Linkdump for April 16th through April 19th

An automatically generated list of links that caught my eye between April 16th and April 19th.

Sometime between April 16th and April 19th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

  • The Heart of Whiteness: Ijeoma Oluo Interviews Rachel Dolezal, the White Woman Who Identifies as Black: Dolezal is simply a white woman who cannot help but center herself in all that she does—including her fight for racial justice. And if racial justice doesn't center her, she will redefine race itself in order to make that happen.
  • Volunteers, Professionals, and Who Gets to Have Fun at Cons: If your fun is dependent using your status as a volunteer as an excuse to not act responsibly, if it requires victims to stay quiet about mistreatment: then it’s not really a fun time for “everyone” is it? It’s not the expectation of professionalism that’s killing the fun at cons, it’s the lack of it.
  • Time to Fix the Missing Stair: It’s time to stop pretending the missing stair doesn’t need to be fixed. Relying on word-of-mouth means that the people who are new, who are just entering, are the ones most at risk of trying to step on it.
  • seriously, the guy has a point: A global investment firm has used a global advertising firm to create a faux work of guerrilla art to subvert and change the meaning of his actual work of guerrilla art. That would piss off any artist.
  • Westboro Wannabes Picket Norwescon: Thank you for proving, by your actions, the value that Norwescon (and all such fan-run conventions) have in this world. Thank you for proving that we can’t be bullied. You gave us all a teachable moment, and we learned something about ourselves.

Norwescon 40 Wrap-Up

So, that’s a brief overview of my weekend. To all of you I got to see, I’m glad we crossed paths, however briefly, and I hope we get to do so again before too long (but if not, then at least next year at Norwescon 41).

In case you haven’t noticed (either by social media proxy, or by actually being there to watch me run around the con in person), I’ve been a bit busy over the past few days with Norwescon. For me, at least, this was a really good year; certainly better than last year (not that the con was bad last year, just that this year I didn’t overexhaust myself and make myself sick). I got to see (if not always as much as I might have liked) many friends, run around being silly in an inflatable T-Rex costume (and I wasn’t the only one this year), take a few thousand pictures, fanboy and chat with Pillow (renowned both as a burlesque performer and as an Alaskan), and generally thoroughly enjoy my annual geek vacation.

I experimented a bit this year with taking some photos and video clips on my phone each day, and then using Apple’s new Clips app to create short (less than a minute) “today at Norwescon 40” videos that went out on our social media channels (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). It was a fun little project, and I think it went okay; people seem to be enjoying them, at least. Definitely on my “to do next year” list.

I was also gratified to see the “happy 20th anniversary Sakura-Con” post get as many “likes” as it did (27 on the official Norwescon Facebook page’s post, and 89 on the post in the Norwescon Facebook group). Though I got approval for that beforehand, I’ll admit to a little trepidation, as both cons being scheduled over the same weekend gives some the perception that there’s more rivalry between the cons than there is. But since we gave them some assistance in starting out, as there is a decent amount of cross-pollination between the cons, and as we were both celebrating major milestone years (our 40th, their 20th), I wanted to be sure we recognized that. I’m quite glad to see so many people appreciated that recognition.

So, that’s a brief overview of my weekend. To all of you I got to see, I’m glad we crossed paths, however briefly, and I hope we get to do so again before too long (but if not, then at least next year at Norwescon 41). To those of you I didn’t manage to see, well, we’ll just have to try again later (it’s amazing how some people at Norwescon you see every time you turn around, while others can be in the same hotel as you for four days and virtually never interact (unless I’m just not noticing when I’m being stalked and when I’m being avoided…)).

Now rest up, and brace yourselves for the return to the mundane world. Less than a year to wait for our next gathering! You can make it!

(This post originally appeared in a slightly different form on Facebook.)

2017 PK Dick Nominees

Looks like a very interesting lineup of nominees for this year’s P.K. Dick awards!

The nominees for this year’s Philip K. Dick awards have been announced! I look forward to this list every year, as the award ceremony is held at Norwescon each year. For the past few years I’ve been making it a point to read all of the nominees before the ceremony, so that I can have my own opinion as to which work I think should win (and so far, I haven’t picked correctly once), and because it’s a lot of fun to be in the room with the authors or their representatives when the award is given out.

This year’s lineup looks like an interesting one. Of the six books, only one looks to be in the post-apocalyptic vein, which I count as a good thing, as that was a definite theme for a few years that I got a little burnt out on. Of the other five, one book is a YA novel, one’s from a Cuban author and has been translated to English, one looks to be more straightforward SF adventure, one looks enjoyably weird, and one looks particularly interesting to me.

I’ve ordered my copies from Amazon, they should be here early next week, and I’m looking forward to diving into them.

2015 P.K. Dick Award Nominee Rankings

My ranking of this year’s Philip K. Dick Award nominated books, from least favorite to my top pick for the award (which, historically, has yet to match the actual award winner, so don’t put too much stock in my ranking).

My ranking of this year’s Philip K. Dick Award nominated books, from least favorite to my top pick for the award (which, historically, has yet to match the actual award winner, so don’t put too much stock in my ranking):

  1. After the Saucers Landed, by Douglas Lain. Odd in ways that don’t resonate with me, and I found it rather boring.

  2. (R)evoution, by P.J. Manney. Some interesting ideas on transhumanism and nanotechnology, but too many of the characterizations really bothered me. Actually ended up disliking this one. Only takes fifth rather than sixth because at least I wasn’t bored.

  3. Archangel, by Marguerite Reed. Not a bad book, but for some reason, failed to engage me.

  4. Windswept, by Adam Rakunas. An entertaining adventure that made business-vs-union conflict more interesting than I would have guessed. Fun, but didn’t grab me the way I’d want a winner to do.

