ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: First Accident

Just after the accident
Ouch!

Well, there goes that bragging right.  Up until Monday, I was one the few people in my circle of friends to have never been involved in a car accident.  That proud status changed after I was involved in a fender-bender this past Monday.  I hit another car that was pulling out of a parking lot just down the road from my apartment. I then spent the next three hours in the misty afternoon directing traffic, and talking with the lady I hit, the police, the people at my insurance company, the folks at the rental car company, the tow truck guy and most of my immediate family.

It was my day off too  :/

The good thing is that nobody got hurt, but both of our vehicles are a bit worse for wear.  I hit the other vechicle square in the driver’s side wheel (as you can see in the pic), which is going to cost a few beans to fix, and while the body damage on the Reliant is limited to the front bumper, it wouldn’t start at all, so there’s that.  The lady I hit was actually pretty cool about it, as was I, so I at least didn’t have to deal with some mad-as-hell person jumping and screaming at me.  Before the fire department and police showed up to direct traffic, I was directing people to get out of my lane with my Flashlight of Smiting.  Even though we didn’t hit hard enough for either of our airbags to deploy, I was a bit discombobulated after the fact.

Dealing with my insurance company (Progressive) wasn’t too bad, not too long after everything was hauled away, I was picked up by the rental car company and am now riding about in a Hyundai Santa Fe.  I was considering a small SUV before this and now that I have had a chance to drive one, I am sold on the vehicle type.  I may not get a Santa Fe for my next vehicle, but will definitely consider something like it once all this hash is settled.

If there is one thing that does bother me about the whole thing, its that there were NO witnesses.  The accident happened just in front of a bus stop, and of course, those folks hopped onto the next bus that stopped by.  I don’t blame them, I’m sure they had work or other places to be, but the fact that no one that driving around stopped AT ALL kinda sucked.  I’ve witnessed an accident myself, and I made sure I stuck around to see if they needed assistance or witnesses.

Now I get to wait for the insurance guys and repair guys to get everything figured out.  I’ll probably be out some cash when its all said and done, but in the bigger scheme of things, everything turned out as well as could be.

RANDOM REACTION: Furry Fiesta 2012 Final Thoughts

D'awww
D’awww

I didn’t really have much planned for the last day of Furry Fiesta; just one panel late in the afternoon having to do with podcasting.  My partner in crime had to go to work (I wisely took Monday off) and so we couldn’t hang around, or go to In-N-Out, but such is life.

One thing that surprised me as I walked about the hotel early Sunday was how clean the hallways were.  The hallways of a con hotel on Sunday morning are usually pretty messy: people sleep underneath Artist Alley tables and flyers, and empty cups and bottles are lying everywhere as the con slowly lurches back to life while the hotel staff does what it can to clean up before it does.  In contrast, early Sunday morning the hallways of Furry Fiesta were almost as clean as they were on Friday.

Overall, I’d say that is a pretty good analogy for how Furry Fiesta 2012 went as a whole.  Except for one panelist running late, everything appeared to have gone smoothly as far as I could see.  The attendees were a bit more well behaved than I was accustomed to, probably because they appeared to be older than the usual con crowd. I had to get used to not overhearing security staff barking and yelling at attendees. If I had to guess, I’d say the average age has to be somewhere in the mid-late 20s, because there were a significant number of folks (including myself) that were over thirty years old at the event. Folks also appeared to be better behaved and even downright friendly at Furry Fiesta; it was easy to keep a smile on my face the whole weekend.

I had a fun time at Furry Fiesta 2012. As my friend Chris Holm surmised beforehand, it was the same, but different. It had many of the same things comic book and anime conventions have: special guests, a video room where folks could watch movies and series, a video game room, a dealer’s area, artist’s area, panels and big events.

Unlike other cons, the emphasis at Furry Fiesta appeared to be on originality. Except for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (which is EVERYWHERE, for better or for worse) I saw very little, if any, fanart or even cosplayers dressed up as characters from TV, movies, or video games, for that matter.  Instead, people made up their own characters and dressed up as them. A significant number of the panels also focused on the creative arts: there were panels on writing, drawing, and even voiceover. I easily doubled the number of panels that I usually attend at a con and learned some good information.

