Award-Winning Editor of Clarkesworld Magazine, Forever Magazine, The Best Science Fiction of the Year, and More

Back from Philcon

I’ve been doing a lot of last minute con-going lately. This past weekend was a quick trip down to Philcon. I had a lot of work to catch up on, so I skipped Friday and drove down on Saturday. No traffic, but the hotel’s directions put me blocks away from where I should be. Fortunately, I had a second set of directions from MapQuest and still made it there in a little over 2 hours.

While registering, I ran into E. Sedia (squirrel_monkey) and Paul Abbamondi (pabba). We’d exchanged email, but never met and recognized one another from photos or name tags. A moment later, Joshua Palmatier (jpsorrow) popped in, which was convenient, since I had to find him to get my room key. Things were off to a good start.

I had never been to Philcon before and I’ve been told it’s a con on the decline. I’ll have to admit to not recognizing the names of a good number of the guests, but I still had a good time and it was well-worth the trip. The worst part of the con was the elevators. One would apparently eat people (door sensors not working), others would skip floors, and you could end up waiting 10 minutes for a ride. The big plus was the cost of the hotel, which worked out to about $100 a night after taxes and such. I can live with bad elevators if that’s the price to pay for an affordable con hotel. (Hey Boskone, are you listening?)

The dealer’s room had a good assortment of stuff, better than most of the recent cons I’ve attended. Not being a dealer this time, I had more social time and even attended a few panels. The readings and signings were tossed together at the last minute, so they were poorly attended. It was also a trick finding them. I stopped by Joshua’s reading, which turned into a conversation between Joshua, Barbara Campbell, and I.

Outside the dealer’s room, I ran into Gary Frank, Doug Cohen (slushmaster), Jenny Rappaport, Chris Cevasco (Paradox Magazine), and a few other people. (Sorry, I’m blanking.) Talked to Doug for a while about magazines and Chris told me to keep an eye out for a new issue of Paradox. That’s always good to hear.

The first panel I dropped in on was about websites for authors. Given that I do a lot of web design in my other life, I thought this could be interesting. All I have to say here is that it was a good thing John Scalzi was on this panel. He was the main voice of reason when odd assertions about what should and shouldn’t be done were made. By the way, if you haven’t been reading his blog, you need to check it out sometime. Yes, even discussions about toast can be made appropriate for a writer’s site.

The next panel was about mistakes writers made. Peter Heck did an excellent job of moderating and focused the discussion around Heinlein’s five rules. Everyone on the panel had some useful insight and personal stories. I’m not an author myself, but I did find it amusing, particularly when they spoke about reading the guidelines and not pissing off the editor. I just kept having flashes back to Nick’s journal posts about editing at Clarkesworld.

To my surprise, I stumbled upon a last minute signing by Charles Stross (autopope). We had some time before dinner, so I dragged some books down from the room and he was nice enough to sign a stack for me. If you’re looking for signed first editions of The Jennifer Morgue or Glasshouse, I have them. 🙂 I wish I’d had more time to talk with him.

On the way back to my room, I ran into John Scalzi. We were supposed to meet up later that evening so he could sign some copies of The Android’s Dream for me. He had a few minutes, so we went back up to the room, chatted and took care of some books. There was some talk of ninja children (our own), books, and such before we headed our separate ways for dinner.

Dinner with Barbara and Joshua was fun. We found a nice place, secured a quiet table in a corner of the back room, and relaxed. Conversation from earlier in the day continued to spin off into more concrete ideas for a con panel based on the stories written by authors when they were 9-12 years old. We thought it would be fun to see some of these pop up at group reading or online somewhere. And then there was the fish stick incident, but I’ll let Joshua or Barbara explain themselves… Oh and any rumors about the next trilogy from Joshua being a prequel featuring a magic stool, are just that, pure rumor.

Back at the room, Joshua signed copies of The Cracked Throne and The Skewed Throne for me. I also picked up the prizes for our Cracked Throne contest winners, so those will go out shortly.

The SFWA party was apparently the place to be on Saturday night. I spent most of the evening there. John Scalzi was quite entertaining, especially when a young author stumbled into our section of the room. He was caught completely off guard when John asked who he looked like: Ashton Kutcher or Nathan Fillion. A few people (myself included) didn’t recognize the second name, but when it was explained that he played Mal on Firefly, the lights came on. He was a dead-ringer for a younger version of that actor. After the initial shock wore off, he joined us and was soon followed by his agents. All an all, a lot of interesting discussions ranging from what the robot on John’s shirt was about to do to that giant orange (you don’t want to know) to distressed furniture (a sales pitch for Joshua).

I wanted to get back home to my wife and kids, so Sunday was a short day for me. I dropped in on a panel about generating interest in the genre in young people and then headed home. I didn’t hear any new ideas, but an observation did stick with me. These three genre books are geared towards young adults:

What do they have in common? They aren’t typical genre covers. In fact, they are more likely to be seen in teen magazines. Someone in marketing knew what they were doing. I certainly wouldn’t have thought of doing that. How about you?


This is Cool Department


Tangent Reviews Clarkesworld Issue #2


  1. It was nice to meet you!

  2. Tamora Pierce’s newer books use the same idea.

    • I’m guessing that you are referring to the Trickster books, that go for a similar headshot style cover. The have a medieval style with modern look for the faces.

      Her most recent book, Terrier, definitely has fantasy look to it. I can’t tell what the girl is holding, but it could be a small sword in sheath. The Young Warriors book she edited with Josepha Sherman has a cover that could be straight fiction. Ugly design, but it’s definitely not screaming genre.

  3. Westerfeld’s stuff is fantastic. That series is really good. I would also recommend his new series Peeps. see my review here. and they use the same style for the cover art as well.

    I’ll tell you the young adult cover art puts all the adult genre stuff to shame.

  4. Great meeting you Neil! And I completely agree with you about that websites for writers panel; if Scalzi hadn’t been there I might have imploded from…well, I dunno…something!

  5. I saw these covers once before, and was very impressed with the choice of cover art. It’s right on the money for that market. 🙂

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