Ad Astra 2009, or, My First Con

This weekend past, a few of my favourite authors were appearing at Ad-Astra, Toronto’s regional SF convention.  Since I’m going to Worldcon this summer, I figured attending Ad-Astra would be a good practice run, and so off I went, with a few others in tow.

Now, strictly speaking, my secondary title up above (“My First Con”) is not entirely accurate — some twelve years ago, as I dimly recall, there was a new con started up in St. John’s, NL, and I attended the first one.  It was a modest affair, with no panels that I can recall, although I do remember a filk singalong.  I’m not sure if there was more than one, and I am given to understand it bears no relation to the current Sci-Fi on the Rock convention.  Anyway, I don’t really count that as a proper first, since it was missing a few crucial elements (panels, guests of honour, more than one room, etc.) and generally felt a bit awkward.

So, back to Ad Astra.  I actually had a fairly busy weekend apart from the con, what with some friends visiting from out of town, and other things in my life, so I missed many of the typically high-profile con events like the Masquerade and various parties — basically, anything in the evening was right out.  Instead, I focussed on the panels (with a few quick book-signing escapades thrown in for good measure).

On Saturday, I got there in the afternoon, and managed to take in the panels “How to Edit Yourself”, “Different Kinds of Fantasy”, “What is Real Evil?”, and “Too Many Characters”.  Sunday saw panels on “Working with a Smaller Press”, “Fields of Plenty for Writers”, “Minions”, and “First Contact”.  (Clearly, I split my interests between the writing track and more general programming.)

I think my favourite panels were actually two of the writing ones, on self-editing and “fields of plenty”.  The panelists had great chemistry; they played off each other, took up leads that others dropped, and shared the stage well.  They just flowed very well.

The panel on evil was also quite interesting, with Peter Watts at one extreme almost apologetically suggesting there is no evil except as a way to label others, and the other panelists running the gamut all the way to religious concepts of evil.  There was some good and interesting discussion.

The rest of the panels were also quite enjoyable, although some felt like the panel topic didn’t give the panelists quite enough to keep going for the whole hour, and by late Sunday afternoon some of the panelists were looking a little run down.

So, I chalk up my first con experience as a positive one.  I’m looking forward to Worldcon even more, now.