Midsouthcon 2018: Day 3

Midsouthcon 2018 continues! If you missed the previous posts, here they are:

Kaffeeklatsch with Mike Resnick

(A smart blogger would have thought to take a photo of this event.)

These informal breakfasts with individual guests of honor are common at Midsouthcon, though this is the first time I went to one. It was great, and I’ll be going to more in the future. The six of us eating with Mike grilled him about his career, how he got started editing (it was tabloids), his interest in Africa, the other places he’s visited, the ups and downs of dealing with Hollywood, and his working hours (he’s pretty much a night shift worker).

Panel: Short Story vs. Novel

with Bill Webb, Juanita Houston, Herica Raymer, Allan Gilbreath, and Mike Resnick.

This panel explored the differences between writing short stories and writing novels. A few of the items discussed:

  • Mike prefers short stories (having written about 300, compared to about 70 novels). One reason is that he likes writing humor, and finds it hard to extend that into novel length without becoming unfunny.
  • Bill writes novels by starting with the scenes he knows will happen, putting them in order later and adding the rest. He says he “writes the cool stuff first.” He also doesn’t edit until the writing is done, and likes using writing sprints.
  • Juanita starts in the middle. She and Herica are pantsers rather than plotters. Herica says she visualizes her novel and “transcribes what she sees.”
  • Bill sells short story collections on Amazon, and figures he earns more there than he would if he sold them traditionally.
  • Mike said that when you read a bad story, one that makes you say “No, you idiot,” sit down and show that you can do it better. He says that some of his stories were efforts to do just that.
  • Mike suggests being careful and clear with transitions between viewpoint characters. “Never make the reader work unless you want him to.”
  • Regarding the need to target a reading level or age limit when writing, Mike said he never worries about that. “I assume I’m writing for grown-ups, and if they can’t understand it they probably shouldn’t be reading literature.”
  • When asked about his work schedule, Mike said, “I write, and every now and then I sleep.” (He did elaborate that he writes every day.)
  • Mike says he only takes a few days to write a story. “I’m running out of time.” He then admitted that “the mechanics come a little easier” now, after decades of practice.
  • Mike talked about writing softcore porn when he was younger, as did plenty of other science fiction writers at the time, including Marion Zimmer Bradley. He said a book would take him 4 or 5 days and earn $700 to $1000, for an annual salary of $24,000 if he wrote 25—higher than the average salary of the day. This taught him to meet deadlines and how to differentiate characters, because the ones in these stories looked similar and did similar activities!
  • Mike’s final advice: “Writers write, and those who aren’t gonna write talk about it.”

As a side note unrelated to writing: if you’re on a panel at a con, I recommend you remember what year you’re living in before describing the state of California as “the land of fruits and nuts.” Not cool.

Gaming: New York Slice

How could a pizza-lover not try this game? I saw a lot of people playing it, and eventually got a few minutes to give it a shot. The challenge in this game is to divide up the randomized pizza in such a way that other players can’t get too many of the slices they need to complete sets. The most exciting thing is that my friend Jenny ended up winning a copy in the raffle!

Gaming: KnitWit

I didn’t know what to expect from this one, but it turned out to combine spools and loops of thread with a word game. It was pretty clever. I didn’t win this one either, but I blame the noise level in the game room around raffle time. (If you think you see a pattern where I make excuses for not winning games, you are totally imagining things.)

Panel: Comic Book Scripting: From Plot to Page

with John Jackson Miller

John lived in Memphis when he was younger (like me) and has come to every Midsouthcon since the mid 80s (also like me), so it’s strange to me that I didn’t meet him until this year! I knew of him mostly as a novelist, so didn’t learn until this panel that he got his start in comics, in around 2003. John said that most kids’ mothers threw their comics away, but his mom—a librarian—made him put his in order.

John’s panel was a good one, demonstrating the basics of comic scripts. He talked about Marvel style vs full script, and what kind of things he likes to leave up to the artist, and how he breaks down what goes on which pages and different ways of dividing that into panels.

Final Costumes!

Let’s end this with one last duo of cool costumes:

Did you go to Midsouthcon too? I want to hear about your adventures in the comments!

Midsouthcon 2018: Day 2

MidSouthCon 2018 continues! If you missed the previous post, here’s a link: Day 1.

Day two of Midsouthcon, on Saturday, is always the biggest day—because it’s the only full day for this con. It’s also the day of the costume contest, which gives me more photos to show off.

Dealer’s Room

This is always a highlight of the show for me. Yes, I did buy some dice, but it didn’t count, because they were for my wife! (If I sound defensive, it’s because some unbalanced people have implied that I already own enough dice.) There weren’t many RPGs available for sale, and none I needed, but I did score a copy of the Necronomicon. I thought about buying The Captain is Dead or Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate, but snoozed too long and they sold out.

Panel: What Does an Editor Do?

Panelists (left to right): April Jones, Ellen Datlow, Toni Weisskopf, Mike Resnick, and Tommy Hancock.

