As related in part 1, I really didn’t know much about Pensacon when I decided to attend. I had heard that about ten thousand people had attended last year, it was just to the west of where I lived, and I thought it was worth checking out. I bought a pass, some photo ops, booked a hotel, and off I went.
I don’t think I mentioned it in the first post, but the gate actually opened late, after 11 AM, when there were panels scheduled for 11. Same this day. I thought this was poor planning, as I was sure there were people there that wanted to go to those panels. This time I at least knew to avoid the line of people who were in line to buy passes. So I got into the line that seemed to be waiting in vain for the doors to open. Finally, at about 11:05 AM, they opened, but now we had to pass through bag and weapons inspection. Compare this to DragonCon, where once your fake weapons were bonded you were free to go where you wanted for the weekend. After the parade there were people checking passes at the entrance to the hotels, meaning they looked at the badges in passing, but people walked in and out with bags without having them checked. Pensacon forbid any outside food or drink, another policy not found at Dragon. And, as in the first day, there weren’t that many panels scheduled.
I went to one, a panel of scientists on what constituted good science fiction, which turned out to be more of a list of famous scifi movies, most of which I had seen. One of the scientists from the University of West Florida got up ten minutes into the presentation of the moderator and left. Otherwise, it was a good panel, especially since the moderator agreed with me about Forbidden Planet being the best of the best. Next panel was about publishing, and I made a new friend in author Troy Denning after the panel, getting a book signed, HALO: Last Light, which I have since read and highly recommend. Then it was on to the photo op.
I had wanted to meet Claudia Christian in person, who I had met on Facebook, and I had received a very nice photo of the Babylon 5 cast signed by her. I remember looking up photo ops at Dragon, and many of the celebrities were charging $80 for a photo. Claudia and Bruce Boxleitner were each charging $40, so I decided to get one with each of them. I knew from Dragon that photos and autographs were a major revenue source for celebrities, and I didn’t begrudge them making some money. But what I didn’t expect was how a photo op was run. I thought I would get to shake hands, exchange some pleasantries, and get a picture taken. I was the first in line at the time that both stars were supposed to do photos over a fifteen minute period. Most were there to get a combined photo with both stars, maybe six to get individual pictures with Bruce, and I was the only one there to get a photo with Claudia alone. So they rushed through the people who wanted the group photo, then Bruce. I went last for him since I was going to get a photo with Claudia right after. I was ushered in, stood next to Bruce, had my picture taken, and was ushered away, all in about ten seconds. Same with Claudia right after. To say it did not meet my expectations would be understatement.
Next I went to see Bruce and Claudia on a panel at one of the theaters that served as large panel rooms for the con. It was a good panel, but again offered no chance to actually meet the stars. You could ask a question, if you wanted to wait in line to get to the microphone. Still, it was a good panel, and after it was over I decided to get something to eat. And after that, it was back to the hotel to do some writing. There really weren’t a lot of activities at night that I was interested in. They had a bunch of themed parties that I guess lasted into the early hours of the morning, but as I don’t drink they really weren’t of interest. But I did get two thousand words done that night.
The next day I started out going to the autograph area to get Bruce Boxleitner’s autograph. He was sitting with some young woman and no one waiting in line, so I finally got a chance to talk to one of the stars of one of my favorite science fiction series. I found him to be very personable, and I actually got him to take one of my cards. Who knows, I doubt it will amount to anything, but I could end up getting a review. One thing I have learned as an indie is you have to ask and take advantage of opportunities. Otherwise, nothing happens. I then went to a panel with Kevin J. Anderson. I’ve heard the story he told several times in the past, but Kevin tells a good story with humor, and I like supporting him, so it wasn’t a bad way to spend forty-five minutes. After, I went to sign some copies of Five By Five that were on display at the Wordfire Press table. And there I finally got to meet Claudia Christian. I bought her book, and when she asked who to sign it to I showed her my pass. And to my delight, she smiled and said she recognized that name and now had a face to put with it. We talked for about five minutes, and then I let the next fan have her. My last panel of the day was at the other theater used for the Con, with Michael Dorn, better known as Worf. Interesting guy and a great panel, and a good one to end the Con with.
