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Conventional Wisdom

LibertyCon 23
Chatanooga, TN - July 9-11, 2010

By Dan L. Hollifield

Here is a quote from Uncle Timmy that gives a very short breakdown of the guest list and whatnot:

From: Tim Bolgeo
Subject: The July 14 2010, Edition of THE REVENGE OF HUMP DAY!

Well, I survived another LibertyCon and had a great time! Last weekend, LibertyCon 23 was held at the Comfort Inn and Suites and we had around 450 fans and pros who attended the festivities. Terry Brooks, Darrell K. Sweet, Les Johnson, Sarah & Dan Hoyt and Eric Flint rounded out our stellar lineup of featured guests. But we had a myriad of other stars that came to help us celebrate. Writing stars like Dr. Ben Bova, James Correia, Charles Gannon, Stephanie Osborn, John Ringo, and Michael Z. Williams just to drop a few names. And that is not all by a long shot.

I am not going to try to give you a con report because I am decidedly prejudiced when it comes to LibertyCon and I will leave that reporting to others. But I will say this, I am blessed with one of the most dedicated and best staffs in the world and that is one of the things that help me keep going all these years. Thanks to all of you who helped out this year. What else can I say except that, “YOU ARE ALL SIMPLY MARVELOUS!”

At the bitch session, I told everybody what few things I saw that were or that could be improved and I found out that I was the most critical person in the room. Apparently everyone had a great time and almost 100 fans preregistered again for next year and the hotel was already sold out again in hours. I’ll take that as a win.

So, on that HAPPY note why don’t y’all sit back and relax because here comes the best in gossip, jokes and science for your reading pleasure!

Uncle Timmy

After that, there followed the regular weekly newsletter from the good folks at LibertyCon. That's always a nice bit of reading, featuring jokes, science news, reader contributions, announcements, and quotes from a list of upcoming convention schedules. But in the above quote you also get a taste of Uncle Timmy being himself, as well as a hint of what the folks who run LibertyCon are like in real life. Going to LibertyCon is like going to a huge family reunion. There are so many good friends and great storytellers wondering about. If you have yet to be able to attend this most excellent of conventions, I believe you'd find it rewarding to do so. There is an overflow hotel within easy walking distance of the convention hotel that will still have rooms. If you're interested, go over the the LibertyCon Homepage and look around. In their Registrations section, you'll see an e-mail address for Brandy Spraker who is the lady to contact about room and con registrations. You can also follow the LibertyCon Facebook Page for announcements and updates year round.

The fine folks at LibertyCon have a way of making everyone attending feel at home, relaxed, and wanting to come back time and time again. I can swear to that from personal experience! Ben Bova came back for his second year at LibertyCon because he had so much fun there last year. As a matter of fact, most of the guest list Uncle Timmy recounted are regular attendees. Every chance they get, they come back to LibertyCon. As a rule, any pro writer or artist that you meet at LibertyCon will turn out to be very approachable, as well as willing to spend time in conversation with fans. In the panel discussions, you'll get to hear all sorts of stories and learn little details of what these people who write the books we love are really like when they're at home. Conversations can strike up anywhere; in the hallways, at the hotel pool, at room parties, in the dealers rooms, in the Con Suite. Everywhere you turn, you'll find folks having fun. Readers, writers, artists, scientists, huxters- everyone just roaming around and acting like one big happy family. It's nothing out of the ordinary to walk up and join in a conversation with a favorite pro writer. Topics will range from details of upcoming projects, to tidbits of cutting edge science, to where they go to research background info for upcoming novels, to just about anything under the sun. John Ringo related a story about a room party at another convention when Doc Travis got into an argument with another physicist about String Theory. Imagine two opposing groups of physics geeks squaring off like a bunch of inner-city gang-bangers getting ready to rumble! We were all doubled over with laughter before he'd gotten very far in the tale. Michael Z. Williamson told one about a recent trip to a target range and the owner requesting them to stop using one particular big gun in Mad Mike's collection, because it was destroying the range's backstop with it's insane firepower. Terry Brooks and Ben Bova were wandering around together, enjoying being able to catch up on their long-standing friendship. Terry Broooks generated loads of laughter in one instance by giving permission to the artist who had designed the convention badges to be his official stand-in for signing autographs during one evening. Somewhere, there are people who have a Terry Brooks novel autographed by both Terry Brooks and Fritz Ling, both signed as "Terry Brooks." Here's how that came about- Fritz has been a long-time fan of Terry Brooks. When Fritz designed the badge for LibertyCon 23, he was inspired by Terry's books. When the two of them met at the Can, Fritz told Terry that the badges were dedicated to Terry's work. They wound up autographing each other's badges. Terry then went on to say that he was going to be absent from the Con overnight and since Fritz was now wearing a badge with Terry's signature on it he was going to designate Fritz as his Official Stand-in for the rest of the evening. Terry instructed Fritz that if anyone noticed the "Terry Brooks" signature on the badge and asked Fritz to autograph one of Terry's books, Fritz was to sign Terry's name and explain to the fan that they were to seek out the real Terry Brooks the following day for a personal autograph session. So those books wound up with autographs by both Terry and his stand-in, Fritz. As fandom is very fond of in-jokes, those double-signed books ought to be worth more than usual at any auction in the future. Lots of laughter resulted from the whole situation.

