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CONVENTIONS: REPORTS Descriptions and pictures of past cons.

Oasis 18 '05

Con Report by Pagadan

Oasis 18 Con Report
by Joy V. Smith

Oasis, a literary SF con, is held in Orlando, FL on Memorial Day weekend. We (my sister and I) drove to Oasis 18 Friday morning, and unloaded at the dealer's room, where we had a table this year. After I registered at the hotel, we reparked and went to our room. Later I spread my year's accumulation of SF fanzines and other goodies on the freebies table.

We come early nowadays to get settled in and not miss anything so we usually have to wait to register. (The con staff was busy setting up at the registration table.) We checked out the con suite, which wasn't ready for the hordes yet. The art show room wasn't open, and we came across an unhappy artist wandering in the hall waiting. When I checked out the art show later, it was full of beautiful SF and fantasy art, as usual. There were possibly more nudes this year; and once I came across two young girls discussing them. One girl said that this was wrong; apparently she was worried about the children at the con seeing them.

The first panel I went to was at 3 PM--You Could Be a Fan If... Panelists were Ann Morris, Ed Wysocki, Judi Castro, and Dick Spelman. Roger Sims was the moderator. Audience members discussed the latest Star Wars episode while waiting for the panel to start. The panel premise: Are there certain signs that indicate you've crossed over from occasional reader to a true SF fan? Spelman mentioned going from mouse ears to Spock ears. Morris said that you're a fan if you buy a house so you have room for the SF club meeting. Wysocki said--If you have enough space for your SF collectibles; and an audience member said that it's if you put your furniture in storage to protect your books.

Fan comes from fanatic, said Morris. Someone asked about the difference between FAAN and fan. FAAN means fan fiction, someone said. With so much fan activity on the Internet, will print zines last? someone wondered. Kids often get into gaming first; some say that gaming and movies have hurt print SF. Morris disagreed. People often come across the books later; most agreed with her.

Morris says that she has more costumes than regular clothes. Someone wondered how many fans met their spouses through fandom, and we heard stories about that. Morris gave the background of the formation of Stonehill (1979)--very interesting.

Someone jokingly asked--Was there SF before the Internet? Castro gave background on the gaming association she belonged to. When it faded, she joined the South Florida SF Assoc. She added that fandom gives balance to life. SF fans, adds Morris, accept that differences are ok.

You know you're a fan if you schedule vacations and timeoff around cons. Btw, you can find con schedules through Locus, SFWA, SF Chronicle, the Southern Fandom Confederation bulletin and other zines, and, of course, online.

How do you start a fan club? Put up notices at Barnes & Noble, Borders, libraries. Check out book groups and find the SF fans there. Some people go to a few meetings and disappear, which is normal. Be welcoming to newbies at meetings!

Early cons (1950s) had only one track programming, and people wore suits and dresses. (Roger Sims and Dick Spelman remembered cons from 1950-1952.) There were mutiple fans (10-13) in a hotel room, and there was no AC. No art show, no masquerade, no open parties, and possibly no con suite, as I recall. There were few paperbacks in the early 50s; Dell had seven. Destination Moom (1950) was the first SF movie, said someone, but then someone else mentioned Metropolis. The Day the Earth Stood Still was in 1951; and War of the Worlds was 1953.

When have you gone too far as a fan? When you go to jury duty in a Star Trek uniform. When it interferes with your life. When the actor portraying an SF character has to take out a restraining order against a fan. When you're too into a fantasy about a character. And when you can only describe the inside of a hotel as you go to cons around the world.

The next panel I went to (4 PM) was Cover Art by Committee. Richard Lee Byers was the moderator. Panelists were Stanley Morrison (who's been going to cons since 1992), Paul Vincenti (mainstream and Fantasy/SF art), Paula Tabor (going to cons for a year), Johnny Atomic (theme park designer, comic book artist, etc.), and Mary Hanson Roberts (illustrator for over 30 years). The artists must fill two wide panels. Audience suggestions included a volcano, bug-eyed monster, time travel, wedding, alien chapel, a princess, ... Stan Morrison started with a volcano. [In previous years the artists worked together on a panel; this year each artist works one at a time.] A little alien is added, along with other ideas; Roberts adds a cute little dinosaur with a ring pillow.

The second panel suggestions include a space ship, vampires, a vampire robot, ... Roberts begins with a space coffin! And enhances it with a vampire rodent. There is always an impressive display of off-the-cuff ideas. What do you do after the preceding artist?! Johnny Atomic adds a mouse on a gurney with a tube and pressure gauge, and another figure. Tabor adds a lovely swirling black hole. Vincenti adds details which include more flying coffins, background, and space bats; Morrison adds more details. Then everyone has to sign the panels. The finished artwork will be sold at the art auction.

