Loscon 2008

The original plan for LosCon this year was for Anthony and Deb Kopec to attend for the first time. We would all drive down Wednesday night and share a room at the hotel. Unfortunately cruel fate intervened when Deb contracted the Plague and couldn’t make it after all. As this was very last minute Anthony insisted on driving me down anyway, and having no idea where to start finding alternatives so late in the game I guiltily agreed.

We made pretty good time, although stopping for food at 5:45 in the middle of nowhere was an adventure I could have just as easily skipped… Everything was closed except McDonald’s and there was no coffee to be had for love or money. At 6:00 everything around us opened up and we wept into our Egg McMuffins until we realized that meant we could get coffee from Starbucks.

I was staying at my sister’s place through Friday, and Ant decided to do the same so he could sleep before the drive, so we arrived in Santa Monica bright and early and in enough time for my sister’s boyfriend Andres to make us Margaritas with the Tommy’s Margarita Mix that Ant had brought for him from BevMo. We had hoped to experience this delight on Friday evening, but Andres was working Thursday and Ant gone Friday so needs must. After a well deserved nap we headed over for a small Thanksgiving gathering with all the trimmings including some delicious pies.

On Friday Andres plied us with pancakes and mimosas, which was a pleasant start, and then Anthony kindly drove me over to the hotel on his way back up North. I was bummed to be checking in alone but within a couple of minutes I had run into Tim Powers and happily switched to con mode. I also saw Karisu Man who let me know there was a celebration for her daughter’s birthday in a few hours.

I unpacked first and then headed over to hang my art, finding myself once again amongst the last two or three artists arriving. Frank and Brianna Wu had not hung their art yet either, so I didn’t feel too bad. As I got set up I chatted a bit with Spring Schoenhuth of Springtime Creations, who was about to lead a docent tour. I was tempted to stay for it but still hadn’t coordinated with the Fanzine Lounge folks so off I went to the Fanzine Lounge to check in.

This year we were brought out from the Marriott Mystery Floor into the convention floor, and were sharing our room with the Costume Repair Station. This worked out reasonably well, with costumers wandering in and chatting along with fanzine folks. Author GoH John Scalzi was kind enough to pop in after we heckled him wandering by, and he distributed “Whatever” ribbons to those present. Chris and Leigh Ann explained the TAFF Doctor Who scarf concept and he agreed to wear it at the following day’s Wil and Scalzi Super Happy Fun Hour.

Eventually we closed the lounge and the three of us visited Latitude 33 to get some dinner, where we once more experienced a Scalzi walk-by. This time Leigh Ann (and myself) took some time to gush over his excellent essay “Being Poor,” which is available on the author’s website www.scalzi.com and highly recommended whether or not you are already a fan of his fiction.

On the way out we were starting to wonder when the fourth member of the Fanzine Lounge cabal, Jason Schachat, would be arriving already. We ran into John Hertz, to whom I had promised some art for Vanamonde, and I ran to my room to get that for him. The art may prove unsuitable due to over-detailing but if so I’ll give it another shot later. By this time it was past 6:30, the start time for Ari’s 18th birthday party so we headed up to visit the packed gathering and enjoyed some cake while jealously watching her open her presents… or maybe I was the only jealous one since she got a lovely Bamboo tablet. After a bit we left the crowded room to make space for other celebrants and headed back down to the lobby.

We ran into more people and chatted away until Schachat walked in the door, and there was much rejoicing. Almost immediately we put him to work as he, Chris and I popped down the block to get drink supplies for the weekend. The liquor store was an interesting experience which went from normal to disturbingly friendly when the clerks found out my name. Regardless, we escaped with our purchases and headed back to the Fanzine Lounge. I left them to set up while I went to get changed.

I had brought a bunch of costume material for the weekend. and I’m using the term “toga” as a general Graeco-Roman costume catch-all for men and women, so apologies to the purists. The one for Friday was a red and gold ensemble modeled on Caesar’s clothing on his arrival in Rome in the eponymous HBO series. I had been watching the show for research while making costumes for the weekend and had been looking for a male costume to suit my hair. This one was ideal since I already had two yards of old lovely gold material and some passable red cloth and a red silk robe that I reversed to make a decent tunic. As it turns out, once I put it all on and added the sparkly gold laurels as well as gold sandals and a purse, the effect was more reminiscent of a very fey Nero, but all in all it seemed to be a success and I was flattered by the compliments considering how little actual workmanship went into the thing.

