punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Balticon Review

Despite my personal drama, I had a good convention... sorta.

Okay, I thought I would encounter THREE sets of dramas. I won't go into them, because they might start flame wars in the comments section. It turns out that those three drama became completely inconsequential in the face of the BIG personal crisis I had. But one of the dramas, I have to confess, was BSFS related. I kept hearing about someone exploding at a previous BSFS meeting. I don't know what it was about, or who was involved, and in all seriousness, it's none of my damn business. But the ripple effect ended up becoming peripherally my damn business, because whenever you have a big explosion, you always have secondary, tertiary, and even quadrary damage. And these fallouts can cause structural weaknesses. And some of these affected my friends.

But I won't go there. because I don't want my comments section to be another wall of graffiti for con-related hoohas. It's just a science fiction con, and not the end of the world. I just want to say I hope I left with as many friends as I went in with. Including a new ones, like Jami and Oji. It's hard to tell just "how bad things got" when you're so close to the con Kahunas that even a sneeze by Larry Niven during a panel seems newsworthy. So if it seems like I am making a mountain out of a molehill, I probably am.

First, I was left out of the program book. Well, my Bio was, which people pointed out all weekend. While I do realize I am a Z-list celebrity, they have always included me before. But I couldn't take it personally; I wasn't the only one left out, and it seemed the whole program book had random weirdness anyway. For instance, Colette, the hotel liaison, had gorgeousgary (by his real name) listed as her assistant. I don't even think he's a BSFS member; he's a filker from Pennsylvania. So I think any complaints I have about the program book would be lost in a sea of of other complaints.

Second, a lot of panelists were given different schedules than other panelists, which was again confused by different listings in the program book, which was further confused by changes nobody was notified of except by what was posted on the doors and in Rocket Mail (which was never circulated -- someone just left a stack of them in Ops, and I never saw them in the Green Room), with pen-written comments of what room your panel moved to.

"Really, Ray? You're on this panel, too? Where's Jagi? Did anyone tell her she's on this panel? Why do I have her listed and you don't?"

On top of that, no one was ever listed as moderators which brought on some confusion. I did the honorable "throw self on grenade" thing, and appointed myself as moderator when no one else wanted to and forced me to do it. :) But we're all fen, we sorted it out. Some were more upset than others about this, but this is certainly not unique to any con I have ever been to, so I feel I wasn't too upset by this. I also knew that weeks before the con, the hotel took away some of our function space, which probably started the pendulum of chaos that was programming.

I had 7 panels once it was all over. Here's how they went:

Harry Potter Panel: Fairly well attended, but there was a confusion who was supposed to actually BE on the panel, setting a standard for the rest of the weekend. I met someone named "Mel," who was a Harry Potter Panelist brought in from another convention. She was a great panelist, and I hope she returns next year.

Humor in Science Fiction: I thought it was rather ironic that out of the 8 people on the panel (Diane Weinstein had to sit in the audience), only about two of us were very funny. Maybe three. Maybe I missed the irony, but some authors quote from their own works too much. I am not sure if I am the only one on the panel who has studied comedy, but I felt that way. This panel was well attended.

No More Orcs: This was well attended, and the panelists were very well balanced. Too bad it was the in the "Derby" room, a room I was in a lot all weekend, which was about 80 degrees. I mean, everyone was pouring sweat in this room: panelists and attendees alike. In fact, this panel reminded me, again, of what I have been reminded of over and over again at Balticon: BRING A BOX FAN TO MY PANELS. I will be very popular... this is like the 5th year I tell myself that...

I am a Parent of a Fannish Child: This panel was held in a room where the tables and chairs were arranged badly (more like a war room). The panel had 5 people, and the audience had about 6 people; 3 of them the children of one of the panelists. I enjoyed the panel, but I got a complaint from an attendee afterwards that we didn't cover problems with fannish kids fitting in at school.

My reading: Three people. I did better than many, I am told. Two new people, and one regular. Thanks, Albedo :)

Villains in gaming: Pretty good panel. Kory was with me. Same as Gencon, the audience was very interactive.

HP LoveCraft Panel: There were two other panelists. One of them did 90-95% of the talking, but I didn't want to stop him, even though he was plugging the hell out of his own works (and was unashamed about it, according to a button he was wearing), and declared himself moderator from the start. Another reason I didn't stop him was because he knew so damn much and honestly, wasn't boring the audience. It was also in the Derby room, and I was too wilted from the suffocating heat to stop him. The other panelist seemed pissed, although I am not sure if it was just the heat.

The merchant's room was dismally dull. I thought it was just me at first; Cheryl Evry one told me decades ago that she had long since burnt out on merchant rooms, "Either they don't have anything I want, or have things I already own, and anything else in between is too expensive or I don't have room for it in my house." But other people said the same thing all weekend about, "I can't find anything I want to buy." Complaints were about too many book sellers, no new merchants, and a bad case of the SSDDs. Merchant friends of mine said business was depressing, and many didn't make table cost until Sunday (if at all). MSD made hotel cost by Sunday, I hope they made table, too, but I wasn't with them when the merchant's room closed.

I don't really want to go into "how a con should be run," because that's a slippery slope. I have a lot of ideas, based on mistakes of others, and I also have a heavily vesting interest in not pissing off several people on staff because I am sure that the post-con malaise and burnout does not need me stirring a poker in the ashes. I can't say BaltiCon was really bad in any way, but mistakes were made. Nobody's perfect, and that includes me. I have also spoken with some Con Kahunas before and during the convention, and I do wish to speak with them afterwards; not as a wagging finger, but as someone who might offer assistance in exchange for their own wisdom.

I have seriously debated sitting down with daecabhir and ravynmaniac, possibly tth and Keith Mayfield, too, and getting a frank discussion of how we all can make BaltiCon easier next year. I think I know of some good ideas that can help, even with some of the problems they have stated before. *IF* they want to talk about it with me; they may tell me to go die alone in a hole. :)

All in all, I give the con a C+ to a B-, because most of MY problems with the con itself (minus personal, non-con-related drama) were pretty slight. But got a little polluted by all the other stuff going on with friends of mine and their own gripes. I mean, the con didn't crash and burn by any means. I have been to those, I know what those are like.

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My Little Cthulhu Sawa saves the day!
BaltiCon computer staff My audience at a panel.
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