LIBERTY CON AAR Part Two, in which our hero learns that his best laid plans are no match for …. -David Pascoe

LIBERTY CON AAR Part Two, in which our hero learns that his best laid plans are no match for …. -David Pascoe

The next day, we arrived at the Choo Choo just prior to nine, when the gathering for the range trip … had already left. Those of us “late-comers,” several of whom were barely upright, apportioned ourselves into vehicles and left in mad pursuit. It was upon this trip that the Separate But Awesome plan was revealed. Essentially, after the- but I’m getting ahead of myself. You see, in the scramble to Not Arrive At Friends After Midnight (six hour drive, and we didn’t. Quite. /sigh) I’d misplaced a couple of things. Notably, the keys to the bang-bang cases. Well, all but the one. And I didn’t discover this until I went digging through my range bag to find said keys. Sitting – as I found out later, once we’d arrived home – exactly where I’d left them: on the bedside table. Another lesson learned.

Fortunately, Eeps (aka Eudyptes Diabolicus aka Evil Penguin aka Rex Mason’s Favorite Unwilling Test Pilot) was another one of my fellow late not-ontime-enough comers, and suggested that the Choo Choo maintenance folk would have access to bolt-cutters. And indeed they did, so with only a slight delay (to wait for the maintenance dude, and then a couple of security dudes (“We just need to make sure this stuff is actually yours, sir. Can you tell us what the first thing we’ll see is when we open this- oh, that’s a nice Ruger, I sure wish I could go shooting today, too. Maybe after my shift’s over.”)) we all ponied up and got on the road. After another short stop, as the ATM in the lobby was out of order. Arriving at the range nearly an hour fashionable (there was a mid-freeway, 70mph soppresatta waving incident, but the less said about that, the better) meant we were fortunate enough to sit through the safety brief for the beginners. We were not beginners, but there were several who were first-timers, and James kept it interesting. Also, the AC was pleasant, as the day was another humid scorcher.

The time spent at the range was possibly some of the most relaxing all weekend. This isn’t to say that I didn’t find the convention an excellent opportunity to recharge and recreate, just that shooting is a zen experience for me, and one in which I do not get to indulge nearly often enough. My new (year old and completely unshot; I am a terrible gun nut. At this rate, I’ll have to turn in my official Right Wing Conspiracist Membership Card) almost-GI 1911 was quite pleasantly boomy, the repairs to the wheelgun have taken nicely, and the addition of a red-dot and the railed dust cover on the carbine work quite well. I may some day even have a chance to zero it (double-sigh. I sure hope Mrs. Dave’s next PCS is to somewhere more shooter friendly than the PRMaryland.). I was also fortunate enough to have the opportunity to fire a few of the offerings brought by others. James’ wife, Ginger, had a little Colt Plus II in .380 ACP that was just far too fun. I could burn through a mess of brass with something like that. Eeps brought a shotgun I’ve been eyeing, and it was great to get the chance to try it out before dropping more money I don’t really have on same. One of the range safety officers brought a M1A in 7.62 NATO which was great fun. And a stealthy shoulder bruiser. BANG! BANGBANGBANGBANG! “That’s fun. And doesn’t kick nearly as much as I- why is my should sore?”

Riding with one of the other RSOs, I didn’t head back to the Choo Choo until we were all decidedly baked (by the sun) and more than slightly dehydrated (despite consuming much water). Early on, we stopped for protein and fluids (burgers and gatorade, for those who are curious) and so nearly enjoyed the probably-not-pleasant experience of pancaking into the back of vehicles stopped in the left lane, at the tail end of what turned out to be a symptom of a traffic jam with no apparent cause. Docfather’s quick reflexes – along with what I presumed to be communication between truckers – saved our bacon as he swerved into the right hand lane, just ahead of the aforementioned tractor trailer. Seriously, that could have been truly awful. The car ahead of us disappeared in a puff of dirty gray smoke as it applied brakes and slid into the median to avoid the one ahead of it. Highly adrenalized, we took the next exit and rocked the surface streets back to the Choo Choo.

Just in time for Opening Ceremonies! As one of the few things on my schedule (I was horribly late getting in on the action, another lesson learned, and I’ll bug the programming director about much earlier. My cunning plan is to ensure Herself has fewer panels to mind, so she can take Wee Dave for more of the con. Plotplotplot) I quickly found my lovely wife and darling son lurking in the back of the theater, and enjoyed Howard Tayler’s excellent opening speech. Several folk wandered through to find others, and I got trade nods with Jason “Stealing All the White Women Since 1978” Cordova, and several other like-minded (read: “slightly mad” and “writers,” but I repeat myself) individuals. I was heartening to hear my name read off among the truly impressive list of guests.

