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.