Loscon 34: The Dig

Having arrived in Los Angeles late on Wednesday night, I was slightly groggy but stocked up with room nibbles and spare booze when I walked into the LAX Marriott lobby at the ungodly-for-a-non-work-day hour of 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving Thursday.

Given the hour, I went directly to the bell stand to see if they could keep my luggage while I grabbed breakfast, but the attendant suggested that I check with reception to see if a room might be available. This honestly had not occurred to me, but as it turned out he was right — I was able to check in right away, and by 10 a.m., I was fully unpacked and ready for the weekend. So, even though Tadao Tomomatsu had informed me that there were staffing opportunities available in the exciting world of truck unloading, I decided a nap would be a much nicer and far wiser way to spend the next few hours.

When I woke up, there was still nothing to do in the hotel except work, so I hopped on the Big Blue Bus to Santa Monica to visit with my sister. We wandered a bit and had a bite to eat at the Broadway Deli, which can be hit or miss, but this time had good service and tasty pumpkin pie.

After gabbing for a few hours and enjoying some family time, I took the bus back to the hotel. It was nearly 9 p.m., but registration was open for pre-registered members so I was able to pick up my badge — I should say, my complementary badge, since I was fortunate enough to “win” the “Dr. Arizona and the Mummy Bears” art contest held by LOSCON 34. My delight at winning was tempered by my finding out that I was the only legitimate entry, but a free membership is a free membership, and it was nice to open the program book up and find my art in there.

Flush with success, I decided to check on whether the art show was open so I could hang my stuff. Heading in the direction of the art show I ran into Kevin Roche and Andy Trembley in the ballroom floor lobby. They were chatting with artist GOH Theresa Mather and her husband Barry Short who had themselves just come from the now-closed art show room. At loose ends, I ended up in a discussion with Andy and Lisa Deutsch Harrigan about the “core fandom” kerfluffle, and we decided to take it up to Kevin and Andy’s room since there were beverages up there — including one of their delightful teas and the Nassau Rum about which I have previously waxed poetic in other con reports.

Barry and Teresa had to drop stuff off in their room before joining us but never made it (unsurprising given the length of their trip down to LA.). While Kevin wrassled with the CostumeCon database, Lisa, Andy and I chatted away for a few hours, eventually joined by an exhausted Tadao who pretty much passed out within seconds of sitting down. I didn’t last that much longer myself, and the gathering broke up around midnight.

On Friday the gameplan was to hydrate (all my convention mornings start off this way) and buffet before deciding what the rest of the day might hold. The buffet was decent enough but nothing to write home about, but the service was much improved from the previous year. After breakfast I got my art hung but not checked in, since I couldn’t locate the folks in charge of the art show. My panel was near the front for once, across the way from Theresa’s but right beside some disturbing, naked mannequins which thankfully turned not to be not some avant-garde installation, but part of a costuming display. The dealer’s room was open, so I took a quick wander through and found Amy Carpenter from Book Universe, with whom I’d hitched a ride to and from the Bay Area last year. She was still setting up, as were some of the other vendors, so it was off to find the Fanzine Lounge instead.

The Fanzine Lounge was located on the obligatory Marriott Hidden Floor, in this case Floor 1, between the Lobby and Basement levels. Chris Garcia was already there, so I gave him a flyer for the door and then went on to plaster them throughout the hotel so people might have a shot at finding us. Success was mixed over the weekend, with those who knew us and the more expert Marriott spelunkers finding us easily, and other less-experienced folks helpfully pointing out as we exited the elevator on Floor 1 that we must be lost, as there was no programming located on that floor. Garcia was hanging out doing his thing so I sat around and chatted with him for a bit, and then headed up to the room in search of cell signal — the rarest commodity at this hotel, which I heard described as a Faraday Cage.

My sister had suggested getting together to see a movie and I figured what the hey since I wanted to find a white dress shirt for my aviatrix costume. After taking the Big Blue Bus in the right and wrong direction simultaneously (what can I say, it’s a gift), I took a raincheck on that idea and decided a nap was a much better one. The hotel store had basic white dress shirts for a not completely outrageous price so I bit the bullet and got one there instead.

Friday’s big event is always the Ice Cream Social which is a good opportunity to get people mingling in a room together, especially those who might not be party wanderers. However, while I like ice cream, it does not make my list of things that I am willing to stand in line for, so I normally arrive late and chat with folks who are not interested in ice cream or who feel the way I do about queues.