  5. Apex, by Ramez Naam. The conclusion to a trilogy, with lots of near-future extrapolation of mind/computer interfaces and enhancement and transhumanism. The end notes discussing today’s technology and how close we may actually be to some of what’s described in the books were particularly fascinating. Almost took the top spot, but in what is a personal and somewhat silly consideration, I tend to favor “standalone” books that handle all their worldbuilding over books that are later entries in a series, which benefit from all the plot and worldbuilding already established in the prior books.

  6. Edge of Dark, by Brenda Cooper. More transhumanism, only this time from a far-future perspective, when once human entities banished from human space due to fears of what they were becoming return to human space. Well-realized and interesting characters, really neat possibilities for future technologically-enhanced evolution, and very believable conflict. Definitely my top pick.

I was quite happy to see that the theme of “depressing trudging through postapocalyptic wastelands” trend of the past few years wasn’t represented at all in this year’s pick, with transhumanism being the theme of half of this year’s picks — much more along my particular interests.

Now, just over one week to wait until we learn who the winner is at this year’s award ceremony!

2012 Philip K. Dick Award Thoughts

One of the highlights of Norwescon is the award dinner for the annual Philip K. Dick Award for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States. For the second year running, I’ve purchased and read each of the nominated books. What follows are the brief reviews I posted to Goodreads as I finished each book.

One of the highlights of Norwescon is the award dinner for the annual Philip K. Dick Award for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States. For the second year running, I’ve purchased and read each of the nominated books. What follows are the brief reviews I posted to Goodreads as I finished each book.

  • Helix WarsHelix Wars by Eric Brown
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    First off, to borrow an old cliché, don’t judge this book by its cover. The cover, of a suited warrior firing a laser rifle against a backdrop of explosions, gives the impression that this is a military sci-fi novel (a genre which I’m not terribly interested in). Instead, this book, the second in a series, has much more in common with Larry Niven’s Ringworld, as it deals with the interplay between races on a giant helical constructed world, wrapped around a star like a slinky, with thousands of cylindrical worlds strung along like beads on a necklace.

    However much the construct may invite comparisons to Niven’s Ringworld, though, Brown’s worldbuilding isn’t quite so engrossing. The structure of the Helix allows for lots of variety in environments and races, but leaves a lot of the technical underpinnings (for instance, how do the individual worlds have gravity?) to be either entirely unexplained or brushed off as “technology so advanced we can’t understand it”. The concept sounds very hard-SF, but the execution leaves something to be desired.

    That said, the book isn’t at all bad, though it’s not likely to end up as my pick for this year’s P.K. Dick award (for which it is one of seven nominees). I just hoped for a little more Niven-like exploration of the hard-SF concept that instead acts as little more than an interesting background for the story itself.

  • Fountain of Age: StoriesFountain of Age: Stories by Nancy Kress
    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    Impressive selection of stories; unlike many anthologies (both single- and multi-author), not a single story I’d consider a dud. Many deal with the not-too-far-future complications of genetic modification, and the whole book has a somewhat melancholy, moody feel to it that I liked a lot.

  • Lost EverythingLost Everything by Brian Francis Slattery
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    I almost gave this one two stars, but that wouldn’t have been fair to the book. It’s good, well written, and the style is…well, I want to say pretty, but “evocative” is probably a better word. The book was just too sad, too much of a hard slog through a broken country with broken people. Though described as post-apocalyptic, that’s not quite right, as the apocalypse is still in progress during the events of the book. There are moments of hope, but they’re always overwhelmed by despair. I know it’s good…I just didn’t enjoy reading it.

  • The Not YetThe Not Yet by Moira Crone
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    I had trouble getting into this one — it was interesting, and has some interesting ideas on mortality and the effects of enhanced longevity, but for some reason, it didn’t really pull me in until the last chapter when everything wraps up.

  • HarmonyHarmony by Keith Brooke
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    Three and a half stars would be more accurate. There’s a lot of fascinating worldbuilding here, presented very much in the “sink or swim” style where you’re simply dropped into the world and must figure it out as you go. Neat stuff, but the pacing felt a little off…there’s a lot of time spent setting the board, only to have the endgame sprung upon you faster than you expect. I’m not sure if I’d have preferred less setup (at the possible expense of less comprehension of the world) or more climax/denouement (which might remove some of the power of the “aha!” moment at the end), but it felt somewhat off-balance.

  • Blueprints of the AfterlifeBlueprints of the Afterlife by Ryan Boudinot
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    At times both fascinating and frustrating. While there was a lot to like in this, taken as a whole, it just didn’t quite mesh. Neat and very believable ideas (like the Bionet) mixed with wild absurdism (the Malaspina glacier gone rogue) mixed with I’m not sure what (a Mario-Brothers-meets-zombies video game sequence that I’m still not sure how to interpret). Interesting and, on the while, enjoyable, but perhaps a bit too absurdist.

  • LoveStar: A NovelLoveStar: A Novel by Andri Snær Magnason
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    This one, I really, really enjoyed. Frighteningly believable (if improbable) biotech-meets-marketing serves as a base for paired stories of lovers torn apart and a brilliant CEO on a reluctant quest for God. Frequently funny and sweet, this was easily my favorite of this year’s crop of Philip K. Dick Award nominees.

