Baycon

This year Baycon arrived at its new permanent digs at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara with the theme “Adventures in Space: A Pirate’s Tale.” Personally I liked the San Mateo Marriott, but I’d been looking forward since last year to seeing our new home and dissecting its comparative benefits and deficiencies compared to the Doubletree.

The first pleasant surprise was the attached parking structure, meaning free parking for the masses! Check-in went smoothly and Christian Maguire popped by to ask if he could switch Tadao and me to the third floor. Not thinking about it one way or the other I agreed, then left Tadao to start his Con Ops shift and went off to get my badge and get settled. When I arrived at the room I realized this put us two doors down from the Fanzine Lounge and directly across from The Black Hole. The thought of being able to literally crawl home at the end of the evening’s festivities put a big smile on my face as I rushed down to the Art Show to hang art.

As it turned out, time was tight and the artist reception was in less than an hour, so Z! suggested I should just hang the art Saturday morning. This sounded like a much better idea so I went up to unpack. As I walked down the hallway I saw that a few rooms, including t Con Suite, were already open, including The Black Hole which was already overflowing with Klingons. As I unpacked I could hear their dulcet tones reverberating down the hall. I had seen a corporate space pirate leave an inflammatory (but amusing) note under their door before they opened so they were in a fine fettle, apparently.

After finishing a couple of pieces of art that Chris Garcia had requested (well OK, he requested one and the other popped into my head unbidden and had to be exorcised), I popped down to the artist reception and discovered a fine spread of lemon wedges, cheesecake and cookies. There had been a small misunderstanding earlier that was resolved quickly but got my adrenaline going, so this was an excellent way to relax and get into convention mode.

Often during a con I sorely neglect the Art Show once I’m done hanging stuff so even without the tasty snackage it was nice to have an excuse to wander the show. I can only imagine this is doubly true for artists who are scheduled for panels during the con. The Art Show room is larger than the old one, and with higher ceilings the staff had been able to install the lights further up and far less obtrusively. I also noticed a sprinkling of new artists in the mix including Michael Dashow, who does covers for Tachyon Publications. Regulars like Theresa Mathers, Ctein and other favorites were present as well and seemed to do pretty well in sales from what I saw.

Back up to the room to unpack, I received a call from David Moyce to tell me that I was once again late for a staff meeting. I rushed downstairs to the bar, discovering the secret pool elevator in the process which goes directly from the 3rd to the ground floor without any messy hoi poloi contamination. The bar/sushi lounge area at the Hyatt is wide open and therefore makes a lovely substitute for the Coffee Garden experience. The SF/SF crew was hidden in the darkest recesses but fortunately Chris Garcia is very loud.

We had a quick drink, took some photos and headed up to heckle the Fanboy Etiquette panel which had Leigh Ann Hildebrand and Jason Schachat on it, as well as Arabella Benson. Our entrance mid-panel was less than discreet and some of us were holding our drinks still, but all in all the panelists held their own, and the discussion was interesting and lively.

I popped back out of the room to finish unpacking when Deborah Kopec texted to let me know she and Anthony had arrived and were heading to the sushi bar. I went down to meet unpacking when Deborah Kopec texted to let me know she and Anthony had arrived and were heading to the sushi bar. I went down to meet I hied my ass up to the 12th floor and am pleased to say it was well worth the detour.

Done with tormenting Bill we headed back to the LoEG and got some champagne from Johanna Mead who was bartending in her spiffy St. George’s Spirits TAC uniform. A wander up and down the unfortunately narrow halls uncovered a whole bunch of parties including BASFA and Loscon as well as the perennial Rule 6 party.

The Hyatt lacks the Doubletree’s convenient balcony area, so through traffic is more difficult and there are no large areas to congregate the way we’re used to. In addition the rules or the deposit (I’m unclear on the details) for moving or removing beds are apparently different, meaning that space in most party rooms was limited. On the one hand this meant crowded and warm party rooms, but on the other hand it meant that the entire party floor was jumping the whole night with none of those dead zones that sometimes stall the evening. The Fanzine Lounge also benefited since the room had no bed in it.

I took a peek at the ballroom to check on the dance, but it was virtually empty for whatever reason on Friday night.

Richard and Karisu Man popped over from Fanime for the evening and after teasing poor Rowan who was stoically maintaining gopher duty at one end of the hallway, we headed over to the Fanzine Lounge. Around midnight Tadao got off duty and joined us and we were all hanging out in the Fanzine Lounge when someone from Ops popped their head in and asked everyone to leave. Confused, I started to head next door to my room, thinking they were closing down the parties, but he then explained that there had been a fire alarm and the hotel was being evacuated.

Everyone traipsed down the stairs, through the side of the building and over to the front of the hotel where indeed there was a fire truck just pulling up. The night was pretty chilly and the warm glow of alcohol just barely maintained us until it was announced (sort of) that we could return. There was a brief temptation to avoid the crush and just spend the next hour until closing time at the hotel bar, but the allure of pear vodka and ginger ale awaiting upstairs was stronger. Most of the rest of the evening was spent back in the Fanzine Lounge with Jason Schachat, Chris Garcia and Leigh Ann. At around four a.m. things wound down and I got me some sleep.

