Tuesday, June 11, 2019

State of the Schafer, GeyserCon Edition

Well, GeyserCon was a lot of fun. As cons go, it's on the smaller side, comparable to something like MileHiCon in Colorado. (This makes sense, given that NZ's total population and land area are also roughly equivalent to that of Colorado). I rather like the intimacy of smaller cons, which tend to feel like a laid-back family reunion rather than an overwhelming extravaganza.

Granted, the family reunion vibe can be a little nervewracking for an introvert who's brand new to the family. At GeyserCon, like any SFF con I've ever attended, much of the socializing happens in the hotel bar. When you enter and see a lot of tight-knit groups of friends deeply involved in conversation, and you're a stranger to most everyone, it's tough to overcome social anxiety and try to join an existing circle. SF author Kay Kenyon wrote a great post about how to handle con bars as an introvert that I highly recommend to anyone else who, like me, shudders at the thought of starting conversations with strangers.

Another big help is to have friends provide some online introductions in advance. Back when I first moved to New Zealand, SFF reviewer Paul Weimer gave me a virtual introduction to Jo Van Ekeren, who lives in NZ and is a veteran of many WorldCons. She offered to split a room with me at GeyserCon, and proved to be a most excellent roommate and guide to Kiwi fandom. One of my favorite memories of the con is talking about SF books with her until late into the night.

Fellow author and good friend Helen Lowe was working too hard on finishing the fourth novel in her wonderful Wall of Night series to attend the con, but she made sure to ask some of her friends to keep an eye out for me, which they very kindly did. Also, con Guest of Honour Kaaron Warren, who had a story in the Evil is a Matter of Perspective anthology along with me, sought me out to say hello, which was really lovely of her. When you're shy, it makes such a difference to have people actively reach out to you. I hope I can repay the favor to other newbies in years to come. 

As always happens at a con, once I got over my initial shyness, I met all kinds of lovely people who were unfailingly friendly and welcoming. Plus, the con programming (organized by award-winning Kiwi author Lee Murray) was great. One of my favorite talks was given by Peter Brownbridge, a Geothermal Inspector from the Rotorua District Council. The town of Rotorua is located within the caldera of a volcano, and an active thermal field lies beneath the streets. Peter's job is to respond to reports of geothermal events, identify damage, and arrange necessary repairs. The surprises range from geysers going off in people's gardens, to deadly hydrogen sulfide gas infiltrating buildings. It was really fascinating to hear about the challenges of living in an active volcanic zone, and how the city manages the consequences. 

I also thoroughly enjoyed Lee Murray's interview with Kaaron Warren. Kaaron is a wonderful storyteller; her writing portrays the eerie, haunting, and unsettling corners of human nature, yet in person she's quite warm and witty. After hearing her discuss her latest novel, Tide of Stone, which is about the keeper of a tower containing condemned prisoners who endure a horrible sort of immortality, I had to buy it. Another con Guest of Honour, Alan Baxter, who's a long-time martial artist, gave a fascinating talk on what it's like to fight hand to hand, and how you can capture the feeling of a fight using various writing techniques. 

It was neat to see the award ceremony for the Sir Julius Vogel Awards, which are the NZ equivalent of the Hugos. Congrats to all the winners! And since WorldCon will be held in NZ next year, 29 July- 2 Aug in Wellington, plenty of discussion was had about that. Prices for memberships go up in only a few days, so if you're at all thinking you might come, definitely register. (And yes, if at all financially feasible, you should come! It's going to be awesome.)

 In any case, GeyserCon was a blast, but all fun has to end sometime. The day I was to head home, I woke up with a sore throat, which only worsened as I traveled. By the time I got back to Queenstown, I had to accept the truth: the virus that had made my son miserable for 5 long days had caught up with me at last.

I've spent the last week flat on my back in bed, too sick to write or do anything much useful. My husband had to take on an unexpected extra week of solo parenting, poor guy. (Because he is a wonderful husband, he rose to the task.) 

At long last, I'm recovering. All I've got left is laryngitis and a slowly disappearing cough. I'm back to writing, and hopefully very soon back to skating and hiking and everything else, because boy am I sick of lying like a slug in bed. I did at least read some great books, and watch the best TV miniseries I have seen in ages (HBO's Chernobyl), but I'll leave discussion of those to another post. Much like my illness, this one is long enough already. I'll leave you with some I took while wandering around Rotorua. 

Lake Rotorua--water fills much of the volcano caldera.
Geothermal steam rising from behind the con hotel
Dead zone beside a hot spring
According to Geothermal Inspector Peter Brownbridge, this area behind the hotel was created when a manmade geothermal bore "went rogue" 
Rotorua Museum in Government Gardens, which are also known as Paepaekumanu
Steaming hot spring near the museum
View on my flight home to Queenstown. Alas, I was on the wrong side yet again to see Aoraki / Mt. Cook, but there's no such thing as a bad view of the Southern Alps.


  1. Fascinating pics! Great report -- feel better soon!

  2. Thanks for the report. Hope you feel better soon.