Keycon Post-Mortem

Well, admittedly this is late. Be nice, I’m finally catching up after the beating Covid handed me in May and June.

Yeah, June. Did I post on June 2, 2022, saying I was finally recovered? I wish. It’s insidious, you think you’re fine, until you actually try and do something, then everything takes twice as long and is twice as hard. There was steady improvement. But I think it took me the middle of June to shake the damned thing completely. I got my fourth shot as soon as possible. Had a bunch of health issues to deal with, still dealing with them, and a lot of catching up to do.

So Keycon?

Normally, if I’m there and doing things, I’d be announcing on the blog in advance, to make sure people had extra time to skip readings and avoid my stuff. Also, it’s kind of handy to have the note so I can update my artists resume.

Honestly, I was barely functioning this Keycon. I was clear of the virus by the time it rolled around, and definitely not infectious. But I was still depleted. I was good for a few hours, then it was time to go home, or find a soft spot on the floor for a nap.

This Keycon was a bit interesting for a few reasons. It was physically back for one, which was nice for the people attending. Keycon is the huge social event for the Winnipeg fan community, and while I’m not really part of that community, or any community, I respect that importance. And let’s face it, that social event is the primary function, no one really cares about writers or panels or programming. It works on other levels, and that’s a good thing. The point is it works.

This year, they went with an Indigenous theme – so the big guests were Niigan Sinclair and Trevor Greyeyes. It struck me as peculiar, neither of these are particularly associated with science fiction, fantasy or horror. Niigan’s profile didn’t even bother to mention it, and Trevor’s guest profile just notes that he’s an avid consumer of genre. Big whoop.

They might have gone with an Indigenous fantasy writer and graphic novelist like David Robertson. He’s won Manitoba Book Awards, and he’s written local YA fantasy. There would at least be connection to genre.

But maybe it’s a matter of cultural outreach. I’ve spent my life working for indigenous social justice, and in all that time, I’ve barely seen any indigenous representation or participation in genre. There are a few writers like Owl Goingback and David Robertson. Very, very few fans and participants if any, and almost no attention to issues. This despite Winnipeg having one of the largest proportions of indigenous folk in its population. In the Winnipeg fan community, gay or trans issues have been forefront, and indigenous issues practically invisible. Maybe this was an effort to change that.

I don’t know how much time Niigan and Trevor spent hanging around the convention. I know they did one panel. I saw Niigan briefly. But honestly, I was half on my back, so I was barely seeing anyone.

Programming was interesting. There was a huge amount of it which was E-programming. Not local writers or artists, but out of towners dropping in through zoom. A lot of this seemed to be arranged by Stephen Pearl, who seems to be organizing online convention participation.

I got to be the guy, several times, who basically pressed the buttons to start the Zoom thing, and adjusted the laptop now and then.

My overall impression was that programming, particularly the literary/writing/creative side was thin this year. In the past, there’s been three tracks of programming. This year, barely more than one. Maybe lack of interest by the convention committee, continuing lack of interest by the convention guests, lack of local talent participating? Maybe it was just the disruptions of Covid? Who knows.

I do have the sense that Stephen Pearl was a big contributor of ready-made, almost pre-packaged programming. And give him credit, he had some interesting panels, gathered some interesting people from across the country. Frankly, it’s a grand idea, it helps to promote him and his friends, and I hope he continues.

Let’s see – Friday evening, I showed up for the Banzai panel.  I wasn’t officially on that, but I had three reasons to go. One, I was sort of volunteering to help with the Zoom stuff, mainly just pressing the button at the right time, but you never know. I figured I’d show, make sure I saw how it was done, get the kinks worked out. The other two reasons were Buckaroo Banzai – which was a wonderful 80’s cult movie, and recently a follow up novel, and Ira Nayman, a Montreal fantasy/humour writer, whose work I’ve loved. I wanted to meet him, even online, and indulge mutual love for the Buckaroo. It turns out it was practically just the two of us, and oh my god, the novel was awful. It sucked, it reeked. I think we were both crushed.

I ended up doing two readings, one officially scheduled, and the other opened up when one of the online panelists fell through. I had one person attending for each reading. What the hell, why not? I’ve had readings where no one showed up. My absolute nadir was to give a panel where no one showed up except a friend to provide support… and they fell asleep on me. That’s rock bottom, and it’s happened to me twice. Thing with doing a reading is it doesn’t matter if it’s one person or fifty, you give 100%. You just go and do it and give it everything you’ve got, put on the show. Even if it’s one person, they deserve your respect. No one shows up? Do it anyway, its practice.

In terms of actual panels, the best one, and the best attended was an online panel on Dyslexia, which featured a friend, Robert Runte. I got to be the live human on the panel.

What else? I think I might have been on the World Building Panel, and the Writing Aliens Panel. Honestly, it feels familiar, but a lot of May is a Covid Recovery blur. Hooking Your Audience…. Maybe? I’m pretty sure I was on the ‘Pity You Can’t Publish it Panel’ about fanfiction, and adapting fanfiction for commercial. It got a little complicated, since I was volunteering to turn the laptop zoom off and on, and a lot of the panels I was attending were poorly attended, so even if I wasn’t scheduled for the panel, I might have ended up being a de facto panelist.I think I worked two readings and six panels, all in all.

I’m also very sure I wasn’t on the Publishing Contracts panel, mainly because I have a workshop coming up on that subject for the CAA, which reminds me (I really need to check up on that) so I’d have noticed. Susan Forest, the Editor Guest of Honour did that. I’m pretty sure I attended it though. Or part of it. I’m pretty sure I attended one of her panels.

I did try and visit the hospitality suites; that’s where Keycon really lives. But honestly, I’m just not that social, I’m not really a member of the community, and due to Covid Recovery, I was fading out a lot. I felt I ought to make the effort, be social, try and be part of the community. I just didn’t have the energy. I’m fairly introverted. Extroverts seem to gain energy from interacting with people. Introverts are often drained, and frankly, I was struggling to even be in a room.

Apart from that, I spent time in the dealers’ room, which was also extremely thin. Bought a few books from people as per usual.This is a thing I do. Writing is brutal, self publishing is brutal, doing a small press is brutal. So I try to support writers and small publishers by going to conventions and buying their books. I think I spent about a hundred this time. At a comic con, I can drop three hundred.  I’ve got quite a stack of local publications going.

One of these days, I’ll be the guy sitting at a dealers table with a stack of books at a Comic-con, smiling as 50,000 people walk by refusing to make eye contact. I hope that there’s another me out there.

I think the dealers mostly came away disappointed, it was pretty dead every time I dropped in. But that’s been a problem with previous Keycons.

Honestly, I don’t think it was the best Keycon ever. Far from it.

But you have to cut a lot of slack for recovery from the Covid Pandemic – it knocked the stuffing from a lot of events like this, and it’s a slow return to business as normal. Regardless, I think Keycon did well in its core functions, the social event, which is where Keycon really lives, came through. As long as it can do that, and keep doing it, I think the convention is working for the people that it’s important to.