Now in its seventh year, AnimeKon has grown into a huge ComicCon in Barbados. Bringing together cosplayers, anime fans, gamers, comic book artists, graphic designers, authors, actors, movie buffs, technophiles and more, AnimeKon offers up everything a geek could hope for, including the best vacation of your life, with their GeekCations. Each year has a different theme, and the theme for 2016 is The Quantum Age. AnimeKon will take place August 27 and 28, and tickets are available in advance.
Bram Stoker award-winning author Lucy A. Snyder (you probably know her for her books Spellbent, Switchblade Goddess, While the Black Stars Burn, Shooting Yourself in the Head For Fun and Profit: A Writer’s Survival Guide, and — my personal favorite of hers — Installing Linux on a Dead Badger) was a Chattel House Books featured guest at AnimeKon last summer. Lucy was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about AnimeKon. She even let me sneak in a few author questions!
*All photos in this post are from the AnimeKon website
ANDREA JOHNSON: You’ve been a panelist and presenter at conventions across the US since 2008. Tons of genre conventions, writer’s conventions, and book festivals. Was AnimeKon your first Anime convention? What did you think? Would you go to an Anime Convention again?
LUCY A. SNYDER: AnimeKon is a media-oriented genre convention; you can think of it as Barbados’ version of Comic-Con. The big focus is on gaming and cosplay with a secondary focus on comics and books. You can see the influence of anime everywhere in the costumes and games and comics, but this isn’t a convention where people sit in darkened convention halls watching anime movies. I participated in their literary track — we did panels on writing short stories and creating digital content — but the big draws at the convention were the gaming and cosplay tournaments. Last year’s convention also featured a trivia game show, workshops, and a SFX green screen area where cosplayers could perform skits that would then be inserted into various fabulous settings. I think something over 6,000 people were there.
I had a fun time. It was great to meet local authors and artists, and Chattel House Books was a lovely host (their representative Erica Hinkson shuttled me all over the island, and I did a signing and news interview off-site at their bookstore). Participants put together some really impressive costumes, so the people-watching was stellar. Put all that in an island paradise setting and … yes, I would definitely go back!
AJ: You were part of the Chattel House Author’s Lounge at AnimeKon. The “author’s lounge” at most of the conventions I’ve been to has been the hotel bar, but it sounds like this was more formal and probably less alcoholic. What was the AnimeKon Author’s Lounge all about?
LAS: The Chattel House Author’s Lounge is very similar to the Authors’ Alley you find at a lot of U.S. conventions, but bigger than most. Chattel House set up a small bookstore featuring the work of AnimeKon authors and popular favorites. Beside it was an area for panels, books signings, interviews, and round-table discussions. (Sadly there was no alcohol; I believe that was against the venue’s policies.)
AJ: What was your favorite thing that happened at the convention?
LAS: My favorite thing actually happened a couple of days before the convention. As part of their Geekcation, AnimeKon hosts a catamaran party cruise, and it was just tremendous fun. You spend a day out on the ocean with music and food and drinks, and the cruise stops so you can snorkel along the reef or with sea turtles.
My second favorite thing was going out to the town of Oistins for their Friday night fish fry with the other convention guests. The best thing I can compare Oistins to is the French Quarter in New Orleans on a Saturday night — it’s that kind of revelry and live music. And of course some amazing fresh fish and local beer and rum.
AJ: Any funny or surprising stories from AnimeKon?
LAS: I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the indie books I discovered at the convention. One was Marc Gibson’s noir graphic novel Bridgeland, which is a compelling story of crime and revenge set in modern-day Barbabos. The second was a whole series of costuming how-tos written by Svetlana Quindt, who performs under the name Kamui Cosplay. Quindt knows her stuff, and the photography and production values of her books are excellent … they look as good as anything you’d get from a big publishing house.
AJ: Now that I’ve been bitten by the convention bug, I’m constantly trying to get my friends to go to convention (Ultimate goal: Taking my Dad to a Star Trek convention). What’s your advice for folks who have never been to a convention before, and aren’t sure what to do when they get there?
LAS: Going to a convention can be an intimidating prospect, especially if you have even a speck of social phobia or an aversion to crowds.
My first bit of advice is to go with a friend; the buddy system is always a good idea when venturing into the unknown, and in my opinion it’s always more fun to be able to share a new experience with a pal.
Most conventions will post their event schedules on their websites at least a few weeks beforehand. Take a few minutes to look at the schedule and figure out what strikes your fancy, and plan to attend those sessions. If there’s a gap in the schedule, take a look through the vendor hall or dealers’ room, or check to see if there’s any gaming going on that you could take part in.
