Shore Leave 41.5: the virtual con!

Among the many mass gathering events impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 situation are comic and pop culture conventions. Whereas I likely would have attended at least a couple of such events by this point in the year, all of my 2020 con appearances have been cancelled or at the very least postponed until a date “to be determined.” Among those shows falling victim to this are two of my favorite cons: Starfest, held each year in Denver, Colorado, and Shore Leave, which takes place every summer in Hunt Valley, Maryland (just north of Baltimore).

I’ve been attending both of these conventions for many years, now, and I’ve made many friends to whom I look forward to seeing every year. For Shore Leave, it means a rare opportunity to meet up with several of my fellow writer friends, particularly among those of us who write Star Trek stories in novel or comics or even gaming formats. While I understand and appreciate the commitment to safety for staff, volunteer, and attendees who participate in these and so many other conventions, I regret not getting to see those aforementioned friends and getting the chance to make some new ones.

However! All is not totally lost. The fine folks responsible for putting on Shore Leave each year have taken a page from other shows and are presenting an “online con.” Through the wonder that is the internet and video conferencing software, we’re gonna get together and talk really geeky stuff. The con staff has assembled a series of discussion panels spread across this coming weekend beginning the evening of Friday, July 10th and sprinkled through the afternoon and evening of the ensuing Saturday and Sunday. What’s that? You want to see a complete schedule? Well then BEHOLD:

Shore Leave 41.5 Scheduleshoreleave-logo

Kicking things off on Friday evening? A panel discussion devoted to Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, the new television series currently in development by CBS and Secret Hideout, Inc., who of course have already brought us Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, the (as I write this) upcoming Star Trek: Lower Decks animated series, and another animated series which also is in development but which has not yet been officially named or “announced.”

What about Strange New Worlds? Well, it’s set aboard the original U.S.S. Enterprise several years before Captain James T. Kirk commanded the fabled starship on its historic five-year mission of exploration as chronicled in the original and animated Star Trek TV series as well as enough novels, short stories, comics, video games, and other tales to account for pretty much every minute of those five years.

Cage-Pike-SpockThis show will focus on Kirk’s predecessor, Christopher Pike. For those of you who may not know (and really…what’s that about?), Pike was the Enterprise‘s captain in Star Trek‘s original 1964 pilot, “The Cage” (portions of which were incorporated into the two-part original series episode “The Menagerie”), and portrayed by the late Jeffrey Hunter, and who had serving under him a young Vulcan lieutenant named Spock and played by Leonard Nimoy. Only Nimoy was carried over from the unsold pilot when Star Trek was given a second chance, this time assigned as Kirk’s first officer, and so began the Star Trek we all know and love.

Greenwood-PikePike has featured in a number of novels and comic stories over the years and was played by actor Bruce Greenwood in 2009’s Star Trek reboot film as well as its sequel, 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness. However, it was Anson Mount who helped bring the character back to prominence during Discovery‘s second season. Mount’s portrayal was one of the season’s true highlights, right alongside Ethan Peck playing a pre-Kirk Spock and Rebecca Romijn as “Number One,” Pike’s first officer. They along with an updated U.S.S. Enterprise which both evokes and effectively updates the classic 1960s ship had fans talking, and many clamored for Pike, Spock, and Number One to headline their own series. Well, BOOM. It’s comin’, y’all.

SNW-Big3(Awwwwww yisssssssss……….)

As for our discussion panel, since the show is still in its earliest development stages, we’re left to wonder aloud what we might expect once Star Trek: Strange New Worlds hits CBS All Access sometime in the (hopefully) near future. Like the panel description says: “What can we expect from the new Pike – Number One – Spock show? Is it just retreading old ground or will it provide a chance to explore more of the 23rd century with three compelling characters?

It’s going to be a fun discussion, made all the more so because I’ll be joining friends and fellow word pushers Christopher L. Bennett, Kelli Fitzpatrick, Michael Jan Friedman, Amy Imhoff, and John Jackson Miller. The panel kicks off at 7pm Eastern time via Zoom. Details will be available on the Shore Leave 41.5 virtual con’s schedule page.

Hope to “see” you there!