Me at Norwescon 36

In just a few weeks, I will once again be indulging in four days of glorious geekery at Norwescon 36. I’m wearing more hats than ever before this year, so here’s a rough rundown of what I’ll be doing and where you’ll be able to find me…

In just a few weeks, I will once again be indulging in four days of glorious geekery at Norwescon 36. I’m wearing more hats than ever before this year, so here’s a rough rundown of what I’ll be doing and where you’ll be able to find me…

DJ

I continue to coax my onetime alter-ego DJ Wüdi out of retirement, and as such, will be DJing the opening night dance on Thursday night! Here’s the program blurb:

Thor’s Day Night Dance!

We call it Thursday night, but we used to know it as Thor’s Day…and you can kick off your weekend of saving the world with a celebration worthy of Asgard itself! Join DJ Wüdi for an evening of tunes new and old for gods and mortals alike. Come dressed as your godlike representation or as your mortal alter-ego. Requests are not just welcome, but encouraged!

If you’re going to be at the con and already know that there are certain songs you really want to hear, good news! You can already turn in your song requests for me or any of Norwescon’s other DJs at the Norwescon website!

Lead Photographer

This will be my fourth consecutive year as lead photographer for Norwescon. Look for me running all over the convention space, taking shots of anything and everything that’s going on!

(Sadly, this will also be my last year as lead photographer, as I’ve found that living in Ellensburg makes it somewhat difficult to coordinate photography for a con in the Seattle area. I do hope to remain on the photography team in future years, however, so neither I nor my camera will be disappearing from Norwescon anytime soon!)

Panelist

I’m participating in one panel this year, as I am part of Norwescon’s new SAFE committee, tasked with investigating a possible official written harassment policy for convention membership. We’re hosting a panel on Saturday to address any concerns that the membership at large might have as we work on this. Here’s the program blurb for this panel:

Panel Name: Should Norwescon Adopt a Harassment Policy?
Time: Sat 1200
Room: Salon
Panelists: Kevin Black (M), Pat Booze, Alan Bond, Sika Holman, Michael Hanscom, Kate Mulligan Wolfe
Description: Some conventions are adopting policies against harassment, something Norwescon has not had in its 36 years of existence. Do we need this in our community? Please come give input to members of the committee charged with making recommendations to the executive team by the end of 2013.

Social Media Coordinator

For most of the year, anytime you see something pop up on Norwescon’s Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ pages, chances are extremely good that I was the brain behind the keyboard. While chances are looking quite good that I’ll have some assistance during the con itself this year, I’m the person overseeing all that, so if there’s something that our social media accounts aren’t doing to your satisfaction (or, of course, if we’re doing particularly well), feel free to let me know!

Webmaster

I’m also the person in charge of the official Norwescon website. There’s still a lot of information yet to go up over the next few weeks as we get closer to the con, and then by the end of April, I’ll be rolling us over to a new, fresh design for Norwescon 37! Just as with the Social Media side of things, if there’s anything that the website isn’t doing that it could do better (or if there are things going particularly well), I’d love to hear about it!

Almost Time for Norwescon!

Once again, it’s about time for my annual mini-vacation at Norwescon. This is my second year as part of the ConCom (Convention Committee — those of us who are crazy enough to volunteer to assist with planning and running the con), and I’ve really been enjoying it.

Once again, it’s about time for my annual mini-vacation at Norwescon. This is my second year as part of the ConCom (_Con_vention _Com_mittee — those of us who are crazy enough to volunteer to assist with planning and running the con), and I’ve really been enjoying it.

While for the first year, I had one official position as photographer and one unofficial position as “the guy who knows about Twitter,” this year I’ve had two official positions. I’m no longer simply “Photographer,” but “Lead Photographer,” complete with a staff of two minions assistant photographers (so I don’t have to make another attempt at shooting an entire four-day convention on my own); I’m also the “Information Network Manager”…which is kind of a fancy way of saying “the guy who knows about Twitter” again, but also encompasses handling Facebook updates and occasional website posts.

While the photographer position will be a lot of fun at the con, it’s so focused on the four days of the con itself that most of the lead-up time has been wearing my “Information Network Manager” hat. I’ve really been having fun being the primary Social Media guy for the convention for the past year, and I’m hoping that I get to keep this position for the next year (or two, or three, or…etc.).

(A quick note: While the next few paragraphs concentrate primarily on Twitter, the same basic ideology works for Facebook as well, and I have our Twitter and Facebook accounts connected so that posts to one appear on the other.)

I’ve found myself quite interested over the past couple years with the growing utilization of social media by companies and organizations as a way to create more personalized interactions with their customers and fans. I’ve had some good personal experiences with this kind of thing, when I’ve tossed out random comments on Twitter that have then been noticed and responded to by the companies in question, and I’ve really come to value the perceived personal touch that results. When companies take the time to actually interact with their followers, instead of seeing Twitter solely as another one-way broadcast medium, it makes a huge difference in how the company is perceived by the customer. It only takes a few moments, and suddenly the “little guy” doesn’t feel so little anymore — rather, there’s a real person somewhere behind the corporate logo that’s actually making a connection.

I’ve done my best over the past year or so to ensure that Norwescon’s social media presence is an interactive one. I watch Twitter and the web at large closely for any mention of Norwescon, using saved Twitter and Google keyword searches, and whenever appropriate, I try to answer any questions or concerns that I find. If I can’t provide an answer myself, I pass the question or comment on to the appropriate department. I’ll reply to people on Twitter, even if they’re just mentioning Norwescon in passing (as long as it’s appropriate to do so, of course) — not only does this let them know that they can contact the con directly, but it also helps to let more people know that Norwescon has a Twitter account. Over the past month, I’ve been watching for artists, authors, and pros announcing their schedules on Twitter and retweeting those announcements.

