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Ad Astra

Getting on the Jane bus, I felt like an adventurer exploring new lands of concrete and strip malls, of highways and highrises. After confusing Weston for Wilson Road, I stepped off at the right stop to an extraordinary realization: this is the first convention I've been to where the nearby supermarkets easily outnumbered the nearby restaurants.

I've been in large, confusing conference hotels before. This one managed the impressive feat of being small and confusing. It was a drab creature with a slightly neglected sun-drenched courtyard at its heart where a handful of cosplayers posed for photographs. Still, it was an appropriate size of hotel for the size of the con.

Ad Astra is Toronto's annual literary Science Fiction and Fantasy convention, usually attracting approximately four hundred people. It boasts a healthy selection of largely local guests, four-or-so tracks of panels, non-stop anime, a number of food-related tasting events, a decent dealer's room, a modest-but-respectable art show, and - my favorite part - Jason Taniguchi's One-Man Show. This year, Jason did a parody of Spiderman 2, one of his best works yet. Each year he chooses a movie of interest to the Ad Astra crowd and, closely following its plotline, improvises hilariously around it. This year had strong narrative flow, inspired recurring gags, floppy snake toys, and frequently (if temporarily) recast Doc Oc as the hero of the piece.

I went to short story readings by Nalo Hopkinson and Tanya Huff. I attended a book launch for Karl Schroeder's short story collection, The Engine of Recall. I went to three of the Guest of Honor hours, always a good way to find out why the con invited people I've never heard of to be the stars of the show. (Peter Watts' dead-serious talk as a pharameceutical company rep reviewing drug developments which created commercially-feasible vampires was inspired.) I talked to two lovely sisters, first-time con-goers, who reminded me quite a bit of hedgies, got to know a Torontonian newly-returned from Australia, and met papersky.

Wonderfully, I attended four or five panels - and they were all really good. I've been to many disappointing panels at SF/F cons in the past. All of these were worth attending, made me think, and spawned lively discussions. The panels in particular reminded me why I sporadically keep going to SF/F conventions.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 12th, 2005 03:07 am (UTC)
Oh! missed you.. somehow. I thought actually i might have spotted you once during one of the panels - Sunday? The one about voice perhaps? Sigh, we could have gone together.

I must say, that i was unimpressed with the turnout and location. Too far from everything, and really poorly attended, i thought. At least, given the number of people in Toronto and the possible pool of attendees. I don't know if it was the location, the summery weather or just a sad reflection of the dwindling number of SF readers.

I did say that i liked a number of the panels as well, but only caught Saturday and Sunday.
Apr. 12th, 2005 03:13 am (UTC)
I noticed that you weren't there - or rather, I noticed I hadn't seen you. Yes, I was at the Voice panel, which was surprisingly good given the potentially bland nature of the topic. I'm sorry I missed you! We can meet up at a non-con, non-party event, if you'd be interested (and have the time) one of these days.

From what I heard late on Sunday, the numbers were good, despite appearances. The hotel may have appeared deceptively small, but perhaps it was larger than I am giving it credit for - it disguised the numbers of people who were there, after all.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )