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Friend a Day – David Traylor

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Photo by Peter Verrant

David is another very new friend.  I’ve known him for less than a year.  He tried out for Vilification Tennis at this year’s amateur show.  He didn’t make it into the cast because I only have room for one person this year but we did invite him to be a part of Fearless and that has proven to be a great choice.

I have so much respect for anyone who tries out for Vilification Tennis through the amateur show.  It’s about the scariest possible proposition I can think of to try out for a show in front of a live audience.  It’s a lot like American Idol without the slightest possibility of achieving any kind of celebrity.

David is well-known in geek circles as Captain America.  He’s got the look and the costume and he clearly exercises a lot more than I do.

As a part of Fearless, he’s been willing to jump into just about anything we need him to do.  When we wrote the halftime show for CONvergence this year, we decided to plug Captain America into the show because we had the perfect Captain America.

His small role underwent a whole lot of changes between first draft and final staging and he was a complete pro about all of it.  As a producer, it is great to have people who you can plug into a small but important role and know that they are going to rock it.

There are a lot of people who try out for Vilification Tennis and only a few make it into the cast.  The ones who don’t make it into the cast are typically pretty gracious and I don’t see much of them ever again.

The cool thing about Fearless is we have an opportunity to bring some of those new people with us into other performing opportunities.  I’m really glad that we made that decision because it has allowed me to get to know David a lot better over the last few months.

Friend a Day – Ellie Younger

Photo by Peter Verrant

Photo by Peter Verrant

I met Ellie through her ex-husband and got to know her better when she became more involved with CONvergence.

She was also a frequent guest at our regular Sunday movie nights until her career took her to Boston a couple of years ago.

These days, she comes back into town for Omegacon and usually CONvergence (though she didn’t make it this year).

While it is a shame we don’t see her as often as we used to, it is the nature of the world in which we live.  While I understand the issues many have with Facebook, I appreciate the fact that it keeps me connected to people who no longer live a short drive away.

Ellie has always struck me as smart and open about herself.  She frequently stuck around long after movie night to talk about what was going on in her life and in ours.  These weren’t “poor me” conversations but rather discussions good friends have because they are comfortable sharing things with each other.

When we went on a vacation with Ellie a few years back, she brought along her new boyfriend.  There is a level of trust in such a decision since Johnny didn’t know any of us at all.  It’s one thing to feel comfortable with your friends.  It’s another to feel comfortable bringing someone new into an existing dynamic.

As a friend, a choice like that makes you feel valuable and trusted, which is cool.

I think Ellie does that all the time.  She makes her friends feel valuable and trusted.  When she comes back through town, she makes major efforts to get together with the people she doesn’t see that frequently any longer.  It’s an awesome feeling to know that you are part of someone’s agenda when they are only around for a couple of days.

The internet may make the world a lot smaller, but it is not a perfect substitute for seeing folks you like.  Ellie didn’t make it to CONvergence this year, which is a shame.  I suppose it is about time we tried to make it out to Boston.

Friend a Day – Kammy Lyon

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I met Kammy through CONvergence.  She was the primary Skepchickcon contact and I was running programming so we talked a lot.

She was also one of our first two guests on Geeks Without God – long before we actually knew what we were doing!

Working with her on programming was a dream.  She was organized and would always answer questions quickly.  With her group representing 10 – 15 panels per year, it was great to have someone who would act as a one point contact for all of them.

Sometimes people don’t appreciate the quiet background types who keep all the balls in the air.  That was Kammy.  She didn’t sit on a lot of panels but she got a whole lot of great people on a lot of great panels.  And she helped organize a terrific room party.

She’s got an upbeat attitude that has taken a beating with some personal stuff over the last couple of years but she’s also a fighter.  Right now she’s going to college, which is a difficult task at any time.  It is a lot harder when you have a life filled with family and work already.

And good for her!  Good for anyone who makes that decision.  I’m really happy for her.

