Ad Astra 2008

Hey all –

Having now caught up on a little of the sleep I lost this weekend, I can now post a bit about AD ASTRA–which was a lot of fun! I think I even had a better time than I did last year.

Friday night was the usual check-in and the meet-up with friends and familiar faces from the Toronto SF scene. I bumped into Tony Pi almost right away and we double-checked that we were each wearing the ‘Goblin Lover’ buttons that fellow WOTF winner Jim Hines had sent us (more on that later) and then I took a tour through the dealer’s room before heading to a panel on ‘Running A Creative Business Out of Your Home’, run by Howard Tayler and his wife Sandra, the folks behind the webcomic Schlock Mercenary. (In fact, because I raised my hand when they asked who had read Schlock Mercenary I got a little green stick-on ribbon for my con badge that read ‘Schlocker’–cool! 🙂

I bumped into Kevin Anderson and Rebecca Moesta, who were GoH, and caught up with them for a bit. Rebecca had to head off to bed, but Kevin came to join Tony and me in the hotel bar for a drink. Eventually, Rob Sawyer joined us, as did our fellow Aurora-nominee Doug Smith.

Shortly before we all headed out for the evening, Rob realized that all five of this year’s nominees for the Best Short Form in English were hanging out in the bar. No sooner had his wife Caroline arrived with the digital camera than Rob had us all lined up against the wall for a photo.


Left to right: Stephen Kotowych, Tony Pi, Hayden Trenholm,
David Livingstone Clink, Douglas Smith.
(Photo courtesy Robert J. Sawyer & Caroline Clink)

And how’s this for a gauge of Rob Sawyer’s impact on the Canadian SF scene: four of the five of us are Rob’s former writing students. And the fifth, David Clink? Rob’s brother-in-law.

Rob will be in Winnipeg for KEYCON 25 where the Auroras will be presented and I have a feeling he’ll be getting up to accept the award on behalf of the winner, no matter who that winner is 😉

Saturday started for me with a 10am panel on Near Future vs. Far Future settings in SF. It was extremely well-attended (people were sitting in the aisles around the chairs in the small room) and I managed to make a few decent points, I think, as well as give away a number of my chapbooks of “Saturn in G Minor”, for people to consider in their Aurora voting.

I bumped into a few of the Fledglings at the next panel I attended, Working as a Creative Professional, and we stuck around for Rob’s reading from his new novel, WAKE. It was the first time Rob had read from WAKE, but it went really well and it sounds like it’s going to be a fascinating new work. And it also reinforced for me just how much Rob loves the Planet of the Apes movies 😉

After that was the panel Tony and I had suggested: Getting the Most Out of Writing Workshops. We were lucky to have a pretty good range of workshops represented, including Writers of the Future (obviously :), Clarion East and Clarion South, Viable Paradise, and some of the master classes offered through the Oregon Coast Professional Fiction Writers Workshops. It was a very useful discussion, I think, with some good questions from the audience–I think I learned just as much from the panelists as the audience did.

At 4pm was the launch for Jim Hines’ third book, Goblin War, and it was a great deal of fun. All weekend Jim had we ‘Goblin Lovers’ (identifiable by our buttons) giving out goblin points to anyone who asked, with the winner getting fabulous prizes at the book launch (including copies of the paperback of fellow WOTFian Patrick Rothfuss’ award-winning debut novel, The Name of the Wind, and prints of the cover art for the three Goblin Trilogy books–wow!)

For the reading portion of the event, Jim asked the audience to open their copies of the book and join in the Recitation of the Deeds of Jig Dragonslayer. (Basically, the book opens with a goblin religious-style ceremony talking about Jig and the previous books.) It was very silly, and a great deal of fun.


Jim Hines at the book launch for Goblin War.
The ‘Goblin Lover’ buttons he had made up
were in high demand all weekend…

The last item on my agenda for Saturday was my reading at 5:30 pm. *gulp*

Now, I’d read a bit of the story during the signing Tony, Rob, and I did last fall at the World’s Biggest Bookstore, but this was my first read-through of the whole story in front of an audience. I’d been so busy the week before that I hadn’t had a chance to practice the reading or time myself to see if I could read the story in under the 30min I had for the event. I managed to go quickly through the story in the half hour before the reading and edit out some bits here and there for the sake of time.

