New comics show: Catamount Comics & Collectables Expo

Another comic show has popped up in the aftermath of the demise of Vermont Comic Con: the Catamount Comics & Collectibles Expo, which will be held next year on September 14th at the Dudley H. Davis Student Center at UVM.

According to the Facebook event page, it’ll be a single-day show featuring “artists, comic book creators, writers, comic books, and anything collectable. Admission will be $5 for adults, with kids 12 and under free

A one day show highlighting artists, comic book creators, writers, comic books and anything collectable. With a family friendly admission price of just $5 for adults and kids under 12 free, come check out local and regional artists, see awesome costumes, and maybe pick up back issues of your favorite comics, or get that toy your parents never bought you as a kid.

The event is currently working to fill its tables, saying that vendors can purchase a spot for $100. You can RSVP / remind yourself about the event here

There’s been a handful of new events pop up in recent weeks as organizers work to fill the void of the central gathering point that VTCC grew to become in the last five years. The biggest such event thus far has been the Vermont Sci-Fi & Fantasy Expo, which will take place at the Champlain Valley Expo next April.

Kickstart This: The Lucid Filter — An Urban Fantasy Series

Burlington-based writer/director Joshua Miner recently launched a Kickstarter for an urban fantasy webseries series called The Lucid Filter. He’s looking to raise $6,000 in the next 23 days.

The initial project will be for a 30 minute pilot episode, described as a ghost-hunting type show.

A group of college students wield arcane powers in a struggle to protect their sleepy New England town from demon-summoning occultists and eldritch horrors.  Serial entrepreneur Becky Carter founded the Paranormal Research and Containment Society, along with a reality-style web show called “The Lucid Filter”.  The web show is styled after typical ghost hunting / paranormal investigation shows, with the added feature of it including actual paranormal events mixed in with staged hauntings.

Backer tiers begin at $5 for a download of the pilot episode, going all the way up to $2,500 for executive producer privileges.

Kickstart This: Handmade Foam Dungeon Tiles

Need some additional items for your upcoming roleplaying game? A new Kickstarter project is selling handmade foam dungeon tiles. They’re looking to raise $500, with 11 days to go.

These handcrafted dungeon tiles are made out of a type of foam known as Extruded Polystyrene, also called XPS foam. The XPS foam is carved by hand to include intricate designs for cracked stonework in order to simulate stone flooring that would be found in a dungeon. Once the design has been carved into the foam, it is also textured to give an stony appearance. Once the weathered stonework design has been carved into the foam, and the stone texture has been applied, it is then given a coat of a sealer to protect the foam and to make it more durable. After the sealer is applied, the protected foam is now hand painted to mimic the appearance of stone, resulting in the final product.

For $5, you can get five tiles, and $25 will get you 30.

Kickstart this: Vermont’s first board game cafe

A group in Burlington want to open the state’s first board game cafe, and they’ve launched a Kickstarter to help realize their dream.

The Boardroom is planned for the Queen City as a place where people can go to check out a library of board games, and enjoy some food and a beverage while they’re at it. They explain that they’re going to put together a library of 400 games, ranging from familiar classics to hot new games. They also note that they plan to offer a wide range of classes and events.

The cafe will be located on Colchester Avenue in Burlington, near Winooski, in a recently renovated building. Funds for the campaign will go to adding to the cafe’s library, equipment for the kitchen, and furniture. They’re looking to raise $7000 in the next 29 days. Perks for backers include free game passes, memberships, and more.

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.

Norwich University Writer’s Series: John Crowley

Norwich University has a major author stopping by today: John Crowley, who’s written books like Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr, and others. The series was founded in 2012, and brings major authors to speak at the school about writing.

Crowley has written a number of SF/F works beginning in the 1970s, andKa: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr is his latest. I haven’t personally read it, but the friends of mine who have have raved about it.

Here’s what the book is about:

Dar Oakley—the first Crow in all of history with a name of his own—was born two thousand years ago. When a man learns his language, Dar finally gets the chance to tell his story. He begins his tale as a young man, and how he went down to the human underworld and got hold of the immortality meant for humans, long before Julius Caesar came into the Celtic lands; how he sailed West to America with the Irish monks searching for the Paradise of the Saints; and how he continuously went down into the land of the dead and returned. Through his adventures in Ka, the realm of Crows, and around the world, he found secrets that could change the humans’ entire way of life—and now may be the time to finally reveal them.