One of the things this Friend a Day project does is remind me how little time I spend with people I like.  Kammy got us over to her house for some yummy grilled burgers two years ago and we’ve been trying to set up a follow-up to that night for two years.

I think once I get done posting this, I should send an e-mail to her trying to figure out a date we can grill.  Actually, I should do that before I get done posting this.  BRB.

OK.  Done.

Kammy is a great person to know.  Hopefully I’ll be enjoying some grilled meat with her soon!

 

Friend a Day – Paul Cornell

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This is my final installment for CONvergence week.

Paul Cornell was a Guest of Honor at CONvergence 2010 and he, like most of our guests, left completely in love with the convention.  Also like many of our guests, he promised to return.

Unlike most of the people who have said they would return, Paul has turned the con into a yearly destination.  He has brought his wife and son along and it seems as if we have become a family tradition for them.

Since 2010, I see Paul for a few days every year during a weekend in which I have about 200 brief conversations with 200 different people who I really like.  Paul and I talk for ten minutes (if I’m lucky) but he pays me the genuine compliment of being happy to see me.

Paul loves to play games.  He introduced me to “Just a Minute,” which I have bastardized beyond all recognition.  And still he talks to me.

He is the perfect kind of guest for the convention because he doesn’t just produce work that is of interest to the geek community. He’s also a fan of the same things as everyone else at the convention.  While he can talk about his contributions to that fandom, he can also talk about how much he loves Urban Fantasy or Dr. Who or Cricket.

Speaking of Cricket, he is slowly teaching Minnesotans about the intricacies of the game.  It takes time when you only have one hour a year. I imagine we’ll have a convention Cricket league in another few years.

What I love about our convention is how people like Paul become a part of the community.  So many former Guests of Honor have become once-a-year friends because the convention encourages that kind of relationship.

When those people aren’t there, they are missed.  The con feels just a little less enjoyable.

This year, the absence of convention friends like Brian Keene, Bridget Landry, and John Kovalic was made a little easier by the presence of people like Paul, Cargill, and Joseph Scrimshaw.

Thanks for making us a part of your family, Paul.  We are truly flattered.  I hope we see you next year!

Paul has a great blog and he just posted a glowing write up of the convention.

 

Friend a Day – Tish Cassidy

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Photo by Sunny Wylde

I got a little bit behind on my Friend a Day posts as CONvergence got into full swing.

Today’s friend is a person I hadn’t expected to write about because I didn’t know her that well.  Her passing over CONvergence weekend reminded me that so many people touch our lives and we ought to take a few moments to show gratitude for those moments.

I first met Tish Cassidy through the Renaissance Festival.  She was one of many fellow performers I didn’t know that well.  She always had a smile on her face, which is an endearing trait in almost anyone.

She dated a roommate for a little while and spent a lot of time in our house.  She was very charming and chatty.  When the relationship ended, we didn’t see much of her for a while.

Later, she began to work with CONvergence and was one of the people tapped to take over the con when a new organizational model was adopted.  That model was a disaster but Tish was a fighter.  She and I had more than one conversation in which I saw her desire to find a way to make the whole thing work.

She loved the convention and while she was frustrated with the direction it was going, she was trying to do everything in her power to fix things.  The ship was flagging a little bit but Tish (and the people she worked with) was working as hard as she could to keep it afloat.

It is perhaps appropriate, then, that her last memories would be of the convention she loved.  From my last few encounters with her, I could see she was ill.  It turns out she was seriously ill.  She collapsed at the convention on Saturday night and expired Sunday morning.

Her sudden loss cast a pall over the weekend, which was unavoidable.  I at least took comfort in the fact that she died doing something she loved surrounded by people she loved and who loved her.

I didn’t know her that well so my sense of loss is not as great as some of my friends.  But I knew her.  Her life touched mine.  We lose friends all the time and for all sorts of reasons.  It’s worth appreciating them while they are around.

