This weekend: Carnage 21!

This snuck up fast: Vermont’s premier gaming convention, Carnage 21 is taking place this weekend in Killington at the Killington Grand Resort Hotel.

From the looks of things, it’s busy this weekend:

Vermont Sci-Fi & Fantasy Expo: Next April

With Vermont Comic Con melted down, there’s been numerous questions for Vermont SF/F and comic fans: what will replace the event? A contender appears to be the Vermont Sci-Fi & Fantasy Expo, which will be put on by event outfit Vermont Gatherings,. It’ll be held next year on April 27th and 28th at the Champlain Valley Exposition.

The group just launched a website and Facebook Page for the convention, and describes it as an event that will host “authors, artists, gamers, cosplayers, fan organizations, comic enthusiasts, vehicle displays, prop makers, fight demos, vendors and much more.”

There’s no other details just yet, but it looks like it could easily fill the void left by VTCC, which ran for five years in Burlington and Barre. What’s more, Vermont Gatherings has a pretty good track record for these types of events, and has steadily added to their portfolio in recent years, encompassing the Vermont Renaissance Faire, the Vermont Living History & Militaria Expo, and the Vermont Steampunk Expo. Hopefully, it’ll put a priority on the local creators and groups in the area.

Vermont Gatherings isn’t the only group  eyeing the state: a Facebook page popped up for Vermont Pop-Culture Con, although no date has been announced as of yet.

12th Annual Tolkien in Vermont Conference Schedule

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The schedule for UVM’s upcoming Tolkien in Vermont conference has been released! The conference is an annual, scholarly examination of J.R.R. Tolkien’s legacy, and it’s an interesting way to learn some new things about the author who created Middle Earth. This year’s theme is Tolkien and Medieval Verse.

Here’s the schedule:

Friday, April 10th, 2015

  • Friday evening Tolkien fireside readings 2015, Lafayette Hall L207: 7:30 – 9:00 p.m.

Saturday, April 11th, 2015
Lafayette Hall L207: 8:30 – 5:00 p.m.

  • J.R.R. Tolkien: Performance Artist and Modern Medievalist, Gerry Blair • independent scholar
  • Verses and Prose: Medieval Narrative, Nineteenth Century Medievalism, and Tolkien, Jamie Williamson • Senior Lecturer of English • University of Vermont
  • Modern Fantasy’s Roots in Medieval Verse, Andrew Liptak • independent scholar/Norwich University
  • Guinevere, Grimhild, and the Corrigan: Witches and Bitches in Tolkien’s Medieval Narrative Verse; or, Good Girls Don’t Use Magic (Except if You’re Galadriel, but Elf Magic is Different, and Who Ever Said Galadriel Was a Good Girl?), Dr. Kristine Larsen • Professor of Physics and Astronomy • Central Connecticut State University
  • A Brief Exploration of Tolkien’s Alliterative Verse and Echoes of The Fall of Arthur Heard in Middle-earth, Andrew Peterson • independent scholar
  • Dyrne langað: Secret Longing in Beowulf and The Lord of the Rings, Dr. Chris Vaccaro • Senior Lecturer • University of Vermont
  • Keynote: Scholarship as Art, Art as Scholarship: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Beowulf, Dr. Michael Drout • Professor • Wheaton College
  • Poetic Time-Travel in The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son, Anna Smol • Professor • Mount Saint Vincent University
  • Beowulf and Thorin as Ancestral Heroes: Their Choices, and the Dragons They Face, Cheryl Hunter • Lecturer • Southern New Hampshire University

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

  • Undergraduate Voices. Location TBA
  • 12:00 – 3:00 pm, Sunday Springle-ring 2015, Organized and hosted by the Tolkien Club of UVM

I’ll be presenting on Saturday morning with a look at how Modern Fantasy (spearheaded by Tolkien) emerged from much older stories. Full details can be found here.

