Westercon is a small convention, and its Masquerade this year was equivalently small. When I checked in on Friday, there were only three entries registered (although Sandy Manning told me she had scouts out trying to recruit more).

By Masquerade time, there were twelve entries. Three of them exhibition only. I wasn’t sure what to expect and some miscommunications led to me running from one spot to another trying to figure out exactly where I was supposed to be to meet up with the other judges. Unsurprisingly, that place turned out to be the Masquerade ballroom, and I got there with time to spare.

There were two other presentation judges as well as Janet Wilson Anderson doing workmanship. Besides me, the others were Joni Dashoff and Kevin Roche who had been called in to replace John Hertz (who was not able to attend the convention at the last minute).

I missed having John there but was grateful the replacement was someone I knew and trusted. Joni Dashoff turned out to be very nice as well, and someone I had corresponded with about Anticipation business.

Soon we were standing backstage, waiting to be introduced, which renewed my nervousness-I had not realized I would have to go on stage. I was dressed up enough, but I’m not really a stage person and from what I heard later it sort of showed. Ah, well.

Done with that, we took our seats in the front row and things got started. One or two of the entries were pretty obviously last-minute favors the staff had begged into participating, but even those had wit and energy. A few were damned good and almost all were short, sweet,
and amusing.

I was nearest the left of the stage and so two entries managed to get by me without me seeing anything but the back of the costume, since they walked through too quickly and without turning around. Luckily, the other judges got a better view, and so this didn’t count against them too badly.

We were given a stack of numbered sheets, one per entry-minus exhibition only ones-with a large space to take notes. I found this very useful since it all seemed to go quite fast, perhaps because of my inexperience, and writing things down focused my attention wonderfully

Once the costume presentations were done, the Bonhoffs came onstage to do what I am told was a wonderful halftime set (one advantage to having a Filk convention sharing the weekend) but which I had to miss because of my judgely duties.

We were ushered to a small programming room and joined by the workmanship judge there only to clarify questions we might have about what costume parts were made and which
not-and the judge’s clerk, there to collect our opinions at the end, verify their correctness, and vanish into the night to turn those into awards.

This was the most interesting part for me, since it was a new experience. The other judges were both patient and very aware of not pushing their opinions onto each other or me. We came to some conclusions almost immediately, but discussed others back and forth.

I was pleased to see some of the notes I took matched theirs to the letter. I guess I’d been afraid there would be some technical phraseology and esoteric knowledge that would make my one word notes (“Shiny!” “Cute!”) look amateurish, but mostly it was common sense stuff.

Which is not to say you couldn’t tell who the pros were. Aside from their confidence in rendering opinions, there was definitely a level of expertise in spotting both flaws and things deserving reward.

I suspect the process would have been a lot quicker without my presence, but, as with so many things I try my hand at, my basic goal of not embarrassing myself and those who have put their trust in me was, I hope, achieved. I also felt like we went through things pretty quickly (one of my own complaints) although someone did ask me later what took us so long.

We turned over our opinions to the clerk, who reviewed them for accuracy, and then headed back to the ballroom. We lingered outside for a bit, as the concert was still going, and had a chance to see one lovely costume I wish had made it onstage, a young witch with a handmade leather hat.

After ten or fifteen minutes we were led backstage again, this time clutching rosettes to award the winners, and this time we all went onstage together, which made it much more comfortable for me. The winners came on one by one and collected their awards, which is a very fun job, I must say, and that was that!

All in all it was an interesting experience which I would gladly do again, although probably only at a small convention like Westercon.

~España Sheriff

Yipe! Volume 2, Issue 7, July 2010