If you’re an aspiring writer and you want to meet some of the attending authors but can’t find them? Head to the hotel bar; chances are good that at least a few of them are hanging out there!
AJ: What upcoming conventions are you scheduled to attend? Will you be holding workshops there? Participating in panels? BarCon-ing?
LAS: Despite trying to not get myself scheduled for a whole bunch of events — I’m in my final term as an MFA student at Goddard College, and the course load has been intense — I’m scheduled for a whole bunch of events.
- First, I’ll be a participating author at the Ohioana Book Festival in Columbus, OH on April 23, 2016.
- The very next weekend, I’ll be leading writing workshops at Marcon in Columbus, OH on May 6-8, 2016.
- The weekend after that, I’ll be a Horror University instructor at StokerCon in Las Vegas, NV on May 12-16, 2016.
- The next month, I’ll be a panelist at Origins Game Fair in Columbus, OH on June 15-19, 2016.
- I have a bit of a break, and then I’ll be a panelist at Gen Con Indy 2016 in Indianapolis, IN on Aug. 4-7, 2016.
- I’ll be at World Fantasy 2016 in Columbus, OH on October 27-30, 2016 but don’t yet know if I’ll be on any panels.
- And finally, I’ll be a panelist at WiSHCon in Columbus, OH on November 18-20, 2016.
AJ: To momentarily circle back to my first question, you have participated in what seems like a hundred Scifi/Fantasy/Horror Conventions. How has the genre convention scene changed in the last ten years? How do you see it evolving in the next ten?
LAS: I see a lot of older conventions struggling to stay relevant. The conventions that are thriving are doing so because they’ve successfully made their events more welcoming, interesting and inclusive. DetCon1 did a fabulous job, and the writers’ track at Gen Con is excellent. I see conventions continuing to evolve to offer more engaging events and to include groups that got left out of the conversations in the past.
Conventions are being held to higher standards. Con staff might be volunteers, but they have to behave like pros to put on a successful event. Attendees will no longer tolerate a sloppy creep hitting on them in the consuite, particularly when the creep in question is working for the convention. Customer service is just as critical to conventions as it is to any other business. And if you’re taking people’s money in exchange for an event? You’re a business whether you turn a profit or not. The conventions that can’t learn the basics of good customer service are going to die out in the coming decade, and that’s for the best.
AJ: A couple of questions on your writing career…first: Congratulations on Devil’s Field, your fourth Jessie Shimmer book, which is being released later this year. The publication of this book was partially funded through Kickstarter. What’s the elevator pitch for this fun looking urban fantasy series? What was the impetus for going the Kickstarter route for this newest installment?
LAS: Actually, the publication of this book will be entirely funded through Kickstarter, which is why crowd funding is such a great tool for small-press and indie publishers: you can get people excited about a project and gain the funds for it with just a few hundred backers. This is in stark contrast to the thousands of readers you might need to buy a book to break even on the production costs.
The best introduction to the Jessie Shimmer series is to read Spellbent, the first book in the original trilogy. The series is dark and action-oriented and more than a little bent. My favorite quote on the book is from Seanan McGuire: “Lucy Snyder attacks the page with the raw, manic intensity of an early Sam Raimi. This book is funny, profane, and insane in all the best ways. I can’t wait to see what Jessie Shimmer will get into—and possibly blow up—next.”
AJ: Your Stoker Award-winning non-fiction book Shooting Yourself in the Head for Fun and Profit: A Writer’s Survival Guide has a title that is darkly honest and darkly funny. The blurb on the back of the book includes, among other things, this particular phrase: ” surviving and thriving as a writer in a world that often doesn’t properly value creative professionals”. Many of my friends who are in creative fields are told by (often well-meaning) acquaintances and family members that what they are doing isn’t a real job. Uggh. What’s your response to that?
But in all seriousness, dealing with friends and family who won’t take what you do seriously is a tough situation to be in. I actually talk about that a fair bit in Shooting Yourself in the Head for Fun and Profit: A Writer’s Survival Guide.
My nutshell advice is this: hold your head up and take your own work seriously. If you hang your head and shrug and act sheepish about what you’re doing (“Oh, it’s just a science fiction story …”) then people will cue off that and not take your work seriously because you aren’t taking your work seriously. If you want to be treated like a professional, you first have to act like one, and valuing your time and what you do is part of that.
AJ: Thanks, Lucy!