Tag Archives: fandom

Eastercon 2017: Innominate

On Good Friday we started our day with a solid Novotel breakfast buffet, which is a good way to get into convention headspace. We had plenty of time before our train so we packed up and then popped into town for an hour or so, visiting the local Forbidden Planet and then to the station to catch our train to Birmingham for Innominate, the 2017 Eastercon.

The train to Birmingham was uneventful, though the second one was so packed we had to hop on different cars just to squeeze in. Still, we made it in one piece and the shuttle to the Hilton made up for the indignities of public transit. Once settled into out room we picked up our badges, hung our art, and headed to the bar for our first beer of the weekend, in that order.

The art show was a good first impression of the convention; busy, well attended, and full of cool stuff. John had brought art donations to raise money for Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund, some of them rather nice and a couple of questionable quality but high entertainment value. I had brought a couple of old pieces, a handful of new ones, and four of the fans originally created for The Dark Market. I am happy to report that my sales were the best I’ve had and I went home with only two of the ten pieces I hung. TAFF did pretty well itself, selling three pieces of art but raising nearly a thousand pounds in the Fan Fun auction to be shared with The Get Up-and-over Fan Fund and the Lazlar Lyricon effort to bring over some Brazilian Douglas Adams fans.

Attendance this year was just over 900 people and the layout of the facilities was good, with everything radiating out from the central hotel lobby/reception, making the the con feel full and vibrant.

Across from reception was the fan bar, British conventions famously center on the bar and encourage this by bringing in a local brewery to run a real ale bar. This year it was from a place called Purity Brewing, and although the selection was good the pints did run £5 each which was a bit rich to rely on for the whole weekend. Instead we picked up some beer and some vodka in a trip into town and alternated with the ale.

Behind the real ale bar was the actual hotel bar and lounge area, which was in use more as a quieter place to have a coffee or food and relax in comfy seating. Directly in front of the entrance to the hotel, between the reception and bar was registration, with the fan lounge behind it and programming down the hall to the right. All right there and easy to triangulate, with the added advantage that finding anyone mostly meant heading to the lobby and looking around a bit.

The fan lounge was in the con suite model in the sense that it was a large room with large tables for people to shit and chat. The hotel had set up a row of “street food” stalls along one wall, with baked potatoes, Indian, Caribbean, and British food on sale for relatively reasonable prices, and drinks at the end. It was a very convenient arrangement and relaxed enough that people could bring in other things from elsewhere without fuss. On a couple of occasions there was even delicious surprise birthday cake.

Being a holiday weekend there were several other events going on nearby, the Insomnia 60 gaming convention at the NEC convention center and a Boyzlife concert in our wing of the hotel. This last was new to me but I am told that it is in fact a frankenband composed of members of Boyzone and Westlife. The former meant that there were a fair amount of people about in nerdy shirts that were not in fact part of our convention while the later was just a bit confusing. We only really noticed the outside world on our brief trips to dinner and one excursion into Birmingham, where we kept it nerdy by visiting the really cool Nostalgia Comics and the world’s most labyrinthine game store location.

I had intended to volunteer a bit over the course of the weekend, but the couple of times I popped by to check in there didn’t seem to be much need so I ended up pretty free and clear aside from needing to take my art down at the end of the weekend. I didn’t attend a ton of programming, but opening ceremonies were good with Pat Cadigan’s energy kicking things off nicely and Dr. Emma J. King‘s explosive presentation following on its heels.

Also a blast was the Pyjama Disco by Jo Playford and fan GOH Colin Harris, it was well attended and the room had surrounding tables for people to chill when not dancing. I spent several hours on the dance floor with intermittent excursions to the fan lounge for cake and conversation. The setlist was nicely varied, with a fair amount of fan favourites but a good range from old school to current.

After the success we had with pre-arranging dinners with friends during Gally, we made a point of deploying the same method again in order to make sure we got time with some of our busier friends. This involved two excursions to the NEC adjacent food mall, which is basically just full of chain restaurants but in a weirdly impressive setting. We had Nando’s with some of Third Row and the next evening Pizza Express with Claire and Mark, the latter in particular I feel we never get to spend as much time as we think we will during the convention. We did get to hang out a fair bit with the inimitable Tobes, and I got some American time with Dave McCarty when he wasn’t busy smoffing – we primarily talked about our mutual love for Mexican food IIRC.

