Potlatch is a small, intimate literary convention with one track of programming based around the chosen book of honor. This year that book was Earth Abides, the seminal postapocalyptic novel by George R. Stewart, which is set in the Bay Area.
I had the best intentions of reading the book again before the convention, since I’ve been meaning to write a column on it for years; however, life being what it is, I didn’t manage to find the time and therefore arrived at the con already feeling guilty. Luckily, the panels were varied and mostly on the topic of apocalyptic fiction in general.
To be perfectly honest, though, after the intense con experience that was Gallifrey One, I was ready for a relaxacon. And that is exactly what I got, starting with the pleasant staff and nice hotel room at the Domain, which is nearly the perfect hotel for small cons. The only drawback being the lack of food/coffee options on premises. The hotel is located within a five-minute walk of any number of restaurants, so it is understandable in a way; however, it would have been nice to be able to get a proper espresso drink now and then. On the other hand, the consuite is the lifeblood of Potlatch, so having to pop in to get coffee there had its benefits as well, since the conversations were plentiful and lively.
During the weekend I had a chance to catch up with Mette Hedin and Bryan Little, who had also been at Gally but I had managed to see mostly in passing as each of us rushed to and fro on our various hectic schedules. Kevin and Andy eventually dropped by as well, forming a quasi-Yipe! staff meeting. The tweets flew and joined us as well for some Gally planning. Everyone threw in some cash to the Potlatch donation jar in lieu of memberships, since no badges are sold at the con, and we retired up to the consuite for a few more hours before calling it a night.
All in all it was an enjoyable little con, as Potlatch usually is, with enough programming to feel well run and literary but a good deal of sitting around gabbing for that fannish and relaxed experience. It was apparently a return from the brink since there had been talk of this being the last year, but the website for next year in Seattle is already up and running.
The following, weekend many of the same people headed over to the Holiday Inn up on Van Ness in San Francisco. I chose not to get a hotel room this time, it being in the city and all, but that may change next year since I regretted heading out each night. Despite its newness and small size, the con was very interesting and well run. There seemed to be a lot of WisCon veterans, and there were a lot of touches that made the convention feel a bit more literary and political that many of the regular cons I attend, interesting things seem to be afoot there.
Rather than having guests of honor, the convention had honored guests. I am not a hundred percent certain of the difference, but as with Potlatch, the convention programming revolved more around a theme rather than an individual or individuals, in this case The City in SF. So, Jeff and Ann VanderMeer and Pat Murphy where the guests and there were discussions about Murphy’s The City Not Long After and JeffVanderMeer’s Ambergris novels. Fritz Leiber was named posthumous guest based on his wonderful Our Lady Of Darkness, which of course is set in San Francisco. There were panels on many topics, however, and I especially enjoyed one called “your favorite book no one has ever heard of” in which the audience was able to fill out a slip of paper with the book name, author and brief description and then the panelists/moderator would call on each person to come up and talk about the book, it was a very neat idea and I came away with several interesting new titles.
The program book included accessbility, code of conduct information and a copy of the Convention Anti-Harrasment Project manifesto, which I think is vital to the growth and well being of our community. There were several other nice touches such as the “interstitial programming,” which took place during the “lost hour” of the Daylight Savings time change and a selection of homebrew beers made by Corie Ralston that included Pat Murphy’s Golden Coffee Stout, Jeff and Ann VanderBeer and Fritz LeBeer. I stuck to the stout, which was delicious, except for also having one or two Flaming Rum Monkeys, which I am not certain how they related to the theme but were on fire, and also delicious.
The panels went well into the evening, allowing me to leave my house at five or six p.m. and still catch two or three panels if I wanted. The consuite was well stocked and friendly and a couple of nice local fans held an honest to goodness room party down the hall from the consuite to keep things lively. There was also karaoke and a few meetups apparently organized by fans outside of the official convention schedule
So all in all a very successfully first year for FOGcon, I look forward to seeing them top this next year.
SF/SF Issue #115, March 30, 2011