Con Report by Patterner
I left Northern Virginia about half-an-hour later than I had planned, but the sunny weather gave me a good fast trip. As I rounded the DC Beltway on my way north, I noticed that Maryland had once again cleaned off the graffiti on the bridge near the LDS (Mormon) Temple. "Surrender Dorothy!" will be back up soon enough though, since the spires of the temple elicit images of flying monkeys. Turning off the beltway to 95 North, I was overtaken by a flight of 6 helicopters, headed toward Andrews Air Force Base. You never know who takes off and lands there; that's where the president goes to take a plane.
In Philadelphia, I got the handicapped spot closest to the door and went in to register for the hotel. I had to wait a few minutes for my room to be cleaned, and then had my luggage brought up. My room was directly overlooking my van, on the 14th floor. Well, it's the 13th floor, but they *call* it the 14th floor. I napped and unpacked and headed down to registration. It's always best to pre-register, since, as usual, the moment the desks opened, the unregistered line was down a long hallway. I had pre- registered and had only two people in front of me in the K-Q line. I showed them my pre-reg confirmation and my driver's license and signed the registration book. They gave me my pre-printed badge, a badge holder, the program book, and the pocket program. I brought a plastic snap/alligator clip badge attachment because I'll be wearing a leather vest at least one day.
The program book had art by Artist GoH Bob Eggleton, info on the concom articles on the GoHs, and some work by the GoHs as well.
Philcon 95 had Jack Williamson as the author GoH, Connie Willis as the Special GoH, Bob Eggleton as the artist GoH, and Steve Jackson as a Special GoH (Steve Jackson Games). The program book has Eggleton pictures all through it.
The pocket program was designed to be carried around in your pocket (at least in *some* pockets, not mine) and to give you minute-by-minute info on the con. It had a map of the facilities, a Time/Place grid so you could schedule yourself well, an alphabetical listing of panels that cross-references to the grid, and schedules for special events and film rooms, as well as anything else you might be expected to want to know.
FRIDAY EVENING PANELS
The first panel I went to was the Filk FAQ panel. We discussed a lot of the FAQs about filk, most of which are already found in the alt.music.filk FAQ, so it didn't matter as much that nobody was writing things down. Crystal Paul did her usual gruff leading, with Perianne Lurie, Harold Feld, Gary Ehrlich, and Steve Brinich completing the panel.
The second panel I attended on Friday night was called The Future of Electronic Publishing, but when I got there, the sign on the door said "Desktop Publishing." I thought hmmmm... and went in anyway. There were a number of electronic publishers, and some publishers who are refusing to go electronic. The editors of Science Fiction Weekly were there, and Steve Jackson of Steve Jackson Games. Ian Randal Strock of Artemis (formerly of Asimov's) and Rob Killheffer for Century. The primary elements of discussion were: how do you make money by electronic publishing (ads!), how do you protect copyright, and do people *really* want to read stuff online?
I went to the first part of the open filk Friday night, where East Coast regulars Roberta Rogow, Paul Shuch, and Bill Wells started off the night.
SATURDAY MIDDAY PANELS
The first panel I attended on Saturday was The Effect of Eastern Religion on Science Fiction. This panel started off with an argument of just what eastern religion is and was finally brought back to SF by James Patrick Kelly. Alexandra Honigsburg argued strongly for "meaningful" religion in SF -- not proselytizing, but showing why you think your religion is right. (Of course, she's starting at Union Theological Seminary to study to be a priest.) Other panel members discussed science as a religion, the Unknown vs. the Unknowable, and whether or not humans have souls. The moderator for this panel was Arthur Hlavaty. The hour ended with no consensus on what eastern religion is (although most thought it theist) and no real consensus on how it affects SF.
So what's new?
The next panel for me was Where Has the Magic Gone? Or, is there really art anymore? A group of SF artists, moderated by Jane Frank (collector & owner of Worlds of Wonder gallery in McLean, VA), discussed whether SF art has become non-creative or if the magic is still there. Many of the artists complained that editors & publishers want "rote" book covers and they are no longer allowed to be creative. Others lamented that the covers are not necessarily related to the book -- one just signed a contract for a new Tekwar book and when asked who was writing it, replied "They haven't decided yet." Then they tackled the issue of computer art and pretty much trashed the idea. Their conclusion was that as long as they enjoyed their work, and could live off the money they made, they could live with a little loss of individual creativity.