Eventually the lines dwindled and Leigh Ann Hildebrand and I moseyed on over to the chocolate counter where, sharp-eyed, she noticed a rather lackadaisical approach to hygiene on the part of one of the servers. We quickly sidled over to the other server and scampered off with hopefully safe bowls of dessert. Leigh Ann went off to inform the powers that be about Typhoid Larry while I took the opportunity to meet and greet and watch some displays of Magic from Bill Wu and David Cotelessa.

Although there was a stage talent show and tons of folks wandering about, I decided to go get my costume on. The gift store shirt was exactly what I had hoped for, and the costume came together better than I had expected with the only real flaw being a missing belt buckle that ended up not mattering at all. After dithering between the cool leather but wool lined cap and the suede but unlined one, I decided to go sans- lining, which turned out to be the right decision since headgear appears to be the number one way to instantly overheat in a costume.

When I got back down to the basement there was a search underway for a wayward child, so I joined in and made it up to the con suite and back down to the lobby before she turned up, as children are wont to.

So at last it was time to hit the party floor. I was pleased with the reaction to my costume, most people guessing either Sky Captain, Amelia Earhart, Pancho Barnes, or on one occasion Diane Holmes from the “Out of Time” episode of Torchwood. Loscon 2007 Aviatrix costume.

Once upon a time I remember being disappointed by the relative lack of parties at LOSCON, but that certainly was not the case this year — I don’t know if I have just adjusted my expectations (BayCon being my touchstone) or if they really have ramped up over the years, but I was more than satisfied with what I saw at LOSCON 34.

Dave “Spino” Cotelessa and his lovely wife Colleen were wandering the halls with their mouse friend, and we hit a number of parties before I lost them and found Leigh Ann instead. Garcia and the lovely and talented Jason Schachat… no wait, that’s not how it goes…. anyway Garcia, Linda, Jason Schachat and Frank Wu where plotting something or other when I passed them a little later (or perhaps not, but it’s always a good idea to assume conspiracy with these types), so I hit the wine and cheese party, which had some decent wines and some very nice cheeses as well as a side room containing a chocolate fountain (what’s not to love?) and other sweets.

This was the suite party which is where the writers seem to end up, and indeed there was GOH Robert J. Sawyer, Tim and Serena Powers, and a host of other talented folks. Awed by the collected talent in the room I fled to the simpler pleasures of the dance, where my brachiating skills would be more of an asset. The music was pretty decent so I embarrassed myself on the dance floor for a hour or so along with Jade Falcon and Erik Anderson, Richard and Karisu Man, Wendy Newton (tempting fate in heels and a gorgeous satin gown), and a host of the other usual suspects including some sort of Stormtrooper. After finding myself on the stage for what must have been “Lady Marmalade” (I’m suggestible when I drink), I decided it was probably time to make my escape and headed back up to the party floor.

On the way I found the hallway occupied by Karisu and some friends which included three adorable Pekingese dogs. I got some cuddle time in and pretty much called it a successful night.

Saturday began with the obligatory breakfast buffet again — not the best I’ve had by a long shot, but okay for the price. I spent some time hanging in the almost-but-not-quite swinging Fanzine Lounge, which was highly entertaining but not as lounge-y as we might have wished. Although it did include not-Jenga, which is a plus… I think. There was much wit and not a little violence, though mostly verbal. It turns out that this time we were beside the Artist Lounge, which appeared to be larger yet emptier than the Fanzine Lounge. I never did see anyone in there so I’m not certain whether this was an unused space or if I just missed the hijinks. Beside that was the Internet Lounge, which was full of internet.

Frank Wu wandered in at some point with some lovely salvaged parts from Norton Salvage which we all oohed and aahed over and tried to figure out what they were. Luckily a convention is the exactly right place to discover what a strange hunk of industrial metal is, so at least some answers were supplied by the engineering-minded folks available. After sitting around polishing his engine parts and shooting the breeze in the lounge, Frank suggested food, so we hit the Sports Bar with Leigh Ann and despite my previous so-so experiences in there I can recommend the appetizer sampler as worth the price and decent to share among three people. There are still, unfortunately, televisions on every free surface, which I don’t love but service was better than what I recall from previous visits.

