Sunday, September 4, 2011

WorldCon Part 4

Okay, I'm going to wrap up this time, promise. :) No more panels I want to talk about, so this'll be more random stuff I remember that seemed cool or interesting.

For Game of Thrones fans, they had the actual TV series iron throne, which is made out of swords and looks very uncomfortable, in the display area. It was right out in the open and anyone who wanted to sit in it could do so. Every day I saw lots of people taking pictures of the throne, of their friends in the throne, of their friends standing next to George R. R. Martin in the throne, and having other people take their picture in the throne or their picture next to George R. R. Martin in the throne. Once he's done with the series I'll read the books -- a lot of people seem to think they're pretty awesome. :)

The dealer's room (which was actually a cordoned off section of the trade-show-sized hall it shared with the art show and the display area and the small stage and a bunch of other stuff) was kind of smallish for a WorldCon, or maybe I've just been spoiled. Lots of book dealers, although I was able to restrain myself. :) I found a few books I'd had on my wish list on one table for half off, which was pretty awesome. One was Arab Folktales by Inea Bushnaq (you find all sorts of cool stuff at SF cons) which I recommend highly. It's not only a great collection of stories, if you're into folk/fairy tales, but also there's an introduction to the book as a whole and to each section talking about characters and culture and custom and such, so I learned at least as much about traditional Arab culture from reading this as I have from any of the Early Arab History type books I've read. And it was a lot more fun; I read the whole thing over three or four days and thoroughly enjoyed it.

You know, I think the rise in online shopping, and particularly places like Amazon, has made it easier to restrain myself in a convention dealer's room. Even small press books are easily available online; it used to be it was hard to even know what was around, much less actually buy it, unless you were at a convention with a lot of dealers and publishers gathered in one place.

I also caught up on the bound editions of Schlock Mercenary (which was up for a Hugo for Best Graphic Story but didn't win :( ). If you buy the books at a convention, Howard Taylor, the writer/artist, will use a blank page in the back (included for this purpose) to draw you the character of your choice. He was very nice, especially considering I'm awful with names and asked for "Dr. Bunny" (actually her name -- she's one of the regulars so I remember what she's called), "the ex-special forces spy chick in her baggy stolen combat suit" and "the AI girl doing her Bambi-eyes thing 'cause she rocks at that." [hides under keyboard] Howard was completely cool about my verbal mangling of his characters, and I am grateful. :)

I also got a pair of T-shirts (one for me and one for spousal unit) that say "Harrington Treecats" with graphics to make it look like a baseball team fan shirt. This is awesome if you're a fan of David Weber's Honor Harrington series. If you're not, you're probably going "Huh?" which was the reaction of two of my friends to whom I displayed a shirt shortly after buying them. [heavy, theatrical sigh] I have to start giving my friends books for Christmas.

Other than that, I didn't spend any money in the dealer's room. I exercised quite a bit of restraint, although actually, it's easier than it used to be. There are fewer cool-thingy dealers at cons these days; you used to be able to find multiple dealers selling 8x10 photos, replica weapons (both replicas of TV/movie stuff and replicas of historical blades, plus some very cool battery powered light/laser guns from no particular source), buttons with great sayings on them (I used to spend like $20 on buttons at every con -- I had a couple of shoeboxes full by the time I stopped), fanzines, replica patches and insignia and trim and other stuff you needed to make your own Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica or whichever uniform, etc. Cons nowadays have little or none of this stuff, and it's depressing. I'm thinking the economy probably drove most of the more marginal dealers out of business, but whatever the reason, it sucks. [sigh]

