Open Thread: Minicon 50 Report

Over the Easter weekend, I went to Minicon, the Minnesota Scientifiction Society’s yearly convention.  This was the 50th convention, although not the fiftieth year, as a couple times early on it was held twice yearly.  To mark the milestone, the convention ran four days instead of the usual three, and had a whole bunch of Guests of Honor.

Created for me by Indigo Caldwell; please do not reuse without permission.
Created for me by Indigo Caldwell; please do not reuse without permission.

Unfortunately, I was only able to take one day off work, so missed the Thursday events altogether.  I arrived Friday morning at the RadiShTree Hotel in Bloomington (it’s been a Radisson, Sheraton and now a Doubletree) and realized this was my thirtieth Minicon!  Wow!  The registration desk was well-organized and I soon had my badge with Michael Whelan art and programs.

The first panel I attended was an interview of Jane Yolen (perhaps best known for children’s fantasy books, but she also wrote The Devil’s Arithmetic, a historical fiction novel about the Holocaust) by a local writing group, the Scribblies.  Ms. Yolen mentioned that she didn’t get her doctorate because her thesis was on the use of fairy tales in childhood education and the gatekeepers didn’t like that.  It’s since become a standard text Touch of Magic and she has six honorary doctorates now.

Then it was time for the only panel I was on, “Anime and Manga for Speculative Fiction Fans.”  Somehow Programming missed my repeated messages offering to moderate the panel and picked one of the panelists at random.  The panel discussion was a bit weaker than I would have liked, but there were still many items mentioned, and you can see a list in my just previous post.

From there I went to an interview of Tom Doherty, the publisher of Tor, which is a big science fiction and fantasy label.  He talked about the challenges facing the book publishing industry, including the loss of small regional book distributors and smaller chain bookstores.  That means it’s harder to reach casual readers who would pick up a book if they happened to see one, but won’t make a special trip to the big box store.

Then it was “Publishing After the Door Slams” which was about the alternatives to major publishers (who after all want to print books that they think will sell.)  Apparently one segment of e-publishing that makes money hand over fist is Big Beautiful Woman erotica–a market that apparently is starved for content.

Next up, the Brandon Sanderson interview (he finished the Wheel of Time series, but is a good author in his own right.)  He talked about taking a job as night clerk at a quiet hotel so he would have plenty of time to write.  After that I went to the Terry Pratchett Memorial; several of the attendees had known him well, including Greg Ketter, owner of Dreamhaven Books and the one who convinced Sir Terry to come to Minicon 40.

The hugest event of the night was the reunion of fan favorite local band Cats Laughing (X-Men fans will remember Kitty Pryde jamming with them once.)  I do poorly in crowded concert venues, so skipped it, but heard bits and pieces as I visited several room parties.  Love tasty food, and some parties had very nice items.

On Saturday, I cruised the art show/science exhibit/hucksters room after breakfast–Some beautiful art by Michael Whelan and also by local artists.

Then I attended an interview of Larry Niven (Ringworld) and heard about his many collaborations and how they worked (the Internet has been a real boon to the process.)  There was more of this at the “Adventures in Collaboration” panel immediately afterward.

I don’t remember too much of the “Social Pressure in Fandom” panel, although harrassment policies were mentioned.  I was too busy mentally preparing for the mass signing event.  “The Evolving Business of Books” had more Tom Doherty–he stressed that e-books were not a threat, but an opportunity, as were audiobooks.  Tor is teaming up with NASA to create books to get kids interested in space-related career fields.

“Deviance in Fiction” discussed the role of bad behavior in creating a story–there was general agreement that sometimes too much is too much and it spoils the book for that reader.  (Lord Foul’s Bane and a particularly hideous act by the protagonist early on was given as an example of a point at which several of the people in the room gave up on the book.)

