I went to an awesome con this weekend! Topatocon took place for the first time in Easthampton, right in my backyard. My wonderful fiancee talked me into going, and it sounded like my kind of thing anyway. The focus was mostly on comics, although there was an excellent “Labyrinth of Games” to check out, featuring awesome work by local indie game designers. I may as well give them a shout-out, since they’re friends of mine, and they are currently putting out new material!

I bought some older stuff by Emily Care-Boss, who is quite prolific and always coming up with new classics in indie games. She is probably most famous for her “Romance Trilogy,” a group of games that create stories about dating, relationships, and the fun complications that arise from these. I know her as one of the best GM’s I’ve ever had the pleasure of gaming with, an excellent moderator, and master of the social space of gaming.

Also present and tabling their work were Hannah Shaffer and Joshua A.C. Newman, talented game designers and two of the most fascinating people I’ve had the pleasure to meet. Hannah is the creator of Questlandia, a game about characters struggling to change their fantasy-world society as it collapses around them. Joshua is the mastermind behind Shock, the game of social science fiction, and a neat miniatures war game that uses Legos.

They are both now experimenting with what could be called “nanogames,” usually meaning a set of rules printed on a folding card, small enough to fit in your wallet. The first iteration I’ve seen of this is Epidiah Ravachol’s Vast and Starlit, and the concept has apparently blown up from there. Joshua’s new micro-game is Lover of Jet and Gold. It’s meant to create adventure stories in the vein of Jack Vance’s Dying Earth series, and it’s a bit thicker than the average wallet-book (it has pages!). He has incidentally called this his favorite work, so check it out! Hannah’s game is called Birds are Amazing (they are amazing). It is fun and hilarious, and once begun, it never ends! So be careful, it’s a bit of a commitment, but the kind I am okay with making.

Anyway, so Topatocon was great, and my game designer friends are awesome. I came in contact with many cool people, artists, writers, leaders of movements and budding schools of philosophy, that sort of thing. I guess the main attraction was the presence of many contributors (including the editor) of the Smut Peddler anthology. This is a collection of woman-centric porn comics, many of them written by women. The editor is C. Spike Trotman, otherwise known as Spike. She’s the creator of the weird and wonderful Templar, Arizona, and a fantastic editor. I talked with her briefly about her anthologies, and watched an excellent talk that she took part in. The subject was women and gender issues in comics, I don’t think the recording has been posted yet, but when and if I can find it, I’ll post that stuff for sure.

Other highlights!

  • Meeting Jess Fink (again) – Smut Peddler contributor, creator of Chester 5000, and master of erotic comics, she’s also really nice and approachable!
  • Listening to Kate Leth‘s Live Podcast – She’s a comics creator who has worked on Bravest Warriors and Adventure Time comics. She is really funny, and also has lots of insightful things to say about comics and other things. Her live podcast featured Erica Henderson, the artist working with Ryan North on Squirrel Girl (she’s pretty great too).
  • Panel on World-building with Evan Dahm – This was so cool, SO COOL. First of all, meeting Evan Dahm was great, he’s such a nice, humble person. His talk was excellent, well thought-out and well presented. It got me thinking about the world-building process, how fantasy literature has changed over the years, and how to engage critically with your own fantasy work. I am working on several projects that could be described as fantasy, so it was all very relevant. I enjoyed this so much that I’m probably going to do my next post about world-building.

I had a good weekend, I learned a lot, and spent way too much money on comics. A lot of the guests at Topatocon will also be appearing at the Cambridge-based MICE (Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo), including Evan Dahm. If you missed out this weekend, check that out!

That is all for today methinks. Adieu!

Image courtesy of the Galt Museum and Archives on the Common’s Photostream, no known copyright restrictions. I chose it because Topatocon kind of reminds me of potatoes.