ReConStruction was damn fun. Moreso than other cons in recent memory, there was a refreshing balance of work (being on panels) and actually being able to spend time doing fun con-things that were not work. There was, of course, plenty of partying and socialization – and the usual awesome rule that old friends were spent time with, and new friends were made, applies.
Things were rather… desolate in terms of attendance. Usually, most Worldcons run in the neighborhood of 2,000-6,000+ people, and while NASFiCs tend to be smaller, attendance is somewhere in the 1,000-3,000+ range. I was told unofficially that there were less than 800 registered people, which seems about right, based on my observations. In the huge convention center space, this number of people made it feel like a ghost town. There were likely many factors at play, not the least of which were location and challenging economic times. That noted, it also forces me to wonder about the often-discussed idea that the traditional “pure” literary SF&F convention model is less appealing to younger generations of fans, and may die off (quite literally, as the older generation of fans who started said cons and who still make up the bulk of the attendees march onward through time) over next couple of decades unless their content is adjusted for broader appeal. One data point does not itself make a trend, but this was quite the interesting data point.
Science Which We All Know Is Wrong ended up being enjoyable, although in a trend that would persist for many panels at the con, suffered for not having a focused topic and for being given too much time (90 minutes). I shared the panel with two people with space science/physics backgrounds and one with a chemistry background. This led to a far-ranging discussion that included practical science and physics myths (ala Mythbusters territory), various space and physics theoretical topics, medical woo such as homeopathy and the marketing of “natural/organic” products, and critical thinking v. belief. The whole thing ended with an extended thought experiment in relativistic physics that involved a jet-assisted titanium phone pole traveling at near light speeds along teflon-coated pavement towards a small hole in the street. Which seems somehow appropriate.
As evidenced by the image above, the dealer’s room was rather small, and made to look even tinier by it’s placement in an otherwise barren convention hall. The best thing in the room, bar none, was the Bull Spec table, enthusiastically showcasing Durham’s excellent Bull Spec magazine as well as books by regional authors. They were busy throughout the whole con, and that pleases me greatly. While wandering through the dealer’s room on the first day, I stumbled across the freshly released Voltron: Defenders of the Universe miniatures battle game, which uses the Monsterpocalypse rules. I have never played Monsterpocalypse, but for the love of Azathoth’s 42nd ethereal nipple, IT’S A VOLTRON GAME… and it is now MINE.
What Podcasting Can Do For You was an interesting experience, to say the least. We ended up covering the usual ground in terms of what podcasting is, what motivates people to do it, it’s role in people’s lives and careers, etc… All was well and good until one of the audience members (who, it is important to note, was quit pleasant), instigated a back and forth discussion for the last 20 minutes of the panel that was both antagonistic and confusing. The upshot seemed to be that she was offended that in us talking about the effort and work that goes into making a good audio podcast, we were somehow insulting the old-school fannish tradition of printed fanzines. While we, kind of obviously, were not, she persisted with gently offensive comments that quickly seemed to be less about the subject at hand and more about her “brand” of fan community dying out. There’s a rant in here, but I’ll save it for after Aussiecon, for better perspective.
Doctor Osborn’s Balloons of Doom was in full force all weekend, which kept many kids (and some adults) highly entertained. Princess Scientist collected quite a menagerie from him, and sucked me into an intermittent balloon creature LARP. Good times. For whatever it’s worth, Doctor Osborn is even better than Vlad:
Health and Today’s Fandom was about what you might expect – how to lose weight, tips on globally increase our health, etc… I attempted to inject something different at the end in discussing a paper (relevantly enough to Worldcon this year, about a survey study done at Aussiecon 3) looking at the mental health benefits of science fiction fandom, but I got the feeling that flew like a concrete donkey. Still, it was a pleasant discussion.
I partied with Skeeve. Hard. Twice. There was much fist-pumping, off-key crooning, and libations flowed liberally. That dude’s crazy… and I don’t need to remind you, skeevy too. Also, Mary Robinette Kowal‘s launch party for Shades of Milk and Honey was a great time: Mur was introduced by Someone of Note to Someone of Note in a way I cannot repeat but was glorious, Davey (I did a dramatic reading of his Wikipedia page to him, in which we discovered that it is mostly wrong in a hilarious kind of way) considered and passed on his “Hitler moment,” and seeing Mary’s father Ken Harrison do a handsaw concert at the end was strange and wonderful.
