punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Balticon at Platform Nine and Three Quarters: A review

Okay, I have to admit, while Balticon was still going on, I came home. Four days for a con is a bit much, although my tune is slowly changing. I *thought* about staying until Monday, and hooking up with MSD for crash space in exchange for some table time or shrink-wrap duty, but I decided against it because my job has me working the kind of schedule that leaves me so little time for working on my house that I am starting to see days off as very valuable trinkets indeed. I think next year, depending on time off and finances, I may try for the 4th day. This is not reflection on Balticon other than positive, you understand. I wouldn't have even stayed a 4th day for a FanTek con, either. But I say this in case "Something Happened (tm)" after 2pm on Sunday.

I wouldn't know. Please tell me.

Let's set the scene. For those of you who don't know what Balticon is or what I do, Balticon is a science fiction convention held in the Baltimore area every year on Memorial Day Weekend, and I do talks for them. Balticon is run by BSFS, the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, and then have been around since the 1950s. The topics of what I talk about change a lot, depending on their need, but common threads are about writing, anime, computers and technology, and the inner workings of fandom. I am not a "guest" in the proper sense of the word, but I am a panelist who gets free admission. My wife, takayla, helps out their Operations, which is a combination of security and logistics, although the department is so loosely defined, it is kind of a "bastard stepchild" of the Balticon organization, and while certain members give it due attention and respect, other members treat it like common suburbanites treat garbage trucks; and ugly necessity they'd rather not see or deal with. My son, CR, also did his first real position as a security rover, and while it was rough Friday, he pulled through like a champ on Saturday.

I had 5 talks. Three on the culture of science fiction fans, one on NaNoWriMo, and one on Harry Potter. Rather than go over each one individually, I'd rather give you some summaries. Most were held in a "Concierge Lounge" which looked like Hugh Hefner's Mansion, circa 1971. Most were positive experiences with the audience. But I have one... issue.

Look, I am an author. I have a book. A real, honest-to-goodness book with an ISBN and everything, on sale in the merchant's room under Mystic Stations Designs. This does not make me better or more qualified than anyone else on any topic, even ones I am very well-versed in. I also consider it tacky and in poor taste to push your book in panels that are not related to anything you may not have written about. Now, my book is about a walrus who becomes a punk rock star. I published it in 1993. If the panel was on writing about walruses who become punk rock stars, or about writing a silly book in the early 90s, yes, then I might bring copies. Hell, I have had signings. But if the panel is on being a coffee snob, and what brews have you found to be delightful, then, no, bringing my book, propping it on a golden easel, and framing my face with the collection ready for sale... stupid. You smell desperate. BUY MY BOOK! I am sure Kory at MSD wishes I would bring my book to more panels, and maybe I should, but ... wow. Some writers are very egocentric.

And fans can see RIGHT through you.

One panel I was on had a bunch of people who all knew each other from "way back." One of those people did the usual easel thing, and one of his friends said, "Oh, honestly, [name withheld], it's just us. You don't have to peddle your book to us." He defended, defensively, his choice with the valid yet poorly aimed point that it was in his nature as a book writer to promote his work. I tried to explain that there's a fine line between promoting your work and selling ice cubes to Eskimos, but someone else took the wave of that intended subtlety of a comment and carried it in a more... biting fashion. The guy was real quiet, and then left when he though we weren't looking. He probably thinks I am a jerk. :(

There were also two people at the con I did not want to see. I keep seeing them, and for some reason they come up to me, and act like I give a shit about their gossip. DON'T FUCKING SCHMOOZE ME!!! Do not push your anti-whatever rhetoric on me. I mean, it's okay to have an opinion, but two people in particular WON'T LET IT GO.

Mike Brill? Get help. Seriously. You have taken your Lieutenant Barkley act into a new realm of desperate loneliness. Don't come to my panels and ask any questions unless they are RELATED to the topic at hand. Do not ask me a question of my opinion and then strongly disagree with my answer. And DO NOT tell me yet some other tale about how FanTek security are a bunch of Nazis, and how they "drove you away" and what a pity that was, and why I should care. Don't stomp off all mad because the panel moderator told you to "quell your encouragement" and you brought up the "right to free speech." He WAS telling you to shut up, and when you stomped off, there was no applause or respect from the panel audience, just awkward silence and a painful reminder that you are the stereotype fandom is trying to avoid. People have told me you're "brain damaged" or had a "head injury after an accident." I don't even know if that's true. But you know what? People who have had similar things HAVE managed not to be a complete, gossipy, whiny, egotistical, paranoid dickweed. You have managed, somehow, to be one of the few people I actually SNUB, and while I feel bad about doing this to another human being, I have felt it was necessary because ANY attention you receive you mistake for the person being your new captive audience.