Vermont Comic Con 2015 Announcement

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The folks behind Vermont Comic Con have announced the dates for their upcoming show: September 19th and 20th, 2015. This is a different weekend than they’d previously mentioned at last year’s convention (it had been Labor Day), but it’s good to see them move off of a major holiday and onto a different weekend. Like last year, the convention will be at the Sheraton in Burlington.

More announcements are set to come over the course of the year. Stay tuned.

Springfield Steampunk Festival

This is something that we hadn’t known about before: Springfield, Vermont has its own Steampunk Festival! The event will be held later this year, but it’s worth putting on the calendar.

Here’s what the website says about how it came to be:

The Springfield Vermont Steampunk Festival started as a Facebook group of like-minded Steampunk fans just sharing Steampunk photos and thoughts. The talk turned to the possibility of a Steampunk Festival and that talk turned into the real thing – The Springfield Vermont Steampunk Festival. Steampunk takes its inspiration from science fiction writers of the Victorian age, namely Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. The fantasy worlds created by these authors combined with our present day knowledge of science and technology drives Steampunk imagination. A futuristic Victorian Age where technology is powered by steam rather than electricity.

The event will be held later this year on September 11th through the 13th: admission will run you $65 at the door, $50 in advance, with a bazaar, and a number of other events that will be announced in the near future.

This is pretty cool, and it fits nicely into the legacy of the region: as the website notes, the Precision Valley was once an industrial powerhouse in the young United States:

Springfield Vermont is in an area called Precision Valley. Once a bustling industrial age town, Springfield was known far and wide for its gear shaper, tool, spindle and grinder factories. Springfield and the Precision Valley have a rich history of industry and innovation. That’s why we are turning Springfield into the Steampunk Capital of Vermont!

For more information, visit their website. You can also ‘like’ the event on Facebook.

Winter Weirdness 2015

The Green Mountain Gamers will once again host their annual gaming microcon in Barre, Winter Weirdness, this coming weekend (January 10th) at the Church of the Good Shepherd. Bring your own board game, Roleplaying game or card came! There is a suggested donation of $5.

Some other details:

The Book Garden will be on site vending for the day to provide you with any gaming supplies you may need.

Raffle to Benefit the Vermont Center for Independent Living (VCIL)

Anyone who shows up can receive one raffle ticket. If you want to increase your chances of winning the raffle, you can buy raffle tickets for $1 each or 6 tickets for $5.

A portion of proceeds from the door donations plus raffle ticket sales will be donated to VCIL.

GMG will donate (2) $25 gift certificates for two prizes. Each winner will receive a gift certificate to their choice of local game store – Book Garden, Brap’s, Quarterstaff, Black Moon Games, Triple Play Games.

In addition, Black Moon Games of Lebanon, NH donated King of New York and 2 copies of Ogre Pocket Edition to the raffle.

The raffle prize drawing will take place around 4pm.

RSVP here.

Save the Date: 12th Annual Tolkien in Vermont Conference

We’ve just received confirmation that the next Tolkien in Vermont conference will take place between April 10th and 11th this coming year. The UVM conference is organized by Christopher Vaccaro of UVM, and will be examining themes covering Medieval Verse Narratives.

Stay tuned for more information as we get it.

Storytelling at a Comic-Con

We tried a comic-con experiment this last weekend.

I say we, because while it started out as my crazy idea, I managed to convince several people to join in, most notably my writing partner and co-author, Annalisa Parent. Here’s the idea: let’s a write a custom story for a specific comic-con, the North East Comic Con in Wilmington, MA. More than that, let’s play it out as a live, interactive story at the con, costumes and all, and see how people react.

The story was about super heroes as told from the perspective of a sidekick, well, a woman that works for an agency that outsources sidekick services to super heroes. The agency is called No.2 Inc. Kate Taylor, the “protagonist assistant,” was sent to retrieve a laptop containing sensitive data that was then stolen and later reappeared at the con. When she arrived to reclaim it, she discovered the situation was far more complex than she assumed and she needed more information to get her laptop back without getting caught.

