Shopping the Con: FOGcon 2014 Dealers Room

I co-ordinate the FOGcon Dealers’ Room, and really liked how it turned out this year. Like FOGcon, it’s compact, friendly and accessible – and tempting! It’s only got 20 tables – enough for variety, not so much that it overwhelms. For the first time, we had so much interest that we actually had a waitlist. (So if you’re interested in selling at FOGcon 5 in March 2015, email us early at – and make sure you have your paperwork!)

Dealers Room at FOGcon 2014

We had a nice mix this year: Three regular book-stores selling speculative fiction (Book Universe, Cargo Cult, and Other Change of Hobbit); some specialist booksellers like PM Press, Damnation Books, and the Rejected Quarterly.

bookstall in Dealers Room at FOGcon 2014

Author Valerie Frankel
Author Valerie Frankel

As publishing moves to a variety of different options for reader and writers alike, we welcome them all – traditional bookstores, specialist small presses and micro-presses, individuals.  So we were pleased to have authors who brought their own books: Stephen Brophy and Lester Milton; Bret Alexander Sweet (who also was showing off some great illustrations produced by young people he’s associated with); SteamPunk authors Emily Thompson and Janice T;  and Valerie Estelle Frankel.

We had jewelry from Springtime Creations and Featherweight Finery, costumes from KrakenWhip, and interesting steam-punk creations from SteamyTech.
And we had a chair massage therapist, Keri Denney of Massage Garage.

Aside from the requisite pile of books (I think around 10 this year!) I picked up some ear-rings as a gift, a very cool little clock enclosed in a spherical pendant, and a set of coasters containing functional wooden gears.

FOGcon 2014 – The Writing Workshop

I co-ordinate the writing workshops at FOGcon. These are small critique groups, led by published authors who volunteer to provide their insights. This year, we had a great line-up of leaders: Cassie Alexander, Jed Hartman, Ellen Klages, Rachel Swirsky, and Mike Underwood.


We get the manuscripts from participating writers about six weeks in advance. The writers are split into groups of three or four, and we put them in touch with each other by email and each group gets all the manuscripts for that group. At the Con, they meet for a roughly one-hour session (which can sometimes go to two hours!) There’s a workshop fee of $20.

The workshops look to be increasingly popular. About half the participants return. The number’s been growing, and so we’ve been experimenting with ways to accommodate them. This year, we had 19 participants.  Instead of having all groups meet over Saturday lunch hour in the programming space like last year, we had it in a room behind the Consuite, spread out through Saturday and part of Sunday. We also tried to set it up so if a group wanted to run over the hour and fifteen minutes allocated, they could do so.

It was also an experiment with the new format. We got positive feedback about this, and I think we’re going to run with it. That means we can actually add some more participants next year, though it’ll still be limited.

FOGcon 2015

If you think you’ll be coming to FOGcon 5  (It’s March 6-8, 2015 at the same hotel), and would like to join the Writers’ Workshop – we’ll have a late January deadline for manuscripts (under 10,000 words and in rtf format). We don’t have any experience requirements (though if you’re under 18, we’ll need parental approval because you could encounter work aimed at older people). Email us at to let us know!

FOGcon 14 – and onward!

Usually, I like to blog about Cons when I’m there, like for Wiscon 37 last year. With FOGcon 4, this didn’t happen – in part because I’m on the ConCom (for the Dealers’ Room and the Writing Workshop), and in part because I’d been traveling and was jetlagged. I didn’t want to use the time to blog, I wanted every spare minute for the Con itself.

Panel at FOGcon 2014

I actually made it to quite a few events, mainly by being ruthless with myself about what was and wasn’t feasible. I didn’t take notes, though, so this is from memory.

The Invisible Disabilities Panel discussed the particular issues of dealing with disabilities that are not apparent to others, especially others who do not know you – and even those who do. They may not understand, or even believe you. And in some cases, it’s tempting to hide the problem and attempt to pass – which may be useful in some ways, but can be costly in terms of energy and openness. Some issues: Potential employers will generally avoid people with disabilities, so it may be useful to hide them at interviews; friends may not know how to make allowances. Some people don’t want to admit their disabilities even to themselves until forced to do so. Allies and friends should take the lead from what the person indicates they prefer; some want friends to check in how they’re doing, but others find that intrusive. In general, recognize that all disabilities are not evident, and even hidden ones can be painful and/ or crippling.

When is your Heroine Finally Going to Be Raped?  This is a question that Guest-of-Honor Seanan McGuire was actually asked – and her response was, never. Seanan said that she’d been told she was being unrealistic and unfaithful to her story. She wasn’t buying. This panel looked at the use of rape in stories – often as a quick way to give a hero something to revenge or a heroine a grim backstory. Too often, it’s either misogynistic or lazy. Sometimes, it’s meant to be titillating.

