Obligatory Origins Report

I’m just not good at post-Convention reports. In part this is probably because cons are like unto a whirlwind of activity for me. Another reason may be that I possess not the Ken Hite-ish brainpower needed to remember minutia to its fullest extent. A third reason is that I’m usually too busy jumping directly into a full work week to dwell upon the recent past.

And yet, lo, Origins 2004 has come and gone. I spent just two days there, arriving Friday morning, 10 a.m. (necessitating a 6 a.m. departure from Madison), and leaving, Peter Paul and Mary-like, on a jetplane 7 a.m. Sunday morning. Still, this did mean I got a whole lot of work done the week before, and this week’s workload doesn’t seem the worse for wear because of it, either.

The Friday signing (squished, as it was, around business meetings and talks) was tremendous, and lasted over two hours. Immobilizing stage-fright aside, it’s always good to see familiar faces, and a number of LJ-ers made their presence known by their astute peahen-based questions. HEY! If you’re ever at a con, please introduce yourself. I generally remember at least most of the folks who post here, and it’s great to put names to faces.

Lunch with Mike Stackpole is always a treat, and any chance to visit Columbus’ North Market is welcome indeed. I sampled some Kamikaze Rolls at the small sushi stand, and prepped for my next panel discussion, “Gaming Gurus (and a cartoonist) Pick The Goods.” Herein Peter Adkison, Robin Laws, Jonathan Tweet and I wandered the dealer’s area to find the coolest stuff to talk about. It was a tough job, but somebody had to do it.

Enough has been said about the changeover in the GAMA leadership that I don’t think I’ve anything more to add one way or the other, save to profess deep, abiding gratitude to Nicole Lindroos and the old board for a thankless, exhausting job well done. There are folks on both sides of the current fracas (the Old Guard and the Fair and Balanced Party, as I calls ’em) that I respect tremendously, and to see people I like hurt in the process is always a painful thing. The best I can do is wish the new board well, and hope it does the best for the gaming industry it possibly can.

Snapdragons won an Origins Award for Best Graphic Fiction (“Everybody Loves Gilly”), beating out the only other personal entry I had, the Dork Tower short story (“Kayleigh’s Back”). So the moral is, when you put Gilly up against Kayleigh, you get a lot of fanboys’ wet dreams come true…uh…I mean you can see who wins. Seriously, though, I was giddy when the Gilly story was nominated, and I believed it was stronger than the Dork Tower story, so I was chuffed at the result…especially with the first SnapDragons trade paperback soliciting soon. Liz Rathke and I are deeply grateful to the academy for this honor.

(Dork Tower is no longer eligible for Best Gaming Periodical, by the way, and I’m perfectly fine with that. But it would have been nice to see the insanely brilliant Nodwick get the honors before the pure comic books were disqualified from the category.)

For me, though, the highlight of the con was getting up on stage as part of the Hall of Fame presentation. Or, as I like to call it, “John’s Geek-Out Moment.” Despite a few absences (Marc Miller in particular), many of my gaming heroes were there: I met Greg Costikyan and Liz Danforthfor the first time, and I would have met Sandy Petersen, had he not been on the other side of the stage. Frank Chadwick; Greg Stafford; Dave Arneson; Tom Meier; Jim Dunnigan...the list went on and on. Though I’m 6’4″ tall, I’ve never felt tinier, surrounded by such giants of the industry.

By the way…I completely fall into fanboy mode in the presence of such folks. I remember introducing myself to Greg Costikyan, and only being able to mutter something along the lines of “Uh…eep…I really, really liked “The Creature That Ate Sheboygan.””

Gaaaaaaaaaaah! What a frickin’ YUTZ!

The rest of the night was spent on the Bar on 2, so my memory’s a bit hazy from that point on.

Sunday was insane, with meetings, signings, lunches, dinners and panels scheduled one after the other after the other after the other. I was able to hit the dealers’ hall a few times, but I never even noticed that Atlas Games had come out with Beer Money! This just drove me nuts when, back in Madison, I realized I could have been playing the follow-up to Lunch Money and Sticks and Stones all day Sunday! Still, Mike Mearls (who I finally met) and I spent a bit of time in the hallway geeking out about the D&D Miniatures game. I am gonna spend WAY too much money on this. (If anyone at Wizards of the Coast wants to swap for some Dork Tower stuff, I can promise you MANY cartoons about the game!)

Other promising highlights include the new WizKids Pirates of the Spanish Main game (designed by James Ernest, no less!) as well as Green Ronin’s Trojan War D20 supplement, Key 20’s Wryd is Bond and many others that I’ll get to as I finally unpack my suitcase. I also need to pick up Eagle Game’s Attack, and their new computer games (including a Texas Hold’Em offering!), as well as the oft-honored Game of Thrones from Fantasy Flight.

My last official duty was a 9 – 10:30 p.m. affair, a panel on “Can Great Art Save a Mediocre Game?” I was the only cartoonist on a panel of people who can REALLY draw (among them Liz Danforth and the incomparable Larry Elmore.) Since we decided within a few minutes that the answer was “no,” we spent the rest of the time complaining about art directors, comparing studio layouts, listening to Larry’s war stories, and having a great, great time. I should have been in the audience, not in front of it: listening to these folks was fantastic.

A brief stop off at the Smithee Awards (hilarious nods given to really bad movies) delayed my progress to the Bar on 2, and a couple of last-minute business meetings there meant my day finally finished around 1 :30 am. A few drinks with the Adventure retail crew pushed my return to the hotel room back to 2:30, and packing meant I was wrapped up by 3:30.

Unfortunately, my wake-up call was for 4:30. So as not to sleep through it, I decided to just stay up. If only I had known where Ken Hite was hanging, I could have at least have spent some productive down-time trying to kill off my liver.

Sunday morning was a perfect one to fly on. Bizarrely, a 757 took us the short hop from Columbus to Cincinnati, while a Dornier (didn’t they go out of business in WWII? Something about a Battle of Britain thingy?) 328 Commuter jet ferried me and about 30 others from Cincinnati to Madison.

I tried to recognize lakes and highways as we cruised leisurely over Illinois, but to no avail. Lord knows I’ve driven the state enough times. It was difficult to get a grasp on where I was though, since, exhausted, I I kept nodding off and on at the drop of a hat during both flights. Still, when we got over Madison, I was awake and treated to perhaps the most spectacular view of the Isthmus and the Capitol Building I’ve ever seen.

Apart from a lovely dim-sum gathering with some friends (Hi, Marty! Hi, Neen!) around 1 p.m., I basically slept the rest of the day. On the hammock. On the couch. I would have slept on the floor, if I had to.

Once I was at Origins, I didn’t want to leave. I missed so much, and saw some great friends far too briefly. Still, considering how much more work I was able to plough through both before and after the con, I fear this may be my modus operandi from here on out.

As I’ve come to say (with more than a little regret in my voice), it’s in EVERYBODY’S best interest if I’m behind a drawing table. News on some of the business deals struck soon..

So…if you attended Origins, what was the most fun part of the con for YOU?

If you didn’t get to go, what do you regret missing…?



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