The panel discussions at the Con were amazing. I remember one in particular wherein the writers were there to explain the reasons why different characters in their books were killed off, and the literary necessity of doing so. We learned the concept of likening characters to investments, and the need to liquidate these investments for dramatic reasons. Each writer had differing thoughts on the matter. Each supported their reasons with specific examples from their work and explained just why those character had to die in order to advance the plot as well as earn emotional reactions from the readers. I loved the contrast between the reasoning of the different writers on the panel. Each looked at the same literary device from a slightly different perspective, yet all agreed that sacrificing various characters was absolutely necessary. The more developed the character, the more the readers were affected by that characters death. Also detailed was the difference between cannon-fodder, background characters, minor characters and major characters as far as how the deaths of each have different levels of impact on the readers. Everyone involved came away from that panel having learned something more about the craft of writing- And that was just one panel! Every hour of the day heralded two, or sometimes three, different panels going on at the same time.

Of course, there were the usual Room Parties on Friday and Saturday nights. Adult beverages did flow, and good times were had by all. These led to even more conversations between the pros and the Con attendees. Subjects ranged from the mundane to the fantastic. The only drawback was having to walk away from one conversation to join another nearby. So many people to talk with, so many stories to hear, getting to know writers and their fans so much better- everything one could ask for in a great party, and more. Everywhere there were friendly faces and wide-ranging topics of conversation.

Of course, the Con has much more to offer besides lessons in writing and parties to attend. There was the usual autograph session with the pro writers and artists, the annual art auction for charity, panels on movies, panels on science, filk music, an outdoor demonstration of historical weapons of different eras put on by the good folks at Museum Replicas/Atlanta Cutlery, the Ice Cream Social, a panel on making Steampunk props and weapons for costumes, and more. Once again, James Ward put on his puppet show for the kids attending. They sat spell-bound as he performed. Darrel Osbourne was there again making incredible balloon animals and sculptures. There were several Huxter's Rooms open selling used books, genre collectibles, jewelry, swords and knives, clothing, buttons and bumper stickers, carved and natural wooden walking staffs and wands, The Atlanta Radio Theater Company gave another astounding performance of various classic SF&F stories adapted into audio-plays, the Con Suite was overflowing with excellent food and drink every single day, and the after-the-Con Dead Dog party on Sunday evening once again gave those of us who prefer to extend our stay beyond the regular closing of the Con a wonderful last chance to talk with the Con staff and guests.

To sum up, LibertyCon is always a treat to attend. So much to do, so much to see, so many wonderful people to meet and talk with, and so much fun to be had. There are still memberships to be had, and even though the main hotel is once again sold out he overflow hotel is within easy walking distance and still has plenty of rooms available. You owe it to yourself to come next year and see what all the excitement is about. If you do, you'll probably accuse me of understating just how much fun can be had at LibertyCon.

I hope to see you there next year!


© 2010 Daniel L. Hollifield

Dan Hollifield is the senior editor and publisher of Aphelion Webzine

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