Immediately following Opening Ceremonies, I took part in the What’s New in Dark Fantasy panel, as I have new stuff in (arguably) dark fantasy. The rest of the Unquiet Gods shorts (short story to (barely) novella length) are up on Amazon. These could easily be considered urban fantasy, as well. Some parts draw heavily on horror writing, too. I’m not sure they really are dark fantasy or not. I don’t have enough readers to tell me (hey, I just record the darn things). My thoughts on dark fantasy are as follows: a subset of fantasy that uses horror tropes. Other than that, each writer is going to leave an individual mark. My soundbite comment from the panel was along the lines of, “horror is when find the Things That Go Bump In the Night; dark fantasy is when you then punch them in the face.” While this wasn’t shared by my co-panelists, we had a pretty decent conversation with the almost-empty theater. One gentleman, Louis Puster, suggested that dark fantasy stories take place in a world where the Big Bad won. I’m not certain that’s always going to fit. Brandon Sanderson played with that idea in the Mistborn books, but I’d argue those are more epic fantasy with dark fantasy trappings. It’s an interesting, but ultimately academic discussion, unless it turns to how to market specific kinds of stories.

All of this while I was out of uniform, too. One of the things about being a professional writer in genre fiction is branding. Subgenres, writing style, voice, and similar things are a major part of it, but personal appearance is another major part. Sir Pterry wore black, to include his signature oversized fedora (high crown, broad brim). Kevin J. Anderson typically wears a black suit and black shirt. John Ringo is John Ringo (seriously, at a certain level, it doesn’t matter what you wear. Much, at least). I’ve got my kilts, and wear those with a natty hat, a nice shirt, a vest, and usually a tie. Being one of the best dressed at a convention is a good way of standing out, not that my sales exactly reflect it. Weeeeellllll, the thing is, I didn’t wear that to the range trip. I did wear a kilt (and the hat, fortunately for my head), but just wore a t-shirt. Getting back as late as we did, and then going immediately to Opening Ceremonies, and then right into the panel, I hadn’t had time to clean up, let alone change. So I looked a bit … scruffy. It was a little bit embarrassing, I will tell no lie. Still, the panel went well, and then I had a chance to get back to our room and clean up, before getting back to the Choo Choo.

The BbESP and her Consort, and the Redhead of Doom and her Evil Muse had their reception Friday evening. Much baklava was consumed, Johnny LaForce’s ribs were devoured (Aloha Snackbar!) and a good time was had by all, at least until the Pint-sized Tyrant insisted it was time for bed. Ah, well. More shenaniganning was to occur the next day.

86 responses to “LIBERTY CON AAR Part Two, in which our hero learns that his best laid plans are no match for …. -David Pascoe

  1. c4c

  2. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Horror is when the “evil beings” are an intrusion into the world of the main characters. IE the main characters were not aware that the “evil beings” are real until they have to deal with them.

    Dark Fantasy is when the main characters know about the “evil beings” before they have to face them. IE the “evil beings” are a known danger of the main characters.

    Salem’s Lot was horror because the vampires weren’t known to be real until they intruded into the lives of the main characters.

    When Harry Dresden has to fight the Red Court, it’s not Horror because the Red Court is a known danger in Harry’s world.

    • Eh, the character can learn about the horrors in the course of the story; there are dark urban fantasies where, unlike the Dresden Files, the main character learns the issues as it progresses. I would say that the dividing line in that in Horror, the rules are being broken, strange and unnatural things are happening, etc. where in Dark Fantasy, it’s just that the rules are different, and darker, than you think.

      Which lacks elegance, since it’s eminently arguable.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Think how boring the world would be if everybody agreed. [Smile]

        I see what you mean about “Horror” is about the rules being broken while “Dark Fantasy” being where the rules are actually different & darker than the characters realize. [Smile]

        Where I disagree is that I think even Horror Worlds operate under some sort of “rules” even if the Main Characters don’t know the rules.

        • Oh, absolutely. The difference is that in Dark Fantasy, you may have to deal with a problem, but it’s a matter of degree; the laws of that universe were understood to allow for the problem you’re facing.

          In Horror, you first have to get past the idea that the laws of that universe even make such a thing possible, before you can focus on the details of the problem and how you will solve it. Which is one reason that a Horror series will always end up as a Dark Fantasy series as soon as enough people in that world survive and pass on the knowledge that the fundamentals have changed. That’s why the body counts are always so high in the Cthulhu Mythos (books or game). It keeps enough people from finding out that they can’t be “dealt with” to keep the knowledge of Great Old Ones from reaching critical mass. Ironically, this ensures that the Mythos will win; there’s no possibility of enough people thinking rationally about the problem to come up with a solution.

