Silicon

Each year since its rebirth, SiliCon grows up just a little. Naturally this has resulted in some growing pains, but it also lends the convention an air of newness and excitement that can often be absent from larger and more established conventions.

This year for the first time the convention expanded to fit the entire facilities at the Doubletree Hotel in San Jose, from the ballrooms to the gaming rooms in the back. At first this made it appear that there were fewer people in attendance that there actually were — though in fact the numbers were apparently double last year’s.

I arrived pretty late on Friday after work, last minute packing, and whatnot. I arrived at the hotel at around 8 p.m. checked in, and was permitted by the lovely gentleman at reception to use the photocopier to make flyers for the SF/SF party, all in a breathless first half hour. Then I got some much needed food, coffee, and a moment to breathe. When I finally made it over to the party room things were in full swing. David Moyce surprised us with a very tasty cake printed with the TOC from issue #50. Jean Martin was there, dressed as a pirate. Chris Garcia was… well, Chris Garcia, bless. And there was a j-rock back on the balcony that sounded pretty good, but was loud enough to make us keep the door closed.

Tons of regular BAreans were already roaming the hallways including Karisu and Richard Man, Erik Anderson, Johanna Mead and the rest of the Pancho’s Crosstime Cantina crew and of course, BASFA and the Black Hole crew. There was a surprise guest appearance from LA- area fan Jason Schachat, and local Fanboy Derek McCaw showed up.

All in all the convention was already off to a swinging start and the parties going pretty well, so after hanging out for a bit feeling a little tired and scruffy from work I went to get changed to get into the spirit of things. I was dismayed to discover I’d managed to pack only one of my boots, somewhat limiting my costume choices to “lamest pirate ever.” But fishnets will cure many costume woes and seemed quite appropriate when I learned that Rocky Horror was due to commence. Ophelia and I headed down to see if it had started yet but there was a horror movie still playing in the dedicated movie room, so I went back up to the parties, briefly checking out the Black Hole Bar, Pancho’s, and BASFA before heading back over to the SF/SF room. There was drinking and talking until the wee hours at which point there was some reasonably tasty room service pizza and then, finally, sleep.

The next morning getting my art hung was the first order of business since I had arrived too late to do so the night before. I was pleased to see that Richard Man’s panel was directly across from mine, making a little cozy nook. The rest of the art was a pretty good selection of Bay Area folks, and the artist alley/fan table strip also had quite a number of cool folks, with mostly comics artists in the alley. I regret never finding the time to stop for very long there.

Done with the art, food was definitely becoming a priority. Rather than head for the Coffee Garden, we decided to cross over to Denny’s where my breakfast was tasty but probably a mistake, leaving me a little lethargic for the rest of the morning. I wandered through the dealer’s room, which had quite a good mix of books, movies, comics and accessories, with pretty much all areas covered and a decent balance between favorites and vendors I hadn’t noticed before. In my opinion it was a bit of a shame to have it so far from the art show, but the Donner Pass room, normally the art show room at BayCon, was being used for the various film screenings during the convention. The hallway in front of the dealer’s room and the screening room was mostly movie folks hawking their wares, which ranged from the sleazy to the cheesy but seemed mostly a lot of fun, with horror flicks definitely the prevailing theme.

Following the horror theme, there were several panels discussing makeup effects and zombification, and a quick Flickr search will turn up some spectacular results from the demonstrations. Saturday’s surprise guest appearances included Tadao Tomomatsu up from LA and the elusive Jack Avery who was there and gone in the blink of an eye — perhaps just a fannish urban legend to scare the children.

Saturday night was all about the Browncoat organized dance, the Hallo-Whedon Hootenanny. I often skip the Masquerade just with one thing and another, but I managed to see plenty of costumes roaming the halls, being photographed and receiving their awards. Our Jean went through several costume changes from the Masquerade Leia which I missed, to a gorgeous authentic screen costume from the Heart of Gold episode of Firefly, to finally a “Mirror, Mirror” ST:TOS outfit that was very popular with the Klingons and quite appropriate for the evening.

The SF/SF party was usually pretty hoppin’ when I managed to stop in and talk for any amount of time, with Leigh Anne making the surprisingly delicious contribution of pear vodka, which turns into pure hooch heaven when mixed with ginger beer and ain’t too bad with other stuff. Kevin and Andy’s party from Friday had morphed into the LoEG Salon. The Klingons were back in full swing and there appeared to be a BSG and/or Harry Potter party at the end of the hall. There were a handful of other parties including BASFA, Further Confusion and something to do with trees which I never actually made it to, mostly because the SF Browncoats managed to turn the often hit-or-miss Saturday night dance into a roaring success.

With a dance schedule that was split between partnered and free-form dances and consistently interesting music, the dance floor was full of folks from the start right up until the sadly early closing time of 1 a.m. The decorations were fun and thematic, including tombstones for dearly departed Joss Whedon shows and cardboard cut outs of Buffy characters. There were a lot of Whedonesque costumes including many colorful companion-style outfits, a couple of Jaynes, a Buffy and at least one Spike.

Boozing and carousing continued, and at one point some of us ended up in Leigh Anne’s room hoping to call up some more of that room service pizza. However, when calling room service we were informed that there was no more pizza to be had. Not only that, but there was not much of anything to be had. In fact, “We have a couple of tuna sandwiches, you want one of those?” was apparently the full menu offering. Amused, slightly baffled, but not nearly drunk enough to be enticed by this response we decided another trip to Denny’s was in order and I has’d a cheezburger that probably saved my life, my liver, or likely both.

Nonetheless Sunday morning I awoke feeling the teeniest bit fragile. Now I normally don’t get out-and-out hangovers, but imbibing Scotch and/or the unwise mixing of different beverage families can cause a certain amount of damage. Wages of sin, eh wot? I staggered first to the SF/SF panel which was fun even if sparsely attended, most likely because it was ensconced in the Silicon Valley Oubliette room, far from prying eyes. Still, fun was had by all of us and hopefully by our one legit audience member. Then it was time to get some packing done. I had called for a late checkout the night before, but was dismayed to discover that the hotel would only extend checkout by a half hour and furthermore claimed to have nevah-evah been able to extend any further. While this was not my experience from past years and previous conventions, it seemed pointless to argue since I was mostly packed.

Once everything was packed I had some further difficulty with checkout when it was discovered that the hotel had spontaneously decided to split the bill in half, providing one bill to me and one to my roommate, who had arrived before me and used her credit card to check in. Despite the fact that I had showed up an hour later and told them to change the card to mine. I’ve never had this happen before and it took a certain amount of research by the customer service representative to even locate the rest of the bill after I had paid my half. Nor could she suggest why this method of billing would have been used. Odd, but consistent with a certain unfortunate decline in the general quality of the DoubleTree, alas. Although the interactions with staff were consistently pleasant there were a handful of other weird little instances of this nature throughout the weekend.

Done with business, it was time to relax and enjoy the last hours. I picked up the unsold art from the Art Show (I sold a piece!), took a last wander through the dealer’s room and headed over to a Garcia panel to heckle for a bit, only to find that this duty was already covered from both the audience and the panelists’ side. Those last lingering afternoon hours that characterize every good convention followed.

A little sitting by the pool, a lot of coffee, some wandering the halls saying hello and goodbye to folks and it was time to head out into the Sunset. In my case, literally.

~España Sheriff

SF/SF Issue #53, October 24 , 2007