In the morning I made it to the Art Show about an hour after its 10:30 scheduled opening time and found a line of folks waiting to sign up for direct sale. So hanging art got postponed by one more hour and I went off to get breakfast instead. On my way I finally ran into “Journal-less” Joe Price who had just arrived and was escorting the lovely Lynn who was wearing some really great steampunk duds and carrying a gorgeous raygun fashioned from a hairdryer. As I chatted with them over the railing of the sushi bar Bryan Little and Mette Hedin joined the wait for the restaurant along with the other Masquerade judges and I got to see their awesome new costumes; Team Zisou from The Life Aquatic, including a fish tank with the elusive Jaguar Shark inside.

After breakfast, I hit the Dealer’s Room and was quite pleased with the variety available. It seemed like there was a handful of new vendors as well as the regulars from previous years. I bought a lovely Spanish fan from Stuffe and Nonsense to complement my costume as well as simply to help me survive the evening. I had also planned to pick up a new copy of The Drawing of the Dark for GOH Tim Powers to sign, since I borrowed a copy of the book from my sister’s boyfriend nearly a year ago and it’s a little worse for wear. There were no copies to be had, though, so I picked up Last Call instead to read before Westercon.

Saturday night early on the parties were sparser as folks attempted to hit the Masquerade. Unfortunately there were reportedly some issues with space constraints that left a lot of folks unhappy, but since I didn’t even make it out of the room until after it was over anyway I missed the debacle. My outfit consisted of a vaguely Eastern/Arabian ensemble which was supposed to have a turban and/or piratical hair falls, however technical issues and an unwillingness to wear headgear due to the heat intervened and I went bareheaded instead. There were a whole bunch of good costumes, mostly pirates with the odd ninja tossed in the mix, but Ace and Lazer were decked our as a villainous team and we had great fun taking pictures of each other.

Lynn was dressed as Natasha Fatale an carrying a prop bomb for “Moose and Squirrel.” I saw Bridget Landry wearing her Star Trek uniform and carrying a raised champagne glass to lead her way through the throngs. There was a pair of Jokers and a guy in a Greatest American Hero costume running around for variety and a consistent sprinkling of steampunkers including some of my favorite Browncoats.

Later in the evening I ran into Jean Martin who was in a boogie kinda mood so we bopped down to the dance to check it out. It wasn’t packed, exactly, but it was much livelier than the previous evening so we got our dance on, first to some familiar tunes and then after the DJ transitioned to some kickass Middle-Eastern pop, including a song by Milk and Honey (I think?) which was incredibly danceable.

Eventually the music changed again and it was time to retrieve my wooden scimitar from the hands of a gaggle of drunk girls who had taken over our table, and head back upstairs. Another group of girls that was getting a lot of attention was the Foo entourage, which had lovely costumes and little ships as hats. They made quite the sight as always, although I do have to question the wisdom of having such a large group of people attached to each other by leashes in some of the narrower or more crowded convention areas.

Back upstairs things were still going strong at some of the parties and I traveled between the Fanzine Lounge and the A.C.R.O.N.Y.M. Harem party (which had taken over the LoEG room) a couple of times before realizing I was starving. One of my favorite Baycon rituals is the breakfast buffet, but so far I had not gotten up nearly early enough to enjoy breakfast. As Anthony helpfully pointed out, Baycon without Bacon is just “Y”.

A powerful craving for bacon developed as I wondered out loud whether room service would deliver a plate of the stuff. I went to check the room service hours (till 6 a.m.!) and then to see if anyone else was interested in getting anything. As I popped into the Fanzine Lounge I was just in time to catch Christian Maguire halfway through dictating to himself “The Eye of Maguire,” coming soon to a Drink Tank near you, specifically the bit that mentions the “orgy of greasy meat products.” Leigh Ann spotted me but kept mum as I sidled up beside him and raised an eyebrow. As soon as he saw me he exclaimed that he was not writing anything bad about me and I relented and took food suggestions.

When I called room service and asked if getting a plate of bacon was feasible the lovely girl on the other end was exceedingly amused, but disappointingly unable to comply. Once she stopped giggling she read me the available menu and I asked for two pizzas and a plate of chicken strips and fries and headed back over to the lounge. Delivery took 20 minutes, 10 less than expected and about 30 less than my Doubletree experiences. Bacon would have been nice, but timely arrival of melted cheese was a pretty adequate substitute. A few people wandered over to partake from what remained of the A.C.R.O.N.Y.M. party and we sat around the lounge for another hour or so till bedtime.

Sunday Morning I got a slowish start after receiving a call from reception about an issue with the room bill. Confused, I started trying to figure it out with the hotel staffer on the phone but on double checking she said it was actually fine. I shrugged it off and got started with my day.