The issues I had with the hotel and the people that were staying above me were the only negatives that I took away from Furry Fiesta.  I had a great time and will definitely be back next year for another fantastic furry weekend!

RANDOM REACTION: Furry Fiesta Day 2

Guess which one is "Dr. Nuka"
Guess which one is “Dr. Nuka”

Day 2 of Furry Fiesta 2012 began with a less-than promising start: the apes that were in the room above decided to start stomping around again at around 6 in the morning.  I made another fruitless call to the front desk but was able to get just a little more sleep before starting the day.

I had breakfast and then attended another voiceover panel.  This one was loads of fun, as everyone (that wanted to, at least) got to read copy and get feedback on their performances.  I also got to learn a few technical things that I can apply to my own podcast, which was cool.  It ended up being the only panel I attended all day: the “furry psychology” panel filled up, and I totally forgot about another writer’s panel after running into a friend I hadn’t seen in awhile.

We hung out, and as two of her friends happened to be fursuiters, I got to see them get prepared for the ‘fursuit parade’ which is a procession of the various fursuiters in attendance showing off their stuff around the convention.  I have even more respect for those folks now after witnessing firsthand the effort that it takes to put one on, never mind having the nerve to do so in the first place.  I also led one of them (fursuits are notorious for limiting vision) to the ‘headless lounge,’ which is a place for fursuiters to literally cool down.

After that, I camped out with some friends and shot the breeze as we waited for the parade to begin.  Once it began, we all had a ball watching them march, strut, and mug for the many cameras present.  It was really fun to watch, you’ll get to see it too once I upload it and can provide a link, because the only Internet I have is what I can squeeze out of my 3G modem or borrow from restaurants during meals :/  As an aside, you have to pay for internet here at the hotel, and the “Free Lobby WiFi” doesn’t seem to work…now isn’t that a conincidence?

I finally got around to filling out the Anthropomorphic Research Project survey; there were some interesting questions to answer and I’ll be interested to see what the results are, especially since I missed their panel.  The folks in the picture above ARE the researchers, and yes, that includes Dr. Nuka.  I grabbed a bite to eat and then hung out at the lounge area to do some writing. I didn’t really get much done, but I did write most of this blog post, while I was there, so I got something done at least.

I don’t really have much planned for tomorrow, just two panels (one on writing and one on podcasting and I may skip the podcasting one) and then it’s time to hit I-35 back to San Antonio.  We plan on leaving late in the afternoon, so I may be too bushed to post my final thoughts tomorrow, but I can do that Monday morning, good thing I took the day off.  🙂

RANDOM REACTION: Furry Fiesta Day 1

When in Rome...
When in Rome…

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from my first day at Furry Fiesta 2012.  As mentioned during my pre-game podcast with artist Chris Holm, we really didn’t expect it to be that much different from other cons that we have been to before.  So far, that has held up.  Sure, the “Dealer Room” is called a ‘Dealer’s Den’ and fursuiters play the role that cosplayers would play at an anime con, but for the most part it’s the same song, it only goes to a furry beat.

The first thing that really impressed me about Furry Fiesta were the freebies that I received upon registering: a hard plastic badge that was of much better quality than the laminated ones one usualy gets at these things, and a 8.5 x 11-sized con book with a nice glossy cover, which made me even more happy to have my short story included in it.  The inclusion of a bar of soap felt a bit like a tongue-in-cheek joke, but it is honestly something that more cons should probably do.  There was also a furry survey that is apparently taken every year as part of a study on the fandom, I’ll need to fill that out and return it.

Aside from badges, the main way to identify someone is an attendee is by the wearing of a tail. Sometimes ears (the headband kind, not the ‘hat’ kind like I’m wearing in the picture) and fuzzy gloves are worn as well, but tails are pretty common.

While the panels I have been to have not all been as good as I initially had hoped for, I was still pleased that there are more panels that I was actually interested in. The five panels I attended on Friday easily equaled the number of panels I might attend during the three days of an anime or comic book convention.

There seems to be more of an emphasis at Furry Fiesta on the creation of art rather than the consumption of it. Instead of attending a panel where a voice actor answers questions from fans about the shows he or she has worked on, I. can attend a panel where I can learn about voice acting, writing, and art.

