Leicester

Today makes two weeks in Leicester, during which the weather has been as hot or hotter than it was in Santa Monica, something I did not see coming. But otherwise it’s been quite nice.

I got into Leicester pretty late on Thursday and then John and I headed to Peterborough on Friday to visit his family. Saturday involved home cooked meals and surprisingly little jet lag, and then on Sunday we took the train into London for the annual Coxon family picnic. This involved lots of nice foods and something called French Cricket, which is a much more polite version of dodgeball. I did okay at it, I think, and we seemed to amuse the tourists. After all that everyone when their separate ways, including John and I to Leicester.

As before my favorite thing in the city is the Market, which is entertaining just to walk through listening to the vendors hawking their wares. Additionally there are some great deals to be had, and they’ve just built a brand new indoor market for the butchers and a really nice cheese vendor.

Leicester Market

Leicester Market

The new discovery I’ve made which I look forward to exploring when the weather cools down a little bit is the cemetery next to the University. The Welford Road Cemetery is relatively recent, dating from the 19th Century when Leicester was a big industrial city but it’s gorgeous and built almost more like a park than a graveyard. I look forward to exploring it a bit more and maybe taking one of the walking tours.

Graves at Welford Cemetery

 

 

Next stop Gatwick

Today is my last day in Santa Monica. In a few hours I head off to LAX and a ten and a half hour flight to England!

It’s been a fun week, I got to see my family and spend an extremely American Fourth of July watching fireworks and dancing with my little niece. I had always thought I just wasn’t particularly interested in fireworks, but it turns out when you have nice weather and clear skies rather than a San Francisco Glowing Clouds Over the Bay experience, they really are quite spectacular. The band was excellent as well.

I also got to wander around Venice with my brother, which was interesting. I had only seen the beachfront touristy section, but this time I got to explore a bit more. Abbot Kinney on the other hand seems to be going to a very familiar gentrification process, with lots of new swank stores and buildings. We also saw the canals, since it turns out Venice was originally built as a resort modeled on the Italian city.

It’s been a fun interlude before the next leg of my trip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Off to Santa Monica

In just a few days I get on a bus and head down to Santa Monica to visit with my family down there for a week. It’ll be nice to spend fourth of July someplace where I can actually see the fireworks!

After a week in the Southern California sun I fly out to England to visit with John in Leicester. And then in August the two of us head over to London for Loncon 3! It will be the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention, is looking to be the largest one ever and will be quite the shindig. There will be a significant Bay Area presence, including the Tiki Dalek, so that’ll be nice. Currently I’m scheduled to be on one panel, but am otherwise mostly free of responsibilities and looking forward to exploring my first non-US Worldcon.

And as if that were not enough, one week after Loncon John and I hop on a plane to Dublin for Shamrokon, which will be my first visit to Ireland and my first Eurocon. It’s going to be a busy summer.

 

 

 

Pinterest

After avoiding Pinterest for a while I signed up for an account and have come to love it.

It’s great for reference material, but at least for the moment I’ve mainly been using it to expand my knowledge of vintage illustration. I’m familiar with the biggies from the Golden Age of Ilustration, but there are so many wonderful artists I had never heard of, or only knew vaguely.

One of the revelations is how many amazing women illustrators worked in that era. Very few of them were known to me, but the field was replete;

Florence Harrison, Dorothy Lathrop, Jennie Harbour, Marjorie Miller , Virginia Frances Sterret, Helen Stratton, Bertha Lum, Ida Rentoul Outhwaite

 

Hugo Nomination Thoughts

As usual the lead up to the Hugo nominations deadline involved binge reading and watching, plus a lot of online searching. I don’t expect that to ever really change, since it is impossible to keep up with all the good stuff out there, but I did start earlier this year and hope to be better about keeping an eye out for candidates for next year throughout 2014.

One of the things that has been very encouraging is the proliferation of recommendation and eligibility resources available online. This is extremely helpful, although it would be nice to see more for the fan categories. Another thing that struck me this year was that without conscious effort I managed to fill my reading list and my ballot with women. Part of this is almost certainly because others have made the conscious effort to highlight and review works by female creators, so thank you to those who did just that.

A few highlights from my Hugo homework; Binging Orphan Black, Nalo Hopkinson’s Sister Mine, new (to me) authors Sofia Samatar, Yoon Ha Lee, and Carmen Maria Machado.

FogCon, etc

March has been busy, not the least because it is my birthday month.

