Trepidation

For some months now there has been an informal fannish meetup every Friday at the Eclipse Lounge in the Hyatt Regency in downtown San Francisco. I got tired of reading of all the fun going on outside of the city, and started it with the help of Johanna Mead, Leigh Ann Hildebrand, and Jack Avery. Originally held under the name Fidi Fandom Friday, since it was to be held in the Financial District area of the city for maximum convenience to public transit, the name morphed several times until some bad jokes at the expense of the Sci Fi Channel’s recent reinvention caused us to settle on FyDySyFy. And so it was at FyDySyFy on July 24th that the plans for Trepidation 2009 where hatched.

On several occasions Leigh Ann and I had looked around us at the amazing atrium lobby of the Hyatt and expressed a wish to run some sort of event in the space. But what? Well, when both of us ended up not being able to attend Anticipation, the solution was obvious: we would bring the concept of the bittercon out from the Internet and into meatspace! The original concept was to have something for people unable to attend Worldcon, but since Leigh Ann’s attendance was up in the air until almost the last minute we decided to run with it on the week pre- Worldcon. She emailed me to tell me Jason Schachat would be on a plane on the 31st, and we had a week to do this thing.

When I arrived at the bar that Friday after receiving her email we had nothing but the concept, and Schachat as our fan GOH. Within a few minutes Radar arrived and we assigned her Programming, then Gina who became our Webmistress, Johanna was drafted as Gaming almost before she sat down, and I called Mr. Price to tell him he would be FLAIR (ahem), which he took quite graciously. Soon we had expanded to two tables, over which a mad discussion was taking place of what we could fake most effectively with the least amount of work. Leigh Ann spoke to “Awesome” Brian Silber, the Assistant Food and Beverage Manager for the Eclipse Lounge, and he gave his okay with surprisingly little concern. He also took us up to check out one of the suites to see if it would be suitable as a consuite. Leigh Ann and our treasurer, Leo Schwab, reserved it, and suddenly everything was official.

Gina in particular, along with Kai, stepped up to the plate — she with website expertise and he with hosting. When I arrived home near midnight after six hours of planning and scribbling notes, I registered the domain “trepidation2009” and emailed them. By the next day there was a placeholder website with our basic dates and information, and shortly thereafter we had a slick page better than many I’ve seen for real events. We declared our official hours as 3 p.m. Friday to 3 p.m. Saturday, to accommodate our fan GOH’s travel dates and to have a neat 24-hour convention concept.

Leigh Ann, the official Chair and Vice Chair, wrote up some wonderful FAQs and other official missives, and Jack put together PRs and a program book — with cover art by yours truly featuring the centerpiece of the Hyatt’s atrium, the amazing rhombicosidodecahedron (or so I’m told) sculpture from which the Eclipse Lounge gets its name, and which we refer to as the Wicker Death Star. The planning, such as it was, took place almost entirely on Twitter, either in public and sometimes quite amusing (to us at least) discussions under the hashtags #trepidation2009 and #bittercon, or in private messages coordinating various details. A Facebook group, evite, livejournal community, and Yahoo group completed the social networking Shock and Awe Campaign to make up for the lack of time to get the word out.

Over the next couple of days I worked on getting another guest of honor. My first choice was Pat Murphy, who emailed me back promptly and graciously that she would be out of town, unfortunately. The fact that she replied at all to a random fan’s somewhat eccentric request gave me the confidence to send equally strange messages to some other pros that I knew or suspected might be game for a lark of this nature. Among those recommended to me were Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders from the io9.com website, who responded that it sounded like fun and what time should they be there, at which point I believe I may have squeed or w00ted, judging from the look my cats gave me.

Without getting into too much detail I asked my boss if I could leave early on Friday to get to the hotel at 3 p.m. (“I’m, uh… helping run a thing”), and with a couple of stops on the way for supplies I arrived with just a couple of minutes to spare and found Leigh Ann and Schachat at our usual table. I had honestly only expected people to start arriving at the usual post-work Fydy time, around five thirty or six o’clock, but within a few minutes Jack and his friend Ed Beecher showed up, then others in short order. The waitstaff took this in stride, bless their hearts, even though their official opening time is 4:30.

We had emphasized the fact that there would be costuming, since that was really the laziest way to create a con-like atmosphere with little effort on our part; however, my suitcase and Leigh Ann’s were both still en route with Leo, so I felt downright underdressed when Mette Hedin, costumer extraordinaire, showed in her Syndrome outfit. Turns out she and Bryan had reserved a room as well, which we officially designated the “Party Floor.” A bunch of other folks were dressed up, including my roommate Palle as the Fifth Doctor and Radar as Dr. Horrible.

Johny Dakron had brought some nice steampunk sculpture pieces, and as the only entry he was designated the Art Show. I bid on a brass frog clock but Radar outbid me, alas. By this time someone had set up a Dealer’s Room on one of the side tables with some books and comics. I picked up a trade of AstroCity: The Dark Age Vol. 1. Mette added some DVDs to the vendor list and I do believe sales were brisk. Meanwhile, Lunatic had brought a backpack full of games and soon several tables on the right were a dedicated Gaming Room, which, typically, was a little world unto itself.

Having insisted that the best way to make the con look legit for posterity would be good badges, I had designed and laminated some for “pre-registered” folks and had spares for late arrivals. Thus I found myself doing more work than expected for a pseudocon, getting badges for people as they showed up. The influx of people slowed a little around 8 p.m., just in time for our Webizens of Honor to arrive.

Having only met Charlie Jane for the briefest of intervals at Denvention, I was glad to find that, as I recalled, she was charm incarnate, as was Annalee. Another io9er, Grey Area, came along with them and their friend Brian seemed pretty amused, too. After a certain amount of corralling drinks and guests into the same place, we held Opening Ceremonies, which involved a toast, a photo and a brief statement from the Chair.

The first item of actual programming was Flavor Tripping, in which Jack provided West African Miracle Fruit tablets for everyone who wanted to try the experience and the Hyatt provided a platter with lemons, limes, lemon juice, goat cheese, sour cream and other bitter and sour fruits. The experience was unique, and seeing people chomp on lemons and squirt lemon juice with evident pleasure was half the fun.

After that I was free to run up to the room and get changed, so I did. Feeling ever so much better in my uncomfortable shoes I headed back down to the lounge and enjoyed the remainder of the evening until the Eclipse closed around midnight, at which point most of those present headed up to the consuite. There the party continued with thematically appropriate drinks mixed by Leigh Ann, much oohing and aahing over the lovely balcony view of the Ferry Building, Embarcadero and California Street, and general fannishness until around 4 a.m when the last folks left and the chairs, treasurer and Fan GOH called it a night.

Morning programming involved two items, Walking to Breakfast with the Star(s) and Walking Back from Breakfast with the Star(s), which started late but were pretty fun regardless. The weather was unseasonably lovely and the Ferry Building contains all manner of amazing food choices. In attendance where the aforementioned staff and GOH and those fans who had stayed in the hotel overnight, Mette and Brian, Lisa Marli and Harold. We all got various foods and ate in the seating area overlooking the bay, which meant we caught a glimpse of the airship Eureka sailing past.

Finally, after checking out, there were the traditional lingering goodbyes on the lobby sofas, Leigh Ann made a statement for Closing Ceremonies, and everyone drifted off, in my case at least to spend the rest of Saturday evening and Sunday night feeling a weird sense of displacement at having an “extra” post-con day before work on Monday.

~España Sheriff

SF/SF Issue #92, August 19, 2009