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). 

June 26, 2017

Radiant idea: Why not order or reserve it now?

The next Kansas City SF&F Literati meeting will be July 24, 2017. That gives you four weeks to round up a copy of the July selection, Catherynne M. Valente's book Radianceand read it.

Several copies of each month's selection are normally available through the Johnson County Library or Mid-Continent Public Library. It's also available from meeting host Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Amazon, and Kansas City's own Rainy Day Books.

The Barnes & Noble overview describes the novel as "a decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery set in a Hollywood-and solar system-very different from our own."

Kirkus Reviews listed it as a starred review. "...descriptions are lush and striking, her worlds reveling in the dreamiest of nods to classic science fiction, where alien planets are full of life and easily reachable... A heady, strange, and beautifully written novel about how stories give form to worlds."

The meeting will be held on the second floor of the Oak Park Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Overland Park, KS, at 7:00 p.m. the evening of Monday, July 24, 2017. Everyone is welcome to come, even if they haven't read the book.

IMAGE: Many thanks to Amazon.com for the cover image.

June 22, 2017

Remember: SF&F Literati meet Monday, June 26!

Date: Monday, June 26, 2017, at 7:00 p.m.
Title: Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge
Author: Paul Krueger
Available from: Fine Booksellers, including Barnes & Noble
Meeting Location: Barnes & Noble #2352, 2nd Floor, 11323 W. 95th Street, Overland Park, KS 66214

NOTE: All are welcome to the meeting, whether you’ve read the book or not.

The June selection stirs up a potent brew of troubles for a freshly-graduated millennial who's taken a bartending job that lands her among a secret society of bartenders who fight demons with alcohol-magic.

What do reviewers say about Paul Krueger's debut novel?

“Krueger’s enjoyable light contemporary fantasy novel will satisfy fans of bars and bartenders…the winning main characters and the occasional histories of the drinks provide plenty of fun.”—Publishers Weekly 

“…one of the most fun urban fantasies that I have ever read, with a sharp, kick-ass heroine who faces demons, a pushy mom, a possibly unrequited love interest and a plot to take over the world. You know you should be reading this with a tall, cool glass of your favorite libation close at hand.” –San Diego Union Tribune

“The main character makes this book great, as the voice and insight are believable and fun. This book will appeal to a wide range of sf fans as the rest of the cast is believable and the hidden world of tremens (demonlike creatures) is great.”—Booklist

IMAGE: Many thanks to Amazon.com for the Last Call cover image.

June 15, 2017

It's picnic time! Saturday June 17, 2017

When: Saturday, June 17, 2017--Setup begins at 5:30 p.m.; plan to eat 6:30-7:00 p.m.
Where: The Writers Place, 3607 Pennsylvania Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64111
Bring: Beverage of your choice, plus a side dish to share (members can sign up on the KaXFEN email list!)

It's the Annual KaCSFFS Picnic
Our traditional evening of gathering to share food, play tabletop games and eat or distribute all the ConQuesT Con Suite leftovers while they're still fresh is upon us!

Join us for an indoor-outdoor event that accommodates all abilities and respiratory capabilities. KaCSFFS provides hotdogs, hamburgers, veggie burgers, condiments, ConQuesT Con Suite leftovers, and table service. Please bring your own beverages and a side dish to share (there's a sign-up on the KaXFEN email list for members).

But WAIT! There's more!
Reviewers' Reading Circle Summer Selection

We'll kick off our new summer Reviewers' Reading Circle selection, Stupid Humans, by V. R. Craft. This is the program's first humorous selection.

What's it about? "What if all the intelligent humans abandoned Earth... and we're what's left? Samantha is a journalist who travels through the wormhole to New Atlantis and discovers that embarrassing reality when she meets the People, humanity's more intelligent--and smugly superior--distant relatives. Unfortunately, thanks to humanity's penchant for fighting, a Human/People conflict is brewing. She could almost forget she's not on Earth, except the People have tails and don't slap idiot warning labels on everything . . . "

KaCSFFS' Reviewers' Reading Circle program offers free downloadable copies of current books by lesser-known and emerging authors, available to dues-paid KaCSFFS members via links provided through the email KaXFEN list. Members may download the selection as a review copy during the two-month period following the first announcement. Read some or all of it, and if you choose, write a short review.

At the July 15, 2017 meeting, we'll have a live author interview with V. R. Craft via Skype or FaceTime, to discuss the book and answer questions. The selection will remain available through our August meeting.

KantCon presentation

There also will be a presentation about KantCon, the annual gaming convention, to be held July 14-16, 2017, in Overland Park, KS. It features lots of different gaming possibilities and a costume contest.

For more information, please come to our presentation at the meeting! You can also learn more at their website. Get some fun glimpses of their events at the KantCon gallery.

Dare we mention it? Membership cards!
As promised, new, 2017-18 KaCSFFS membership cards will be available for all dues-paid members, on a laminate-while-you-wait basis. Show your card for a discount at Prospero's Books!

IMAGES: The "KaCSFFS Picnic" header was made for this event by Jan S. Gephardt, based on a photo taken in 2015 by Jan S. Gephardt. The Stupid Humans header is from V. R. Craft's Stellar Sarcasm website, the Stupid Humans book cover image is from Amazon, and the KantCon header and gaming dragon logo are from their website. Many thanks to all!

June 11, 2017

Not quite last call yet: you have TWO WEEKS!

Have you started Paul Kreuger's Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge yet? Still considering whether to read it or not? It's the June featured selection for the Kansas City SF & F Literati.

They'll meet to discuss it in about two weeks, on Monday, June 26, 2017, at 7:00 p.m. on the 2nd floor of the Oak Park Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Overland Park, KS.

What's the book about? The website of location host Barnes & Noble offers this overview:

"In this sharp and funny urban fantasy novel, booze is magic, demons are real, and millennial Bailey Chen joins a band of monster-fighting Chicago bartenders instead of finding a 'real' post-college job.

"Bailey Chen is fresh out of college with all the usual new-adult demons: no cash, no job offers, and an awkward relationship with Zane, the old friend she kinda-sorta hooked up with during high school.

"But when Zane introduces Bailey to his monster-fighting bartender friends, her demons become a lot more literal. It turns out that evil creatures stalk the city streets after hours, and they can be hunted only with the help of magically mixed cocktails: vodka grants super-strength, whiskey offers the power of telekinesis, and rum lets its drinker fire blasts of elemental energy. But will all these powers be enough for Bailey to halt a mysterious rash of gruesome deaths? And what will she do when the safety of a 'real world' job beckons?

"Perfect for fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, and grown-up readers of Harry Potter. Includes 14 recipes from a book of ancient cocktail lore."

A limited number of copies are available through the Johnson County Library or Mid-Continent Public Library. It's also available from meeting host Barnes & Noble Booksellers,  Amazon, or our local Kansas City bookseller, Rainy Day Books.

IMAGE: Many thanks to Amazon for this book cover image.