Where Are The Next Mad Scientists went to where I expected it would, namely lamenting the current deficiencies in encouraging general science eduction and critical thinking skills. The discussion was pleasant, but everyone breathed a sigh of relief when we cut the panel off at 60 minutes, instead of it’s scheduled 90.
Having never been to the Raleigh Convention Center, I was pleased to discover great food nearby. After an epic sushi quest that proved Google Maps on both the iPhone and the Andriod to be full of LIES when it comes to accurate restaurant searches, we were rewarded with excellent sushi at Sushi Sono. The Oxford Gastro Pub has some odd and amazing food, as well as some good beer. Shish Kabob contained a magical man with a fez, who summoned forth delicious kabobs for our gustatory delight.
So ends this post-mortem evaluation – end of dictation.
ReConStruction was a damn fun time, but notable for having rather desolate overall attendance and some interesting fan dynamics. Autopsy notes will be forthcoming.
I did not attend Otakon, having little direct investment in things otaku at the present time, but passively got a taste of event while out with friends in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor two weekends past. Costume watching proved to be rather brilliant, and I had not been aware that the con is nearly as big as Dragon*Con in terms of overall attendance. Given that the masquerade is likely to be insanely over the top, and is held in the First Mariner Arena, that may be worth checking out next year for the spectacle alone.
Laura and I had the chance to meet up with my never-before-met cousin Bob and his wife Janet last weekend, among other Cmar relations. Janet has a damn cool solo video and photography exhibit at Connor Contemporary Art in Washington DC entitled Nobody Rides For Free. From the announcement:
Conner Contemporary Art is pleased to announce Janet Biggs’ first solo exhibition with the gallery, Nobody Rides for Free.
In new video and photographs, Biggs delves into the desire to explore remote lands. To create this work, the artist embarked on an expedition in the high Arctic, traveling aboard an ice-class, 2-masted schooner, built in 1910. During the voyage, Biggs filmed Fade to White, focusing on a crew member as he navigated the ship through iceberg filled seas, and paddled a kayak past glacier walls and polar bears.
As she photographed the explorer, Biggs tested her own will and endurance. The visual tension of her uncompromising imagery bespeaks their mutual struggle to maintain balance and purpose. Yet, the video also reveals the use of extensive rigging, exposing the myth of the solitary white male explorer. Biggs explains, “The desire to hold onto the notion of the ‘great white north’ as a blank space awaiting interpretation only reinforces the idea of the colonial polar hero. The ‘virgin’ north has now been mapped, surveyed, and mined, but increased knowledge has not replaced endless fantasies of discovery.”
Loss and change are implicit in the video’s title, Fade to White, which refers to an editing technique used to evoke death or transcendence. Biggs integrated her Arctic imagery with sound and video footage of counter tenor John Kelly, whose age, androgyny, and mournful voice parallel the vanishing Arctic landscape and signal the waning of male dominance.
Vanishing Point, the artist’s recent video featuring biker Leslie Porterfield and the Harlem Addicts Rehabilitation Center Choir, will be on view in the media room.
Tomorrow evening I’ll be joining the Baltimore contingent of the Center for Inquiry for their latest Drinking Skeptically event. If you happen to be in the area of the Blue Agave restaurant between 6:30-8:30, stop by for a pint and some stimulating conversation. Or, witness me doubt your very existence. One of the two.
That noted, my interview on KXDJ with Chris was great. His questions were keen, and getting a chance to give a more meaningful answer to the not-so-simple question of “is the H1N1 pandemic overhyped?” is always refreshing. (Easy response – “yes” from a lay media public fear angle, and “no” from a vaccine and preparedness standpoint. That discussion is worth a post or 10… or a few convention talks, as the case may be. 🙂 )
Farpoint was simply brilliant fun, and some notes on the proceedings will be coming shortly. Those of you who didn’t go (yes, you) missed a seriously good time. And Viking midgets.
We received just a tad more snow. One upside of being trapped in the house for several days was the enhanced opportunity to actually cook (my brother contends that most of what I do is more “heating” than “cooking,” while I contend that “heating” is, in fact, “cooking”). While nothing recipe-sharing-worthy emerged, I gained enough XP to level up in the Culinary class.