Penguicon dealers room
Penguicon Dealers Room

I’ve never been to Penguicon before, and given that it is advertised as Science Fiction and Open Source Software convention (comics not mentioned at all), I wasn’t sure what to expect. I chose to go to this show for two reasons: first, because the hosts of The Webcomic Beacon podcast (which I listen to regularly) praised it so highly last year, and second, because Dave Adams (of the webcomic Slightly Off Topic), in charge of Artists Alley, was keen on building a webcomics presence and encouraged us all on the Webcomics List Forums to go. And the third reason, I suppose, is that the show was only a four hour drive away. Since our road trips to the States typically involve 8-12 hrs of driving each way, that’s pretty reasonable.

Me at my table

It’s a very social con, if smallish, with what seemed like hundreds of panels and demonstrations running all day long. I was invited to participate in two of them: “Publishing Your Webcomic”, with Sandra Tayler (publishing manager of Schlock Mercenary) and Megan Gedris (of Yu + Me: Dream and many other comics), and “Character Driven Storytelling” with Mark Savary of Autumn Lake, Kez of War of Winds, and Jason Dunstan of Ardra. The publishing panel was sparsely attended, although Megan said this was probably due to it being a repeat topic from the previous year. The character panel drew out more people, although because the topic was a bit more subjective I found it a little harder to talk about it intelligently. Developing characters is a tricky business!

Kez (on the right) and her sister of The War of Winds

I especially liked the wacky little ribbons that were being handed out, to be attached to the bottom of your name badge. I’ve seen these sorts of things on other people’s badges at other cons before, but this was the first time I’d ever been handed one. I think they were more like a fannish version of the in-crowd thing at these other shows, and guess I wasn’t “in” so I never knew what they were all about. That just goes to show what a friendly place Penguicon is! By the end of the con I’d collected enough to make a nice little row, including the ubiquitous “Not Will Wheaton” ribbon. Now I want to make some Galaxion-themed ones for next year. Why don’t they do this at comic cons?

The highlights of the con for me were all social ones, and I guess that’s not surprising given the nature of the event! I finally got to meet a lot of webcomic creators that I’ve chatted with on forums or listened to on podcasts, and that was really nice. I sat next to Kez (and her sister), and besides being a great table neighbour (seriously, that is so important when you’re sitting next to the same people all weekend), she had some fun stories to share about martial arts and biology (a peculiar pairing, I know). Across from me was Darc and Matt Sowers of Code Name: Hunter, and on the Saturday after the con we stayed up late talking shop… and this was after spending two hours talking shop at the Webcomics Meet n’ Greet! One of the great pleasures of going to cons is the chance to geek out and talk about nothing but comics with other people who are just as obsessed as you are. I’m going to get another chance to see Darc and Matt again in the summer at the Baltimore Comic Con, and it’s going to be awesome!

Darc and Matt Sowers of Code Name:Hunter

Darc and Matt Sowers of Code Name: Hunter

I didn’t see as many costumes as I did at Anime North, but I did have a favourite. It took me a minute to get it, but once it hit me I had to go and ask her to pose for a picture.

It’s Kaylee!

Also, I drew a sketch on a guy’s head! Which is a first for me. In fact, I’m not one of those artists who get asked to draw on any body parts at all, so it was really a novelty. Apparently this is a yearly ritual for this fellow, to shave his head, bring a large container of colourful Sharpies, and get drawn on at Penguicon.

He had to sit down for me to draw so I could reach his noggin.

I even had a big fangirl moment! I got to meet one of my favourite fantasy authors, Patrick Rothfuss. He’s only written the one book so far, actually (the sequel is on its way), but it was one of those that I immediately started recommending to everyone I knew. I knew what he looked like from his blog, so when he was wandering past the table I nabbed him and started yammering about how much I’d enjoyed his work. He was very gracious and not at all as Alan-Moore-scary as his bushy hair and beard make him appear! After I’d wound down I said to him, “I’d like to give you a copy of my book,’ and he said, “I’d like to pay you for your book,” so I said, “I’d like to take your money!” I gave him a nice discount anyway, because I couldn’t help myself. To be perfectly honest with myself, I doubt Galaxion is to his taste (which I base on various of his blog entries). But I still felt smug afterwards.

OMG Patrick Rothfuss!

Even my kids had fun. They liked the Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream demonstration (big surprise), they liked the Chaos Machine, and they liked the robot races. Their favourite newly-discovered comic from the show was Chris Hallbeck’s Book of Biff.

Will I go again next year? I’ll probably give it another try when I have my second book out. This wasn’t a big money-maker event, but on the other hand I have a much better idea now of what sorts of things appeal to the Penguicon crowd (funny stuff. And things with penguins), so I’ll probably do better next time.

Oh, one last note: the bit about this show having the best con suite? This is absolutely true. There was an astounding spread of snacks, treats, and actual healthy food available to all attendees of the show. I imagine that a show that was any bigger than Penguicon probably couldn’t afford to operate such a nice perk, which is another reason to attend some of the smaller shows out there. Sometimes small is good. :-)