GenCon 2014 Report

I got back from my second GenCon last night. What a blast. Of all the many cons I go to (I’ve been to almost a dozen so far this year alone), GenCon is one of my absolute favorites, and is a con that I would attend even if I didn’t have professional reasons to be there.

First and foremost I’m a writer, so I’m going there because GenCon has a fantastic writing track for aspiring professionals. I love helping newer writers and I love meeting and hanging out with my peers. Most people think of GenCon as a gaming con, and it totally is the gaming con, but Marc Tassin does a fantastic job putting together one of the better writing tracks of any con in the business. Plus the panels tend to be dominated by people who actually write for money as opposed to college guest lecturers.  

The Dark Lord of the Sith was no match for the International Lord of Hate.
The Dark Lord of the Sith was no match for the International Lord of Hate.

Second, I’m a mini painter and gamer nerd, so I go for the LOOT. GenCon is where you go to get all the cool new stuff, RPG books that just came out, and minis, so many glorious minis. I dropped $500 before my first panel on the first day. All mini painters know that you can’t die if you still have unpainted minis, so at this point I’m functionally immortal.


Third, actual gaming. Is there a game you want to try out? Then it is there and they’re probably doing a demo. There are games going on everywhere. I stayed up way too late every night because I was playing something. The first night one of my Baen editors ran a Pathfinder game. Then I got to participate in a Gallant play test with the guys from Dungeon Crawlers Radio. I demoed the X-Com board game, and then ended up watching a few other games just to see how they work. I wandered the Warmachine Iron Arena a few times just to look at the paint jobs. Basically there are games going on all over the place, and you can get in on them really easily.

GenCon has a really fun, goofy atmosphere. You are surrounded by 50,000 nerds gleefully enjoying themselves. If DragonCon is geek Mardi-Gras then GenCon is geek World Cup.

The Thursday crowd
The Thursday crowd

My publishing house has become a GenCon sponsor, and this year we presented the first annual Baen Fantasy Award. Our three finalists were all there, and I’m happy to say that in addition to being talented story tellers, they’re also really cool in person. I got to talk to each of them a bit about their work, and how that was one damned hard contest to judge. I only read the 15 finalists, but all of them were really good.

I signed, I’m not kidding, like five or six hundred books over the last few days. Most of those were just in the halls as I bumped into people, or when I would show up early for one of my panels and I’d just walk down the line and end up talking to folks. My official book signing was excellent, but I felt stupid because I thought I had a normal sized line and didn’t realize that the line went around the corner and down the hall a bit, so there I was just casually shooting the bull and taking my time without realizing others were patiently waiting. I found out later that Baen had given a literal ton of books to the con to give away in swag bags. And I’m not misusing the word literally. Baen gave out something like 1,500 books to the attendees.  

The "smaller" Sunday crowd.
The “smaller” Sunday crowd.

I think it is a measure of a writer’s success how often they get stopped in the halls as they try to walk anywhere. It probably helps that I’m several inches taller than everybody else in the crowd and I look like James Gandolfini so I’m easy to spot, but anytime I walked anywhere I bumped into fans, many of whom didn’t even know that GenCon had a writing track because they were just there to game. So that’s a boost to the old self esteem.

Until you try to walk to lunch with Jim Butcher, and see that he gets stopped probably six or seven times for each time I was (hmm… that ratio is probably proportionate to our book sales too!). It takes half an hour for him to walk anywhere because of his legions of adoring fans, and he’s not even 6’5” so is easier to miss. Yes, I finally got to meet Butcher in person, and he is honestly one of the nicest guys you’ll meet.  If anybody in this business had an excuse to have a big head, it would be him, but he’s just plain cool.

I was on like eleven panels and enjoyed all of them. The Larry Show (i.e. How to Write Action Scenes) was packed. I’d lost my notes, but I managed to talk for an hour straight on the topic without repeating myself, which tells you how much I like to babble about writing action scenes.

The volunteers who moderated and controlled the crowds were excellent. Good work, ladies. The writing track volunteers rocked.  

