Shamrokon

After Worldcon in London was over John and I had a mere few hours back in Leicester to regroup before it was time to take the train to Peterborough to visit his parents.

Coincidentally this was also the week of the Peterborough Beer Festival, so we popped over there for one night of drinking draught ales and eating delicious English pork products. This is my second year attending and it’s a really fun event, not to mention the perfect little adventure in the middle of two big conventions. We also had a little bit of time to relax with John’s family before heading off again, this time to Dublin for the 2014 Eurocon, Shamrokon.

We had missed our chance to book in the convention hotel but found a place a short walk away called the Hampton Inn. Since our place came in ridiculously early in the morning we dropped our bags at the Inn and headed out to spend a few hours wandering the city. The city center was less than a half hour walk from our Ballsbridge/Donnybrook base so we wandered over and saw the National Gallery, which has a decent permanent collection and an excellent section for Irish painters.

Afterwards we walked through Merrion Square Park and visited the statue of Oscar Wilde. This was one of several interesting sculptures in the city, Dublin has done itself proud in that regard. Wilde is made of several different varieties of stone to create the colors of his clothing and is depicted reclining on a rock, looking quite pleased with himself. Also in the same park is an equally interesting tribute to another beloved Dubliner. The Joker’s Chair is a memorial to comedic actor Dermot Morgan (from Father Ted).

Oscar Wilde Statue

Oscar, eternally amused.

By the time we had seen these it was early afternoon and my feet were getting a little tired so it was back to the hotel. We checked into our room, which was pretty swank but also hilariously debauched looking. Decorated in deep pink, black, and chrome with dimly lit halls and boldly patterned wallpaper the hotel was nice but would have felt less out of place on the Vegas strip than along a pleasant Dublin street.

John headed up the street to the convention hotel while I took a bath and a nap to recover from our travels. I suspected Shamrokon would be a convention for staying up late and drinking, which I was looking forward to after not having managed to do as much of that as I would have liked at Loncon 3.

The area around the hotels was pretty, with quite a few embassies dotted around. It had a few sights of its own including a wonderfully dynamic statue of Queen Medb. While walking back from lunch I also spotted this lovely one in one of the gardens.

 

Statue of Queen Medb on Baggot Street, Dublin.

Medb Triumphant

The con hotel was a Doubletree, and those of you who have stayed there will know they have the wonderful tradition of handing out warm cookies to guests at check in. We discovered that at this one they were also apparently happy to hand them out on request. Needless to say we ate our weight in cookies.

The Doubletree featured two bars, one of them was directly beside the lobby and had your classic sports bar layout, though large enough to include little corners to converse in. The other was a long counter style bar near registration and the lower programming rooms. This allowed for multiple socializing areas, including the lobby itself which had many comfortable couches laid out in nice circles. Overall it was a very good convention hotel, pretty well suited to the size of the membership and with friendly staff.

On the Saturday night the various Eurocon and Worldcon bids in attendance hosted the International Party. They lined a ballroom with long tables along the walls from which Helsinki, Dublin, St. Petersburg, China, San Jose, plus a few others I’ve forgotten each served their chosen liquors, there were tables in the center of the room, but most folks remained circulating or wandered out to the reg/bar area directly outside to chat. It was interesting to compare and contrast the effect with the Fan Village the previous week. Certainly the smaller space worked better for me, as did the variety of regional liquors being served. It was still very different from a room party model, but I enjoyed it a lot.

The dealers room and art show were in the same room, a model I find tends to work very well. I was too broke to peruse the dealers but the selection seemed to be pretty decent and there were several book vendors. The art show was small but interesting, one nice thing of traveling for conventions is getting to see artists you wouldn’t normally. Artist GOH, Jim Fitzpatrick (whose art I recognized but whose name I was previously unfamiliar, leading to a minor embarrassment later) was one of the standouts but the whole show was good. Unfortunately one of the few places the convention failed a bit was on the art show web page which failed to provide a list of who displayed.

Programming was very good, and I especially enjoyed the Le Fanu track. Prior to the convention I had never heard of Sheridan Le Fanu, who was an Irish writer and one of the original gothic writers. There was a series of panels ranging from lectures to conversations about his work and I came away with a nice list for my library card. Also of interest to me were a panel on European fairy tale traditions, one on the history of German science fiction and fandom, and another on Polish science fiction recommendations. Altogether the programme was a great companion to the international bent of Loncon 3.

Another thing the two conventions had in common was a solid app, both used the Guide app which was accessible from the app store or through a web app. I would love to see more conventions use it, since it loaded quickly and made choosing what to see nice and easy by allowing the user to select program items and then toggle between a personal or complete guide. It also came in handy as a way to track what I had seen when once I got around to composing this report.

Being a smaller convention the socializing was easier, but it was still possible to miss people with everything that was going on. I had what I consider the proper convention balance between hanging out with friends, namely Bay Area folks I didn’t get to see nearly enough of at Worldcon, and meeting new and interesting people.

The weekend flew by and soon it was Sunday night and time for the Dead Dog, which started directly after closing ceremonies at 7pm. John and I had an early morning flight and needed to catch the coach to the airport at 3AM so we simply decided to stay up all night. It turned out to be quite easy, since everyone else was equally reluctant to see the convention end.

