Steve Fahnestalk’s VCON 39 Report. NOT R. Graeme Cameron’s VCON 39 Report!

Figure 1 - Spider Robinson and Don DeBrandt
Figure 1 – Spider Robinson and Don DeBrandt

If you’re looking for Graeme Cameron’s VCON 39/Canvention report, this isn’t it. I don’t plan to do a traditional con report, with accounts of lots of panels, and talking about the masquerade (Costume Contest), the dance and so on; I didn’t do all that. I went to two panels, both of which I will talk about, but didn’t attend the masquerade, the dance or any gaming or room parties. Because I was busy (I was the Guest Liaison for the Mattinglys), and tired… both Lynne (the Beautiful and Talented) and I—as well as, coincidentally, David and Cathleen Mattingly—skipped the Dead Dog Party in order to get some rest! For those of you unfamiliar with conventions, the Dead Dog is a way for survivors of the con to reaffirm that they are still alive. They all gather in the Hospitality Room cum Con Suite, drink and talk and generally bitch about what went wrong and congratulate themselves and each other over what went right. (This is separate from the Convention Committee’s “bitch session,” often called something like “Bouquets and Brickbats,” where everyone officially talks about the good and the bad of the con from a professional standpoint. And how, given this knowledge, they can improve next year’s con.) The Dead Dog is just generally about letting it all go.

So on with the conrep (that’s fanspeak for Convention Report).

Last week, as reported, was VCON 39 and CANVENTION 34, which means VCON (Vancouver, BC’s SF/F convention) has been around five more years than Canvention, the Canadian National Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention. Although VCON always stays in the Vancouver/Lower Mainland area, Canvention travels around the country—a moveable feast, if you will—because it’s bid on by different conventions each year. Each con—Canvention and the hosting con—has separate Guests of Honour; the guests this year were David Weber (author of the popular Honor Harrington series of military space opera, among others) and David Mattingly, who has done more than two thousand book covers, many of them the aforementioned David Weber’s, as well as (just for an example) being the ex-head of Disney’s Matte Painting Division… if you Google either person, you’ll probably be surprised at how prolific these two people are. VCON also had a Gaming Guest of Honour, Bruce Heard, a game designer, who had a new expansion unit for Dungeons and Dragons, called Calidor.

 Figure 2 - VCON Nametag
Figure 2 – VCON Nametag

Canvention’s Guests of Honour were Tarol Hunt, writer and artist of the popular online comic Goblins, and Melissa Mary Duncan, whose meticulous drawings and paintings of natural and fairy subjects are also the subject of her book Faye: The Art of Melissa Mary Duncan. Both GOHs are, fortunately for Canvention’s budget, local people. Tarol is the husband of ex-VCON Chair Danielle Stephens, and Melissa the wife of stylish writer Donald Duncan (you should see him in bowler and weskit!). And David Mattingly was accompanied by his wife, the charming writer Cathleen Cogswell. Because I was Guest Liaison to the Mattinglys, I don’t know if David W. or Bruce H. brought a spouse, but I suspect not. Anyway, I picked the Mattinglys up at the airport on Friday, and took them to the hotel to check in, which was around 11 a.m.; I then hung around the lobby waiting for Spider Robinson to check in. (Lynne and I appointed ourselves unofficial Guest Liaisons for Spider, because he lives by himself on an island, and isn’t very worldly about conventions—his late wife Jeanne used to take care of him at cons. Writers: kind of ethereal, heads in clouds, stuff like that. Jeanne was very practical and hard-headed in that way.) (See Figure 1.) I got them all checked in to both the hotel and the convention by about noon.

By the way, in reference to Figure 2, VCON/Canvention had two different picture name badges; one (see Figure 2) was Melissa Duncan’s art; the other (I don’t have one for a picture, sorry) was David Mattingly’s artwork. Once all three of the guests were checked in I was free to check us in (Lynne and me) take our luggage (suitcase, toiletry bag, computer bag, guitar, Beatles lyric books and amplifier) up to our room on the tenth floor. The guests, being VIPs, were up on the 18th floor. Hotcha! Then I headed for the Art Show/Gallery to make sure Lynne, who was assisting Rose Wilson (who has headed VCON’s Art Show for at least the last five years) was all set up, and see if David needed any help hanging his prints. (A week before, David had snail-mailed me a large cardboard tube containing 13 prints on fine art watercolour paper—the largest was a portrait of Honor Harrington herself, from a book cover, and measured 36” by 48”! I had left them lying flat on our dining room table for several days with books on top to try to unroll the curl from being in the tube. It worked pretty well.) That left me free to wander the halls on Friday (after making sure I knew any con-related duties—like giving Spider his Aurora Hall of Fame Award on Saturday) until it was time to go to bed. In earlier years, I would have probably been up till two or three a.m.; I’m older and wiser… okay, tireder than I used to be. Friday and most of Saturday I spent roaming, finding old friends and picking up books for this column! Figures 3-5 show some of my photos; I took a bunch.