You start to get con fatigue after a bit, and on Saturday I had 4 panels in a row. I met one of the other panelists, he introduced himself as Bill Willingham, and my tired brain didn’t make the connection to the Fables comic books. D’oh! Great guy. Ended up talking to him for a bit and it turns out that he’s also very familiar with the illustrious Hugo process.

My favorite panel moment was on the magic and technology in urban fantasy panel. I was over on the left, sitting next to an author named Maurice Broaddus. I’ve not read his stuff yet, but excellent pitch, putting the urban in urban fantasy, with Arthurian legend meets The Wire. The moderator asked him about how technology and magic interacted in his books. Maurice said that his characters were poor, so there wasn’t a lot of tech, cell phones at most, and besides “what are they going to do, text themselves out of trouble?”

And I was sitting there and thought out loud, “Oooooh… Tweetomancy!

The authors all groan, because this is simultaneously incredibly stupid yet imminently writable, and Jim Butcher shouts, “Damn it, Correia!” and threw a cup at me from the far end of the table. 🙂  So if Harry Dresden ever types #fireball to save the day, you’re welcome.

There were several authors that were there who I didn’t get to meet, but that’s the nature of a big chaotic event. Ed Greenwood and Bob Salvatore were both there, and I’ve been reading them since I was a kid, but I never crossed paths with either. Hugh Howey was there, and I’ve never read any of his books, but I wanted to shake his hand for all the fantastic work he’s done on behalf of indy authors.

There’s a game called Gallant coming out next year which is going to be Kickstartered, and when it releases I’m going to plug the hell out of it. I was in a beta test for it one night (second time I’ve tried it) and it has one of the coolest combat systems I’ve seen in a game. It is one of those looks confusing at first glance, but then you try it once and you’re like holy
crap, how come nobody has done this before? Very innovative and fun, set in a Grimm’s fairytale crossed with dark King Arthur setting. Plus I played my character like I was Danny Trejo, down to the Lady of the Lake tattooed on my chest, and most of my lines were stolen from Machete.

As a mini painter, I always feel like talented until I go to GenCon and see the really good painter’s work. Many of the studio guys will be there at the booths painting and will give advice. Okay, that doesn’t sound like much to the rest of you, but to the painters that’s pretty damned cool. Same with sculptors too, if you’re one of those people who thought painting tiny little things wasn’t challenging enough.

I’m in a golden spot as a writer in that I’ve got more work than I know what to do with. Because I’m successful on my own, and I also fly my gamer flag high, I get a lot of offers from different companies to write stuff for them. Problem is, I’ve got 14 more books under contract right now to write. Yes, it is a good problem to have. You’ve got to understand, in this business having more than a handful of books under contract at a time is pretty damned rare, but on the down side I grew up on a farm, and the idea of turning down paying work is alien to my workaholic self, but on most offers I have to say no, on others I have to ponder on it to see if I can make them work, but then there are some offers that are such freaking crazy awesome ridiculous opportunities that I’ve got to squeeze them in no matter what. I can’t give specifics, but let’s just say that this was a very productive and lucrative convention for me. 🙂  

So you can see why when presented with the choice between spending thousands of dollars to fly to London to hang out with people who want me to die in a fire for three days, I stuck with my original plan of going to Indiana where I’d get loot, have fans, have game companies try to give me money, and actually have fun. .. . 

If you are a gamer of any kind, a writer, or you just want to hang out with 50,000 cool people you really should check out GenCon.

No,, GenCon Isn’t Racist. A Fisking.
Hugo Aftermath Post

63 thoughts on “GenCon 2014 Report”

  1. Wait, you STILL have’t met Ed Greenwood? Or…you did at last?

    If I ever have the time, money, and wherewithal to create a Foreshadows 2, I’ll get Ed Greenwood back (he’s already told me he’s game for it!) and then I’d try and convince you to join in, Larry. Then I can make you guys meet, because he’s awesome, you’re awesome, and together a Greenwood-Correia meet-up would be simultaneously epic and weird.