Basically, I’ve been running the Norwescon Twitter account like I prefer other official Twitter accounts to be run — and hopefully, I’ve been doing a decent job of it. Anecdotal evidence seems to say that I am, but it’s always hard to be sure when looking out from the inside.

I’ve also been enjoying prepping the photography side of things. Having a couple minions is going to be incredibly helpful this year (and thank you very much to Philip and Graves for volunteering to be part of the photography department!). Having three roving cameras will allow for better coverage of the convention while also allowing each of us to get some much-needed downtime and off-duty time where we can just do our own thing for a while. I think I’ve pretty much prepped most of what needs to be prepped, with only a few outlying pieces that need some last-minute followup before next weekend.

One personal triumph was creating public photography guidelines. This is one area that has often been a mild frustration for me, as an aspiring amateur photographer — when going to an event, what’s allowed? Are there any restrictions on my camera equipment, or various particular events? I didn’t want that to be an issue, and while perhaps I could have gotten this posted earlier, at least I got it up, and it will serve as a good template for years to come as well.

So that’s been a lot of my non-school-related work over the past few months. I’ve been enjoying it, so far the feedback I’ve been getting has been very complimentary, and I’m really looking forward to running around with my “nerd friends” (as Prairie likes to call them) next weekend. I should be arriving at the hotel by noon-ish on Thursday, am rooming with a couple friends again, and will be there until early afternoon on Sunday, when I’ll be leaving early enough to make sure I’m back home to Prairie in time for Easter dinner. Should be a good weekend, and hopefully I’ll see a few of you there!

Norwescon 33 Wrapup

I’m home! Home, and recovering from another fun Norwescon. In something of a break from previous Norwescon wrapup posts, this one is going to be picture free. However, this is by no means due to a shortage of photos…in fact, just the opposite!

I’m home! Home, and recovering from another fun Norwescon. In something of a break from previous Norwescon wrapup posts, this one is going to be picture free. However, this is by no means due to a shortage of photos…in fact, just the opposite! As this was my first year volunteering as official staff photographer, I have, if anything, an overabundance of photos to process (the final count: 4,474). I will be working my way through them over the next few weeks, but as I’m also a student in my last few quarters before graduation, photo processing will have to take a back seat to homework. Still, I’ll be posting them to the official Norwescon Flickr account as I can. In the meantime, other congoers are already adding photos to the Norwescon 33 group.

Overall, the con was, as always, a lot of fun. In addition to this being my first year volunteering, this was also my first year getting a hotel room and staying on-site for the entire weekend. As Prairie isn’t into this kind of über-geeking, she went down to visit with her family for Easter, and I shared the room (and split the costs) with Laurie (Rowan Silverwing) and Brad.

Thursday

Thursday morning, Prairie went off to work, and I finalized all my prepping and packing for the weekend. Said prepping and packing consisted of two bags and one box: one backpack of clothing, toiletries, and general hotel room stuff; one backpack of photo gear, which had my small day-use camera bag attached to it; and my iMac, nice and snug in its original packaging from Apple. I’d debated that last item, but given the number of photos I was expecting to shoot, and that I was planning on at least a minimum amount of posting from the con, it seemed the best approach.

Round about 11 AM, Tim showed up to pick up my old G5, load me and my gear into his car, and drive me up to the hotel. I got there a little after noon, checked in, and headed up to find my room, conveniently running into Laurie and Brad on the way (who were kind enough to help me schlep my gear through the halls).

The room ended up being the one downside to the con. Not that there was anything wrong with the room itself — it was simply that as I wasn’t sure I’d be staying at the hotel until fairly late in the year, and ended up reserving my room not long before the con’s reserved block entirely sold out, I ended up with a room in the party wing. Five doors down from Dethcon, and across the hall from Shockwave. While the hotel rooms are soundproofed enough that only a bare minimum of sound from the parties themselves carried through the walls, the people carrying on in the halls were plenty loud enough to make sleeping difficult. Still, now I know, and next year, our room will definitely be in some other wing of the hotel!

Anyway, with everything dropped off, I went down to registration just in time for their servers to crap out. Thankfully, from what I understand, this was the only time they had a major glitch at registration during the weekend. An hour or so later, I had my registration, and about half an hour after that (after a minor amount of confusion) I had my “official photographer all-access” badge, and was ready to go!

My t-shirt of the day — Princess Leia as the iconic Rosie the Riveter “We Can Do It!” image, with “Join the Rebel Alliance Today!” text at the bottom — got a lot of grins, compliments, and “where did you get that” questions (to which there was often disappointment when I had to tell them that it was a one-day sale only item).

The rest of the day — much like the rest of the weekend — was divided between wandering around the halls, getting shots of congoers and volunteers alike, and attending the various panels and events that I’d worked out ahead of time as being the most necessary to photograph. I began with the Thrill the World dance class, with zombies-to-be learning the steps of the “Thriller” dance; moved on to the Guest of Honor banquet, where I got my first shots of most of the Guests of Honor (Cory Doctorow, at this point, was still held up at customs); the Opening Ceremonies were next, by which point Cory had arrived; a quick stop by the Zombie 101 room for zombie training, makeup, and planning their attack on the con; finally, the Zombie Walk and the Thursday night dance.

Eventually, I made it back to my room, dumped my photos, and crashed.

Friday

Friday morning I established my morning routine: up between 8 and 8:30 AM, shower, breakfast in the Hospitality suite at 9 AM, then back up to the room to make a quick scan of the prior day’s photos to choose five “highlights” to post (straight out of the camera, as-is and uncorrected) to Norwescon’s Facebook page. Once all that was done, off I went!