I had an audience of nine, with five of them my fellow Fledglings (who’d already read the story before in draft). Luckily when I write I tend to hear the cadence and emphasis of the words so I just read it out the way I’d heard it in my mind when I wrote it. The reading seemed to be well-received, and there were a couple of good questions afterward (it even finished on time 🙂

After that, we Fledglings went for dinner. While everyone else headed home after, Mike McPherson and I went back to the hotel and wandering to the bar we bumped into Tony, Jim, and Jessica Strider, who runs the SF&F section at the World’s Biggest Bookstore in Toronto (it’s a fabulous section and HUGE, as the name suggests–the SF&F section of the store is as big as an entire Coles store you find in shopping malls).


L to R: Jessica Strider, Tony Pi, and Jim Hines.
Here, Jessica is indicating to Jim just how much
shelf space she has for his Goblin Trilogy…

The whole weekend there were people from The 501st Legion–a STAR WARS costuming fan organization–running costuming workshops and wandering around the con in some very impressive looking replica Imperial costumes.

At one point a classic stormtrooper walked in to the bar (no, a priest and a rabbi were NOT with him…) It turns out that some of these costumes even had the voice modulators and he walked up a couple of guys at the bar and said in that distinctive crackle: “Let me see your identification.”

“You don’t need to see our identification,” one guy replied…

Good fun.

There was also on Saturday night a Darth Vader wandering the hotel. The first time I saw him come around the corner I confess that, for a few seconds at least, my blood ran cold… Then I realized it was just a guy in a costume and not really a Dark Lord of the Sith.

Vader: If the con suite is dry then where is the alcohol?
Commander–tear this bar apart until you’ve found me a
scotch and soda,
and bring me the bartender. I want him alive!


This sort of thing wouldn’t happen if Vader
was a better tipper…


Jim Hines, Dark Lord of the Sith

Kevin Anderson found us again and came to hang out for several hours and besides some shards of broken glass flying here and there it was a great time. He’s a wonderfully nice guy and we talked about Writers of the Future (we were encouraging Jessica to enter), writing, funny Canadian money, and just how crappy our winter had been. Eventually Rob and Caroline found us, too, and joined in the conversation.


L to R: Mike McPherson, Jessica Strider, Tony Pi,
Jim Hines, Kevin J. Anderson, Robert J. Sawyer,
and Caroline Clink.
Remind me some time to ask Kevin and Rob what
the ‘J’s in their names stand for. Maybe they’re like
the ‘J’ in Michael J. Fox’s name–which doesn’t stand
for anything…


Rob is thinking: “Blast that Kotowych! He’s going
to put
this picture up on his blog, isn’t he?”

Sunday morning at 10am was our Writers of the Future panel, moderated by Jim Hines, with Mike Rimar, Tony Pi, and myself in attendance. We had a decent crowd for so early in the morning and had a good discussion of the contest, tips we’d learned, and advice for those planning on entering (we told them to avoid the use of the word ‘orb’ in their stories–Kathy hates that…) A couple of people said they’d be submitting stories by the deadline for this quarter…including Mike Rimar who, as a published finalist, is still eligible to enter (I’d kill to go again, the lucky dog…)


L to R: Mike Rimar, Jim Hines, Stephen Kotowych, and Tony Pi
I think it might be time for a new hairstyle for me–I look like
Jack-Jack from The Incredibles…

Later that afternoon was the book launch for Misspelled, the latest short story anthology edited by my very first editor, Julie Czerneda. It was very well attended and, look, there’s Jim Hines yet again!


Way in the back there–that’s Jim signing
his story in Misspelled.

All in all, a great time. I always look forward to Ad Astra–I understand that next year’s writer GoH is Timothy Zahn…

– S.

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One Response to Ad Astra 2008

  1. Thanks again for your help on the launch. It was good getting to see you all this weekend! I’m sorry I didn’t make it to the reading, but glad it went well.

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