There are quite a few things to do here at Furry Fiesta for someone who is interested in creating. The vast majority of the costumes are of original characters; instead of pretending to be something that is the product of another person’s imagination, attendees create their own ‘fursonas.’  Oftentimes, they only exist on paper or in artwork, but a few take the extra step of bringing their creation to life in the real world.  They are known as ‘fursuiters’ and there are some REALLY good costumes out there.

The only horsefly (ba-doom, tissh) in the ointment has been the jerkasses that are staying in the room above the one I am in.  I have been hearing nothing but stomping around and horseplaying last night and into the morning. Two calls to the front desk and a chat with the Furry Fiesta security guy have proven to be pretty fruitless in getting anything accomplished.  To be fair, though, that is something that one experiences at all of these things, so I can’t really hold it against them.  That said, I think the fact that something hasn’t been done about this reflects poorly on both the hotel and the convention.  I will speak with the folks at the front desk again (and maybe even FF security) today and see if anything can be done.  I got a five-hour drive tomorrow back home and I need more sleep.

But yeah, that’s a problem one comes across at any convention.  Its only been the first day, but I have already had a lot of fun and even learned a new thing or two at Furry Fiesta 2012. I look forward to the remainder of the con.  At this rate, I will be attending Furry Fiesta 2013 without any hesitation.  If that isn’t the best compliment I can give, I don’t know what is.

Fuzzy Thoughts

'Ed' by Melissa DeJesus
‘Ed’ by Melissa DeJesus

Tomorrow I will be driving up to Addison, Texas for Furry Fiesta along with my friend Chris Holm.  While he hopes to get a table in Artist’s Alley to peddle his wares, my objective is to hang out and have fun.  This will be the first “furry” convention I have ever attended, and I have received quite a few different responses from friends whenever I bring it up, ranging from curiosity to revulsion and even amusement.  I just grin and bear it…ba-doom, tissh.

I guess there is no way to get around it, though.  I am a ‘furry.’  No, I don’t have a costume, or think of myself as an animal (the picture at right nonwithstanding).  I don’t bark or howl or snarl at people nor do any of the other crazy stuff that the Internet Hate Machine and misinformed mass media would have you believe.

I just happen to like media that features anthropomorphic animal characters.  As a kid, I grew up watching Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse cartoons.  I enjoyed reading Aesop’s fables and Watership Down.  Later, DuckTales, TaleSpin and Darkwing Duck were part of my afternoons and fuzzy critters like Starfox, Ratchet, and Sly Cooper happen to star in some of my favorite videogames.

I submitted an idea that was used in the newspaper comic strip Pluggers, which features animal people demonstrating the foibles and virtues of working folks.  I entered a writing contest to appear in a (sadly cancelled) comic strip called “My Cage” which was also completely populated by funny animals.   I won and got to pick what animal my character would appear as in the strip.  I chose a bear; artist Melissa DeJesus did a pretty good job of turning me into one, as you can see in the picture above.  As an aside, the template she used can be found on the ‘About’ page.  I also wrote a short story for the Furry Fiesta conbook that stars their jackalope mascots.  It’s called “All’s Well That Ends Well” and I look forward to seeing it in print.

So yeah, I suppose I was a ‘furry’ before there was a term for it.  No, this isn’t intended to be some big epiphany or coming out or anything like that.  It’s just one part of who I always have been, whether you happened to notice it or not.  Tomorrow I am going to go to a convention to hang out with a bunch of other folks that happen to like some of the same things I do, just like I do at anime, comic book, steampunk and videogame conventions.

That doesn’t sound that odd now, does it? 😉

Second Storm

I believe that every creative person has, in their head somewhere, their masterpiece.  The Big One, the Magnum Opus, that one work that they believe will knock everyone’s socks off and change the world, or at the least, make them rich and/or famous.  One concept that we always preached in First Storm Manga was the idea that your Big One should never, ever, be your first project.