The biggest gripe most people had this year was that the hotel is upgrading the elevators and therefore they are running slow and unable to take their usual weight loads. Luckily for me, my room was on the third floor so I avoided most of it by going to the lobby and taking the escalator down to the convention areas and taking the stairs most of the rest of the time. However, walking up to the 17th floor on Friday evening encouraged me to spend the remainder of the evening on the 17th floor. In addition to our Fanzine Lounge After Dark party there were parties for Anticipation, Anime LA, BayCon and the Herbangelists at the end of the hall in the Consuite room. I spend a little time doing the circuit to check out the neighbors and chatted with various folks here and there before settling in back at our place. It was very lively, especially as other parties started winding down and we got the castoffs and diehards.

The highlight of the evening for me was an incredibly sweet surprise. Two LASFS folks whom I had met at the previous LosCon, Karen and Ed Garcia, dropped by with a present for me. Last year I had chatted with them about costuming and I had noticed a beautiful custom raygun that Karen was carrying It turns out that Ed had made it himself and after I gushed on for a bit he offered to make me one. Although we exchanged emails and so on I naturally assumed he was just being nice and nothing would come of it, but lo and behold he delivered the promised weapon this year complete with holster and accessories. I was truly taken aback at his generosity and equally so with the gun itself which I am determined to build a costume up around — I’ve been toying with ideas for a Steampunk Air Pirate and now it will be perfect. Of course I also have to come up with something to repay Ed’s generosity, which was really above and beyond. The evening continued nicely from that until eventually someone, Jade Falcon maybe, mentioned that the dance was still going and I decided to check it out. Jason Schachat, his friend Stephen Sprinkles and I headed down to see what was what. It turned out to be going pretty strong with Patrick Beckstead doing a very good job keeping things interesting, mostly with 80’s New Wave tunes. I danced myself silly and must commend Patrick on his patience with our frantic and semi-coherent song requests when honestly, he was doing a good enough job without our input. Eventually I called it a night and got to sleep as the sun came up.

A few hours later it was officially Saturday morning and I was famished so I scrambled to make it to breakfast in time but failed. I called Leigh Ann who had been up about as late herself manning the Lounge and we had a nice quiet lunch while dreaming of scrambled eggs instead. The coffee went a long way towards making me feel human again until I walked into the Lounge and Chris laid on me one of his patented “you look like hell” greetings that he is so charmingly fond of. Bastard.

There was chatting and Leigh Ann’s charming friend Heather of the Costumer’s Guild dropped by the lounge. Eventually someone suggested lunch, which I was more than ready for since my breakfast had been inadequate. We went to Champions this time, which is always hit or miss for me, but I enjoyed the sliders and was glad to get some nourishment in me since my original plan to take a nap was torpedoed when I realized that Scalzi’s big panel had already started.

Jason and I went down to the ballroom and got seats in the back of the nearly packed room. Scalzi was taking questions, most of them pretty reasonable I’m happy to say. The subject was mostly writing and it was very entertaining and boisterous. It’s always interesting to see writers speak since some of the most eloquent people on paper aren’t so in front of a live audience while others, like Harlan Ellison, are in their natural element and have a whole schtick. I had seen Scalzi at Borderlands before and knew he would be comfortable, but in this setting he was really flowing and having fun with it. Eventually his panel ended and there was a short intermission before the time for the Wil and Scalzi Super Happy Fun Hour, which basically originated when Scalzi IM’d Wil Wheaton to ask whether he was going to LosCon and Wheaton said “Dunno” and Scalzi responded that of course he was and they’d do a panel together. (edited version).

During the intermission Leigh Ann and Chris brought the TAFF scarf in and we moved to the front rows. When Wheaton came in there was much photo taking anyway, of course, but with Scalzi’s kind intervention we managed to get some nice photos of the two of them both wearing the scarf at the same time. Eventually things settled down a bit and the panel started, whereupon some con staff brought in the Velvet Wesley and all hell broke lose again.

For those uninitiated, the Velvet Wesley is a Mexican black velvet painting of Wil Wheaton as Ensign Wesley Crusher at his moment of triumphant promotion to the grade of First Ensign. It is a sight to behold and comes with an excellent backstory that I won’t repeat here since you can read it on John Scalzi’s “The Whatever” and on Wil Wheaton’s own blog “WWdN: In Exile” over on typepad.

The rest of the panel was a combination of back and forth between the two panelists and taking questions from the audience, which allowed Leigh Ann to ask my favorite question of the panel, addressed to gamer extraordinaire Wheaton: “Is it ever acceptable to split the party?” The answer is of course just “no” but some basic pebble was knocked loose by this question and we were treated to an awesome mini-rant on other unacceptable D&D crimes including half-orcs just on general principle. The rest of the panel was equally entertaining, and included a surprise appearance by someone in a Bacon Cat costume, which was a big hit with everyone.

