Last weekend, I finally returned to the con circuit, in the most sensational way. I mean, when you haven’t been to a con in almost two years, and Covid is still rampaging through the world, why not go to Canada? Well, I packed my car, picked up a few friends along the way, and trekked north to Montréal for World Fantasy Con 2021. Having worried incessantly about crossing the border and the length of the trip, I found all my worries unwarranted and discovered I had made the right choice.
The trip wasn’t bad on the way in. I met a friend after work and drove to Syracuse, where we stayed in (what looked like) a roach motel for one night only. Good news: There were no bed bugs, and it had a nice slip-free tub for my first shower standing up since February. In the morning another friend drove in, parked at a garage, and piled into the minivan, the best vehicle ever! From there it was about 4 hours to our destination. All of our meticulous planning with Covid tests, ArriveCan, and assiduous checking to ensure we had our documentation in order, paid off; we weren’t hassled either direction at the border, although my friend is now a bagel smuggler haha. On the way home, sure, driving 9+ hours sucked, but we broke it up well and dealt with the exhaustion with a combination of caffeine and great conversation, the latter of which fueled a LOT of the fun over the long weekend.
Cons are amazing places to meet wonderful people, including fans, readers, industry professionals, and other writers. World Fantasy Con is my favorite in this aspect. Granted that this year’s WFC was much smaller than in years past, due to Covid and being north of the border, the con vibe remained intact and strong as ever. I mean, I haven’t been to so many readings before, and the reason I attended so many this time around is because so many of us were supporting each other. What a freaking fantastic way to spend a con, right?
Then there’s re-connecting with friends I mostly only see during a convention, friends I haven’t seen in a long time because of Covid. There are too many to mention (though I’m looking at YOU, Mr. Abercrombie). The absolute best part of the connections at cons, though, are those friends you are attending WITH. My roomies were a guy I’ve roomed with before, and with whom I get goofy and go crazy, and a guy I’ve known and been friends with for a while, but haven’t been to a con with previously. Well, our time together gave us all a happy buzz. The fact that I’m dropping hints in this blog to the references we made constantly with each other will inspire a few extra laughs.
I had a blast reading the first story in my collection of Roman/Gallic war supernatural squad short stories, Legio Damnati. Many props to my writer friends, new and old, for their aid in attracting a sizeable audience for said reading, considering these types of events usually only garner a few folks. I think the reading was the impetus for my robust sales. Not that I sold a ton of books, but I calculate that roughly 1 in 42 attendees (and I LOVE that number!) bought one from me, which is not at all bad.
Maybe the panels lagged from a lower number of total panelists–a side effect of a smaller con and Covid driving it to be a hybrid con–but the quality and number of topics more than made up for any shortcomings in this area. There were also some hiccups with the hybrid side of things, such as being unable to ask questions when attending an online only event, but overall, this didn’t lower the quality of the con whatsoever. Plus, an added bonus was that I was invited onto an extra panel. I shared space with incredible panelists, and had the opportunity to speak on so many interesting topics.
Overall, I have to rate this con a smashing success. Obviously, I can’t say enough about the people. The Hotel Bonaventure Montréal couldn’t have been more accommodating or beautiful. The city itself, though due to my current physical limitations I couldn’t explore much, was a stunning venue. And I finally got to experience a Timmy Hos, as I’m told the locals call it. The long weekend was a fun-filled success all around.
So, merci beaucoup to all my readers, to everyone that bought my book, and to the friends who teamed up to make World Fantasy Con 2021 so special and amazing for me. You’re all such beautiful people.
Brandon Ketchum is a speculative fiction writer from Pittsburgh, PA who enjoys putting a weird spin or strange vibe into every story, dark or light. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association, his work has won Writers of the Future Contest honorable mentions, he leads the Pittsburgh Writers Meetup Group, and coordinated the 2019 PARSEC Short Story Contest.
Find his alternative history horror fantasy short story collection, Legio Damnati, about Julius Caesar’s supernatural squad battling sorcery in the Gallic wars, here: Legio Damnati