“I’m a Cover Shopper” was a panel about the role of covers in attracting readers–the trend is towards covers that look good in a two-inch size on Internet sites.  We also discussed whether the writer should have input on the cover image.  (yes, but not control.  One example was given of an author who insisted the picture on the cover match the colors described in the book; this made the cover a mess of brown and gray.)

More parties!

Sunday morning meant one more sweep; I’d won a couple of things from the art room and could now use the rest of my budget to buy books.  I enjoyed a panel on “Linked Short Stories and Serial Novels” where we discussed Dickens, “fix-ups” (two or more short stories rewritten into a longer work) and other fun topics.

After officially checking out of my hotel room (and thus having to carry my luggage everywhere) I checked out the latter half of “Collaborative Creative Projects” which was about art installations primarily.  The slideshow stalled on a particularly disturbing image that distracted me for the rest of the panel.

My last panel was “Middle Grade Optimism vs YA Dystopia”, talking about the difference between writing for the “middle grade” and “young adult” markets.  It was emphasized that these were largely artificial distinctions.  However, a general rule of thumb is that middle grade books are given to the child by a parent, teacher or librarian; while young adult is when they begin seeking out books on their own (and start disdaining “this is inappropriate for your age group” comments.)

Closing ceremonies were fun as usual; next year’s convention will have Seanan McGuire of Newsflesh and Incryptids fame.


Tell me about your most recent convention experience, or a gathering you hope to attend in the near future!

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19 thoughts on “Open Thread: Minicon 50 Report”

  1. Oh wow — I just realized that I haven’t been to a con for over twenty years. That’s remote, rural life for ya. Thanks for bringing me to a con through your blog. 🙂

  2. I also don’t remember a convention experience, but this was a jam packed weekend – and there seemed to be no shortage of interesting topics. Even though my head is spinning about the lack of Big Beautiful Women Erotica

    1. They tell you in marketing classes, “find a need, and a way to fill it.” Someone did that, and now they’re sitting pretty.

  3. Just yesterday I picked up some copies of an anthology that a friend of mine put together in 2007. The publisher folded in 2010 and told her if she didn’t buy back her unsold books from them, they’d burn them. She tried to sell the remainder over the past five years and made but a small dint. Hence, the giveway now. I am still shocked about how traditional book publishing has undergone such a vast change recently.

  4. This was SO INTERESTING!!! Wow, 50 conventions!! You’ve been to way more conventions than I have. There is one I have attended 10 times (health and wellness in California) but I don’t think I could write such a detailed experience of events the way you did.

    Thanks for sharing the thought that ebooks are not taking away regular books. I think about that a lot because I still prefer reading paper books. I avoid buying ebooks if at all possible.

    1. I used to go to more conventions, but had to cut back to just the one for budget reasons. I used the schedule to remind me of what I’d seen, lots of people put out way more detailed reports than I do.

      Ebooks are great if you have an ebook reader, but I like the smell and feel of print books.

  5. Did you talk to anyone at all all weekend?
    It feels really weird reading a con report which doesn’t mention a single conversation or friend, or even the con suite.

    1. Why, yes, I talked to people, met some friends; visited the consuite–as mentioned in a previous comment, I mostly worked from the schedule, so the events on that were what I emphasized. One of the longer conversations I had was in the mass signing line with a fellow who was putting out a second book of fantasy paintings–he showed me his contact list of artists on his phone.

  6. Fun post Scott. My step daughter owned Stars Our Destination specialty bookstore in Chicago and helped organize and run many conventions. The last convention I attended was Chicon 7, the 70th World Science Fiction Convention in 2012.

    1. Would that be Alice Bentley? I see she is now in the Twin Cities area and will be helping run Dreamhaven.

    2. Hi Deborah! Scott stopped by the bookstore just now, and mentioned that he knew you – and what his URL is. I look forward to reading even more book reviews. I’m not sure just when I’ll make it down to Chicago next, but it will certainly be more frequent now that I’m not living on the West Coast.

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