Hugos, Helsinki Part II

Sasquan has passed and the Hugo vote went about as well as could be expected, which is to say that the slates got no awarded and there were some solid winners outside of that. I watched the ceremony on Ustream from the comfort of my bed and was impressed, it was top notch, the best Hugo ceremony I’ve seen in fact. Its a credit to everyone involved that (most of) the audience seems to have come away invigorated and optimistic.

All that said it bears remembering that the slaters did achieve one of their aims all the same. Every year after the ceremony, the convention always releases the full nomination and voting statistics. This means we can have a look at what the ballot would have looked like without the slate, and it would have been a strong year with a diverse and wonderful list of works and nominees. A few I have read already, the rest I will seek out now.

Beyond that, Helsinki won their bid for 2017 so I’m looking forward to that. My next convention will be Convolution in Burlingame over the first weekend in October. I’ll be doing some panels and maybe some Geek Girl Crafts stuff with Sandy and Jade, and with any luck it’ll be my last shindig before taking off fold colder climes.

Hugos, Helsinki

I vacillated for a bit but eventually paid my money and voted for the Hugos and the 2017 Site Selection.

The Hugos were of course a mess but ironically it made them less work that most years since there was so little to read. That said, I really enjoyed the Graphic Novel category and was also glad to have the ballot remind me how great the semiprozine landscape is currently.

As for 2017, I was happy to rank Helsinki first. It’s no secret that I was a bit meh about their initial run, which I felt started off strong and enthusiastic but seemed to lose a lot of momentum. This time around things have looked much stronger and better organized. Plus the team has been better and getting across reasons to go to Helsinki specifically. Fingers crossed they’ll win, though aside from the weather DC could be pretty great too.

I’ll be sad missing Worldcon this year, especially with it being (relatively) close, but it’s good to get swept back into its gravitational pull;  voting, reading online discussions, watching friends start their prep for the con, and then eventually following the social media chatter during the con and the reports afterwards. Even if I can’t be there this all makes it harder to drift too far out of the loop with work and other mundane distractions.

Netflix fix

Catching up on old shows seems to be the name of the game for me right now. I finally finished all of Fringe, which I had seen the first three or so seasons of a couple of years ago but decided to start from scratch. It was definitely worth the rewatch, although it’s also true that I found the final season underwhelming. The characters and humor kept my interest, but I found the central conceit of the first seasons much more compelling than the dystopian future element. Still, it felt satisfying to see everything wrapped up. I wish the show had gotten more attention when it was on the air, Olivia is a fantastic protagonist, John Noble deserved a boatload of Emmy’s, and the supporting cast was gold. Ah well.

Currently watching The West Wing, which I am having a bit of trouble with. The cast is great and the first season whizzed by alright… but as it goes on I find myself half enthralled and half irritated. The dialogue can be brilliant but is also distractingly loaded with authorial tics, particularly that cutesy repetition gag. And the fact that the same verbal style is shared by all the characters starts to wear after a bit, I like mannered dialogue fine but a Mamet movie only lasts 90 minutes and then you’re out. It doesn’t help that most of the female supporting cast is starting to really annoy me. Giving it till the end of season 2 to pull me back in.

And finally; Forever Knight, which I’m watching with my roommate. We just finished off season 2 and it’s still quite entertaining in a mid-90s vampire police procedural sort of way. It’s a relic from an era when genre television had smaller budgets and far less ambitious goals story-wise but its also fun to see how many things it actually did first which we’d later see in Angel and other vampire shows. Plus Nigel Bennet pops in regularly to keep things from ever getting to serious.

Next up, maybe some M*A*S*H?

Doctor Coxon at last.

Around time last year I was in the UK, having traveled over in time for the annual Coxon family picnic. This year of course I had to miss out on that which is a shame, but worse is that I missed John’s graduation ceremony from the University of Leicester. The logistics of trying to make a separate trip out there just before sorting the visa and heading over permanently were just not feasible, but it still sucks.

Still, by all accounts he had a great time and was saved from having to deal in person with my delighted reaction to his academic bonnet.

July at last

The last couple of weeks have been relatively uneventful, mainly involving extra work shifts covering co-workers on vacation and various social plans falling through for one reason or another. Which is fine since the former means more cash for my eventual departure and the latter means I had more time to recover from the lingering cold and cough that I had just caught when I last posted.

And now it is finally July! The month in which I gather all the paperwork to send off to the UKBA in hopes of getting my visa to join John in Southampton. It’s good to feel like I am at the beginning of the end of this process, assuming all goes well.

Being July it also means that I just missed Westercon, which was down in San Diego this year. I’ve never actually been to San Diego so it was a bit of a shame to have missed it, but as usual it’s been fun seeing people’s posts from the con.

I’m  a bit more sad to realize I’m going to miss Worldcon. I’d gone back and forth on whether to try and make it but logistically it just makes no sense to try and squeeze it in. Still, I will be getting my votes in for the awards and site selection and sending in some art for the Fanzine Lounge, so I’ll be there in spirit.

Movies and Music

I just had five days off in a row, which was nice even though I seem to have caught a cold that’s making the last day extremely low key.