Meg Frank was there but I felt her presence more as a passing breeze of glam and glitter, sensed and then gone in the night. Anna and Hogg we got some quality time with on and off, never as much as one would wish for but luckily just enough to plot some plots for Helsinki.  We squeezed in a too brief chat with Fran Dowd at breakfast and saw Doug and Julie mostly in passing as their busy schedules permitted.

Oh, and I got roped into running the Fanzine Lounge at Helsinki, so that’s bound to keep me out of trouble for a minute.

Gally

The culmination of our February trip was of course Gallifrey One.

There were multiple reasons I was excited to go; I missed last year, I hadn’t been to a proper convention in a while, and of course it would be my first trip back to California in a year. But I was also excited to have John attend his first Gally.

The morning  in Santa Monica started with a bad omen, a broken statue of Mercury, god of travellers. But perhaps because a replacement was procured speedily her was a forgiving god and our trip to the hotel went smoothly, as did our eventual plane ride home, although we did get lost between the bus and the LAX Marriott… so take that as you will.

At the hotel we found we only had one bed and had to get a rollaway, which was a bit annoying-I wish they would guarantee that somehow. Beds sorted we went and  stocked up on supplies for the weekend; snacks, beer, and a couple bottles of wine. By the end of this I was pretty pooped and needed a shower and change of clothes to get into convention mode so John went off to participate in the traditional In & Out burger run that kicks Gally off while I puttered about getting ready.

As it turned out I had misunderstood the description and the burger run was an actual outing where the entire group walks to In & Out and orders individually, which frankly seems like a terrible idea. But John had In & Out, which is a rite of passage, and got a ribbon out of it to boot so all’s well that ends well. He also came back with several new Pokemon, as the new expansion had just launched. Luckily the hotel had five pokestops of its own so they were pretty thick on the ground all weekend.

Fed and cleaned it was time for the ice cream social, which is a con event but technically takes place before the convention officially starts. There were good ice cream flavours and by this time Palle had arrived and Bryan and Mette where running around as well. They introduced us to some of their friends, and I ran into a few people I knew pretty quickly. We finished off the night mixing questionable drinks in their room, including a pint glass of a surprisingly good irridescent green drink.

Friday was the first official day of the convention and we started it with a Denny’s breakfast. Previous years I have occasionally ventured out of the hotel for food but didn’t realize there even was a Denny’s nearby. Probably I would have been less excited about it when I lived walking distance to a diner, but breakfast food is one of the great American traditins so that was nice.

Back at the con it was time for the Opening Ceremony, which may or may not have been replaced by Radio Free Skaro interviews. I thought it had but someone later said that there is still a more traditional guest intro kind of thing later. In any case the interviews were good but not the right energy level for a con kick-off so we left after a while and spent the rest of the day in a variety of panels. I enjoy behind the scenes stuff so always get a kick out of the classic actors telling war stories and/or current folks discussing the industry-and I got plenty of both during this Gally, as well as a top notch interview with first time guest Lalla Ward and a hilarious Naoko Mori and Gareth David-Lloyd joint interview.

The Friday evening event this year was The Idiot’s Lantern. Basically a series of comedy sketches centered around Doctor Who, ranging from really clever and funny to pretty silly. Annoyingly there were some people sitting behind us who did not like the show but also seemed to forget they were free to leave, thank goodness they eventually remembered. The best bits were probably Tony Lee as Captain Kirk and a silly but amusing Kylo Ren sketch with a surprise Rick & Morty twist. After the show I assume there was drinking, it’s all a bit hazy tbh.

Saturday is the big day on any convention, and we kicked it off with a visit from Andres who swung by and took us to have breakfast at The Coffee Company which was jam-packed but worth the wait.

After that the usual blur of panels took, chatting, and costume gawking took us to the afternoon where we managed to squeeze in a quick recording for the Geek Girl Crafts Podcast up in the room before heading down to Latitude 33 for our first hotel dinner of the weekend. We joined Jade, Erik, Jean, and Chris and there was a lot of Star Wars geekery, primarily between John and Jade. Like, a LOT. We were seated near the entrance so got to say hi to various folks as they came in, reminding me a bit of the good old days at the Coffee Garden.

Saturday’s centerpiece is of course the Masquerade. This was the first year no one I knew was participating, but it was still an enjoyable show with Tony Lee as MC. I may be mistaken but it seemed like there were also fewer Master division entries than usual. But there was definitely some good stuff up there all the same. And like at most conventions there was a halftime show while the judges, including Jude Hudson herself, went off to deliberate.

