Guests of Honor and Featured Guests

Guests of Honor  -   Featured Guests

Guests of Honor

Author Guest of Honor: Ryka Aoki

Ryka Aoki is a poet, composer, teacher, and novelist. Her latest novel, Light From Uncommon Stars (Tor Books 2021) was an Alex, SCKA, and Otherwise Award winner, and was also a finalist for the Hugo, Locus, and Ignyte Awards.

Ryka is a two-time Lambda Literary Award finalist for her collections Seasonal Velocities, and Why Dust Shall Never Settle Upon This Soul, and her first novel, He Mele a Hilo, was callled one of the "10 Best Books Set in Hawaii" by Bookriot. She has been recognized by the California State Senate for "extraordinary commitment to the visibility and well-being of Transgender people," and her work has appeared or been recognized in publications including Vogue, Elle, Bustle, Autostraddle, PopSugar, and Buzzfeed, as well as the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. She was also honored to work with the American Association of Hiroshima Nagasaki A-Bomb Survivors, where two of her compositions were adopted as the organization's "songs of peace."

She has an MFA in creative writing from Cornell University, and is currently a professor of English at Santa Monica College.

[Ryka Aoki]
Artist Guest of Honor: Winona Nelson
[Winona Nelson]

Artist/writer Winona Nelson was born in 1983 and grew up in Duluth, Minnesota. She has drawn all her life and began painting digitally as a teenager. She studied classical realism and art for the entertainment industry at the Safehouse Atelier in San Francisco.

Winona is a queer, Two Spirit Indigenous person, and her fine art often focuses on the stories and history of her tribe, the Ojibwe of Minnesota, and on gender and diversity.

She now freelances fulltime, working in illustration, concept art, comics, fine art, children's books, and worldbuilding/IP development. Clients include Marvel Studios, Naughty Dog, Wizards of the Coast, and Scholastic Books. She teaches concept art and illustration for SmArt School.

Winona illustrated "If You Lived During the Plimoth Thanksgiving" by Christopher Newell (named one of the School Library Journal's Best Books of 2021 and received starred reviews in the School Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews) and "If You Sailed on the Titanic" by Denise Patrick Lewis for Scholastic Books. Past publications include DC: Women of Action, Women of Wonder, Spectrum 17, Spectrum 18, Spectrum 19, Spectrum 20, Gorilla Artbook, Exotique 2, and Exotique 4.

Winona has participated in gallery exhibitions in Connecticut, Seattle, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and New York City.

She lives in Pennsylvania with artist beau Anthony Palumbo and their gentleman cats, Diego and Tod.

Fan Guest of Honor: Tanya DePass

Tanya DePass is the founder and Director of I Need Diverse Games, a not-for-profit organization based in Chicago, which is dedicated to better diversification of all aspects of gaming. I Need Diverse Games serves the community by supporting marginalized developers, attendance at the Game Developer Conference by participating in the GDC Scholarship program, helps assist attendance at other industry events, and is seeking partnership with organizations and initiatives. Tanya is a lifelong Chicagoan who loves everything about gaming, #INeedDiverseGames spawn point, and wants to make the industry better and more inclusive for everyone. She's part of the "Rivals of Waterdeep" actual play stream on, a partnered Twitch variety broadcaster; and often speaks on issues of diversity, feminism, race, intersectionality & other topics online, at conventions and as a public speaker.

She's the creator and Creative Director of Into the Mother Lands, a new, Twitch supported, sci-fi afro-futurist RPG developed with a team of all POC and Black creators; live-streamed on her twitch channel, cypheroftyr. She's also contributed to publications at Green Ronin, Paizo and Monte Cook Games and is the co-developer for the Fifth Season RPG based on N.K. Jemisin's three time Hugo award winning Broken Earth trilogy. Additionally, she is a Senior Annenberg labs Civic Media Fellow at USC.

She's named as one of The Game Awards Future Class of 2020, a diverse group of builders, thinkers and dreamers whose voices elevate and diversify our art-form. It recognizes individuals around the world who represent the bright, bold and inclusive future for video games. She was also named as one of Gamers of the Year 2020 by Kotaku along with three of her contemporaries. She was also invited to the Xbox MVP program in February 2021.

Her work to make the industry more inclusive has been highlighted in Game Changer. The short documentary premiered at Tribeca 2021, as part of the Queen Collective; an initiative started by Queen Latifah.

Tanya is the programming & diversity coordinator for OrcaCon and GaymerX. She also serves on the Board of Directors for OrcaCon and was named the Chair for Take This in January 2023. She often speaks on issues of diversity, feminism, race, intersectionality & other topics at conventions. Her writing about games and games critique appears in Uncanny Magazine, Polygon, Wiscon Chronicles, Vice Gaming, Paste Games, Mic, and other publications. She's the editor of Game Devs and Others: Tales from the Margins (2018, CRC Press) and contributed to The Advanced Game Narrative Toolbox. (2019, CRC Press)

[Tanya DePass]
Photo Credit: CamRicePhoto

Featured Guests

Featured Music Guest: Windborne Singers
Photo Credit: Michelle Frehsee

"The most exciting vocal group in a generation," Windborne’s captivating show draws on the singers' deep roots in traditions of vocal harmony, while the absolute uniqueness of their artistic approach brings old songs into the present. Known for the innovation of their arrangements, their harmonies are bold and anything but predictable.

With a 20-year background studying polyphonic music around the world, Lauren Breunig, Jeremy Carter-Gordon, Lynn Rowan, and Will Rowan share a vibrant energy onstage with a blending of voices that can only come from decades of friendship alongside dedicated practice. The ensemble shifts effortlessly between drastically different styles of music, drawing their audience along on a journey that spans continents and centuries, illuminating and expanding on the profound power and variation of the human voice.

Featured Gamer Guest: Eugenio Vargas

Eugenio Vargas is a TTRPG designer, writer, and professional GM, as well as a streamer and podcaster. He's been featured as both a GM and player in various actual play shows, including The Last Refuge: A D&D Podcast, Into the Mother Lands, Idle Champions Presents: Hunger of the Far Realms, and Rivals of Waterdeep. As a writer and designer, Eugenio has design credits in books published by MCDM Productions (Flee, Mortals! and Where Evil Lives), Green Ronin (The Fifth Season Roleplaying Game), Wizards of the Coast (Fizban's Treasury of Dragons), and a few others coming soon. When he's not writing or GMing, Eugenio streams games on his Twitch channel as DMJazzyHands. In the beforetimes, Eugenio was also a musical theater actor and music director, performing in musical productions around the world.

[Eugenio Vargas]
Featured Guest: Paul Sabourin

Paul Sabourin is one half of comedy/music duo Paul and Storm. He is a co-founder of JoCo Cruise, an annual week-long comedy/music/creativity-themed event cruise that has been sailing since 2011. He has also been a staff writer and co-producer on the past several seasons of Mystery Science Theater 3000.