It's 11:30 at night on a Sunday. I have more caffeine in me than any reasonable person would have in them at this hour. There are no fewer than half a dozen things I could ostensibly be working on right now, and yet I'm opting to write this blog post instead.
Ad Astra is, without a doubt, my favourite convention. This year was my third year attending, and my second doing so not only as a vendor, but also as a panelist (more the latter than the former this time around, if I'm being honest, but I'll get to that later). I always refer to it as "the biggest little con in the GTA" whenever I describe it to people. For something that is fan-run out of a single hotel, it draws substantial attendance, and consistently top-notch guests. Frankly, the fact that they allow me to slum it up with the likes of Robert J. Sawyer, Guy Gavriel Kay, and Ed Greenwood is anybody's guess, but I'd be remiss to not jump at the opportunity and be insanely thankful that it exists. Never mind the fact that the top-billed guest of honour for this year was Brandon Sanderson. Sadly I wasn't on any panels with him this year, and thus missed my opportunity to introduce myself as "the Brandon you aren't here to see."
I'll have to save that for the next convention we happen to both be attending, whenever that happens to be.
I get ahead of myself, though. I suppose I ought to start with the traffic. Friday afternoon saw Deanna and I sitting in far more traffic than I anticipated on our way to the Sheraton Parkway in Markham, so much so that I was nearly late to my own book launch party; I was a little bit tense, to say the least.
To my surprise, I had a wonderful turnout for the launch of Collapse of Kingdoms, many of whom were ready and waiting before I was, old friends and new faces alike. Since the launch of Council last year I feel as though I've gotten stronger as an author doing live readings, and the passages I read from the book were, I think, pretty well done.
A particular note: Nicholas Eames, author of my most recent favourite read Kings of the Wyld was awesome enough to stop by the launch before his first panel that night. Nick and I crossed paths a few times that weekend, including a panel we were on with my friend Agnes Jankiewicz, and although I would have already encouraged all of you to buy Nick's book before the con, the fact that he was such a genuine, stand-up guy throughout the weekend means that I'm basically telling you all that Kings of the Wyld is a must-read.
Speaking of must-reads: Saturday saw me attending the launch of the follow-up to Agnes' portal fantasy/sci-fi YA joyride Q16 and the Eye to All Worlds, titled Q16 and the Lord of the Unfinished Tower. Scheduling made it difficult for me to attend the whole event, but I was lucky enough to catch Agnes' reading, and if any of you are fans of Roger Zelazny then believe me when I say that you are doing yourselves a disservice if you aren't reading Agnes' books.
Saturday also saw me at the pre-launch party for Brave New Girls Volume 2: Girls Who Science and Scheme. Again, due to some scheduling hiccups, I was only present for the first half, in which I read a passage from my contribution to the anthology, The Verne Shot, and was lucky enough to hear Agnes read from her story Skyris.
Lisa Tooheyalso had a reading at the event that I unfortunately missed, and so the next time we cross paths I totally owe her a drink.
Every panel I was on over the course of the weekend was a ton of fun, and resulted in my meeting some really great people. Perhaps the biggest surprise, however, was my reading on the Saturday. Last year saw authors grouped into panels of three or four for readings, but this year each of us was flying solo. To my surprise, I had a really great turnout for mine, including my good friends (and incredible authors in their own rights) Alyx Dellamonica and Kelly Robson. I was, after all was said and done, offered some great advice from Kelly, and when a Hugo-nominated author/colleague/friend offers you advice, you bloody well heed it!
Incidentally, both Deanna and I do regret not being able to hang out with the two of you more that night; we really need to do sushi or something.
Deanna and I tried our best to attend one another's panels, but as it was we maybe spent a total of eight combined hours at out dealers' room table the entire weekend. The panelist/vendor juggling act is a difficult one to manage, and come 2018 we may need to rethink our strategies for how we approach cons where we both have to wear both hats. That said, we had some very awesome people swing by our vendor table, and as always I cannot possibly be thankful enough for each and every individual who did so.
Sunday saw us in the gaming room, playing a session of the tabletop RPG Pugmire. The game plays like an even simpler version of 5e D&D, but in place of elves. dwarves. halflings, and the like, the PCs play different breeds of dogs. It was probably the most rules-light tabletop RPG I've ever run, and it may well have been one of the most fun games I've ever run, in part because of that. If you play RPGs and you haven't given this system I try, I highly recommend it. I think my GMing RPGs on the Sunday of the con might be forming into a tradition, and you can bet that 2018 will be no different.
Among the deluge of awesomeness that went down during the weekend was my opportunity to finally meet Darrell Drake in the flesh. The Toronto native, and author of the historical fantasy A Star Reckoner's Lot, was in the same block of vendor tables as Deanna and I, and much like literally everyone I encounter at Ad Astra, is a very down-to-earth, awesome individual. He is also one of the masterminds behind the Fools of Fantasy, a group of authors adjacent to the /r/Fantasy sub-forum of Reddit, a group to which I now proudly claim membership. (There is not a-one of these authors whom you should not be reading literally right now). Though the collective is somewhat nascent, expect awesome things in the future, possibly beyond the already fantastic library of genre-spanning works already being produced.
Alright, I've waxed poetic for an incredibly long time already about everything that happened last weekend, but not nearly enough about why exactly Ad Astra is great, and why it brings me back into its folds perennially.
If I'm being totally honest, Ad Astra is the one convention I've attended since I first decided to take a crack at this whole writing gig that has consistently left me feeling like I'm actually a capital A Author. At the end of each Ad Astra for the last three years I have felt like more than just someone who has been desperately trying to get people to read the goofy elves and magic books he's published. Rather, by 5 o'clock on the Sunday of each Ad Astra I have felt exponentially more like someone who has a reader base, who has fans, who is a colleague among other authors.
Impostor syndrome is a very real thing, and I am very much of the mind that, among authors who live in the Greater Toronto Area, there is no better cure than Ad Astra, even if the course of the cure is only three days long.
Thank you, truly and earnestly, to the organizers, attendees, and fellow vendors and guests of Ad Astra 2017. I hope to see you all next year.