Friday’s run covered the premiere of “Courage,” a Firefly fan series; an interview with Science Guest of Honor Dr. Kramer; the Gothic Tea Party, hosted by Jillian Venters, the Lady of the Manners; the first autograph session; the Single Pattern Contest, for which I took “beauty shots” of the entries, ran back up to the room to process them, then provided .jpg files on a thumb drive so the contest head could put them in a PowerPoint slideshow for presentation the next day; the Philip K. Dick Awards, which four of the seven nominated authors were able to attend; the Fannish Fetish Fashion Show, where I met a couple other local photographers (one of whom has been kind enough to show me some of his shots from the FFFS, and he did a wonderful job); upstairs to Maxi’s for their evening party sponsored by Weird Tales; and finally, the Friday night Stardance. Somewhere in the middle of all that I found some downtime for an hour’s nap.

Friday’s shirt was my “I’m Just Here to Get Laid” t-shirt, which got the usual number of laughs, grins, thumbs-ups, and inquiries as to how successful I’d been. No offers, though, so at least I didn’t have to turn anyone down (as much as Prairie is amused by the shirt, she’d probably frown at it being anything more than a fun joke).

Saturday

Saturday morning was essentially a repeat of Friday, aside from heading over to Denny’s for a more substantial breakfast.

Saturday’s events covered the Star Trek: Phoenix fan film premiere, which packed one of the largest rooms in the con; both autograph sessions; an interview with Vernor Vinge conducted by another notable science fiction author, Greg Bear; the Masquerade costume photo area, which accounted for the majority of my shots on Saturday, racking up 1,625 at this event alone; upstairs to Maxi’s, sponsored this night by Star Trek: Phoenix; and again, finally, the Saturday night dance. One again, somewhere in the middle I managed to squeeze in time for an hour’s nap.

Saturday’s shirt was one I just had made a couple months ago, and which had its major public debut this weekend: “This man isn’t wearing any pants!” This comes from something shouted at me a few years ago while I was wandering around the Fremont Solstice Parade wearing my kilt (when it was “That man…” rather than “This man….”), and has been making me laugh ever since. It’s a fun bit of silliness to wear when I’m wearing my kilt (It might even more fun to wear at some point when I am wearing pants). Many laughs on this one as I wandered around.

Sunday

Sunday morning, again, was a repeat of Friday’s, complete with breakfast at Hospitality. Added to the routine, however, was packing everything up and schlepping it down to the cloak room so that we could be all checked out of our room by noon.

My shirt for the day was my Cylon toaster shirt. Again, it got some grins, but it’s been around longer (and is a little more obscure), so not as much of a reaction. That was what I’d expected, though.

Sunday’s mad dash for photos covered the Easter Egg Hunt for the youngest set (four and younger); the Fannish Flea Market, a new event for Norwescon and one that appeared to be going over incredibly well; the Art and Charity Auction; getting shots of congoers leaving the movie preview session wearing t-shirts supplied by the movie studios; the filk music jam; a few shots at the Fandance Film Festival, which included the hilarious final results of the “Let’s Make A Movie!” event that had been going on throughout the con; the Onions and Roses panel, where I was pleased to hear the Twitter and Facebook updates that I assist with get a few nice comments; and finally, the Closing Ceremonies bringing the con to a happy and successful end.

I wandered over to the cloak room, picked up my stuff, had the hotel staff call a cab for me, and made it home by 7pm that night, happy and absolutely exhausted.

Other Thoughts

I’m thrilled that we were able to successfully expand our social media presence this year. Last year I’d created a Norwescon Twitter account just for fun, as a bit of unrecognized fan-run promotion. It picked up a few followers and seemed to go well, and so over the course of planning for Norwescon 33, the con’s Publications department had asked (and I’d happily agreed) to take over the administration of the account.

Once I was on-board as photographer, though — also a part of the Publications department — as we got closer to the con, and we started discussing ways to use the Twitter account during the con, I volunteered to once again take the reins for the account (in part because our webmaster, normally in charge of the Twitter account, was unable to attend the con due to scheduling conflicts with his day job). We got it tied together with the Facebook page, pre-wrote and -scheduled a number of updates to go out over the course of the con, covering event announcements, program changes, and other miscellanea, and did our best to check it in person every so often to answer any requests that had come our way. This ended up working really well, and I heard a number of appreciative comments over the course of the con. I’m quite proud of that.

As far as my first year as con photographer went, overall, I’m quite happy with how it all worked out. The big thing I’m going to be considering over the next year as we wind down from Norwescon 33 and prepare for Norwescon 34 is just how exhausting it was for me to try to cover the entire con on my own. I think I did a pretty decent job, but there were a few things I wanted to hit that I wasn’t able to get to (the Match Game, for instance, along with many of the more popular panels). I’m going to be putting some serious thought (and discussion with the Publications head, once my ideas are a little more solidified than they are at the moment) into seeing if I can take on one, perhaps two “assistant” photographers to assist with getting full coverage of the con next year.

I also heard from a few of the other photographers that the Saturday night Masquerade photo area continues to be a source of frustration for many, something that I’ve thought myself in past years, and that was only partially mitigated by my status as “official” photographer this year. This is an area that I’m going to be brainstorming on over the next few months to see if I can come up with any workable ideas and suggestions for alleviating the issues that seem to be occurring each year.

My single biggest regret, though, is one that in many ways has nothing to do with the con itself. It’s simply that, as I’m a student (and, by the time Norwescon 34 rolls around, will be graduated and (knock on wood) gainfully employed), now that I’m back in the “mundane” world, I’ve got to concentrate on silly little things like homework, and I can’t devote the next week to getting all these thousands of photographs sorted, processed, edited, and uploaded! I’m thrilled to see the man photographs already appearing in the Norwescon 33 Flickr group, as well as the catch-all Norwescon Flickr group, so those people who are looking for photos will be able to find them…I just wish I had the time to get the “official” shots up on the Norwescon account sooner! Still, real life has its responsibilities, and I’m pretty sure that everyone knows that I’ll get them up as soon as I can, and there’s certainly nobody (other than myself) rushing me.

