In my last post I painted a rather dreary picture of ConQuesT 54 – but the challenges aren’t the whole story. Far from it. So in this post I’ll borrow a phrase from William Goldman, and label today’s account as the “Good Parts Version” of ConQuesT 54.
What was One “Good Part”? The Art Show!
One essential element of the ConQuesT 54 Good Parts Version is the Art Show! The amazing Mikah McCullough and his Dream Team staff pulled off yet another dazzling Art Show this year, in spite of all the ConQuesT 54 challenges. I had a sense that it wasn’t quite as big as it has been, but there was no lack of gorgeous artwork to view.
Better yet, every single artist sold at least one piece! Very few art shows of any size can say that. Mikah was justly proud of it! I also liked the way the Dealers Room and Charity Auction were literally wrapped around it, so the entire three-ballroom area was one, full-range buying and viewing opportunity for members and walk-ins alike.
I also want to offer shout-outs to three artists who provided absolutely stunning work for this show. No Good Parts Version of ConQuesT 54 would be complete without Elizabeth Leggett, Rachael Mayo, and Sara Felix.
My panels were next to hers, so I had several opportunities to view and enjoy her work. Her paintings are always gloriously well-made, and ripe with mysteries and layered meaning. I collected some favorite examples via screen-captures from her website’s publicly-available galleries. These are just little thumbnails, though. Go to her site to view them in larger sizes that will offer more detail and information.
Locally-renowned dragon artist Rachael Mayo brought yet more wonderful pieces to the show with her new multi-media work. In recent years (I’d like to claim some small influence) she has pushed up into the third dimension. She does this with layers of paper and board, aided by a self-admitted love for semiprecious stones. Her large works are utterly stunning, and she had new ones this year to please and delight.
Artist Guest of Honor Sara Felix amply fulfilled expectations for a tour de force show. She brought a full array of marvelously inventive tiaras (and conduct a “make your own” workshop). My “Queen of A Universe” tiara was only one small addition to an amazing body of work.
She also brought a lovely collection of alcohol ink works and mixed-media jewelry in a range of rich, delicious colors and textures. When we talk about the “Good Parts Version,” Sara brought about a very good part, indeed. Take a look at some of my screen-grabs from her website for a glimpse of her range.
And also the Programming!
Yes, some of my panels were affected by the ConQuesT 54 challenges. My first and last panels were both in Osage A, AKA “The Fridge.” I wore much warmer clothing to the second go-around in there. And “Science Fiction Name That Tune” on Friday night (more on that panel below) did include a very wet percussion session, because of the leaking roof-drips into buckets. But in spite of those things, I thoroughly enjoyed all of my panels.
Why? In my opinion a few key elements are essential for a good sf con panel: a good topic, witty and well-prepared panelists, and an audience willing to engage. I thought our topics were excellent. They were well thought out and offered us a lot to talk about. New Programming Chair Rob Rafferty deserves a toast for his work this year. Our panelists (more on them below) were delightful. So were our knowledgeable and extremely intelligent audiences.
The World-Building Panels
We kept the ConQuesT challenges at bay during these two panels, which were part of a larger series. Many in these audiences would have been knowledgeable enough to join the lineup of panelists. That’s always a great help when the objective is to get the audience thoroughly engaged in the discussion. But we also had some outstanding planned panelists. They and their books deserve further mention.
For “Food and World Building,” we managed to claim an hour of “Con-Sweetie” Liz Gooch’s time. She’s the brilliant food-service professional who runs our Consuite. She’s also a self-described “voracious reader” of “SF&F and romance (gasp).” Food and romance make a natural pairing, and our third panelist, the entertaining and delightful Adam J. Ridley is ample proof of that (he won me over when he arrived in a Rainbow Flag cape). He also writes romance (under the pen name Blake Allwood). Look for Adam’s Witch Brothers Saga fantasy series, which is now fully available. This month (June 1), his SF superhero novel Emergence went into wide release.
The “World Building Rookie Mistakes” panel also brought together a great team of panelists. I met Chris Gerrib some time ago at a Capricon. He wrote the Pirates (of Mars) Series, and released new SF novel One of Our Spaceships is Missing a bit less than a year ago (I bought a copy from him and quickly became engrossed in it).
Our other panelist was Lauren Janes, who is, among other things, co-author with Guest of Honor Janci Patterson and Megan Walker, of the Cara Witter “Five Lands Saga” books (Cara Witter is their combined pseudonym). She has joined the “Barbie Novel Plotting” process with Janci and Megan, once famously described in an episode of the Writing Excuses Podcast.
Rabbit Holes Made a Good Piece of the “Good Parts Version.”
I finished my panelist assignments where I began – in “the Fridge.” Osage A is cold beyond all reason, most likely a result of an elderly and, um, shall we say “quirky” HVAC system. Lynette M. Burrows and Sara Felix joined me for a fun discussion that started cold (like the room – you’d almost think the we and the audience members were reptiles (no, not Lizard People, just sluggish).
Once we all thawed out (I mean that semi-literally) the conversation began to flow better. Audience participation broke the not-quite-actual ice. Chickens, astronomy, abandoned places, companion planting, science fiction movie endings, mushrooms, and so much more factored into the conversation that ensued. We had a phone-based Google-Fu genius in the audience who could look up answers and inspire follow-on questions better than anyone I’ve ever met.
In the process, we generated whole new lists of rabbit-holes, and I’m happy to say that many of us took notes. If we’re collecting elements for the Good Parts Version, that panel definitely belongs.
Excellent fun with “Science Fiction Name That Tune!”
Another item I must include in my Good Parts Version of ConQuesT 54 was one of my Friday panels. A good moderator brings it all together and keeps it going. The Queen of A Universe doesn’t have to be overly self-denigrating, and I think I do a pretty decent job in the moderator department.
But I must take my hat off to Kat Hinkle, who moderated “Science Fiction Name That Tune.” She runs that event very, very well. Local treasure Christine Taylor-Butler was a great new panelist addition to this year’s edition on an enduring ConQuesT favorite. We need to include her from now on, whenever we do this!
Our format is pretty basic: a room, a sound bar, some live mics and music on our computers. All three of us love the music from genre TV shows and movies. Kat specializes in vintage TV shows, while Christine and I run more to movie soundtracks and more recent series, such as currently- or recently-running streaming or cable series.
We would take turns starting a piece of music. The audience would call out what show it came from. Kat rewarded correct answers with wrapped candies. At the end of the panel we counted the candies (plus the empty wrappers) and the one with the most won bragging rights for the year. It was tremendous fun. And in many ways – If you could look past the challenges and focus on the Good Parts Version – fun was as much a characteristic of my ConQuesT 54 experience as anything.
All collages are my doing. The art pieces I used were obtained via screen-captures from the artists’ public websites and they are all used with full attribution to their creators. By all means, please visit and spend a lot of time on the websites of Elizabeth Leggett, Rachael Mayo, and Sara Felix!
The three photos from my Saturday panels were all taken with the full agreement of the panelists (by the way I need to remember to share those pix with them!). They are Adam J. Ridley, Liz Gooch, Chris Gerrib, Lauren Janes, Lynette M. Burrows, and Sara Felix. We deeply appreciate the kind and helpful audience members who clicked the shutters but remained unidentified!