Crowley will be speaking at the Chaplin Hall Gallery at 4PM on Norwich’s Northfield campus. The event is free and open to the public.


Tolkien in Vermont Conference 2019: Horror in Middle Earth

The University of Vermont has announced the 16th annual Tolkien at UVM conference. Run by Christopher Vaccaro, it’s a small academic conference devoted to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. This year’s conference is titled Tolkien and Horror, and will be held on April 6th, 2019.

The conference is currently accepting abstracts and session proposals (those re due by January 15th, 2019), and this year’s keynote speaker will be Professor Yvette Kisor of Ramapo College.

Details / RSVP can be found on Facebook.

The Burlington Book Festival’s unforced error: Garrison Keillor

This weekend, the Burlington Book Festival ignited a bit of a firestorm when it announced that it had invited former A Prairie Home Companion and Writer’s Almanac host Garrison Keillor to the festival. Billed as “A Few Words with Garrison Keillor,” the festival trumpeted his “signature blend of humor, charisma and wisdom,” with tickets running anywhere from $45 for general admission to $75 for a meet and greet after the show. It was an idiotic, unforced error, given that Keillor had been fired from his roles after allegations of inappropriate behavior, and an MPR investigation uncovered a lengthy history of misconduct.

The announcement wasn’t exactly met with open arms: the Burlington Book Festival’s Facebook pace received a number of angry comments, and its sponsors, like Vermont Public Radio, and the Vermont Humanities Council distanced themselves from the invitation, while another, Literary North, pulled out entirely.

The festival felt compelled to issue a defensive statement regarding the invitation, one that made matters worse. Organizer Rick Kisonak opened with a lengthy list of people who had been invited to the festival before (which doesn’t relate to the outrage directed to the festival), and says that the festival has always been free, pointing to other events in the Burlington area that do charge. (Again, so?)

The purpose of bringing in Keillor, it seems, was to fundraise, and the justification was that Keillor is a well known figure will help bring in money. But in doing so, Kisonak absolutely dismisses the accusations, and by extension, the accusers who came forward in the first place. “I have never invited a sexual predator to the Burlington Book Festival and never would,” Kisonak writes, seemingly ignoring the widespread reporting done by Keillor’s own home NPR affiliate, and goes on to say that “Garrison Keillor is not a sexual predator,” saying that people have been conflating what he did with the likes of Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby. Speaking to VPR, Kisonak noted that “No insensitivity to anyone was ever the intent.” When is it ever?

This is pretty stunning, and literally made my jaw drop when Taylor Dobbs of Seven Days asked me for some thoughts. It’s a really horrid and idiotic justification for bringing Keillor in. To be clear, there are differences between Weinstein, Cosby, and Keillor’s behavior. But Keillor still engaged in inappropriate behavior for which he was fired. Because there are worse examples out there doesn’t mean that it’s worth ignoring seemingly lesser charges.  Ultimately, the combined outcry culminated yesterday with Keillor’s disinvitation.

But the damage has been done. As I noted on Twitter, the men accused of sexual misconduct across industries largely haven’t gone away. Bill Cosby is currently sitting in prison, Harvey Weinstein is being investigated, but others, like Louis C.K., and Aziz Ansari have been probing the waters for their own comebacks. Garrison Keillor is as well, and Kisonak just played into this larger narrative: the #MeToo movement could very well turn out to be a temporary speed bump for most of the men accused of misconduct, something that they simply wait out, and get back on with their lives, while the people they left behind in their wake still have to contend with the damage.

To be clear, there will be men who will make honest efforts to better themselves, and to make amends. Certainly, times and society are changing. But Keillor has never really seemed to have taken this incident seriously, dismissing it in the press, and even in response to this disinvitation, was snarky and passive aggressive: “I agreed to come to Burlington to raise money for the Festival, but if it troubles people, then I’m glad to stay home and do my hoop-stitching.”

At the end of the day, what is most infuriating about this isn’t that Keillor was invited to the festival — although that was a particularly dumb move — but Kisonak’s dismissive defense of it, highlighting a tone-deaf line of thinking behind the event and its reception. I’ve presented at the event before, but after this, I can safely say that I’ll never present there again.

