I had a wonderful, although short, vacation with my family last week. Now I am snowed under again. This time the duty is reading for pleasure: I have decided to go to LoneStarCon3, the 71st Annual World Science Fiction Convention, and I have about a week to decide on my votes for the Hugo awards. I've read some of the materials, but there's a lot more to try to get through.
I'll probably post about my votes and reasons after that, but I don't have time for original writing right now. Instead, I'll post the contents of an e-mail I sent out to friends and family in 1998 after Bucconeer, the 56th WorldCon. (Appendix will be posted tomorrow.)
OK, here it is:
My report on the 56th World Science Fiction Convention
(WorldCon 56), "Bucconeer" (Buc-CON-eer), Aug. 5-9 in
Baltimore, by Patricia Elkins Matson.
Sarah took care ahead of time of making hotel
reservations and con registration.
Con events were at Convention Center and several
hotels in Inner Harbor, all walking distance (1-10
blocks unless you get lost).
We both came Wednesday and left Sunday.
I had a blast, although I was run ragged a lot of the
There were many, many activities offered most days
between 10 AM and midnight and beyond. On one hour in
one day (Fri. 1 PM), I counted 23 offerings. As soon
as I saw the schedule, I ruled out seeing any movies,
because of all the other events offered. I can rent a
My activities included many panel discussions, an art
show and a big dealer’s room, 2 gaming sessions, a
Regency Dance, and a dinner with Andy and Daphne
(last name redacted) and Sarah. Many of the panels were
fascinating, and none of them were boring to me. Some
I picked by topic, some by authors appearing. Detailed
descriptions of 1-hour panels appear in the Appendix.
Costumes I saw: The name Bucconeer was chosen partly
because of its closeness to "buccaneer." Thus many
costumes (and convention paraphernalia) were
pirate-themed. Some people just wore street clothes
and an eyepatch (usually worn in center of forehead so
as not to interfere with vision). In addition, many
people wore SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism)
costumes, medieval through Renaissance. SF costumes I
saw included Boba Fett, X-Wing pilot, Klingon,
Minbari. I did not wear a costume, but I wore T-shirts
related to pirates and/or science, and a dress for the
Con mascot: Bucky the Crab, a friendly-looking blue
crab wearing pirate gear.
Anti-mascot: Bucky’s evil twin, Yucky
I finished packing, left around 11:30.
Got to Holiday Inn around 1:30, couldn’t check in yet
but was able to park car.
Went to Convention Center and registered.
Was wearing T-shirt from Larry: "Scientists should
always state the opinions on which their facts are
based." Got 4 compliments and 1 "I don’t EVEN want to
get started on that."
2:15 - went late to last part of panel
"Faster-than-Light: Only in SF?" Can’t remember
3:00 – tried to go to "Life Under the Ice:
Possibilities on Europa" panel but the panelists never
3:30 – gave up and went to end of "Media Tie-Ins: Good
Idea or Work of the Devil?" This panel was on SF books
taken from TV series, movies, etc. All the panelists
were had written media tie-in books and were thus
apologists, but it was interesting anyway. Ominous
fore-shadowing quote from panelist Roger McBride
Allen: "I’d like to point out that it’s 3:30 on the
first day and there are already 2 people asleep in the
audience. Pace yourselves, folks."
4:00 - "How do Authors Collaborate?" panel. Very
interesting panel (if you’re interested in writing or
the authors mentioned). Best quote, John Maddox
Roberts on "collaborating" with Robert Howard on his
Conan books: "There are advantages to collaborating
with an author who’s been dead for over 50 years."
5:00 - wandered, looked at info-booths, future
convention bid tables; picked up freebies.
6:00 - "Historical Research - Getting the Details
Right" panel. Interesting.
7:00 - went back to hotel, checked in, brought up
luggage. Looked at gaming schedule Sarah had dropped
on my bed. Ate apple.
9:00 - found Omni hotel for "I can explain that!"
panel, which offered many ridiculous explanations for
audience questions about various science fiction
boners/cliches. Fun, but nothing that stuck in my
10:00 - cruised the convention bid parties at Holiday
Inn to find dinner - famished by this time. Subs,
cheese&crackers, cookies, root beer at various places.
Bid parties, by the way, are parties thrown by
city-based SF clubs that want Worldcon in their cities
soon - e.g. Phil-con 2001 for Philadelphia.
11:30 - back to room, read schedules etc, slept. Woke
up briefly when Sarah came in.
8:30 - exercise at hotel gym (Stairmaster). Legs
badly sore Friday from this - I usually treadmill.