I went through the art show with a couple of friends in about an hour or so. It was very small for a WorldCon, or it seemed like it. There were some Ken Macklin originals, which were cool to see; I haven't seen anything by him in an art show in at least a decade or so. A friend of mine, Stuart Shepherd, sold some pieces, which is very cool. Stu does fantasy art and also aviation/military art. It's funny, he and I went to high school together, and I saw him at a BayCon like ten or fifteen years later. He wasn't really an SF con sort of person, but he'd dropped by to look around. He told me he was an artist now and I said, "Hey, we've got a couple of spaces left in the art show! If you have any SFish stuff you could go get, maybe you'll sell something." It was only like $5 a panel back then, so it made a great impulse buy, especially if you happened to be an artist. :) Turned out Stu had some framed paintings in his trunk, so he signed up, went out to get them and hung them up there and then. I don't remember whether anything sold that year, but he's been a regular at the BayCon art show since, and has done more fantasy art. At the time he'd mostly been doing box art for aviation model kits -- gorgeous stuff, and I'm not even into planes. He's also combined the genres; one new piece has a dragon fighting a tank and a military helicopter, and another has some SFish looking fighter planes (from Atlantis, according to the title) buzzing around a modern aircraft carrier.

One of the days, I forget whether it was Thursday or Friday, there was an art demo in the big room near the displays. A young woman in a bikini-ish sort of outfit posed for a number of artists, including the Artist Guest of Honor, Boris Vallejo. Boris was one of the first artists whose work I learned to recognize by style when I was a teenager. I got Boris calendars as part of my Christmas loot every year for like fifteen or twenty years, plus I have a book of prints floating around somewhere. I was on my way somewhere else and didn't get a chance to watch him (or the others) work, but it must've been pretty cool for the baby artists in the crowd to get to watch such a well known pro.

The masquerade is always one of my favorite events; I've seen the masquerade at all but a couple of conventions I've attended, and usually if I've missed it, it was because I was working the con and was stuck behind a desk or something during that time. Phil and Kaja Foglio MCed (properly dressed for the occasion) and did a wonderful job. They're both obviously comfortable in front of a huge crowd (either that or they fake it really well) and managed just the right mix of jokes and getting on with business. There were only twenty-eight entries this year (another effect of the economy, I'm pretty sure; costuming is an expensive hobby if you're going all out) but there were some great ones.

My friend Karen McWilliams (who went to high school with me and Stu) went as the Undine, based on Anderson's mermaid, who died after being betrayed by her prince. Karen is a master costumer, and she won Best Use of Dyes (a workmanship award), for obvious reasons, but she also got a presentation award. She's been studying movement for over thirty years, and can move and dance in a costume on stage in a way many other costumers can't. I linked to a series of photos, but you really had to be there to get the full effect. That's true of a lot of costumes, especially the funny ones; they look kind of okay-whatever if you can't see the presentation.

Princess Pacman was one of those -- it's kind of okay-whatever if you just look at the costume itself, but the presentation was hilarious, all about how Princess Peach (from the Super Mario games) discovered that her love, Mario, was leaving her for some other floozy, and how she set out to find her true love, someone who'd love her and appreciate her. She ended up with Pacman. Trust me, it worked. :D She won a presentation award, Most Humorous.

Lance Ikegawa came as a Blue Meanie from the Yellow Submarine movie, and it's awesome. :D He got a workmanship award too, if I recall correctly; the blue fur is some ridiculous number of blue clown wigs, cut up and sewn into the body part of the costume. Definitely click through and take a look, especially if you remember the movie. :)

Another nostalgic kind of costume was the One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying Purple People Eater, by Susan Scheufele. This one was in exhibition only; usually that means the costume has won an award at a convention the same size or larger than the current one. At WorldCon, that probably means either another WorldCon or a CostumeCon.

One of my favorite costumes was a large group who came out as Semi-Precious, each one representing a semi-precious stone. Costumers have been doing this sort of thing for years -- putting together group costumes based on the seasons or the zodiac or the continents or the elements or whatever they think they can do cool wearable representations of. So okay, someone thought the semi-precious stones would work, and the costumes weren't bad, in all the different colors. Each one carried a banner with the name of the stone they were portraying, so you could tell which was what. Okay, that was cool -- they're all spread across the stage with their serious processional-type music playing, when suddenly the music stopped, and started up again, and everyone flipped their banners. The person with the first banner dashed over to stand just before the second, then the third, then the fourth, etc., keeping the lyrics going. It was great -- everyone was laughing and clapping and groaning. :D They won a presentation award, "Worst Internet Meme."

