Introduction: As many of you know Jasmine and I went to LibertyCon in Chattanooga, TN last weekend for their 26th annual convention. This is a science fiction and fantasy convention that is currently being held at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo Hotel in the middle of downtown Chattanooga. This is an AAR (After Action Report) of the weekend and the fun that we had.
Wednesday - I left the house around 0945 on my way to Rockwood-Harriman, TN where Jasmine lives. The plan was to spend the night at her house with her parents and then leave early Thursday for the convention. This way we’d avoid the mad Friday rush to get there and have time to relax before the con began (we’ll get into my ideas of relaxing in a minute). I made a couple stops on the way to her house, including a stop at McKay’s Used Bookstore in Knoxville as well as a very nice Goodwill. I made a few purchases including a game for Amanda Drake that she has been searching for, “Tales of Symphonia” for the GameCube. I got to Jasmine’s around 1730 and had a fantastic dinner that her mother prepared as well as a tour of the garden. The landscaping her mother can do would put most professionals to shame! We settled in for bed around 1am to get ready for the long day.
Thursday - Jasmine and I left about 1330 for the hotel and the convention. It was a straight shot down 27 with only a couple turns downtown to get us there. We checked in and that is where we ran into our first guest, Michael Z. Williamson! He and his daughter Morrigan were checking in right after us and I chatted with him for a second. Jasmine and I got settled into our room and decided to grab some dinner about 1700 after wandering around the hotel for a bit. We ended up at the Pickle Barrel where I had, of course, a very large dill pickle with my dinner. Having sated ourselves, we went back to the room to rest for the remainder of the evening. Then, as I am wont to do, I got bored. I mean really bored. We are talking “There was nothing on TV and I had brought books in the middle of a series”-bored. So I decided to head over to the main building where the convention was taking place to see if they needed any help. A very nice woman whose name eludes me at the moment asked me what I knew and could do. My response was “I ran a radio station for 6 years, I work in IT, and I can gofer.” Her answer was to point me at John Greever, their head Tech, and suggest I help him. We ended up running cables and sound equipment for the rest of the night which was AWESOME! I had not done that since I graduated Longwood and I missed it. I must have gotten there about 1900 and we finished up right about 0000. John said that he could use some more help around 1000 in the morning so I planned to be there to help him finish up. I headed back to my room, strangely relaxed (though sore from running the cables) and passed out.
Friday - I woke up around 0700 for some reason and I could not get back to sleep. After puttering around on the internet for an hour and a half I got ready to head back over to the main building to see what needed to be done. Donning my “+5 Shirt of Awesome” and my “Bag of Holding” (remember, I am geek hear me code) I went back to the building where I ran into Bill whom I had met the night before. We started neatening the cables up on the floor (lots of gaffer’s tape was used) and doing sound checks. John got there right about 1015 and blessed the work that we had done since we put him a bit ahead. Jasmine arrived shortly thereafter to help as well and after a bit more work, John invited us to the staff luncheon that was going on at 1200. At this point I was basically made Staff for the convention which was something I was not expecting nor planned for! Jasmine asked to not be made staff so she could concentrate on getting to the panels though she volunteered to help if they needed anything at all. There at lunch is where I met Tish, Rich, and Peggey, the two heads of programming and their second-in-command respectively. John explained who we were and why he had invited us and we began eating. Peggey brought up that they needed people to sit in on the panels and act as the time keepers as well as count the attendees in each session. I had a pretty booked schedule so I volunteered to help with all of the panels that I had scheduled. At this point I was officially made a staffer so I could carry out those functions. I would like to add that at this point (and for the entire weekend) everyone there was incredibly nice which is why I had no problems volunteering. I was not “volun-told” I actually volunteered. After we finished eating Peggey took me over to Registration to get myself set up and ready to go. I got a quick tour of everything since, of course, I had not had the normal staff briefing on anything. It was there I also met Brandy, the Con Director, who was just awesome. At this point we were nearing the time for registration to begin so it was nearly 1400. The very first thing I ended up doing was actually line maintenance to make sure we got the Pre-Registered people and the On-Site people in the correct lines. I met Johnny at this point too (not sure of his last name but he went by Johnny-Minion) and shortly thereafter Derek, Brandy’s Husband/Photographer. The panels started at 1500 and my first one was a reading by Larry Correia.
Friday – 1500 – Reading: Larry Correia: Ok, I have been Facebook/Twitter friends with Larry for a while but this is the first time I had gotten a chance to actually meet him in person! If you look at my profile picture on Facebook you can see that I barely come up to his armpit. I was able to introduce myself to him before the panel began and he recognized my name which was awesome. His panel was half reading and half “shoot the bull” session. I assisted with the A/V and made sure to time everything. A lot of the panels I went to that weekend were ones that he was on so I hope he did not think I was stalking him all weekend!
