JordanCon 2015 Recap (Part 1)

Two weekends ago I attended JordanCon 7, also known as Con of the Red Hand. This was my fifth consecutive time attending, and over time it’s become only more enjoyable, as evidenced by the fact that I got the least sleep at the con this year compared to the last 4 years, and the day after I got back was a sleep recovery day.

To begin the saga of way too little sleep, I had to get up before 4:30am the Friday of JordanCon to make my 6:25am flight, which US Airways decided to move up from its original 8:30 departure time. A bit annoying, but getting in earlier than planned is better than being late. Despite light rain both in New York and Atlanta, the flight fortunately was on schedule, and I arrived at the con by 10:00, at which point I collapsed in my hotel room for a little while, in part because of my choice to walk from the MARTA station to the hotel. It wasn’t far, though I did make a directional error that added time to that, and I was dragging 2 rolling all the way. (Eventually cut across some grass at the edge of the hotel grounds to shorten my walk.)

I recovered before too long, and made my way down to the convention area a while before things got underway. Had a chance to watch as things got set up, and got to say hi to a couple of familiar faces (If I was the kind of person who talked more there’d be a lot more people by now, but I am who I am. Working on that whole talking to people thing.)

First things first, the con began with the opening ceremonies, run by Peter b. Slayer, this year’s toastmaster. Personally I’m not too familiar with him apart from seeing him around JordanCon before, but here’s his webpage.  Definitely an interesting guy, and the opening ceremony was definitely fun to watch. Lots of alcohol bandied around, which isn’t unusual for JordanCon, but it doesn’t always start so early. The opening ceremony also included the annual gift giving to Harriet McDougal (Robert Jordan’s wife and editor.)

Speaking of Harriet, the first thing I went to after the ceremony was a signing by her and the rest of Team Jordan, Alan Romanczuk and Maria Simons (for the uninitiated, they were Robert Jordan’s assistant, who helped manage the Wheel of Time series’ sprawling continuity and fictional language. This year was a bit of a milestone for me, as I now own the entire Wheel of Time Series, signed, excepting New Spring, the prequel. (Time for a reread!) Team Jordan was as great to talk to as usual, and as I recently made my first trip down to South Carolina, where Robert Jordan and Wheel of Time both came from, I had more to talk about this year.

Once that was done, and after lugging the four books I’d brought back to my room, I took a quick walk around the convention space, checked out the gaming room (this year in a big pavilion tent just outside the hotel), and took my first tour of the art show and dealer’s hall, and once again wished I had more money to spend on stuff (not to mention the fact that between conventions and my upcoming trip to Israel I’m nearly broke at the moment.) Then I dropped into the end of a panel on influences on Brandon Sanderson’s work (there’s a whole Sanderson track now), which was actually quite interesting. I tend to stay mostly with the writing track, so this was a nice different experience. In fact I liked it so much I stayed for the next panel in that room, more of a discussion really, on Sanderson’s Laws of Magic (not going to discuss them here, but a quick google search of those terms will bring up details. When he’s at JordanCon, Brandon Sanderson often teaches a class/gives a lecture on this, but seeing as Brandon was not present this year, it was a quick overview and then the audience came up with our own magic system ideas, which led to amusing and interesting results.

Following that, however, I got back to my regularly scheduled Writer’s Track, run and organized excellently once again by Richard Fife. This first panel, fittingly, on query letters. (That’s pretty much where I’m at as a writer right now, the dreaded querying phase. The panel consisted of Tor editor Diana Pho, the Tor representative at JordanCon now that Paul Stevens moved to Quirk Books, and Dr. Michael Livingston, a professor at The Citadel with degrees in history, medieval studies, and English. Also his first novel, the historical fantasy Shards of Heaven, is to be released by Tor Books this November. So we had an editor and writer, which made for interesting discussion and insight.

After the query letter panel, it was already time for the evening dinner break, which began the more complicated convention period for me, that of Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath), during which time I cannot do a host of things, though in these situations the inability to use electronics is what makes things complicated, mainly due to the fact that hotels all have electronic keys now. Fortunately, the hotel staff was accommodating and helpful.

I made it back down from dinner in my room (brought all my own food once again), in time for the writer’s workshop, for which I had pre-submitted the first thousand words or so of my third novel (still in progress, and kind of paused as I work on my fourth. It’s a long story.) After a slight delay where we had to wait for the printouts, we were divided into groups, each with one author guest, and then the author would read the submissions then speak to each of us individually and give feedback. The author with my group was local author Blue Cole, who I think I’ve met at JordanCon before, but this year we spoke quite a bit. He’s an awesome guy, and gave great feedback.

The writing workshop was the last structured event of the evening for me, though other things were going on, chiefly the annual charity poker tournament. I was already tired at this point ,but I made my way over to the gaming room to see if anyone was playing Magic: The Gathering. When I got there I didn’t see any Magic happening, so I decided I’d sit around for a few minutes, then get to be at a somewhat reasonable time.

That ‘plan’ lasted all of 5 minutes.  As I sat at the end of one lightly occupied table, almost falling asleep, I got invited to join in a small game of Mage: The Awakening, an RPG (character sheets, tons of dice, the whole deal.) I’d never participated in an RPG before, and I’ve always had a passing interest, so I decided, why not? Besides the game was flexible enough that I could cut out at any point if I really had to go to sleep.

To make a long story short, we started at about 10:30, and kept going until 2:30. I guess you can say we got into things and had fun. It was a great experience, and I’m glad I participated. Made a couple new friends in the process too. Don’t know when I’ll next have a chance to play an RPG, but I know that I’m looking forward to it. After we finally reached a point where we could let ourselves stop, we all went our separate ways and I staggered up to my room. By the time I got to sleep, I’d been up for nearly 23 hours straight. Don’t think I’ve ever done that before.

So ended day 1 of my 5th JordanCon experience! Will hoepfully get the rest of it up before too long.

Note: One day I’ll figure out both how to take good pictures and how to integrate them into a blog post like this. For now, if you want to see some pics of the con as well as read a different perspective on the whole JordanCon things, check out Leigh Butler’s recap on Tor.com (both parts are up now).

 

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