FantaSci 2019 Con Update!


With the May 7th release of Jacob and David Weber’s The Gordian Protocol (from Baen Books) and a contract already signed for the sequel, 2019’s looking to be a big year for us. It’s only appropriate, then, that our 2019 con season kicked off with a big start!

FantaSci in Durham, NC is one of the sister cons that sprang up from the The Royal Manticoran Navy’s now-defunct HonorCon (R.I.P.), in the form of a multi-fandom con with emphasis on the works of David Weber and the ever-growing Four Horseman Universe helmed by Mark Wandrey and Chris Kennedy. This being its first year, it was small, but what it lacked in numbers it made up for in sheer heart and brilliant company.

For us, though, the excitement began before the con even started. Since FantaSci’s location was so close to Baen Books’ main offices, Baen invited us up for a tour and to meet some of the people responsible for transforming David and Jacob’s manuscript into its final form. Assistant Editor (also an author) Christopher Ruocchio first showed us where the general magic happens; it involves a lot of bookshelves, cubicles, and most importantly, TWO CATS EACH WITH THEIR OWN PERSON-SIZED CAT TOWER. (In my excitement, I forgot both their names, but both were gracious enough to bless me with their squishy bellies so I am forever grateful.) Senior Editor Tony Daniel (also also an author) then continued the tour, showing us the podcasting station where he records The Baen Free Radio Hour (one of my regular listens), and finally Executive Editor Jim Minz and shipping extraordinaire Grace Borger treated us to a spontaneous lunch at local haunt Over the Falls (which was delicious). And then, on Mr. Minz’s recommendation, I tried out Wake Forest Coffee Company, which it turns out makes an iced caramel macchiato to rival my favorite coffee shop’s back home. (It was a coffee miracle!)

But that wasn’t even the end of our Baen adventure—or food adventures. That evening, all the Baen authors at FantaSci were treated to a lavish dinner at NanaSteak, so we were privileged to sit at the same dinner table with the Baen crew from earlier, as well as Timothy and Anna Zahn, Steve White (and wife, whose name has been lost to my con haze! Someone remind me!), Robert E. Hampson, and of course, David and Sharon Rice-Weber—and also to taste the best Mac and cheese I’ve had in my entire life. Seriously, if you are in downtown Durham and don’t try NanaSteak’s Gruyere “Grand Cru” Mac & Cheese, you are not living your best life.)

Joking aside, it was mind blowing to be sitting at the same table as some of the bestselling authors who inspired Jacob to write—and not only that, but on the invitation of the publisher who had released so many of those inspirational works. There were parts of this weekend that felt too incredible to be real, and this was one of them.

All this to say, Baen’s hospitality was amazing, and if the people alone are any indication, we couldn’t have landed at a better publisher. Many thanks to Christopher, Tony, Jim, and Grace for the warm welcome. (And to Toni Weisskopf, Marla, and Corinda, we regret that we didn’t get to see you. 🙁 Maybe next time!)

Now, on to the con itself!

Our SphinxCon panels were so well-received that we repeated many of them here, kicking off Friday with Collaboration with an Author, which I moderated while David and Jacob discussed the process of collaborating on The Gordian Protocol. We followed that with Self-Publishing for Shy People, which, it turns out, was a hard panel to fill for this con because apparently none of the authors in attendance were shy (or were too shy to want to be on a panel about shyness 😆). So Jacob joined me at the last minute for a discussion on how to fake being an extrovert for marketing purposes.

Baen brought another bang to our Saturday morning, starting it off with the Baen Traveling Roadshow. The Roadshow has always been a con favorite of ours, with its perfect recipe of author chats, behind-the-scenes glimpses at upcoming releases, and free books galore. In previous years, we’ve always watched longingly from the back row.

So when Baen invited David and Jacob not only to speak about The Gordian Protocol, but to start the program with it, needless to say we were pumped—and also maybe slightly nauseous. Turns out that a round of applause can do wonders to relieve nervous nausea, though, as we found when the audience cheered to greet Jacob! And when a Gordian Protocol ARC was the first free book chosen by an audience member. (We might have been misreading the room, but it looks like people are excited for this book! 😀)

Once we’d recovered from the Roadshow, I joined author wives Sharon Rice-Weber, Joy Wandrey, Sheellah Kennedy, Wendy Woods, and a whole bunch of margaritas, which are becoming traditional for The Care and Feeding of Authors panel, wherein we discussed what it takes to support an author husband.

After that, what FantaSci lacked in shy authors it made up for with chaotic plot pantsers, as Christopher Woods, Ian J. Malone, Jason T. Graves, and Rob Howell all joined me for Writing by the Seat of Your Pants.

Then, after a well-earned nap, Jacob and I jumped back into a panel room for Chaos of Creation: Balancing World Building and Story, in which we discussed how our two wildly disparate senses of plot and worldbuilding came together to make The Wizard’s Way.

Finally, Sundays tend to be the dead days at cons, but that was far from the case on FantaSci’s Sunday. Our hotel room was perfectly positioned to hear the carnage of not one, but two packed party rooms, and this made us wonder if literally anyone would be conscious enough to come to a 9am panel the following day. But the Jump, Jive, and Write panel ended up having such an impressive crowd for that hour that we panelists ended up giving the audience a round of applause! That’s dedication! Afterward, moderator Ian J. Malone led us, Jason Cordova, and Jason T. Graves in A Discussion of Music and Creative Inspiration that resulted in everyone’s writing playlists exploding. (I have never been so grateful to be a Spotify subscriber.)

Soon after, Jacob ended the con with one of his most exciting panels, Crafting Time Travel Rulesets. The crazy thing about this panel? One of the books that inspired Jacob to write in the first place—in fact, the fateful book that set off this whole adventure—was In Death Ground by David Weber and Steve White.

Who was Jacob’s fellow panelist? Steve White.

Have we mentioned that this weekend felt nothing short of surreal?

Surreal elements aside, FantaSci was also great con for getting back in touch with what’s quickly becoming our con family. Though it’s incredibly exciting to finally be traditionally published, one of the biggest perks of the whole experience has been the people we’ve befriended along the way, so without further ado:

Thanks to Angi and Phil Clayton for carrying our books at the Weber Universal Outfitters booth and generally being awesome. The same goes for Katie and Greg Barnette, who are still our friends even after I accidentally punched Greg in the teeth in the midst of an over-excited flail. 😆 (That’s true friendship right there.)

Thanks also to Rayanne and Arasin Staubly for Jacob’s fancy new bowtie, and to Wendy Woods for my glamorous kitty ears!

Thanks to Jonny Minion for being hilarious whether sober or sick on 4HU grog.

Thanks to other author buds Terry Maggert, David Alan Jones, Alan Isom, and Alex Rath, whom we didn’t share panels with, but should have because they are awesome.

And finally, thanks to Joel Lyons and crew for putting together a truly fantastic convention. We had an absolute blast this year and look forward to returning next year! 😀


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