I wrote this late last night, after a 6 hour drive, after a morning spent conversing and saying good-bye… what I’m saying is, it may be slightly incoherent, and I will doubtless want to add more later to it.
Home from LibertyCon 26, in Chattanooga TN. We put a thousand miles on the little car this weekend, stayed away from home for four days in a sub-standard hotel, but it was worth it. For us, Liberty is as much family reunion get-together as it is SFF convention, as there is almost a con within a con as the Baen Barflies gather to party and talk until the wee hours.
LibertyCon, which took it’s name from being held over Independence Day weekend when it was first started, happens at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo Hotel in Tennessee. Limited to 550 participants, but with big-name guests, it is an intimate convention with an emphasis on writers and books. There are game rooms, some steampunk themed panels and workshops, but my interests lay with the writing and authors. It is a family convention, with all ages welcome, comfortably mixing by the pool outside the consuite, or wandering through the Art Show.
We arrived midafternoon on Thursday, even though the convention registration would not open until Friday afternoon, for a couple of reasons. One, the year before I had committed to volunteer in the consuite prep for a few hours, and two, Friday morning is the Barfly range trip. We walked into Penn Station where the consuite is set up, and pitched in for a while, then went for dinner with friends to round out a pleasant evening after our travels.
Friday morning the Barflies gathered in the lobby about nine am, with many yawns, stragglers, and hugs of greeting as for most of us, it had been at least a year since we’d met. A long caravan of vehicles was soon headed up to Prentice Cooper Park for the shooting range. Someone said the count at the range that morning was 54 people, which may be the largest crowd at the Barfly Shoot yet. Catherine Asaro was the guest of honor, as she learned to shoot in a special private session before the group range trip.
I chose to explore the local flora and fauna, joined by Cathe Smith, who is even more interested than I am in bugs. It’s always a pleasure to met someone who shares your interests. She’s one of my favorite mad scientists. With the range rules not allowing more than a few people in each range shed, I’d decided not to shoot this year.
Back at the con after lunch, we got in line for registration, made simpler as we had pre-registered months ago. We had looked at the android app program for the con the night before, so we knew even before we got our program book with it’s steampunk Lady Liberty on the front that we would not be going to a panel until six, and the first destination for us was to go to a signing by the Writing Hoyts, Sarah A. Hoyt, Dan, and Robert. Sarah is my mentor, and friend, and it is always a pleasure to see her.
I wound up missing the six o’clock panel at six on Friday: Where’s my Flying Car, Dammit! but my partner attended. He didn’t get into it, but told me most of the rest of the audience enjoyed the discussion between Catherine Asaro, Chuck Gannon, Sarah Hoyt, Tedd Roberts, and others. I did get into the 7 o’clock panel on World Building for Writing and Gaming, with Melissa Gay, Sarah Hoyt, Stephen Simmons, and others. It was an interesting discussion on how to create plausible worlds that readers can immerse themselves in, with the two cardinal rules shared being to keep it consistent, and to reduce details to the minimum, allowing readers to fill in the blanks on their own, which also reduces the amount of errors an author might make.
We wandered back to the consuite and had a lovely barbecue dinner prepared by the Barflies to feed their own, chatting with friends as they came in and out. Poolside, it was warm, muggy, and full of animated conversations by those who needed to smoke or spread out more than the consuite allowed.
Friday evening we cut it short, knowing that we had an early morning Saturday, as I volunteered to help with the Barfly Breakfast in the morning and would be there at 7:30 am. I went alone in the morning, joining the generous Barflies Quilly Mammoth and Christine, his bride. Every year they do this charity meal to raise funds, this year making $200 for the Baen Bulk fund and Wendi Bragg’s needs. Operation Baen Bulk provides needed goods and services to the armed forces, this year working toward giving troops invalided home kindles loaded with ebooks from Baen and other generous authors.
After breakfast I returned to the convention again for an eleven o’clock panel on Hybrid Authors: Insight from Traditional Authors Who Also Self-Publish. On the panel were Dan and Sarah Hoyt, who both were traditionally published, and now indie-publish as well, Holly McClure, a former agent who has self-published, Rebecca Moesta, the wife of Kevin Anderson, who runs a small press with him, and the Morris husband and wife pair who run a small press and were once traditionally published. There was some excellent advice from Rebecca and Sarah about caution on signing contracts. I was surprised to hear confirmation that some contracts now contain language essentially barring an author from ever publishing anything, ever, without the publisher’s permission.
To add to this appalling development, Janet Morris informed the audience at length that she favors a contract modelled on the brutally unfair music contracts dating back to the 1970’s, announcing that she has gone as far as to lift entire sections from those contracts, which were known for their restrictions and punitive non-compete clauses for musicians. The idea of moving backwards to a system that would certainly not favor authors in any way surprised and upset many on the panel and in the audience. I would certainly urge any young author to not only read a contract carefully, but to find a lawyer before signing away rights to a publisher with no recourse and stipulations that might leave you unable to publish again.
At noon the one sour note to our convention experience was the luncheon banquet. For the price I had paid for tickets, I had expected a dinner, not a lunch, and I had certainly not expected buffet style serving that took almost an hour to complete, with food that was disgusting. I knew the Choo-Choo’s restaurant was mediocre at best, with very high prices, I had expected more from the banquet meal based on my previous experiences at other locations. We certainly will not repeat that experience. The speech we had time to hear was pleasant, with Kevin J Anderson relating how he began writing at the tender age of 5 ½, but we had to leave before the others began, as we had another commitment and after having waited so long to even get everyone served, the speeches began so late we were forced to leave.
The guests of honor were Kevin J. Anderson, Catherine Asaro, Michael and Paul Bielaczyc, Larry Correia, and Vincent Di Fate. Larry is always witty, smart, and a pleasure to hear when he was in his role of Master of Ceremonies. I ran into Kevin J. Anderson poolside during the Saturday evening party, and had the pleasure of being part of a conversation about the future of publishing, and the bright hope of indie-publishing.
Our Saturday afternoon was pleasantly passed listening to Sarah A. Hoyt read the short story she wrote for the Raygun Chronicles anthology, set in the Darkship Thieves Universe. After that reading, Dan Hoyt read a short story about a small child, sharks with chainsaws, and what boogeymen are afraid of. Following him, Robert Hoyt read a selection from his RatsKiller, a prequel to his excellent Cat’s Paw. I was delighted to hear more from Tom, his alcoholic feline anti-hero. I will be looking for more from this young writer.
Saturday evening after a delightful dinner with Peter Gray, author of Take the Star Road, and his wife Dorothy, we returned to the consuite, where the party was already happening. I circulated, taking photos, as I am the unofficial Barfly photographer, and there were authors, fans, and some very interesting people all talking and drinking inside and outside. The highlight of the convention, the party went on until the morning, but we left at midnight after a brief time spent listening in on the Mad Scientist’s Panel that began at 11:00 pm. I did get to hear someone warble Bacteria are Sexy! into the microphone there, which tells you the level of humor in that room of distinguished scientists, moderated by the inestimable Les Johnson.
Sunday morning we joined a very special group for breakfast, Hoyt’s Huns and the Dinerzens. Six conversations swirled around the tables at once, ranging from politics to motherhood to history and medicine. After the breakfast we made a brief return to the convention to see if we had won our bids in the Art Show, and we brought home an adorable print of Magnus and Loki for my daughter, and a chemistry fairy print for our kitchen (well, where do YOU do chemistry experiments?) A flurry of goodbyes, last minute-tracking down for hugs, and we were on the road home, already missing our friends but happy to look forward to a night in our own bed.