10:00 - breakfast at hotel buffet. Hearty but
11:00 - Art Show with Sarah. Many SF book-cover
original paintings, many independent creations.
Drawings, crafts, including a really cool miniature
working Carnival-of-the-dead style roller coaster with
skeletons in the cars, etc. One painting that made me
laugh was of apes in the jungle with Tarzan standing
on a limb above them, with his back turned, with body
language of tense unhappiness, entitled "Teenage
Angst." Ah, yes, the alienation of the youth!
Sarah and I were both impressed with a painting of a
boy drawing with chalk on a sidewalk, having drawn
steps leading down from the sidewalk to a golden door.
What was behind it?
There was a well-done painting of a sea-dragon coming
up out of the waves to attack a ship. The green glint
of its scales under the blue-green ocean reminded me
of a beautifully-done painting of a ship at sea in a
storm, "The Wave," that I saw in 1996 at the Rings
exhibit at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta during
1:30 - paid $2.25 for a measly pint bottle of water at
the evilly expensive Con Center cafeteria.
2:00 - walked to Hilton with Sarah and signed up for
3:00 - went to Dealer’s Room at ConCtr. Bought many
buttons, including for Sarah, Larry and people at
work. Work buttons say "Morning people are respected,
night people are feared." Also saw a funny T-shirt
"Cthulhu for President. Why vote for the lesser evil?"
(Explanation: Cthulhu is from the H.P. Lovecraft
horror fiction mythos, an extremely evil elder god
who went into hibernation aeons ago. So voters who are
tired of voting for the lesser evil can go ahead and
vote for the greater, world-comes-to-an-end evil and
get it all over with.)
4:15 - Came to "InfoWar: High Tech’s Role in Military
Conflict" panel. Lots of interesting things to think
5:00 - "Molecular Biology and Space Opera: Two Great
Tastes…" panel. Not just molecular biology, actually
about a whole lot of new tech and thought-patterns and
how they can fit into future space operas.
6:00 - "What if Alpha Centauri Had a Peace Corps?"
panel. What if aliens come, will their "help" be good
or bad, as viewed by us?
7:00 - Luna-C presents "Xena, Warrior Milkmaid" skits
on many topics, not just Xena. Started off with 3
"Babylon 5" skits;
the Hades Hair Club for Men (would you sell your soul
for this toupee?";
a skit on Fox Mulder and Yoda;
a skit on Xena, Warrior Milkmaid, who offended
Calf-phrodite, the goddess of love and milk, who send
Cowllisto to punish her;
a "Masterpiece Theater"-style reading by a Klingon of
the "Slaughter of the Tribble Brigade," a parody of
the "Charge of the Light Brigade";
The Dating Game with Xena and 3 warlords;
Xena does an ad for the Original Club, for preventing
horse theft - with a cameo by Richard III, shouting "A
horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!" If he had
only had the Club… ;
"Outdoor Cooking with Xena", in which she keeps
starting to cook something, gets attacked by bandits,
and has to use/destroy her cooking implements against
a promotion for milk — "Milk does a body good" — by a
a top 10 list for Sunnydale parents, on how to tell if
your daughter is a vampire slayer;
a promotion for Klingon Home Security burglar system:
There are no lengthy police reports to fill out,
because no bodies are left behind. KHS not
responsible for disruptor damage;
a skit combining Star Trek with horror movie "Scream"
on the rules of redshirt deaths;
Klingon-Swedish chef "The Brutal Gourmet" says always
use a phaser, never a disruptor, for heating foods,
because if you disrupt your food, you’ll disrupt your
8:00 - Met Sarah, went to a restaurant at 8:30, but by
9:00 no waiter had greeted us, let alone taken orders,
so we left and went our separate, hungry ways.
9:30 - showed up at the Hilton for role-playing game,
"Call of Cthulhu: Dreams Carved in Stone," which
actually started around 9:50. 8 players, but half of
them left around 12:15 when they realized how much
longer the game might last. I played Perinnia Dieter,
a geologist at Moonbase 1. I held up pretty well for
most of the game but then went insane, gamewise. The
party performed quite respectably for most of the
game, but unfortunately, at the very end we dithered,
hesitated and thus were lost: Everyone died, and the
Moon was overrun by evil creatures. The game lasted
until 2:30 AM. Luckily, the gamemaster, Greg, was also
staying at Holiday Inn and walked back with me.
woke 10 a.m. got note from Sarah that she had called
Andy and we would eat that day with him and Daphne,
but I had to set up details. Couldn’t reach him. Ate
12:00 - "It’s all SF: Science Fiction/Southern
Fiction" panel. A lot of interesting things were
said, but I often felt that this wasn’t MY South that
they were talking about.