Normally the halftime is some sort of gameshow, but this time was a bit of a surprise as we got a band instead, called Awesome City Limits. Its no secret that I love it when conventions expand their usual repertoire, especially in regards to live geeky music which has experienced such an explosion of variety and talent in the last decade. And this band was pretty great so I was quite a happy camper.

The judges came back with their decisions, most of which I agreed with entirely, and then it was off to get some alcohol in my system in order to be ready for the Night of the Living Dead Discotheque. I had been excited to experience the DJ skills of Paul Condon, who was in charge two years ago and had been listed initially in the schedule, but Shawn Crosby did a fine job in his stead and I got a lot of dancing in. Once that wrapped (sadly early) there was a certain amount of running around culminating in the lobby, of course, where some people where running this all-night ribbon contest that was strange and confusing to my poor drunk and tired brain but all the same very entertaining.

There were no interesting early panels on Sunday thank goodness so we staggered off to Denny’s and generally had a chill day of watching one panel after another in the main room, partly because they were the most interesting ones and partly because of inertia. Then it was time for closing ceremonies, sad but always a bit of a love-fest. We left before next year’s preview in order to have dinner with Leigh Ann and Leo at a joint Italian and Persian place nearby. It isn’t fusion, but rather has the two cuisines separately. We chose the Persian and had some really amazing dishes including a pomegranate based one, fesenjan I think.

Sunday evening at Gally means drinking the last of the booze, trying to talk to everyone you have missed, and generally sucking the marrow out of the convention. We spent time in the smoking area watching the cool kids compare ribbon trains, and in the lobby getting increasingly maudlin, and we made facebook friends with a Gally fellow-traveller who happens to be local to us in Southampton. And then, sadly it was bedtime. But Gally always saves that last bit of magic for you, and we had a brief but lovely encounter with the luminous Lalla Ward on our way up to our room, and a final late night chat with the charming Simon Fisher-Becker.

And that was it, Gallifrey One was over for another year. Monday morning we ran some errands nearby, got back in time to say goodbye to friends, and then boarded our plane back home.

Labor Day weekend.

After working nonstop for far too many days in a row I took Labor weekend off and headed down to San Jose to help celebrate Bryan and Mette’s 15th wedding anniversary. The event had been a long time in the making since busy friends means difficult scheduling, but it was definitely worth the wait.

It started off (for me) less than ideally when my “quick” errand on Friday afternoon turned into a multi-hour ordeal for reasons too tedious to get into. However I eventually arrived in San Jose in time to help a little with setting up for the next day. On Saturday morning everyone met up at Psycho Donuts and things kicked off with a treasure hunt! We were split into teams and given a couple of hours to solve some clues and hunt for locations across downtown SJ. It was a ton of fun even if the team I was on came in last, alas. Mexican food (and drinks) followed while everyone rested their feet and chatted, and then we were led to the Hotel de Anza for a lovely recommitment ceremony and champagne. Finally we all headed over to their home for drinks and conversation. It was a really wonderful day and they really are the cutest couple.

I woke up Sunday morning feeling quite rested despite the running around and the drinking, I guess getting a proper eight hours makes up for all sorts of sins. We had some excellent Indian-Mexican fusion food at a place called Curry Pundits and then they dropped me off at Caltrain and off I went back to the city.

But despite having to work Monday and Tuesday both my weekend wasn’t over. I had made Joe Price promise we’d go to Death Guild and after flaking the week previous I had no excuses this time. I napped in preparation and we got in a solid two and a half hours at the DNA, about half of which I spent on the dance floor.

All in all a very good weekend.

Hugo Novels Shirt

My clever husband has put up this sweet design on Teespring, available until June 30th;

hugoshirt

The famous Hugo Award rocket, filled with the name of each Best Novel winner since the first awards were given. An elegant window into the history of our genre, in T-shirt form!

Shirts available in men and women’s cuts: be sure to click the drop down menu if you want the latter.
“Worldcon”, “Hugo Award”, the Hugo Award Logo, and the distinctive design of the Hugo Award Trophy Rocket are service marks of the World Science Fiction Society, an unincorporated literary society. They are used by permission of Loncon 3, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention.

FogCon

This Saturday was my birthday, which I didn’t have to plan anything for specifically because it also happened to be the weekend of FogCon, a small literary convention in Walnut Creek.

