Leprecon 38 Convention Report
by Saul Garnell
Leprecon 38 is a wonderful, yet small, Arizona based SF&F convention that takes place every year
around St. Patrick’s day. This year, the convention took place from April 6-9th, and I had the honor of
participating as a panelist over a three day period. Below is just a brief survey of what turned out to be
quite an extraordinary experience.
Let me be clear from the onset, this truly is a smaller con, with only about 300+ attendants. One might
think that low turnouts are less than optimal, but you would be quite wrong. I’ve attended other small
cons before, and I have come to really appreciate the cozy one-to-one encounters that are possible.
However, what took place went far beyond anything I’d ever have expected
From the very first day, I sat in a small room with the legendary Joe Haldeman. There he was, just a few feet away, being interviewed by Weston Ochse, while I along with a small group listened in and asked questions as though we were sitting in Joe’s living room. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Joe is a multi Hugo award winning author. Having just read his quintessential work, THE FOREVER WAR, I was enthralled by his writing.
However, I also was impressed by his soft spoken nature, personal history, and deep understanding of genre fiction. Having the chance to speak casually
with this distinguished guest of honor was truly an experience that would be unattainable at larger conventions. Making matters even more interesting, was the fact that I (plus a number of other talented writers/artists) shared three panels with Mr. Haldeman on various topics. It was somewhat intimidating for me, but Joe is so affable and courteous, my chance to share my point of view with him and other panelists was more than I had ever expected.
More great experiences soon took place. The following day, I found myself on a panel with several people, all of whom were surprised to find ourselves in an empty room. Don’t be shocked to hear this. That kind of thing happens at small cons when you run up against other panels that are a bit more popular and have big names appearing. But this seemingly bad luck has benefits. One of the panelists simply turned towards me and offered to have open conversation on anything we liked. That panelist turned out to be Gini Koch. Once again fortune smiled upon me. Gini as it turned out is a hot new author (who lives near me in the Phoenix area of all places) who writes the fast fresh and funny ALIEN/KATHERINE “KITTY” KATT series for DAW Books and the Martian Alliance Chronicles series for Musa Publishing. As a new, yet fairly experienced, author, she shared her thoughts on a slew of topics. Everything ranging for how to work with agents, editors, and publishers, to comics, SF&F, and multi-genre writing. Gini was not only a super friendly person to meet, but a fountain of useful information for up and coming Indie writers like myself.
Once again, you’d think the above was enough good fortune. However low and behold, Michael
Stackpole appeared to moderate my next panel on the state of independent publishing. Keep in
mind, Michael’s role as moderator was unplanned. Out of the goodness of his heart, he showed up at
Leprecon and helped the convention. I was blessed with his presence and found myself being asked to
share my opinion on Indie publishing along with the other fine panelists in the room. Wow! What can
I say? It was truly a pleasure to have someone like Michael make an appearance like that. He’s not only
an acclaimed author in his own right, but a leading advocate for Indie publishing.
Okay, so now you’d think my string of serendipities would come to an end. Nope, there’s more. I had the privilege to sit on one last panel entitled Science Fiction in Comics. Please note, I’m not the ultimate expert on comic books. I read heavily in the past and collected for six years during the 1980s, which then all came to an end when I moved to Japan. However, I found myself on a panel with Brian Augustyn and Franchesco!. Brian is an award winning comic book editor and and writer, with numerous titles under his name for over the past 28 years at DC comics. Franchesco! (don’t forget the exclamation mark) was the Artist Guest of Honor for the con, and is a very well respected cover artist throughout the Marvel and DC universe. A quick google search on these two gentlemen will give you a quick idea how highly regarded they are in the comic book industry. And here I am sitting with them on a panel–What can I say? It was more than an honor to chat with them candidly about the state of science fiction in comic books. Sadly, I don’t think we really get enough SF representation against the super hero genre. However, it was fascinating to banter back and forth about the overall history of SF in comics, and reminisce about exceptional titles like Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis, Starstruck by Michael Kaluta, Love and Rockets by Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, and American Flagg! by Howard Chaykin.
I’m running low on space, but I do want to have some final shout-outs to many of the other great people
I ran into: Bruce Davis who is a Mesa AZ based science fiction author and editor; Rick Novy who has
published dozens of short stories in notable venues; Chris Swanson who is a Phoenix-based writer,
blogger and film and TV critic; Jack Mangan who is both a author and podcaster; Michael Bradly who
gave up corporate life and dedicated himself to full time writing and Indie publishing; and last but not
least, Marty Massoglia, notable bookseller and renowned expert on all published science fiction since
the beginning of time (that’s only a slight exaggeration!).
In retrospect, my head is swimming from all the fun I had over the holiday weekend. And if you still
wonder if small cons are worth going to? I can only say: You betcha! What we lacked in numbers, we
more than made up for in spirit and content. Without a doubt I’ll be hanging out at Leprecon 39, and I
hope to see you there as well.
Saul Garnell lives in Arizona, and publishes science fiction with Hotspur Publishing. Saul debuts with
Freedom Club, a speculative fiction novel in the near future and is currently working on his next novel,
a comedy Military SF to be published by Hotspur later this year.