Thursday, July 25, 2013

Worldcon 56/Bucconeer

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 time. 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 movie anytime. 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 Regency dance. Con mascot: Bucky the Crab, a friendly-looking blue crab wearing pirate gear. Anti-mascot: Bucky’s evil twin, Yucky
WEDNESDAY: 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 any-thing. 3:00 – tried to go to "Life Under the Ice: Possibilities on Europa" panel but the panelists never showed.
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 mind afterward.
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.

THURSDAY: 8:30 - exercise at hotel gym (Stairmaster). Legs badly sore Friday from this - I usually treadmill.
10:00 - breakfast at hotel buffet. Hearty but expensive.
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 the Olympics.
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 games.
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 about.
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 them; a promotion for milk — "Milk does a body good" — by a busty Calf-phrodite; 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 digestion;
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.

FRIDAY: 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 apple.
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 lady correctly. "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 don’t clutch."
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, sadly. 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.

SATURDAY: 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 later).
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 humor.
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 prize.

SUNDAY: 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.

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