Armadillocon To The Future!

Sci-fi gathering readies for 2011

Solar-powered steampunk at Armadillocon 32
Solar-powered steampunk at Armadillocon 32 (Photo by Richard Whittaker)

If there was a single moment that summed up this weekend's Armadillocon 32, it was Saturday night's duet about a giant ape.

Kasey Lansdale, daughter of the king of Nacogdoches Gothic Joe R. Lansdale, was halfway through her Country and Western music set when Armadillocon regular Mark Finn walked in. She quickly serenaded him with the chorus of "Don't Shoot That Monkey Down" (from his production of King Kong for the Violet Crown Radio Players) before handing the mike to the playwright, cinema owner and author of Blood & Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard to let him finish the tune.

There's always a familial air to the second longest-running sci-fi and fantasy literary convention in Texas (the throne goes to Aggie Con.) Of course, there are the erudite panels like "Steampunk: Literary or Social Movement?" (quick answer, yes; long answer, the panel could have been twice as long) and "LGBT Issues in Spec Fic" balanced with those of a more professional bent ("Saving Your Bacon – Why You Need Agents and Editors").

There's also the opportunity to catch up with what old associates and occasional acquaintances have been up to (Lansdale the elder, for example, is hard at work on more Hap and Leonard material, while his Huck Finn horror mash-up Dread Island will be appearing through IDW Publishing's Classics Mutilated anthology, and Finn is completing an anthology of new Howard adaptations for Dark Horse Comics.) Throw in a host of after-show parties and Armadillocon kept its reputation as a convention by, about and for people who create and read books.

In a positive sign for a supposedly dead medium like the novel, co-chair Elizabeth Burton noted that this may have been a record-setting attendance. One definite record set was that the art show was bigger than ever before. Aside from the prints, sculptures and original pieces for auction, there was a rare public display from the private collection of David S. LaForce. Better known in role playing circles as the chief cartographer of the imaginary lands of Dungeons & Dragons, "Diesel" LaForce has collected a large amount of the incidental art commissioned by publishers TSR Inc. When that firm was bought out in 1999 by Wizards of the Coast, much of the art archive was thrown out, and only saved by some well-timed dumpster diving.

Considering the sheer volume of such work, it's not surprising that WOTC freed up the space, but the counterpoint is that such illustrations were a starting point and a regular paycheck for many struggling artists. It may not all be high art, but considering that Greyhawk, the original D&D supplement, was a landmark moment in RPG history, there's a certain historical and cultural significance to having the original cover sketch on display, even if it was just for three days.

If you missed this year's event, don't worry. The annual re-union is already confirmed to be back for its 33rd incarnation, Aug. 26-28, 2011. Finn will return, this time as official toast master, and the guest of honor will be Paolo Bacigalupi, whose debut novel The Windup Girl made Time magazine's top ten fiction books list for 2009.

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Armadillocon, Joe Lansdale, Mark Finn, Kasey Lansdale, The Windup Girl, Diesel LaForce, Elizabeth Burton, Greyhawk, Paolo Bacigalupi, TSR, Dungeons & Dragons, WOTC, Steampunk

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