The final panel for me on Saturday was Do You Enjoy it When I Freeble Your Clarg? As Nancy Kress said, this is the stupidest panel title at the con. She said she and Connie Willis sat at lunch wondering why they were on the panel (Nancy was moderator) and if there was *any* chance that the panel was about alien languages. Unfortunately for them, the sub-title was "Sex in SF." The other three panelists were Cecelia Tan (publisher of erotic SF), Bernadette Boskey (author, member of apa-69 classic), and Amy Thomson (author, who annoyingly toted around a display stand with her books). There was quite a division in ideas on this panel. Cecelia felt the range of sex with aliens had not been reached, Bernadette felt that alternative marriages (like her own triad) were never written about accurately, and Amy wanted to write about folks who have less than fantastic sex (promo for VIRTUAL GIRL) to which Connie retorted "I don't want to read about lousy sex!" Nancy felt that pretty much all sexual situations had been written on, except for one: having children. She wanted to know why the space pilot never had to cancel a mission because she had a parent- child conference. Or why the wizard never had to give up a quest because his child had chicken pox. The audience laughed, but the other panelists wanted to talk about actual sex in SF. Nancy had trouble focusing the other panelists, and so when Amy had gone on about her book for way too long, I left. I needed a rest and nap, anyway, since I'd been sitting up for 2 1/2 hours.
SATURDAY EVENING EVENTS
The first event of the evening for me is the Filk Concert by Musical Chairs. Musical Chairs is filk's answer to the Andrews Sisters and it's an answer full of humor and a little bit of rock'n'roll. Linda, Jean, and Lucinda sing in three-part harmony and offer up a wonderful show. From the heart-warming contrefait "Lines," about a woman who is growing older and finds that her husband still loves her, to the "Mr Sandman" parody "Mr. Coffee" (Mr. Coffee, bring me caffeine) complete with choreography, they gave us a superb concert. Their tape is just out, and after the second song, when they stopped to change guitars and tune, a mention of the tape sold more than a dozen in less than three minutes.
The masquerade is the big event on Saturday nights at many cons, and people who are otherwise not costumers will compete. Each con has different categories, but here at Philcon they had winners in the novice, journeyman, and master levels for workmanship and for the costume/presentation. They also gave a best-in-show and a fan award (voted on by the fans). Workmanship is primarily given for good handwork, although glue guns and paint have become more popular lately.
|(Click thumbnail for larger image)
||The angels won Master Workmanship (mechanical), Master Costume/Presentation, Best in Show, and the Fan award.
||Their working wings were amazing (operated with a foot movement) and the quality of the work was exquisite.
||The angels did a stylized dance titled "The Courtship of Angels" that showed off their wing mechanism.
||Jean Krevor took a journeyman award for costume/presentation in her Elizabethan outfit.
||The award for Workmanship - makeup went to the half-naked barbarian swordswoman, Jonlun, for her painted tattoos.
||Jonlun is an artist's model specializing in half-naked women. (Sorry Jan, no half-naked boys this time.)
The first panel for me today was the Roger Zelazny Memorial Panel. This was a moving tribute to Roger Zelazny given by men who knew him well. David Hartwell was the moderator and told us many tales of his interactions with Zelazny. The panelists explored his work and his beliefs, telling us anecdotes about him.
In contrast to the last panel, the next one was hilarious. The legacy of Ed Wood, Jr. was the title and the stories of Ed Wood and his movies evoked laughter and poignancy since he thought they were masterpieces and they never were. There was a mention of MST3K and their use of Wood movies, but mostly the talk was of Wood himself.
The final panel I attended at Philcon was on Cyberfandom. This group of panelists focused on the way fandom is changing because of computers. In many ways, they see a resurgence of long- distance fandom where, instead of writing letters, fans e-mail each other. They mentioned the regular IRC meetings, the newsgroups, and the many web sites. Since the GEnie people promoted their SFRT, I mentioned OMNI and O*W*C and our vigorous fandom as well as the general SF area, Star Trek, and B5 forums. I also mentioned my experiences with fandom online and this report as an example of the con report. (I've now been told that if I'm going to talk that much about fandom & electronic publishing, I'll have to be on the panels next year. We'll see.) The consensus is that most web pages are the vanity press of the '90s, and that information overload will show which elements of cyberfandom are *really* valuable as people cut down to what they like best and can handle.
By Sunday night, the convention area had been turned back to the hotel, and the only congoers left in the hotel were concom staff and those few, like me, who need to stay an extra night to get home.
I started home with a beautiful crisp fall day and had a swift easy trip. I found that my catsitter had been here in the morning and Smokey and Brindle yelled at me and sat on me, and finally settled down. It's great to go to a con, but it's good to be home, too.