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The State of Black Science Fiction Convention 2016

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Face front, True Believers! Or something like that. Yours truly just trekked up to Atlanta, GA for the first ever State of Black Science Fiction convention! What’s that, you ask? Why it’s a gathering of dozens of black comic book writers, graphic novelists, and screenwriters in one location to fellowship and meet up with the local nerd population about horror and speculative fiction.

I was invited to be on two panels with immensely talented authors: Black Women in Speculative Fiction, seen below, and The Pros and Pitfalls of Small/Self-Publishing.

SOBSFcon Spec Fic panel

(Left to right: Nicole Kurtz, Alicia McCalla, Penelope Flynn, me, Cerece Rennie Murphy, and Valjeanne Jeffers.)

“Why, Kyo,” you say, mildly confused. “Whatever are you wearing?”

“WHAT THE SHIT!” I exclaim, for I am cosplaying as Lana Kane from FX’s hit animated comedy Archer.

"Lana. Lana. LAAANAAAAA!"

“Lana. Lana. LAAANAAAAA!”

I mean, I am a tall black woman with anger issues, huge Hulk hands, and a disposition for emotionally distant dark-haired men, so it seemed like the logical choice.

I also had a little table of my own to sell books and chat with readers. I almost felt like a real author and everything.

"Stories about self deprecation and pretty men! Get 'em while they're hot, people!"

“Stories about murder, self deprecation, and pretty men! Get ’em while they’re hot, people!”

Further details about the con can be seen on their website posted above and in the Facebook group. It was an unforgettable experience, and if it becomes an annual thing, please stop by and see me! I promise not to shoot you in the foot. Probably. If any footage of the panels pop up, I’ll be sure to post them here for your enjoyment.

In the meantime, gird your loins. I’ll have more news about my upcoming sci-fi crime thriller Of Cinder and Bone coming to a blog post near you. GET HYPE.

New Orleans Comic Con 2016

 

Me and Chris Evans aka Captain America

Your friendly neighborhood fantasy author just had an excursion to the land of awesome jazz, rich heritage, and the best damn Southern cuisine imaginable. It was basically Treat Yourself 2016 for me, and when I treat myself, I treat myself. Hence, Captain America snuggling and languishing in my arms.

New Orleans Comic Con is a younger con, but they apparently worked out something pretty incredible to snag not only Captain America himself, Chris Evans, but half of the cast of Civil War, including Frank Grillo (Rumlo aka Crossbones), Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson/Falcon), Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter), Jeremy Renner (aka Clint Barton/Hawkeye) and the Russo brothers who are directing the film. I had been on Wizard World’s mailing list for some reason and as soon as they sent word that Chris Evans would be in the South (seriously, look it up, A list celebrities avoid the South like the freaking plague, man, and I’d know) I scrambled for a ticket and a photo op. It was the opportunity of a life time to meet an actual superhero (my second one, actually, as I met Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman, in 2013) in the flesh. Plus, I’d never been to New Orleans and I was dying to get a chance to soak in some of the great things I’ve heard about Crescent City.

I flew down Thursday afternoon and stayed with a friend of mine. On Friday, we got up and had breakfast here, at The Ruby Slipper.

I had cheesecake-stuffed French toast with fresh blueberry compote and it was so delicious I’m drooling as I think about it all over again. Heavenly stuff, man.

And here’s my first street car ride!

We headed to the con to grab our badges and check out the dealer’s room, which was huge and awesome. Here are the goodies I managed to swipe for myself:

This fancy lithograph came with the hilariously expensive Chris Evans silver VIP pass. It’s basically just a glossy 11×17 photo of Captain Hotness, but hey, why not? Who doesn’t love a little smolder?

This awesomeness is a fake movie poster made by one of the artists in the dealer’s room. His concept was taking nerd culture things and turning them into the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s style movie posters, and this one is so gorgeous that I had to snag it to decorate my room. It’s just plain lovely.

Below is another one by the same artist, except it’s from Fallout 3 & 4.

Saturday morning at 10am, I attended the Civil War panel, which includes all the guests I mentioned above. Because I’m a huge nerd and this was a lifetime opportunity, I sat by one of the mics and was lucky enough to ask a question. Yes. I spoke to half the cast of Captain America: Civil War. That high-pitched sound you’re hearing is me screaming internally for hours.

Unfortunately, the audio is a bit janky, but here’s the whole panel. I got to ask a question at around the 26 minute mark, and their answers were priceless. I really encourage you to watch the entire video, and if one with better quality pops up, I’ll add it. It was a phenomenal panel, even with some fans asking weird questions, and the cast was beyond entertaining to experience live.