Loncon 3

Loncon 3 was my first non-US Worldcon, and only my second British convention, so it’s hard to say which elements of the convention were specific to L3 and which were British fannish traditions.

The convention was the second largest Worldcon to date with close to ten thousand attending members. The committee did an excellent job getting word out and putting together a world class event and it was great to see the result.

It was held at the ExCel Center in the Docklands, which is pretty huge but well laid out. Like most Worldcons this one only occupied part of the center and was originally supposed to share it with another event. The event was a music festival called Jabberwocky, which would probably have been a nice neighbor and added a more festive air to the East end of the building. Unfortunate the event was canceled, leaving those of us on that end of the center with a slightly emptier walk each day.

The Excel has a number of eateries and seating sections along the way, though, which worked out nicely compared to the usual central food court. Conventions in general and Worldcons in particular greatly benefit from any central areas that help find folks more easily.

The central social area was the Fan Village, on which I will probably be writing more extensively elsewhere. It contained the convention center bar, which has several nice ales and a few decent food options, plus a number of tents which held convention bids and fan groups. The village replaced the usual fan tables during the daytime and the party floors during the evening and was right next door to the other major social areas; the art show, dealers room, and exhibits.

John and I arrived on Thursday morning and found the line for registration wrapping around and up some stairs but by the next day it seemed to be under control. Once we got our badges my next order of business was hanging my art. John also had to hang some art which had been donated to raise funds for TAFF, so we decided to get that out of the way first thing.

Unfortunately the art show was not well run. The art programme itself was good, as was the artist showcase. The quality and variety of the art on display was excellent, including guest of honor Chris Foss, some amazing John Harris originals and a bunch of other fantastic pieces. But there is no way around it; the actual running of the art show was a mess and my interactions with all but one of the staff (who was top notch) were unresponsive at best. But that’s for a different report as well.

The rest of the staff I encountered during the convention were all pleasant and helpful, and the events and programming seemed to have had a lot of thought and love put into them. There were problems with capacity during several programming items, but that is always an extremely tricky logistics problem. I would suggest conventions institute a policy of counting people in line and letting folks know when it looks like capacity has been reached, but beyond that all you can really do is make your best estimation.

Loncon 3 featured several unique stage and musical events of which I managed to make two; the Retro Hugos and the stage adaptation of The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers. Both were thoroughly enjoyable and made the convention feel unique.

The Retro Hugos featured Mary Robinette Kowal and Rob Shearman and a fun time travel conceit that tied in with the War of the Worlds. It was a reasonably short ceremony, with two musical interludes and it was great to see everyone glammed up in period attire and other fancy duds. The live music was provided by twelve piece swing band the Brideshead Ballroom Stompers and after the ceremony they continued playing into the night, with the convention having provided swing lessons earlier in the weekend.

The Anubis Gates was the next big event I attended. This was a new stage adaptation of the book and had its premiere at the convention. Because of this it had the occasional rough spot here and there, but it was still very enjoyable. The book is intricately plotted and complex so I was impressed with how well the adaptation worked. Even beyond the script, the actors were great and there were some very cool bits of staging and use of the entire room.

I did not attend the Hugo ceremony, after standing in line for the play and a few other things I didn’t really want to risk not getting in after queuing in heels. But the livestream was very good this year and it was a relief after the crazy drama from the nominations to see such a great ceremony, such great hosts, and such a great list of winners.

As with all conventions the panels varied based on the panelists and moderators but overall they seemed to be excellent and varied. I especially enjoyed the World in Worldcon track, which focused on different national fandoms across the globe. I also attended a great panel on mid-century British magazines.

I was on one panel myself, about the Fan Hugos. I was on it with John as well as Teddy Harvia, Andy Hooper, and Foz Meadows. I was especially glad to see the convention following the great British tradition of rewarding panelists with a drink (to be collected in the green room 15 minutes before your panel). This method is not just more enjoyable for the participants but most importantly means that you get to meet your fellow panelists and strategize prior to starting the panel.

There were tons of Californians in attendance, which was nice since I hadn’t seen most of them in a few months. Kevin Roche brought his Tiki Dalek, which even made it into a cartoon report on Loncon 3 in Private Eye magazine. He and Andy Trembley were working at the San Jose in 2018 Worldcon bid tent, which ended up being the place to run into Bay Area folks.

Speaking of which it was great to see Bryan Little and Mette Hedin, who managed to bring the costuming excellence as usual even if it was a bit lower key due to travel considerations. John and I joined them on Friday for a group costume as The Young Ones, which was a lot of fun and enthusiastically received.
They weren’t the only costumers who had to take baggage allowances into consideration of course, so there was perhaps not as much costuming as I’m used to seeing at other conventions of a similar size, but the quality of the hall costumes I saw was pretty high.

All in all it was an excellent convention that had more to see and do than anyone could manage to do in a mere five days. But as with most conventions the best parts were the conversations with old friends and the new people I got to meet.

Normally the end of a convention is a bit melancholy, particularly one you’ve been planning to attend for years. But with Loncon 3 there was the solace of having the Dublin Eurocon to look forward to just one week later. But that’s also for another report.

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.