A few tidbits from this panel:

  • Toni (publisher of Baen Books, who has been there for 31 years) says that an editor’s job is to “protect readers from crap.”
  • Ellen (editor at Omni for 17 years, anthology editor since around 1989, and currently editing for Tor) said that when she solicits stories for an anthology, she has had as many as a third of the writers end up dropping out.
  • Mike (who is currently editing “Galaxy’s Edge” magazine and has edited 45 anthologies) suggests not sending query letters for short stories.
  • Ellen gets questions about how she is an editor but not a writer. She used the analogy of a room decorator, and said that she can’t decorate the room, but she’s great at redecorating it.
  • Mike said that it’s important for an editor to know what their audience is looking for.
  • Toni said that in her mind every mark on a manuscript is a suggestion to the writer, and that sometimes suggestions are general (such as “My eyes glazed over here.”)
  • Regarding getting started as an editor, the panel recommended starting as an assistant editor (Mike), volunteering to read slush (Ellen), and taking unpaid work for a while (Tommy). Tommy warned, though, “Don’t make a career of not being paid.”

Game: Greek Gods

We got in some more time at the board game library today.

We tried playing this one but couldn’t figure out the rules in the time we had available. Next!

Game: The Captain is Dead

This was a fun one! It took a while to set it up and understand what we were doing, but once that was done we liked it. It’s a cooperative game where you’re the crew of a starship that’s been struck with disaster, and you have to work together to fight off enemies and hold the ship together long enough to fix the drive and escape. I had to get to my next game before we finished this one, but my fellow player Jenny said that even though they lost, she plans to buy the game.

Paranoia (2017 edition)

Kerry Jordan, my favorite Paranoia GM, ran an introductory game of the latest edition of Paranoia. I’ve read this version but this was my first time playing. It was a surprisingly low-lethality adventure, I think because we started it without mutant powers, secret societies, built-in rivalries, weapons, equipment, or team roles. So I can’t really report on much of the game. (This was an adventure from the core box itself, so I hold Kerry blameless for the lack of clone churn.) I kinda liked the cards, and as usual my wife demonstrated that she was born to excel in a world like that of Paranoia. (Which is good news, considering the way our government is going!)


Let’s wrap this up with the best costume photos I took today…

Photo credit: Young Mr. Garrett

[ Back to Day 1 ]

Midsouthcon 2018: Day 1

As I do most years, I’m attending Midsouthcon again this weekend. (If you are too, let me know so I can say hi!) Mike Resnick is one of the guests of honor, and I really hope I get to meet him.

Here’s how the first day of the con went for me.


I kicked off the con by playing an RPG in the very first gaming slot (2pm Friday). The game was one I’d been wanting to try: Masks: A New Generation by Magpie Games. It uses the Apocalypse World engine that I liked so much in our Dungeon World adventure at last year’s Midsouthcon.

My wife played her standard character type.

We spent at least half the time crafting our characters and their relationships and team dynamics, which seems in line with a lot of Powered by the Apocalypse games. I felt an affinity for the Janus playbook, the one our GM Jesse likened to a Spider-Man type, burdened with a lot of secret identity conflict. I used this to create Melting Pot, a political-minded (and patriotically-dressed) hero who is active in student government and has the ability to melt into a liquidy goo and also take on the properties of anything he touches. The last hour of our adventure happened at a place I chose–a women’s rally–where the Greek god Dionysus showed up to turn things into a wild drunken party.

Board Game Library

We spend the rest of the evening checking out board games from the con’s board game library. I like trying games I haven’t played before, and usually find something I like enough to eventually add to our own collection.

Yes, that’s Audrey II in the foreground.

This first one we tried was Macroscope. The goal is to be the first to identify a drawing through small holes that each player reveals in turn. I stunk at this game. It was still pretty fun, but I think I’d like this one better as a video game, because adding and removing the tokens covering the holes each round, and having to carefully slide out the drawing when it’s revealed, were both tedious acts of manual dexterity.


Then we played Hoard, in which you compete to steal as much of a dragon’s treasure as you can before he wakes up. I wasn’t amazingly horrible at this game.


That’s it for day 1, though I want to show off how my wife was the star of the show with her new meeple earrings…

Watch for my Day 2 update tomorrow…

MidSouthCon 2017 – Day 3

MidSouthCon 2017 continues! If you missed the previous posts, here they are:

Dungeon World

My third and final RPG of the con was Dungeon World. It was also the third time trying a game I’d never played–which is usually my goal! The session was called “The Great Below,” and because of the way it felt and the fact that I can’t find an adventure of that title online, I suspect our GM wrote it himself. Which impresses me, because it was a fun one.

I got to play a bard (my favorite fantasy class), and my wife was a cleric. One player was a thief (and my character’s best friend), and the other was a custom “psion” class. The adventure had a fantasy feel but in a post-apocalyptic setting–and as a fan of Numenera and Mutant Crawl Classics, I like that quite a bit. I got to make enemies attack each other, which I chose to do because that’s what my wife did to great effect in our Rifts game. Our party worked well together, and at the climax of the adventure we had control of a giant robot ape.