Why not?  As eager as you may be to unleash your book, song or artwork onto an unsuspecting world, the fact of the matter is that when you undertake your first major project, you are more than likely going to make mistakes. Thus, you should undertake a similar smaller project that you aren’t quite as emotionally invested in, so when things go wrong, you won’t be discouraged from having borked up your masterpiece.

Thus, “The Rules of Tech Support” is actually my second ebook.  My first one was “One Sheet Stories” which was a collection of five of my one-page stories.  Nobody bought it, and I also encountered a few slip-ups along the way.  I tried using a service called Smashwords which ended up not working as well as I had hoped.  Their touted ‘Meatgrinder’ conversion program didn’t quite spit out my e-book the way that I wanted it to look, which was frustrating.  I did some research and found a spiffy program called eCub that I could use to convert my text properly to e-book format then upload it directly to Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

That was just one of the lessons I learned while working on “One Sheet Stories” that I was able to apply to the production of “The Rules of Tech Support.”  The process went much smoother because I was doing it the second time around and I didn’t make as many mistakes.  Time will tell whether it “The Rules of Tech Support” will be successful or not, but on a technical level, I am happy with the result.

Its not that you can’t strike gold on your first try, but the unfortunate reality is that most folks will not, and who knows, that small project just could be the one that makes it big!

My 2012 Con Schedule!

Doing my thing at San Japan 4TW
Never forget your sanitizer!

Here is my con schedule for 2012.  Frankly, I’m surprised I never did this here before.  Unlike previous years, I won’t be ‘working’ at very many of these.

Ikkicon, Dec 30-Jan 1, Austin, Texas

Technically, this New Year’s Eve con is the first con of the year as well as the last one of last year, so there.  I’ve already done a writeup on it, so there isn’t much else.

Furry Fiesta, Feb 24-26, Dallas, Texas

Going to try something new this year.  Furry Fiesta will be my first-ever furry convention.  It will be interesting to see how similar and different this will be from all the other cons I’ve ever attended.

Mizuumi-con, March 31, San Antonio, Texas

Mizuumi con was one of the first anime cons I ever attended, and is a great place for newbies to dip their toes into the multicolored pool that is anime and manga.  At $15, its inexpensive to go to and the kids out at Our Lady of the Lake University make for a pretty enthusiastic crowd.

Aetherfest, May 4-6, San Antonio, Texas

Set in the beautiful St. Anthony hotel in downtown San Antonio and put together by the San Antonio Neo-Victorian Association, Aetherfest is a three-day steampunk convention that truly stands out with its costumes.  Steampunk attracts a slightly older crowd, so those looking for an alternative to the manic pace of other cons will find plenty to like here. Dress-up is encouraged, but not necessary, or to borrow the words of a certain Mr. Collins, there is ‘no jacket required.’

Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), June 5-7, Los Angeles, California

Of all the cons on this list, this will be one of the few that I will be ‘working’ at.  E3 is the Big One as far as videogame conventions are concerned, and I will be going there in my capacity as Editor of Original-Gamer.com to check out new games and talk to people and write.  It is an industry-only event, so not everyone can go.

Texas Comic Con, June 22-24, San Antonio, Texas

If anime isn’t quite your thing and you want to get your hero on, Texas Comic Con is the place to do it.  In addition to the loads of comic book, action figure and pop culture dealers there are a host of artists, independent publishers, and fan groups ranging from Whovians to Sith to Ghostbusters.  Guest of Honor Larry Hama and Lou Ferrigno are but a few of the names showing up to this one.

San Japan, August 10-12, San Antonio, Texas

Easily and consistently one of the best conventions I have been too, San Japan Mach 5 is upping the ante this year as they are moving into the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center this year.  The already-biggest fan con in San Antonio is about to get bigger, which should mean even MORE fun stuff to do.  Sadly, I may be ‘working’ at this one as well for Original-Gamer.com, but we shall see.

RealmsCon, Oct 12-14, Corpus Christi. Texas

RealmsCon is currently (as far as I know) Corpus Christi’s only anime and pop culture convention.  While it is a 3-day affair, my experience is that you can go and see everything in one day.  That doesn’t necessarily make it a bad convention, just a smaller one.

There may be a few other events I go to, but this is what I have planned for so far for the year.  ‘Working’ or not, this year should be fun on a bun!