And…I think that’s it! Another fun year, and my first year volunteering, and I had a lot of fun doing it. Here’s to Norwescon 34!

Norwescon, Sakura-Con, and Easter Weekend

I keep seeing questions about why Norwescon and Sakura-Con are both scheduled for Easter weekend this year. Here’s my attempt at an answer, with the disclaimer that I’m not speaking officially for Norwescon or Sakura-Con.

I keep seeing questions about why Norwescon and Sakura-Con are both scheduled for Easter weekend this year. Here’s my attempt at an answer, with the disclaimer that I’m not speaking officially for Norwescon or Sakura-Con. This is just what I’ve picked up while chatting with people over the past couple years, and what I can verify over the ‘net (using the past convention dates from Wikipedia for Norwescon and Sakura-Con and this table of Easter dates).

Historically, Norwescon has been on Easter weekend for the majority of its existence, and the past 14 years consecutively:

  • On Easter Weekend: NWC 1, 11, 14, 17, 19-32
  • Near Easter Weekend: NWC 2-10 (and Alternatcon), 12, 15-16, 18

Sakura-Con, which has been in existence for fewer years (13) than Norwescon’s been consistently using Easter weekend (14), spent most of its first decade using weekends other than Easter weekend, very probably in an attempt not to conflict with Norwescon, as there is a lot of fan crossover between the two conventions. In fact, the first two years of Sakuracon were held at the SeaTac DoubleTree, the same hotel that Norwescon was using at the time (and is still using now).

  • On Easter Weekend: SC 10, 12-13
  • Near Easter Weekend: SC 1-9, 11

So, in a sense, Norwescon does have the elementary schoolyard ability to stick its tongue out at Sakura-Con and stamp its feet, saying, “We were here first!” But that would be silly.

So why the change in Sakura-Con’s schedule, if (as I’m guessing) since they at first attempted to work around Norwescon’s established schedule?

Simply put, it’s business. Easter weekend isn’t one of the big travel holidays, and conventions are more able to negotiate better usage rates (in everything from space rental fees to discounted room rates). It’s a win-win for both the convention and the hotel: the convention gets to use the hotel for as little money as realistically possible; the hotel gets a huge amount of business on an otherwise traditionally slow weekend.

So, as Sakura-Con grew in popularity, and needed to expand to find more and more space, I’d be willing to bet that after a while, it simply worked out that the best deals it could get for space (claiming space at the downtown Seattle Convention Center) and its fans (it looks like at least one downtown hotel is offering discounted rates for Sakura-Con attendees) were going to be on Easter weekend.

So yes, at times, it can be a little frustrating to have two major local conventions with a fair amount of cross-pollination in their fanbase going on over the same weekend. However, it’s a friendly competition, and there are always a small number of fans who do their best to bounce between both cons, or at least stop by the other convention once they’ve established a “home base” at one. Doing so is even easier than ever this year, now that the Central Link light rail is in operation: from Norwescon, just take a shuttle from the DoubleTree to the airport, hop the Link downtown, and you can probably be at the Washington State Convention Center and in the midst of Sakura-Con in right about an hour.

Whichever con you choose, though (for me, it’s Norwescon), have fun!

UPDATE: While I’m keeping the “not speaking officially” disclaimer up, I’ve received a number of comments from various people on the Norwescon ConCom (Convention Committee) thanking me for this post, and indicating that they’ll be passing it around as an answer to this oft-repeated question. Awesome!

UPDATE #2: Former Sakura-Con staff member and con chair Isaac Alexander contacted me via Twitter with a few minor corrections to what I wrote:

The Double Tree Inn at South Center is completely different then the Double Tree Sea Tac(which used to be the Red Lion Sea-Tac). The Double Tree Inn at South Center was torn down a couple years ago to make space for the mall expansion.

You were absolutely correct about us not wanting to conflict in the early years with norwes because of the crossover with fans.

Norwescon Preplanning

As part of yesterday’s Norwescon planning meeting, I sketched out a basic idea of the events that I’m going to concentrate on being around to photograph for at least some portion of the event — which also necessarily ends up as a rough map of where I’ll be at any particular time during the con. With everything that’s going on, I can’t guarantee I’ll be at each of these events for the entire scheduled time. Still, I’ll be doing my best to catch as much as I can. It’s shaping up to be a busy weekend, but one that should be a lot of fun.

As part of yesterday’s Norwescon planning meeting, I sketched out a basic idea of the events that I’m going to concentrate on being around to photograph for at least some portion of the event — which also necessarily ends up as a rough map of where I’ll be at any particular time during the con. With everything that’s going on, I can’t guarantee I’ll be at each of these events for the entire scheduled time. Still, I’ll be doing my best to catch as much as I can. It’s shaping up to be a busy weekend, but one that should be a lot of fun.

Thursday

  • 1pm-3pm and 4pm-6pm: Thrill the World Dance Class, Maxi’s Ballroom: On October 26, 2009, 22,596 people worldwide participated in the 4th annual Thrill the World event dancing to Michael Jackson’s entire Thriller song; yes, the entire 5 minutes, 58 seconds. Anyone in reasonable shape can learn this dance! If you’re a little awkward – hey, you’re a zombie! Dress comfortably and wear shoes you can dance in. We will teach the entire dance in each session. Thursday night at the end of the zombie walk, you are encouraged to join in as we perform this for the crowd at the dance! (I may stop into one or both of these at some point during the class.)