    Because this:

    We had him signing in our booth for a couple hours at GenCon 2012.

    1. I don’t know Jeff, that much awesome in one place might cause some sort of implosion. Though I guess if Larry and Jim had lunch and nothing blew up we might be OK;)

  2. If Dresden typed #fireball into something he’d better have on explodo-proof gloves. I’d be surprised if his tech lasted through the hashtag.

    1. I could definitely see Molly doing it with her newfound Fey powers, though. Or, even more likely, a certain knight who will remain unnamed due to potential most-recent-book-in-the-series spoilers…

    2. Oh, wait! Come to think of it, that’s EXACTLY how it would work! Harry types in “#fireball” and then throws the about-to-explode phone at his enemy!

      1. With Harry Dresden, it’d probably be something along the lines of #phonicusexplodicus.


        Nice pile of stuff. It looks like you even got something for Anima: Tactics, which has some absolutely gorgeous miniatures.

        On another note, I’ve been stopping over at a British game company’s forum (not *that* British game company; besides, they don’t have their own forum) today reading comments from some of the American fans that are basically saying, “You guys really need to come out to GenCon!”. And comments from some of the UK fans essentially saying, “Flying to the US is too expensive. They’re fine sticking with the British trade shows.”


      2. As noted, Harry simply picking “up” the phone would probably hex the entire US cellular network.

        In fact, the best part of a MHI/Dresden crossover would be listening to the Hunters grumble about why their guns jammed every third shot. Would Orc-piloted choppers survive the Harry-Hex?

      3. In fact, the best part of a MHI/Dresden crossover would be listening to the Hunters grumble about why their guns jammed every third shot. Would Orc-piloted choppers survive the Harry-Hex?

        “We don’t work in Chicago.”

        “Why boss?”

        “Because there’s this LARPing asshole with some sort of portable EMP generator running around. Complete dick to be anywhere near. Let him deal with it.”

      4. @ Mike in Seattle

        Since Dresden usually refers to bringing in the mortal authorities as the “nuclear option” for the supernatural community, perhaps he has been referencing MHI all along?

    3. You know, just because it wouldn’t work in the Dresdenverse, doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work elsewhere. *nudge* *wink*

    4. I should feel glad the incantation for #dragonslave is way too many characters for Twitter, right?

  3. Gen Con was awesome! For the second year in a row I got the treat of sharing a meal with Larry (definitely a top con moment). He may say the other guys are cool but the more I interact with Larry more I realize why he is one of my heroes and i might even now say, my friend. See you next year Larry. Thank you for an excellent gen con and your excellent work.

  4. Thanks for the write-up! Out of curiosity. . .will the names of the other 12 finalists ever be made public? It would be good to know if my story made it among them :).

      1. So was it only the top 15 that you got to see, or the top 10%, or what?

        (For what it’s worth, _if_ my wretched attempt made it across your desk, I’d love to hear how I could have made it suck less. In public, even.)

    1. I’m not sure I’d be interested in knowing or not. On the one hand if my story was on the short list I’d be walking on air until Christmas. On the other hand if it’s not I’d probably have another (yes, irrational, I know) “OMG I suck” episode. It really didn’t take long to get over that and decide, “What where you thinking, it was too short, and had a sad ending, what did you expect?”

      Oh, what the heck… it would be fun for the people who were finalists to know they were close. I hope you can tell.

  5. That sounds like a ludicrous amount of fun. Panels are awesome, both for the audience and being up on stage.

    And $500? While I believe it, I also wish I had the funds to live the dream like that.

    Actually, I’m not sure that counts as a dream for most. I’m pretty sure I’d end up cackling madly as I roamed the halls, arms full of merch and a demented gleam in my eye.

    1. That’s my thought as well. JB and ILOH in the same place? Space Time contained it? Oh my.

      Have to say, that’s 2 of my 5 “bucket list meets” for authors. Sarah Hoyt, Steven Erikson, and Neil Stephenson complete the list.

