Christina Vasilevski

Toronto Writer/Editor for Content Strategy, Content Design & UX.

Ad Astra 2014 Recap

Everything is awesome!

Ad Astra, where everything is awesome!

Ad Astra wrapped up just a few days ago. Now that I’m fairly sure I haven’t gotten con crud,  I’ll tell you all about it! Although I didn’t take part in any panels or do any readings, I had a blast. Here’s a breakdown:

The panels

There was a lot to choose from. I’ve learned from past conferences and conventions not to pack my schedule too tightly, but it was so hard to resist. I think I attended about 10 in all, most focusing on aspects of writing and editing fiction. Highlights include the three I attended where Anne Groell was a panelist, the “Mission Unfilmable” panel with James Bambury, and the “That Drives Me Crazy” panel with my good friend Andrew Barton. All in all, I was pretty satisfied with what I attended. I also live-tweeted a number of the panels with the #AdAstra2014 hashtag.

The readings

I only attended two readings this year. One was a regular reading, but the other one, well, that was something special. More of the (somewhat NSFW) specifics are available on Michael Matheson’s blog. But let’s just say that the combination of fan fiction, Star Wars, Pacific Rim, Shakespeare, and Harry Potter that was on display that night was a legend in the making. I really hope that a reading like that becomes an institution at Ad Astra and similar cons.

The parties

If there’s one thing that conventions are good for, it’s parties. My husband and I attended a few, most notably the Doctor Who tea party on Saturday afternoon, and the Bundoran Press launch party for Strange Bedfellows the same evening. We entered raffles, got pictures taken in front of a green screen where you could choose a digital background (I chose the classic Tardis interior and wore the 4th Doctor’s scarf), ate cookies, and had some tea (which was somewhat middling, unfortunately).

That night at the Bundoran launch party we got to hear several authors read, including Andrew Barton and Robin Riopelle. Riopelle’s reading, in particular, was amazing, which brings me to…

Books and other fun purchases

I bought lots of books at both WFC 2012 and last year’s Ad Astra. This year, not so much. In fact, I bought only 3 books! One of which was Robin Riopelle’s debut, Deadroads – her reading was so emotive and engaging that I couldn’t resist. Interestingly, this book is one of the first ones published by Night Shade Books after their incorporation into Skyhorse Publishing. It’s comforting to know that despite its financial issues, this press has continued publishing quality fiction.

Aside from that, I did make some random purchases, including this little guy knit out of yarn:

A tiny little Captain Picard, knit out of yarn.

Make it so!

Let’s just say that the next time I have some Earl Grey, I won’t be doing so alone!

One last thing…

The masquerade was on Saturday evening at the same time as the Bundoran launch, so I didn’t get to see the amazing costumes in play. However, people wore costumes all weekend, so I am happy to present to you possibly the most awesome video I have ever filmed:



Yes, that is someone dressed up as Newt from Pacific Rim (with arm tattoos drawn on in Sharpie marker!) doing contact juggling a la Labyrinth. You’re welcome.

Ad Astra Was Awesome

This letter opener set was so shiny that I couldn't resist. Curse you, dealers' room!

This letter opener set was so shiny that I couldn’t resist. Curse you, dealers’ room!

What, you want me to go into more detail? Sure.

How about this: Ad Astra 2013 was the second con I ever attended (after starting out with World Fantasy last year), and it was just as good (even better!) than I hoped it would be. The panels were almost universally excellent, the food nearby was good, and the variety of books and other goodies on sale – like this lovely letter opener set that I got on the final day for only twenty-five bucks – was great.

But it was the people who made it the most fun. Case in point: a few hours after Rob and I arrived at the hotel, we were waiting for the elevator to take us to the lobby. As we waited, I noticed another woman standing there who looked strangely familiar, resulting in this:

Me: You look really familiar.

Her: You do too.

Me: Why do you look so familiar?

Man standing next to her (her fiance, it turned out): She used to work for Dragon Lady Comics.

Me: **pauses for a moment, then gasps** Kathryn?

Kathryn: Yeees?

Me: The Margaret Atwood lunch!

Both of us: Eeeeee!!! **we rush in for a hug**

Yes, you read that right. A year and a half after we first met, I randomly ran into one of the other winners of the Toronto Public Library contest who had lunch with Margaret Atwood, all because our hotel rooms were on the same floor. Rob and I spent the rest of the weekend in contact with her and her fiance, touching base and going to panels. We even had dinner together at a buffet restaurant I hadn’t been to since I was a kid. The meal was a lovely mixture of deja vu and giddiness.

Two days later, I had a similar meet-cute as I recognized that one of the people staffing the SFContario registration table was an employment counsellor of mine from five and a half years ago. Again, crazy stuff.

But that doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the people I met and connected with. There was an editor who said she might have a future copy editing gig for me. There was another writer who asked me if I was interested in reading submissions for her magazine. There were people who run blogs that I want to contribute book reviews to. And the authors. Oh goodness, all the lovely authors: I got to meet Julie Czerneda and Ben Bova and Guy Gavriel Kay and so many other writers that it boggles the mind.

One highlight in particular: I got to tell Gregory A. Wilson after his reading that the story (“Spar”, by Kij Johnson) that inspired Speculate, his SF podcast, was recently “remixed” into a more humorous version involving eating bacon. I then read the opening paragraphs of the bacon remix from the issue of Clarkesworld I had stored on my Kobo. Technology connects people and saves the day yet again!

One of the benefits of Ad Astra is that it represents a highly interconnected slice of the SF community. There were several people that I saw participating in multiple panels (Gregory A. Wilson, who I first saw speak at WFC 2012, was a particular delight across the 3 panels I saw him at), and several more that I saw and chatted with at the book launch parties. I felt like I was in the thick of things there – returning to the real world, with my bags much heavier and my wallet much lighter, was a real letdown.