Blog 2018, Conventions

Escape Velocity

When I first learned of the Museum of Science Fiction, I was overjoyed.  As an indelible part of our culture, science fiction has made a lasting impact on the world we live in and the lives of each and every one of us.  Case in point, you are reading this now.  If I had a week, I doubt I could list off all the ways science and science fiction has, directly and indirectly, contributed to make that possible.  The Museum lacks a physical locale for now is a sadness, but that they host a regular event helps to remedy that.

Escape Velocity is the MoSF’s flagship event wherein they attempt to bridge the gulf between science and science fiction.  An effort to inspire fans into the fields of STEM study (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), it is also a celebration of all things that science fiction has done, both in the entertainment world and in inspiring the technological world.

I had worked with the MoSF previously at MAGFest earlier this year, so the chance to work at their own event was a delightful opportunity.  After a dicey spring, we were off!  The very first thing I noticed about this con was how astoundingly well-run it was.  I’ve worked at some conventions that fly by the seat of their pants (which works better than you might think in some occasions), and others that try to micromanage every last detail.  Escape Velocity was something else.  The staffers were extremely knowledgeable and on-point about just about everything.  The way the convention was set-up, from their use of an online schedule to how they used the space at the Gaylord, was really something else.  For such a new convention, they’d clearly started off on the best foot.

Friday kicked off with YA Science Fiction Writing Workshop, which I shared with Jalondra Davis and ‘Thee’ Nick Kelly.  It was my first time working with Jalondra, but me and Nick have done some events before.  As the defacto moderator, Nick took the lead and excelled at it.  A veteran of the sci-fi field, he’s got some of the best insights to share and he was able to engage the audience beautifully.  It was a lot of fun and I hope the workshop was productive for the attendees.  Getting the chance to spend a few hours with Nick and Jalondra certainly made me a better writer.

Friday ended early, with the dealer’s room closing at 7pm.  Oh sweet mercy, do you know how awesome that is?  A dealer’s room that closes at a decent time!  That’s mind-blowing.  When I do a convention, people ask me to come to this panel or go by that booth.  And I would love to, but so long as the dealer’s room is open, that ain’t happening.  I need to be at the table as much as possible.  So for the dealer’s room to close, and I could actually go enjoy the convention?  Sweet mercy, I can’t describe how cool that was.  Cons with a 24-hour dealer’s room?  Maybe give it some thought.  Just saying.

My first panel on Saturday was Faith & Reason in science fiction.  This was a discussion on the role and presence of religion and spirituality in science fiction.  As someone who falls on the atheistic side of agnostic, I assumed I was there to represent that end of the discussion opposite several representatives of the Christian faith.  To my delight, there was no issue or contradiction.  The entire panel (which included LG Ransom, at Escape Velocity celebrating the release of her second novel in the Sentinel Dawn series) pretty much fell into agreement: that science fiction has got plenty of room for everyone on the religious spectrum.  It was a lot of fun and a great discussion all around.

Up from there, I ran across the hall for Exoplanets as Seen through Video Games, the presentation I gave at MAGFest back in January.  Only this time, I found myself joined by the legendary Brendan Becker, Mr Inverse Phase himself.  The panel went fine and was a lot of fun and, without having just come charging off of Virginia traffic, went far more smoothly.

Come the afternoon and the zombies came out.  My inaugural solo panel at Escape Velocity, Zombae was about the evolution of zombies as seen in popular culture.  I discussed the origins of the word and concept of the zombie, why it is associated with specific locales in the Caribbean (re: racism) and dove into how zombies went from singular horror to an endless horde of evil.  I spoke about the influence and importance of Night of the Living Dead, I Am Legend, and Tina Belcher.  I then got to completely deflate the whole discussion by going through a zombie survival situation and why you don’t need a shotgun and a katana but some stairs, some earplugs, and a Netflix subscription.

Saturday closed out with a lot of sales and a lot of fun.  Regrettably, it also closed out with some illness so I spent the evening caring for some stricken family.  As this took place just after the zombie panel, I was especially cautious.

Sunday started bright and terrifyingly early with the Science Fiction Characters as Dramatis Personae.  Led by LG Ransom, this was a winding discussion about character and a whole lot of trash-talking about red shirts and storm troopers.  Poor canon fodder.

Immediately after was the Science Fiction Writing Workshop for Teens.  Now how was this different from the YA Writing Workshop?  This was for teen writers, as opposed to the Friday panel which was for writing for teens.  Me, LG Ransom, and the esteemed Kenny Rogers, found ourselves before a half-dozen aspiring authors who were absolutely cutting-edge in their interests and ambitions.  These kids will be selling out bookstores soon enough, just watch.

Disability in Sci-Fi followed and it turned into a bit of an emotional panel.  While it shouldn’t be, disabilities, handicaps, and similar issues, are a reality for many of us and sore subject to boot.  I brought to the panel a prospective of mental health personally and public health professionally.  I was paired with some knowledgeable people but the discussion was paramount and I think we left with some new insights.  This was a valuable panel and of all that happened at the convention, this one may have been the most valuable.

The final panel of the con, and the closing bell at that, Transtemporal and Transdimensional Worlds was just goofy fun.  I think we were all a little punch drunk at that point so the panel got a little zany but we managed to (barely) stay on topic.

That was Escape Velocity.  It was a unique experience, which I suppose I should have anticipated as it is a unique and new breed of convention.  Congratulations to LG Ransom, again, for the successful release of Legacy of Hollin.


Now, I turn my attention to Anime Mid-Atlantic.  June 15th through the 17th in Norfolk Virginia, this staple of my convention circuit will see the updated and potentially final incarnation of the Top Ten Episodes of Transformers panel, now with everything from Gen-One all the way through Prime.  I’ll also have copies of all my books and be there to help celebrate all things anime and anime-adjacent.  I hope to see you there!

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