’t know before and have opinions and stuff. So tomorrow an article about Laird Barron, Thomas Ligotti, Jeff Vandermeer and the new weird!