Friend a Day – Brian Keene

Photo by Debbie Kuhn

Photo by Debbie Kuhn

CONvergence week continues!

I don’t know what it is about Brian but he and I hit it off right away.  We aren’t all that similar but there’s something about him that made him instantly likable.

A few years back, we had a competition to see who could stay up later at the dead dog party.  We were both sitting at dinner and were exhausted and I was thinking it would be an early night for me.  Then Brian bet me that he could stay up later than me.

Later, he offered me a drink and I told him I didn’t drink.  “Why didn’t you tell me that before we made that bet,” he asked.

“Because you didn’t ask,” I said.

I stayed up far later than I wanted to but the important thing is I won the bet.  It was for $1.

Brian is a writer the way some people are truck drivers.  He is always writing.  He is always looking for that next job that will keep him employed at what he does best.

And he’s always fighting to make things better for himself and his fellow writers.  When he perceives something unfair in his industry, he will bang the gong to make it right.  He’s a prizefighter in an industry that needs more people like him.

He’s very open about who he is to the world.  His life, like the lives of so many writers, is not the perfect world we might expect.  He is honest about those challenges that he faces and it makes him relatable to the people who read his work.

I think that the thing I like about Brian the most is his quick wit and willingness to play.  If you throw him on any kind of panel or show, he’ll look natural and at ease.  He knows how to relax and enjoy the ride.

I only get to see him when he’s at the convention and he hasn’t been in a few years.  I think I need to make it my personal mission to figure out how we can get him back next year for sure.  The convention just isn’t as much fun without him.

To learn more about Brian, go to his website and read his blog.  I know I do!

Friend a Day – Bridget Landry

Photo by Peter Verrant

Photo by Peter Verrant

CONvergence week continues!

Today’s friend a day was a Guest of Honor at CONvergence almost by accident.  We went looking for a scientist from the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab and received a few suggestions.  Knowing nothing about any of the people suggested, we decided to invite Bridget.

Boy was that a good decision.

Bridget is an honest to goodness rocket scientist who loves sharing her work with others.  Her presentations on the latest Cassini data are always extremely popular.  When they don’t make it on the official schedule, she does a guerrilla panel that often has more people than some official panels.

What makes her presentations work is her effusive personality.  She thinks this stuff is wicked cool and that helps teach other people that it is, in fact, wicked cool.

Her enthusiam makes science accessible to laypeople, which is something I think is extremely important.  When she does her Cassini presentation or her and Dr. Jim Kakalios rip apart the science in Mission to Mars, she is making science interesting and fun.

What makes her the perfect fit for CONvergence is the fact she truly is one of us.  In addition to having one of the coolest jobs ever, she is an amazing costumer who shows up at every con with at least a half dozen costumes.  I’m not sure I’ve actually seen her in regular street clothing.

She gets into the spirit of the convention in a way that makes her a delight to have around.

There have been a couple of years where Bridget came to the convention even though she was not an official guest of honor and even in those years, she was remarkably generous with her time.  She has a mission, I think, to share her work with anyone who will listen and the good news is there area  lot of people who will listen.

She’s not at the convention this week, which is a shame.  She’ll be missed.  I look forward to her next visit.

Friend a Day – Rob Callahan

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CONvergence week continues!

Rob and I run in many of the same circles and yet it seems that we typically only connect at CONvergence.  Consequences of busy lives.

Rob is one of those people who is always relaxed and comfortable.  At least he looks that way.  Striking up a conversation with him is easy because he’ll happily talk about almost anything. He is open and honest and if you want his opinion, you will always get it.

As a storyteller, he has the same relaxed personality.  There is a lived in quality to the way he presents himself.  He looks comfortable and confident with the material but never cocky.  He doesn’t oversell his work but instead he inhabits it.

His blogging is very socially conscious but I don’t feel he comes across as preachy.  It feels kind of like a dinner conversation where he is laying out his thoughts and you are nodding because you can’t think of anything to say that runs counter to his point of view.