I enjoy the chance to talk to writers and artists at cons. I talked to E. Rose Sabin at her book signing table about her books and marketing; she gave me a flyer and two Hershey miniatures wrapped in lovely labels she makes herself on the computer.

The Chthulhu chili contest was at 6 PM in the con suite. (I love chili contests!) My vote for hottest chile went to the Titusville chile; and the tastiest chili was Not as Hot as Last Year... [the name was actually longer than that]

At 7 PM was the Opening Ceremony. The one at Oasis does not go on forever... Katy Droege is the special guest, a filker and the fiancee of Steven Macdonald, who's the Filker Guest of Honor; Judi Castro is the Fan Guest of Honor; Jane Lindskold is the Author Guest of Honor; and Jim Rogers and Terry Dahl are the co-chairs of the con. [There was no Artist Guest of Honor this year.]

Announcements: The Andre Norton scholarship winner is Denver Clark. Oasis 18 is dedicated to the memory of Andre Norton (she used to come to Oasis and support it). Journey's End (animal shelter) will get the proceeds from the charity auction. Stanley Morrison did the Oasis badge art and program cover.

At 7:30 I listened to Steve Macdonald, the filker guest of honor. He sang, among other songs, October Sky; a Harry Potter/Tommy the Pinball Wizard combination, which was a lot of fun; a beautiful duet with Katy; a Lord of the Rings song from the viewpoint of the ring--"I will rule them all;" When I Was a Boy (always a favorite); and a song using lines from Galaxy Quest, the movie; another duet, The Dark is Rising; a space ship duet; and one with the lines--Till the stars be won, Journey's Done.

Alien Artifacts is one of my favorite panels. This year's panelists were Jeff Mitchell (a real rocket scientist), Johnny Atomic, Jane Lindskold, Craig Caldwell (who wore a professional white jacket and was equipped with a magnifying glass, a laser, and plastic wrap for handling items safely), and James Moore. Ann Morris was moderator--and the Hitchhiker with a towel. She gave out the artifacts, which she had collected. The first artifact was a plastic thingie (later ided as a baby wipes container top) and was identified by the learned members of the panel as a weapon, a toilet cover, a prophetic device, and a diaphragm. The next artifact (a plastic salad shooter) was a mice sub--the Titanic (the largest of its kind). The paper weight was crystallized dinosaur snot. A metal utensil (later revealed to be a fish skinner) was a mower, ... All the objects were identified as a variety of alien items, often having something to do with excrement and sex.

Afterwards we checked out the con suite and then denned up. The next morning, Saturday, I zipped to the Trivia Contest (9AM) room; Juan Sanmiguel was there already setting up. The audience, while waiting discussed, among other things, Peter David's blog, which is apparently very interesting. We waited a little bit for more people to show up. Juan was hoping for a tournament of champions, but not everyone showed up in time so I got a chance to be one of the pairs. [I'm always surprised more people don't come; it's fun, and you get a chance to win dealers bucks.]

The trivia contest is based on Jeopardy and you have to buzz in. Juan told an interesting story about Leo Doroschenko and a game question--What university did Indiana Jones teach at? Princeton is the answer, but Doroschenko pointed out that Princeton wasn't coed at that time--1936. (Raiders takes place in 1936; Temple of Doom in 1935; and Crusade in 1938.) My partner was Perry, and thanks to him, we came in second. The winners were very good. Richard Lee Byers rocks! Categories included Anime, Andre Norton, Jane Lindskold, ...

In between panels (periodically I checked the schedule so I wouldn't miss anything), I checked out the dealers room, the art show, and the gaming room, which was always busy, noisy, and full of enthusiastic gamers. There were about ten tables and a table with an impressive landscape. Kevin Bressman of Reaper and the Black Lightning Demo Team spotted me looking around and came over to see if I wanted to join the fun and explained things to me. The table with the volcano and dragon on top of it is a demo game for Warlord, a new game. I can see that that would make learning the game really interesting. There was also a Paint and Take table where you choose and paint Reaper mini figures and get to keep them.

The next panel I went to was the Slush Pile panel. I had to wait for the Crunchy Characters panel to finish; they were discussing evil. That panel, which included horror writer Owl Goingback, discussed how to hurt your characters in inventive ways. [I am not a horror fan or writer, which is why I skipped that one; plus there are so many other things to do.]

The Slush Pile panelists were Jack McDevitt and Maggie Hogarth; William Hatfield was the moderator. [Apparently one panelist didn't show, which happens for a variety of reasons.] McDevitt, Hogarth, and Hatfield recounted their publishing backgrounds and a lost ms story. Unsolicited mss go into the slush pile and wait to be read by assistants. Mss going to a specific editor have a better chance. A typical wait is six months, possibly six to twelve months. Writers have to persevere and write a good story. Editors look for a reason to reject a story [because they get so many mss], such as single-spaced, printed on both sides, stapled--things that make a ms hard to read. And you need to find out the publishers' GLs! McDevitt suggests that a SF writer should not start out with a novel. Start with Asimov's, Analog, ..., not a fanzine where you might only get paid with two copies.

