For the second year in a row, the Baltimore Science Fiction Society hosted their annual convention, Balticon, as a virtual, online event. The perk to this is enjoying panels from the comfort of my own home; the drawback is the lack of social connection I generally enjoy at in-person events. The organizers did an amazing job of balancing multiple online platforms such as Zoom and Discord, which meant I had some lovely conversations, but here’s to being back in person for 2022! (Seriously, get vaccinated.)
Friday evening, I was incredibly honored to be chosen to speak on a panel about writing pandemic fiction in a post-pandemic world, especially since one of my fellow panelists was Seanan McGuire, the Balticon Guest of Honor (who also writes pandemic horror as Mira Grant). We had a great conversation about how living through a modern pandemic has functionally killed any desire we might have to write fictionalized variations anytime soon. Jeanne Adams rightly pointed out that COVID-19 was a test that America failed, which makes the biggest trope of pandemic fiction, people banding together for the greater good, look more like a joke than a slice of optimism. As someone who is currently writing a pandemic-adjacent plot (biological warfare, a story thread I had plotted out 5 years ago), I appreciate how the past year has given me the knowledge to add touches of realism to my fiction, but even I have no desire to explore this topic further. I think we managed to keep the discussion light-hearted despite the heavy subject matter, and it was a fascinating way to kick off the convention.
After my panel, I chatted with people on Discord while rewatching The Old Guard in preparation for my panel the next day. Such a chore.
The local weather was pretty terrible the rest of the weekend, so it wasn’t much of a hardship to hang out at home and connect with people virtually. Early Saturday afternoon, I read a short scene from my forthcoming novel, Steel Justice (Steel Empires #6), followed by a lovely chat with readers who attended.
Later that evening, I moderated a panel about my current favorite movie, which basically got me through the train wreck that was 2020. My fellow panelists and I had a lovely discussion about The Old Guard, representation on screen and behind the camera, and the perks and drawbacks of immortality. The panel was skewed toward people who enjoyed the film, but even the accompanying conversation in chat was fairly positive. Most people did not know there was also a graphic novel, so I hope those with an interest in that medium of storytelling check it out. (And yes, Netflix has confirmed that a sequel is in the works.)
I spent the rest of the evening continuing to geek out on Discord, sharing more of the crazy trivia I know about the movie and resisting the urge to spam sexy gifs of Luca Marinelli (Nicky) and Marwan Kenzari (Joe).
I woke up bright and early (okay, early for a weekend) for my final panel of the convention. We had a diverse (in age and interest) group of panelists to discuss how the evolution of online fandom has progressed from the very first years of the proto-internet to the age of modern social media. The major con we identified is how the current commercialization of social media has pushed certain communities back to the “edges,” but how, overall, the pro of online fandom is how much easier it is to find a community in which you can connect with like-minded people and simply be yourself.
I spent the rest of the day chilling out with the spouse, reading and relaxing. We finally finished season 4 of Castlevania, which was absolutely amazing
Next up on the convention schedule is another virtual event. At this year’s In Your Write Mind, I will be a panelist on topics such as editing and military life, and also presenting my popular alternate history interactive presentation. Register now so you don’t miss out!