His wit is dry, clever, and delightfully sarcastic.  His jokes don’t feel forced.  They feel natural.

In a lot of his writing, he has been a strong advocate for the geek community.  A lot of articles in the press will tend to focus on the “look at the freaks” nature of science fiction conventions.

Rob works to counter that with writing that says “look at these people with different hobbies and interests, wouldn’t you like to grab a coffee with one of them?”

He is a geek himself, sure.  But he recognizes that every community has their quirks and he’d rather celebrate and elevate the quirks of his community.

The convention is nearly upon us and, once again, I will likely find no more than fifteen minutes to chat with Rob.

That’s a shame.  If it is only fifteen minutes, though, I’m still looking forward to them.

I almost forgot!  You should read his blog!

Friend a Day – Stephanie Zvan

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CONvergence week continues here at Friend a day headquarters!

I met Stephanie when we were in the same play in college.  I was nearly killed by a piece of scenery on opening night.  That’s a different story.

After that show, I hardly saw her for years.  It was only through the Skepchick/FreethoughtBlog events at CONvergence that we re-connected.

Stephanie is devoted to supporting social justice issues through her Almost Diamonds blog.  She has become a target for a lot of internet hatred because she’s not willing to back away from an important fight.  She’s openly critical of well known members of the atheist community like Richard Dawkins.

I can’t imagine how exhausting the abuse can become and yet Stephanie faces it with a sense of humor and, I think, the conviction that she is right.

When there is an issue that has me upset, I find that Stephanie frequently is commenting on exactly the thing that has me frustrated.  Her thoughts are well researched and detailed.  Certainly you can disagree with her but you can’t disagree with the effort she put into presenting a cogent argument.

She was a guest on Geeks Without God our first weekend and was one of the people who helped set the tone.  We’ve had her back since to play the horrible Left Behind Board game.  You have to have a little extra helping of respect for anyone who endured that game.

I remember working with Stephanie on that show all those years ago and even back then she had a ton of confidence you knew would get her through a lot.  It is that strong sense of self that helps her keep saying things that make her a target for a lot of petty stupidity.

And that is something I don’t think the petty, stupid people have figured out.  Being an asshole on the internet is easy.  Fighting against the assholes is a lot harder.

I’m really proud to know someone who is fighting the assholes.

 

Friend a Day – Harry Knowles

Photo by Brett A. Hart

Photo by Brett A. Hart

It’s CONvergence week and that means all my Friend a Day posts will probably have something to do with the convention.

Harry was a Guest of Honor at our first convention back in 1999.  He’s returned a couple of times since then and I’ve been fortunate enough to go down to Austin almost every year since then for Butt-Numb-a-Thon.

Through that, I’ve gotten to know Harry as well as anyone who only sees him once a year can really know anyone.  I love going down for the movie festival but I’m even happier to spend time with people I hardly ever see.  Like Harry.

The thing about Harry is he is living the dream all of us geeks had when we were young.  I’m not resentful of that fact because he is completely aware of how fortunate he is to live that dream and he is always doing his best to share it with others.

Sitting with Harry talking to him about movies is sort of like film school every time.  He knows so much about the film industry and film history it kind of blows my mind.  And he is so fucking smart, he can take all of that information, process it, and draw intelligent conclusions.

When he introduces you to someone, he will then probably spend at least twenty minutes telling you everything about that person.  He doesn’t talk about that person’s faults.  He tells you why he likes them so much.  I think he just has the ability to see the best in everyone.

His sense of humor is mildly sadistic.  If he pokes fun at you, it is because he likes you.  He also expects the same in return.  He is completely capable of taking as much as he’s been given.

I’m glad that we asked Harry to come to the convention all those years.  If we hadn’t, I wouldn’t have ended up seeing him once a year.  Once a year isn’t enough, but it’s better than nothing.

 

 

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