I’m on the plane back from MidAmericon II, the 74th Worldcon, in Kansas City. Some cons are great, some are so-so, some are…not that good. But Worldcon is the main event of our genre, the big Annual Nerd Prom, where most everyone gathers regardless of what other regional cons they attend.

I went with a fairly light schedule. Being a new member of GRRM’s Wild Cards consortium, I got to attend a gathering thrown for the Wild Cards writers by Tor Publishing. (And let me tell you–when you’re a junior woodchuck novelist with a little more than three years of pro experience under his belt, having GRRM introduce you to Tom Doherty can be a slightly tongue-tying experience.) I love the Wild Cards gang–they are all amazingly accomplished and talented writers, most with decades in the business, and they all make me feel welcome and appreciated.

On Friday evening, we had the big Wild Cards mass signing for the new book, called HIGH STAKES. I figured I’d be sitting and watching GRRM’s signing line for three hours, but most people wanted signatures from all the rest of us in their books as well. (The event only allowed Wild Cards books to be purchased and/or brought into the ballroom, but one of my fans smuggled in a copy of LINES OF DEPARTURE for me to sign, which I happily did.)

There was also a Wild Cards panel that was an almost Pokemon-like death match between characters. GRRM put all our names into a bucket and pulled out two names at random to fictionally fight each other, and the audience got to decide the winner. My character Khan, a 300-pound underworld bodyguard whose left body half is that of an anthropomorphised Bengal tiger, is a straight-up bruiser suited for heavyweight physical fights, but he had to go up against the Amazing Bubbles, who was quite possibly the worst possible opponent for him in the entire lineup because his strength and reflexes were of very limited utility against someone who can ensconce him in a near-breakable bubble that limits his air supply. So I got eliminated in the first round and got to watch the rest of the fights from the bench. But it was all good fun, and the auditorium was filled with people who seemed to enjoy the format.

(I also had several people waiting for me after the event to get FRONTLINES books and posters signed, which was super weird and awesome at the same time.)

Other than the panels, I met up with friends both old and new. My long-time Internet pal and new IRL friend Ellie took me to the best barbecue joint I had ever been to, and there were a number of parties and the usual bar meet-ups and long nights chatting with friends. Whenever you go to a con like this one, it’s like a big family reunion, only you don’t have to put up with your weird uncle who thinks that the stickers on the back of traffic signs are secret markers for invading UN forces. You see people you haven’t seen in a year or more, but the conversations flow as naturally again as if you had seen each other last only a few days ago.

The crowning highlight of the weekend was GRRM’s Hugo Losers Party, which was held in a spectacular Gilded Age theater just two blocks from the hotels and the convention center. The party in Spokane last year was awesome, but this one easily topped it for setting and glitz, and I have no idea how he’s going to top that next year in Helsinki. Maybe there are castles for rent, or he can get the Queen Mary for the night.

I now have so many lovely, smart, generous, and funny friends in the business that I can’t go to a con without running into dozens of people I would gladly spend a whole weekend just drinking and chatting with. Our not-so-little SF and Fantasy tribe of writers and readers is for the most part a stellar group of folks that are welcoming to newcomers and just fun to hang out with, and I greatly value the friendships I’ve made in the genre since I started out at VP and then at my first official convention (which was Boskone in early 2009.) I can’t wait for Worldcon 75 in Helsinki.

In closing, here are a few shots from the trip I’d like to share:

That’s me chatting with Jo Walton. If I have a smug look on my face, it’s because she just told me that she read all the FRONTLINES books and really liked them.

My friend and fellow 47North author Melissa Olson, who was my tag-along for the Hugo Losers party. I roped her in by mentioning the free booze.

The venue for the party. Now that’s how you throw a shindig.

The convention plaza in KC.  Infinitely superior to the one in Spokane last year.

The Wild Cards cage match panel, moderated by George R.R. Martin.

That was breakfast on Saturday.

The Midland Theatre.

The other side of the convention plaza. 


jrhandleyblog · August 21, 2016 at 9:41 pm

First off, you mean those stickers AREN’T markers for the UN and the EU to send black helicopters after us??? Dang, well wonder of wonders…..

I’ve always said, you know you’ve made it as a writer when people dress up like your characters so… you’re almost there Mark!

Tom · August 22, 2016 at 12:42 pm

Dang, that Melissa Olson is one nice piece of tail. You nailed her didn’t you? If not, you should have.

Ghost Rider 6 · August 23, 2016 at 1:15 am

Yeah, well, as long as you’re having a good time with all that money I’ve spent on your books. 🙂

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