Starfest 2020…also postponed.

Concerns over COVID-19 continue to spur cancellations of everything from schools to concerts and bars, restaurants, movie theaters, museums, and sporting venues are closing their doors. It’s become a sort of weird watch party as we each wait to hear about such closures that affect us personally even as we all adjust our normal routines and habits and try to do each do our small part.

The National World War I Museum is following local guidance and closing to the public at least until April 3rd, meaning I won’t be volunteering there for a while. My kids’ schools will be closing for the same period. My wife’s employer has cancelled public events.  Planet Comicon announced it was postponing its show that was due to dominate downtown this coming weekend, and yesterday I heard that Starfest, the con Kevin and I regularly attend in Denver, is also postponing its show that was scheduled for May 1-3.

Starfest2020LogoLike Planet, Starfest is one of those shows to which I most look forward to attending whenever I start putting together my convention schedule each January. Kevin and I have been guests of the con each year dating back to 2003. It’s one of the first shows to which I commit before entertaining other invitations. Admittedly, I don’t really get invited to all that many shows, but I love the ones I do attend because the people who run them are awesome.

This goes double for Starfest, as the people behind it have always treated us like members of the extended family that works so hard to put on a great show each and every time. After all these years, the idea Kevin and I won’t be making that drive to Denver to catch up with so many friends is just weird.

But, also like Planet, I’m assured Starfest 2020 isn’t cancelled. Nope. It’s postponed. The show promoters are working with the hotel to secure alternate dates. I have no doubt the logistics of retaining the current guest roster or putting together an alternate list that offers the kind of value fans have come to expect from the show is anything but an easy feat. I also know it’s totally in their wheelhouse to make it all work.

We all know these sorts of postponements–and cancellations, in some cases–are necessary. It’s ultimately for the best, but I look forward to learning about the new show dates and I hope Kevin and I can still make that drive later this year. As I said about Planet, Starfest is worth the wait.

Planet Comicon 2020…postponed.

Earlier today, Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas issued a state of emergency as a response to growing COVID-19 concerns. Among the preventative meaures he outlined and suggested for trying to stay ahead of the coronavirus, he ordered the cancellation or postponement of any public gatherings and events with projected attendance to be 1,000+ people. This had an immediate effect on the Big 12 college basketball tournament currently taking place at the Sprint Center in downtown KC.

Within my social media circle, people began wondering what impact this might have on Planet Comicon, our annual big blowout pop culture con scheuled to be held next weekend, March 20-22. It’s one of the largest such shows in the Midwest, and as it’s our “hometown con” Kevin and I were looking forward to attending as we always do.

pckc_fb_header-2020png
Mayor Lucas’s declaration made the postponing of the con a foregone conclusion; it was just a matter of waiting to hear whether the promoters would attempt to reschedule the show for later in the year or cancel it altogether and plan for 2021. About an hour ago, the con put out their official statement about the show’s status.

It is indeed postponed, and the promoters are working to secure alternate dates for the con later this summer or fall. Included in the statement is information about crediting admission purchases to the later show, or even the 2021 con, as well as the refunding of tickets for celebrity photo ops. I suspect these are but the first steps the con will be taking to make sure customers are taken care of while they work out all of the logistics and details involved with essentially undoing everything they’ve done to prepare for hosting a show that’s not gonna happen; at least, not for a while. Please give them time and room to sort through it all. I have full confidence they’ll do right by people to the best of their ability.

For me, this means I won’t get to catch up with friends I only see at this con. This includes fellow authors and other creators who journey here from other parts of the country. It means not putting faces to names for people I’ve met on social media and who were planning to attend the show. It means not being able to get my geek on with my daughters, both of whom were looking forward to attending the show. Guess we’ll have to fend for ourselves that weekend. And yes, I’ve been prepping for the con with a big box full of my brand-spanking Star Trek: Kirk Fu book as well as Kirk Fu posters to give away and plenty of copies of various other titles.

HOWEVER: KC-area Star Trek fans may have a chance to catch up with Kevin and me sooner rather than later. Games are afoot. Stay tuned as details firm up!