Although I was a bit sad when the convention moved out of San Francisco after its first year, I really like the Walnut Creek Marriott and it seems to suit the size and shape of the convention quite nicely, the excellent bar staff also helps. As much as I like more rollicking conventions with night-time events and party floors it is also nice to attend something a bit more intimate now and then. FogCon is similar to Potlatch in this way and has solid programming plus a fair bit of socializing in the consuite and bar.

The theme this year was The Traveler and the GOHs where Cat Valente and Kim Stanley Robinson, both of whom give excellent panels. JP was kind enough to offer me a ride there and back, meaning that despite not getting a room there was no need to rush off to catch the last BART train, so Friday we stayed till about eleven or so and Saturday till around two thirty not counting the DST shift. I saw old friends and met some new folks, attended a half dozen panels, got some nice baubles from Fly By Night Books & Gifts, and ended up with a ton of books, so I definitely count it as a successful weekend even though I skipped the Sunday to prepare for the work-heavy coming week.

 

Geek Girl Crafts Episode 50!

Despite not having the space or supplies to craft while I am in San Francisco, I am still doing the Geek Girl Crafts podcast with Jade and Sandy. I just concentrate on the geek-girling and leave the rest to them.

And unbelievably, we just hit our fiftieth episode! The plan was to get together to podcast in person in celebration, but circumstances got in the way. Maybe next time, folks.

Episode 50

San Francisco, Part 2; Thanksgiving

In November Dickens Fair started up again, and like last year I worked for JoAnne Hunot of Storyteller Keys, selling her lovely jewelry made from antique keys. It’s also a fun way to see the fair, and during lunch I get to pop over to Mad Sal’s and visit with the inimitable Joe Price, who dances with Le Can Can Bijou.

But I took Thanksgiving weekend off to head south for Loscon 40 with Leigh Ann Hildebrand and Leo Schwab. But first we had a lovely Thanksgiving meal followed by a screening of Thor 2, both of which were good. Less good was the injury Leigh Ann sustained to her knee after slipping on the dark sidewalk on the way to the movies. She soldiered through and insisted that both the movie and the drive south were still a go.

The next morning we headed out early with the aim of arriving before our late afternoon panels were scheduled. This still left time for the traditional stop at Casa de Fruta, though, where the waitress easily spotted us as Faire types thanks to Leo’s sartorial tastes. As promised Leigh Ann drove all the way down, powered by Case de Pie and the Sirius 1st Wave station and we rolled up to the LAX Marriott in plenty of time to check in and get settled before our panels.

I headed down for panels and coffee, but Leigh Ann spent the first of many hours over the weekend icing her knee instead. It curtailed some of our usual excesses, but was the correct choice of course especially given that she and Leo had some plans for Monday and then there was the long drive back to the Bay Area to look forward to.

For my part, it was great to see folks I haven’t talked to in ages, what with traveling and missing last year. I ran into Tim and Serena Powers before getting my room key, and that set the tone for the rest of the weekend. Also fun was hanging out with a couple of people that I had chatted with with at Convolution, and continuing conversations like the month in between hadn’t existed. Conventions are a form of spacetime-travel in that way.

I didn’t see Chris Garcia until Saturday night, when he appeared out of thin air carrying a copy of the Iron Sky board game. He recruited several of us and we went to the game room (a first for me at this con) to try it out. Alas, it turns out it is the most complicated game in the world and after 45 minutes of reading the rules and setting up the board we opted for Uno instead, since I had never played it before. Glenn Glazer was put in charge of studying the Iron Sky game and reporting back at a later convention.

Since I am currently traveling (and living) light, being between continents and all, I didn’t enter the art show or pack any costumes. And our already vague plans for the Fanzine Lounge PM were nixed by Leigh Ann’s injury. So my only responsibilities for the weekend were four panels;

Costuming on a Budget could have used some coordination between us panelists beforehand to make it more useful. As it turned out we were lucky to have three people with different approaches, but on the other hand our two male panelists were double-scheduled, meaning the male audience members had less to chew on.

Taking a Look at New Versions of Sherlock Holmes suffered from lack of moderation, it was unclear who the official moderator was and the person who volunteered had an idea for what we should discuss that was not the one in the description. There were three of us on the panel, and the second person and I were able to steer things a bit, so overall I think it went reasonably well, and hope the audience enjoyed it. But I admit there were some moments of tension towards the end where my impatience showed, and I may not have been as good at dealing with the situation as I would have liked. Still, I was pleased to find I didn’t have to defend Elementary as a worthy entry into the canon, since most everyone agreed it is a damned good show.

