Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Event - InConJunction Recap, July 1st-3rd, 2011

Me and author/rock star Catherine Asaro
On July 1st-3rd, 2011 I attended InConJunction in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Author Guest of Honor, and the main reason I went, was Catherine Asaro, author of about two dozen science fiction novels, mostly set in the Skolian Imperialate. The convention also featured a Dr. Who room running constant episodes of Dr. Who (I watched a couple, including the superlative Neal Gaiman authored episode The Doctor's Wife), as well as an Anime room running Japanimation twenty-four hours a day, and a Movie room which featured a constant stream of mostly grade B science fiction and horror movies. As is usual for conventions, more was going on that any single human could possibly hope to do, so I missed a lot of events. One pair of guys I ran in to were Wayne Deal and Kevin Harris who run I'm Not Wearing Any Pants Games, who had some very nifty t-shirts and some interesting looking games. I also took the opportunity to visit the dealer room where I found a very nice pocket watch to replace my currently broken wristwatch. Carrying it around makes me feel like I belong in a Jules Verne or H.G. Wells story. I also picked up a couple of nice t-shirts from Off World Designs. Their designs are all so geeky-cool that I could have bought a dozen and not gotten every design I wanted, but I satisfied myself with three.

Catherine Asaro performing with her band The Diamond Star Project
Among the highlights of the convention were performances by the band Five Year Mission and Catherine Asaro's band The Diamond Star Project. I went to see them both on Friday night, and both were really fun to watch.

Five Year Mission is a local Indianapolis band, but I'm thinking they will become much more popular soon. The concept of the band is simple: They write and perform songs based upon the episodes from the original Star Trek television series. In the order the shows were aired (with one exception). Thus far they have one CD out (which I got a copy of) with songs from the first sixteen episodes, including The Cage, which is the one "out of order" episode (even though it was filmed first, it was not actually aired as its own episode and not within the Menagerie two part story until well after the original series had ended). They also make a video for each of their songs. Here's the one for The Cage:

The first CD also contains songs for The Man Trap, The Naked Time (with the chorus "Vulcans don't cry"), Miri (with the chorus "Bonk bonk. Bonk bonk on the head"), Balance of Terror, The Corbomite Maneuver ("someone get me a Tranya"), and my favorites The Menagerie Part I, Charlie X, The Conscience of the King, and Shore Leave. Every song is stuffed with Star Trek goodness. Not only is every song geeky fun, they are good songwriters and musicians so the songs are catchy and fun to listen to. The band has a website at Five Year Mission where you can get their CD, t-shirts, and other band related paraphernalia. They also have their videos on their site, and they also have a YouTube channel under the name fiveyearmission with all of their videos as well. I took some pictures of the band performing, but unfortunately they all turned out too dark to really see much of anything. If it is any consolation, you can see their band banner in the background of the pictures of Catherine Asaro singing (since she went on right after Five Year Mission had completed their set). If you get a chance to go see them, do. You won't regret it.

The Diamond Star Project is an
outgrowth of Asaro's recent Skolian
Saga novel Diamond Star
After Five Year Mission, Catherine Asaro's band The Diamond Star Project came on. Also featured in the band was the Con's Music Guest of Honor Donald Wolcott. The band is an outgrowth of Catherine Asaro's twenty-fourth novel Diamond Star, which features an interstellar rock star. Naturally, as part of writing the book Asaro had to write songs for her protagonist to sing. This led to a collaboration with the band Point Valid that resulted in the Diamond Star soundtrack CD, which can be obtained from Starflight Music. After the CD was released, Asaro and Point Valid went their separate ways and Asaro gathered the musicians that make up her current band The Diamond Star Project. The new lineup produced a second CD that is mostly cover songs, with a reorchestrated version of No Answers Within Paradisum. Their Friday set was mostly the cover songs, with a couple of originals from the Diamond Star soundtrack thrown in. The band is quite good and gave an enjoyable performance. I only had two complaints: they started very late in the evening (which isn't really their fault), and their rendition of Layla was too fast, although that is more of a personal preference than anything else.

Catherine Asaro signing books post-interview
The next day Catherine gave an extended interview which I was able to attend. Over the course of the hour she talked about how she got started writing, her early writing career and how she and her husband managed living in Germany and bringing up an infant while making time for her to get her novels written. She also talked about raising a gifted child and why she made the decision to home school her, and how that led to her taking up the role of a math coach for a number of home schooled children in Maryland. She also talked about how The Diamond Star Project came about and how she got started singing. Afterwards she took questions and signed books (including some books for me - she signed my copies of The Ruby Dice, Sunrise Alley, and The Quantum Rose). This interview was one of the best parts of the convention, and cemented my opinion that Catherine Asaro is one of the most brilliant, witty, kind women I have ever met. Plus, she writes really good books.

