Monday, April 7, 2014

Report from Central PA Comic Con

Authors Stephen Kozeniewski and Elizabeth Corrigan
When I first heard about Central PA Comic Con back in February, I was pretty skeptical. It's a pretty new convention, so I wasn't sure if enough people had heard of it to make it worthwhile. But it was right by one of the members of our con team, horror author Stephen Kozeniewski, so we decided to give it a shot. We did our usual Red Adept set-up in the dealer's room, where Steve and I, along with fantasy author Elizabeth Corrigan, peddled book put on our best salesman faces. More accurately, Steve's the salesman. Elizabeth's the organizer – she manages to keep things straight in a way I never could. And as for me, well, I guess you could say I'm the designer, since whenever we need some bit of collateral, I whip it up.

This time, we were trying something new. The three of us got a panel: "Battle of the Genres", where each of us argued why our respective genres was the best (I was representing Team Sci-Fi, Elizabeth was Team Fantasy, and Steve was Team Horror). To promote the panel and add a little more fun to it, we got buttons made for each team and handed them out at our table. Most people were torn because they liked all three, but in the Battle of the Genres, everyone has to choose a side. At least for the panel, which was supposed to be a fun debate (with our affiliations exaggerated for entertainment purposes, of course – as you may know, I also write fantasy).

All in all, the con was awesome. There were a LOT more people than I expected. The dealer's room was hopping for most of Saturday, with curious attendees browsing for fun merchandise. And our buttons were a hit. Our panel was late at night – 10pm, to be precise – so a lot of people couldn't make it, but it was still cool to see everyone walking around with them. Even the cosplayers pinned them proudly!

I sold a decent number of books, enough to put me in "can't complain" territory, but the star of the con, this time, was Elizabeth's book, Oracle of Philadelphia. Which seems fair since Steve and I have each had "our" cons in the past few months (Steve's Braineater Jones was the talk of Illogicon down in Raleigh, which I didn't attend, and myArtificial Absolutes was our bestselling title at Farpoint, which isn't surprising because, well, it's FARPOINT). And I, always the magpie for more stuff, also traded my books with other dealers. Got an awesome steampunk flask from a leather dealer and traded books with two other authors. This whole barter/retail-for-retail thing kind of works for me…

Anyway, back to the panel. We were kind of terrified that no one would show up because it was at 10pm. The panel was conceived to be an audience participation debate – a lively, just-for-fun argument so people could talk about which genre was their favorite and why (and discuss the traits of each, and how they crossover into each other). What would we do if it was just the three of us and two silent attendees?

Button, button, who's got the button?
To drum up interest, we stood in the hallway and flagged down anyone passing by with a button. It worked pretty well – in trying to convince each person why they should take one particular genre's button, we actually gave a pretty accurate preview of fun times to come. We talked about 25 people into coming, which was far better than we expected, considering it was 10pm and most people had gone home to sleep.

When the panel began, Steve, ever the salesman, got up and made an impassioned speech about the merits of horror. FEAR was his biggest driver. And of course, since zinging the opponent's side is necessary for any debate to be entertaining, he maintained that sci-fi and fantasy just didn't stand up to a genre that was an emotion by itself.

And that's when I started panicking. Steve was making all these awesome arguments, Elizabeth, ever the organized one, had research notes prepared, and I… I'd been planning on going with my gut. I had a few ideas, but they all fled once I realized that I was actually going to have to TALK IN FRONT OF PEOPLE. I was terribly sleep deprived from the week before, so my brain wasn't fully functioning to begin with, and on top of that, the anxiety was making my heart hammer in my ears. Which wouldn't have been a huge deal, except my blood seemed to be rushing out of my head at the same time. I actually started seeing black spots and was terrified that I'd pass out. For real.

At our panel
Thankfully, the Force was with me, and I managed to get up there and give my pitch without crumpling into a heap. My angle? Sci-Fi takes the issues of today and looks forward. Sometimes it goes very, very far forward, but it always holds on to some thread connecting it to the present.

The audience was totally into it. Our pitches sparked a lively debate, which got kind of heated in some places – but what good debate doesn't? Surprisingly, in the end, Team Sci-Fi won by a landslide, which I didn't expect given how much the audience went back-and-forth with their arguments. I wish I could claim credit, but I'm pretty sure I was just lucky enough to have a lot of sci-fi fans in the room.

So that was Central PA Comic Con! Loads of fun, of course, and I think I actually learned a few things from talking to fellow conventioneers. On a somewhat frivolous note, can we call it CPACC - pronounced "See Pack"? 'Twould make for a shorter hashtag…



  2. Great report! Sounds like a fun time was enjoyed by all. Congrats on the win, Ms. Fan. :)

  3. Awesome!! Sounded like a lot of fun.. wish I was closer!