After the panel, I had the two most awesome experiences as a fangirl ever. First, was meeting Hayley Atwell, Agent Carter herself, for an autograph. I managed to hold it together and I told her that I was so grateful for her portrayal of Peggy as this powerful, amazing three dimensional female character and how it’s so important to have this awesome woman on a major network television show. I also told her that I truly hope she enjoys all the wonderful things that have happened and will happen for her as a result of portraying this character, and Ms. Atwell told me she was so humbled by my words. We shook hands and I was able to take this precious piece of personal history home with me to be framed on my wall.

After that, the main event happened. I waited in line in a freezing cold auditorium for around an hour, dressed to the nines and in full makeup, and then it happened. I walked up to Captain America, Chris Evans, for a photograph.

Now, the funny thing is…I’ve met celebrities before. Not any A-list celebrities, mind you, but celebrities like Maggie Q, Shane West, Bill Corbett, James Urbaniak, who are mostly nerd icons. Each time, I’ve managed to hold in the fangirl squeeing and ask them questions, even hold entire conversations.

But not with Chris Evans.

He was the first celebrity to ever make me 100% starstruck and tongue-tied.

Before the hug, I walked over and said hi and asked him if it would be alright for me to give him a hug for the photo. Mr. Evans smiled and said it wasn’t a problem at all, and then he wrapped his arms around me and I basically lost all mental faculties. I actually had a comment prepared–something about how proud I was of what he’s done with the character of Steve Rogers–but after that hug…yep, I was mush. I just mumbled thank you and tottered away on my heels, blinded by how utterly handsome he was. The hug was that good, but then there’s also the fact that before he let me go, he rubbed the small of my back and that’s what precipitated me turning into a pile of goo. My God. What a man, what a man, what a mighty good man.

Oh, and here’s his autograph as well (sadly not personalized, because you had to pay an extra $200 for that and as much as I ADORE Chris Evans, paying over $600 for a photo op and personalized autograph was outside of my comfort zone.)

The rest of the trip wound down after I met Cap. I swung past the famous Cafe Du Monde for beignets and coffee, which were yummy. We had dinner at this cool seafood place called Mr. Ed’s Seafood Bar and then on Sunday we just walked around town to sight-see and eat at Deannie’s before I headed home. Honestly, the city was beautiful and stuffed with all kinds of feasts for the eyes (and stomach). I’m so happy that Treat Yo-self 2016 went as smoothly as it did, and I will never forget meeting my favorite Avenger in the flesh. It was Item Number Four on my Bucket List, and I’m so giddy I managed it before I turned 30. It was unforgettable.

And for your viewing pleasure, here’s my informal account of meeting Chris Evans, for poops and giggles.

Kyoko Goes to DragonCon 2015!

This time last week, your favorite nerdy author had the privilege of attending Dragon*Con: a science-fiction/fantasy convention in Atlanta, Georgia. I attended because I was invited by the talented Milton Davis in order to be a panelist for The State of Black Science Fiction.

I flew in from Orlando, FL Thursday night and then woke up at the crack of dawn on Friday and took the train over to the con. One thing that veterans know about the con is that there’s nothing you can do about the overcrowding problem. Dragon*Con is run out of five hotels in downtown Atlanta: Sheraton, Hilton, Westin, Hyatt, and Marriott. You’d think that’d be enough room, but it’s not. Thousands of people attend every year, and it doesn’t matter how early or late you’re at the con. You’re gonna wait in line forever and you’re gonna be mad about it because the people who run the con refuse to move it to a venue like the Georgia World Congress Center because they are apparently all Mr. Krabs.

Mr Krabs Hello I Like Money

As a result, I basically spent most of Friday morning and afternoon mapping out the con and trying to figure out how to bounce between five freaking hotels. I was able to go to a panel run by Corey Castalleno, the guy who makes the creature makeup and effects for FOX’s show ‘Sleepy Hollow.’ I couldn’t stay for the whole thing, but it was actually really nifty seeing the different concept art for the monsters on the show and how he put them together before the final shooting of the episodes. I had to head from that panel to the one I was invited to participate in.

The State of Black Science Fiction is basically an assessment of how black culture has changed over the course of the preceding year. I was joined by Milton Davis (moderator), Balogun Ojetade, Nila Brown, Ed Hall, L.M. Davis, and Gerald Coleman. Milton presented us with questions about diversity in literature, television, movies, and comic books. For instance, he mentioned how the popularity of shows like Scandal and Empire have cast light on black women in Hollywood, and have increased interest in seeing black women either on screen or writing. We discussed how the advantages and disadvantages of the trend, and how we might be able to use it to open the doors into our own work long after it’s gone. There was a good turnout for the panel, too; between 40-50 fans who also were able to ask questions towards the end of the panel.

It was a very enriching experience for me, since this was my first time ever being on a panel. I was able to answer a few questions myself as well as hear some unique opinions and perspectives from writers a little further along the career path than me. I love talking shop with other authors, and it was amazing to be able to interact with readers who enjoy diverse sci-fi/fantasy as well.