  • 5pm-7pm: Guest of Honor Banquet, Grand Ballroom 2: Dr. John G. Cramer, Corey Doctorw, Caren Gustoff, David Hartwell, Lelsie How, John Jude Palencar, Vernor Vinge

  • 7pm-8pm: Opening Ceremonies, Evergreen 1 and 2: William Sadorus(M), Dr. John G. Cramer, Cory Doctorow, David Hartwell, John Jude Palencar, Vernor Vinge

  • 8pm-9pm: Zombie 101, or Walk, Zombies, Walk, Grand 2: Shamble yourselves down to Grand 2 to learn what it takes to be a zombie. Our zombie pros will teach you how to move, think, and act like a zombie. There will also be people available to apply basic zombie makeup to help you achieve that zombie feel. Wear old clothes and get in the spirit, because this is the start of the 1st Norwescon Zombie Walk. Feel free to come already zombified.

  • 9pm-11pm: 1st Norwescon Zombie Walk, Grand 2: Join us here to be a part of the 1st Norwescon Zombie Walk; take over the halls of the Doubletree. Zombies will shamble around the con, ending up in the dance where they can take part in the Thrill the World zombie dance to Michael Jackson’s entire “Thriller.” Please see the earlier panels today that will teach the Thrill the World dance if you wish to learn it in advance.

  • 9pm-2am: Thursday Night Dance, Grand 3: Join us for a Tour of a House of Horrors as DJ Irah hosts a night of frights and delights. Watch out for zombies on the dance floor as they “thrill” us with their moves, dancing to music from back in the day up to today’s hottest hits.

Friday

  • 12pm-2pm: Courage: The Series – A Firefly fan series panel and episode premier, Grand 3: A two hour panel with the entire cast of the new fan series, Courage, based on Joss Whedon’s Firefly universe. Ask the cast questions and get to see special footage followed by an episode premier! Attending cast include: David Townsend (Director), Chris Kimball (Director/Producer), Justin Rister (Creator/Actor), Phil Delorenzo (Actor), Daniel Wolf (Actor), Aimee Binford (Actress), John Branch (Actor), and Alyssa Roerenbeck (Actress).

  • 1pm-2pm: Interview with John Cramer, Evergreen 3 and 4

  • 1pm-3pm: Gothic Tea Party, Presidential Suite: What is a Gothic Tea Party? Don’t be left in the dark, stop by and find out.

  • 4pm-5pm: Autograph Session #1, Evergreen 3 and 4: Alexander James Adams, Alma Alexander, Bethalynne Bajema, Richard Baker, Steven Barnes, Arthur Bozlee, Andy R. Bunch, Alan M. Clark, Greg Cox, Dr. John G. Cramer, Cory Doctorow, Elton Elliott, James C. Glass, Todd Lockwood, Lisa Mantchev, John Jude Palencar, John A. Pitts, Mark Rahner, Leo Roberts, Merrillee Schedin, Jeanne C. Stein, Eric James Stone, Jeff Sturgeon, Vernor Vinge, Jaye Wells, Saje Williams

  • 4pm-7pm: Single Pattern Contest Judging, Olympic 1: Closed Judging session for the Single Pattern Contest entries. Judges and pre-registered participants only.

  • 7pm-8:30pm: Philip K. Dick Award Ceremony and Reception, Grand 2: William Sadorus(M), Carlos Cortes, Dr. John G. Cramer, Cory Doctorow, Daryl Gregory, David Hartwell, Ian McDonald, John Jude Palencar, Vernor Vinge

  • 9pm-11pm: Fannish Fetish Fashion Show, Evergreen 1 and 2: We want…Flesh! Flesh for fantasy. Surrender your flesh to your fantasies of delicious latex and lustful corsets. The Fannish Fetish Fashion Show is at it again! This year there is magic in the air, mystery around the corner, Tempting Tarts Burlesque and a few surprises hidden up our sleeves (or is that tucked away snug under that bustier?). You know you want to take a peek… (18+ with ID)

  • 9pm-1am: Match Game, Cascade 9 and 10: Get ready to match the stars! In this SF/F- themed version of the classic Match Game game show, contestants will be randomly selected from the audience to compete in guessing how our panel will complete fill-in-the-blank questions such as ‘Captain Kirk has the biggest [BLANK] in Starfleet!’ Prizes include book packages worth more than $100, gift certificates to selected Norwescon dealers, and a membership to next year’s Norwescon. All contestants will also receive “Lovely Parting Gifts.”

  • 9pm-2am: Stardance, Grand 2 and 3: Come on down to Bartertown, that outpost of civilization on the edge of the apocalypse. Leave your weapons behind and be careful not to pick a fight or you might find yourself facing death in the Thunderdome! DJ’s Girly Girl and Black Maru play music to accompany the end of the world as we know it.

  • 10pm-2am: Weird Tales Night, Maxi’s Lounge: Ready for an exciting night of music, drinking, dancing and literature? Yes, literature. Weird Tales is sponsoring tonight’s party in Maxi’s Lounge on the 14th floor. This is Norwescon’s first year with exclusive use of Maxi’s Lounge; help make it a huge success by joining Weird Tales and your friends up in our new space. Weird Tales and their fabulous authors will be providing the night’s entertainment. It is 21 and over, with ID and Norwescon badges required. You must match your ID, so watch the makeup and masks. Weird Tales promises to give you a thrilling time you won’t soon forget, so join us for the inaugural night in Maxi’s Lounge. (21+ with ID)

Saturday

  • 10am-5pm: 501st Charity Photo Shoot, Rotunda 2: Have you ever wanted to have your picture taken with Darth Vader and/or Storm Troopers on the Death Star? Your dreams can come true; the 501st Legion is back again, but in a new location. You can find them in the second floor Rotunda where a photographer will take your picture in front of a backdrop of the Death Star. Your picture will be printed out on-site, ready to show off to your friends! This year all proceeds will be donated to Clarion West, a charity that provides high-quality educational opportunities for writers of speculative fiction at the start of their careers. Norwescon is very excited to be sponsoring Clarion West this year as it is dear to many of our panelists and guests.

