The Roundest of the Epic ConFusion Roundups
For some reason, everyone seems to be succumbing to oneupmanship over their recollections of this particular con. It seemed a bit silly at first, but now that I’m reflecting on the con, I think I understand why.
ConFusion runs every year and from what I understand changes themes every year. This particular year was epic fantasy.
Wait… Let me take a step back.
Last year I went to WisCon. Unlike most years, I had actually booked a room at the hotel early. I was excited, you see. It was the first con after the release of my debut, The Winds of Khalakovo. I was damn sure going, and I was damn sure going to have a hotel room at the con. So a few months before the con I noticed that Saladin Ahmed (whose own debut, Throne of the Crescent Moon, is about to hit the shelves) was looking for a WisCon roomie. I said I had a room, we made plans, and then a month or so before the con he asked if I minded if Scott Lynch roomed with us. I said hells yes, Scott can room with us.
So the con arrives and I hang out a bit with Saladin and Scott, and Saladin starts talking up Epic ConFusion. It’s local to Saladin, but the reason he mentions it to me and Scott is that it’s focused on epic fantasy, which Scott and I both write (as much as any of us truly write in any of the genre buckets). A few heavy hitters were going to be there, Saladin says. Pat Rothfuss, Brent Weeks, Peter V. Brett, and Joe Abercrombie. So I was like, hells yes I’m going to go to ConFusion, the Epicest of all the Cons!
See, I’ve been to quite a few cons. But every one I’ve been to has either been a generic, welcome-one-and-all kind of con or has had themes that I might like but don’t necessarily specialize in, like, say, Steampunk. This con, though, Epic ConFusion, I was really looking forward to because I’d be with people living and working in my neck of the woods.
As the con approached, I was being lazy about getting my flight and hotel, and I saw that Doug Hulick, author of the great debut, Among Thieves, was looking for a roomie, so I said hells yes, I’ll share a room. Luckily, Doug agreed.
So when we get there on Friday, I basically didn’t have anything to do. Friday was a free day. All my stuff was on Saturday and Sunday. But the fun got going really quickly. I hung out and talked to folks at the bar, including Al Bogan, Amy Sundberg, Doug Hulick, Saladin, Scott, and plenty more. Then I went to the I, Suck panel, which featured Pat Rothfuss, Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch, John Scalzi, and (moderator) Jim Hines. Now listen, any panel with Pat Rothfuss is going to be interesting. As is one with John Scalzi. But with Jim moderating and Joe and Scott providing one liners and Britishisms along the way? It was damned funny. And, strangely enough, it was grounding in a way, listening to these greats in the field talk about all the ways in which they suck. I don’t want to slip into schadenfreude, but it’s strangely encouraging to realize your’re not alone in all of the little things that plague you as a writer.
Then came the opening ceremonies, a thing I had never experienced at any con. It was pretty fun. Jim Hines, the toastmaster, had prepared some nice and humorous comments about everyone, poking a bit of fun, but not in a mean way.
I hung out in the bar that night, but I was fairly tired, and called it quits kind of early. Midnight-ish.
On Saturday, my highlights included hanging out with Al Bogdan a bit, participating in a mass autograph signing, and hanging out with Saladin and some others to celebrate the debut of THRONE.
Al is a great photographer, and he took a number of photos. The scenery at the hotel wasn’t the greatest, and I didn’t have the best clothes on for formal pics, but they still turned out nice despite that. I’ve got on of his photos at the top of the post, and this one, which I call: Brad, Caught in the Wild!
The signing was a lot of fun because, as I’ll talk about in a bit, it was the start of the feeling that I was part of this crowd. A lot of people came to the signing, and Pat Rothfuss, as usual, created line envy in all the other authors. Even so, Peter V. Brett, Brent Weeks, Robin Hobb, and Scott Lynch all had respectable lines. I sold three books and signed three more. And I also signed a few programs and also someone’s tee shirt!
I also hung out with Justin Landon, of Staffer’s Musings fame, and Patrick Wolohan, from Yeti Stomper. It was cool to meet up with these guys, reviewers, who have their finger on the pulse of the industry in a way that’s different from my own.
I had only one panel on Saturday, but three on Sunday. One personal highlight, not just of the con, but of my young writing career, was the panel I moderated, a panel that was graced by the presence of Brent Weeks, Doug Hulick (standing in for Jason Sanford), Pat Rothfuss. And Robin Hobb. I’ve looked up to Robin Hobb for a long time now. To moderate a panel with her on it was, wow, just wonderful. It was a very special experience for me.
Beyond that, though, the con was special for me because, by the time Sunday rolled around, I felt like I’d stepped through a doorway of sorts. Robin Hobb was one thing, but meeting the rest of these epic fantasy authors was special because they were where I was not so long ago. I’m not claiming that I’m going to enjoy their level of success any time soon (though who knows?) but it did feel—not sure how best to describe this—like a brotherhood of sorts. As though I could hang with these guys. I came away optimistic in a way I haven’t from other cons I’ve attended.
I’ll also admit to feeling a bit daunted. They’ve all set the bar terribly high for those of us coming up behind. But I’m always up for a challenge. And though you may not guess it from talking to me, I’m competitive as hell, so I’m looking forward to this challenge. I want to write the best books I can and to try to break out, or at least to maximize my readership.