My nap was a little fitful and therefore much longer than I would have liked, but eventually I was up and dressed for the evening in my feminine steampunk ensemble, white and gold with skirts, overshirts and goggles, natch. The Masquerade was long over and the parties in full swing by the time I hit the 17th floor. Perennial favorite The League of Evil Geniuses was the party of the night, along with the suite party held by the Writers of the Future which once again was the place to spot the authors, but seemed to lack a bar this time around. Back at the LoEG I ran into Leigh Ann in a gorgeous yet doomed (I’ll explain) red dress, and waited for what seemed an age to get some of the liqueur du jour from Kevin. I tried a lovely tea liqueur myself although there was a second, scarier, one available as well.

After doing a wander and ascertaining that some of the other parties were pretty good, including Vegas, I came back and encouraged Leigh Ann to do a circuit with me. Before she had even crossed the threshold a foolish young girl ran right into her and spilled champagne on the red gown. The girl, evidently not realizing how close she was to her own demise, apologized somewhat half-heartedly, but the omens were clear and we decided that leaving the room was probably not the wisest choice.

Luckily the Marabou slippers were spared the same sodden fate. I popped up to my room and brought down a bottle of Vanilla Vodka to make things better and in short order Leigh Ann was running a second, secret bar from the evil genius couch.

I did several wanders and spent some time hanging with Richard and Karisu in a party whose hosting entity I can no longer recall (I should probably start taking notes), and chatting with various other folks. Wendy Newton showed up just in time for Leigh Ann and I to attempt to enlighten her as to the oeuvre of Joan Collins and the artistic merits of Dynasty versus Falcon Crest. Later, Tadao made it up from whatever Masquerade duties he had completed and there was some more drinking and loitering in hallways, one instance of Vulcan sober-fu on a young fan, as well as a hallway birthday group spanking for a rather pleased-with-himself Keith. Soon the hour was late, Kevin was giving me entirely justified raised eyebrows at the LoEG bar (this is why it’s good to have one honest, reliable friend; they up your credibility), and it was time at long last for bed.

Sunday started nice and late and was followed by lunch rather than breakfast. Intrigued, I ordered the carrot soup and was disappointed to find it tasted like carrots.

I finally hit my first panel for the convention; “SF Canon” with Tim Powers, Harry Turtledove, Kathryn Daugherty, Berry Kercheval and David Bratman, which was pretty interesting and quite lively with the panelists doing a good job of engaging the audience without getting too sidetracked. I wandered the dealers’ room and snagged a very reasonably priced set of Babylon 5 Micromachines as well as some used books. I looked at all the pretty corsets and other expensive items but restrained myself from spending too much.

Afterwards I went to get my unsold pieces from the Art Show and was delighted to find that I had sold one of the new pieces I had created in the weeks prior to the convention. I was even more delighted to find out that one of the art show staff had bought it, since when I sell one solitary piece I am always paranoid that it is simply one of my friends being kind. Not that I’ll turn down a pity sale, mind you.

I missed the TAFF auction and closing ceremonies and eventually there was not much left to do but help with teardown, since I was staying the night. I put in a few hours cleaning up the Archives room with Wendy and then a group of us including Dave, Colleen, Theresa, Barry, Leigh Ann and a bunch of other folks headed to a Mexican restaurant where I had a very tasty quesadilla and was intrigued by but not quite hungry enough to order some cunning little dessert flights.

After a quick wander through Dead Dog, I got my stuff packed up and hit the sack, since Leigh Ann and I were taking the Coast Starlight back up to the Bay Area and had to catch the shuttle to Union Station early in the morning.

Although the logistics to get to Union station were a little rougher than they needed to be, thanks to sadly unhelpful hotel staff, Monday morning found us heading North, watching the ocean slide past the train window.

The ride was beautiful; when we moved inland the view from the lounge car was equally gorgeous and an afternoon wine tasting didn’t hurt one bit. The dining car tables seat four, so at each meal we found ourselves sitting across from fellow riders, which was actually quite pleasant. When we asked the attendant to help us pull the beds down for a nap in the evening she helpfully suggested that we use the vacant sleeper room, essentially upgrading us for the last leg of the trip.

So it was that I arrived in Oakland delighted and rested, a block from Jack London square were I met Joe Price, who was kind enough to give me a ride back to San Francisco and listen to my rapturous descriptions of train travel.

~España Sheriff

SF/SF Issue #57, December 26, 2007