Last week I attended the largest gaming convention in America, GenCon. Four days of role-playing games, sci-fi cosplay (not me, personally), writers’ workshops, dealer room (and by “room,” I mean ginormous arena of more product in one place than a human mind can comprehend). It was amazing!
I’ve been known on my blogs to babble in incessant detail about the minutia of an experience. I’m going to try to avoid that here, else this post will go on for days. Four, to be precise. So, instead, I’m going to attempt an overview and then get into a few details now an again.
What brought me to GenCon this year, several years after my previous and first trip, was the decision to volunteer to game master some rounds of Posthuman Studio’s amazing RPG, ECLIPSE PHASE. To be honest, and perhaps to the surprise of the volunteer wrangler if he chances upon this, I’d not actually run an EP game before. Oh sure, I’ve been GMing RPGs since I was 10, some (oh… my… god!) 30 years now. (Pardon me while I take a stiff drink or five.) And I’d been reading EP materials for more than a year, trying to convince my regular gaming group to let me run some for them (to no avail). So, when I saw the call from Posthuman for GM volunteers, I jumped at the chance. I think I literally jumped.
What followed was weeks of intense EP studying and, finally, getting a couple groups of my friends to allow me to test the adventures I’d be running on them. Gladly, that went well. More importantly, the actual GenCon rounds I ran went fantastically well! (Fortunately, I’m the kind of GM who, if I run into some kind of road-block, I create workarounds and can wing it really well, with the primary goal of making sure everyone has fun. (Which, by the way, does not mean everyone gets to Monty Haul their way through the adventures… I did indeed end up killing a couple of characters in a most dramatic and worthy fashion, and just about Total Party Killed one group. They really enjoyed the tension-filled drama!)
Anyway, to wrap this part up, ECLIPSE PHASE is an incredible game, and Posthuman Studios is filled with great people! (I found it very amusing, and cool, that nearly everyone I saw working the Posthuman booth sported body mods: lots of facial piercings, hair coloring, tats. …and they were young–20s, certainly. A realization that helped lead me to a personal revelation which I’ll deal with soon. Anyway, great people, cool company (they actually put their $50 core rule book free online under Creative Commons! Can you believe that?!) I’m hoping to involve myself with them more.
So, that’s what took me to GenCon. But better yet, the wife and I decided we’d make it a family vacation with the daughter. We all searched and scoured the GenCon schedule for things to do, and successfully found a few things to do together; but, ultimately, all three of our schedules were pretty filled all four days.
Wife and I played an interesting board game that’s about to come out and was funded with Kickstarter, called “Oh My God There’s an Axe in My Head!” I’m looking forward to getting a copy. The three of us attended Tracy and Laura Hickman’s (you know, Tracy of Dragonlance fame) Killer Breakfast. Fun! But he wasn’t nearly as clever and quick as I expected him to be. Meh, that’s OK–it was a cool experience, and I love his writing. Daughter attended workshops on Doctor Who jewelry (read: Shrinkydink) making, makeup, anime stuff, and more stuff. She and wife make funny-cool felt doll ninjas and zombies, and played a “furry”-based RPG.
One of the things wife (I really need to get permission from her to use her name in public) did on her own was attend a Shadowrun improv show. She found it funny, and it really revitalized her Shadowrun interest! (I used to GM her and some college friends through many adventures back in the early 90s.) Now we’re browsing the ‘net-tubes for copies of Shadowrun 4th edition. Guess what I’ll be doing again, soon. *wink*
The vendors were legion! And, man, if only I’d had money, and lots of it. So much to buy! I had my eye on an interesting non-collectible card game that allowed you to create and play through a dungeon adventure solo or cooperative or multi-player. What I did end up getting was the new FADING SUNS book, which, sadly, after the controversial departure of their lead designer (wow, they’ve completely locked down their forum since I was there last, when stuff hit fans–yikes!), isn’t the revolutionary new version we fans had been expecting. By the looks of it, it’s a version 2.5, though the lady was trying really hard to say it was virtually 3rd edition. In any case, it does clean up and streamline the 2nd edition rules, which is well worth it in any case! Whatever questionable things the company has done/is doing, I still love that game! And I got the ECLIPSE PHASE supplement book, GATECRASHING. (Their books, by the way, are some of the best quality I’ve ever seen, period.) Daughter picked up a Doctor Who sonic screwdriver and a very nice pocket watch that, without any influence by me, happens to look very much like my own pocket watch that she didn’t know about. She’s my daughter. *smile*
I didn’t get to meet Wil Wheaton though I so wanted to. $25 to meet and get an autograph, which I don’t begrudge him at all! But that’s just too much for me. I did get to meet, speak with briefly, and get to sign my Nook, author Michael Stackpole. I’ve been a fan of his for years, but more so after I found out the work he did putting the “Dungeons & Dragons is evil!!1!” people in their place in the 80s. And even more more so after listening to his Stormwolf advice and hosting Dragon Page podcast.