On the drive home to Tallahassee I thought about the Con. It hadn’t been a bad experience, and I did have a good time. My one real complaint was the lack of panels. Most times there was only one, other times two going. The most I saw at one time was three, and not all of them were of interest to me. At Dragon and Liberty there were always panels of interest, and the problem was deciding which one to attend. At Pensacon I went to some that I really wasn’t all that interested in, since there weren’t a lot of choices. Still, this was only the third rendition of this Con, and I figured it would get better as time went on. After all, though it wasn’t a huge Con, it still had respectable numbers.
Two days later I received an email from Pensacon, in which they explained that the venues they used would not let them book for next year. So they might have been destroyed by the people who control their venues before they really had a chance to get their feet under them. Hopefully they will work something out. Would like to see how this Con grows in the next decade or so.
Kevin Ikenberry’s book Runs In The Family, and a contest.
My good friend Kevin Ikenberry, newly retired from the Army, has republished his book, Runs In The Family, which will have a blog entry here soon. Kevin is an ex-armor officer, so for all you tankers out there, you might want to check him out. He is running a contest to design Mairin’s (the heroine of the novel) Challenge Coin. Details below along with a link.
A tradition of Western military service is the challenge coin. Typically presented by a commander to those who perform in an outstanding manner, challenge coins have a long, treasured history. Once given, especially of a particular unit, it is to be carried all the time. Should someone present their coin and challenge you, you must produce your coin or you will owe the challenger a drink of their choice.
Challenge coins have evolved in the last few decades from simple brass coins to embossed, custom designed coins that have actual physical uses like opening bottles. The tradition remains unchanged and fans of the military science fiction novel RUNS IN THE FAMILY have a unique opportunity to create a one-of-a-kind design to be sold with copies of the book at signings and special events.
Mairin Shields commanded the Regimental Cavalry Troop of the Terran Defense Forces at the Battle of Libretto, and their march to glory deserves to be commemorated with a commander’s coin. Your challenge is to design Mairin’s coin. Anything in the novel is in play, but please keep in mind that coins are honorable gifts and should not contain foul language, images, or inferences.
The rules are simple:
- Create a challenge coin design. Coins can be any design but should be sized to fit within the palm of an average hand – most coins are around 1 3/4 inches in diameter. Submit the design as a photo in jpg or png format to contest (at) kevinikenberry (dot) com by no later than April 7, 2016. A winner will be chosen by April 10th. Winners may have their final design altered by the award committee to best reflect the scope of the contest.
- Coins can be simple or intricate. The best coin design will win. Coin designs will be judged on originality, cavalry traditions, understanding of the story, and creativity. The judges will include the author, the publisher, and a committee of soldiers and officers familiar with said traditions.
- Each artist is allowed only one entry, so send us your best design. That being said, try to send in a color image of the coin design or very clear directions as to the colors you would have in the design. We’ll take black and white designs, and pencil designs, but we’re drawing the line there.
- Entries received after midnight, US Mountain Daylight Time on April 8th will be disqualified regardless of how awesome they could be. Please be prompt with your submission.
- For your entry, in the body of the email include your name, shipping address, and a valid email address that you check often. Also, sign up for Kevin’s newsletter – that’s how we’ll announce the winners, so you’ll want to do that. You can find the newsletter signup at www.kevinikenberry.com.
The Grand Prize in the contest is a $25 Amazon gift card, a personalized copy of RUNS IN THE FAMILY, five challenge coins featuring the winner’s design, a creator’s certificate, and a collection of signed books from Strigidae Publishing.
Second prize will receive a personalized copy of RUNS IN THE FAMILY and a collection of signed books from Strigidae Publishing.
As we judge the contest, we encourage you to visit the store where you purchased RUNS IN THE FAMILY and leave a review. It doesn’t have to be much, but every single one helps. While you’re there, check out Kevin’s other works, too.
Now, get designing!
Troy Denning’s HALO: Last Light.
I wasn’t very familiar with HALO, having never played the game or read a book, my only experience a couple of movies. I had never heard of Troy, but met him at a panel at Pensacon. Later I saw him at the Wordfire Booth on the vendor floor. I asked him which if his books he would recommend and he asked if I wanted something gritty. HALO: Last Light was a gritty, action filled, well written military science fiction tale. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and highly recommend it. It will not be the last of Troy’s books that I read, not the last of the HALO series.