As for the con itself, let me tell you something about these folks: Kevin and I have been attending this show since the very first one. In those days, we bought tickets at our local comic shops and attended like normal people. They started inviting us as guests perhaps ten years or so ago, and we’ve had a blast every time the show rolled around each spring. While we obviously understand why it’s being postponed, I still feel bad for everyone involved in bringing Planet Comicon to life. There are a lot of people who bust their asses to make it better and better every year, and they’re finally getting some of the national notice they deserve. I hope this is just a bump in the road for them and that we’ll see a con later in the year.

2020 convention calendar…so far.

With 2020 along with its slew of Barbara Walters jokes and vision quips looming ahead, I’ve started looking to the new year with respect to the work I hope to be doing and projects that excite me. Part of that is figuring out which conventions I’ll attend in my role as “Guy Who Writes Things.”

On that front, a couple of events are pretty much locked in as they are every year. First, there’s the Starfest Convention held annually in Denver. Kevin and I make a point never to miss this one, and 2020 will mark our 17th consecutive appearance as guests of the show. This year it’s set for the weekend of May 1-3, and of course Kevin and I are already keen to start that drive west.

Later in the year is Shore Leave, the other con I try to never miss. This year it’s the weekend of July 10-12, and unlike previous years there’s enough of a gap between this one and Comic-Con International and the big Star Trek con in Las Vegas convention that his work requirements for those shows aren’t as much a concern. At last report he’s hoping he can make the trip.

Closer to home, Planet Comicon is once again shaping up to be even bigger and better than previous years. It’s slotted for the weekend of March 20-22 and Kevin and I are already confirmed as guests, with table space in the exhibitor area and plans to participate in programming. As always, we’re totally down with supporting our hometown show!

Gearing up for its second annual con after a successful inaugural outing last year is ArtCon. Sponsored by the Neosho Arts Council, it’s set for Saturday, February 8th. Several creators from the region have been invited to attend, including Kevin and moi. Readers with sharp, long memories may think Neosho rings a bell, and that’s because a significant chunk of The Last World War takes place there. How ’bout them apples?

ArtCon2020 ArtCon-Kevin-Dayton

Meanwhile, Kevin’s work at Hallmark sees to it he attends several shows I likely won’t get to, such as the aforementioned Comic-Con and Vegas Trek con as well as New York Comic Con. It’s possible I may also attend a couple of these, and I’m considering a couple of shows that would be new to me this year. Details on this if and when things firm up.

As is always the case, you can keep tabs on our con schedule by visiting my Appearances page. Stay tuned for more updates!

Boosting the Signal: Save Novel Books!

Eight years ago, Patrick Darby opened Novel Books, a small independent book shop located in Clarksburg, Maryland. Every summer during these past eight years, Patrick along with his family and staff have brought their small-town bookseller charm an hour east to the Shore Leave convention, which convenes every July in Hunt Valley.

As part of their preparation, Patrick and his team see to it that each of the convention’s author guests is represented by stock from their respective backlists, which he makes available for sale to con attendees looking to get a book signed. This is especially helpful on Friday night when the annual “Meet the Pros” mass autograph signing takes place with all of the author guests. Most years, Patrick and company are able to “debut” at least one new title at the convention, including releases which aren’t due in bookstores for a week or more. I’ve benefited from this little bit of publicity myself, with both my Vulcan and Klingon travel guides along with Summon the Thunder, the Star Trek Vanguard novel I wrote with Kevin, premiering at the con. The Novel Books gang is just as much a part of Shore Leave as any long-time attendee. For them not to be there would be disappointing, to say the least.

But, that’s exactly what’s in danger of happening, and that’s just a small part of a much larger concern.

Most people know running an indie book shop in this day and age is a hard road to travel. The hours are long, the profit margins are slim, and the behemoth that shall not be named here looms over your shoulder every minute of every day. It doesn’t take much to send things off track, and in the case of Novel Books several things happened which now threaten to take the train right off the tracks. They’re in something of a financial bind and could use some help. From the GoFundMe page they’ve established:


Novel Books opened 8 years ago in Clarksburg, MD. The store was growing each year, until last year, when very large, unexpected costs put the business in jeopardy. The losses are hard to recover, and the store is on the verge of closing.

