MileHiCon: A Gathering of Colorado Writers, Fans and Gamers
October 19 - 21, 2018
MileHiCon is Denver’s annual SF/F fan and writer convention. An October fixture for 50 years, the convention appeals to lovers of SF/F books and movies, with vendor book stalls, gaming rooms, role-playing, autographing opportunities, and movie classics and anime running for free at all hours. You can buy books new and used, jewelry, costumes, and art. This year, our own CS Peterson and Lisa Mahoney were in attendance, and they filed this field report for Fiction Unbound.
Guests of Honor and a Plethora of Panels
Enthusiastic local authors and small independent publishers were well represented in the upstairs lobby. More than a hundred panels were on offer, many featuring one or more of this year’s award-winning guests of honor. Colorado author Connie Willis gave a talk on writing craft; Canadian author Robert J. Sawyer spoke about the science of global warming, and the history of the atomic bomb at the Trinity test site. Boulder author Stephen Graham Jones spoke about the appeal slasher films had in his youth. In addition to authors, there many visual artists spoke as well, including Shannon K. Garrity, whose work appears in many popular manga and cartoons, and Liz Danforth, whose art is featured in games like Tunnels & Trolls and Magic: The Gathering. Ed Kramer, an amazing visual effects artist whose work is featured in Star Wars and Galaxy Quest, was talking up a film he’s producing, titled The Wizards of Hollywood, which celebrates the creators of the CGI visual effects that have made our favorite SF/F films and television shows possible.
Specialty Workshops for Writers
At MileHiCon, aspiring writers can sign up for how-to classes on improving their writing, getting noticed in a publisher’s slush pile, and creating believable alternate universes. At a workshop entitled “Writing Credible Characters with Visible and Invisible Disabilities,” visiting authors and Guests of Honor Carol Berg, Vivian Caethe, Curtis Craddock, and Carol Hightshoe urged writers to fully develop all aspects of their characters with mental and physical challenges. Troubling are characters who spend a novel trying to overcome disabilities rather than pursue other realistic goals, or the use of token disabled characters, especially as villains. A packed, lively audience urged writers to research by talking respectfully with willing people who experience similar challenges, rather than to research, say, in medical texts, which does not result in a portrayal of real challenges. At another workshop, authors explained how they earned e-currency for their opinions and writing using blockchain technology to sign up subscribers, and by curating and voting on others’ work on platforms like AirWire and Dischord. Think of it as a way to make your opinion count, and get paid for it.
Alzabo Soup: Join a Book Club via Podcast, Listen While you Commute
Andrew “Phil” Philipp and Metzroth “Metz” Armstrong may be the ultimate book club hosts. Their popular Denver-based weekly podcast Alzabo Soup is banter about and critique of high-quality SF/F novels you can read along with them. Since they read only a chapter or two each week, and you can listen to a podcast anytime, anywhere, it’s great for busy SF/F lovers. Plus, you never have to invite your fellow book club members over to your house and face appetizer and drinks performance pressure. Their taste is as diverse as The Unbound Writers’: they’ve read With the Night Mail by Rudyard Kipling and Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link. Right now they are working their way through Gene Wolfe’s The Book of The New Sun series. But don’t worry about being behind: all the podcasts are downloadable, so you can start at the beginning and catch up.
Some new Conventions and Festivals celebrating speculative forms are coming soon. If you haven’t found your SF/F tribe yet, here are two upcoming events where you can keep looking!
Colorado Anime Fest: A Fast-Growing Con for Anime Connoisseurs and Newbies
April 19 - 21, 2019
The Colorado Anime Fest is growing at 25% per year, which may not surprise visitors to the explosive Denver ComicCon. Nearly 2,500 people attended the Anime Fest last year. The developers tailor the festival tracks to what interests fans of anime. For example, they may bring in an armorer to answer cosplayers’ questions. Generally, the focus is on voice actors, producers, and others who make anime in the US. They promote anime and their Con at events that attract their fans, like at MileHiCon and the annual Dragon Boat Races, where they have a booth running back-to-back anime screenings each year. Other events in their “cultural track” include martial arts demonstrations. One of the cooler offerings is the Manga Library, where overwhelmed Fest visitors can retreat and read hundreds of titles in a quiet space. This Fest has different events for all ages, with some content designed for the over-21 crowd, like the Anime Bar. There is a vendors’ hall, a rave, panels, cosplay and video gaming, including arcade machines. This may be a great way to catch some of the anime works Fiction Unbound reviewed a few weeks ago.
Colorado Festival of Horror, “Stay Tombed,” Launches in 2020
The Colorado Festival of Horror will be one of several cons put on by Shiny Gardens, a group dedicated to raising awareness for inclusivity. A 501(3)c non-profit, Shiny Gardens organizes Cons that aim to treat everybody fairly while having fun. Check out their Facebook page for information if you’d like to get involved. These folks have plenty of experience; they’ve worked at the 47-year-old StarFestDenver for decades. Shiny Gardens puts on three other conventions: Myths and Legends Con, Whimsy Con (steampunk), and HexaCon for tabletop gamers.