Starship Showdown panel, with Van Allen Plexico, Sue Phillips and myself.
I had planned to stay through Monday as usual, so I didn’t know this was going to be my last day. The breakfast room was full, about half the people there football fans. FSU fans were kind of dejected, not just from losing the game, but losing their all-star quarterback for the year. I talked with some people from Birmingham, where I had lived, then went back to my room to get ready.
Cosplayers in the Hyatt lobby.
Again the nice walk to the Hyatt. I didn’t have my first panel until 4 PM, so I took my time. Went to a panel I wasn’t on, then took pictures. I ate lunch, this time in the food court, finally found a table, and took pictures of some of the more interesting costumes. Talked to a couple of people in the Embassy hallway, including Will Wight once again, and then it was time for my first panel.
Starship Showdown is not really a panel as much as a contest. Van Allen Plexico presided over the event. Myself, Sue Phillips, and an audience member picked just before the start were the judges. Van took suggestions from the audience as to which ships would compete, and two out of three panel members had to agree. Most were from TV, books and movies, though one was from anime. I don’t think any of the video game mentions made it in. Ringo’s Troy was not eligible as it had won last year. We had the Enterprise E, Defiant, Borg Cube, the Medusa from Honor Harrington, something from Farscape, the Battleship Yamato, and the White Star. We went through the columns, ship against ship, audience members making their cases for one or the other. I think we only had two that weren’t unanimous. In the end the White Star won, and it will not be eligible for next year’s contest. Love that panel, a lot of fun, and I hope to be on it again next year.
The captain in his boat.
More conversations out in the hall, dinner, then it was time for my big panel, the one I was to moderate. Basic Military Science Fiction. Going in I still wasn’t sure what it was about, so I decided to approach it by asking the panel members why they wrote military scifi, and go from there. I had six panel members, a large herd of cats. This was the third panel I had moderated. Two years ago at LibertyCon I did a ‘Do You Have To Be A Combat Veteran to Write Combat’ panel with seven other members. This year, again at LibertyCon, I did the “Favorite Space Opera’ panel with four other members. So I wasn’t totally inexperienced, but this was DragonCon, and my performance here might mean more moderator slots in the future. And the sound system didn’t work, while we were playing to a full room.
To my right was John Hemry, better known as Jack Campbell, the author of the Lost Fleet series, and a writer whose work I loved. At the end was Kacey Ezell, a Baen author and someone I had been in an anthology with, who was an Air Force helicopter pilot. Other panel members included Mike Massa, Evan Currie, Marc Edelheit and J A Sutherland. Everyone introduced themselves. We had the helicopter pilot, ex-Naval special ops, the Navy surface warfare officer, and a couple who weren’t in the military. I didn’t give my experience, so I chimed back in to say I was a ground pounder. Maybe not as exalted a position as the others, but one that gave a different perspective to the military. A couple of panel members had not been in the military, but loved to read military scifi, so that is what they wrote.
The Basic Military Science Fiction Panel, with six successful authors.
The panel went well, and I think everyone had a good time, panelists and audience. I had a moment where one of the panelists tried to take over the panel, and it could have been a discussion on the Roman Empire. I got it back under control, kudos for me. Everyone got a chance to talk, even me (I believe the moderator should get equal time, and not just be the question generator). Afterwards a lot of people came up, and I talked with a couple of fellow ground pounders and gave away some cards and a zip drive with the complete Exodus series. I think I did well. I guess I’ll find out next year if the people at DragonCon agree.
Mike Massa joins the panel, raising the number to seven.
Afterwards, I walked back to my hotel, talking with a fan most of the way, and giving him another zip drive of the entire Exodus series. I had planned to go to another couple of panels the next day, but on waking up in the morning I decided I had accomplished enough and was ready to go home. The Alabama and FSU fans had been replaced at breakfast by Tennessee fans, since their game was that night.
I’ve always had problems driving home from Cons. I’m tired, and I drive through my normal nap time. I sing loudly, drink lots of caffeine, rub ice on my face, or even slap myself. And still find myself at the edge of nodding off on the way. This time, leaving earlier, that wasn’t a problem. And I saved the $30 for parking in the garage next to the Hilton so I could go to the morning panels.
So, DragonCon this year, what did I learn? There was more to be gained in talking with people and networking than in frantically running from panel to panel. Meeting with people can include eating in real restaurants, which means no walking around looking for tables. And panels don’t just come to you. That was what I had thought. You get Attending Professional Status and the panels will just come. Now I know to have a strategic plan in place, knowing which track directors to contact with my resume’, suggestions to make, etc. I will try to get the Marriott Marquis next year, to again be in the center of things, but the Residence Inn is a viable alternative. Next year will be my sixth DragonCon, meaning, what? I’m definitely still not an old timer, but I am a veteran.