Patrick, the owner, is a dedicated bookseller, who wants to provide a space, and selection, for the families of the Clarksburg area to enjoy books, events, and classes. Novel Books currently offers Story Time for toddlers, space for local books clubs, and gaming tables for chess clubs and Magic: the Gathering card tournaments. New programs include multi-week courses on music for toddlers and using Legos to teach science and engineering.  A goal is to bring authors to the store for signings and new release events.

Patrick has been a successful advocate for infrastructure in the historic district. He hosted a nine-month-long candidate forum for the recent midterm elections. Novel Books has been a champion for small businesses in the shop local movement.

Patrick uses an RV for multi-day off-site events. The vehicle left him stranded in Tennessee last year for over a month, with a major engine overhaul. It is also intended to be used for pop up sales at local events, and communities. 

The other, more personal, problem from last year is medical expenses for an undiagnosed problem with Patrick’s right arm.  It’s progressively harder for him to use his hand to carry things, and do daily activities. He has no insurance.

The requested funds would go to catching up with debt for rent, and vendors. It would be applied to medical expenses and further tests. And finally, to make additional repairs to the RV. If the goal is exceeded, Patrick would like to hire someone to help plan more events and programs at the store, especially if his condition worsens.

Novel Books can grow again, just like the book industry has been doing over the last five years, but is asking for your help to be strong again.

Thank you for your support. 

NovelBooks-Shop

 


It’s an uphill climb, to say the least, but the farther their signal can be boosted, maybe the more help they’ll receive. So, I’m hoping my fellow Shore Leave peeps of every stripe will help attract attention to the cause so Patrick and the Novel Books family can get the help they need, and the store can stay open and continue to play a valuable role in its community…and return to the con each year. So, if you’re a lover of indie booksellers, authors, and conventions like Shore Leave where such folks tend to gather, please check out the Novel Books GoFundMe page, consider supporting their effort, and sharing their info:

Save Novel Books
https://www.gofundme.com/f/do-you-want-your-community-bookstore-to-fail

Thanks for reading!

My Shore Leave 41 schedule!

shore-leave-logoOh, we’re getting close. I can feel that familiar itch.

No, not that itch. I told you, my doctor gave me a shot. Geez.

I’m talkin’ about us being less than three weeks away from the annual Shore Leave convention, which is all set to take place July 12th-14th at the Delta Hotels Baltimore Hunt Valley Inn! With only a couple of exceptions, I’ve been attending this con for more than fifteen years. Along with our annual jaunts to Denver for StarFest, this is my favorite con to attend. In addition to being a fan-driven show run by a dedicated group of volunteers rather than some corporate entity, I’m fairly certain it’s also the largest gathering of Star Trek writers of every sort. More importantly, it’s one of the few times I get to see many of my friend and colleagues who call the East Coast (mostly New York and points nearby) home.

As is usually the case, the convention is boasting a pretty solid roster of media guests, including Anson Mount and Ethan Peck, aka “Captain Christopher Pike” and “Mr. Spock” from Season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery. Also on the list are Michael Shanks (Stargate, Smallville), Lexa Doig (Stargate, Andromeda, Smallville), John Glover (Smallville, Shazam!), Erica Durance (Smallville, Saving Hope), Aaron Ashmore (Killjoys, Smallville, Warehouse 13), Laura Vandervoort (Supergirl, Smallville, Bitten), and Alex Mallari (Dark Matter, Indigo, True Justice). Topping it all off is the original Lieutenant Uhura herself, Nichelle Nichols, who is in the midst of a “farewell tour” as she prepares to retire from the con circuit.

There are also more author and science guests than can comfortably fit into one of the Titanic‘s lifeboats. Check out the con’s Guests Page for all the juicy deetz!

As one of those author guests looking for a good seat in said lifeboat, the con’s official schedule places me at these locations at these times. Plan your stalking accordingly:

Friday, July 12th

What’s New in Star Trek Fiction – 6pm-7pm – Hunt/Valley Ballroom
What are the latest plans for Star Trek publications? Moderated by John Jackson Miller and with fellow panelist David Mack.

