Adventures in Nerd Mecca: San Diego Comic-Con

nick and phil at comic con

Trying this daily blogging thing again. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Our (second to) latest foray into the marketing of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel took co-writer best friend Nick Hurwitch and I to San Diego for the annual Comic-Con. If you’ve never been, well…yikes. It’s enormous. It’s packed. It’s a constant money-suck. And it can be a ton of fun.

I’ve attended Comic-Con on two other occasions, but both those times, I’ve been there to work in some capacity. This was also a work trip, but of a different stripe: Nick and I were each on a panel. We were there as authors. Which means very little except that it was awesome.

Comic-Con wound up being a pavement-hitting experience in hand-shaking and button-handing for us. Nick and I sprung for some 800 Time Travel Guide buttons to hand out to prospective readers, some of whom actually listened to what we had to say. Thursday, the first day of the convention, saw our book selling out at bookseller Mysterious Galaxy’s booth; that’s not exactly an incredible feat because there were only 20 copies on hand that day, but then again — selling books is hard. Try it.


But the buttons were a big hit, as were the panels. Mine was a pretty incredible, if nerve-wracking time. Titled “A Wrinkle in Time,” it was billed as basically being a bunch of randomized speculation by science fiction authors about the future. I was definitely the youngest person on the panel; I was also far and away the biggest nobody.

For some perspective, here’s the roster:

  • David Brin (Existence)
  • Deborah Harkness (Shadow of Night)
  • Michael Cassutt (co-author of Heaven’s Shadow trilogy)
  • Charles Yu (Sorry Please Thank You)
  • Peter F. Hamilton (The Nano Flower)
  • Orson Scott Card (Earth Unaware, Ender’s Game)
  • Hope Larson (A Wrinkle in Time graphic novel)
  • Moderated by Greg Bear (Hull Zero Three)

Needless to say, I was nervous. I’ve never been much for public speaking, and I felt like a bit of a fraud next to so many accomplished writers. I spent the day avoiding food and pooping. I had the nervous poops. It’s a thing.

nick at comic con

I managed not to make a complete ass of myself (and even made a joke about sexy wookiee cosplay — also a thing) during the course of the panel, largely because of the help of Michael Cassutt and Peter F. Hamilton, who took me under their wings a bit. I also didn’t make a comment about space travel. That was a mistake.

If you attended Comic-Con or follow such things, you might have heard about the blow-up between the ideologically opposed Card and Brin. It was…interesting, and the two biggest personalities in the room did manage to hijack the panel to argue over whether, basically, humans are fundamentally getting better or not. Or maybe whether humans are good at all or not. Card’s viewpoint was cynical, Brin’s optimistic, and for the most part they argued with one another by directing their arguments at someone asking questions. Anyway, it wasn’t as bad as some made it out to be, and given the panel’s relative lack of structure — none of us were really sure what we were supposed to be talking about there, including Greg Bear, though he did his best to give us some direction — it wasn’t really as if Card and Brin took the panel off its rails.

I don’t know about other people on the panel, but I kind of found the escalation between two extremely smart writers (who remained civil) kind of exciting. Certainly mixed things up a bit.

Anyway, the greatest part of the weekend was meeting and talking with authors, the work of most of whom I already like and respect (and the rest of which I haven’t read yet but intend to). Meeting Michael was awesome, and he regaled Caitlin and me (as well as Nick and our buddy Matt) with stories of research at NASA and dinners with astronauts. I also bought more books than I probably could have afforded during the trip, got a lot of them signed, and intend to read them all. I’ll also be back with lots to recommend.

Heavens Shadow
Heaven's Shadow

I’ll close up with the first of those: Heaven’s Shadow, which Michael Cassutt co-wrote with David S. Goyer of Batman Begins fame. It’s a great book about astronauts landing on a Near Earth Object as it passes the planet, and Cassutt’s ridiculous knowledge about space travel make it feel all the more authentic (the dude knows Neil Armstrong, you know). Reading it was especially interesting lately, as I finished it right before the landing of the Curiosty Rover on Mars. There’s a lot of time spent discussing NASA’s Earth-bound PR dealings for the fictional mission taking place in the book, and it’s startling how accurate it is — I got a chance to compare.

Anyway, check it out. Here’s an Amazon link to get you started.

Published by Phil

He's like, you know, the guy.

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