    2. Ooh – easy delay detonator: Make a simple electronic device as detonator, then have Harry short it out when it’s time to blow it up.

      On the other hand, playing with explosives and electronic detonators around Harry would be not a good thing.

  6. Your Q&A panel on Thursday was a highlight of the con for me! I knew I should have ignored that lady who said asking you to sign a book there wasn’t cool since you had a signing later. I made sure to give the copy of MHI that was in the swag bag to my buddy who hasn’t started reading you yet.

    1. People get tickets, but often there are openings because of no shows. I think about half of mine were full. The morning ones all had spaces, even the one I was on with Butcher, just because it is really hard to wake up after staying up all night playing games.

      1. “The morning ones all had spaces, even the one I was on with Butcher, just because it is really hard to wake up after staying up all night playing games.”

        Yeah, that’s why the World Science Fiction Association’s Business Meeting is always in the early morning, just barely daylight hours. Only the fanatics can drag themselves out of bed.

  7. Larry, did you go to the Corvus Belli/Infinity table? Their 3rd edition stuf looks amazing and I think would be an excellent engine for a monster hunter game.

  8. “Machete don’t tweet” – best line from Machete Kills. Just bringing it full circle. Thanks for the GenCon report. Definitely have to try to make it next year.

  9. Nice! I’m glad you liked the pic I sent. It was awesome getting to meet you, all the panels were great. Sorry if this is coming off a bit fanboy, I still haven’t caught up on sleep from the con. I should go do that now.

  10. You met Bill Willingham!! //swoon//

    (also- I really did LOL at “Tweetomancy.” You are one lovable dork, Correia. 😀 )

    1. Bill struck me as a really nice guy. I apologized to him afterwards for not realizing who he was when he introduced himself, but a couple days into GenCon and everybody is down ten IQ points.

  11. Larry,

    Would have commented sooner but unlike you I never made it home on Sunday. Made it it Detroit and got stuck overnight, met some nice people though. Anyway, thanks for signing everything I stuck in your face, the poster’s up in the living room already. Thanks for helping show off the tattoos to Jim Butcher, that was a total geek-out. I thought the media tie-in panel you did with him was great, you two riff off each other pretty we’ll. The Baen roadshow was fun, thanks to Jim Minz for all the swag.
    I got to meet Howard Tayler and I have video of him drawing Tagon in my Schlock book in 37 seconds. He’s a really nice guy. Mike Williamson was great as well, you have cool writer friends. Anyway, hope to see you there again next year, I’ll think of something else for you to sign :0)


    Greg Flierl

  12. ” All mini painters know that you can’t die if you still have unpainted minis, so at this point I’m functionally immortal. ”

    So… I like this alternative to desperately praying that favorite authors don’t get hit by a bus before finishing their next book, or worse, their never ending series. 🙂

    Live forever, Larry.

    1. *imagines a cartoon of a few USPS trucks rolling up to a house marked “Larry’s House.” Larry is handed an envelope as the trucks are unloaded with boxes of figurines and minis. After a few moments of staring, Larry opens up the envelope. Inside is a card saying “Live forever, Larry! Love, your fans.”

      When the trucks finish unloading, there’s more boxes than house.*

    1. _Is_ that new? We already have stuff like people being so nasty to the daughter of Robin Williams that she’s had to leave Twitter.

      1. Because “people”. Doesn’t matter what it is, there are people who think doing it to others will be fun. I heard about her shutting off her Twitter account last week due to unspecified comments that were turning up there.

  13. my hubby is a mini painter too. I don’t even want to discuss his backlog. There are several malifoux boxes (I think we walked away with 3 teddy bears), plus we got Super Dungeon Explorer and the expansion set. And that is not to mention the Bones 2 and Wraith of King kickstarters coming. And then there were all the individual minis he just had to have.

    He finally felt brave enough to enter some of the painting competitions and I had to sit through multiple fan boy moments with studio painters LOL

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