Figure 3 - Chilam left, David Weber right
Figure 3 – Chilam left, David Weber right
Figure 4 - Garth Spencer and Dr. Robert Runté
Figure 4 – Garth Spencer and Dr. Robert Runté

I still had no panels assigned on Saturday, but I had to make sure that (Guest Liaison duties—self-assigned again) William Gibson (author of Neuromancer et al.), who was there only for about five hours on Saturday, got to his panel (an interview with Donna McMahon [see Figure 6], local author) and autograph session, and thence to the Aurora Tea and Awards, where he would be picking up his Hall of Fame Award. (Bill and Spider were this year’s inductee’s into the new Hall of Fame. See figure X.) I was also in an anticipatory mood, as both R. Graeme Cameron and I were up for an Aurora for our Amazing Stories blogs, as was Dr. Robert Runté (Figure 4) of the University of Lethbridge (Alberta) for a scholarly paper he’d delivered entitled something like “Why Canadians Read Science Fiction and Fantasy.” I was fairly sure one of us Amazing people (get it?) would win; I mean, c’mon—who reads scholarly papers, anyway? And I’d been doing my blog longer than Graeme, so I had hopes of winning this award.

Figure 5 – David Mattingly and David Weber
Figure 5 – David Mattingly and David Weber
Figure 6 – Donna McMahon and Clint Budd
Figure 6 – Donna McMahon and Clint Budd

Oh, and I did go to one Saturday panel, that being David Mattingly’s “Painting Digital Mattes” panel; it was pretty well attended, because he’s one of the world’s top digital matte painters. He departed from the subject for a while to make sure we knew our tools (Photoshop) well enough to follow him. I learned more about Photoshop brushes from that session than I have learned in more than 10 years of using Photoshop! Then we all headed for the Aurora Tea, and listened to Michael Walsh giving out a few of the spoof “Elron” awards that are given out each year at VCON. (I am reminded to say that these awards are in no way related to a certain SF writer who started his own religion. The actual origin of the name is lost in history.) These are awards of ignominy, consisting of a bronzed plastic lemon mounted on a plywood base (the original base, if memory serves, was an actual John Norman Gor paperback), and are given to certain people (Margaret Atwood) for things like “denying she writes science fiction.” The tea was nice, with finger sandwiches and little tarts and stuff like that, and we eagerly awaited the awarding of “my” Aurora, for Best Fan-Related (Other)! And…

Figure 7 - Robert Runté and Frank Johnson
Figure 7 – Robert Runté and Frank Johnson

Dr. Robert (“Ring, my friend, I said you’d call Doctor Robert…”—The Beatles) Runté walked away with the prize! (Figure 7 left.) My old friend from Alberta stabbed me through the heart (augh!) and took my last chance to win an Aurora sculpted by my other good friend, Frank Johnson (Figure 7), who has now retired from making them, after 22 years or so. (His design, in aluminum and native hardwood, looks like a frozen Aurora Borealis (Figure 7, clutched in Robert’s no doubt sweaty fingers!) with a maple leaf cutout, and if you view it from the top, it forms the letters “SF”… which I always thought meant I was supposed to win it! Oh, well, there’s always next year! But nobody knows what the new award will look like.

Figure 8 – Some of the Aurora winners and presenters
Figure 8 – Some of the Aurora winners and presenters
Figure 9 – Bill Gibson and Spider Robinson, Hall of Famers
Figure 9 – Bill Gibson and Spider Robinson, Hall of Famers

The rest of the Aurora ceremony went through in a blur, except for the end, where Clint Budd (Figure 6) and I got up to award the new Hall of Famers. The previous eight Lifetime Achievement Award winners (among them Robert J. Sawyer [Figure 11], who has won just about every award one can win in SF/F) were inducted into the Hall of Fame, and Clint got to give Bill Gibson his, while I awarded Spider Robinson his, as the two newest members of the Hall of Fame! (Figure 9). There was only one thing left to do on Saturday night… and that wasn’t “going to room parties”!

