Published: Tuesday, 30 June 2015 03:16
Amazingly enough, LibertyCon 28 has now come and gone. It's all still a bit of a blur, just like it always is right afterwards, but this year was a bit different.
It was different in the guests of course, especially since we had so many of them! When all was said and done, we had close to 150 authors/artists/panelists/etc that all somehow manage to cram in over 200 panels over the course of a few days. We had plenty of new faces sitting behind the tables, and of course a ton of returning favorites.
Speaking of returning favorites... Our LGoH, David Weber, was an absolute pleasure to see again (as always!). While some people might think that we keep inviting him to LibertyCon as a way to get to hang out with his lovely wife Sharon, we would just like to say that's scurrilous rumour. Really! (Well, at least "probably not"...) It was great catching up with him, and while I would normally say that we hope that he comes back soon... well, I don't have to. Barring an unforseen calamity, he's already said that he's coming back next year! So if you didn't get a chance to meet him in 2015, 2016 is for you. (So David... eat healthy, take time for exercise, and keep the car tuned up.)
And while I'm talking about David, I have to mention the most important thing. The thing that's on the top of everyone's mind... how did he do in the Spades Tournament? Well, I have to say that he sadly didn't win. He did come in second however, and I have it on good authority that if only a certain unnamed individual *koff*Kelly*koff* had played a certain specific different card then another unnamed miscreant *sneeze*Rich Garber*sneeze* wouldn't have walked away with the coveted title. Gentlemen, I would be looking for your deaths upon a starship very soon.
But Spades wasn't the only game at LibertyCon, far from it! With Special Guest Steve Jackson in attendance we had to run two game rooms, and they were a blast! With help from Rev. Bob and P.K., Steve ran an absolutely phenomenal track of gaming. If you haven't met Steve, you can't really understand... but to try to explain, this man loves games. Of course he does, you might say. But he positively infuses the people around him with that same love, and then "brings it" to the table. It also doesn't hurt that he is quite genuinely one of the nicest guys around. I spent quite a bit of time with both he and his friend Monica, and came away with an incredible appreciation for both of them.
But you know who didn't play around? Our Science Guest of Honor, Tedd Roberts. I mean Speaker to Lab Animals. Oh crap, wait a second... Robert Hampson! That's it! Robert Hampson!
This man of many names wasn't playing around, and as always brought the Science... hard. When you're chatting with him, you tend to forget that this loveable guy in a hawaiian shirt is a genius in the field of neuroscience (primarily, but believe me that it's not the only one!) He brought out the whole family with him, including his parents! While I don't know if they managed to make it to the ever-popular Mad Scientists panel (which had the room packed to standing room only), I know that they were around at quite a few of the other science panels that dotted the schedule. Tedd was... crap... Dr. Hampson was delightful as always, and we look forward to seeing him again next year!
On the flip side from the sciences, we have our Artist Guest of Honor Sam Flegal. When it comes to an artist guest, it's hard to top this guy. Funny, friendly, and talented as heck, Sam had some absolutely gorgeous pieces on display... including the "Liberty or Death" picture that graced our Program Book and t-shirts this year. (As a side note, he won "Best Color Work" at Origins for this piece as well as "People's Choice" at JordanCon. So we're not the only ones who like this guy's stuff!) You really owe it to yourself to check out his work to see a true professional in action!
And speaking of professional, I have to say that is a great way to describe our Master of Ceremonies Howard Tayler. If anything ever happens (heaven forbid!) to keep Howard from working on his daily webcomic, Schlock Mercenary, he really might want to think of a career in public speaking. This man is an absolute genius with a microphone! Howard took to his duties as MC in a way that had people raving all weekend... for example, at Opening Ceremonies he listed all of our attending pros. Guys, it's like reading a phonebook. Typically at some point you want to say, "Ok, let's just list everyone who's _NOT_ in the Program Book instead." But not with Howard. He was so incredibly witty and delightful that he had the crowd rapt. So from now on whenever I hear the phrase, "I'd listen to anything he does, even reading a phonebook" I'm going to always think about Howard Tayler. Because I know that I'm going to have a darned good time with it! Opening Ceremonies, the Saturday Banquet, panels... this man epitomized everything you hope for in an MC, and blew right past it!
Those were our "Headliners", and I could keep going on and on about all of our other attending pros... but remember the phonebook? There are just so many high quality guests at LibertyCon that I could write for hours and still leave people out. So instead I'm just going to give a huge "Thank You" to all of the guests that came in on their own dime to help make this LibertyCon the best (and biggest!) convention that we've had. To put it simply, you guys rock!
I will call out one group of people however, the 1632 authors associated with the 1632 Mini-Con. When Eric Flint asked us about hosting this year's Mini-Con we of course jumped at the chance, and it was wonderful! The Mini-Con travels around the country to different conventions every year, and we'd just like to say that we're incredibly honored that you picked us for 2015. It was great to see Eric again, and we enjoyed meeting so many new authors associated with the 1632 Universe.