In addition to getting older, I attended the FogCon convention in Walnut Creek. I only went on Friday and Saturday, and didn’t stay overnight. But I did get a chance to see old friends and meet new people, and be part of a panel on Lesser Known Writers were I recommended Margaret St. Clair, Richard McKenna, and Katherine Maclean, with an honorable mention to Judith Merril for her Best S-F anthologies.¬† The rest of the panelists mostly focused on new writers, so I ended up with a nice list of my own to take away.

Besides FogCon March also brought other people’s birthday celebrations, including the always spectacular Kingfish bash at the DNA Lounge. I also managed to get a couple of sessions of my first roleplaying experience ever (as a Wookiee), a visit with friends outside of San Francisco, and a lighting visit from my sister (with brunch and mimosas).

So I’m calling March a win, and it’s not even over yet.

 

Geek Girl Crafts Episode 50!

Despite not having the space or supplies to craft while I am in San Francisco, I am still doing the Geek Girl Crafts podcast with Jade and Sandy. I just concentrate on the geek-girling and leave the rest to them.

And unbelievably, we just hit our fiftieth episode! The plan was to get together to podcast in person in celebration, but circumstances got in the way. Maybe next time, folks.

Episode 50

San Francisco, Part 2; Thanksgiving

In November Dickens Fair started up again, and like last year I worked for JoAnne Hunot of Storyteller Keys, selling her lovely jewelry made from antique keys. It’s also a fun way to see the fair, and during lunch I get to pop over to Mad Sal’s and visit with the inimitable Joe Price, who dances with Le Can Can Bijou.

But I took Thanksgiving weekend off to head south for Loscon 40 with Leigh Ann Hildebrand and Leo Schwab. But first we had a lovely Thanksgiving meal followed by a screening of Thor 2, both of which were good. Less good was the injury Leigh Ann sustained to her knee after slipping on the dark sidewalk on the way to the movies. She soldiered through and insisted that both the movie and the drive south were still a go.

The next morning we headed out early with the aim of arriving before our late afternoon panels were scheduled. This still left time for the traditional stop at Casa de Fruta, though, where the waitress easily spotted us as Faire types thanks to Leo’s sartorial tastes. As promised Leigh Ann drove all the way down, powered by Case de Pie and the Sirius 1st Wave station and we rolled up to the LAX Marriott in plenty of time to check in and get settled before our panels.

I headed down for panels and coffee, but Leigh Ann spent the first of many hours over the weekend icing her knee instead. It curtailed some of our usual excesses, but was the correct choice of course especially given that she and Leo had some plans for Monday and then there was the long drive back to the Bay Area to look forward to.

For my part, it was great to see folks I haven’t talked to in ages, what with traveling and missing last year. I ran into Tim and Serena Powers before getting my room key, and that set the tone for the rest of the weekend. Also fun was hanging out with a couple of people that I had chatted with with at Convolution, and continuing conversations like the month in between hadn’t existed. Conventions are a form of spacetime-travel in that way.

I didn’t see Chris Garcia until Saturday night, when he appeared out of thin air carrying a copy of the Iron Sky board game. He recruited several of us and we went to the game room (a first for me at this con) to try it out. Alas, it turns out it is the most complicated game in the world and after 45 minutes of reading the rules and setting up the board we opted for Uno instead, since I had never played it before. Glenn Glazer was put in charge of studying the Iron Sky game and reporting back at a later convention.

Since I am currently traveling (and living) light, being between continents and all, I didn’t enter the art show or pack any costumes. And our already vague plans for the Fanzine Lounge PM were nixed by Leigh Ann’s injury. So my only responsibilities for the weekend were four panels;

Costuming on a Budget could have used some coordination between us panelists beforehand to make it more useful. As it turned out we were lucky to have three people with different approaches, but on the other hand our two male panelists were double-scheduled, meaning the male audience members had less to chew on.

Taking a Look at New Versions of Sherlock Holmes suffered from lack of moderation, it was unclear who the official moderator was and the person who volunteered had an idea for what we should discuss that was not the one in the description. There were three of us on the panel, and the second person and I were able to steer things a bit, so overall I think it went reasonably well, and hope the audience enjoyed it. But I admit there were some moments of tension towards the end where my impatience showed, and I may not have been as good at dealing with the situation as I would have liked. Still, I was pleased to find I didn’t have to defend Elementary as a worthy entry into the canon, since most everyone agreed it is a damned good show.

The Bear and the Maiden: Fair? This was a ‘women in GoT’ panel which I was on with Leigh Ann and author Shauna Roberts, and it was a lot of fun. I enjoy arguing with Leigh Ann and we both have strong opinions on GoT, but she was the moderator and stuck firmly to that role. The discussion was lively, and the audience seemed to enjoy it, so that was all good.

