FanX 2018 author imageWow. What an absolutely amazing trip.

[If you’re here to find the copy of my alternate history presentation, you’re in the right place! It’s included below!]

I’m not even going to recap last year, because this year blew it out of the water. I was honored to be invited back, and I hope to return again next year. Many thanks to Jay Whittaker and Blake Casselman for their continued support — I genuinely feel like I leveled up as an author last weekend, and it could not have happened without the support from both of you.


My husband Bach and I traveled to the airport early in the morning, where we met two friends we were traveling with. Our trip was smooth, including the connection in Chicago and catching the new Utah train service from the airport in Salt Lake City to our hotel downtown. We checked into our hotel 30 minutes ahead of my mental schedule, and then it was off to the races! 

We picked up our badges, then dropped off my books for sale with the lovely folks at The Printed Garden, who hosted me for the weekend. It was fun to be in the vendor hall to get a lay of the land while people were still setting up their booths, but we soon vacated the premises so that Bach could make sure I consumed some form of lunch. It had already been a long day, but the fun was just starting.

And it started with a hell of a bang, since the first thing that happened was my photo op with actor David Tennant. He greeted my request to add him to my TARDIS collection with a delighted squeal of “Ooh, a tiny TARDIS!” This pic of my favorite Doctor will go right next to the one I got last year with John Barrowman.

Right afterward, I booked it to my first official event. When the convention organizers advertised for panel ideas last spring and specifically expressed an interest in presentations, I shrugged and figured it couldn’t hurt to submit the talk on alternate history I’d developed for the 2018 Author Series at Uniontown Library in Pennsylvania last March. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect 1) the presentation to get accepted for programming, 2) almost a hundred people to show up when I’d been expecting a small handful so early in the convention, and 3) for it to be as well-received as it was.

Thank you so much to everyone who came and participated in my world-building exercises. We developed a fascinating look at how cultural entertainment in the early 21st century might be different had the Japanese not surrendered when they did in World War 2, then got even more crazy with a look at a fantasy world where people have the ability to wish things into (and out of) being.

Below is a PDF of the PowerPoint presentation for download:

JL Gribble – Alternate History Creating Stories by Changing the Past – FanX SLC 2018

Special, special thank you to two people in particular: Jay Whittaker for doing a fantastic job moderating the panel and wrangling my audience volunteers during the interactive portion. His color commentary to the entire presentation was delightful. And the lovely gentleman who approached me afterward to tell me that my presentation was what made him decide to attend the convention and that I had made it absolutely worth it.

No time to rest! I sped off to the vendor hall for my first book signing slot. I always enjoy chatting with people (and hoping they might buy a book or at least pick up a postcard). But today was different. Today was the official launch of Steel Empires Book 4: Steel Time! The spread of four books in front of me felt amazing, and I was thrilled to have such a fun venue to debut it. I was also touched that so many people from the presentation stopped by to tell me specifically how much they had enjoyed it.

Elsewhere in the vendor hall, one of my favorite authors of all time was also signing books that evening. Mercedes Lackey’s fantasy worlds of Valdemar and the Elemental Masters were an inspiration to me both as a person and as a writer. I was able to thank her for her writing and tell her that my fourth book had come out that day, for which she shook my hand and congratulated me. What an amazing moment.

I was crashing pretty hard at that point, so my husband collected me. We met up with our traveling companions for a delicious dinner at a nearby restaurant called White Horse and toasted to my newest novel. Then, it was time for equally delicious sleep.


We started with much-needed coffee and breakfast at an adorable little shop called Three Pines, then it was back to the convention hall. I didn’t have anything on my official schedule until that evening, which meant it was time for SHOPPING. You can find my round-up of our contributions to the geek economy below.

The highlight of the afternoon was watching Jay host David Tennant for his Q&A spotlight in the grand ballroom. Most people were probably disappointed in Tennant for what seemed like crappy answers to audience questions, but it’s strange that so many people seem to think actors have a larger role in storytelling decisions than they do. For his part, I found it delightful that Tennant gave the writers so much of the credit for the creation of the roles he is famous for.