1:00 - "Extrapolating Known Science into Science
Fiction" panel. Began with one of the panelists upset
about having to speak into the microphone for the tape
(tapes of all lectures are available for sale) because
the panelists aren’t getting any of the tape proceeds.
He said, "I’m not bitter, I just find this absurd."
2:00 - The Regency Dance at the Hilton Ballroom.
Master of Ceremonies was John F. Hertz, who has
researched and re-created various dances from the
Regency period (early-mid 19th century? After
Waterloo, anyway, I think, and definitely before
Victoria) in England. Program notes specifically
mention Georgette Heyer novels for charm and accuracy
to period. The dance is a Worldcon tradition, though I
don’t know how it got started.
About 150 people came. Some were in street dress, some
(mostly women) were in Regency dress or varying
imitations thereof (some half-hearted, some quite
beautiful), some women wore party dresses or ball
gowns. One guy came dressed as a Minuteman, and 2 men
were in kilts. Besides that, there were the convention
costumes - a lot of SCA/Renaissance Faire costumes,
numerous pirates, and a few aliens: a Klingon, a
Minbari (Babylon 5) and some guy wearing devil horns.
I realized that I had forgotten to take my camera to
the con - arrgh!
John Hertz wore silvery
pants-to-the-knee and hose, a white shirt,
silver-on-silver patterned vest and blue coattails.
John Hertz said that wearing a period costume helps
you understand what people of that era lived through,
especially women’s corsets. But he also talked about
the general move toward comfort in that era - from
hoop skirts to Empire waists, for example. He said
that the style of the time was elegant but
comfortable, straight but not stiff.
Hertz had numerous other opening remarks, trying to
get us in the spirit, and also sprinkled comments
throughout the afternoon.
For instance, if anything ever goes wrong in a dance,
it’s always, by definition, the gentleman’s fault -
if nothing else, he must not have been leading his
"I’ve done everything I can to wash the skill from
these dances," he said, about simplifications to be
able to teach dances in an afternoon rather than weeks
with a dancing-master.
"Take small steps. Don’t try to get anywhere.
Remember, these dances are pastimes," he said.
Compared Regency "leisure class" to 20th-century mode
of always being in a rush to get somewhere, do
something. Also said that with smaller steps,
mistakes don’t matter as much - you won’t bump into
the person next to you in a line dance if you’re both
stepping small. While stepping, "don’t lurch, and
Another point Hertz made is that with these dances,
footwork is far less important than the shape that the
dancers are making together - a circle, two circles
inside each other, a square or rectangle, two parallel
lines, two parallel lines at the perpendicular to the
previous lines, etc. He seems to have been right;
after he said that, I had a much easier time keeping
my place in the dances.
Dances: We started with a quadrille called "Hole in
the Wall." The quadrille is a set dance, which means
it’s composed of sets of couples. In this case,
everyone line up in two long parallel lines, men on
one side, women on the other (Actually, there were
enough people in the ballroom that we had 3
double-parallel-line groupings). Each line was divided
into sets of four people (quadrille - get it?). Each
set had an "A" couple and a "B" couple. Each couple
per-formed various maneuvers with each other and with
the other couple in the set, and after the maneuvers
were done, the A couple moved up the line, and each
couple got a new A or B couple to dance with. After
reaching the head of the line, each A couple became a
B couple and started moving down the line again. My
partner tended to forget what he was doing, so I
quickly learned to give him cues as we went along.
Next was a group of waltzes. I didn’t get a partner
for this, so I sat on the sideline and watched the
pageantry. But I already know how to waltz, so it was
OK. During the waltzes, they did promenades, open and
closed waltzing, and waltzing with a smaller circle of
dancers inside a large circle of waltzers.
Next, we did a set dance called the Bath Carnival. My
partner this time was a woman, also named Patricia.
This set dance is in long parallel lines, like Hole in
the Wall, but this time there are 3 couples in each
set, "A," "B" and "C." Here the B couple becomes a C,
and the C couple becomes a B, after each
set-repetition of maneuvers is over; however, the A
couple, after each repetition of maneuvers, moves
down the line toward the foot or end of the line,
staying an A each time. There was great confusion and
repetition of instructions. After John Hertz was done
giving instructions, and before the music started, I
sang, "When you’re an ‘A,’ you’re an ‘A’ all the way…"
and a guy a couple of places down the set obligingly
finished, "from your head to your toes, to your last
dying day!" That got a really good laugh from those
who heard and understood my reference (a takeoff on
"When you’re a Jet" from "West Side Story") - about 10
people laughed, I’d say - so I was in a triumphant
glow all through that dance.
