We had a grand time at LibertyCon 25 last month. Held at the world-famous Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel, this year's con was the first LibertyCon in this new, historic location. I cannot praise the hotel and its staff highly enough! This place and those people are so far beyond amazing that they meet themselves coming the other way! Minor problems crop up at any hotel during a convention. That's a given. The staff of the Choo Choo not only took every problem in stride, but they worked overtime to make things better. Not a single problem during the entire convention was ignored, or belittled, or put off 'til later. This is the best hotel I have ever been in. If you ever get a chance to stay in a hotel in Chattanooga, you owe it to yourself to make sure that it is this one! Beautiful grounds, incredible staff, great restaurants, cool gift shops, comfortable rooms... I wish I could just buy a room there and make it my retirement home. It was perfect, absolutely perfect. My compliments to the hotel and its staff. Y'all are so cool!
Over 700 people attended the con, including one of our Aphelion writers! D.J. Rout, from Australia, flew up from visiting one of his friends in Florida to meet Lyn and I, Sean Sullivan, Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournelle. Sean, D.J. and I are on an e-mail list of Niven fans, and attend monthly IRC chats that Larry often visits as well.
I got some books autographed, by Larry and Jerry, bought some new ones from Stephanie Osborn, went to several panel discussions, and I was on a pair of e-publishing themed discussion panels. I twice sat next to Janny Wurts at the author's table for autograph sessions, along with Niven and Pournelle. Janny is a very interesting lady. She and I kept trying to make each other laugh the whole time we were sitting there. Naturally, Larry and Jerry had the lion's share of autograph seekers. Janny and I were rather left alone by comparison. She was asked for dozens of autographs, Larry and Jerry were asked for hundreds, and I signed about a dozen autographs myself. Mostly on convention program booklets, although I was asked to sign one copy of "Flash of Aphelion."
At one point I was handed several books to review, which prompted Janny to ask for my Aphelion business card so that she might be able to send me some books for review in the future. Yes, I still have Aphelion cards left from the huge batch I had printed up several years back. At least 200 Aphelion cards were collected from the convention's promo table, as well.
Evidently, my stage fright over being on the e-pubbing panels was well hidden. On both of those discussion panels I sat next to Janet Morris. That turned out to have been a cunning plan on the part of one of the con committee, one Richard Groller. Rich and his wife Tish have been con friends of ours for years, and Rich hoped that Janet would see some potential for me to contribute to one of her pet projects. Evidently, Rich's plan worked. While we were waiting for another panel to end and the room to clear for our panel, Chris and Janet Morris handed me copies of every book in their "Sacred Band" series that I didn't already have, and very kindly invited me to submit a story for an upcoming volume of the series. Now don't get too excited. That is a very challenging series to write within, and Janet has a very strict continuity that she wishes to maintain. Even after I read the whole series, there's no guarantee that I will come up with a story. And no guarantee that any such story would be accepted. I took it as an honor to have been invited into that particular playground. The future will hold some interesting things for me in that regard. It's more than a little frightening, but I promise all of you that I will do my best to uphold the honor of Aphelion!
I did not get to spend enough time with John Ringo or Michael Z. Williamson this year. That I do regret, for those two gentlemen are very special friends. I got to talk with Miriam Ringo for a lot longer than I did with John. And Lyn was the first person ever to introduce Miriam as "Mrs. Ringo!" I barely got to spend half an hour in scattered moments with Mad Mike. Mostly when he was at his Dealer's Table, behind the wall of swords and knives he sells to off-set his con expenses. I fell in love with one particular knife, but my household budget forbade me from taking it home. I did get to spend some time with Stephanie Osborn on several occasions throughout the weekend, however. Not as much as I would have liked, but every minute we talked was quality time. I also was recognized by Sarah Hoyt, once I was wearing my steampunk fancy dress outfit, and we had a very brief conversation thereafter. Even briefer conversations I had with Larry and Jerry. Mostly to thank them for their work and for giving me inspiration for some of my own. Doctor Pournelle has not been in the best of health over the past year or two. If you are a particular fan of his work, you better make plans to attend conventions he will be going to in the near future. He isn't going to be able to go to many more. I'd guess that he will be retiring from the convention circuit in the next five years or so. When I first met him back in 2004, he could have folded me up like a cheap road map and tossed me into a trash can. Seeing him looking frail was a shock. Larry Niven is still in good health, but he is beginning to suffer from circulation problems when he sits for too long at a time. Watching him do stretching exercises after signing autographs for an hour was enlightening, to say the least.
Dozens of our friends were there, and we got to spend precious moments with each. Daniel Jean and his lovely daughter Agatha, Fritz Ling and his Beloved Stacy, Joe Dog and Donna McKeel, Randal, Doctor Darrell Osborn, Tish and Rich, Gary Poole, James Ward, William and Cindy MacLeod, Ira and Jeanie, Skunk, The entire Atlanta Radio Theater Company, Kerry, Karen, Justin, Reverend Bob, Linda and her Mom, the entire con staff, brand new friend Lee Martindale with whom we spent hours in conversation on the Sunday and Monday, and a host of others I shall not name so that they can have plausible deny-ability.
One regret; Facebook friend and world-champion cosplay costumer Dorian Chase was also at the con, but I didn't know that until this week. Dorian, I am sorry to have missed seeing you. I wanted to meet you in person. Maybe at AnachroCon?
Also featured at the con were nightly parties. Lots and lots of parties! Mass quantities were consumed, rest assured. The con suite was absolutely amazing!
This was a 25th Anniversary Celebration that will live in the annals of fandom forever!