The highlight of the entire day, however, was a reunion between my husband, Jay, and another friend from when the three of them spent 6 months in Mississippi together. They ended up as friends through the shared ordeal of their training (and enduring Mississippi), and they’ve stayed friends ever since.

Then I headed to my first panel, a discussion of where the Marvel Cinematic Universe might be headed after the events of Infinity War. I was nervous about being the only (and probably token) female member of the panel, but I think I held my own. I definitely inserted a bit of feminism into the discussion, which a decent portion of the room cheered for. I mean, don’t you want to see a team-up between Captain Marvel, Black Widow, Shuri (as Black Panther), Okoye, Nebula, and Pepper Potts (with either her Extremis powers or as Rescue)?

After another hour of book signing at The Printed Garden booth, it was time for my second panel. I participated in a debut event, “Get Your Geek Off,” where two teams debated issues suggested by the audience, such as: Lando Calrissian, hero or traitor? and which would win in a fight, the Millennium Falcon or the original series Enterprise?

As we were hanging out after the panel, someone approached and asked to take a picture. I assumed he wanted it with Jay or one of the other local/internet celebrities who’d been on the panel, but he wanted it with me! (The guy in the pic is my adorable husband, not the fan.)

Friday night ended with dinner and drinks with a bunch of lovely people from the convention. The social aspects of these events are just as valuable as what happens on the official schedule.


Coffee. So much coffee. Then back to the convention.

My friend Lauren and I started the day by attending a session at the Legacy: Fables booth. This is a brand-new interactive gaming system that mixes the mentality of an escape room with an easy form of tabletop role-playing. I was honored to be invited to test play at the con, and I’m excited to support their upcoming Kickstarter campaign.

My favorite event of the con that I didn’t participate in was definitely The Geek Court, hosted by Judges Jay Whittaker and Jay Washington. These guys put everything on blast, from how fandoms operate online to how the Marvel Cinematic Universe is guilty of thinking it’s perfect and the DC Cinematic Universe is guilty of trying to be the MCU (it’s not). I submitted the treatment of female characters on the show Supernatural for judgement (it is also guilty, especially as a show that has such a predominantly female following).

While enjoying lunch outside afterward, we stumbled across all the cosplayers from the Fallout video games staging a photo shoot. Since my husband happened to be wearing a t-shirt from the game, I took advantage of the situation.

Finally, Lauren made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: I joined in for her photo op with actor Jason Momoa! I’ve been a fan of Momoa since his role in Stargate Atlantis, so right after the picture, I told him, “Sateda forever.” He grinned and fist-bumped me.

We closed out the convention with a final bit of shopping, then dinner at a fantastic local brew pub called Squatters.


I had this grand plan that we’d spend a day relaxing in Salt Lake City, exploring the town, before flying home. I completely forgot that NOTHING IS OPEN on Sundays in this city.

Nevertheless, we enjoyed a fantastic brunch at a speak-easy called Bourbon House. Our friends had homework to get done, so we took the train to a local indie coffeehouse called the Watchtower Cafe that features lots of nerdy stuff (I had a frozen caramel espresso drink called a Tatooine Sunrise).

We attempted to visit an outdoor mall, but it was closed, so we ended up back at the hotel in time for happy hour instead. We took advantage of the free wine and played a quietly rousing game of Cards Against Humanity in the corner of the lobby, then visited Squatters for a second round of delicious dinner and closed out the night at a new lounge called Alibi, which I was highly impressed with.

We made it home on Monday, and ended our final day off with laundry and snuggling the kitties. I can’t wait to do it all over again next year.

The final haul:

  • FanX 2018 Special Guest badge!
  • Hogwarts house cups from Everyday Geek
  • Legacy: Fables t-shirt
  • Blue-point Siamese artwork magnet by Winter Soul Studios
  • UFO necklace by Rather Awesome
  • American War by Omar El Akkad from The Printed Garden bookstore
  • Star Wars Rebels Sabine Wren character key and cell artwork and “Rebels” print by Adrianna Vanderstelt
  • Stargate and Supernatural stickers (to be added to my laptop)
  • Paper Girls Volume 2, signed by colorist Matt Wilson