          • I’m getting a real strong impression that Horror is watching a liberal (refuse to) deal with/ get eaten by something horrible and DF is watching a conservative fight something horrible.

            • scott2harrison

              The first part is not horror it is wish fulfillment. I still think that the little girl in Jurassic Park should have been eaten early. The body count would have been much lower.

            • I like this definition. It is simple, easy to understand, and fits the real world very nicely.

              • Just look back through the comments. Helpless, doesn’t understand or can’t accept reality’s rules vs understands rules or figures them out and fights.

      • Horror is when the candle lighting the way seems to have been snuffed out. Dark Fantasy is when the candle is still there, very faint, and often hard to see.

        There is also an element of helplessness in Horror that is not in Dark Fantasy. You can escape, but you can’t do more than delay the evil from which you are running. (I’ve seen a very few exceptions to this.)

        • Agreed, which is why many films/books that are billed as horror are not horror to me. Also why I don’t like horror.

          • Yes, the “No win scenario” of horror makes me want to break things.

            • Christopher M. Chupik

              That works better in short story form than in novels. A short story where everybody’s doomed is preferable to reading a big long novel and coming to the same conclusion.

      • In BAD horror the rules change — or the horrors thermselves can change them at random — so that the protagonists (to abuse a word) are inevitably reduced to helpless, ineffectual victims regardless of aptitude or circumstance. BAD horror is a celebration of despair and misanthropy.

    • Horror and fantasy don’t hit overlapping genre identifiers. Horror as a genre is trying to evoke a very specific set of feelings, namely fear, panic, alarm, and dread… while fantasy is a setting, and is in the incorporation of imaginative and fantastic themes.

      Thus, if it’s set in a fantastic/magical world, but the main themes and plot exist to evoke fear and dread, it’s horror. If it contains nameless horrors and things beyond the grave, but the plot centers around awesome heroes, who are getting paid a PUFF to kill them and turn in samples to the government, it’s urban fantasy.

      This is important, because if you have ass-kicking wise-cracking main characters who get you to fear for them, and laugh with them, and things turn out well, It doesn’t matter if it’s got hordes of flesh-eating ghouls… tag it / sell it as horror, and you’ll get disappointed horror fans.

      If you have intrepid dwarves who delved too deep in the mines of Moria, and are doomed to die in fear, panic, and darkness… that’s horror, and putting in fantasy is going to get you, at best, a receptive audience among the grimdark and dark fantasy fans. However, you’d better put in plenty of reader cookies (genre-specific things that fans of that genre really enjoy) to keep them happy.

      If you have the story of the valiant but doomed dwarves who fight the deep darkness of Moria, whether or not they succeed, focusing on the valiant fight instead of the nameless horrors will move in into dark fantasy territory.

      Where is the focus of your story? That’s your genre.

      • Ah, the wonders of semantic drift. You notice that no city is needed at all for urban fantasy.

      • That’s a sensible and definitive explanation.
        Thank you.

      • Dorothy,

        “Where is the focus of your story? That’s your genre.”

        Yes, yes, YES! [ahem] I agree completely. Although I have been known to phrase it in a somewhat blunter way:

        If the primary objective is to scare the **** out of the reader, it’s horror.
        If the primary objective is to tell a good story that incidentally happens to scare the **** out of the reader, it’s dark fantasy. (Or, rarely, dark SF.)

  3. c4c

  4. sabrinachase

    I am very sorry the heat drove me away from the Range Trip shortly after you arrived, because I was looking forward to possibly playing with All the Neat Toys. Still had fun, though.

    And that adrenaline-boost traffic jam? Caused by a) trucks in low gear going up the grade and b) idiots in cars who nip in front of a) in blissful ignorance that momentum is always conserved and that 18-wheeler full of pig iron has a hell of a lot more than a little red Miata — and the laws of physics *always* have the right-of-way. I was terrified I was going to see a very messy smashup that day.

    • The one time I’ve been scared on the autobahn was when a little black sports car decided to cut off a large truck, and then slammed on his brakes to catch the next exit. On a descending curve. I don’t care what religion you follow, but Newton’s Laws trump blind faith when high velocities and large masses are involved.

      • I had a similar experience on I-395 into D.C. It involved a black BMW, me driving a Chevy Suburban and an 18 wheeler. Fortunately, the terrain in D.C. is relative flat, so Newton didn’t get his deserved revenge on the Beamer.

        • I suspect one of the most common invocations on certain stretches of road is “Please, [deity], may I not be part of the wreck he’s about to have.”