I believe this is Richard Propes.
I know this is from the "So, you want to
become a sci-fi/fantasy blogger?" panel
Of course, the convention wasn't just hanging out in the dealer room, watching Dr. Who episodes, seeing Five Year Mission and Catherine Asaro perform, and listening to Asaro being interviewed. There were a bunch of interesting panels that I went to, the most relevant being Richard Propes panel titled "So, you want to become a sci-fi/fantasy blogger?" Propes runs The Independent Critic, a movie review website, and also appears on the Comcast on Demand show Sandy on the Scene as the show's film critic. He offered some useful advice on running a website and putting together a blog. As usual, even though I've been doing this for a little while, I picked up plenty of helpful hints. Other panels that I attended that were quite interesting included "Forgotten Classics of Sci-Fi" (which was mostly interesting because I was the only person in the room who had read any number of the books under consideration, and that included the moderator), "Beyond Blade Runner: The Work of Philip K. Dick in Fiction Cinema" with an excellent panel that discussed Dick's life, religious faith, and mental illnesses, and how that was reflected in his writing. As far as movies go, the general consensus was that most of the movies based upon Philip K. Dick's stories pretty much bastardize Dick's work. Another interesting panel was "Is an SF renaissance around the corner?", which the panelists immediately said "no", based upon their assertion that young readers are not being drawn to the genre - dismissing Harry Potter as a starting point for new readers on the grounds that kids who read Harry Potter books don't go on to read other genre fiction books. But as the panel went on, it became apparent that this is not necessarily the case: Kids move on to the Eragon books, and the Percy Jackson books, and other speculative fiction books. The problem from the panel's perspective seemed to be that kids aren't reading the right kind of genre fiction books, which seems to me to have been a somewhat out of touch stance to take. One thing they got right was that it is probably a bad idea to try to get a young reader into science fiction by handing them a copy of Heinlein's Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, on the grounds that books like the Heinlein juveniles aren't relevant to kids today. But while I agree that Have Spacesuit, Will Travel has aged badly, many of the other Heinlein juveniles like Red Planet and Citizen of the Galaxy hold up quite well and would, I think, be as entertaining to a twelve or thirteen year old now as they were when they were published.

However, one of the few elements of InConJunction that seemed to me to be badly organized was the panels. Specifically, the panelists themselves. This is not to say the panelists weren't interesting or that they did a poor job, but the program did not list who the panelists for the various panels were, and apparently the panelists were not told ahead of time who would be joining them on the panels so they could contact one another and coordinate their presentations prior to the convention. This caused some problems, such as during the "Forgotten Classics of Sci-Fi" panel, when only one of the expected panelists showed up. I believe this was Ronald Hawkins); however, because I didn't think to take notes, I only remember a few of the names of the panelists.

Me and author Rosemary Laurey
One panelist whose name I do remember is Rosemary Laurey, who appeared on both the "Romance in science fiction" panel and the "Getting Published" panel. Laurey is an author who writes "paranoral, contemporary, and sensual romance". She also writes fantasy under the name Georgia Evans, and her website is Rosemary Laurey. The "Romance in science fiction" panel was interesting in part because no one on the panel seemed to be able to agree on exactly what "romance" meant. Suggestions were advanced that ranged from "any story with two characters who are together" to "the book has to describe body parts" to "lots of sex scenes". The panel eventually degenerated to mostly talking about the character relationships in Firefly and Babylon 5 highlighting the relationships between Sheridan and Delenn, Mal and Inara, Kaylee, and Simon, and Zoe and Wash. (I suggested Lennier and Delenn, which everyone liked, and Jayne and Vera, which no one took seriously). Other than Laurey, most of the panelists confirmed that the stereotype of science-fiction fans as unsocialized nerds has some basis in reality.

The other panel Rosemary Laurey appeared on was the "Getting Published" panel. Actually, saying she appeared on it is something of an understatement. Once again, the lack of organization in identifying panel members resulted in only a single person showing up for the scheduled panel. Mrs. Laurey recruited another author friend of hers to join her on the panel, but unfortunately I cannot remember his name (if anyone who was there remembers, please let me know). This was a very informative session, as Mrs. Laurey recounted her own story detailing her path from teacher to published author, including all of the mistakes she made along the way. Her co panelist also recounted his story, and then they shared some wisdom about publishing contracts, editorial requests, and the distractions that you have to put aside to be able to actually finish your work, because work that isn't finished is unpublishable. Of all the panels I attended at InConJunction, this one was the most informative, despite the slight confusion concerning the panel members.

InConJunction is held every year on the weekend in July that is closest to July 4th. In 2012, InConJunction: It's the End of the World as We Know It will be held on the weekend of July 6th-8th. I am already planning on returning.

Events     Home


  1. Interesting. Sounds like a mix of great, good and disappointing, as most conferences are...but overall lots of fun.

  2. @Julia: It was a lot of fun, even with the minor disorganization. I'm planning on going to WorldCon in August and Dragon*Con in September so this was a pretty good warm up for those. I figure these next ones will be insanely hectic, but I'm looking forward to them.