Meet the Pros – 10pm-Midnight – Hunt/Valley Foyer
The con’s annual mass author autographing event! Bring your books and whatever else you might want signed by any of the convention’s author guests. You should be able to track down a particular author throughout the weekend, but this is the main event. If all goes to plan, local bookseller Novel Books will have vendor space throughout the weekend with plenty of new release and backlist titles from all the attending authors.

Saturday, July 13th

Own Worst Critic or Biggest Fan? – 11am-12pm – Chase Room
Some authors are extremely tough on themselves. Others love everything they do. Which is better, what are the pros and cons, and where do you fall on this spectrum? Moderated by Aaron Rosenberg, with fellow panelists Dave Galanter and Laura Ware.

Star Trek: Discovery: Season 2 – 12pm-1pm – Salon A
A recap of Season 2’s highs and lows, wishes for Season 3, and how the novels are addressing such tightly serialized storytelling. Moderated by Rigel Ailur, with fellow panelists Amy Imhoff, Dave Galanter, John Jackson Miller, Howard Weinstein, and Keith R.A. DeCandido.

It’s Not Linear – 1pm-2pm – Derby Room
Why do time-travel and Star Trek work so well together? Panelists will discuss Star Trek episodes, films, and novels that utilize time travel. Moderated by Derek Attico, with fellow panelists Amy Imhoff, Kelli Fitzpatrick, and Lorraine Anderson.

Meeting eSpec Books – 6pm-7pm – Derby Room
The publishers, editors, and authors of eSpec Books discuss their new and upcoming releases, including novels by Keith R.A. DeCandido, Christopher Bennett, and Bud Sparhawk and new volumes in their ever-popular Defending the Future and Beyond the Cradle anthology series. Moderated by Danielle Ackley-McPhail, with fellow panelists Mike McPhail, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Christopher L. Bennett, and Robert Greenberger.

Sunday, July 14th

Coming Out of the Desert – 12pm-1pm – Chase Room
Being creative can be difficult when the stresses of life get in the way. How to cope when your muse goes missing and there are still deadlines to be met. Moderated by Danielle Ackley-McPhail, with fellow panelists Richard White, Lorraine Anderson, and Michael Jan Friedman.

In and around all of the scheduled activities going on all weekend, I’ll be checking in on other panels, checking out the vendors room, and hopefully spending some time chatting with people I don’t get to see nearly often enough. And after each day’s obligations are met? Be sure to find most if not all of us in the hotel bar. It’s not just tradition; it’s a moral imperative.

Maybe I’ll see you there!

shoreleave-logo

StarFest bound!

Starfest2019

Thanks to the wonder that is scheduled posting here on the blog thing, by the time you read this my hetero life mate Kevin and I will be on our way to Denver for the annual StarFest Convention!

(Be sure to click on the link and check out the guest line-up. William Shatner. Nichelle Nichols. Ben Browder from Farscape! Rick Sternbach! Ken Foree from Dawn of the Dead! Peter Macon from The Orville! And many more!)

I’ve run out of fingers to keep an accurate count of this sort of thing, but I’m reminded that this will be our 17th consecutive year attending as guests of the con. Regular readers know that this show and Shore Leave are my two favorite conventions to attend, and the two I make every effort not to miss. Indeed, I make sure to lock in my availability for these shows before committing to anything else.

AvailableLight-coverWhat’ll we be up to this weekend? The usual sorts of convention shenanigans. We’ll have our tables in the vendor area, of course, and I’ll have with me minty fresh copies of Available Light and other titles, all ready for the autographing and such.

We’ll also be participating in programming, including the guest meet-n-greet on Friday night. We help out with the talent show and the big costume contest on Saturday evening, and we’ll be serving up another couple of Late Night Movie Action with Dayton and Kevin. On Friday it’s The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as this cult classic celebrates its 35th anniversary in 2019. For Saturday, we’re presenting Once Upon A Deadpool (aka, “the PG-13 version of Deadpool 2“), which is actually a follow up to our screening of the first Deadpool flick at last year’s StarFest. It’s a whole sequel observance kind of thing, offered in the spirit of good old-fashioned family entertainment.

Beyond that? I’m sure we’ll find some kind of trouble to get into.

