was a lot of fun. It was a much bigger convention than I was expecting; the online FAQ had implied about 800 people, and I think when all was said and done they had 1500 people or more.
The green room and the consuite both were very well stocked with snacks and good-quality sandwich makings and a variety of drinks, and I give the convention high marks for that. The green room also had a couple of sports medicine volunteers who were giving free chair massages.Those were awesome, and erased all my crabbiness from the drive and registration.
The other really nice touch was that Penguicon had a volunteer named Jake who regularly took a huge cart of drinks and food through the dealers' area so that the people who were chained to tables could get something to eat. Other cons have done lunch runs for dealers, but Penguicon did this more often and had better stuff than I'd seen before.
Anyhow, Jake, if you're reading this: you rock.
Also on the food front: the Brazilian barbecue Saturday was delicious. I hadn't had the chance to get a ticket for it online, and it seemed like too much trouble at registration, but luckily they opened the 'cue to everyone interested after a while, and for $6 Gary came back to our table with a huge mounded plate of perfectly-cooked steak cubes. So yummy I didn't even feel that little twinge of guilt I usually get when consuming mammal.
I didn't get the chance to try the liquid nitrogen ice cream but I heard it was pretty darn tasty.
I got to (briefly) meet a bunch of people from my friendslist. We didn't get to the con in time to hit the LJ party on Friday, else I expect I would have met many others.
The one recurring downside to the convention was that, because of the open-source nature of many of the offerings, some fans evidently assumed that anything not tied down was free for the taking. And so some people took books from the dealer's room without paying, and someone took several of Catherynne M. Valente's books that had been left boxed on a table near Gary before Gary had time to say, "I don't think those are for you." We rescued the remaining book; Gary later found Cat and she said she'd wondered what had happened to the box and told him to keep it.
I was on a bunch of panels Saturday; here's my report for each.
- A Surplus of Talent: This was my reading slot with Jeff deLuzio and John Scalzi. I hadn't had a chance to talk IRL much with Jeff before (we've known each other for a while on E2) and was chatting with him when Scalzi came up and introduced himself. I honestly wouldn't have recognized him otherwise -- he's one of those men who looks utterly different once he grows a goatee and grows his hair out. Scalzi was very pleasant and read a fun story; I met his wife later and she seems like a lovely person. Jeff read an excerpt from a new novel he's working on and I'm looking forward to seeing the rest someday. I read "Your Corporate Network and the Forces of Darkness"; I was a bit nervous and read too quickly, but people laughed and evidently several of them bought Installing Linux on a Dead Badger right after the session was over.
- Excellence in an Economy of Words--Why Write Short Fiction? This was a lively panel that also featured Elizabeth Bear, Jim Hines, M. Keaton and Sarah Monette. The consensus of course was that short fiction is good because you can experiment with different kinds of writing and storytelling and also because it helps build your writing chops. We also answered questions from the audience about plotting short vs. long and also about co-writing techniques.
- National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) I shared this panel with Jim Hines, M. Keaton, and Daniel J. Hogan. Another good panel. I was the only person there who hadn't formally participated in NaNoWriMo, but like the others I feel it's a worthwhile endeavor. I shared Gary's situation of having had to write 40,000 words of one of his recently-published novels in 8 days. Yep, he had to write and edit half a novel in just over a week, and, as I told the audience, if you rise to the level of working pro novelist, this could easily happen to you, too. And if you haven't had to crank out that kind of word count before, you could easily waste precious time freaking out about the crushing deadline instead of getting the work done. We all agreed that NaNoWriMo is excellent for learning how to get writing done and work through blocks -- both extremely valuable skills -- but we cautioned that new writers shouldn't assume that the resulting novel will be publishable and also warned against the vanity presses that prey on the hopes of NaNoWriMo participants.
- Johnny Can't Read and Nobody Thinks it's a Problem This panel was scheduled for 7pm Saturday, and I made the mistake of lying down in my room for a short nap that became a much longer nap due to a mis-set alarm. So I didn't make this one. When I awoke, bleary, I thought, "Heck, probably everyone was at dinner anyhow. No biggie"
How wrong I was. This turned out to be the One True Panel. Jeff D. was on it, and he told me that it was standing-room only, and that they had to open the doors so that people in the hall could listen in. Some members of the audience started a loud fight over homeschooling. Evidently "lively" didn't begin to cover this panel.
And the next day, I was approached by two utter strangers -- not panelists, mind you, nor con organizers, but people from the audience -- who scolded me for not making the panel. In over 10 years of congoing I'd never, ever been scolded for missing a panel before. How odd.
- Basic Survival Skills for Authors This was at 10pm Saturday, and I did make it. Jim Hines and Elizabeth Bear were on this one as well. Everyone was a bit tired, and the panel meandered a bit, but I think ultimately the audience got some helpful advice. However, we ended up giving them a bit of a Catch-22: "For God's sake don't quit your day job when you sell your first novel, but on the other hand if you do well as a fiction writer you're probably going to be so tired/distracted at work that they're going to fire you eventually."