          • One of the selection criteria I have for a car is sufficient power to get John Q. Jackwagon well behind me.

    • William O. B'Livion

      I break for physics.

      No, not a typo.

  5. Dave- That’s the “PDR Maryland.” The “D” is all-encompassing here.
    While the state is definitely hostile to gun ownership, especially for interesting guns, there are ranges to be found. Check out: DOT pdf

    I go to the Cresap Rifle Club in Frederick. It’s open to the public on Sundays, and quite affordable. They have rifle and pistol positions, with rifle targets at 50 and 100 yards. There’s also a 25 yard zeroing position.

    If you want to set up a range day, I’m McChuck524 AT gmail DOT com. I’ve even got a teenage daughter who could use some babysitting experience.

  6. There were several reasons I hated to miss Liberty Con, and the range trip was a big one. I’ve got an M1 Garand and a 1934 Tula hex Mosin Nagant that needed the work-out. Glad ya had fun and didn’t get yer guts smashed out on the highway!

    • You know, my M1 Garand hasn’t been out of the safe in too long. I have a Springfield Armory that was assembled in April, 1943 according to the serial number registry at SA. Was repatrioted from Korea in the early-mid 1990’s with a black crinkle painted stock on it (I’ve corrected that with a beautiful replacement stock from Boyds…though I had to spend many an hour sanding the stock since some idiot sanded it across the grain on one side). I’ll try to bring the old girl with me if I can make it to LC next year.

    • You all are welcome to come use my range. You can shoot anytime, day or night. 50, 100 and 500yds

      • where?

        • Blanchard twp, Maine

          • way too far for me.

            • LOL We don’t get much traffic. That’s a good thing, IMO

              • *grin* Can’t argue with that.

                I need to set aside a bit of negotiables someday and pick up that thirty acres backed up against the national forest down the way. Not much flat, but the hollers are deep, and a few days with heavy equipment could lay out a nice range backstopped by a midget mountain.

                • I know a guy down in WV, says he just shoots across the holler. It gives him range, but must be murder checking the targets.

                  • That’s how I learned to shoot… at about five, I think? Wheelgun. Checking targets was easy- spotter binoculars! Hanging targets? Not so easy. 75 deg slope in places.

                    For longer ranges, back in the lower Appalachians it’s up the holler, unless you own the whole valley! Now *that* would be some kind of fun… *daydreams of howitzer range…*

  7. Pingback: Rich Hailey » CONclusion: At Last the Long Winded Bugger is Through!

  8. If you are ever in Western MD we have a family range in an old stone quarry. You can shoot your heart out.

    • Feather Blade

      I’m pretty sure that would indicate that you didn’t pay attention in the safety briefing….

    • Wish I could find something in NoVa. Range fees are higher than I can afford and I don’t know anyone in the back-woods well enough to drive out to plink a box or two of ammo. -sigh- Suffice to say that I am out of practice.

      • I *had* a place in SW Va to plink, oh, some fifteen odd years ago. Would be about six hr drive (from Manassas, closest I know the way to well, last time I visited). That’s still a bit long for a range day. *chuckle*

      • Well… Just a quick look at “Where to Shoot” ( ) gives me quite a long list.

        Now, I realize that the initiation fee is high, but the annual membership for the Izzak Walton League is only $150 a year, and there’s certainly no shortage of facilities in what could be called “northern Va.”

        Izaak Walton League – Alexandria, Stafford VA 22554
        Izaak Walton League – Loudoun County, Leesburg VA 20177-1338
        Izaak Walton League – Bethesda/Chevy Chase, Poolesville MD 20837-0542
        Izaak Walton League – Rockville, Germantown MD 20874-2514
        Izaak Walton League – Frederick #1, Frederick MD 21701
        Izaak Walton League – Wildlife Achievement Chapter, Mt. Airy MD 21771

        If you’re wanting to practice with a rifle, or do clays, and if you have a current Va hunting license, or boat license, or fishing license or think $4 a day isn’t too much there’s the public range at Amelia WMA (

        There’s Clark Brother’s Guns in Warrenton who have a rifle and pistol outdoor range and the only charge is you have to buy their ammo, which I admit is overpriced, but it’s not horrible.

        Really, go to Where to Shoot, put in your zip code and a distance and check out what’s available.

  9. Johnny LaForce’s ribs were devoured

    That must make it hard for him to breathe….

  10. Wait. Nobody mentioned anything about a range trip.

    If that’s a regular part of LibertyCon I might reconsider my objection to being near groups of more than a dozen people.

    • And most of us are even sane enough to safely be around when we’re armed…but don’t tell anybody, we do have our reputations to maintain.

