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Monday, August 15, 2011

The Old Goat Finally Goes to GenCon, Part 2

Last week I got started on my report from GenCon. I'll finish it up here.

While the Boy was busy in his second trip through True Dungeon, I took the time to wander through the Exhibit Hall by myself. I was free to stop and talk to anyone I wished or to spend time checking out the wares of the various dealers. I saw much, bought little, and talked to a lot of people, but two conversations stand out.

At a small booth, I found an author hawking a book he edited. The book was titled Cheers Gary, with content selected and edited by Paul Hughes. The "Gary" in the title was Gary Gygax, founder of TSR, founder of GenCon, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, and perhaps the one man most responsible for turning role playing games into a major force in gaming. I stopped, curious both about the book and about a hand-written sign concerning something called the Gygax Memorial Fund. The fund is attempting to raise money to build a statue of Gary in Lake Geneva, WI, where he lived. There was another person in the booth, also. A woman who turned out to be Gary's widow, Gail. I told Gail how much of an impact her husband's work had on my life, assured her that I in no way blamed him for the plunge in my GPR after I discovered D&D, and generally had a pleasant conversation with her. I made a contribution and got a copy of the book signed by both the editor and Gail Gygax.

An hour later, I ran across the only person I could find in the Exhibit Hall dealing with comic books. He was a publisher whose titles are based on role playing game properties. The company has only just gotten started but made what I'd say was a good initial choice. Their book is based on a game setting called Deadlands. The setting is a strange mixture of good old fashion westerns, steampunk, and fantasy. The fantasy elements range from shaman magic to spirits to zombies, making the setting's tag line "Adventures in the weird west" very appropriate.

Needless to say, one of my first questions to the publisher was, "Do you need any writers?" He answered yes but quickly qualified that by pointing out how much more difficult it was to judge a writer from his writing submissions than it was to judge an artist from his artwork. I think this was a polite way of trying to let me down easy. I told him I understood, mentioning how I'd run into the same problem back when I worked in the industry, which I hadn't done since the early '90s. The next part was kind of fun to watch. The publisher responded to my statement that I understood his position and was just wrapping up when it dawned on him what else I'd said.

"Wait, you said you worked in the industry?" he asked.

"Yeah, I started off writing a self-published book before the publishing was moved to Comics Interview Publications and David Kraft took over," I said.

"What did you write?" he asked.

"I co-created and wrote the Southern Knights and the X-Thieves," I told him.

"Southern Knights?" he said. "I remember that book!"

Suddenly our conversation took a more serious turn as I told him of my experience both as a gamer and a comic book writer. We had to wind up the conversation because potential customers stopped at the booth, but as I was about to walk away he gave me his card and told me to definitely send him some of my stuff. (I plan on getting a package together for him this week.) Needless to say, that conversation put me into quite a good mood.

My mood wasn't even spoiled when the Boy hobbled out of his True Dungeon adventure having twisted his ankle. Understandably, a convention is not a fun place to be when it hurts every time you take a step. We headed back to the hotel for the day.

On Saturday, we wandered around the convention center, looking for things we hadn't seen yet. That's when we found these monuments to GenCon's origins as a convention for D&D.

An elven ranger:

A particularly nasty monster called a beholder:

And a troll. These trolls are not like the ones from The Hobbit. They were taken almost entirely from the novel Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson. Anyone who has read that book will readily recognize the D&D trolls the first time they run across them in an adventure.

The highlight of the afternoon was the costume parade. In Atlanta, Dragon*Con makes a huge deal out of the parade, actually marching everyone out on the road around the main hotel. A lot of people who have no interest in Dragon*Con apparently come downtown for the costume parade. Traffic gets tied up for a couple of hours or more and I suspect many of those in costume just about melt in the heat in Georgia during Labor Day weekend. GenCon kept everything inside, which meant the parade tied up traffic inside the convention. This was the only time the halls at the Indiana Convention Center were so crowded people could barely move. Still it was a good costume parade. Unfortunately, I wasn't in a position to take any photos during the parade.

We took a break for dinner before returning for our final visit to GenCon. We caught a performance by the Great Luke Ski, a geekier version of Weird Al Yankovic. We'd spoken with Luke in the Exhibit Hall, hidden away in a back corner with the other performers. He was fun to talk to and put on an entertaining show. He is apparently a favorite on the Dr. Demento Show, now found online rather than on the radio, and a member of The FuMP, the Funny Music Project. The guy can't really sing particularly well but he can pack a lot of geek references into a three or four minute song.

Sunday morning, despite the fact that the convention would go on until mid-afternoon, we packed up and hit the road. We had done most of what we wanted to do at the convention and all decided getting home that evening would be better than dragging the return trip out over two days.

Looking over this report and the first one, it seems as if we didn't really do all that much at the convention. Yet our days were full and we were very tired by the end of the day. We enjoyed ourselves, which is the most important part. Saturday night, after watching Luke Ski, I asked the Boy whether he had enjoyed last year's Dragon*Con or this year's GenCon better. He thought about it, said he really liked both, then admitted a preference for GenCon. He said the attendees at GenCon felt more like "our kind of people."

Plus, he couldn't play True Dungeon at Dragon*Con.
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