So MAGFest has passed.
Oh, this time of the year is so solemn for me because it is the longest until I shall yet again be at MAGFest, for it is simply the best. And this year was no different.
Despite an arctic freeze befalling the eastern United States, I managed to slide sideways into National Harbor just barely in time for my panel on Alien Worlds as shown through Video Games. Given in conjunction with the Museum of Science Fiction, I was excited to discuss some of the harder science that appears in games. Hard science and me don’t get to hang out all that much so getting into topics like ecology of low-light planets and comparing our perception of exo-planets to the reality that we know of them from within our solar system was a lot of fun. The Museum of Science Fiction – an advocate for bridging the gap between sci-fi entertainment and real-world STEM – has their own event, Escape Velocity, that should make it on most everyone’s calendar.
Later Thursday evening, I presented Mario, Raiden, and the BFG: Why Video Game Movies Deserve More Respect. I was exceptionally delighted with how well received it was and had people afterwards tell me that they went to watch Super Mario Brothers and watch it with a new perspective and see it for the solid (if still troubled) film that it is. Silent Hill and Street Fighter both got some much deserved attention. Thankfully, everybody seemed onboard with just how good Mortal Kombat and Doom actually are.
Friday came and went like a whirlwind. MAGFest has no downtime, so the dealers’ room was buzzing the whole time. Books were flying at the table, but the real surprise was when a long-lost friend brought by copies of the Crossworld novels! I cannot describe how overwhelmed I was to see Vincent Pierce and Chip Masters on the cover of a book again. Said angelic fan was from OMG!Con in Kentucky, a convention that I had the privilege to guest at years ago, and a con that has grown each and every year. Which is only befitting, given how terrific they are.
During the day itself, I helped host the Gamers’ Fitness panel with the incomparable Matthew Mahoney and Anne Howard. We try to help alleviate some hesitations at being more active and also to apply what we as gamers learn in video games to the world of fitness (approaching exercise as level grinding, etc). The panel is always fun but with the diversity we had present this year, it had a real excitement to it. Plus, Anne just got her personal trainer certification, so she was jazzed to use some of that newly-gained knowledge.
Friday night saw one of my major experiments come to fruition: I gave a panel on ‘Bad Voice Acting’ with NYC performer, David Autovino. A veteran voice actor with more credits than I can list, we presented clips of some of the best voice actors working and let David evaluate them. These weren’t clips of their best work, but debatably their worst. The goal of the panel wasn’t to mock or revile bad performances, but it give a bit of a clinic on just what can go wrong in the process. Art and acting are delicate things and the line between awesome and awful can sometimes be a lot thinner than we wish. Even the best performances in the world have their bad acts and it’s always worth asking what went wrong. It was a real great panel that was well-attended and well-received. I really appreciate David Autovino’s professional insights as his expertise made the panel.
Come Saturday, I had an entirely new and wonderful problem: I sold completely out of books. I have not had that problem in a long, long time. I sell out of books quite often but it’s usually on the final day of the convention, not halfway through Saturday. It caused quite the existential crisis, but I was fortunately guided to play video games and there are few crises that can’t be aided with some time on a Nintendo.
Saturday night was my most popular panel: Top Ten Episodes of Transformers. The panel went MUCH better than last year (which I still feel terrible for how badly I ran over). We got to spend some better-paced time on each episode and dive into why this franchise has such an enduring fanbase. Since the review now reaches from Generation One all the way through Transformers Cybertron, there was a lot to go over but everybody seemed to enjoy it.
These were all the events, the scheduled occurrences that your mind recalls and sits on your calendar. Like notes in a song, the music itself are the moments in-between. The laughter on the elevator. The late-night talks in the hallway about everything from cosplay to martial arts. That haunting delirium of being up so much later than usual, and in environments so different. We remember the events, but we smile at the feelings created by the rush between them.
MAGFest is an experience like no other. I have had the privilege of being a guest at every MAGFest thus far and consider that one of my greatest professional accolades. MAGFest is for me part convention, part music festival, and part family reunion. So many good friends, old and new. So many fond memories and great experiences. If you haven’t been to a MAGFest yet, start planning now. I can say with absolute certainty it will be one of the best decisions of your life.
As wonderful as MAGFest was and is, the new year is before us and there is work to do. Proton and the 2017 Short Story Collection are both live now, as ebooks and in print. Get your copies today! Likewise, RocKaiju joins Samifel and Rhest for the Wicked as books of mine published with Caffeine & Ink.
My sights now turn to February and Katsucon! I shall return to the Gaylord as part of Katsu’s Japanese Cultural Institute where I will be giving panels on a variety of topics, from a biopic on Miyamoto Musashi to teaching martial arts classes to taking a sobering look at the Japanese-American Internment Camps of World War II. I will also be promoting my novels and might have a few surprises as well. I hope to see you there!