Hogarth and McDevitt say--You don't need an agent. (Also, some agents can't be trusted.) McDevitt says--Not until you have a contract. Sell the first story and you know you can do it. (A lot of writers never write a second story.) Hogarth doesn't like writing or reading short fiction; but it helped her. It gets your name out there. She told how after Tor gave her a provisional yes, she got an agent who had rejected her seven years ago. McDevitt advises--Send mss to only one publisher at a time.

Rejection reasons: Too over written--too many words with too little to say. Hemingway said--Get rid of adjectives and adverbs; let nouns and verbs carry the cargo. McDevitt had to shorten a story from 7,000 words to 3,800 words, including a favorite scene, but it worked better shorter. Hatfield says--Start at the top--Playboy, for instance. If they reject you, you get a neat card. Hatfield doesn't like writing a synopsis, but Hogarth loves it. McDevitt wrote a synopsis for an editor on a napkin.

Pitch length is two sentences; then comes the synopsis; then the novel. Have a good first paragraph. McDevitt--Hit the ground running. Start close to the climax. Fill in later. Hatfield--Don't be linear. McDevitt--Use a prologue with excitement. Hatfield--His book first started with four chapters about his characters; but then he started with a prologue with the aliens who are going to steal the ship, contents, and crew.

Audience question: Can an older writer be or continue to be creative? McDevitt--Be passionate. (He started later as a writer.) Hatfield--He wrote a novel early on and reread it recently. It's awful. McDevitt--Some writers have too many characters, like fifteen in the first chapter. Make it easy for the reader! In Moonfall, there are six days to make a decision about what to do... In 24 (TV series), they had two hours to locate a launched missile and destroy it.

Audience question: How long should a novel be? Publishers prefer about 90,000. A short story is about 5,000 or 6,000 words. Hogarth suggests trying Flash Fiction. Question: How do you manage your time? Hogarth--Don't clean the house. You have to be disciplined. Set an objective; write a scene.

After the panel, I had some snacks in the con suite, roamed the halls, visited with people, and asked questions, such as What is the difference between a comic and a graphic novel. Answer (from Mike, as I recall) a graphic novel is a self-contained story. And checked out the art show again and voted. Ah, there is some furry art there now. (Mary Hanson-Roberts.) I refrained from voting for Legolas. My eye was also caught by Maggie Wang's Myrael--good color and balance. (I'm not usually grabbed by the yin and yang theme.) I liked "I'm Gonna Lick Your Nose" (furry art). And I enjoyed Sandra Santara's animal art. Also "Cave Sweet Cave," with a dragon with its hoard, including Anne McCaffrey books, and a teddy bear, by Charlene Taylor-D'Alessio.

There were fun cartoons by Mike Cole. I especially loved Stargate LM (toilet/Stargate/parts from ebay) and Run, Forest, Run (hobbits riding the Ents). One of my favorite SF pieces was My Next Job by Brett Bas. Some other favorite fantasy art included Birds of a Feather (dragon on branch with birds) by Deborah Woods, also Fairy Hut.

The charity auction began at 4 PM after the winners of the Cthulhu Chili Challenge were announced. Fen Choice was Larry Wolfe's Not So Hot As Last Year's Chili...; and Cthulhu's Choice (hottest) was Mike Warrensford's Titusville Whoop-Ass Chili. Jeff Breslauer was the auctioneer; he alternated with Byers, and everyone pitched in as runners and whatever was needed as the con members were dragged off to other duties. There were a lot of good buys on books (good prices on hardcovers; some were autographed) and art. Other items included tickets to Necromicon, tee shirts, collectibles, games, fancy ties, and more! The one thing I really wanted was the set of Witches of Karres by James H. Schmitz and Wizard of Karres, the sequel, by Eric Flint, et al , but it went too high.

After the auction--lots left over; people got to browse and make offers--I went to the con suite. I missed the barbeque (delicious last year and I was looking forward to it), but I enjoyed the cheese fondue and snacks. Then I checked out the video room; I hoped to watch a little bit of a Jon Pertwee Dr. Who episode, but I didn't want to miss the masquerade so I didn't stay long. Art show winners were announced before the masquerade began:

Fantasy Art Awards:

3rd Place Reflection of the Shire by John Kaufmann
2nd Place Gates of Atlantis by Stanley Morrison
1st Place Ryhthms on the Wind by Paul Vincenti

Science Fiction Art Awards:

3rd Place First Pass by Ralph Ryan
2nd Place Galactic Paradise by John Kaufmann
1st Place Rainbow Bay by John Kaufmann

Best of Show: Spring by Paul Vincenti (the paint was still wet on this one!)

