June 29, 2017

Snapshots from SoonerCon 26: a convention review by Jan S. Gephardt

I always plan to do better with my social media at sf conventions than I do. I get involved, and forget to tweet or upload Facebook photo albums. So I thought, "Why not make a blog post from a collection of things I should have posted from SoonerCon 26?"


Wait. What's SoonerCon 26, you ask? It's a science fiction convention held in Midwest City, Oklahoma (metro Oklahoma City), that brings together some of the best aspects of literary, media, gaming, comic, and costuming conventions. 

This year's edition began Thursday, June 22 with a Writers' Workshop, headed by Workshop Clinician Jody Lynn Nye, and ran through Sunday, June 25, 2017.

Since it is such a multi-focus convention, their theme this year was a nod to a three-ring circus, "Welcome to the Show!" Toastmaster--er, Ringmaster Selina Rosen did full justice to this theme in her Opening Ceremonies performance.

L-R: Jody Lynn Nye, Larry Nemecek, Selina Rosen in Ringmaster garb, Matt Frank, and Todd Haberkorn, at Opening Ceremonies.

As ever, my first stop upon arrival (well, after checking into the hotel and Convention Registration) was the Art Show. It had a larger area this year than in recent past years, but still seemed cramped to me, and the straight-down-from-above lighting was not terribly illuminating for fantasy paper sculptures in shadowboxes or deep mats (too much shadow, not enough art visible). There was a lot of wonderful art on display, however, and despite the crowding it was well worth the look.

Art Guest of Honor Peri Charlifu brought a large and imaginative collection of gorgeous ceramics and prints. Featured Guest Mitchell Bentley also brought a wonderful, colorful display of his astronomical and illustration work, and other attending artists brought a nice variety of interesting work.

My art display at SoonerCon 26

Other highlights of the Art Show for me included a large, new painting in Angela Lowry's display, two new paintings by Dell Harris, and a lovely display by Hazel Conley. Perennial favorites Sarah Clemens, Jim Humble, and many others also mailed in artwork to the show, to expand the selection brought by attending artists.

Some of the most magnificent artwork this weekend was wearable, however--remember, one of SoonerCon's strong areas is costuming. Here's just a small sampling of the wearable art walking around the Reed Center this weekend.




SoonerCon 26 offered up a nice collection of interesting and thought-provoking panels for attendees of varied interests. These touched on podcasting, comics, film, writing, art, and media (specific discussions geared to fans of individual shows or franchises, including Star Trek, Star Wars, Dr. Who, Harry Potter, and a wide range of others).

The witty committee behind the "Worst Novel Ever," L-R, seated: Phillip Drayer Duncan, Vickey Malone Kennedy, Craig Wolf, and KaCSFFS' own Tyrell Gephardt and James Murray. Behind them, standing: Larry Nemecek, facilitator (with microphone) and the unflaggingly-gracious Leonard Bishop.

A pair of wildly funny "SoonerCon @ Midnight" panels assembled a committee of quick-thinking wits and writers (including my son Tyrell Gephardt) to develop the "Worst Novel Ever" (held in the bar, where else?). The next day, a group of equally talented quick-draw artists conspired to create the "Worst Cover Ever" for it. In between gasps of laughter, I could only conclude that convention chairman Leonard Bishop is the "Best Sport Ever."

Probably my most gratifying moment this weekend was when the couple came up to me after my reading and asked, "Where can we buy your book?" I urged them to watch my blog for further updates, and I've been smiling ever since. I hope to have actual news about that very soon!

Literary Guest of Honor Timothy Zahn shared thoughts about his SoonerCon experience at Closing Ceremonies. To his right (our left) Artist Guest of Honor Peri Charlifu, and on the other side Writers Workshop Clinician Jody Lynn Nye attend to his comments.

Most of my panels dealt, not surprisingly, with writing, art, or some combination of the two. Using your creativity for Fun and Profit (focusing on best practices for creative small entrepreneurial businesses) and Imaginary Creatures: Essential to Fantasy? (with panelists from both art and writing backgrounds) definitely touched on both of my art forms.

Ethics and Art focused pretty exclusively on visual-art intellectual property, and the protection of both the creator's and others' rights.

Failing Better shone a spotlight on the rejection-fraught lives of writers, and how to deal with setbacks in a way that leaves one (a) not suicidal and (b) better equipped, going forward.

By far the best-attended of my panels, however, was the one titled A Girl is . . . about persistent gender issues, both outside of fandom and within. It quickly became apparent that not all "within fandom" groups are the same, when it comes to views on gender equality. Experiences of younger women--particularly some of those in the online gaming community--reveal we've come less far than we'd like to think.


All too quickly, SoonerCon 26 came to an end. Time to strike the photo-background sets, fold up the tabletop games, and pack the costumes or new T-shirts into suitcases. But I enjoyed it thoroughly, and I'm looking forward to coming back next year, if all goes as planned.

IMAGES: The green header-banner is from SoonerCon's website. The other photos are my own snapshots, taken by me at SoonerCon 26 (they may be reposted online with an attribution of Jan S. Gephardt as the photographer, and a link back to this post). 

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