Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Arisia 2016

This past weekend, Lauren and I went to Arisia for our sixth visit to the science fiction convention. We both had an amazing time, which I’ve shared through various social medias already. Posting on Ancient Logic gives me the chance to drill down into what is so great about this convention and what I’m going to take away from it.

An explanation for this follows. Scalzi on right, me on the left. (Lauren Shamitz-Crooks 2016)
First off, John Scalzi, author of Old Man’s War and Red Shirts, was the guest of honor. Scalzi has refused to attend any convention that doesn’t have a strong anti-harassment policy in place and after holding Arisia up as an example of a convention that has done this right, he agreed to attend Arisia 2016. 

Which created a kind of super-sized Arisia experience. There were good and bad elements to this. Although my experience in the Registration line was mild, I know friends who waited an hour+ for their badges. I haven't heard the final numbers but it felt more crowded this year. On the good side, I think talented and amazing panelists were also in abundance this year. I’ve seen my fair share of panel train-wrecks, but none were in evidence at Arisia 2016.

As mentioned, I had three panels this year, every single one amazing. During the Future of Mars panel, I even had the chance to talk with the guest of honor. Prior to the panel starting I presented him with a Fentimans Dandelion and Burdock soda, because he mentioned enjoying obscure sodas. He described the taste as being like “carbonated Ricola,” which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement but isn’t a total gift fail either.

So the panel. This was actually pretty great. Mars is one of those topics I have a natural interest in because I see it as the ur-topic of much science fiction. Even when a space opera isn’t set on Mars, per se, such as Tatooine or Vulcan, it’s really just a Mars story with the name changed. The conversation was wide-ranging and knowledgeable, with great input from Nalin Ratnayake, Jeff Hect, and Scalzi. Multiple people came up to thank Ken Schneyer for his moderation of the panel, which I personally think should be archived as a ‘how-to’ on running these things. I got a chance to talk with Nalin after the panel about his work. A bleak look at the future of education called “Parched Lands” appeared in Crossed Genres two years ago, and he just released his novel about Martian colonization, “Red Soil Through Our Fingers." I’d check out both.

I also had conversations with Ken Liu, John Chu, Sarah Weintraub, and Crystal Huff in the Genre Fiction in Translation panel. Ken and John have provided me considerable enjoyment as a reader from both their own works and the exemplary work on bringing Chinese speculative fiction stories into English. In addition to getting an impressive list of work to check out, the audience also heard the convoluted tale of how Ken Liu came to translate the “Three Body Problem” from China’s beloved author Liu CiXin (reviewed last year in Ancient Logic).

Saturday was the Geeky Bellydance show, where I saw my wife perform an amazing dance as a forlorn chicken with her Kira-luna partner Wendee Abramo. For the rest of the night I got to be part of a rock star’s entourage as people played tribute to the awesomeness of this number.

I had a number of great conversations with friends old and new, which I’ll list in no particular order: Alex LaHurreau, Gillian Daniels, Matt and Rachel McComb, Melanie Griffiths, Dan Toland, and Matt Timmins. 

Also cool was the Indie Game Expo which I'm hoping comes back next year. It’s the sort of thing really expands the reach of Arisia as well as bringing in local designers and creators. I played this game called Dragoon, which I'm totally buying, where you play a dragon with the power to either gather tribute from villages or lay waste to them all. Fun mechanics and clever art design make this is a winner. 

Finally, on the last day I took part in “The End of All Things” panel with Sarah Smith and Venetia Charles. We all took turns moderating the panel and enjoyed a huge turn-out for a panel scheduled second to last on the schedule. I added a bunch of titles to my to-read list and left the con feeling exhilarated but sad. The only real bummer about an Arisia weekend is having it come to an end and knowing it’ll be a year before it happens again.



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