If you’re reading this and planning to attend the con, be sure to swing by and say hello!

GoneTrekkin

ArtCon after action report!

This past weekend, Kevin and I ventured from Kansas City down to Neosho, Missouri to participate in the first ever ArtCon.

Hosted by the Neosho Arts Council and sponsored by a number of local businesses, the con was the first of its kind for the area. Kevin and I were honored to be among the con’s inaugural “featured guests” alongside comics gurus Jeremy Haun, Megan Levens, and Ande Parks. All of us have ties to the region, which made this even more fun.

Expectations for this initial wading into the waters of pop culture fandom were modest, but I’m happy to report that fans coming to partake of the action ended up blowing the doors off the Neosho Civic Center. Fans of all ages came – and kept coming – all day long. I talked with enough people that I ended up with my usual “con hoarse voice” after just the one day, rather than the usual two, and Kevin and I managed to push quite a few books along the way.

And there were food trucks. Brisket. Food trucks and brisket. Oh, my…..

Related – Joplin Globe: Neosho ArtCon Draws Local Fans

It was a great day all around, and I offer my sincere thanks to Sarah Serio and the Neosho Arts Council for inviting us to join them in the fun. Maybe we can do it again some time!

L-R: Me, Kevin Dilmore, Ande Parks, Megan Levens, Jeremy Haun
photo credit: Sarah Serio

Kevin and I are at ArtCon today!

Thanks to the wonder that is scheduled posting, by the time this goes live Kevin and I will already be on the road and heading south from Kansas City, on our way to picturesque Neosho, Missouri and the Neosho Art Council’s first-ever ArtCon!

As indicated above, this is a new venture for Neosho, but they seem to be attracting some attention from the local media outlets. In addition to Kevin and myself, comics aces Megan Levens, Jeremy Haun, and Ande Parks will also be on hand. All of us have ties to the Kansas-Missouri region, which is what the ArtCon folks were looking for when they started inviting guests.

(For those who might be wondering, Kansas City and the surrounding area is home to a veritable plethora of creators, from prose to comics to art and sculpture and other crafting goodness, cosplay and re-enactors, and the performing arts. We’ve got some game here, yo. Shit! Games! Game peeps call this place home, too.)

FunFact #1: When I was still in the Corps, we would travel to Camp Crowder, the National Guard base located there (it was somewhat larger than it is these days), for our annually required “infantry skills” training shenanigans. This will be my first return visit to the area since 1996 or so.

FunFact #2: Camp Crowder served as the inspiration for “Camp Growding,” a National Guard base located pretty much where the real Camp Crowder sits/sat, for the opening encounters and skirmishes featured in The Last World War.

Anyway….

We’ll be at the Neosho Civic Center from 11am to 7pm. Kevin and I will have a selection of books and such for sale, so if you’re in the area, come see us!

Come find me and Kevin next month at the Freestate Comicon!

I have to tell you I thought I was done with the whole convention/book signing thing for the year. Not that I’m against such things, you understand. Instead, I simply figured I’d attended all the shows and whatnot I was going to see for a while, at least until next spring or so.

Nah. Looks like I’ve got one more in me.

Kevin and I have been invited to be guests at next month’s Freestate Comicon, a one-day show that along with the series of KC Fan Con events has been doing its thing here in the Kansas City area since 2006.

The puppetmaster behind these shindigs, Craig Klotz, has been a friend to Kevin and me for what seems like ever, and if we don’t see him at Planet Comicon or Kansas City Comicon, then we’ve been guests at some of his own shows over the years. So, when he asked us if we’d be interested in hanging out with him and a bunch of other KC-based creators, collectors, vendors, and fans, of course we had to say “Sure!”

So, if your plans for Saturday, September 8th have room for hanging out with this gang of folks, come on and see us! I’ll have copies of various titles including Star Trek: Discovery – Drastic Measures among other things, and we’ll definitely have copies of our issue of Star Trek: Waypoint and even the trade paperback collecting the entire miniseries.

It’ll be a day of comics and pop culture fun for the entire clan, so come on by the Douglas County Fairgrounds in beautiful Lawrence, Kansas, and say “Howdy!”