Which leads me into the real meat of this post.
I attended a few writing seminars and panels (though not near as many as I wanted to!), including one of Stackpole’s. I heard from editors and publishers and authors about the business of writing, about networking with others in the industry, and other topics that deal with the writing career, as opposed to the act of writing. (Heck, as I’ve written before, I’ve been studying the art and craft of writing for year– *sigh* decades.) Oh, I also watched the taping of four episodes of Writing Excuses podcast. Sadly, I couldn’t get Brandon Sanderson’s autograph. *pout* Hearing from professionals about the profession was more than just informative, it was illuminating. It was motivating! Half the people on the panels were young, or started very young. And once again, for the tetragabazilionth time since I started grad school a few years ago, I felt the very sharp and painful pang of regret at all the lost time! I am starting a new career path, based on my passion now at middle age. Not only do I only have half the time in front of me to accomplish and enjoy my goals, but I’m trying to do it with a demanding full-time day job and a family while my peers and competition both are doing the same thing at the peak of their vigor and freedom.
Well, yes, this feeling of loss and desperation was sharp, as it always is–but what I also felt and was/am quite glad for it, is excitement and anticipation and hope. For example, working for someone else as a slush pile reader should be an intern-like job for a young person, but I’m excited about the chance of getting to do it, and gaining the skills and experience it will provide. Trying to network at my age and position will be difficult, but now I have a head (and some notebook pages) full of tips and suggestions of how to do it properly and effectively, and I’m excited about that as well.
And so this is what I came away from GenCon with: the renewed thrill and appreciation of my RPG hobby, renewed motivation and hope for my writing, and a renewed plan and energy for my editing/publishing goals. And, interestingly, one of the things that the helped these renewals, was the fact that in 4 days I barely looked at Facebook. The realization: I need to stop using Facebook.
Sadly, that’s not entirely feasible as Facebook is a great tool to me for learning news and info about books and authors and publishers, getting scifi/fantasy inspiration, networking with others in the industry, keeping up with gaming news and releases, and, of course, promoting my own works. So, leaving altogether would actually be a bad idea.
What I did do, though, is set up a new account and liked/subscribed/friended people and pages and groups and interests that focused entirely on writing, speculative fiction, publishing, and other manner of related subjects. (See, my original account was filled with socio-political-economic-philosophical matter that compelled me to not just visit every moment I had a break from work/family/work, but read and respond with negative-feeling emotion that, while was very important to me, sapped my mood and attitude and encouraged misanthropic crumudeonry. Those socio-political-economic-ideological beliefs I still feel very strongly about; but, I decided, it was time to make all that take a backseat to what I want to be most important to me, aside from my family. My writing and writing-related career.
So, here it begins… again. Wish me luck!
Congratulations! You came to the conclusion on your own about something that I’ve seen in a lot of FBers: the propensity to immerse themselves in things that create in and around themselves a negative space. Breaking free of that is far more important than breaking free of Facebook which, I also agree, is (can be) a valuable tool and information aggregator.
That said, I find myself spending far too much time catching up on people’s posts on FB as well as browsing through the news aggregators to find things to post on my own (multitudinous) FB pages. One of the reasons I like to go out teaching on Navy ships is because out there (for at least a little while longer), access to the intertubenetwebs is limited and I can write — at least in one instance — two or sometimes three first drafts of novels.
Meanwhile, at Gen Con I got Petey the Wunder chicken signed by the guy who voices the Daleks in Doctor Who: Nicholas Briggs.
“Exterminate!” … the negative. Enjoy your new breath of the wonder of the world.
Man, I REALLY need to go on a writing retreat! …or go teach on a ship. 🙂
By the way, waiting for the novel feedback. 🙂 If you want to post it as a review on Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, Smashwords… I wouldn’t mind. Good, bad AND ugly! I like honesty over smoke-blowing, and can use more reviews. 😉
So glad to hear that you had a good time running Eclipse Phase, Liam. We’ll take the compliments to heart (especially the “early-20s” part of them… 😉 ), and we look forward to seeing you next year and hearing what you’ve done with the game in the meantime!