    • At least at the range they’re better groups of people.

    • Every friday morning before the con starts. Bring what you can, almost everyone will offer to let you shoot whatever they have. Great opportunity to try out a bunch of different guns.
      They rent the entire range and Barflies provide RSO and emergency response.

  11. Even with your adventure with bolt cutters and security staff, your range trip went better than mine.

    We got there early, and didn’t have to sit through the beginner’s session, but as a result, we had a MUCH smaller group of people and guns out at the range. So… I opened up my range bag, pulled out the almost new Ruger 1911, the well worn Glock 19, and the ISSC .22LR Glock clone and set them all out on the bench. Then, I opened the side pocket and discovered that _my_ Alvin Clarke electronic muffs had dissappeared and the cheap generic walmart muffs we keep for when we take neighborhood teens shooting had replaced them. When I got home, i found the Clarke’s hanging on the back of the closet door. Oh well, grab my molded silicon plugs, it’s too hot for muffs anyway… wait…. oh dear…. So, walk over and grab a pair of generic foam and try to fit them in my odd, oversized ears… Fine. That will all be OK. Let’s go shoot something.

    Right. Pull out the first ammo box. Wait. This isn’t 9mm luger, this is 9×18 Makarov. Did I bring any of the P-64’s? No, I did not.

    Right. So, we’re not shooting the Glock, since the only ammo I have are the $1 a pop carry loads in the magazine in the gun. Fine. Grab the Ruger, I like shooting a 1911 anyway. Grab the next box of ammo. Wait. This isn’t .45 ACP. this is .45 GAP. Do I have a Glock 37 with me? No I do not. Oh well, surely someone has .45… ask ask ask. No, there’s .38, there’s .357, there’s .40 S&W, but there’s no .45…

    Right, so we’re not shooting the Ruger. Oh well. I can always use time with the ISSC practicing trigger control and sight placement and overcoming my tendency to jerk the trigger, and I can BY GOD SEE two boxes of .22 in the bottom of the bag. Except that they’re not the nice plastic cases of CCI 22LR Mini-Mag… no, these are a pair of age-worn paper boxes of some weird brand of .22 that I keep in the bag to use in the .22 single shot and .22 levers when I’m teaching young folks to shoot.

    Oh well, let’s try it anyway, the ISSC is a good gun. Right. Bang. Jam Pry cartridge out of chamber with pocket knife. Bang. Jam. Lather rise repeat.
    Pull gun apart.Brush everything down hard. Pour lots of oil over everything. Put it back together. Bang Bang Bang jam Bang bang bang bang new mag Bang Jam Bang Bang jam Bang Jam — oh hell, i’m going to walk up and shoot Keven’s AK-4 hand-built black powder rifle.

    I’ll pull a curtain over the rest.

    Oh, and my darling dearest got the runs just as we arrived and spent 3 days in the hotel room,

    Not the greatest libertycon of all time. 🙂

    • > there’s .357

      That’s obviously a Sign that you should acquire a Coonan 1911 in .357 Magnum.

      Now that I finally have the Auto Mag, a Coonan is next on my list. There’s an empty slot for it by the .460 longslide…

      Yeah, .38 Super and .357 Sig are just fine, but there’s something demented about a 1911 ejecting rimmed revolver brass. The pistol version of a Saiga-12; something that probably slid in from a near alternate reality…

    • I can personally assure you, it could have been much worse.

      My wife fell and broke both her shoulders Saturday morning (apparently her bone density is falling faster than her rheumatologist thought). She literally couldn’t do anything involving hands, including use a phone if anything went wrong when I left the room… so neither of us could leave the Residence Inn.

        • Oh, it could have been worse than that. And at least we got to make your reception.

          Incidentally, Em’s continuing to do better; at least, she’s sleeping pretty much through the night. Although she informed me that she woke up at three this morning, had me help her move to her office, get a drink, etc. while I remained asleep. I can only take her word for it as I have no memory of it….. no alcohol involved! 😎

        • I’m 53 but i have the body and health of an old woman. my mom died at 51 and my dad’s mom died at 62. I haven’t given up on traveling just need to be more cautious. in my head I’m 20 and invincible. i have to remember that in real lifel I’m old and fragile.
          hopefully, next year in Chattanooga. heh. perhaps we’ll meet in TX..

          • I was wondering how practical it would be for a bunch (OK, large handful?) of us from northern TX to rent a van and all go together? I realize getting cats to march in an orderly line past a fishmonger’s shop might be easier, but . . .

            • I could go for that one. We might need a small U-Haul for luggage (including the kind that goes bang), but we could drive it in a day if we had multiple drivers.