I just returned from Liberty Con in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Not a big event, it nonetheless has been around for a long time. Twenty-eight years to be exact. With an original organizer like Robert ‘Horseclans’ Adams and past GOH such as A E van Vogt. Not really a large Con, it’s hosted at the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo which has one convention building onsite, and is therefore limited to just over seven hundred attendees. Many of the attendees were authors, scientist sand artists who did presentations at the Con, and I would venture to say it probably has the largest ratio of attendees to presenters of just about any Con out there. The panels are first rate, with bestselling authors and NASA scientists headlining some of the presentations. And it’s never crowded. Even the most well attended panel has some seats for the late comer, and at its most crowded the common area is only a mild hassle to get through.
I’m relatively new to the Con scene. The first Con I ever attended was the very small Altcon in Tallahassee in 2013. I was a panelist at the next Altcon, and this year it looked like a convention that was trying to die. Dragon Con 2013 was my first big Con, and BIG is the word for it. Some rooms at Dragon could hold the entire attendance of Liberty, and for many of their panels people are turned away. In 2014 I attended five Cons, Altcon, the dying Liberty Con, the now defunct Alabama Phoenix Festival (which rose from the ashes, but the ashes pulled it back to nonexistence), Dragon once again, then the inaugural Honor Con in Raleigh, NC. This year it will be three, Altcon again, since it’s right in my hometown, Liberty and Dragon.
Liberty had quite a lineup. Most of the traditionally published authors are from Baen, or at least one of their series. David Weber was the Guest of Honor, and Eric Flint came to this one with an entourage of 1632 contributors. Also in attendance was back to back Nebula Nominee Dr. Charles Gannon, Jody Lynn Nye; her husband, editor and author Bill Fawcett; Les Johnson of NASA and a Baen author, John Ringo, David Drake, Sarah Hoyt, Campbell Award Nominee Jason Cordova, and many others. There were also a number of small press and indie authors, including best sellers such as Peter Grant and myself. There were artists and game developers as well. And Toni Weisskopf, the publisher of Baen books. Liberty is a great opportunity for networking. There are all these people there who are either more successful than you, or are up and comers. And there are plenty of opportunities to talk.
The science fiction writer community is actually kind of small, and it’s surprising how many people know how many other people, and I’ve learned in the few years I’ve been attending that opportunity knocks when you actively join that community. I’ve made some good contacts at Dragon Con as well, but Dragon is an enormous event, and sometimes it’s really hard to get the ear of the person you really want to talk with. It was much easier at Liberty. In fact, you might see that person in the restaurant for breakfast, or typing away in the main lobby, or the smaller entry of one of the two hotel buildings.
Liberty Con may be a hard ticket to get in the future. Most people who go come back, and there were some newcomers this year who are sure to join the ranks of the Liberty Con family. I signed up for next year before I left, I didn’t want to take the chance of missing it.
Up next time: the experience of sitting on a Con panel.