Another one of my favorites was Night at the Sci-Fi Museum. They did sort of a parody of the Night at the Museum movies; when the lights came up, the bug-alien and the space-lady were up on boxes, frozen like exhibits. The night watchman guy came wandering on stage and they played with him for a bit, only moving when he wasn't watching, with him between them. The space-lady got his keys and she and the bug were able to escape. It was done all tongue-in-cheek and it was very funny, and the costumes themselves were great too. They won Best In Show for Original Presentation.

There were a bunch more, including some more really good ones, but you can see for yourself -- here's the "masquerade worldcon reno" Flickr collection, and the "worldcon 2011 masquerade" Flickr collection. Currently it's three people's worth of photos between the two of them; hopefully more will be added over time.

The Hugos was your basic award show. Jim and I always go when we're at WorldCon, and it's fun to watch the results and see how many I voted for actually won. (Usually not many. [duck]) My second favorite part of the evening was when Chris Garcia and James Bacon won the Best Fanzine award for their zine Drink Tank. Chris pretty much melted down on stage. :) It was great -- he ended up sitting on the stage cuddling his statue while James was taking his turn to thank everybody at the microphone, hee!

My favorite part was when Robert Silverberg got up to award the Best Novella Hugo. He and Connie Willis have been taking humorous shots back and forth at each other at the Hugos for however many years, often with a theme of stretching out their speech or presentation intro or whatever while the other is sitting somewhere waiting to find out whether he/she has won something. Because no one is in a hurry at moments like that, right? Silverberg is a brilliant presenter, a wonderful speaker, and has a talent for being dryly hilarious. He managed to stretch his introduction out for several minutes, and whenever it seemed like he was going to get on with it and read the nominees, he'd start up again and keep going with the rambling. It was awesome, and a privilege to watch a master at work. :D

Unfortunately my least favorite part of the Hugos contrasted strongly with Silverberg's presentation. The two guys MCing the ceremony spent a lot of time stretching things out in various places (I'm not sure why), and tried very hard to be funny, but usually failed. I don't know, I'm sure there were other people who thought they were wonderful from beginning to end, but before very long I was whispering "Why don't they get ON with it!" to myself and/or my husband every few minutes. They tried hard, and neither one is a professional performer or anything, so I'm sure they did their best. I wish we could just have Robert Silverberg MC the Hugos, all of them, forever. That'd be very cool.

Oh, my other favorite part -- Phil and Kaja Foglio won the Best Graphic Story Hugo for their excellent steampunk web comic Girl Genius. Best Graphic Story is a new category, and the award has only been given three times, including this year. Girl Genius has won all three times. After accepting the award, Phil announced that he was removing Girl Genius from consideration for the award in the future. I thought this was incredibly cool, a very gracious move by someone who already has a nice collection of Hugos. You see, before Phil was a professional artist, he was a fan artist, and back in the late '70s he won the Hugo for that twice in a row before removing himself from consideration. I remember hearing people snark and sneer at him for that, trying to frame it as a demonstration of huge ego. I think someone with a huge ego would be more likely to want to win as many awards as possible, and I admire him for doing it, both times. Especially this time; since the Graphic Story category is still so new, it's not really cemented into the roster. Fans could still decide that it's not needed, or that it's silly, or that it's just a vehicle for giving one guy (or rather, one group of people -- Kaja Foglio and their colorist Cheyenne Wright are part of the comic team and also got statues) a Hugo every year, and vote to eliminate the category. Pulling Girl Genius out gives the category a chance to grow and show its viability by demonstrating that there are enough really good graphic stories every year for a Hugo category to be worthwhile. Props to Phil for doing it, and to Kaja and Cheyenne for agreeing.