Still, I managed to catch up with my friends Steve and Dan, who I hadn’t seen in a little while. We had some very good sushi at Sushi Raw and then headed over to the Kabuki with the intention of seeing Spy. Now when seeing something at the Kabuki it’s generally a good idea to get tickets in advance because of they have reserved seating, plus this was Saturday night to boot. But we had neglected to do so and figured we’d just head over and hope. Of course it was sold out so we picked the only other film in a similar time slot, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Luckily it was actually pretty good. Not the raunchy comedy we had planned for, but a sweet movie well acted, and quite funny in spots. It’s rare for me to go into a movie completely blind so that was a nice surprise.

Sunday followed a similar pattern in that I met friends for dinner someplace I hadn’t tried before and then headed to a show. In this case the restaurant was Basil Thai over on Folsom and the show was Pride Rock just across the street at the Oasis. I’d never been to the Oasis before and its a pretty cool venue that is much larger on the inside than it looks from outside. We were there to see PEPPERSPRAY who are described as “beloved SF drag queen rock n’ roll superband” on the Oasis website. They were fantastic and aside from dodging a crazy dude with poor personal space awareness who was dancing in the front row the evening was a smashing success.

The next three days were about mundane chores, generally chilling and catching up on reading and watching things. I finished reading Eight Skilled Gentlemen and started The Three-Body Problem I watched Let’s Be Cops, which is a juvenile but generally amusing comedy that comes across as a discarded Coach and Nick subplot from New Girl. I also blew through the new season of Orange Is the New Black, which continues to be just about perfect.

Hugo Novels Shirt

My clever husband has put up this sweet design on Teespring, available until June 30th;

hugoshirt

The famous Hugo Award rocket, filled with the name of each Best Novel winner since the first awards were given. An elegant window into the history of our genre, in T-shirt form!

Shirts available in men and women’s cuts: be sure to click the drop down menu if you want the latter.
“Worldcon”, “Hugo Award”, the Hugo Award Logo, and the distinctive design of the Hugo Award Trophy Rocket are service marks of the World Science Fiction Society, an unincorporated literary society. They are used by permission of Loncon 3, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention.

SubZERO Festival

These past two weeks my shifts have tended to run an hour or two longer than usual due to a coworker being on vacation and simultaneously I went up to four days a week. While this means some welcome extra money in the bank it also meant that come the weekend my lazier inclinations were kicking in and I was looking at doing nothing at all if I could help it. Luckily Joe Price pinged me on Thursday night about the SubZERO Festival in San Jose and I had no real excuses to say no.

On Saturday afternoon we drove down to our friend Radar’s house in San Jose and found street parking on the block. She’s well situated near downtown so we headed over on foot with her and her friend Matt. She recommended The Craftsman as our first stop for a couple of drinks and some food. Immediately upon entering I noticed the art on the that I recognized from the Clockwork Alchemy art gallery, specifically a George Méliès tribute by Steamy Tech.

I figured I’d be tempted by the plentiful food trucks so I  only ordered a plate of croquettes with my beers. I quickly realized I’d miscalculated a bit since my breakfast had been nearly eight hours earlier. Oops. Still the beers and food were great and we had a nice time chatting with the friendly and knowledgeable bartender. I also noticed a stack of board games on the counter, apparently Wednesdays is Game Night which they encourage by offering a free bottle of beer to anyone bringing their own board game or Magic deck. Pretty swell.

After The Craftsman we wandered into the sunshine to check out the actual festival. The vendors were all artists and craftspeople and along with Steamy Tech’s booth I also saw a couple of other familiar faces from Clockwork. There were dance performers, a fashion show, a stunning body painting booth, and activities for kids plus two stages for music, one at each end.  We caught the very end of a fun pirate band called O’Craven and although I looked fondly at the food trucks we decided it was time to turn around and head up a block to meet up with Bryan and Mette.

The joined us and we headed to The Ritz, which seemed disconcertingly tiny until we realized there was a whole other space with a stage and dancefloor. The front room had a bunch of local artists on display because of the festival, which I guess a bunch of venues participated in this way. We had some beers and generally nerded out for a bit. I even got a little dancing in which was nice, though it was early enough in the evening that it was mostly just me out there making a fool of myself as usual. Eventually Kevin and Andy joined us and we all headed over to our third venue for the evening; the Back Bar. This was a fun divey sort of place which had a punk rock band called Kittenhead which I enjoyed quite a bit.

This was the only negative of the evening, and a minor one at that. At one point I noticed a guy watching me a bit to intently. I was on alert but even so he managed to rather weirdly stroke my forearm and hand as I moved out of the way for him walk past. I kept an eye on him from then on and both myself and Mette checked in on a woman he seemed to be bothering a bit later, luckily she said she was fine and he wandered away from her not to long after. Eventually he walked by visibly weaving and I remembered that this is a problem with a known solution! I went to let the bouncer (a super chill dude I’d been chatting with earlier) know what the deal was. It always takes me way too long to remember that creeps are not a problem that club patrons need to handle themselves and that (good) venues are usually happy to be warned about potential trouble rather than having patrons leave due to discomfort. In any case the guy left on his own volition as I was talking to the bouncer so all’s well that ends well.

