This Saturday was my birthday, which I didn’t have to plan anything for specifically because it also happened to be the weekend of FogCon, a small literary convention in Walnut Creek.

Although I was a bit sad when the convention moved out of San Francisco after its first year, I really like the Walnut Creek Marriott and it seems to suit the size and shape of the convention quite nicely, the excellent bar staff also helps. As much as I like more rollicking conventions with night-time events and party floors it is also nice to attend something a bit more intimate now and then. FogCon is similar to Potlatch in this way and has solid programming plus a fair bit of socializing in the consuite and bar.

The theme this year was The Traveler and the GOHs where Cat Valente and Kim Stanley Robinson, both of whom give excellent panels. JP was kind enough to offer me a ride there and back, meaning that despite not getting a room there was no need to rush off to catch the last BART train, so Friday we stayed till about eleven or so and Saturday till around two thirty not counting the DST shift. I saw old friends and met some new folks, attended a half dozen panels, got some nice baubles from Fly By Night Books & Gifts, and ended up with a ton of books, so I definitely count it as a successful weekend even though I skipped the Sunday to prepare for the work-heavy coming week.


GarciaGate, Gally, Pie

The past month has been busy. Luckily I landed a temp assignment and then a part time job at a nearby cafe, which meant being able to relax a bit and even attend my current favorite convention; Gallifrey One.

But before Gally there was a big event for Bay Area fandom; GarciaGate, the wedding of Chris Garcia and Vanessa Applegate. I worked early that morning at the Moscone Center, but  JP was kind enough to offer me a ride. This meant we had a couple of hours to kill so we got breakfast at Heidi’s Pies in San Mateo and pick up some pies for the potluck.  As often happens at these sorts of events it felt a bit like a small convention, with lots of my favorite folks in attendance. It was also pretty cool that it took place at the Computer History Museum.

As for Gally, the convention had sold out quickly but my roommate Palle had kindly picked me up a membership in hopes I’d be in the area and able to attend. If all goes well next year I plan to join the Brit crowd and fly out with John.

I missed the last couple of years so it was really nice to be back and as usual it was a great convention, despite some annoyances before the start. Both the Barrowman and the Gorman/Myles panels were hilarious, there was a very amusing improv troupe called Doctor Who Live who did a Friday night show, and of course there was the always great  themed party which was Orient Express themed this year. The costumes and conversations were all  wonderful and I even got a chance to record a little with Jade for the podcast. I can’t wait until next year.

Now that I’m recovered from that it’s time to look forward to FogCon, which also happens to fall on my birthday weekend. It’s a smaller literary convention in the tradition of WisCon and I’ve enjoyed it the years I have been. I probably won’t stay over but it’s easily BARTable so that’s not a huge deal. Kim Stanley Robinson and Cat Valente are the GOHs.

After that there is Hubba Hubba Space Station 1966 and then a Doctor Who themed art show in the Mission. March is good month for Bay Area nerdom.


Hello Twenty Fifteen

The rest of the Christmas holiday in Peterborough was lovely, with plenty of home cooked food and actual singing of Christmas carols in the village green. And even though I come from the proper civilized tradition of exchanging gifts on Xmas Eve, I managed to rise at 7AM on Christmas morning in the English manner and enjoy it quite well. On Boxing Day we went to an honest-to-goodness pantomime (Jack and the Beanstalk) which was very silly but also a lot of fun.

We came back to Leicester and on New Year’s Eve John’s parents took us to Casa Romana, a little Italian restaurant a few doors down from us that is easily the friendliest place in the city. The food was as good as ever and the desserts amazing. We ended up chatting away an hour longer than we had intended to, but eventually made it over to 33 Cank Street, a cocktail bar which was having a Bugsy Malone themed evening. Everyone was dressed up, most of them in period costumes, and the atmosphere was lively. There were tasty little canapes and as always the cocktails were delicious; I had a Mexican Pick Me Up which lived up to its name but I think I made the right decision in avoiding the Gangsters Tea Party, which came in an actual teapot.

There was live music by a duo called The Verzions, an acoustic duo that did a lot of retro sounding versions of songs including a bewildering number of reggae classics. They sounded great and also covered some great blues, jazz, and pop songs and even (in our favorite moment of the evening) I Wanna Be Like You from The Jungle Book . John’s parents left at a sensible hour after ringing in the New Year but John and I stayed and danced until they kicked everyone out.

Today was devoted entirely to hanging out and playing board games. A good way to start the year off.

Christmas engagement

Well, I was going to update for Christmas anyway, posting from Peterborough where John and I are spending the holiday with his parents and family. And it is a lovely Christmas so far, with mince pies and mulled wine and in about a half hour some caroling in the town Green.

But more critically than that is that tonight John suggested we go for a walk, and as is sometimes our habit we went to dark spot away from the light pollution to see the stars. And after we spotted the ISS whirling past and the crescent moon with its very clear penumbra he got down on one knee and put a lovely ring (with a rocket ship engraved on it) on my finger.

So that happened :)

Cold December

Night view from De Montfort Square
Moon over St. Stephens, Leicester

It’s good and cold here now, though not quite literally freezing yet.

John got back and we had a nice day in Peterborough as he recovered from the trip. Then last week we went to Southampton on an exploratory mission of his soon-to-be new hometown.

We didn’t see all of it but got a basic idea of the layout, which seems a bit more spread out than Leicester. We had very good burgers at a place called Chalk Valley and explored the town of Fareham, where John’s friend Michael lives. It was fun and I liked the look of the southern part of the country.

The day we came home was also John’s birthday which meant food at Las Iguanas and drinks at the Orange Tree, both delicious. The main festivities were reserved for the weekend so in effect he got an extended birthday experience and I got him all to myself on the day proper, win-win.

Christmastime in Leicester

So they don’t have Thanksgiving here, obviously. Which means that I really can’t complain that the holiday lights were turned on this past Sunday. A month or so out doesn’t seem too bad, though.

Leicester Xmas 2014
The Christmas lights at Town Hall in Leicester

They had a day of events across the city leading up to turning the lights on at dusk, including a winter market and some musical performances. It was very festive indeed. It would have been more fun with John here, but the lucky bastard was off in Florida enjoying the sunshine.



October came and went and now it is starting to get really cold in Leicester.

Since I last posted I got to visit Yorkshire, which was just as beautiful as advertised. John and I traveled up there with his parents and spent some time seeing the sights before visiting his grandfather. It was a very pleasant trip and left me wanting to return to explore further at some point.

More recently we went up to spend a weekend with Sheffield fandom. Some I already knew and others I was meeting for the first time, but everyone was very friendly. Our hosts in particular kept the food, drink, and conversation going late into the night. Since conventions are a little sparser on the ground here it was a nice little fannish interlude that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Back in Leicester I got to see the Golden Mile lit up for Diwali when we went up to see the fireworks. I haven’t visited that neighborhood nearly enough and should really see about that before my time in Leicester comes to a close.

Halloween was spent with friends and relatively low key, though it is celebrated more than I expected here with children trick or treating and everything. No pumpkin pie that I’ve seen though, alas.


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.


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