There was one more dance starting after that, but it
was 4:40 so I had to leave to make a phone call,
4:50 - Reached Daphne, set up dinner rendezvous.
Walked back to hotel but got lost, so walked about 35
minutes instead of 10 minutes.
6:00 - "Ridiculous Medicine in SF/F/H" panel. Pretty
funny, all about silly errors writers often make when
medicine enters their fiction.
7:15 - went to meet Sarah, Andy and Daphne outside the
ConCenter. Sarah showed up first, and Andy&Daphne had
driven in from Rockville, parked a few blocks away and
didn’t see us for a while. We walked to an Indian
restaurant that had been recommended to Sarah. There
was a long wait, and the service was slow, but the
food was excellent. Andy and Daphne are so nice, and
so much fun to be with (I know Andy from Trinity, by
the way - Larry&I went to their wedding, and they went
to ours). After they invited me, I said I’d visit
their new house the next time I go down to see Sarah.
Around 11:00, S&I walked them to their garage, and
then they dropped us off at our hotel.
11:00 - went to "Guest of Honor Speech by C.J.
Cherryh" with Sarah. CJC really seems like a
fascinating and good person.
12:00 - went to dealer’s room with Sarah; she left for
another event after a while. I bought a copper earcuff
and a pretty little silver rocket brooch with a
gold-colored flame shooting out.
2:00 - "Maim ‘em Right" panel on how authors can write
realistic battle scenes and avoid stupid errors.
3:00 - Ate ridiculously overpriced lunch at the
cafeteria downstairs in the ConCenter. ($18 for 2
sandwiches, potato salad, cookie, and muffin for
4:00 - "The Coming Environmental Disaster" panel.
Some good points and some I disagreed with.
5:00 - "Transplant Technology: Miracles or
Organlegging?" panel. A lot of the questions were just
about the state of the technology now and near-future.
Some panelists were pretty dictatorial about cutting
off debate on ethics.
6:00 - "Mad Lib SF" - not really a panel because
designed for lots of audience participation. Passages
chosen from literature, L. Ron Hubbard, Victorian
plush-red-velvet romance, and the progress report from
the San Francisco 2002 convention committee. Fun, some
clapping, but not many belly laughs. A couple of my
suggestions were taken (e.g., a long verb was called
for, so I said "hopping down the bunny trail.").
7:00 - "Influences of C.J. Cherryh" panel. A lovefest
on how great CJC is, but some really neat stuff was
brought up anyway.
8:00 - "Masquerade" - the one boring and infuriating
event I went to. Costume contestants were introduced
before and after their appearances (set to 1-2 minutes
of music), and the emcee made unfunny jokes in
between. Plus, the emcee’s wife knocked the trophies
off the podium, and they were pieces of art by
Michael Whelan (highly respected in the field), and
they were broken. After an hour, they had gone
through 17 of the 52 contestants. Thank goodness
Sarah was with me to alleviate the torture.
9:00 - S&I left. We went to the Hilton and watched
some anime, part of "Bubblegum Crisis, Episodes 1-4".
A stirring mix of drama, pathos and unintentional
10:00 - "Call of Cthulhu" game (forgot title of
module). Sarah also played. 8 players. This time I
played a university professor (history&mythology) and
Sarah played a reporter. The group was going to an
island to investigate a predicted UFO landing, but
unfortunately, the setup and character interactions
took up so much time that by 2:30 AM, we saw a UFO fly
over our ship, but we still hadn’t arrived at the
island! Aieee! The players unanimously agreed to quit
playing at that point. But we stayed long enough to
vote on the best role-player, and I took second place.
I chose a "Cthulhu in ‘96" campaign packet as my
11:00 - woke up, checked out at 12:00:
12:00 - went late to "Fantasy in the Real World" panel
with Sarah. All I can remember is a comment from
Lawrence Watt-Evans: He was going to say something
about "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" but it came out as
"BUCKY the Vampire Slayer." Remember, the con mascot
is Bucky the Crab. So this slip drew a big laugh, and
I had this hilarious mental vision of a little blue
crab wielding a cutlass in one big claw and a stake in
the other. After panel, said farewell to Sarah.
1:30 - paid parking garage and left Baltimore. Drove
back to West Chester, went to work at the DLN at 4:30.