Then the Andre Norton scholarship winner was introduced--Denver Clark. Announcement: Terry Dahl is resigning as Co-chair of the con and will run the art show next year. The new chair person is Peter Popovich.

Masquerade contestants included Celtic Fantasy (in mail); Ann Morris as Mary Reynolds from Serenity; Spidery Wizard (little girl); Darth Maul with light sabre and a fun performance; Space Patrol member; Punisher of Oz; Dalia Winters; Demon Spawn; and the Tooth Fairy. After that, Steve MacDonald played and sang, including a fun sing along, until the judges made their decision. The kids got tee shirts and ribbons in their category; Ann Morris took third; second was the Punisher of Oz, who entertained us with Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead and a malevolent hand. First was the Tooth Fairy. (You had to see her and her costume to appreciate how well-deserved that was.) They got tees, Cthulhus, and memberships for Oasis 19.

Back at the video room, I caught the end of Scary Stories for Kids and got to meet Vincent Courtney, the producer, writer, director, host, and caterer. (Cons are full of fun opportunities!) After that were a number of anime music videos provided by Juan Sanmiguel, the anime video consultant. The program started with a history of anime to We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel. Lengthy credit list! Music and anime included Sarah Brightman's song Only An Ocean Away for theTranscending Love video; the footage used was Cowboy Bebop, City Hunter and Macross; the Beatles (Help) for Love Hina; the Reading Rainbow theme (The footage used for the cover of the Reading Rainbow theme was Read or Die); the song used in the Spirited Away video was Duran Duran's Ordinary World; Secret Agent Man (a favorite video; the footage was Excel Saga); Hawaii 5-0 for Orange Road (very good; another award winner); The Cat Returns (2002; The Cat Returns video song was a remix of the Neverending Story theme song.); ... Lots of fun, and I saw excerpts of anime I'd love to see.

I had planned to watch Bubba Ho-Tep at midnight in the video room; but I went to the Dr. Who room party earlier and watched three episodes of the new Dr. Who, which I really enjoyed, instead. I like this doctor and Rose, his companion. Her mother and friend add a lot to the episodes. I picked up a lot of Dr. Who background, a Dr. Who sticker ("Don't Drink and Time Travel"), and some delicious merangue cookes. (Nice spread, plus collectibles to buy; I got Harry Potter valentines.)

Sunday I started off with a visit to the con suite and then pre-registered for next year and hauled our luggage to the car. (Quite a trek as the garage elevator was out of order, but after a weekend of lounging, eating, and drinking, I needed the exercise. I've never been on a cruise ship, but I think it might be a little like this except you'd get a lot more exercise.)

The first panel (at 10 AM) was Time Travel with William Hatfield, Glenda Finkelstein, Richard Lee Byers, Craig Caldwell, and Arthur Dykeman (moderator). A number of time travel tales (books and movies) were recommended, including: October First is Too Late, Ground Hog Day, Lest Darkness Fall, Back Step, Price Upon a Time, Final Countdown, Try and Change the Past, ... Time travel and parallel world premises were discussed.

After that panel, I checked out, stopped by the con suite, and then went to a 12 noon panel--Surviving the Writing Life with Andrew Fox (moderator), Jack McDevitt, Jane Lindskold, Adam Troy-Castro, and Bassett. Lots more interesting writing background and advice. (It took McDevitt 25 years to realize that he didn't have to compete with Charles Dickens.). They discussed mentors; McDevitt said that his were the writers he read, such as Bradbury. Castro mentioned writers he'd read and Harlan Ellison, who is nice and helpful to new writers... Fox mentioned that Anne McCaffrey was personally encouraging also, as was George Effinger. (He took his workshop.) Lindskold came across an Amber--Write Your Own Adventure book, and she wrote Roger Zelazny, and he wrote back, and they corresponded; and later she wrote a biography of Zelazny, using his letters to her, with his permission, for the Twain American Author Series. After her first story sale, he sent her a tax organizer; and when he was dying, he contacted his agent and others and told them that he wanted her to finish Donnerjack and Lord Demon. [I picked up a copy of Lord Demon in the dealers' room, btw, because Zelazny's Lord of Light is one of my favorite books; and she autographed it for me at her book signing.]

There was great writing advice shared here, but too much for a con report. You might check out Jack McDevitt's website. There were a lot more panels, of course, but with two tracks, relieving my sister in the dealers' room, etc., there's no way to do it all. (We decided that next year we wouldn't have a table in the dealers' room so we could focus on having fun.) So, next year I won't miss the art auction and she won't miss the charity auction, the videos and panels, etc. There are book readings and signings also, plus fun to be had visiting in the hall, the con suite, and the room parties, plus intriguing other hotel guests...

The End