Silicon

SiliCon was considerably smaller this year than it has been in a while, but just as much fun as ever.The big news was the conversion of the much maligned Coffee Garden into something that everyone could agree we liked even less. The new operation, named Sprigs, has the hours of a Financial District coffee shop and the looks of a generic sushi restaurant. The first failing is that the breakfast and lunch buffets appear to have been done away with completely. Breakfast is only served until 11 a.m., so I have no idea if it’s any good as I wasn’t ever up and about by that time. Lunch goes until 2 p.m., which is also ridiculously early. The same menu is served in the sushi bar area in the afternoon, which would be a decent compromise except that the area is far smaller, as are the actual chairs, and this means that during the afternoon and evening hours the place is packed. It’s also harder to seat a large group there. Service at Sprigs appeared to have gone downhill fairly dramatically as well, although the servers at the sushi bar area were all doing a great job.

Beyond the hotel issues, the con itself seemed to suffer from a certain amount of organizational woes, as reflected by the recent problems with the website and the lack of communication to the fans about things like the changes in our dining options. Although nowhere near what I would call a failure, there seemed to be more confusion and less organization and advertising than in past years, and I can only assume that the decline in numbers is at least partially a result of these problems. In spite of this, the atmosphere was great, everyone seemed to be having a good time, and there were no major problems that I heard about.

Although I love SiliCon, my decision to attend was only made about a month ago when my fellow Fanzinistas talked me into it. As some of you may already know, the GOH was Larry Niven. And while he is of course an accomplished author and well-known fan and quite a popular guest, just a few months ago he made some published comments related to the Spanish-speaking population of this country which I took exception to. I made a personal decision that I wasn’t comfortable being a member of a convention where he was a GOH, and reluctantly looked for something else to do with my weekend.

However, I was feeling terrible about missing the convention and Chris, David and Leigh Ann decided that rather than avoiding the convention, a better solution would be to turn it into a celebration of Latino fanac (the inimitable Andy Trembley came up with the term “Hispanac” and later just “Spanac” for it), and the more I thought on it, the more excited I became about the possibilities for fun, costuming and carousing built around this theme. Then at Con-X-Treme I ran into Maureen Starkey who was there promoting SiliCon and that cemented my decision to attend after all.

I spent the days before the con digging up thematically appropriate decorations and costuming bits. Unfortunately my eBay purchase of a dozen or so Latin American comics didn’t arrive until Monday after the convention, but by con time I had accumulated quite a haul: a bunch of flags, red, white and green streamers, some lovely Mexican calendar art postcards, and a book of Mexican Pulp Art from the 60’s as well as a stack of Spanish-language horror and sci fi films, including last year’s Hugo winner Pan’s Labyrinth. However the best of the stack were two lucha DVDs, one featuring two El Santo horror films and the other two Superzan sci fi flicks featuring what appeared to be quite a bit of silver tinfoil. My last two purchases, which I picked up on an impulse on Friday afternoon, turned out to be the most fun: a loteria set and a stack of about 12-15 cheapie Chevy’s, El Torito and similar-type sombreros purchased at Thrift Town for 69 cents a pop.

Anthony “Ace” and Deborah “Lazer” Kopec picked me up around 7 p.m. and we first stopped at BevMo for supplies. Aside from some Vodka to make “little things” I was determined to pick up a bottle of good Tequila. My unfortunate previous experiences with the drink involved the cheap stuff and for years I thought I simply didn’t like it. However my sister’s boyfriend, Andres, is quite the connoisseur. He enjoys doing tastings and mixes a mean Margarita, so under his guidance I’ve come around on the subject recently. I called him and he walked me through the brands available in my price range, eventually settling on a Reposado called “7 Leguas,” which it turns out is named after Pancho Villa’s horse and eventually met with general approval from most everyone who tried it.

By this time we were receiving drunken text messages inquiring as to our whereabouts. When we pulled into the hotel David “Mangcha’” Moyce and Bill “Daisy” Howard generously offered to help us with our luggage. As we grabbed things from the car the sombreros were a little awkward to carry, so everyone put one on and I wore the extras one atop another. We made quite an entrance, if I do say so myself, and after dropping everything off in our room we hit the party floor to check things out.

The first stop was the SF/SF party where Chris Garcia, Jean Martin, Leigh Ann Hildebrand and Jason Schachat were holding down the fort. We spent some time in there and then wandered a bit to see what all else was going on. There were four or five parties on each night, including the San Francisco Browncoats and the Black Hole Klingons. Marv from the Legion of Rassilon helped out with a Doctor Who party and I caught a glimpse of karaoke from another room.

As I bounced around I was urgently called over to a room, and walked in to discover that the boardroom most commonly used as the con suite was in its original board meeting layout, looking exactly how the headquarters of the Revolution should. We immediately wrangled all the sombrero-wearing folks to sit around it and look conspiratorial and took a bunch of silly photos. Then someone noticed that Chris was sitting at the center of the table and made a Last Supper joke. Of course the challenge could not remain unmet, so after one of the boys pulled up the image on his phone, everyone posed appropriately. Or inappropriately, rather.

Eventually someone came by with the news that Rocky Horror had been canceled and the dance was starting early so we closed the party and went to check it out. The music was a bit on the loud side when we dropped by, but the DJ was kind enough to drop it under teeth-rattling levels and we all got our dance on for a while, Jean and Joe Price busting some swing moves to a couple of Lee Presson songs and the rest of us enjoying what mostly appeared to be angry German remix versions of popular favorites as well as the occasional eighties hit. At the end of that we were all starving and exhausted so we hied over to Denny’s for some post drinkin’ food to stave off hangovers.

On Saturday I woke up satisfyingly hangover-free and thanked the Reposado gods as I ran about trying to getting things done. I hung my art and checked out the smallish but well-represented art show, and then rushed to get some food before Sprigs closed. I made it under the wire and joined the kids at a table, ordering an underwhelming tuna sandwich and pea soup. Afterwards we checked out the Dealers’ Room, which was also on the smallish side but larger than Westercon’s and with more stuff that I actually wanted to buy than Denvention’s, so quality won out over quantity for me at least.

The music GOH for Silicon was Peter S. We asked for a late checkout and only just managed to get packed and move everything to the car in time for lunch at Sprigs. I had a hamburger which was much better than the previous day’s meal, although service was still a little dodgy. Even though most of the comfy booths are long gone, the layout fortunately hasn’t been changed yet so it’s still a good spot to linger and chat with folks on their way to and from programming.

We did this for about an hour, chatting with Anna and Kay and later with Mette Hedin (sporting a very cool hoodie she had made) and Bryan Little before heading over to check out the Match Game already in progress. I have only ever seen After Dark editions so I wasn’t sure if it would be quite as fun, but it turned out to be a hoot and there was even a Con-X-Treme question which drew a good reaction from both the panelists and the crowd.

When that finished up, all that was left was the lingering series of goodbyes that happen at the end of every con, with the vague beginnings of plans and plots being laid for the next event. Some folks, like Jason Schachat, we won’t see until Loscon unfortunately, but Bryan and Mette were turning their sights towards Steam Powered which is now just a few

~España Sheriff

SF/SF Issue #75, October 15, 2008