The convention is over and I had a great time. Copies of The Dark Crusade in paperback were available and sold well. I had a chance to talk to, do a panel with, and hang out with George R.R. Martin, Guest of Honor for the convention; aside from being a very good writer, he’s a very well-spoken, erudite and friendly man. He has a very large fan base and deserves it.
I also did panels with David Drake, another talented and intelligent writer whose work lies primarily within my own subgenre (”military science fiction”). I’ve almost collected the whole set: Weber, Drake, Flint, Stirling – I just have to cross paths with John Ringo and I’ll have met the whole Crew O’ Baen.
So. I did panels on a number of the usual subjects, as well as one I hadn’t intended to do (on the paranormal in science fiction: I tried my best not to be the skeptic, and was called upon to be the moderator instead. I behaved myself. :-)) Regarding moderators, Marcon seems to have a sort of Social Darwinist attitude toward the idea: panelists must decide on the spot who’s going to do the job. This works sometimes.
The only panel that really didn’t work was the one hijacked by one Marshall Barnes, who bills himself as a “private investigator” – and he’s a good one, don’t get me wrong: his particular hobby-horse is the so-called Philadelphia Experiment, which has become an X-Files-ish story about invisibility’n’stuff. Mr. Barnes asserts – with considerable evidence – that the subject matter is far more mundane, but indeed actually happened with some successful result. That’s fine; but the panel was regarding the “skeptical movement”, and it spent most of the time of the panel and energy of the panelists reacting to the manic Mr. Barnes and his investigative findings. Believe what he’s written or don’t . . . but it became abundantly clear to me (I turned out to be the moderator; Social Darwinism in action, I guess) that Mr. Barnes was there to huckster for his book.
I try to sell myself – and thereby my work – by appearing on panels, talking intelligently, charming the audience, etc. Writers do that. We should neither be ashamed of nor apologetic for it. The object is to be entertaining and informative; if an audience member or even a fellow panelist goes to the dealer room and buys a book, so much the better. By the time the panel was over, however, we were all exhausted from the antics of this panelist – and whether his points were valid or not, I suspect that more of the audience determined to avoid him, his research, and his book than would be compelled to listen to him or read his work. Count me among them.
The kicker to this story is something I turned up on a google search, at this page. As soon as I saw the name Art Bell, I knew I’d wandered into the land of the wacky. Case closed: right or wrong, I’m not the least bit interested in it anymore.
Otherwise, I’m very pleased with my choice of Marcon and hope to come again. We’ll be flying home early tomorrow; I’ll put up a couple of pictures from the con.
May 29 update: We arrived home safe and sound. A good trip, with a good outcome. Here I am at the autograph table with David Drake – loads o’fun.
May 30: A reader and fellow-panelist writes, regarding my comments above:
I should have warned everyone about Barnes. He’s a nice guy, but his clock does not keep the same time as the rest of us. My wife says I’m too easy on him, but he has done some interesting work on the inside of the “believers” network, and has pointed out some of the frauds in the UFO bunch and, of course, the Phil Project, which he is the most proud of. His mental lapses are most noted when he is on stage — as you saw. The hardest thing is to get him to actually say something and not talk in circles.
That’s the impression I had as well.