My final commitment was Fandom in Social Media, with Allison Lonsdale, Louise Hitchcock, and Mitch Wagner. It was a chatty and fun panel with a small but participatory audience. All in all good way to round out the convention.

It’s no secret that Loscon has had a bit of a reputation as a convention suffering from stagnation in recent years, and aconcerted effort is clearly underway to change that. The panels are at the forefront of that effort; they did a wonderful job of communicating with panelists, pitching and receiving ideas, and getting a schedule to use well before the convention (all sadly uncommon things) but also seem to be full of enthusiasm and ideas for next year and going forward. After the convention we spoke about new approaches to moderating and possibly rating panels, which I am very interested in seeing implemented.

Aside from all this shop talk, the rest of the convention also showed signs of renewal. The Dealers Room shared space with a Maker area that had robotics, 3-D printing, and prosthetics demos, among other neat things. There was also a small stage for talks and things like a magician performance, which was a good idea but perhaps could use some refining. Some added signage might be all that is needed there.

Things that were less great include the Art Show, which is now tucked away further back since it doesn’t share space with the Dealer’s Room. I don’t think this is necessarily a killer, but it needs some revamping to make it more visible and inviting. The Fanzine Lounge was gone entirely, mainly I assume because Chris Garcia was only there for a single day. This meant that the Consuite was the only relaxing social space, and while Loscon does put on a very nice Consuite (the chocolate day was particularly impressive) it is on the 18th floor and not as accessible to casual wandering.

And that last thought ties in with some of why this Loscon was great for me, it continued and expanded some of the discussions I’m finding myself in a lot lately about how to make conventions more welcoming to new people and repeat members alike. Over the course of the weekend I had multiple great conversations about this that I’ve been mulling over since then, and seeing reflected in the ongoing discussions over on the JOFs FB group.

San Francisco, Part 1; Convolution

I’ve been back in San Francisco since October, and been quite busy, thankfully.

Over Halloween weekend I attended Convolution, a convention being held for just the second time. It took place at the Hyatt Regency in Burlingame, which is a really cool location with a giant indoor atrium (I like a nice atrium) and an odd but endearing shape (I am fond of those too, looking at you Escher Marriott!) full of nooks and crannies for late night conversations and adventures.

Aside from some problems at registration, which was extremely friendly and helpful but very slow, the convention seemed to run very smoothly and I had a really great time. The theme was Gates of Horn and Ivory, Realms of Dream. So fantasy centered, and working heavily with the theme to create a unified atmosphere, which I always enjoy. The guests included Richard and Wendy Pini of Elfquest, Brian and Wendy Froud and their son Toby Froud, and the central Saturday night event was the Goblin King’s Masked Ball. Many of the public spaces where decorated in theme as well, and attendees were encouraged to costume along. The ¬†choice of panelists and musical guests also meant that the theme flowed nicely to the panels and other areas, creating a lovely immersive experience.

I missed most of the Ball, unfortunately, but the idea of Kickstarting it to allow for a grander show without taking away resources from the rest of the convention seems to have been successful. And the Art Show and Dealer’s Room were both excellent, the former was direct sales only–which may actually be a better way of simplifying the experience for artists and buyers alike–and the latter was one of the better ones I’ve seen, with themed vendors dominating one side of the room and then flowing into a wider variety on the other end, I assume this was done on purpose and it felt very natural.

In the end a convention is about people, though, and I met a bunch of excellent new folks at Convolution. Some of whom were Bay Area convention veterans that I had just never happened to meet before. Among them the good people of the Nerdvana Podcast, who were tons of fun to chat with.

The party floor was good as well, which is a large part of what makes a good convention for me. Late Friday night in the party I talked my way onto a “harassment in fandom” panel on the basis that it was going to be male-dominated otherwise, and that ended up going very well thank goodness. The other panels I saw were good, including a silicon mold demo by Mette Hedin and Bryan Little.

Next year’s theme is science fictional, ‘Halfway Home’, and assuming I’m in the area I will definitely be there again.

 

 

England!

Been in the UK for a couple of weeks now, the first week or so in Peterborough and now in Leicester. They both have very photogenic parts, though unfortunately the overcast skies mean the lighting is now always ideal for said photographs.

Field with cows and low stone fence

Peterborough Field

Still, the weather has actually been nice and mild. Compared to Spain it may as well be winter here, but given how hot it got there right before I left, that’s okay really.