Odyssey Con 13: Steer Trek

Today is the last day of Odyssey Con (or OddCon, for those who know it well). It was nice being able to spend some time connecting with my fellow geeks. The highlight, of course, was being able to spend three days with two of my favorite authors, Alex Bledsoe and Kevin Hearne. They signed some books for my collection, as well as a couple for my son Nate, who couldn’t make it this year.

I also entered the Spontaneous Writing Contest yesterday morning. Let me start by saying that it was definitely organized better than last year. The rules were that you had to sign up in advance to get a spot on the list, and then the first eight people (in registration order) that were physically present at 8:30 AM in the hotel lobby were given a flash drive. That drive contained an .RTF file with four lines of dialogue that had to be used in a story. Each contestant then had one hour to write their story and turn it in. I was fourth on the list, so I was assured a spot as long as I was there (and, of course, I was). The drives were each lettered, in order to keep the author anonymous and keep the contest fair.

Here are the lines of dialogue that we were given to work with.

“Not a one!”
“What!? Most of them never did anything wrong even on their own planet, let alone here.”
“You’re not hearing me, and I’m not going to say it again. Not. A. Single. One!”
“With all due respect, ma’m …”

We could alter them if we needed to, but any changes would count against us. Putting other text between the lines was no problem, though, and most of the authors (including myself) did so. I managed to write about 800 words in the allotted hour, and I felt pretty good about it. At least, until they posted the entries in the hallway for everyone to read. There were some nice stories there. And I overheard one of the judges talking to one of the other contestants about the merits of some of the OTHER stories. Needless to say, I began to have some doubts about my own work. My biggest worry was that, despite the reference to another planet in one of the lines of dialogue, I decided not to take the easy route and write a science fiction story about aliens from another world. Instead, I wrote about a murder investigation at a science fiction convention. It’s titled “A Killer Con”, and here it is, for your reading pleasure.

The trouble with these guys was that they seemed to think that the rules of normal society didn’t apply to them. To be fair, though, their own concepts of morality and ethics was sometimes a whole lot better than what the rest of us lived by. Still, there was a dead body in the hotel, and it was up to me to find out why.

“All right,” I said to the con rep that I had cornered, “we’re going to be here until I get some answers, so start talking.”

We had commandeered one of the rooms for the duration, in order to lock down the hotel until we had a chance to question the three hundred suspects that were still wandering the halls as if nothing had happened. The queen sized bed that took up most of the room distracted a bit from my interrogation techniques, but I tried to ignore it as we sat at the little work table in the corner.

“Well, like I told the officer earlier, we were just wrapping up the afternoon anime movie and as they left the room one of the kids complained to the AV guy about a nasty smell.”

“And nobody had noticed anything before then?”

“Not really. I don’t know if you have ever been to a convention like this before, but some of our attendees aren’t so good with personal hygiene, if you know what I mean.”

I grimaced. I couldn’t imagine going without at least a shower if I was going to go out in public. “Go on.”

“He went in to check it out, in case someone had gotten sick or something in there. And that’s when he found the body.”

His story checked out with what I had already gotten from the uniforms. “All right, so who was this guy?”

He shook his head. “No idea. I mean, his name was Jerry Dantillo, but nobody really knows him. He hasn’t been to the con before, and he wasn’t pre-registered. We think he was probably just some local guy who heard about the con and decided to check it out.”

“So nobody knows this guy, which means nobody has any reason to want him dead, is that it?”

“Not a one!”

I frowned. “That just doesn’t make any sense. You don’t get a nine-inch dagger through your heart without pissing someone off.” I planted my hands on either side of the little table and leaned over him. “I don’t really care what planet you guys think you’re from, but that sort of thing doesn’t fly in my town.”

Unfortunately, I had underestimated the sheer level of geekery I was dealing with. My intimidation technique was totally useless when he was more interested in my cleavage than my comment. I glared at him and sat back down in my chair, crossing my arms over my chest.

He looked up at my scowling face and flushed. “What!? Most of them never did anything wrong even on their own planet, let alone here.”

“Well, I’ve got a dead body that says otherwise. And nobody is leaving here until I find out who did it. So somebody had better start talking. Who here would think that this guy would be better off dead?”

“You’re not hearing me, and I’m not going to say it again. Not. A. Single. One!”

I threw up my arms in frustration. “Fine. Be that way. But this con is over. For good.”

“With all due respect, ma’m …”

I snorted. “Respect? You seem to have more respect for my breasts than for my job.” He ducked his head like a little boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar. “I’m trying to help you out here, but you’ve got to meet me halfway.”

He raised his head and looked me in the eye. “You don’t understand. We have a strict weapons policy at the convention. No real weapons are allowed. Ever. And we have a security staff that keeps an eye out for those things. They check every single costume to make sure nobody has any real blades, or guns, or whatever. There’s no way that knife would have gotten past them.”

I leaned back in my chair. “Well, then I guess that narrows down the suspects, doesn’t it?”

“What do you mean?”

“Vigilat qui custodem,” I said, getting up to open the door. “Who watches the watchmen? I need to speak to your security staff.”

His face blanched.

I ushered him out the door and gestured for one of the uniforms to join me. If I was right, there was no way I was going to be caught alone in a room for this interrogation.

Not too bad, right? Needs a little work, but most first drafts do. Especially ones that were written under a one hour deadline. But in the end, it wasn’t quite good enough, and I didn’t win. However, I may keep working on this story over the next week. I can extend it out, through the interrogation of the security guard  and on to the revelation of the killer and resolution of the mystery.

I’ll give you an update on Wednesday to let you know how it’s going. Until then, live long and prosper!

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Filed under Conventions, Submissions, The Writing Experience

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