Tony Fallow has a sticky problem! Find out why it’s not always so great when The World Revolves Around You!

"I make things for people who like the kinds of things I make."
Author | Creator | Consultant

Balticon 41 Retrospective

So, Balticon 41 is over, and I’m on my way home. On an airplane, actually, having just taken off from Cleveland. I’ll be in Las Vegas in three hours or so, then, a few hours after that, Ontario, and up the hill to home.

It should be midnight by the time I hit the sack. Maybe later. Since I’ve had since Thursday to acclimate myself to Eastern Time, this means I won’t sleep until three AM. I may try to sleep on the plane; it’s hot and full of people and we’re chasing the sun toward twilight, so I’ll probably nod off eventually.

Meanwhile, though, while the laptop has about ninety minutes of battery power… what about Balticon?

This will be the fifth of these post-convention recaps I do. Portable Media Expo One and Two, WorldCon, Podcamp West, and now Balticon 41. I went because people who are dear to me… and people who are newly dear to me… were going. And while there were remarkable moments at other cons… particularly PME Two and WorldCon, Balticon was more remarkable than not.

In the past, I’ve gone through and made a bullet list of people and events. There’s good reason to do that now. First, though… I want to talk about my soul.

Yes, I know, Matt doesn’t believe in the soul, as Matt doesn’t believe in religion, or god, or an afterlife. So what is the soul to Matt? Is it that thing that causes him to lapse into referring to himself in the third person? Apparently. That’s not all, though.

How about we describe it as the thing in me that feels connected to others; the comfort of friends both new and old – friends as distant as the other side of the country and as close as the speed of light down a wire or through the air. There’s a… fullness in me. A warmth. That’s what I’m taking back from Balticon.

Thursday night to Monday night, this convention was about connection. It was a… convenction? Why not.

See, I generally feel fairly disconnected, physically, from my tribe. I am, in fact. The geographically closest of those who are soul-close to me are six hours away, at least. Skype and Twitter are notes tossed across the classroom because you’re not allowed to get up from your desk… and these conventions are recess, or even those faux-rebellious occasions when the whole class just doesn’t show up for school. I needed to be with my tribe… and this weekend, the tribe became stronger, and larger, and even more important.

Here are some of the moments that fed my soul, made me more complete… moments that in some cases took spider’s thread and tempered it to wound steel. I’ll try to do this in order, but I know that will lapse. I’ll try not to leave anyone out, but I know I will.

  • Embracing Mur Lafferty when she stepped out of the car at the airport curb. At last, my friend was real and tangible and there, and it was like I forgot what Christmas was until I went downstairs and saw the presents.
  • Shaking hands with Jason Adams, and though we’ve rarely been in contact over the months, slipping immediately into familiarity and camaraderie.
  • Meeting J.C. Hutchins a few minutes and a few few terminals later and, over the space of just a few hours, realizing that – physical similarity to an old, lost friend notwithstanding – every powerful, certain assumption I had about his heart and sincerity and open good nature was underestimated, and that this man is my brother.
  • Evo and Sheila have long since passed into family in my heart… each time we’re reunited, I feel like minutes have passed, not months. I think that might be why we never manage to say goodbye at the end of almost every one of these things — after all, we’re only going to be a minute!
  • Biscuit is a punk rocker, yeah. Nice to meet another old punk. Well, not as old as me…!
  • Earl Newton and I need to build something. We’ve got lots of wood and nails, acres of open land… I have a feeling one of these days we’ll lean over a big blank blueprint with our pencils and t-squares. On that day, watch the hell out.
  • Being in the same room with Jared Axelrod and J.R. Blackwell bathed me in the promise and power and patience of love. Jared made a gift of his creativity, which was unexpected, unheeded… and unprecedented. J.R. made me leap, not once but three times, and while I groused and play-whined about it, I would have done it from the roof if she had asked. These crazy kids taught me things, and they didn’t even try. “Annnnnndddd….!”
  • I met Jack Mangan last year, and for some reason that was the extent of our contact until this weekend. I’m not making that mistake again. Thanks for getting me up on that stage, Jack, and for indulging me Sunday night. Some fallow ground has been turned in me, thanks to you.
  • Out of nowhere, I found myself promising Paul Fischer a brand-new song from me to play when my interview on the Balticon Podcast posts later this year. I better find out how much later this year…!
  • When I saw Mike Mennega tear up at the end of the Wingin’ It roast, I damn near did, too. I was not involved in the events of early Spring – no more so than most of twelve hundred people were – but I have a pretty good idea of his compassion, and sacrifice, and the depth of his capacity to love. I’m very glad we got to play music together, and talk story over lunch.
  • Leann Mabry has jumped off the cliff and she’s growing her wings on the way down. Next time I see here, she’ll be soaring, and I’ll be running to catch up.
  • If Phil Rossi is game, “First Of May” won’t be the only time we collaborate long-distance. Need any bass tracks laid down, Phil..? You call me, rock star.
  • The same thing goes for Heather Welliver, whose amazing, powerful, defiant voice pushed my own to places it hasn’t braved for many a year.
  • Matt Wallace doesn’t know that I want to be as good as he is. Well, now he does.
  • Next time Jim Van Verth and I are at the same con together, when he quietly and mysteriously slips off away from everybody, I want to come with him. I get the feeling there are layers to this man… “like a parfait,” to coin a phrase. Plus, if I’m gonna be one of the sailors on the good ship Mur, I want to get to know the anchor.
  • Meeting the Press family and Matt was wonderful beyond belief – “Brave Men Run” continues to inspire others, and their love of that book continues to inspire and energize me.
  • Christiana Ellis has the moxie and good grace to join the Writers Talking panel… and during her introduction I blank utterly on the name of her podcast novel, which is “Nina Kimberly The Merciless.” I owe you one, Christiana.
  • Evangelizing new media and the DIY ethic to James in the hall – also awesome. Another convert, and I can’t wait to see what he does! And James: don’t worry, when I get settled in, I will contact you with details. Or Skype me!
  • Command Line, copyfight warrior! He rocked the exhausted, delayed, last panel of the day, and pulled me out of bleary-headed walking sleep into engagement with his clarity. Fight on, brother!
  • Rick, Matt, John, Laura… we didn’t have much time during the con, but we had a wonderful time after, didn’t we? We broke bread, and shared, and gently tucked the whole long weekend into bed with heart and trust and honesty.
  • Late, late Monday night over Skype, Steve Eley and I took out our pocket knives, pierced our palms, and shook hands. Steve: You need, you ask… I do.