Friday – 1600 – Free Hour: I wandered around assisting where needed (mostly running water and ice to several of the rooms) as well as hit the dealer’s room. I picked up a shirt from Mike’s booth and got him to sign one of my books. I also got a chance to pass my mother’s Thank You note to Kevin J. Anderson which thanked him for signing my mother’s books at RavenCon and for selling her his personal copy of the third book in his series that was not even due out yet! He told me that the letter absolutely made his day which made me quite happy. Beyond that it was just getting ready for the Opening Ceremonies.
Friday – 1700 – Opening Ceremonies: I found out that there are a LOT of guests at LibertyCon as Larry read them all out. We also got to hear more about the history of the con and all of the awesome things going on during the weekend. It just got me even more pumped up!
Friday – 1800 – Reading: John Ringo: I had met John before and as well as being friends on Facebook he has killed me off in one of his books. Needless to say I was definitely looking forward to the reading and I was not disappointed. He read and talked about his new series, the “Dark Tide Rising” series which has the first book out as an E-ARC on Baen’s website. He also took question and answers and while I was disappointed that there will probably never be a sequel to “Von Neumann’s War” I have a TON of other things to look forward to from him.
Friday – 1900 – World Building for Writing and Gaming: This was more of a panel for Jasmine than I but I really enjoyed it from the perspective of a gamer. I did decide at this point though that I have to get some of Sarah Hoyt’s books though as they sound awesome!
Friday – 2000 – Free Hour: more running around helping. I went by the Con Suite and grabbed some food as well as helped there for a few.
Friday – 2100 – Meet Our M.C. Larry Correia: This was pretty much an interview that was conducted by Stephen Cobb. We learned more about Larry’s writing process, what is in store for both the Monster Hunter and Grimnoir series, and more about Larry himself. I did feel a few of the questions were trying to provoke Larry into giving certain answers but he handled those with aplomb. Overall I really enjoyed the discussion.
Friday – 2200 – Messiest Ways to Kill Zombies: This has to be one of my absolute favorite panels from the con. The entire room was PACKED with people; it was standing room only! You had three of my favorite authors on the panel with Mike and John sitting on it and Larry moderating it. It mainly focused on, of course, zombie fighting techniques but each person on the panel brought a unique perspective to it. One of the best parts, for me anyway, was when I made the ENTIRE room groan from one of my puns. What happened was that Larry had asked the panelists what one item, besides firearms as that was a no brainer (no pun intended there), each of them wanted. Most were sensible answers but those were quickly taken so one of the panelists said that he wanted as much sodium as he could possibly have. My response to that was “So you are talking about ‘assault’?” After the groan I was told by Larry that I would be the first to die in the apocalypse. We also learned not to piss off Ted “Speaker to Labrats” Roberts as he can and will turn you into a zombie.
Friday – rest of the night - mostly spent in the Con Suite talking with people before bed. Jasmine turned in early though I was not far behind. I believe I was in bed by 0130.
Saturday - Not as busy as Friday for sure. I did have several panels but nothing like Friday. Today was more of when I volunteered for other duties besides timekeeper and A/V.
Saturday – 1000 – Kaffeklatsch: Larry Correia: This was a LOT of fun. It was literally a “shoot the bull” session with Larry and he answered everything we threw at him. He also brought some of the original M.H.I. patches and he gave me one. I cannot wait to have it added to my shirt. It was nice to just be able to relax and chat with an author and Larry was just fun to hang with as was his wife the “lovely Mrs. Correia.” She is just as gracious and fun to talk to as her husband. I did get my picture taken with Larry afterwards which was pretty cool too!
Saturday – 1100 to 1300 - running around helping everywhere. If I was not helping Tech I was helping Programming or Con Suite. Lots of work but awesome people to do it with.
Saturday – 1300 – Reading: Chuck Gannon: I got to meet Chuck at RavenCon this year and absolutely loved his book “Fire with Fire.” He is one of the most personable authors and was a pleasure to see again. He read from some of his “1632” works with Eric Flint and from “Fire with Fire.” He answered all of the questions posed to him by us and I think everyone had a great time.
Saturday – 1400 to 1600 - Baen Traveling Roadshow: Baen put on their traveling roadshow again and this was my third time attending. As with the last two times I really enjoyed myself and I think Toni outdid herself with it. Tons of books were handed out and I even ended up with a printed ARC of Ringo’s “Under a Graveyard Sky.” I ended up texting my little brother about a contest Baen is doing for an animated, exploding starship so I’m hoping he will enter it and maybe win some money! I got to sit next to Chuck as well and talk with him a little more so all in all it went very well. During the show though one of the speakers started acting like it was going to explode so I had to run over and power it off before it did any damage. That was a bit wild!