Let's see, what else? I put a twenty into a slot machine (a Wizard of Oz machine -- three are ganged together and the special minigame affects all three, whoever triggered it; it's lots of fun) and got almost ninety dollars out, so that was An Excellent Thing.

My mom and brother (who live in Reno) came to the hotel to eat with us a couple of times, and it was great seeing them. My brother's in retail management, and he just moved to a new store; he looks much less stressed, and I'm very happy for him. {{}}

One of the restaurants at the Atlantis (I forget the name -- it's the gelato place next to the buffet) has awesome pizza. I had to watch Jim eating it for days while I had pasta or something similarly soft; I had my temporary crowns in and I couldn't bite anything hard or chewy or thick for fear they'd break while I was a thousand miles away from my dentist. :( I finally said "Frack it!" and got a pizza anyway, which I ate with a knife and fork. I don't care if I looked like a doofus, it was wonderful -- bacon and spinach with white sauce -- and all the moreso because I'd been eating pasta and omelets (and mashed potatoes and apple sauce at home) for days and days. Pizza, yum!

Oh, another friend of mine drove out from Sacramento just for Thursday with her son. He's a major George R. R. Martin fan and he wanted to get his Kindle signed. :D I only see Laurie once or twice a year, so this was great; we spent the day together being fannish, which is appropriate because we met at an SF con when we were both teenagers.

I think that about wraps it. Definitely click through on the masquerade photo collections -- they're very cool, especially if you've never seen an SF convention masquerade before. [wave]



Charles Gramlich said...

Down here I've seen a big decrease in the dealer's areas at cons, especially in book offerings. that bothers me. Always loved finding some treasures at cons.

Angie said...

Charles -- for general size of the dealer's room, I'm cautiously agreeing. It's hard to tell sometimes, though. Baycon got kicked out of their established hotel (by an idiot General Manager who doesn't work there anymore) so they were at an interim property for one year with an incredibly tiny dealer's room, and they've been at a larger one since with a dealer's room that seems smaller than it was at the first hotel. It's hard to tell in a different room, though. [ponder]

My first WorldCon was LA in '84, which was HUGE. I think they had like 8500-9000 attendees, which is either the first or second largest WorldCon ever. The dealer's room was vast, the size of three or four supermarkets. They laid it out with wide aisles, but still, it was freaking huge. :) Since then, they've all seemed smaller, including subsequent LA WorldCons, of which there've been two.

It seems to me, though, that the percentage of book dealers has gone up, rather than down. Maybe it's different in different areas of the country, though -- if the economy has hurt your area more than mine (or than California, where I'm most familiar with the annual conventions) then maybe some of the bookstores that used to have multiple tables can't afford it anymore, or have gone out of business? Or dealers who used to do the con circuit have gone had to quit?

That applies to a lot more than book dealers, of course.

I don't usually pay a lot of attention to the used books at cons, though, and if that's what you're talking about re: finding treasures, then I'll admit that's not something I'd have noticed one way or the other. Every now and then I'll browse through the used book shelves, especially if they're having a sale, but generally not.

We've never had enough space to unpack all our books since we got married, and I'm almost completely unfamiliar with Jim's collection. For that matter, I lost all my books back in '90, and so my memory of what I've seen and wanted, what I've bought, what I used to have and have replaced, or what I used to have and still need another copy of, is horribly unreliable. :P When it comes to buying used books, 99% of the time I'm much better off doing so over the internet at home, where I can shuffle through boxes and call questions to Jim. :)


Kara said...

Ooh, thanks for the Arab Folktales rec. Requested through my local library.

Cons sound so tremendously overwhelming! But glad you got to experience so much and enjoyed yourself. =)

Angie said...

Kara -- enjoy! That's a great book, and it doesn't cost all that much if you decide you want a copy for yourself and poke around a bit. :)

Cons can be overwhelming, I suppose, especially if you start at something like a WorldCon. My first was Fantasy Symposium, held at the San Jose State student union building back in... '80 I think. Much smaller by about an order of magnitude, but I was all O_O anyway. [grin]