Another year, another Starfest!
We returned last night from our eleventh consecutive year as guests of this convention, which long ago became one of my favorite con destinations. Our role has evolved over time, from being “just” author guests with a table to showcase our writerly wares and conducting a panel or two to helping out with various activities throughout the weekend. We help judge the Saturday night costume contest as well as the Sunday morning talent show, and this year we assisted with judging for the decorations and whatnot adorning rooms with balconies overlooking the hotel’s rather sizable atrium. Since our first visit back in 2003, the con staff has always made us feel like a part of their family, and that has only continued as the years have passed. As a consequence, Kevin and I make a point of locking in travel plans and vacation dates for this con before we consider anything else which might be a conflict.
Accompanying our convoy this year was friend and fellow word-slinger Christie Golden, herself a fixture at the con for several years (and who made the Starfest folks aware of us, in the first place), who recently had relocated east and was making the trek cross-country.
After an…”interesting” drive to Denver from Kansas City which involved a few spots of snow-packed interstate and Kevin nearly choking to death on a mouthful of corn nuts, we arrived in the Mile High City on Thursday evening to see pre-con activities already underway. Familiar faces were visible throughout the hotel, and we were able to reconnect with a few friends in short order.
Friday was our traditional “day away” from the hotel, accompanied by my wife and kids who’ve been coming with me the past couple of years. We had our usual lunch at Dave & Busters and played a whole bunch of video games before heading back to the hotel to set up for the con’s “soft opening” at 3pm. The show got underway “for realz” at 5pm with the opening of the dealer’s room and the main events auditorium, by which time the hotel was teeming with fans. Our tables were graced by friends old and new, and we sold a few books here and there while taking in the whole “con vibe” thing.
Our first “scheduled event” was the con’s “Meet and Greet” gathering, during which fans who’ve purchased an additional ticket get to sit with the con’s guests in an informal setting. Tables are arranged around the room, each seating six to eight people, and the guests move in round robin fashion from table to table to spend a precious few minutes with each small group of fans. I have always felt out of place at this particular event, believing that the people paying the extra money are there to see the “marquee” TV and film guests. That said, this year’s event was the most relaxed I’d ever been, as I realized afterward that either A) I knew people at every table, or B) Someone at the table knew who I was without my having to introduce myself. Kevin offered a similar observation, so I guess this means we’ve become con fixtures, ourselves. I rather like that, to be honest. 🙂
Saturday was a blur. We had our tables and we interacted with many folks while selling some more books, and we interspersed that with our first panel of the weekend, “Are Media Tie-Ins and Novelizations Dying?” Moderated by author David Boop, Kevin and I joined Christie and author Peter Wacks, with the whole thing anchored by none other than the incomparable Timothy Zahn. The consensus? Media tie-ins aren’t going anywhere. It was a judgment we all rendered within 17.4 nanoseconds after the panel started. Sorry about the delay, which was caused by Kevin aspirating a leftover corn nut. This was my first time meeting Mr. Zahn, though I’ve been a fan of his forEVER. It was wonderful being able to spend time on a panel with him, and he and his wife were fabulous “neighbors” in the con’s Author Alley all weekend.
Saturday night was the costume contest, which we’ve now been helping to judge for four or five years. It’s the best seat in the house, and I always get a kick out of being surprised at what fans will come up with. Lots of creativity and passion were on display again this year, not just with the costumes but with the presentations, as well.
Sunday was a lot like Saturday, though less blurry. We had another panel, which basically was me and Kevin free-styling it for an hour. We talked about our latest projects (including me getting to gush a bit about this), and fielded lots of good questions from our small yet engaged audience. Otherwise? We spent the rest of the day talking to fans and visitors to our table, before BAM! Just like that? Another Starfest was in the books.
After packing away our stuff, the family and I along with Kevin vacated the hotel into the fresh Denver air in search of food which was not chicken-flavored or finger-shaped. This took the form of our annual dinner date with friends Kevin J. Anderson and his lovely wife, Rebecca Moesta, where there was fine food and fellowship to be had by all. With dinner concluded and the kids beginning to wind down, we returned to the hotel where Kevin and I acted on our standing invitation to join the con staff for their traditional “after party,” during which we were able to offer our thanks for another great show, and say goodbye to our growing circle of friends before setting out on Monday morning for the long trek home.
So, we once again offer our sincere thanks to the Walker family — Stephen, KathE, Steve, and Mike — along with Susan and Treecy, Bob, Brooke, Carol, Christina, David and Debby, Judy, Kelley, Kevin Atkins, Phil, and everyone else for taking great care of us just like they do every year. I hope they’re all taking their well-deserved breaks, and we’re already looking forward to seeing them next year.