I forgot to take any photos, so boo on me. Try to picture a giant robot ape.


I had forgotten to bring anything to ask Keith Baker to sign on day 1, but for the rest of the con I wagged around two items. On Sunday, I spotted him again, and he kindly signed my games. (You might be thinking of pointing out to me that I could have found him in one of his panels, but I kept too busy this year playing games to make it to any of those.)
Cthulhu Fluxx

Later, in the art gallery, I met artist guest of honor Matt Stawicki at his corner of the room. He was also amazingly friendly, and added his signature to my copy of The Strange, along with those of the other creators I’ve met so far. In fact, so did Cathy Wilkins, who was there too! Double artist greatness!

I was interested to learn that Matt’s favorite world in The Strange is the biomechanical world of Ruk, because he likes the bizarre setting.

More Board Games

We squeezed in three more board games on Sunday, too.

Battle Sheep is a kid-friendly game in which players alternate placing land-masses and then try to fill the most space with their own sheep using simple movement rules. It was fun, and didn’t take too much brainpower. (At the time we played it, that was a plus.)

Roll For the Galaxy is a cool-looking dice-based worker placement strategy game. The players are competing to create the most powerful empire. I wanted to love this game, but my two fellow players and I couldn’t reach the top of the learning curve before frustration made at least one of us lose interest. I’d still like to give it another try sometime. I like the space setting and the use of many, many dice.

Exposed is another kid-friendly game where each player is a pickpocket. Nobody knows at the start who the other players are, and you’re trying to collect the most wallets without being identified.

Con Complete!

And so we come to the end of another successful MidSouthCon! I played more games than usual, and spent less than usual, so I call that win-win!

MidSouthCon 2017 – Day 2

MidSouthCon 2017 continues! If you missed the previous post, here’s a link: Day 1.

Savage Rifts

My first stop on day 2 was my first game of Savage Rifts. As I mentioned last year, I backed this Savage Worlds edition of Rifts on Kickstarter, and read the books as soon as they arrived at my house–but this was my first opportunity to play.

It was great fun! Our characters were dog boys of different types in a biker gang. (Mine was a crazy poodle who thought he was a cat.) The adventure was “Meet the New Boss” from Savage Foes of North America. My dog boy, Felix, went out in a blaze of glory saving townsfolk from a collapsing building. (Full disclosure, our team member collapsed the building.)

Escape the Room

My second game of the day was a board game we checked out from the library, Escape the Room. It’s a tabletop recreation of an escape room experience. It was fun, but there’s just about zero replayability to this one.

Feng Shui 2

My other RPG on day 2 was another first for me, Feng Shui 2. The adventure was “Red Packet Rumble,” and I had fun playing as the Scrappy Kid. I documented my favorite attacks in this stylish Hong Kong action cinema game (in this case set at a wedding):
  • flying kick to the face (success!)
  • somersault toward a mook ending in splits at his feet to deliver a punch to the crotch (fail!)
  • sweep the legs since I couldn’t reach the crotch (fail!)
  • drown a mook in the punch bowl (fail!)
  • throw a mook into the groom’s cake (fail!)
  • whip cupcakes at a mook to soften him up for a flying kick into the buffet (fail!)
  • bash a new target with a serving platter (success so solid it took out a second mook!)
Feng Shui 2’s action tracker

In the end, this session was OK-but-not-great, though I may save the details for a post about that topic later. The Feng Shui 2 system, though, I really like.


I hesitate to call mine a costume, since it’s only made of a few parts and a prop, but this year I accessorized my new ultra-long Doctor Who scarf with some other wardrobe elements to represent the 4th Doctor.

TARDIS provided by a skilled builder at the con

Here were my favorite costume-related moments from the con:

  • An older lady gave me a heartfelt “Thank you!” (I assume she meant for representing the classic series, but it’s possible she just appreciated me moving out of her way.)
  • A young man simply nodded and said, “Doctor.”
  • Someone said, “I’ve always wanted a scarf like that. I just never made the time to make one.” (I wasn’t sure how to answer that one. Neither have I? Also, he never actually complimented mine, so…)
  • A vendor excitedly told me about his favorite Doctor (#7)
  • And, my favorite: a young girl passing me simply said “Nice.”

During my Time Lord adventures at the con, I also met one of my future selves, #8…

…and even ran into my mirror image!

This fellow was devastated that he’d forgotten
his wig and scarf, but he still looked amazing!

Here are some other costumes I liked (and got close enough to capture)…

So happy I found a Ghostbuster! 


As an admitted dice addict, I must confess to purchasing a set of dice within half an hour of entering the dealer’s room. Much later, between games, I bought the Doctor Who 10th Doctor Sourcebook (adding him to my other favorite Doctors, #4 and #1) and a Gloom Expansion (in honor of Keith Baker).

Here’s my favorite vendor. (Also, not coincidentally, the only one selling roleplaying games.)

Coming Soon: The MidSouthCon 2017 Finale!