Able to relax now we watched show for a little while longer and chatted with a couple of the roller derby girls that composed the majority of the audience. By now Kevin, Andy, Radar, and Matt had all retired for the evening leaving myself and Joe Price plus Bryan and Mette. Although the band was good the audience was failing to match their energy levels and I was getting a bit restless so we popped over to The Caravan, which also had a pretty good band called Bad Acrobat playing, and then finally to Post street for a brief stop in at a bar whose name I’ve now forgotten but which had a couple of delicious late night food stands outside. I got chicken wings on the way in and a quesadilla on the way out and as we staggered off to find a cab I made a drunken Facetime call to John, who was barely awake. Joe got me back to the city and I was in bed by 5 a.m. or so, which felt pretty satisfying given that’s the time I set my first morning alarm on workdays.

 

Clockwork Alchemy 2015

Over Memorial Day weekend I attended Clockwork Alchemy, a steampunk convention put on by the good folks at Fanime. It is held at the venerable San Jose Doubletree, which has been the home base for many conventions over the years.

It’s smallish convention compared to its parent con but still a bustling, busy event, full of costumes and creativity. A lot of effort is put into the decor and atmosphere, with props like faux gaslamps serving as signage and panel rooms with furniture and other decor to lend a Victorian drawing room or library effect. I’ve seen other conventions, like Convolution, give this sort of thing a shot and would love to see it spread, although obviously cost is a factor for most cons.

Like a lot of steampunk cons the music track was extensive; Professor Elemental, Frenchy and the Punk, Unwoman, Lee Presson and the Nails, Good Company, Marquis of Vaudeville, Jody Ellen, and others. Each evening had its own musical event: Friday it was several bands and a musical play, Saturday had swing dancing to Good Company, Lee Presson and the Nails plus two DJs, and Sunday’s main act was Professor Elemental, though I unfortunately had to miss that because of working early on Monday morning. A nice touch was the use of the hotel nightclub space for dance classes and things like a really great Saturday afternoon jam session which featured a wide range of the attending musicians.

There was a movie room with a combo of classics like Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines and more modern fare like an anime version of War of the Worlds and a truly terrible Sherlock Holmes film starring Gareth David-Lloyd. There were panels as well, though the focus seems to be on single person talks. On impulse I went to a trivia panel on Sunday and managed to take first place, winning copies of The Adventures of Drake and McTrowell: London, Where It All Began and Machina Mortis: Steampunk’d Tales of Terror as well as a bag of chocolate, which was a nice egoboo.

The Artist’s Bazaar had many wonderful vendor but while I do like the emphasis on showcasing artisans who primarily make their own goods I feel it would benefit from a few exceptions like at least one proper bookseller. There were authors selling their books down near the panel rooms, but for obvious reasons that meant very limited books on sale and of course zero DVDs or games, and only the music of the performers in attendance. The Artist Gallery is set up like a museum rather than an art show/gallery in the sense that no sales are permitted, not entirely sure what I think of that. There were some paintings by one artist that I rather liked but their card had the wrong URL and the convention doesn’t seem to publish a list of exhibiting artists, which is something I really wish all conventions would do as a matter of course.

Something that I hadn’t seen before at CA or at any other convention was volunteers making an effort to spread the word about what was going on in a panel room. The jam session had a volunteer at the door who knew who all the musicians inside were and told me what was going on when I walked up to read the schedule posted by the door. Likewise I ended up at the trivia panel mainly because one of the panelists/judges stepped out into the hall before it started and asked people walking past if they were interested in coming in for the trivia game. While I don’t think every panel at every convention necessarily needs barkers pulling in the crowds, I found it intriguing.

As in previous years I enjoyed myself, aided partly by the fact that my badge allowed me to hop on the free shuttle over to Fanime and check that out for a few hours for free. I went over on Friday and wandered the massive Artist Alley, admired the crazy variety of amazing costumes, and was impressed by the Fanime volunteers roaming the halls with tall signs offering Information and Answers. When I reached sensory overload I left the convention center and hit up Safeway for snacks to keep my food budget under control. On the way there I found a thrift store and spent ten bucks some costume bits for the evening that came together quite nicely and helped me feel more like a proper participant instead of a spectator.

But really I felt the lack of real social spaces. Worldcon style fandom puts a pretty big emphasis on the social aspect; party rooms, fanzine lounges, the consuite, and so on are all aimed at creating places for strangers to meet and interact. Without getting into how well or not that works for everybody, it is noticeable to me when I’m at a convention that lacks these. Clockwork had a tea room, but there was always a line and it closed at 5pm. The ballroom would be the obvious place in the evenings but the focus there was definitely the performances and dancing, there was no real mingling room or bar area for chatting. The actual hotel bar was the closest thing, and the small huddle of comfy chairs nearby, but space was limited and often packed with hotel guests. I wished that Convolution had managed to throw another party like last year, but see no sign on a party scene developing.

All in all it was a nice weekend spent enjoying wonderful costumes, seeing friends, and enjoying the invigorating energy of being inside of a thriving convention scene.