Some thoughts on the end of Vermont Comic Con

Vermont Comic Con is over. With Jason Moulton and his partner Natasha Durand announcing their retirement in a heated Facebook Live video yesterday, one of the major meeting points for Vermont nerds is gone. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: it opens the door to new events in the state, and removes a bit of angst from Vermont geeks who feel that they’ve been alienated from the convention.

I’ve been going to the con since it started, and Jason has been generous over the years with providing space: first to a half-assed booth for this blog a bunch of years ago, and more critically, to the 501st Legion, which was instrumental in the formation of the Green Mountain Squad in 2015. Without this event, we wouldn’t be where we are today, and we’ve been thankful that Jason provided the space when he did. It led to some cool things, like getting to interview the then-Star Wars Episode IX director, Colin Trevorrow, and Hawk Otsby, writer for The Expanse. It’s also been a place where I’ve been able to run into friends from around the Vermont geek community.

But in the aftermath of the announcement — in which Jay and Natasha scolded businesses in Barre for … not promoting them better (?) and for not being appreciative enough for bettering the city — there’s been an outbreak of chatter from around the various online watering holes for all things Vermont. A number of people have pointed to how Jason alienated many people: comic book creators and guests from out of state, major vendors and tent-pole stores around the state, cosplay groups, and individuals. I wasn’t able to attend this year (or last year — the 501st decided not to participate), but the pictures that I’ve seen show off an extremely sparse show that was just a shell of what it had been when it was founded back in 2014. It’s a shame, because the event could have gone the other way, and become a much better, inclusive production that showcased the best of what Vermont had to offer.

The biggest problem that I’ve had with the convention has been that it’s never really felt like it’s been fully representative of the state’s community, but more of a standard-issue comic book convention that’s been plopped into Vermont. For sure, there’s been local organizations, vendors, and fans in attendance, but it never really felt like a “Vermont” thing.

While the con wanted to be the face of Vermont’s geek community and to build it up, it never felt like they made the right outreach to the broad swath of the fans that were there. Then and now, Jason was an outsider (first from New Hampshire coming to Vermont, then from Fairfax coming in to Barre) coming into an existing community, and sought to co-op it for his convention, rather than bring in people who better knew the local scene. I’ve been to big conventions over the years, and they’re all pretty much the same: big geek flea markets with some high profile guests. VTCC was just this on a smaller scale, aiming to be bigger, but lacked the geographical muscle to really become something like Granite State Comic Con or Boston Comic Con.

Conventions are huge projects, and while I appreciate Jay and Natasha’s time and energy spent in setting up such an event. But yesterday’s broadcast really felt… petty: it essentially devolved into a rant about how the city of Barre and Vermont’s geek community failed them, and didn’t make the show better. But from talking with folks in the state over the last couple of years, Jay certainly needs to shoulder some of that blame himself: he burned numerous bridges with many groups and organizations over the years, either because of his way of doing things, refusing to pay vendors / artists / web designers, or because people were just put off by costs and what was offered, and ultimately made a cost/benefit analysis that didn’t work out in the con’s favor.

Vermont has a lot to offer for its nerd residents, and there’s plenty of institutional gatherings for them to go to: Bakuretsu Con is taking place in October, while Carnage will kick off in November. There’s the entire ecosystem of events put on by Vermont Gatherings, the Champlain Games Festival, Ghostacular Paracon, and more. There’s the gaming events put on by the Green Mountain Gamers, including their quarterly gaming micro-cons, and whenever we get back around to it, GMS’s own VT SF Writer’s series.

But while there’s been tittering that Vermont’s fandom community is about to die, I don’t think that’s accurate: this site has been around since *checks calendar, gasps, faints* 2010, and it’s been archiving, reporting on, and commenting on Vermont’s fan community in that time. Vermont’s fandom community has been around for a long, long time, and it’s not dependent on one event, even though losing a VTCC is kind of a bummer.

Hopefully, we’ll see something fill the hole that it leaves behind — an event that covers all manner of fandom, from Vermont’s writers, comic book artists, cosplayers, filmmakers, gamers, and the fans who love what they produce.