4th Street Fantasy 2019 – An Overview

4th Street Fantasy is held in St. Louis Park, just to the west of Minneapolis. The hotel has plenty of parking, and the space designated for the con is about the perfect size and arrangement for the roughly 200-person event. The programming room has enough seats and doesn’t feel crowded when nearly everyone is there. The con suite was stocked with a nice mix of treats and healthy food. There’s nice space to take a moment out for yourself, visit with others, or hold a meetup. There are a number of restaurants within close walking distance.

This was very different from any other convention I’ve attended in that it only has one track of programming. It’s common for convention programming to have time slots that don’t have anything of interest to me, and I worried I’d feel cheated out of opportunity if I wasn’t interested in the one panel running at a given time. This ended up not being so much of an issue, and I ended up attending every panel. The programming tends to be much more academic and intellectual than you’ll find at other conventions, even when covering the same topics. With this setup, it was more like the entire convention was sharing a unified dialogue, focused and directed by the programming.

During panels, volunteers ran microphones to audience members with questions, comments, and asterisks. An asterisk is the opportunity to interrupt an entire panel to make a factual correction or request clarification. There are also volunteers who document all the panelist- and audience-referenced books, television shows, and films on a giant flip-chart. There’s a second flip-chart for comments or tangents deemed “that’s a different panel.” The last panel of the convention is taken from this list, either based on frequency of appearance or how well it fits with the overall conversation of the convention.

4th Street schedules generous meal breaks, great for meetups and to let the brain chill after an hour or two of intensity. The con features a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, a communal feel, and a healthy dose of spontaneity. This convention takes inclusion and accommodating to a level I’ve not seen before.

This was my first 4th Street, and I’m definitely planning on returning in 2020.

4th Street Fantasy Convention

I’ll be attending my first 4th Street Fantasy Convention this coming weekend. It’s always sounded like a potentially interesting time, but it’s out of my limited driving range. Fortunately, fellow author Dana Baird has offered to let me ride with her.

This is an intimate conversational convention focusing on creating fantasy art and fiction, and I hope to come home ready for my next big plan.

MarsCon 2019 – Friday Report

MarsCon is one of my favorite conventions because it has a bit of everything, making it a full geek experience, without the overwhelming crowds like ConVergence, DragonCon, and ComicCon. The programming is diverse, and I can actually get to the things I want to attend (unless there’s two things I want to see at the same time, or I’m scheduled on a panel across from something else). The costumes are top notch, and the people are very nice.

I started this year’s MarsCon by dashing up ten flights of stairs to get to my 4 pm panel Artistic Inspiration. I take my moderator duties seriously, but the hotel was down an elevator and the snow made our drive extra slow. I didn’t die, but I did need my inhaler, and it turned out we had to wait for someone to open the room anyway.

Artistic Inspiration

Our Artistic Inspiration panelists were A. Merc Rustad (writer guest of honor), Ruth Berman (speculative fiction and poetry writer, and Rhysling Award winner), Kathryn Sullivan (YA writer), and myself as moderator. I’ve been on many panels with Ruth and Kathryn. Ruth has a nearly uncanny knowledge of quotes, golden age speculative fiction, and L. Frank Baum. Kathryn brings an energy that can help perk up those dozy panels in hot crowded rooms. I’d not had the pleasure of being on a panel with Merc, and they were an excellent participant, providing a little different perspective and experience than the other panelists, which ensured we had lots to discuss and share.

We talked a bit about how inspiration can be the spark that triggers a story, or it can be a the energy that helps us continue through the longer pieces or rough patches of finishing a story.

Recommendations for sparking your inspiration or refueling your creative energy:

Woman dressed as a Hogwarts student with Gryffindor accents.
S.N.Arly of Gryffindor

Remainder of Friday

MarsCon was held at the Hilton Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport/Mall of America, where it’s been the last few years. It’s a good size and has some nice features – it’s generally accessible (when all three elevators function) the stairs aren’t locked, and they don’t use hyper-scented cleaners, soaps, or deoderizers that trigger my asthma, unlike some hotels. It also has a few downsides in that the parking situation is not ideal and while the restaurant does a great job with breakfast, it’s over-priced and under-whelming for lunch or dinner.

I moderated an 8 pm Writing Diversity Right, but it’s getting it’s own blog post because I have resources to share. The parties were good, with the IKV Rakehell and Nokomis groups always do a nice job. It was nice to see Babylon 5 recognized this year, but I missed the Harry Potter and Royal Manticoran Navy, both of which have been fantastic in the past.

Resources for Speculative Fiction Writers

At Marscon 2018, I moderated a panel discussion on resources for speculative fiction writers.  I’ll share a bit of our discussion here to tide you over as I prepare several posts (which will all be tagged and available under the resources link in the main menu) with links to tools and essays that may be of use to writers (especially those who write fantasy, science fiction, and horror).

The questions below are some I asked my panelists.  The answers are a summary of the collective discussion.  Huge thanks to Kathryn SullivanNaomi Kritzer, and Ozgur K. Sahin, who are always excellent to talk shop with. 

Continue reading Resources for Speculative Fiction Writers