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.

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