Saturday – 1600 to 2230 - This is where I got the bulk of my volunteering in. From this point on I did everything from inventorying and moving ice, and washing dishes, to pouring beers and mixing drinks for people in the Con Suite. I had an absolute blast though as I got to meet a LOT of interesting people. I actually ran out of business cards by the end of the night. I did manage to get Larry and John to sign my books before I really got into the swing of things. Several people thanked me profusely for helping as it enabled them to go to some of the really popular panels that they would otherwise have missed. One of my highlights was earning some extra tips (which went to help pay for the food and drinks and then onto charity if there was extra) by pouring perfect beers for people. This meant that it was full to the brim with just the right amount of head. It took me a while but I finally got the hang of it! I worked there from pretty much 1730 to 2230 when my feet finally gave out. Everyone kept checking on me to make sure I was ok staying that long which was really nice of them! During this time is also when I really got a chance to meet and talk to Jason Cordova as well which was a lot of fun.
Saturday – 2230 to bedtime - I got to cross something off of my bucket list as well. One of the attendees (not a guest) had some of his homemade “mountain lightning” with him and I got to try some. That has spoiled me for any of the watered down kind and for some other kinds of alcohol! It was incredible. I did not get drunk that night though I did have a few drinks. Jasmine came by around 2215 and after I got done helping we went and hung out with a lot of different people. After a while we ended up sitting and chatting with John Ringo and his wife Miriam and listening to their stories. Eventually Jasmine and I entered the discussions they were having and just had a blast! We sat and talked for probably 3 hours with John and Miriam and Jasmine and I both learned a lot. The funniest part was when John lost his lighter. He checked all of his pockets like 3 times and then about an hour after he could find it, he put his hand in the pocket WE WATCHED HIM CHECK, and pulled out his lighter! We were all gobsmacked! Miriam had left just before this and we figured she had it with her. Eventually though it became time for bed and we made sure that John got hooked up with his ride and then Jasmine and I crashed.
Sunday - Another light day for me. I picked up some breakfast for Jasmine from the Con Suite and then we headed to our panels.
Sunday – 1100 – Things I Wish A Pro Had Told Me: Again this was more for Jasmine than myself but I did really enjoy finding out more about the writing and publishing process. This was headed up by Kevin J. Anderson, his wife Rebecca Moesta, and Toni Weisskopf. It was a lot of fun and even though there was a lot of stuff you would assume was common sense, it became apparent from some of their examples that it was anything but. If you can ever get to this panel when Kevin and them do it, you should!
Sunday – 1200 – Monster Hunters: This was strictly a panel on Monster Hunter International and the crew with only a brief mentioning of the Grimnoir universe. At one point Larry had referenced the MHI RPG from Hero Games several times but did not have an example to show of it with him. I pulled it up on my iPad and showed it around the room for people who were interested. Yet again this was a really fun panel and one that gave a LOT of insight into the series, it origins, and some fun trivia about Monster Hunter.
Sunday – 1300 – Free hour: Jasmine and I went to get another autograph from John Ringo but unfortunately he was not feeling well so he was not able to make it. It was fine though, we were able to chat with a few of the other authors and peruse the dealer’s room one last time.
Sunday – 1400 – Celebrity Jeopardy: This was where my A/V and Computer skills came in handy. John Greever and I got Fitz’s laptop finally talking to the projector and got the game started. It was Larry against Speaker and Paul Bielaczyc (an artist). Larry managed to pull ahead of Speaker by 600 points which put him in First Place until Final Jeopardy came around. The final question was about NASA space vehicles which Larry admits he knows nothing about. Speaker, on the other hand, did and bet everything which put him nearly double Larry in points at 10600 with Larry at 5900 having bet nothing. Sadly Paul decided that the answer was “Your Mother” and lost it all, with 0 points.
Sunday – 1500 to 1645 - Closing Ceremonies: This is also, as they like to call it, the “Bitch at Brandy” session. It went for well over an hour with a lot of good ideas and suggestions as well as valid criticisms being thrown her way. I grabbed the mic at one point and explained how it was my first LibertyCon and that it is one of the best run cons I had ever seen. At that point Brandy jumps in, as well as John Greever, and tell me how much they appreciated all of my hard work this weekend. I know I was beet red by the time they were done but I really appreciated it. My only suggestion was that they should maybe add a panel or two on gaming/video games.
Sunday – 1700 - Jasmine and I headed home to her place. We were both exhausted but super happy with how the weekend went. We have already started planning for next year!
Overall: The con was an absolute, incredible, awesome time! I have no reservations saying it was one of the best, if not THE best, con I have ever been to and its all due to the awesome staff, guests, and attendees. Not one a-hole was met the entire weekend! Were there problems? Sure, there are always issues but from everything I saw they were handled quickly, professionally, and they obviously never came to light for me. I made a lot of new friends at this con and I think reinforced some older ones. Several people asked me if I would be coming back and volunteering and I DEFINITELY will be. You guys are stuck with me now MUAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHA! >:D