This was the first time for me at Origins, and as promised I wanted to post a couple of my impressions about the experience. Short version: I had a great freaking time. The longer version:
1. This is the second time I’ve been in Columbus, OH for a convention (the first time was for World Fantasy in 2010), and both times I stayed in the same hotel; I had forgotten this fact until I got there, so there was a weird sense of deja vu walking though the place until I realized I really had been there before. (You’d think I wouldn’t forget these things, since it was a conversation with Brad Beaulieu at that convention which led to the creation of Speculate!, but hey…my brain can only hold so much at one time.) Otherwise this felt a lot like GenCon, but smaller and calmer; same type of fun gaming people mixed with writing types, same exhibit hall focus, same route to get there (including lots of Waffle Houses, which despite my respect for IHOP are still my favorite chain for breakfast and ought to get a few restaurants in the New York area pronto). But whereas there’s always a slight touch of bittersweetness to GenCon, as it heralds the imminent arrival of summer’s end, after Origins I’ve still got practically my entire summer (and four more conventions plus Wellspring) ahead of me. So that’s almost worth the price of admission by itself.
2. Just like the travel and the convention vibe, the panels and readings themselves felt similar to the ones at GenCon, and that’s not surprising since long time GenCon coordinator Jean Rabe is now running the writers’ track (called the Library) at Origins. The turnout was much smaller than at GenCon, which was to be expected; GenCon has been running its writers’ track for nearly twenty years, while this is only the second “official” year for the track at Origins. But the organizers are pleased with the increasing interest and are committed to the program, which means it will have time to grow. In the meantime, it was kind of nice to have a smaller and more intimate experience, where we could have more individual interactions with audience members…and we also got a table in the exhibit hall, which meant we could sell books during the time we weren’t on or watching panels.
3. Much of the GenCon gang was around for this as well, so I got to see Brad Beaulieu (we got a couple of interviews done for Speculate!, too), Kelly and Ken Swails, Steven Saus, Jen Brozek, Dylan Birtolo, Doc Myers, Don Bingle, Mike Stackpole and obviously Jean. I also got to meet and chat a bit with Sarah Hans (who I knew a little from previous GenCons), R.T. Kaelin, Bryan Young, Addie King, Tracy Chowdhury and Maxwell Alexander Drake. Aaron Allston and Timothy Zahn were there as well, which was pretty wild…oh, and Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton, though I didn’t have a chance to hang out with those folks. I did, however, have the chance to eat dinner with Pat Rothfuss, who made a surprise appearance at the con. (Side note: dinner with Pat, Kelly, Ken and Brad is a cool experience, especially when Brad, Pat and I can trade war stories about child-rearing. Also, Pat chooses desserts inversely proportional to the depth of his voice and length of his books, which the other dinner-goers will confirm, and I found out something about a game (on which more in a moment) from him, which was cool. Not quite as cool as finding out he played Planescape: Torment, though, which we agreed had one of the better stories ever found in a video game.)
4. Speaking of gaming: I always try to game a bit with friends when I have the chance at one of these things, but here I really got the opportunity to play a lot, and I learned three things about the experience: always bring Ken and Kelly to a Lord of the Rings card game (the trolls didn’t have a chance), never bring Ken to a new competitive game (he will always win his first time, no matter how experienced you are), and always listen to Brad about game recommendations, if not rules (two big things about Lords of Waterdeep would have made a huge difference…that’s how I’m explaining my two losses, anyway). And Felicia Day apparently uses a lot more salty language in person than she does on The Guild, at least according to Ken who got to playtest a game with her for an hour (me = not even vaguely jealous).
So on the whole, I had a ton of fun talking about writing, selling a few books, and playing a few games. I’m absolutely adding this to my automatic attend list of conventions, and if I were you and were anywhere near the Columbus area I’d do the same. It’s well worth the trip. Next up: Westercon in Seattle in a few weeks, for which I should have my final schedule shortly, followed by Readercon in Boston. Please stop by and say hello if you’re near either event, and until then head over to my Media page to hear one of the panels from Origins.
Oh, and if you’re ever at DeepWood restaurant, don’t move your forks around. They don’t appreciate such uncouth behavior. 🙂