In order to get that info, she enslists the help of conference attendees with smartphones via Twitter. Here’s the interactive part of the story. Attendees are encouraged to take pictures, meet with vendors, and pass all the information back to Kate before the con ends.

We also had an antagonist, the mysterious Carle Group, voiced (Tweeted) expertly by Jon van Luling, interferring, harassing, and generally trolling Kate while she attempted to pull off her reverse heist.

Then, for those who wanted to know more about the story and Kate, we wrote an ebook version of the mission with all the behind the scenes details. By the way, you can find where to get the ebook and pictures from the con at http://apologue.co/no2inc

So was it successful? Depends on what you mean by success.

People loved the idea. From vendors, to actors, to attendees, I was told over and over this was the coolest idea to hit a con in a long time. But there were a number of problems that prevented us from making a truly cool experience.

The first, and biggest, was that the network was absolutely awful at the con. Moreover, the promised public WiFi didn’t exist, which made it difficult to run this thing, let alone participate.

The second problem was that not everyone was using, or even liked using, Twitter. But then, no one could agree on their favorite social media platform either. That was a definite facepalm moment for me. You know that moment when an assumption catches up to you and boots you in the butt? This was mine. We rallied quickly and added Instagram and Facebook to the mix but by then half the con had gone by.

The third problem was what really got me. This is one of those problems that I didn’t really anticipate because it never occurred to me until I was standing on the con floor. Turnover. For those who enjoy the chaotic math surrounding crowd dynamics, this was fascinating. I don’t like that math. I just found it frustrating.

Turnover: meaning, how soon before someone gets their fill of the con and leaves. The answer is not simple. For example, if a con is small, you don’t spend as much time there. Also, if a con doesn’t have a lot happening other than vendor tables, you don’t spend much time there. If a con is small but there’s a ton of people there, you spend more time there because there’s more to see: namely cosplayers and friends. If a con is small and there’s too many people there, you get overwhelmed and get something to eat while things die down a bit.

The bigger a con gets, the messier the mechanics. Who are the celebrities attending? How many panel discussions are happening? Are there any sneak previews of upcoming projects? Here’s the thing I find funny about this. Messier is generally better. At the popular cons, when the numbers get larger, the turnover stabilizes. People may be leaving at the same rate, for any number of specific reasons, but you have enough other people replacing them, that the population doesn’t spike as often.

Complicated, right? How this affected me was that if people stayed longer, I had more people involved in the story. If the crowd was thin, less people. If you had a day like I did on Sunday, where there little attendance except for two decent spikes, it’s hell to keep story momentum moving. In the beginning, people leave faster. In the middle, people want the whole story to play out immediately, until it gets too crowded, and then they leave.

What I can say is that I know a lot whole lot more about how to write an interactive story for a con than I did before attending this con. Will Kate have more missions? Absolutely. She one of the more interesting characters I’ve written. I’m not giving up on her yet. And the whole interactive part? We’ll work it out. Because, as I said, people really really liked it.

I hope you like it too. As I mentioned you can find more about this story at http://apologue.co (the “imprint” I created for this project). Go there and start clicking on things.

Winter Weirdness 2015

Winter Weirdness is returning to Barre in January! The Green Mountain Gamers’ microcon is a great day to get out of the house and spend some time playing games with your fellow gamers. The event will be on Saturday, January 10, 2015 from 10:00am to 10:00pm at the Chuch of the Good Shepherd, in Barre.

The Green Mountain Gamers come to the city of Barre in January 2014. Get out of the house — or take a break from the ski slopes — and get to the winter Green Mountain Game Day for some tabletop action! Bring any tabletop game you wish to play – board games, RPG’s, Magic – it’s all good. We provide the tables, you provide the games.

The Book Garden will be on site vending for the day to provide you with any gaming supplies you may need.

Raffle to Benefit the Vermont Center for Independent Living (VCIL)

GMG will hold a raffle to help raise money for VCIL. Stay tuned for details about this fundraiser.

There’s a suggested donation of $5. RSVP here.