Once that was over I had no choice but to get a few hours of sleep. I was determined not to overdo it since I have a bad habit of arriving at parties for the second shift when a bunch of folks I wouldn’t mind chatting with are already done for the night. So I was up and dressed in my Greek outfit, long curly wig and all, by ten o’clock. I took the stairs up again and headed right for the Lounge. This was my first time wearing a wig and I was a little nervous about it so I figured that my Lounge compatriots, bless them, would let me know right away if it was a horrible mistake. They all complimented me and I was able to relax and enjoy the magic ability of wigs to make people not recognize me right away.

The room was quieter than the previous night, since there were more entertainment options, the Masquerade earlier and John Hertz’s traditional late night party later on, but we had a steady flow of folks and this time we’d managed to get our fanzines out of the daytime lounge in time to have some in the room, so I was able to get a peek at a lovely copy of The Enchanted Duplicator, which I’m sorry to say I have never read. I also made the rounds of the other parties. The “Of the Future” gang was over in the big party room at the end of the hall and I ran into Tim and Serena Powers there. Tim had stopped by the party earlier and the crew had managed to get a photo of him in The Scarf as well. We spoke about Forry a bit, and then it was their bedtime so I wandered over to the BayCon room where I found out from Tycho that next year’s theme will be Steampunk. I also popped into the Anime LA peanut butter sandwich room and was tempted by the Nutella spread, but it was crowded and I wasn’t actually that hungry so I wandered off again. My last stop before calling it a night was of course John Hertz’s party near the end of the hall which was full of wine and cheese and civilized conversation. I had something sweet and tasty but I forget the name of it and shortly thereafter I decided to call it a night.

Convention Sundays are always sad, but at LA conventions I usually leave the following day so it’s a little nicer not having to rush around packing and getting ready to leave. I managed to actually make it to breakfast this time, eggs and bacon and most importantly coffee. Afterwards I checked the lounge but no one was there yet so I went over to pick up my art from the Art Show. It turned out I was a little early so instead I finally took the opportunity to walk the show and appreciate the art.

First I ran into Brianna and Frank who had sold tons of stuff, naturally. We chatted for a bit and Brianna offered some nice pointers. After they took off I ran into John Hertz and I took a look at the display for this year’s Rotsler Award winner, Taral Wayne. The panel included a nice range of Wayne’s art and a history of the award and somehow led to a heated fannish discussion about categorizing when Rick Sternbach wandered by. As we eventually wandered out of the show we passed my panel and I was delighted to see Krissy and Athena Scalzi standing in front of my art and Athena saying something nice about a couple of the pieces. They eventually bought one despite my best efforts to give it away free, bless their hearts.

When I got back to the lounge the crew was there and we spent the next few hours chatting. Chris had panels so he was in and out but Jason, Leigh Ann and I held down the fort. Speaking of In-and-Out we got to see both Tadao’s delivery-guy ensemble and even the infamous Catwoman on her way to closing ceremonies. We ourselves skipped them out of sheer laziness and plotted a Steampunk costuming panel that may never materialize but was fun to contemplate. Diana Sherman and Simran Khalsa dropped by and helped with that, borrowing props from Miko Simmons who dropped by in her own Steampunk ensemble.

Eventually Chris came back and we closed up the lounge for good. We wandered over to the restaurant but it wasn’t open yet, which accounted for the large group of fans which had taken over the couches. We stopped and chatted for a bit but the restaurant opened up soon enough and we got dinner along with John and Chris O. We chatted about all things fannish, but mostly about which hotels are best for hosting cons of various sizes. The agreed-upon winner was one I’ve never stayed at so I don’t recall the name unfortunately.

After dinner I got the rest of my packing done since I had to be up early Monday, and then retreated to the Fanzine Lounge After Dark room with Jason and Leigh Ann for the rest of the night. We had far too much alcohol left over and did our best to reduce that down. Lassitude almost set it as we became mesmerized by an Adult Swim show called Drinky Crow which was either brilliant or horrifying or both. Unnerved, we did a quick wander of the Dead Dog and the lobby areas before settling in for the duration. We kept the door ajar for the occasional visitor including John Hertz and Christian Maguire, but the rest of the evening was spent mainly on plotting. Garcia, it should be noted, went to bed unwisely early.

As is now tradition, Leigh Ann and I took the Coast Starlight back to the Bay Area, which meant napping and eating interrupted solely by an hourlong wine tasting during which Leigh Ann tried, and enjoyed, a weird cheese. Although I was not able to completely avoid con crud, the buffer day and the general relaxation of the train ride went a long way toward making up for the convention being over. I always enjoy the train immensely and will definitely be taking it up to Montreal. I’ve been advised that VIA is the only way to go for Anticipation.

~España Sheriff

SF/SF Issue #78, December 17, 2008