Wow. What a busy con.
I haven’t heard if it is official or not, but if Salt Lake City wasn’t bigger than San Diego’s Comic Con, then it was really, really close. On Saturday the word was that we’d broken 120,000 people. The entire state of Utah only has 2.8 million people. That’s 4% of the state’s population in one building. This was only the 3rd time we’ve done this.
That is one powerful nerdy state.
This was a really different con for me. Normally I like to just go and wander around, be on some panels, maybe do a book signing for an hour or two, that’s it. I’ve never been tied down to a table before, but Kevin J. Anderson and Peter Wacks invited me to have a spot at the WordFire Press booth. So I went for it. KJA had a brilliant idea, and he’s been trying to put together this sort of author “super booth”. I spent most of the con sitting between Peter Beagle (Last Unicorn) and Brandon Sanderson (Way of Kings).
It was like a good book signing, that was non-stop for three days. By the end I’d been cleaned out of nearly every title. All I had left was some MHN and Warbound hard covers. By Saturday morning I was out of book 1 of every series. And that’s not counting the ones people brought in, or the hundreds—not a typo—of people who just wanted to come by and say hi.
I’m not kidding when I say that I probably shook a thousand hands. My hand is sore. Now I understand why celebrities use the fist bump (to be fair, some of my fans are really STRONG). Protip to authors, if you see a guy with tree trunk arms and tactical beard standing in line, go for the fist bump. If you are me, and half of your fan base looks like that, suck it up. Ace wrap that shit and get back to typing. 🙂
Because there was over 500 guests they capped the number of panels that we were on to four. All of mine went well, but my favorites were the one in the big room on Friday. Brandon Sanderson was the moderator, and it was me, Brandon Mull, Tracy Hickman, Margaret Weiss, and Dave Wolverton.
To put this in perspective, this panel was about How to Write Good Magic Systems. That is a geeky writing topic panel. That is a 1,500 person room and we filled it. I found out after that there were more people outside who couldn’t get in. Where else can you get 1,500 people to come and listen to geeky, nuts and bolts, writing topics?
And that room is a tiny fraction of how many people were there. The green room overlooks the floor, and I’m kicking myself for not getting some pictures from up there of the crowds. This year, because I had an actual booth, I didn’t hang out in the green room as much, so I didn’t see as many celebrities and didn’t get to meet any of them. I missed Patrick Warburton by a couple of minutes, which is a bummer, because Brock Sampson is the greatest character ever. I was hoping to suck up and get him to record my voice mail as Brock Sampson. “You’ve reached Correia. LEAVE A MESSAGE… AT THE BEEP.” Come on. You know that would be awesome. I didn’t see Ron Perlman or Bruce Campbell either, which is a bummer.
I had another fun panel on Friday. I was the moderator and the topic was How to Write Awesome SciFi and Fantasy. Good bunch of writers, I was sitting on the end so I could see down the table, “small” room with only 200 people in the audience, so I’m really looking forward to it. Right off the bat I asked the audience by show of hands how many of them want to be professional authors, and 90% of the hands go up. Good. Now I know what way to take the questions. So I tell everybody that we’re not going to waste time with college professor bullshit like defining genre or any of that nonsense, but let’s get down to business, nuts and bolts, tips and tricks, what do we actually do to make this stuff work.
The panel is going great except for one tiny little thing. It turns out that we are next door to something that I would find out later was Zombie Laser Tag, and the folding partition between the rooms isn’t sufficiently sound proof to stop the Screecher Zombie, whose riveting dialog consisted of HRAAAR HRAAAAAAAA HrEEEEEEEEECH HreEEEEEEEEEEEEEEECH HrEEEEEEEEEEEEEECH over and over again.
So it was funny at first… A few minutes in, starting to get annoying. So I signal one of the volunteers at the back and they disappear, hopefully to get Screeches to take it down a notch. Nothing. It keeps going. Apparently the moderator is starting to look annoyed because people I recognize in the audience as Monster Hunter Nation fans are giggling. Then when Screeches drowned out John Brown (who has perfect radio announcer voice, so I know if I couldn’t hear him, the audience probably didn’t either) I’d had enough.
So I hopped off the stage, pounded on the wall and ordered them to KEEP IT DOWN IN THERE! I used my firearm’s instructor voice (you’ve got to speak from the chest) so that whole section of the convention center heard it. That worked. The zombies shut up. In fact, I didn’t hear them again until the 5 minute warning. The audience enjoyed it. If the moderator had been anybody other than the guy who makes his living off of zombie killing, it wouldn’t have been nearly as funny.
Now SLC ComicCon wasn’t without its glitches. On day 1 there was a huge bottleneck. The people who’d registered early and paid extra for Gold or VIP passes ended up in the same line as general admission, so people who’d already paid were stuck out there for 3 or 4 hours trying to get inside. That killed half their Thursday. The Con had set up satellite locations where people could pick up their badges early, but you can’t expect people to go out of their way and change their behaviors in sufficient numbers to make a dent. Hopefully next year they’ll do what other big cons do and mail those badges in advance or something.
On Friday I brought my three oldest kids with me, and I let them wander ComicCon unsupervised. The deal was they had to come and check in with dad every hour, which they sort of, almost did, if you consider two hours like one. One nice thing about SLC ComicCon is that it has an atmosphere where I could let my teenagers wander around and not be too worried about them. Serious props to the volunteers and security for working their butts off to keep it that way.
Since this is ComicCon even the working professionals still have our geeky fan boy moments. My geeky highlight was when I got Margaret Weiss and Larry Elmore to sign the 1985 Dragonlance trilogy I’ve had since I was 10 years old. I already had Tracy’s signature, so that’s both authors and the artist, and I could honestly tell all three of them at once that it was those novels that got me writing in the first place.
It was 120,000 fans flying their geek flags high. I had a blast.
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