Figure 10 - Spider singalong with Tam and me
Figure 10 – Spider singalong with Tam and me… Photo by Geri Fargher

Saturday night was Spider’s (scheduled for 9 p.m., but due to a large number of people wanting autographs, didn’t start until twenty to 10 p.m.) “Little-known Jazz and Folk Tunes” panel, where he sang songs that he knew (and Tam and I knew most of them too, but for the most part it was a solo act); then somewhere before 11 p.m., we switched to Full Beatles mode. You see, since about 1980 or so, whenever John Thomas Gordy (Tam) and I, or Spider and I, or Randy Reichardt and I, or Tam and Randy and I, or Tam, Spider, Randy and I (are you beginning to see a pattern here?) get together at a con, we’ve always done a Beatles singalong. Not a performance, nor yet a concert, we expect the people in the “audience” to sing along or, if they can’t or won’t sing, to clap their hands, sway in their seats, stomp their feet or whatever. Sometimes, at birthday parties for one or another of us—or other conventions—we’ve done this for something like 5 or 6 hours; on Saturday we were limited, as the room was booked at midnight… but we switched to another room—thanks to Geri Fargher—and continued until after 1 a.m. It was a blast! (Figure 11. Spider on the left, Tam in the middle and I—in cap and red shirt—on the right.) We had a bodhran-type accompaniment by local singer Dara Korra’ti. I have a wide-screen picture which shows the whole room and her, but this column isn’t wide enough for it.

Figure 11 - Lisa Smedman and Robert J. Sawyer
Figure 11 – Lisa Smedman and Robert J. Sawyer

On Sunday I had the Art Auction and my only scheduled panel, which was “Living With a Creative Person,” in which I and my significant other, the Lovely and Talented Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk, joined Melissa Mary Duncan and her husband Donald as well as David and Cathleen Cogswell Mattingly for a discussion of what it was like living with an artist and/or a writer, since we all were doing so! It was a fantastic panel, and we discovered we were all doing approximately the same thing; that was to give the other person both room to do his or her thing, but at the same time be ready to be supportive and lend a hand (either emotional or physical) at any time. David joined me at the Art Auction; a splendid time was had by all, and I think we managed to sell a bunch of art. Then it was back to prowling the halls, saying goodbye to people like local author Lisa Smedman (Figure 11) and Robert J. Sawyer (Figure 11), who had been in Seattle, but stopped by to pick up his award on his way to Calgary. And I haven’t even mentioned the benefit auction I was asked to do on Sunday… for Aunt Leah’s Independent Lifeskills Society, a charity for young people in danger or on the streets.

Figure 12 - VCON Art Show, Lynne's 'Bots visible above the white
Figure 12 – VCON Art Show, Lynne’s ‘Bots visible above the white

Then it was pack up, check out, pack the car with robots that hadn’t sold at the art show or auction, and back to the Real World. I had only one more con-related duty, and that was to take the Mattinglys back to the airport, since they had extended their stay by one day to sample the pleasures of Vancouver. I was very sorry to see them go, as we had become fast friends over the past few days. (I had been corresponding with David for a number of years, mostly by Christmas card—and talking about lenticular images with him, as he is quite an expert and used to do his cards with lenticulars.) I took a lot more pictures, which I will attempt to put up on Facebook in the next few days.

Please comment on this week’s column. All you have to do is go to and log in, or register and log in. It’s easy, free and quick to do so, and you can also choose to subscribe to my blog and be notified when a new one appears. My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owners, editors, publishers or other bloggers. See you next week, I hope!

Please take a moment to support Amazing Stories with a one-time or recurring donation via Patreon. We rely on donations to keep the site going, and we need your financial support to continue quality coverage of the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres as well as supply free stories weekly for your reading pleasure.


  1. Thanks for the corrections, Jenni! As the con chair, of course you’d be more aware of who did what and so on; I write from a more limited perspective. I only met Bruce and David Weber at the Charity Auction on Sunday, so I was just guessing about spouses. And I’m sure Bruce is happy that the correct information about Calidar got posted!

  2. Thanks for the report Steve!

    For the record, both Bruce Heard and David Weber also brought their spouses along – Janet Deaver-Pack and Sharon Rice-Weber respectively. Janet, being a writer herself, also participated in programming.

    One minor correction – Bruce Heard’s expansion is nomally for the Pathfinder RPG (which is, iteslf, an extension of the 3rd Edition of Dungeons and Dragons), but the majority of it is “rules neutral” and is called “Calidar: In Stranger Skies”.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Previous Article

R. Graeme Cameron’s VCON 39 Report. NOT Steve Fahnestalk’s VCON 39 Report!

Next Article

Judging Books by Their Covers

You might be interested in …