After the panel, I had dinner and then took an inadvisable trek to Joystick, which is a tiny bar about 2 miles from the con where the Black Girl Nerds meetup started at 7pm. I was lucky enough to meet the organizer, Jamie Broadnax, and engaged in some great conversation with another congoer and black author along with Milton Davis. It was an amazing environment with some truly witty, fun-loving fellow blerds.

On Saturday, I once again got up early and took the train in for a busy day of hobnobbing. The other reason I decided to attend DragonCon was because Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie, the stars of ‘Sleepy Hollow’, my guiltiest of guilty pleasure shows, attended. Nicole’s autograph session was at 2pm, and so around half-past noon, I went into the Walk of Fame where all the celebrity guests were held, and started to map out what I was going to do. Since the room was already packed to burst and there is actually an occupant limit, I decided to mill around instead of leaving and coming back, which ran the risk of not being let back in.

While I was going from table to table, I happened to run into James Urbaniak, the voice of Dr. Rusty Venture from one of my favorite animated series ‘The Venture Bros.’ I said, why the hell not, and asked him for a selfie.

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While the two of us were chatting and I was setting up my phone, someone walked past me behind the table. I turn to say ‘excuse me, sorry that I was in the way,’ and find myself face to face with BILL FRICKIN’ CORBETT, aka one-third of the incredible team of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and later the incomparable Rifftrax. I instead exclaimed, “HOLY CRAP!” and then clapped a hand over my mouth and apologized profusely for setting my backpack on his side of the table.

Mr. Corbett, however, was super-nice and said not to worry about it, and I proceeded to gush like an idiot about how I had JUST been watching the Indiana Jones 4 Rifftrax the night before and how I had gone to the Rifftrax Live of Sharknado 2. Bill laughed and told me he swears they are not forcing him into riffing the third one, and we proceeded to chat about Atlanta and how he was enjoying the con so far. It was by far the most surreal experience of the entire con. The even funnier part is that I wasn’t even supposed to be at that table. I had gone over to that side of the room because I saw Bill Farmer, the voice of Goofy, and I had an hour to waste so I figured I’d see him, but he had maybe four people in line and that was when I bumped into James Urbaniak. How cool is that? I didn’t take a selfie with Bill since I had a limited amount of cash at the time, but that was an awesome freak accident if there ever was one. I am an absolutely enormous fan of Rifftrax, so this was beyond cool for a dork like me.

After that amazing random encounter, I returned to the area for Nicole Beharie and proceeded to stand in line…for a grand total of an hour and a half. It was as grueling as it sounds. One of the big things to note is that not only is Dragoncon overcrowded, but it’s also expensive and poorly run. I was in line waiting for Nicole for an hour and a half, and then ten minutes before she showed up, a staff member told us her autograph was $50, cash only. I checked my wallet. I only had $35. Which meant I wasted all that time and wouldn’t get her autograph because there was no posting that said how much she’d be, and the staff waited until the last second to tell us.

However, an extraordinary thing happened. The group of people I was in line with each donated $5 so that I could get the autograph. And I didn’t ask them for it. I was about to get my stuff and leave, but they volunteered to help out. I was overwhelmed. That is by far the biggest show of kindness from complete strangers that I’ve seen all year. I thanked them profusely and then about 20 minutes later, I was able to meet Nicole Beharie, aka Lt. Abbie Mills from Sleepy Hollow.

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Meeting Nicole was everything I hoped for. She was unbelievably sweet, and very gracious. I told her that I was so grateful to have a black woman represented in a fantasy setting, and that as a black author, it was important to me that she portrayed her as so intelligent and strong and human. She scoffed when I told her I consider her a role model and told me, “You need better role models” and then I was also able to give her a paperback copy of The Black Parade. Yes, I know that’s incredibly ballsy and it was probably foolhardy, but I went for it anyway because why the hell not?

After that, I sped my way over to the Magnificent Men of Sci-Fi/Fantasy panel, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I thought it was a panel about the male characters written by the authors on the panel—one of which was Jim Butcher, author of the Dresden Files, aka my favorite series ever—but it was actually a panel about their experiences as authors, not their characters. It bummed me out that it was moderator’s questions only, no audience participation, but it actually turned out to be a really informative and fun panel nonetheless.

Last but certainly not least, I headed over to the photo op area for my much-anticipated photo op with Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie. The anticipation was killing me, but the end result was so very much worth it. I asked them to do a pose, which they thought was hilarious, and so they agreed and this is the end result.

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No matter how much that trip cost, looking at this picture is always going to cheer me right the hell up. Tom gives amazing hugs, and Nicole’s “jealous” face was 100% perfection. They were both such good sports and I cannot express how much I enjoyed meeting them.