Sometime in the afternoon I received a text that I really, really needed to go up to Baronlaw’s room again. Like, right that second. The memory of Friday’s… ahem, excitement… fresh in my mind, I sprinted to the elevator and knocked on the door of his room. A group of expectant faces and Lazer with her camera were poised to get my reaction shot as I turned to look to my right were Baronlaw was standing having just opened the door. Since some things are best left to the imagination I will draw a discreet veil over what exactly settling his bet involved on this occasion, however guests were provided with tea, tea sandwiches and Stag’s Breath and a good time was had by all. Or by the ladies at least… Anthony and Tadao looked like they would rather have been elsewhere (until the Stag’s Breath kicked in) although Christopher J. Garcia is apparently inured to these sort of things after thousands of hours of exposure to B-movies and Mexican wrestling.

As the party wound down I accompanied Jade to the Art Show where several of us reinforced the idea that the great majority of her photography is quite suitable for most convention art shows, particularly the Venice Carnevale photos. I got my bidder number and took another look through the show and bid on some pieces.

I had meant to go to the costume swap by the pool afterwards but was running out of daylight already and in need of sustenance so I hit the restaurant instead. Some folks had suggested sushi which sounded great. When I arrived the tables were mostly full, so we grabbed some of the bar area seating and slowly accumulated passing folks.

Eventually we ended up with three tables shoved together and a whole bunch of folks, which made the bill a bit of a pain (the original plan was to get separate checks), but the staff was more than willing to run the charges separately once we figured it out (and thank you Anthony for doing the math on that one). I took Tadao, still stuck in Con Ops, some food, and on the way back stopped at reception to make sure the morning phone call issue was really resolved. I was told everything was fine so off I went.

I went back up to finish modifying my Costume-Con pirate hat into my more feathery Baycon pirate hat, complete wish a very neat metal skull and crossbones pin which I had bought in the Dealer’s Room earlier in the day. Done with that I took a much needed nap. Unfortunately I was woken up due to a knock at the door about the same damned bill thing. Feeling very, very cranky (sleep deprived España is no fun), I stomped down to reception, alarming Chris and Jason on the way down and Frank Wu on the way back, and fixed it. I explained the previous call and that I would much prefer another phone call if the situation continued to need attention. I was assured that a call had been made first, and didn’t feel like getting into it so I went back to my room. When I checked the phone, no blinky message light. I checked the messages anyway. No messages. Then when I hung the phone up the message light came on. I checked the messages again and was told I had a “text message.” After calling down and getting this deleted I am still unclear on what a text message to one’s hotel phone is.

The hotel staffer who I spoke to at reception was the only one who I had any negative experience with at all, though, and every other staff member was just delightful, especially Jasmin who had the evening shift and was therefore usually there when I needed new room keys and such. She also had one of the longest badge ribbon trains of the hotel staff by Sunday.

I woke around nine, took a shower and felt much better. I dressed up in a variation of a pirate outfit I had worn for Costume-Con and went out to see what all was going on. A bunch of parties from Friday and Saturday had changed ownership but things were still swinging and previous favorites like the Nicolai 25th anniversary party were back, and the Fanzine Lounge was packed again.

The best surprise was that the dance downstairs was pretty good. As it often is, it was uneven, but I got at least an hour of dancing and was far from the only one out there.

When the music changed to something less fun I was ready to take a wander anyway, so we headed back for the third floor. On the way the group split up with some folks in search of food. Knowing I could get room service any time I went up to the Fanzine Lounge instead and found it packed with people. At some point Andy Trembley put on the Ukranian Eurovision entry from 2008 and Mette and Bryan and various other folks danced along. Richard and Karisu Man were around as well, Karisu in her Black Mamba costume from Kill Bill in which she posed with our own Jean Martin who was dressed as O-Ren Ishii. Tee party went on until around four when we kicked the last stragglers out and then Leigh Ann, Jason and I sat around and jawed until one of us noticed it was getting light outside.

I had asked for a late checkout while resolving the previous day’s issue, and so I woke up late and we got everything to the car by a relatively luxurious 2 p.m. I was starving by that point, and Tadao and I grabbed a table along with some other folks and had a nice relaxed meal which turned into one of those revolving cast of characters situations. Joe Price, Jean Martin and eventually Tim Powers, who I hadn’t had a chance to chat with much during the convention, dropped by for a bit. As things wound down it was time for closing ceremonies, which were nice and brief and during which Powers described conventions as the home of fandom which can be reached from doors in many cities. A sort of Wood Between the Worlds I guess, which I thought was a lovely idea.

Afterwards there were a few goodbyes and some more camping out at in the hotel lounge area with Leigh Ann and Leo, Mette and Brian, Joe Price, Jean and various other folks, until it was time to tear ourselves away one last time and head back to the city.

~España Sheriff

SF/SF Issue #67, June 11, 2008