Archon 34 Report

I haven’t done one of these con reports for a while. Usually I’m swamped getting ready for the show, and deluged when I get back. Plus, tweeting while I’m at the show dulls the sharp edge of the need. Still, I enjoy writing them up, if only to remind myself of how lucky I am to be able to attend these shows, and I hope you do too.

I had a fantastic time at Archon 34 last weekend. The folks there were kind enough to fly me down, put me up, and stuff me silly with food and drink, for which I’m always grateful. The staff was helpful and unflappable, and everywhere I looked it seemed like people loved the show.

I flew in early Friday morning, an advance reader copy (ARC) of Amortals in my hand, and John Novak came out to the airport to pick me up and bring me to the hotel. After checking in, I wrote for a while, then went down to grab my badge from the convention HQ. This came along with a gift bag full of beer and pretzels, perfect for any gamer — plus chocolate, cookies, and fruit as a bonus.

I made it to the opening ceremonies, at which I got to meet the other guests of honor: Kurt Miller, Vic Milan, Selina Rosen, Jim and Teri Buck, and Kevin Anderson and Rebecca Moesta. After that, I grabbed a quick beer with Jeff Dohm and Matt Weinberg, who are working on a new American steampunk RPG called Steamfortress Victory, and Kurt and his lovely wife Ilyana joined us.

From there I raced straight to an autograph session, at which I sat alongside Marcus Pelegrimas. Doubled-up signings are always a bonus because they give you someone to chat with when things get slow, as they often are at 2:40 PM on a Friday afternoon, for instance.

At 5 PM, Jeff and I handled the Reactor 88 Studios panel. Unfortunately, Darren Orange and the rest of the crew weren’t able to make it down, which meant we had nothing to show. Still, as writers Jeff and I did our best to paint moving pictures with words.

Jeff and I joined Jon and Beth Bancroft and their family for an early dinner to celebrate Beth’s birthday. Jon is in charge of gaming at the show, and the man who invited me down as the gaming guest of honor. Beth handles the programming for the rest of the show, and they make an excellent team.

Afterward, Jeff and I had a late dinner with Kevin and Rebecca. I’d known them online for years and had met them before, but this was my first chance to sit and really chat with them. They’re fantastic folks with a real passion for their lives and their work.

One thing about Archon: free beer. It’s available at the hospitality suite (read: hotel bar) throughout the evenings to anyone of legal age who’s attending the con. They also have some stunningly fun room parties throughout the weekend, including one that Jeff and Matt hosted to promote Steamfortress Victory that night. I bumped into my pal Doug Ferguson of the Pokémon Company later that night and caught up with him over a few of those free drinks.

I got in late.

Still, I slept for about eight hours, which is far more than I usually get. The next morning, I made it down to my first panel on “Game Writing, Illustration, and Design” with Brent Chumley and Rob Hobart (of AEG).

After that, Rob and I were scheduled for a panel on tie-in games, but only a few people showed up because of the competition across the hall from Kevin and Rebecca’s panel on tie-in novels. Proving himself a true gentlemen, Kevin poked his head into our room and invited Rob, me, and all our guests to team up with him and Rebecca for a full tie-in-releated slate.

Next up, I co-hosted a kaffeeklatsch with Gwen Cope, Jack Snyder, and Mitchell Bentley. We had an entertaining roundtable with everyone who joined us.

Later in the afternoon, I had another autograph session, this time with Kurt, which gave me some time to chat with him. The differences between freelance artists and freelance writers and game designers it seems aren’t that much.

From there, I was off for the day. I wound up having dinner with Doug and a couple of his friends. Then I went over to the gaming area to watch Jon run a game of Sticks & Stones by Rob Lusk, with some modifications by Jon. It’s a minis game in which the players can’t use words, only names and grunts. All movement and ranges are measured with hands, and all combat is settled by rock-leaf-spear (a.k.a. rock-paper-scissors). It was knockdown hilarious.

I spent a good part of the night at the Legend of the Five Rings party hosted by the local Shark Clan. Pro tip: If someone offers you a drink called Instant Enlightenment, consider your options carefully first.

The next morning, my old business partner John Zinser of AEG called me up, and we grabbed lunch and caught up in a way that we never can seem to manage at larger shows. I lost track of time and missed my last autograph session, but I made it to the closing ceremonies, at which those looking for me were able to track me down.

Best of all, Kevin and Rebecca gave me a signed copy of their first Star Challengers book (Star Challengers: Moonbase Crisis) for Marty. The series aims to inspire kids to be passionate about science and space travel, in conjunction with the Challenger Learning Centers around the country.

After saying my good-byes, John Novak brought me back to the airport for a smooth flight back. A few short hours later, I was home once again. If you get a chance, go. It’s a great show.