So now I’m writing in the terminal in Las Vegas, and I have one short flight to go in about forty minutes. I’m almost home.

I miss my friends. I miss my tribe. Flying over the green East, headed for the tan and brown West, I realized I don’t need to live in California the rest of my life – I miss forests, and rivers. It’s time to be where my friends are. I need ’em.

Now… how am I going to be able to afford DragonCon???? My soul demands it… my bank account scoffs.

Share This Post!

If you liked what you’ve read… share it with the folks you think would like it, too!


  • A

    To all my friends who commented on this post: Thank you… my heart did a little happy-dance when each of you showed up. Now begins the struggle to stay in touch, to keep in contact, to stay close. Find me in Skype… it’s always on at work and at home, and a few moments every few days with each other would be wonderful.

    I’m thinking hard about Dragon*Con. I’m thinking sleeping bag, overnight bag, laptop bag, and sleeping on the floor of whoever will have me, a Dragon*Con gypsy… I’ll even work for my bunk, which will make me more of hobo, really.

    What say you, sweet tribe o’ mine?

  • Balticon is amazing becuase it never feels like you make friends at it. Instead, you were always friends with the people there, no matter if you’ve never met them before or not.

    I’m glad we’ve always been friends, Matt, even though we only met last week. And how could I not give gifts to a friend I’ve known so long?

  • Wow.

    You got it. My so-called “eloquence” is lost in the shadow of yours.

    It was my vast pleasure to get to meet you, and share some time and philosophy with you at the con. I look forward to doing so again in the near future.

  • Thanks Matt,
    Monday evening was a great, relaxing, wrap-up to the con. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. I am so glad I got to spend time with you all. I miss you all so. My tribe, my family. I’ll carry you with me in my travels… on my iPod and in my heart.

  • It was our very great pleasure to have so many wonderful guests enjoy Balticon. We are looking forward to next year already!

  • Matt (I wondered what people called you when not saying Matthew Wayne Selznick): Thank goodness for the 90 minutes of battery power!
    I knew you and your people were like family. It just shows. Now that you have met, I look forward to what happens next. Something amazing, I have no doubt at all.

  • Matthew Wayne Selznick. It was a pleasure to meet you. It was also a pleasure to tackle you when you were tired after a day of panels and fun. Haha! Surprise J.R. Blackwell attack.

    Thanks for the sweet words. I miss my tribe too.

  • Matt Wallace

    The only thing I’m better than you at, sir, is being too emotionally unavailable to write something as open and personal as this retrospective. We who use sarcasm as a shield salute you.

  • Matt,

    You may need to come up with that song sooner than you think. It was really great to spend some time with you.


  • Heather Welliver


    Thanks for the props. You have a great voice and it was a blast jamming with you and Jack and everyone else. Fabulous times had by all.
    Best con ever!

  • It was great meeting you face to face, Matt, even if you did forget to mention me in your wrap-up… it’s okay, I forgot people too.

    I won’t be able to make any West-coast cons, probably not even Dragon*con, but with any luck we’ll see each other again next year at Balticon.

  • Parfait’s gotta be the tastiest thing on the whole damn planet.

    It was a great time, and it was good to meet you. No PMNE for me, but I will be in LA in late October… maybe then.


  • Earl Newton

    Matt –

    I love you, because now I don’t have to try to write this.

    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

    I miss my tribe.


  • So the next time someone asks me “why do you go to cons”, I’m just going to point them to this post.

    I heart MWS.


  • Tee Morris, recovering from Balticon

    Good times and wild rides…

    …and dude, have you got some pipes on you! It was a pleasure hearing you sing. (I got a pictures…I’ll send them ASAP.)

    Don’t break the bank to get to D*C. PMNE 07 will be here before you know it!

  • Matt,

    This was a very moving essay. Thank you for sharing it.

    Yes, we did have a wonderful time.


Add to the conversation

Related posts

The robots think you might want to check out these other Scribtotum articles and Sonitotum episodes.

More Scribtotum