This last weekend was my very first LibertyCon, and it won’t be my last. Thank you Larry Southard for sparking my interest in this Con. For those who don’t know, Liberty is a literary con, or literature con, whichever way you want to express it. It centers around science fiction and fantasy authors and their works. Baen books is a big part of LibertyCon, though definitely not all of it. I looked up some of the history of the con before I want, searching their lists of past guests of honor and such. Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, A E van Vogt, Robert Adams, Fred Saberhagen, Harry Turtledove, Kevin J Anderson, L Sprague de Camp, Ben Bova, the list goes on and on. Not bad for a small con in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This year the Author Guest of Honor was my friend Jody Lynn Nye, and other guests included Travis Taylor, John Ringo, Michael Z Williamson, Todd McCaffrey, Timothy Zahn, David Drake, Sarah Hoyt and Charles Gannon. Quite a list that was not inclusive of all the authors and scientists that were there. Publishers Toni Weisskopf and Bill Fawcett were also there, along with Baen Editor Jim Mintz. Now we are talking some very big names in the industry, Hugo and Nebula nominees, best sellers, and in the main people whose work I admire, respect and enjoy.
Liberty is held at the Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel and convention center. It boasts three hotel buildings, of which two are reserved for Liberty. Now, these are not the thirty floor megahotels, of which DragonCon has four, plus the many outliers. I don’t know how many people attended Liberty, but it couldn’t be more than a thousand, probably much less. It was never crowded, even the attached restaurant was never filled, even for breakfast and lunch. It was a very intimate setting, and if there was an author, publisher or scientist you really wanted to talk to, the opportunity was there. Question sessions at the end of the panels were all kind of short, but you have to remember the people you are dealing with, storytellers. But there was often the opportunity to catch them after panels, in the hallway between the presentation rooms. Some were really happy to talk, some seemed to want to say a few words and then run, but generally that is true of all groups of people.
And the panels. Bestselling writers, up and comers, NASA scientists who were also fiction authors. The discussions were informative, and this writer came away with many ideas to borrow (i.e. steal), and had some questions answered about science and fiction in general. And some questions about plans I have for the future with my own work, answered by flippen real physicists. The fans were all rabid and enthusiastic about their favorite writers and series, and while most had great knowledge of movies and TV as well, their main focus was on reading. I gave away twenty some cards that week to people who were interested in hearing about what I wrote, and hopefully will have found some new fans myself.
Was it the spectacle that is DragonCon? Nope. No Iron Men and Storm Troopers marching through the lobbies. But also no lobbies filled with five thousand people who all want to get to a different panel at the same time. Dragon is still the carnival you want to attend just for the party. But Liberty is for the true fan of reading (and writing) great science fiction.