Windycon 2018 Report

This past weekend was Windycon 2018, in Lombard, IL, and I was there. I’ve missed the last few Windys, mostly because of scheduling issues on my part, or a general reversion to my hermitish nature, but this year I got my act together and showed up. Herein lie the details of what transpired.

The theme this year was Unlikely Heroes, which is interesting enough, but I don’t feel like it directly impacted any of my panels. I saw other panels that had the theme woven into their subject matter, but for my run at least, the Heroes were a great deal Likely, perhaps even inevitable. One bit of warning, I’m not going to do a list of who I saw at the con, mostly because I’m terrible with names and would miss half the folks I saw. There seems to be an inverse relationship between the quality of my conversation and the likelihood of name recollection, in fact. So. If you’re reading this and are offended that I’m not mentioning you, please get over it, I’m not that important.

My convention started on Friday afternoon. I got there a little early so I could peruse the dealer room and make sure I knew where everything was. Also, let’s be honest, I didn’t want to drive there in the middle of rush hour. Windy’s great because it’s a small enough venue that it’s impossible to miss people you want to see, while still being large enough to always provide something to do. That said, a lot of the dealers were still setting up, so I binged off to the bar and had dinner. My beer for this convention was Noon Whistle’s Cozmo, which is very fine in the finest ways.

My first panel was Worlds of Magic, described as “A Comparison of various types of magic in today’s media”. Vague enough? A lot of the panel descriptions were about that vague, which means there was a lot of leeway heading in to them, but also that it was difficult to really prepare any comments. Good news, I can talk about magic systems of pretty much any type for a required length of time. There was an interesting comparison of the three types of magic systems that usually appear in various media (mostly books, let’s be honest), which were Thematic, Systemic, and Stylistic. I kind of think of thematic and stylistic as basically the same thing, where they’re adding to the atmosphere of the book without actually advancing the plot, but I think the difference comes down to the degree in which they move the world. Potter, for example, is Thematic. The whole series is about Harry becoming a wizard. That said, the rules aren’t clearly defined, as they are in Systemic works, and the plot is mostly about Harry’s relationships while he runs around picking up mcguffins and putting them in his mouth. Anyway. Good panel. I talked about Brandon Sanderson way too much, and then probably made some enemies because I complained about internal consistency in the Harry Dresden novels.

Morning panels are a bit of a curse, and I was afflicted both Saturday and Sunday morning. Fortunately, Windy understands late night parties, and doesn’t make the first panel until 10. Since I was driving in, this was a good thing, and necessary for my joy. Saturday morning saw me on the Wait Until Your Parents Get Home! panel, which was about the absence of parents in YA fiction. I have to be honest, I feel like we banged that one out in the first ten minutes and then kind of recycled the rest of the time, but there were a lot of questions from the audience, which is always a good thing. I was reminded that I don’t really read a lot of YA, but that my assumptions about how they work seem to hold true across the board, which either means there’s a lot of redundancy in YA or something.

I was able to attend one of Eric Flint’s panels. One of the nice things about Chicago area fandom is that people like Eric and Gene Wolfe regularly show up, and I try to get into as many of their panels as possible. Unfortunately, I feel like this was one of those occasions the brief panel description led to some subject creep. The title was “No guns, no ninjas, no problem!” and was theoretically about writing a story where the protagonist isn’t a bad ass killing machine. One of the panelists took this to mean, quite literally, how to be a bad ass without guns and ninjas, and suggested things like rayguns and knights templars. Right? But Eric held forth in appropriate manner, and by the end we were finally talking about maybe talking your way out of trouble, and having heroes that didn’t just punch and shoot their way through the plot.

My next panel was The Storyteller’s Guide to Not Sucking, and was basically about how to run better game sessions for your RPG friends. The moderator threw me for a bit of a loop, because he basically said “I’m sure everyone up here has a bunch of guidelines they could provide you, but instead we’re going to tell stories about times we screwed up a gaming sessions, so you can learn from our mistakes.” And, yes, I had prepared a bunch of guidelines I wanted to provide the audience. So. Mostly I had to try to remember the stories that led me to coming up with the guidelines in the first place. I struggled through, but feel like I could have done the audience more good just holding forth on how to tell a good story in game.

My last panel was Sunday morning, again at 10, but it was surprisingly well attended. We talked about sequels, and how long is appropriate to wait, and how that affects both the reader and the writer. We talked a little bit about how dangerous it is for the writer if the reader waits until the series is complete before they start reading it, and also how a series grows over time and becomes unwieldy. Eric Flint was also on this panel, and had a lot of smart things to say about how you can put out two or so books a year and still not satisfy your readers simply because the thing has gotten so broad that you can’t cover it all in one book. I really think everyone enjoyed the panel. Even the audience!

Other than panels, I had a reading and an autograph session. Since none of my books made it into the dealer room (maybe because I signed up so late, though they never seem to be there anymore, the curse of the midlist) I took the unusual step of selling books at my signing session. Well, unusual for me. I only did it because literally everyone else was doing it, and I’ve had people ask me if I had book available for sale at past conventions. So I made a little money, talked to some very nice folks, and even signed some books. Nothing wrong with that!

The best bit of the weekend, for me at least, was the reading. I say this because I love doing readings, and I love going to them. I need to make a point of attending more in the future. But I read the prologue for Wraithbound to a very small audience (my wife, someone from my reading group, a guy from the convention whose job seemed to be to come in and out in the middle of things and restock the candy jar, and Richard Chwedyk) and it went very well. Richard came up later to ask if the book was sold yet, and to tell me how much he enjoyed the reading, and I giggled like a schoolgirl, because why wouldn’t you. It’s Richard Chwedyk.

And that’s it for Windycon 2018. I’ll be back next year!

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