According to my records, I had not attended Confluence in 5 whole years! (Even though they have been kind enough to repeatedly invite me back.) This year, the stars aligned, and I finally was able to make the trip out to Pittsburg for this fantastic event.
Since I didn’t have anything on my schedule for the first day of the con, I took the opportunity to sleep in and leave whenever I was ready. (Translation: I saw Oppenheimer the night before and wasn’t actually able to pack until Friday morning.) The drive was chill, as usual, and I checked in to the hotel and the convention by late afternoon.
Not having anything to do was actually kind of weird, but I had a great dinner with fellow author Marie Vibbert and then spent the rest of the evening in the con suite. At one point, there was excessive and exuberant yelling about Star Trek, so I guess that made it a real science-fiction convention.
Side note: Confluence’s con suite puts that of other events to shame, and I’m not just saying that because there’s a keg. The care the organizers put into the space is obvious, and I had a fantastic time hanging out there between events.
If I had nothing to do Friday, the opposite was true on day 2. I hit the ground running for an 11 AM panel on representations of disability in SF/F. I think the two most important takeaways from the session are that characters should be more than their disability (and their disability should not automatically make the character either a hero or a villain), and that the concept of disability itself is deeply rooted in the cultural implications of what an individual has to offer to society.
Next up, I moderated a panel on the future of medicine and public health. I immediately made it clear that though the recent pandemic was an unavoidable topic, this was not an appropriate venue to attempt a debate about the necessity of vaccines. The highlights of the ensuing discussion involved the various speeds at which research and information dissemination occur and how general science and health knowledge impact what information a person does receive.
I treated myself to a quiet lunch away from the hotel, during which excursion I discovered that an amazing place known as the Milkshake Factory is a thing that exists. This gave me the energy to make it through the rest of my events, including a signing slot and two more panels. Next up was a discussion on the urban fantasy genre, which was well-attended despite the dinnertime slot. I always make a point to remind attendees of any genre discussion that genre names are marketing terms, and that storytelling is what you make of it.
Panel 4 of 4 was much less academic, as I discussed different shows and films currently available on different streaming platforms. I raved about Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (Paramount+) and For All Mankind (AppleTV), but also highlighted some of the fantastic animated (but made for adults) shows on both Netflix and Amazon Prime. I will state for the record, your honor, that I very calmly and succinctly suggested The Old Guard as an excellent film for anyone looking for quality female, queer, and POC representation in their fantasy-action stories. (I then gushed more about it back in the con suite to a slightly captive audience.)
The final afternoon of the convention, I was honored that I was offered a “kaffeeklatsch” session, a limited audience meet & greet for guests to lead the discussion on whatever bit of an author’s work (or life) they were interested in. Finally, I closed out the event with a reading. (Translation: It was the final time slot on the last day of the con, and the few people who showed up were more interested in chatting for a bit before we all had to hit the road.)
While I was gone, the spouse left to spend a few weeks in Puerto Rico for work. He started suggesting Saturday night that I fly down to join him. After a spontaneous call to my boss during the drive home from Pittsburgh, who reassured me that nothing big was going on at the office and also encouraged me to take advantage of the opportunity…well, the first thing I did back home was book tickets. Less than twenty-four hours later, I was on a plane, and I’m officially typing this con report at the hotel bar with a mojito on hand.
I love my life.
- Minature dice, loaded dice (two 20s, no 1), and rainbow dice bag from The Light Trading Company
- Art print by Valorie Nichols