But it wasn't just new authors in for LibertyCon 28. It was amazing how many new faces were walking through the halls. To give you an idea, during Opening Ceremonies Brandy asked for all of the first timers to put up their hands. Usually this gets a large handful of people. However this year it seemed that half of the theater had their hand in the air. If you were close enough to her, you would have seen her eyes go wide as she mouthed "Holy %@#$!". We knew that there were a lot of new people at the convention, but none of us were prepared for that! We hope that they had a great time, and we look forward to having quite a few of them return and join the LibertyCon Family. (And in some cases, join the staff! As but one example of many, a new attendee arrived from England on Tuesday. On Wednesday he wandered over to where we were putting up the Art Show and started chatting with us. Within a few minutes he was helping build panels and putting up walls. We had first timers working in most of our departments, and we'd like to thank them all! And be sure to come back next year, 'cos we'll have a lot to do then too)
Once the Art Show that Paul (the fellow from Southampton, England) helped build was up and running, it turned into one of the best ones we've ever had. Anita Moore won our "Kid's Choice" award, James Ward won "Best 3D", and Leia Powell walked away with the other two awards ("Best 2D" and the "Polly Freas Viewer's Choice") for her "Liberty for Brandy" stained glass window. "Liberty for Brandy" might sound like an odd title, but it's descriptive since it was a 20th Anniversary present for LC Chairman Brandy Spraker, and is one of the single most gorgeous pieces to grace our home... I mean Art Show. (Pictures will be coming soon, trust me)
But the Art Show isn't just about phenomenal art, it's also responsible for our annual Art & Charity Auction. We don't have exact numbers, so I don't want to give an amount until after everything gets added up, but I can very definitely say that it was the largest charity auction that we have ever had... and we're looking forward to being able to present a rather sizeable check to Bethel Bible Village in the near future. Between the auction and the generosity of our attendees with the Blood Assurance blood drive, it's obvious that fandom is quite a generous group! Thanks to everyone!
A special thanks also goes out to Todd McCaffrey, who made crepes for the staff one morning. Yes, you read that correctly. Todd... Freaking... McCaffrey made us breakfast. Annnddd not to make too big of a deal of it, but he's already started planning breakfast next year. So Todd, much like I said to David... eat healthy, exercise well, and don't pick airlines with lots of flight cancellations.
So let's see... guests... awards... new attendees... what else is there to talk about?
How about next year?
For LibertyCon 29 we're moving dates. Don't worry, it's only for one year, then we're back to the last weekend of June like normal. But definitely mark your calendars for July 8-10, 2016.
We have five time Bram Stoker award winner, Jonathan Maberry, coming in as LGoH (And quite possibly as martial arts instructor considering that he is an 8th degree blackbelt in addition to being one heck of a talented writer). Jonathan not only writes horror, but also military fiction, martial arts handbooks, as well as comic books (having written several in the "Marvel Universe vs." multi-series story arc). One thing I know for sure, with Jonathan and Eric Brown coming to LC29, Rich had better reintroduce one of my favorite panels, "Messiest Ways to Kill a Zombie"!
Our Artist Guest is still tentative since we're still waiting for a little *koff* convention in San Diego to announce their 2016 dates, but as long as they don't have the audacity to overlap us... well, let's just say that you're going to be impressed! (And if they do, there's always 2017. Just saying)
Our Science Guest of Honor has more degrees than you can shake a diploma at. Dr. Kevin Grazier has BS degrees in Computer Science, Geology and Physics. He upgraded the BS in Physics to a Masters, and picked up a Ph.D in Planetary Physics. He is a professor at UCLA & Cal State, has worked at JPL, and has been scientific consultant on Battlestar Galactica, Eureka, Falling Skies, Defiance, ... well, you get the idea. All I know is that I will pay money for someone to give me an idea of something that he and Les Johnson are on opposite sides of scientific theory on, because that would be a discussion to tell the kids!
Our Special Guest is a slot that is very special to us. It's our pick for someone who has helped, promoted, or otherwise been an integral part of LibertyCon. This is a spot that you will never see a new face in, instead it will always be filled with some of our favorite people. For LibertyCon 29 that spot will be filled by Nashville artist, Melissa Gay. Melissa is a LibertyCon regular, and totally apart from her stunning artwork, always manages to bring a smile to our attendees with her absolutely infectious energy. She's a joy to just be around, let alone actually engage with, and we're excited to have her be on our list of "Headliners" next year!
Our last slot, that of Master of Ceremonies, will be filled by the Celtfather... otherwise known as Marc Gunn. Marc is highly personable, a talented filker, and a heck of a funny guy. We also have it on good authority that he's the "World's Second Fastest Filker"... but a note to Tom Smith, watch out... this guy is practicing up!
There's our lineup for next year, folks!
"So when can I sign up?" you ask.
Now. Right now. Online registration is already open on the LibertyCon Store, and the hotel is already taking reservations. I don't know if we're going to sell out again (remember, we're limited to 700 paid memberships!), but I will just say that as of right.... now... we have almost 250 people signed up. Hotel reservations are also going quickly, last I heard there were around 100 rooms taken already.
Wow... one day after the convention and we're already a third of the way to being sold out.
That does bring up something I'd like to point out. People keep pointing out to us that we could easily grow. We could probably easily double our size, which for Chattanooga would be a pretty impressive convention. And they're right, we could.
But we won't.
LibertyCon is family. It's run by our family, and attended by our extended family. Would we still have that same relationship with 1,500 people? I doubt it. Liberty is something special, and it's because of the fans that come out every year that make it that way. But don't worry, we're always looking for new people to join. Just come on in, introduce yourself, and pretty soon you're going to be coming back to Chattanooga for your annual family reunion as well.
Well that's it, LC28 is now over... it's in the books, and pretty soon I'll be updating the website with new names, new pictures, and new info. Because no matter how phenomenal LC28 was, I'm already looking forward to LC29.