My story "Hapax Lizardman" will appear in Flashpoint SF on May 17, 2024. I wrote the story last year; at Penguicon 2023, I read the draft for the first time.

On the last weekend of April, D.S. Barrick and I drove to Penguicon 2024 (Short video here). The new location is Ypsilanti, on the edge of the water, so it felt rural even though the city, the highway, and Ann Arbor were within walking distance.

Many SF and related conventions died over the course of the pandemic. Penguicon took a deep dive and swam against the tide and it has survived. It has not yet regained its former size and that may be a broader problem. Conventions cost money. The pandemic sent an audience where introverts are disproportionately represented scrambling for their private spaces, and they may not be easy to coax back out.

Saturday I had a reading first thing in the morning. In a hotel where many attendees still had Do not disturb signs up on their door, it was sparsely attended, with fewer people than I had last year. Our next event was the writing workshop– same level of attendance.

We picked up after lunch panel. Panels can be chaotic, but Ericka Kahler and E.M. Anderson added much to the discussion of Problems with fictional expanding universes. As your interconnected universe lasts and grows, how do you handle issues with space (Tatooine was supposed to be a galactic nowhere, not the centre of everything), time (It's Christmas every year in your comic strip, but the characters never age) and tone (Jessica Jones and the Guardians of the Galaxy both inhabit the MCU).

The Sub/Urban Folklore Conspiracy presentation was standing room only. We had an interested audience, some of whom we spoke with afterwards. Sadly, we only made it about one-third of the way through our slideshow. Part II of Sub/Urban Folklore comes closer to the work Barrick and I have been doing on our non-fiction book-in-progress. It drew a sizable crowd as well, though fewer than conspiracies had. Once again, we only scratched the surface. Hopefully, we will get further at Forest City Comicon later this spring.

I understand an absinthe ritual took place. Cons have unofficial events as well.

The following Saturday, I returned to free comic book day with my camera (Video here).

The owners of the local stores made bank, but the line-ups were not so long as in the past, and the street party atmosphere has been subdued somewhat since the pandemic.

The event likely suffers as well from the decline of the mainstream popularity of superhero movies. People who had no strong connection with comics, per se, but were huge fans of the various shows and films came out in the past. Fewer of them do so now, because their are fewer mainstream fans of the genre. How much of that decline lies with the product and how much with the cyclical nature of popularity in the industry remains an open question.

DC’s movie fare has been chaotic at best; Marvel's now require a recap of 12 other movies to make sense of the plot. That said, pop culture has always run in trends, passing forever or returning cyclically. Superhero films have had a good run. It wasn’t going to last forever, though there will always be superheroes on the screen just as there are still westerns. Perhaps we shall see a serious revival of the genre in, say 2029, or perhaps not.

Locally, we have lost two of five participating stores, and the route between LA Mood in the Kellogg’s Lane and Heroes in the downtown core, via Neo Tokyo in the East Village (where the two now-closed shops were located), takes a considerable amount of time and through a sketchy part of town. The Village always had that element, but I doubt many people feared walking through it with their children, at least during the day. The number of homeless encampments and drug addicts and closed storefronts has multiplied. A lot of people, tykes in tow, do not want to make that trek. With so much construction in the core, driving the route also presents challenges.

Lunch was in the pub where Eoin tells his twisted tale to Patti and Chelsea in "Live Nude Aliens."

While the events often merge seamlessly with May the 4 Star Wars celebrations, Barrick opted to take his brood to a festival screening of the original, and forgo Free Comic Book Day entirely. I understand at least one bar hosted a Star Wars cosplay party Saturday as well. After a day of filming and fun, and a brief attending of an event sponsored that day by the local Science Fiction group, I was content to head home.

Sunday I met in cyberspace with Natasha of Crime Squad, the Canadian Crime Podcast, to record some comments for a forthcoming ep. I am connected to a notorious Ontario case, though not so directly as many other people, and could contribute something to the discussion.

I'll post here when it appears. Of course I will.