Speaking of FanTek bashers, [name redacted because I told him I would]? Give it a rest, too. You're not as bad as Mike, and I know you are a valued member of [some group] and all that, but you know what? I am sick and tired of your vulture-like attitude every time we meet, and that includes Schmoocon, where the first question out of your mouth is not, "Hi, Punkie, how are you?" or "What panels will you be doing?" but rather some gloating probe at how dead FanTek is. Bruce and Cheryl are my friends, they will ALWAYS be my friends, and your thinly-veiled Vader-like glee at the "demise" of FanTek conventions is tiresome, immature, and pretty damn sad. For fuck's sake, these are science fiction conventions, not some vastly important political stage where life and death choices are made. I don't go up to you and go, [a comment that shows he's not perfect by dredging up his past]. Know why? Because it's tacky.

There were also a few people who I do like, but latched onto me at a rather bad time to do so, and told me their tales of woe, which were legitimate, but when I am out with my friends in the restaurant or merchant's room, I can't ditch them to hear about your latest tragedy. Maybe that's bad, and I am a rotten shallow person for feeling this way, but this reminds me I should take some time for some friends that I really am not taking.

Oh, and I slammed fan-fic in a panel. That wasn't very nice of me. I am sorry I did that, consider how moved I was by wombat1138's piece, "Arcadia." But I finally started to make peace that no matter what you do, you can't please everyone and someone, somewhere, is going to think you're a jerk. I realized this when I saw how smart some of the panelists were, but were unable to make a certain point because their delivery was bound by the threads of emotional investment, and it was VERY apparent that some writer's egos are both fragile and barbed, and a few times, I got this image of sea urchins slowly fighting at the roots of a kelp bed with sounds of "hyaaa!" and "haveatyou!" like Sir Didymus from the movie "Labyrinth."

Whew! I feel better. Now that all that is out of the way, I had a good time at Balticon, and look forward to next year.

For those of you on Saturday who loved my shirt (and it was VERY popular, I even had photos taken of me in it), it is from here. This shirt has a paraphrase of a quotation made by James Nicoll. "The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary."

I met someone who knows the Arthur Clarke family. Author apparently has a brother named Fred. Apparently, people in Sri Lanka LOVE, "oh, THAT Mr. Clarke!"

The Harry Potter panel was a smashing success, and everyone had a lot to contribute. I am not sure how many panelists noticed, however, the large woman in the front row who was wearing jeans, and her fly was undone. The bulge around her hips had neatly parted the zipper, revealing a band of elastic lace, some pale flesh, and a bit of curly hair. Oh, how I wished I could have done some subtle thing to make the poor lady realize she was almost flashing us, but only those facing the front row had such a view, and any gestures I made to the lady would have been seen by the crowd, and I felt the only thing worse than having your fly undone is having a roomful of strangers suddenly know your fly is undone because a panelist had made some overly obvious hints. So I kept quiet. I hope she found out in some subtle way.

I liked Ops. Ops was fun. I like Keith, Christian, JJ, tuskame, Doug, and Alex... the Katsucon crew is totally cool, and I am always glad to be a part of that. Of course, thedreamymoon and takayla were also running things under Keith, and I just want to repeat that I love thedreamymoon and ninjacooter, my Scorpion Sistahs, so so so much. You two are truly awesome people, and I am so glad to know you, I could squeeze you until you squeaked.

I felt old in the fandom panels. I started fandom in 1984, and most of them started in the late 50s to early 70s. I have to admit, I always found it very fascinating to hear stories from those time periods because of some of the stark differences those people lived under. One story was about how a con was held the very last day the hotel was opened, and they were surrounded by cranes and wrecking balls. Apparently Philcon had a "curse" until the Adam's Mark Hotel, because almost every place they held a con was condemned within the following year. I also feel a sense of missing those days I never lived, but I am glad I don't live in an era where intellectual women were frowned upon. I have learned so much from smart ladies.

I hope Seth's dad feels better.

CR and anyarm are like brother and sister sometimes. They tease each other a lot. Right now, anyarm is going through a lot, and I think she needed this time away. For a mundane gal, she really held her own in the fannish world. I am proud of her, and still sorry Bomber bit her. She stayed in our room, and while it was crowded, it was like having Amira again: not feeling crowded at all.

I got a Katsucon Hard Rock Tee-shirt (I didn't get one at Katsucon, they said they were out of my size, apparently they were not), a Balticon shirt, a speculative "National Geographic in the year 3000" kind of book, a "Giant Microbe" of HIV, a new belt with skulls and crossbones on it, and only one button from Nancy that says: "Teh st4gez0rz Of gr13v1ng: OMG, WTF, :(, kthxbye" I wanted to get more buttons, but I got whisked away before I could come back to look at all of her new ones. I guess I'll have to order them online. I wish I had seen, "If you find God hates the same people you do, you may have created Him in your own image" on the table.

I want to thank fadedblackrose for dog-sitting. You did an awesome job, and we need to get in touch to pay you. :)

I want to thank daecabhir and ravynmaniac for all their hard work under pressure, and sure, nothing is ever perfect, but I had a really good time and I am coming back. Maybe for all FOUR days next year. :)
Tags: balticon, con, cons, convention
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