The Bear and the Maiden: Fair? This was a ‘women in GoT’ panel which I was on with Leigh Ann and author Shauna Roberts, and it was a lot of fun. I enjoy arguing with Leigh Ann and we both have strong opinions on GoT, but she was the moderator and stuck firmly to that role. The discussion was lively, and the audience seemed to enjoy it, so that was all good.

My final commitment was Fandom in Social Media, with Allison Lonsdale, Louise Hitchcock, and Mitch Wagner. It was a chatty and fun panel with a small but participatory audience. All in all good way to round out the convention.

It’s no secret that Loscon has had a bit of a reputation as a convention suffering from stagnation in recent years, and aconcerted effort is clearly underway to change that. The panels are at the forefront of that effort; they did a wonderful job of communicating with panelists, pitching and receiving ideas, and getting a schedule to use well before the convention (all sadly uncommon things) but also seem to be full of enthusiasm and ideas for next year and going forward. After the convention we spoke about new approaches to moderating and possibly rating panels, which I am very interested in seeing implemented.

Aside from all this shop talk, the rest of the convention also showed signs of renewal. The Dealers Room shared space with a Maker area that had robotics, 3-D printing, and prosthetics demos, among other neat things. There was also a small stage for talks and things like a magician performance, which was a good idea but perhaps could use some refining. Some added signage might be all that is needed there.

Things that were less great include the Art Show, which is now tucked away further back since it doesn’t share space with the Dealer’s Room. I don’t think this is necessarily a killer, but it needs some revamping to make it more visible and inviting. The Fanzine Lounge was gone entirely, mainly I assume because Chris Garcia was only there for a single day. This meant that the Consuite was the only relaxing social space, and while Loscon does put on a very nice Consuite (the chocolate day was particularly impressive) it is on the 18th floor and not as accessible to casual wandering.

And that last thought ties in with some of why this Loscon was great for me, it continued and expanded some of the discussions I’m finding myself in a lot lately about how to make conventions more welcoming to new people and repeat members alike. Over the course of the weekend I had multiple great conversations about this that I’ve been mulling over since then, and seeing reflected in the ongoing discussions over on the JOFs FB group.

San Francisco, Part 1; Convolution

I’ve been back in San Francisco since October, and been quite busy, thankfully.

Over Halloween weekend I attended Convolution, a convention being held for just the second time. It took place at the Hyatt Regency in Burlingame, which is a really cool location with a giant indoor atrium (I like a nice atrium) and an odd but endearing shape (I am fond of those too, looking at you Escher Marriott!) full of nooks and crannies for late night conversations and adventures.

Aside from some problems at registration, which was extremely friendly and helpful but very slow, the convention seemed to run very smoothly and I had a really great time. The theme was Gates of Horn and Ivory, Realms of Dream. So fantasy centered, and working heavily with the theme to create a unified atmosphere, which I always enjoy. The guests included Richard and Wendy Pini of Elfquest, Brian and Wendy Froud and their son Toby Froud, and the central Saturday night event was the Goblin King’s Masked Ball. Many of the public spaces where decorated in theme as well, and attendees were encouraged to costume along. The choice of panelists and musical guests also meant that the theme flowed nicely to the panels and other areas, creating a lovely immersive experience.

I missed most of the Ball, unfortunately, but the idea of Kickstarting it to allow for a grander show without taking away resources from the rest of the convention seems to have been successful. And the Art Show and Dealer’s Room were both excellent, the former was direct sales only–which may actually be a better way of simplifying the experience for artists and buyers alike–and the latter was one of the better ones I’ve seen, with themed vendors dominating one side of the room and then flowing into a wider variety on the other end, I assume this was done on purpose and it felt very natural.

In the end a convention is about people, though, and I met a bunch of excellent new folks at Convolution. Some of whom were Bay Area convention veterans that I had just never happened to meet before. Among them the good people of the Nerdvana Podcast, who were tons of fun to chat with.

The party floor was good as well, which is a large part of what makes a good convention for me. Late Friday night in the party I talked my way onto a “harassment in fandom” panel on the basis that it was going to be male-dominated otherwise, and that ended up going very well thank goodness. The other panels I saw were good, including a silicon mold demo by Mette Hedin and Bryan Little.

Next year’s theme is science fictional, ‘Halfway Home’, and assuming I’m in the area I will definitely be there again.