5 Things that Make Capclave an Outstanding Science Fiction Convention

The second day1 of Capclave was nearly as fun as the first2. I was a bit more tired on Sunday than I was on Saturday, and not long before my last two panels of the day, I had a energy crash. I made it through and the panels were fun, but boy, was I wiped out! I think that is a sign of a good convention: one that you engage with so much that you leave everything on the field and come away utterly exhausted and in need of sleep. I got sleep last night–more than 8 hours worth, which is a rare thing for me. But I also thought about why Capclave is so much fun year after year and I came up with 5 things that I think makes it a fun, successful convention, at least from my view point.

1. It is (usually) a small, intimate convention

This year, of course, was an exception. I think there were in excess of 800 people attending Capclave this year, almost double what they normally have. And yet, there was still an intimate feel to the convention for the most part. It was not hard to find the people that I wanted to see and talk to. It was not difficult to find the places where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to be there. Rarely were there lines for anything, the big exception being the autograph lines for George R. R. Martin. But those lines would have been long at any convention, and I think the organizers at Capclave found a way of managing the line the made it efficient for George, as well as the people waiting to get books signed.

I managed to get some business done at the convention, in addition to participating on panels and doing other things, and I find that it is always easier to do this at Capclave than it is at other conventions, simply because of the more intimate feel.

2. It has excellent programming

Capclave always has great programming and this year was no exception. Read through the list of panels to get a flavor for the wide variety of subjects that were covered. Capclave is a literary convention, like Readercon, although I’d say that Capclave is far more relaxed than Readercon. (At least, I feel less pressure on panels at Capclave than I do when I’ve been on panels at Readercon.) The subjects of the panels are accessible and interesting. When I was a newer writer, I thought Capclaves panels and workshops for new writers were extraordinarily helpful. Now that I’ve been publishing stories and articles for a while, I like being on the panels that can help new writers.

The panels I was on yesterday are a good example of the range of things covered in Capclave. I started on a panel on science in science fiction. Later, I was on a panel on “Low Tech Writers” with Howard Waldrop and Michael Swanwick. My last panel of the day was on including stuff from your life in the stories you write. All of the panels were well-attended (the science panel was the best-attended of all my panels, I think, with something like 80 people in the audience–probably because George was speaking right after us).

There were a lot of panels I would have loved to attend, were it not for the fact that I was on a panel at the same time. Kate Baker was on a couple of panels on voice-acting and podcasting. Scott Edleman and others did a panel on name-dropping that looked like a lot of fun. There were panels on specific writers (I moderated a panel on Clifford D. Simak, for instance), panels on alternate histories, panels on military science fiction. There were also writing workshop, and readings going on all day long.

3. It has great Guests of Honor

I mean, come on, George R. R. Martin! But go back and look at past years. John Scalzi, Carrie Vaughn, and Connie Willis, to name a few recent guests. And next year, Capclave will have Paulo Bacigalupi and Holly Black.

4. It attracts excellent panelists

Some conventions have “older” crowds, others have “younger” crowds, but Capclave provides a good mix of panelists of all levels of experience within the genre. I was on a panel with Howard Waldrop and Michael Swanwick yesterday, something that both amazes me and humbles me. I was also on panels with younger friends like Alex Shvartzman and Dave Bartell.

On some of the panels, there were only men. On some of the panels, there was a good balance of men and women, and on one panel I was on, it was me, Hildy Silverman, Catherine Asaro, Pamela Kinney and Laura Anne Gilman. To me, overall, it seemed like a good mix of both experience and gender, which is something I both applaud and encourage.

5. It is extremely well-organized, and well-managed

Because Capclave is my home town convention, I tend to see a little more behind the scenes than other conventions, and it always amazes me how much time, effort and planning go into making a convention happen. By volunteers. Who are giving up other things in their life in order to put on the conventions, and while you can go to Capclave’s website and see the committee and everyone involved, I am listing them here as well, because they deserve recognition and thanks for a job very well done. This is like the credit roll at the end of the movie, folks. A lot of people skip it, but if you appreciate the art, you sit there and look for the names of the people who create it. These are the folks who created Capclave this year:

  • Chair: Michael Walsh
  • Vice Chair: Bill Lawhorn
  • Con Suite: Ann Marie Rudolph and Leigh Eirich
  • Con Ops/Green Room: Michael Nelson and Tom Nelson
  • Dealers Room: Judy Scheiner
  • Fan Tables: Sam Lubell
  • Filking: Crystal Paul
  • Hotel Liaison: Bob MacIntosh
  • Party Czar: Bob MacIntosh
  • Programming: Bill Lawhorn
  • Publications: Mike Nelson
  • Publicity: Cathy Green
  • Registration: Sam Scheiner
  • Restaurant Guide: Rich and Nicki Lynch
  • Silent Auction Coordinator: Colleen Cahill
  • Tech: Kathi Overton and Barry Newton
  • Treasurer: Sam Scheiner
  • Volunteers: Sam Lubell
  • Website: Paul Haggerty and Gayle Surrette
  • Workshops: Meagan Voss

A big thank you goes out to all of these folks. I had a blast at Capclave and they made it all happen smoothly!

  1. You can read about my first day here.
  2. I say “nearly” only because it takes a lot to top the Howard/George/Garnder show from last night.


  1. There were people who worked on the con and didn’t make it into that list of credits. I’m pretty sure I could name at least two or three, but I’d probably be missing others, and some might not want their names known.

    Yeah, they put on a good con.

  2. So maybe we should schedule you to come do a reading of your convention write-up at an upcoming meeting, or your work in progress.


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