My Baby’s Got a Secret talked about genetic tests, and the risks and benefits of genetic analyses and what they could forecast. Topics included the risk of misinterpretation, employer and insurance company discrimination against people who might have genetic predispositions to illness or disability, and privacy. What would be the impact on reproduction: Would parents try to produce the “best” baby they could get, with the result that some genetic variation across the population would be lost? Someone in the audience pointed out that genetic privacy would eventually be obsolete because the cost of testing was falling rapidly, and it took hardly anything to get a test. We should be preparing for that day, rather than trying to prevent it.

Just because she’s a manic pixie in black leather doesn’t stop her being an angel in the house. This panel looked at two popular tropes for women, often in supporting roles to the hero: The “manic pixie,” who encourages him to break away from the normal workaday world; and the “angel in the house” who inspires him to the male role of protector and provider. The panel looked at characters who transition from one to the other – manic pixies who marry and settle down and become house-angels. It also looked at movement away from these stereotypes, notably Katniss in Hunger Games, and the princesses in Frozen.

The Seanan Show was Seanan McGuire answering questions and telling stories from her life. Ask her about the time she was bitten by Claude. She’s certified to handle venomous reptiles, and Claude was one of them. She’s superb and very funny. Even about life-threatening events.

Passing for Normal. This panel addressed the whole issue of “passing.” It looked at it primarily through the lens of sexual orientation and identity. It discussed being out, peoples’ reactions, and when passing is useful.

Juliette Wade and Vylar Kaftan’s readings. This was a pleasure to attend. Vy’s story was about portals and crossing into fantasy worlds – deliberately or not. Juliette’s was about a stressed out kid in Tokyo trying to study for her college entrance exams and encountering two yokai in her backyard that interfere with her efforts – one a thrown-away bicycle, the other an umbrella and tea-pot.

Then it was time for the feedback session. Everyone seemed to have had a great Con, and there were some good suggestions about making it better.

On Sunday afternoon, I went up to Consuite for the dead frog party. FOGcon has a really nice Consuite, managed this year by Alyc Helms. It’s small and friendly, and has a good (and constantly-replenished) selection of pretty healthy snacks, including fruit, vegetables and cheese and crackers as well as candy and cookies. It often has fascinating conversations going on, with an inclusive attitude to people joining in. In some ways, it’s the heart of the Con.

And then FOGcon 4 was over. I’m looking forward to FOGcon 5 already!

I’ll write about the two areas I coordinate – Writing Workshop and Dealers’ Room – separately.

FOGcon is Coming! (March 7-9, 2014)

I’m on the FOGcon organizing committee, and things are getting exciting. The year’s turned, and there’s only a few weeks left for FOGcon. It’s from March 7-9th, in the San Francisco Bay Area. The theme is Secrets!

FOGcon header pic


  • We have awesome Guests of Honor. This year, it’s Seanan McGuire, Tim Powers, and the Late James Tiptree Jr. (There’s a great interview with her on the FOGBlog.)
  • It’s a great size – large enough that there’s always something going on, but small enough that it’s easy to meet up and move around without getting over-tired. It’s a lovely gateway Con for people who are new to Con-going. It could be addictive. There’s a nice mix of new people and regulars.
  • (Still and all – I’d recommend this excellent article by Amy Sundberg on the FOGblog: Amy’s Personal Con Survival Guide. Wish I’d read it before going to my first Con, and glad to read it now.)
  • Programming varies from excellent to awesome.
  • It’s user friendly. It has anti-harrassment policies in place, and provides childcare. I don’t see myself needing either, but I really love that we’re serious about access, safety, and being welcoming.

The Walnut Creek Marriott is a good venue, and have been responsive hosts. This will be our third year at this location, and it feels like coming home. I personally never leave the hotel, there’s too much going on, but for those who’d like to explore – downtown Walnut Creek is nice, and San Francisco is 45 minutes away.


I co-ordinate the Dealer room and the Writing Workshop for FOGcon.

The Dealer Room is sold out this year, and it looks like it will be fun. We have several experienced book dealers, some people selling unique jewelry; some artists; and the ever-popular Massage Garage massage therapists. And we’re recognizing a changing publishing world, welcoming indie authors who are promoting their own books in genres from science fiction to steampunk. Come buy!

We have an excellent line-up of published authors who’ve kindly agreed to lead groups in the Writing Workshop. Every year, participants tell me it’s a really worthwhile experience; and many return.  We try to keep the group size small – about 3-4 people plus a leader – but we still have a few places. The deadline for manuscripts (up to 10,000 words) is fast approaching – Jan 31st. The Workshop is open to people who have bought Con memberships – whether new writers or published ones – and there’s an extra fee of $20. All the details are here: FOGCon 4 Writing Workshop


FOGcon’s a great little Con, and this is only the fourth year.  The thing about great little cons is they eventually grow into great big cons with membership caps. That’s also lovely and certainly eases the burden on the Treasury.  But there’s a special intimacy to a small Con that we still have at FOGcon.  Come and see!