  • 11am-1pm: Star Trek: Phoenix Premier, Grand 2: Star Trek: Phoenix is returning to Norwescon! Cast and crew are coming back to share the premiere in a special fan screening of the Phoenix pilot, ‘Cloak & Dagger,’ on April 3. The pilot takes place in 2422, one year into the USS Phoenix’s maiden voyage. After a major attack on the ship, the captain and crew launch a mission to rescue an away team stranded on the remote planet Katrassii Prime. But, the closer they get to rescuing their shipmates, the more they become entangled in the secrets contained on the perilous, hostile planet. A “Making Of” documentary and a Q&A session featuring cast and producers follow the screening. Star Trek: Phoenix is a fan-based series set 42 years in the future from Star Trek: Nemesis.

  • 1pm-2pm: Autograph Session #2, Evergreen 3 and 4: John P. Alexander, Carol Berg, David Boop, SatyrPhil Brucato, Ted Butler, Bruce R. Cordell, Dr. John G. Cramer, Jeff Davis, A.M. Dellamonica, Cory Doctorow, James Ernest, Yasmine Galenorn, Daryl Gregory, Jeff Grubb, Eileen Gunn, Brandon Jerwa, Jak Koke, Ian McDonald, John Jude Palencar, Kevin Radthorne, Ken Scholes, Lorelei Shannon, Jack Skillingstead, G.Robin Smith, S. J. Tucker, Vernor Vinge, Gareth Von Kallenbach

  • 2pm-3pm: Autograph Session #3, Evergreen 3 and 4: Myke Amend, Brenda Cooper, Dr. John G. Cramer, Cory Doctorow, S. Joe Downing, Roberta Gregory, Mark Henry, Jean Johnson, Rosemary Jones, Mary Robinette Kowal, G. David Nordley, John Jude Palencar, Joshua Palmatier, Adrian Phoenix, Cat Rambo, Sean K Reynolds, Renee Stern, Ben Thompson, Amy Thomson, Vernor Vinge, Rob Welch

  • 3pm-4pm: Interview with Vernor Vinge, Evergreen 2

  • 6pm-8pm: Babel, Presidential Suite: Come join representatives from local fannish clubs and learn about opportunities to help your community while having fun! Several of our local fan groups will be available to fill you in on what their club does. If you’ve always wondered what these groups do, come meet them, and find out!

  • 8pm-10pm: Masquerade Photo Shoot, Lobby: (I won’t be shooting the Masquerade itself; rather, I’ll be in the photo pit set up in the lobby, taking shots of Masquerade entrants and as many hall costumes as we can haul over to the backdrop.)

  • 9pm-2am: Star Trek: Phoenix Night, Maxi’s Lounge: Beam up to Maxi’s Lounge and have some drinks with your fellow congoers! This fabulous event will be sponsored by Star Trek: Phoenix so prepare to boldly go where no congoer has gone before. Make sure you bring your Norwescon badge and your photo ID (21 and over). The drinks will be out of this world and the music hopping, so don’t miss your opportunity to be part of this brand new event. (21+ with ID)

  • 10:30pm-3am: Saturday Night Hoedown, Grand 2 and 3: Put on your best square dancing shoes and help put Norwescon to bed with mc300baud and his eclectic collection of tracks. Expect the unexpected as he spins rave, wave, goth, alternative, electronica and more late into the night and won’t let up until the cows come home.

Sunday

  • 10am-2pm: Fannish Flea Market, Grand 3: Love to go to flea markets and garage sales? Ever wished they had more fannish stuff? The SFFM is everything you have wished for: Norwescon attendees clear out their houses of stuff they don’t want, and it is all here for you to buy or barter for. Bring your cash and check out the bargains and incredible stuff people are getting rid of.

  • 11:30am-2pm: NWC 33 Art Auction, Grand 2: The Norwescon Art Auction will be a fun and exciting battle for most desired works of art from this year’s art show. And if that isn’t enough, come help support our two charities this year, Clarion West and Northwest Harvest, by bidding on art, jewelry, and other objects of interest that have been donated by our dealers, professional guests, and fans to support these two great organizations!

  • 2pm-4pm: Fandance Film Festival, Evergreen 1 and 2: In its eleventh year, the Festival is a celebration of low- and no-budget cinema, brought to wondrous lurching life by amateur filmmakers from all around the Pacific Northwest. More than just the movies, this 120-minute extravaganza of entertainment also includes the filmmakers regaling you with terrifying tales of their productions. Be there or be a regular right quadrilateral! The Fandance Film Festival is the final terrifying phase of the Let’s Make a Movie Workshop, in which participants walk through every step of making a movie, from conception to the premiere of the finished product. This year at Norwescon marks the eleventh installment of the Let’s Make a Movie Workshop!

  • 5pm-6pm: Closing Ceremonies, Evergreen 3 and 4: William Sadorus(M), Dr. John G. Cramer, Cory Doctorow, David Hartwell, Tracey Knoedler, John Jude Palencar, Vernor Vinge