In a large room of the Hilton New Orleans Airport, vendors have set up their tables to sell their goods and creations at the CONtraflow Sci-Fi and Fantasy Literature Convention of 2019. The hotel is filled with cosplayers dressed as “Star Wars” stormtroopers and bounty hunters and there’s even a T.A.R.D.I.S. in the lobby. Among the sights are rows of tables filled with books, and behind them sit their authors. While many conventions focus on gaming and pop culture, according to local author the Rob Cerio, “it’s definitely more about the authors. The people that run it, they’re not as interested in meeting the actor that played so-and-so; they want to meet the person that actually made that character interesting through the story.”
Rob Cerio, or THE Rob Cerio as his fans have come to call him because he “never put an end to the joke,” sits at a table near the center of CONtraflow’s vendor room. He dons a classic Star Wars t-shirt and fedora and in front of him sit his books, such as “Jake Price and the Reality Realtors” and “The Scientific Adventures of Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla.” Rob Cerio has been attending CONtraflow’s literary convention for years and is an active and supportive member of the New Orleans’ writing community.
“I’m really fond of writing in the genre I like to call “working-class schlub,” says Cerio when discussing his sci-fi/comedy novels featuring interdimensional moderators. “Basically, when humanity develops the ability to travel through dimensions to other worlds, the first thing they use it for is tourism. The Moderators essentially make sure the tourists don’t screw things up too much.” One of the covers of these books, “Dimensional Games,” shows the dark silhouette of two characters, giving the vibe of a classic cloak and dagger mystery. Another, “Interdimensionally Yours, Jake Price,” looks like the cover of a steamy love affair novel. “Jake Price is overworked and he is underpaid,” explains Cerio. “He finds himself in these world-saving situations through no fault of his own. But, he’s getting a paycheck. If he happens to save the multiverse, cool, but the paycheck is what matters here.”
While discussing Rob’s background, he says he’s been writing since he was eight years old. “I didn’t have a lot of success with it, but at some point, I hit upon independent publishing, and I developed a brand. I knew that if I did a science fiction novel I’d have a market in conventions.” This was true as visitor’s kept stopping by to speak with Rob about his latest work and what they loved about it, or two ask questions about his books. “New Orleans has a very large writing community, especially during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Someone is always asking you how your word count is. My first novel was a NaNoWriMo novel, and without the community, it never would have happened.”
Finishing the interview, Rob chose his side between the two genres that CONtraflow focuses on. “I’m a sci-fi guy. Sword and sorcery isn’t really my thing. My friends still give me crap because I haven’t watched ‘Game of Thrones.’” Joining The Rob Cerio at CONtraflow was a number of other New Orleans local authors, cosplayers, and radio personalities with their own leanings between science fiction and fantasy.