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PhilCon 2011 Review

As soon as I got back from New York Comic Con (NYCC), I soaked my feet and vowed to never leave my comfy chair again. But the next day I found myself not only out of my chair, but also at my computer looking for more cons to attend. I was hooked.

In and amongst the ones in my area I found PhilCon. It was local, it had interesting people attending, and best of all it was soon. I bought my ticket then waited anxiously for the day to arrive.

PhilCon’s History

For those of you not from my area (read central New Jersey) you might be asking what PhilCon is. PhilCon is an annual science fiction convention put on by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society. The society has been holding conventions since 1936 when its founder, Milton Rothman, invited seven of his friends from Philadelphia and New York to his house for the very first science fiction convention in history! The society has held conventions annually every year since then, except for during World War II. This year was their 75th convention.

Day 1

Day one began with me getting to the con way too early. I had planned on a forty-five minute drive and given myself an extra fifteen minutes in case it was crowded. I got to the hotel in half an hour and I was the second one in line at the registration table. Oops.

Well, getting there early gave me a lot of time to look over the con schedule, which was extensive! I only went to three panels at NYCC.  Most of my time there was spent wandering the floor and standing in line for the panels I did end up seeing. PhilCon being a much smaller con had not only a much smaller floor, but it also had no lines for panels at all.

And did they have panels! There were at least four different times when I was really and truly torn over which panel to go to and which panel to skip. Going over all the panels I went to here, would take too long, so I’ll just highlight the ones I had the most fun with. 🙂

But now I’m skipping ahead. Before I went to any panels on Friday, I first checked out the dealer’s floor.  Even though it was small, it was packed with books and other goodies.

PhilCon 2011 - Show Floor

Since I had conveniently forgotten the book I was reading at home, I got to shop around and think of at least ten different ways I could blow money for the con in about ten minutes. (I almost did too, but the guy in front of me bought all the original D&D Planescapes sets before me!) I settled on buying one book so I would have something to read while I was waiting for my first panel to start. I picked up a copy of The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath by H.P. Lovecraft. It’s my first venture into Lovecraft, which I am enjoying immensely!

After finishing my shopping and reading some of my book, I headed up to the first panel: Story Openings. It was a blast. Not only did I get a lot of good advice on different ways to open and not open a story, but the panel speakers were really funny. As you can see below, I think they had a good time as well. 🙂

PhilCon 2011 - Story Openings PanelFrom the left: Michael Flynn, Marilyn Brahen, Ty Drago, Tim Burke, and Victoria Janssen

I did a couple more panels, and then I headed out early, because I needed to be back fairly early the next day.

Day 2

I was back bright and early on Saturday for the Writer’s Workshop I had signed up for ahead of time. Each participant got to send in their short story or first chapter of their novel and have it critiqued by the panel. Since there were over ten people who signed up, we split into two groups and were able to talk one on one with our critiquers as well as give the other writer’s our thoughts on their work. Gregory Frost and Oz Drummond were the head of our group. The session was extremely helpful and gave me some great ideas on how to tweak the first chapter of my story so it catches people’s attention better. I have to say I was really nervous before I went, but I’m really glad I did.

The next panel I went to was: Does Military Science Fiction Glorify War? The panel was a lot of fun and I got to catch up with Myke Cole who I’d met previously at NYCC. The answer to the question by the way is it’s complicated, but mostly no.

PhilCon 2011 - Military ScifiFrom left, back row: Mike McPhail & Myke Cole; Front row: Stephanie Burke & Ellen Asher

After the panel, I checked out the art exhibit. I wish I could have taken pictures, because some of the work was stunning! Their guests of honor for example, were featured on the cover of the PhilCon Program book. But seeing the paintings in real life was amazing; the depth and the detail of some of pieces was incredible!

PhilCon 2011 - Book

They did have one spot in the art room where you could take pics, the LEGO booth. 🙂

PhilCon 2011 - LEGO

This section was run by the Delaware Valley LEGO Users Group (DelValLUG). They not only had cool sculptures of famous sci-fi spaceships, but they also had a spot next to the table where you could make your own LEGO creations. 🙂 Not that I have any interest in playing with toys or anything. Nope. Not me. 😉 (Isn’t the little TARDIS cute?)

After I’d finished play with the LEGOs I went to hear the Principal Speaker: Cory Doctorow. Mr. Doctorow is a blogger, author, and a co-editor for the geek site Boing Boing. He gave a great presentation on electronic copyright as it relates to authors, publishers, and readers, and how the governments of the world are currently doing it wrong. It was amazing to listen to and I wish I had been able to video tape it. I highly suggest seeing him if he is ever speaking in your area.

I hit a couple more panels, and then had dinner and caught up with Myke again. Then it was time for the most epic panel of all: George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (ASoIaF). This was the best panel ever. Though it was bound to be great, after all it was essentially a huge room full of ASoIaF fans talking about how much they loved the books. 🙂 The panel was an hour long, but I think everyone would have been happy with it going longer. It didn’t hurt that the panel had such great people on it either. 🙂

PhilCon 2011 - Fire and Ice PanelAndrew C. Murphy, Myke Cole, David Axler, and Elektra Hammond

After the panel, some of us hung out in the lobby and talked for a while, which was one of the coolest things about this con. At a big con you get to see lots of things, but it’s harder to meet people and just enjoy a conversation, mostly because it’s really noisy and there is never anywhere to sit. At PhilCon, it was more relaxed and easy-going. Just hanging out was great! I also got a cool souvenir from Myke Cole. I traded him one of my father-in-law’s challenge coins for one of the coins he had printed for his upcoming book Shadow Ops: Control Point. Though he still owes me a picture of the coin exchange. 😉 You can click on the picture for more information on Myke’s challenge coins.

PhilCon 2011 - Challenge Coins

Pic stolen from Myke Cole.

After we all hung out for a bit I headed home – tired and happy. 🙂

Day 3

I had planned on coming in early the next day, but my youngest ended up sick with croup and I was awake most of the night. In my sleep-induced haze, I ended up forgetting my camera so I wasn’t able to get any pics of the last day. And since I got there late I didn’t get to hit many panels, but I did get to spend some more time hanging out and got to say goodbye to many of the cool people I met.  I also got to see some awesome cosplayers.

A lovely couple if I do say so myself.

This pic is courtesy of Andrew C. Murphy.

Overall, PhilCon was a blast and I am definitely going next year. If you’re in the area, maybe I’ll see you there. 😉

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  1. […] but that takes the better part of the day just waiting in line, if you’re lucky. The second was Philcon, which is much smaller. It had some good panels and I met up with some friends, but most of the […]

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