My last day at the con was Sunday morning for An Hour with Jim Butcher. I had been debating whether I wanted to get up yet again and sacrifice my sleep for being a big dumb nerdy fangirl, but I decided to go for it. What ensued is probably yet another highlight of my entire life. Please enjoy the following.

Yes, that was me holding the camera. Yes, that was unscripted. Yes, Jim Butcher is basically Satan and is the most life-ruining author of all time. And yes, I still love him with all my heart.

After that hilarious panel, I took the train to the airport and then regretfully returned to my normal life.

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As stressful and expensive as Dragon*Con was, I’m still glad I went. It was my little island in the middle of a horrific storm that I’ve been trying to weather for the past several months. Even though I still think the con isn’t run anywhere near properly, I would return if invited again. Those interactions make an otherwise dull life worth living.

Coastal Magic 2015

Look alive, people! Mama’s been out about town. This time, I was lucky enough to attend Coastal Magic–a convention exclusively for authors of urban fantasy, paranormal, and paranormal romance at the Hilton hotel in Daytona Beach, Florida. It was from February 5-8, but I went Friday night and Saturday since it is a 2-hour drive from where I live. Below are some pictures and descriptions of events as well as a few of my thoughts.


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On Friday night, we had Cinema Craptastic, which is like Rifftrax Live if you’ve heard of that. Our starring riffer was Damon Suede, and he was tearing into the abominable 2014 farce known as ‘The Legend of Hercules’ starring Kellan Lutz. It was glorious. We laughed ourselves silly at Damon’s commentary as well as the horrible effects and ridiculous historical inaccuracies of the movie. The hashtag we used on Twitter, “#CMCC15” trended that night and even attracted the attention of one of the actors of the film, who actually got offended by one of the author’s jabs at his awful hairstyle and silly accent during the film, which only made it funnier.

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Saturday morning, I attended the “Scooby Gang” panel, which is a panel discussing the importance of supporting characters in fantasy and paranormal works. It included authors Tawdra Kandle, Coreene Callahan, Kristen Painter, Stephanie Julian, and Paige Tyler. It was very laidback and informative, just a lot of great minds sharing experiences.

The next panel I hit was a meet-and-greet of authors Molly Harper, Rane Sjodin, Damon Suede, and Angie Fox. This one I forgot to take a picture for because I was too busy laughing my ass off. The meet and greet’s subject was inappropriate stories, and boy, did these authors fit the bill. We learned all kinds of horrible jobs they’d had in the past, or bad roommates, or embarrassing moments on Twitter.

After that, we were all served lunch and met up with authors of our choice. I met Lucienne Diver, who was a lovely woman with great stories to tell and plenty of encouraging things to tell me as an upcoming author.

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Above is the ‘Man Up!’ panel featuring Christopher Rice, Eric R Asher, Vaughn R Demont, and Elliot James (not in order, mind you). This panel was about the challenges male authors face when writing female characters and their thoughts on vice versa. It was a great idea with some very cool perspectives from all over. I especially enjoyed chatting with Vaughn after he mentioned his growing frustration with Jim Butcher of The Dresden Files’ evil tendency to make it seem like Harry and Murphy are going to finally get together only to yank the rug out from under us. I fangirled with him after the panel about the ending of Changes. It was very cathartic.

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After that, we had the Flash Fiction panel starring Damon Suede, Lucienne Diver, Kiernan Kelly, Nancy Holzner, Lisa Kessler, Alivia Anders, and Jeffe Kennedy. If you’ve never heard of flash fiction, it’s usually an exercise where authors have a limited amount of time to write about a subject based on prompts given to them. This one was a little different. It was essentially like an episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway? The authors were given prompts from the audience and had to tell a story that tied together from one author to the next. It was hilarious. They came up with some of the strangest stories you will ever hear with ridiculous characters and all kinds of pop culture references thrown in that had us howling in our seats. For me, this was the highlight of the convention.

Then everyone started setting up for the book signing section of the day, so I decided to take a walk along the beach as the Hilton hotel on North Atlantic street is quite literally ON the beach. I haven’t been to the beach since I was a little girl, so here are just some of the things I got to see.

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Finally, that night Melanie, Emily, and I briefly attended the mixer, which was music, drinks, and some dessert for us all to relax and mingle. Below are just a couple shots of the room we were in just as people began arriving.

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Overall, I had a wonderful time. Assuming I am still in Florida this time next year, I will definitely go back. This time, I only went as an observer, so I only met a handful of authors and I didn’t talk about my work much because I didn’t want to seem like I was hocking it. Next year, I fully intend to give out more than a few paperbacks for the raffle and send everyone home with Black Parade related swag.

Additionally, the convention isn’t 100% for authors. Fans of the aforementioned authors are welcome to attend for meet and greets, so if you’re in the Florida area, please join them next year. I think it’s well worth it. See the website for more information and for the full list of authors who were in attendance.