A Creative Power Hour With Jonathan Coulton and the JoCo Superfriends (Part 1)

A lot of really cool things happened at New York Comic Con this year. I got to hang with the cast of Star Trek Discovery. I got to meet William Shatner and chat with one of my Bat-idols Bruce Timm. And I got to sit and talk to a table full of people way more creative than I can ever hope to be.

Before their “Telling Stories” panel, where they discussed their strategies for storytelling, creating characters, and getting from good idea to finished thing, I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down and having an amazing conversation with Jonathan Coulton, Paul & Storm, Patrick Rothfuss, Jean Grae, and Travis McElroy.

Today, I’m bringing you the first half of our conversation, which focuses on the JoCo Cruise. Later this week, I’ll bring you the second half, where we talk more about creativity, storytelling in different media, and finding a creative spark in the current political and social climate.

If you’ve never been to NYCC, I should explain that it’s a heaving mass of humanity that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. As Coulton expressed before we even began, “We just walked here from the main entrance, and I went into fight-or-flight mode about eight times.”

Pat Rothfuss didn’t miss a beat to agree wholeheartedly. “I’ve only been to New York Comic Con once before. And it freaks me out. All of my antennae are quivering at this con, and I think it’s because part of me knows that even if I leave this claustrophobic, too-many-people environment, I will leave it for a claustrophobic, too-many-people city.”

But Travis McElroy? “My con is going great. I got recognized just enough to fulfill my narcissistic needs.”

Ostensibly, we were all there to talk about the nerdiest cruise that ever sailed, the JoCo Cruise. If you don’t know what that is, do yourself a favor and read up on my lengthy reports from this year’s event. (I wrote a total of five posts that go into excruciating detail about the cruise.) Then go here and book yourself a cabin for 2018. You won’t be sorry.

Next year will not only be McElroy’s first JoCo Cruise, but it will also be his first cruise ever. Coulton and Grae sum up the experience perfectly: “Afterwards, you won’t like other cruises. Definitely don’t go a regular cruise after that. You’ll wonder why there are not hundreds of friends around. It’ll be a bummer.”

I can certainly attest to that. JoCo Cruise was also my first cruise. I’ve traveled all around the world but have never even had the slightest interest in going on a cruise. Now? Now I’m in love with the JoCo Cruise, but I still have zero desire to go on a non-nerdy cruise. What’s the point?

Rothfuss went on the “pre-cruise cruise” with Coulton and Paul & Storm–when they check out the boat and its amenities and perform a lot of logistical planning stuff. “It was startling because the median age seemed to be dead. I was one of the youngest people on the boat, and I have not felt that way for a long time.”

Jean Grae chimed in with, “I hear death is a common thing on other cruise ships.”

After a chorus of agreement, Storm realized they were doing a bang-up job of selling the cruise. “No one dies on JoCo Cruise! It’s like Disney World!”

Paul: From an organizational standpoint, last cruise was the first time we had the whole ship. And not that it went poorly, but I’m looking forward to having all the lessons we learned from scaling up to the whole ship. It’s like going back to play a video game level after you’ve really buffed up your armor and gotten some better weapons.

And since we had control of the whole ship and where and when we go, we stayed in this little town in Baja California called Loreto, and they let us take over their town square with a huge concert. So it was a festival within our festival.

Rothfuss: And the food festival! Also… it was the first time that I’ve experienced tequila. So I was a magical tequila fairy.

McElroy: After you’d gone so long without punishing yourself with tequila, why were you like, “Now! I’m starting now!”?

Grae: When you see that town, you’ll understand.

Rothfuss: I was so happy, and I wanted everyone to be as happy as me. So what I’m looking forward to is going and having one fewer tequila than that, which would have been the proper dosage. I was so happy that they needed to herd me back onto the ship. There was a whole group of people who said, “You know, Pat, you’re having such a good time, maybe you shouldn’t be in public anymore.”

Coulton: At the end of that Loreto concert, we were saying, “Where do we get the balls to essentially plan a music festival on land in the middle of a cruise? Why did we do that?”

Storm: Which we’d never done before! And that was one of the concerns, but it worked out great. There are aspects that are definitely like a convention–a lot of different things going on at different times. It just felt so natural, though.

Rothfuss: I would say that for the people who don’t have a lot of experience with tequila, maybe some sort of brochure?

Coultron: A training regimen?

Paul: There were a couple years when Peter Sagal was on the ship. He’s an avid runner, and he’s had morning running groups. Maybe you could set up the equivalent of ramping up into tequila. It’s kind of a version of yoga, I guess.

Grae: I found out about the cheeseburgers and hot dogs too late. There’s this amazing pool bar I didn’t discover until the last day.

Coulton: Yes! It’s very dangerous because you could be like, you just had breakfast and you’re going to have lunch in an hour. But you’re sitting by the pool and think, “I guess I’ll go over there and get a hamburger.”

Paul: You start keeping hobbit hours. Well, it’s time for elevensies!

Seriously, guys, if you’ve ever had the slightest interest in a cruise or are fans of any of the people lined up to be on the 2018 cruise, you should really think about getting your finances in order and booking a cabin. I’m not going to lie; it ain’t cheap. But dollar for dollar, it’s one of the best vacations you can plan.

I can’t guarantee that Pat Rothfuss will be a magical tequila fairy again, but Baja in February should be reason enough. You will regret nothing.

Come back later this week for the second half of my conversation with Coulton, Paul & Storm, Rothfuss, Grae, and McElroy!

Jamie is a publishing/book nerd who makes a living by wrangling words together into some sense of coherence. When he's not knee deep in a convoluted grammatical mess of a sentence, he's likely on an adventure with his two adorable ragamuffins. You can check out more of his ramblings on The Roarbots, StarWars.com, and Babble.