Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Nebulas! and BayCon Report!

As I sit down to write this I'm reminded that I never wrote up a report of my experience at the Nebulas. The fact of the matter is that I've been so overwhelmed by these conventions that I'm scarcely able to gather my thoughts. So, quick summary of the Nebulas:

Amazing people! Great ideas! Late nights! Lots and lots of amazing people! Interviewing Aliette de Bodard! Talking to Stan Schmidt and Sheila Williams meeting Trevor Quachri! Aliette won a Nebula! Did I mention lots and lots of amazing people?

Okay, deep breath....

Basically, a week of school with lots of extra activities is not the best way to recover from something as overwhelmingly awesome as the Nebulas and really be ready for another convention. However! Here I go, to tell you about BayCon.

Summary: BayCon was terrific. Better than it has been in a number of years, in my opinion.

I got off to a rocky start on Friday because I was relying on my knowledge of past years as a guide to this one, and thus didn't figure out that Meet the Guests had been moved from 8pm to 7pm. So I missed it. On the other hand, I was able to get my registration handled, get my bearings, and meet some friends and some new people as well, so it was worth going down.

On Saturday, my first panel was at 9am, and we talked about creating settings for science fiction and fantasy. One of the things we discovered, logistically speaking, was that all the panels had gone from 50 minutes to 90 minutes in length. Once we got over the initial shock, it was actually a really nice change. Our moderator was Todd McCaffrey, who was a good moderator and clearly a super-nice fellow. Other panelists included my friend Chaz Brenchley, Analog buddy Paul Carlson, and Aaron Mason. After the panel I met my family and we surfed the convention a bit, then had lunch. I saw my friends Margaret McGaffey Fisk and Colin Fisk and also my friend Lillian Csernica, who was wearing a really hilarious "Loki Charms" shirt. This one:
After lunch I had a 2:00 panel on Fairy Tales and Mythology, which the group convinced me to moderate. All in all I thought we touched on a lot of interesting things. Fairy Tales as teaching tales, and how they change over time as the storytellers perceive that different things need to be taught. We tried to get to the bottom of what endured at the center of each, but that was trickier. Any given story (for example, The Little Mermaid) can have different interpretations depending on the version you're hearing, and even single versions can end up with multiple interpretations.

Sunday was my crazy day. It started out at 9am with a panel on Worldbuilding which I moderated. That was a lot of fun (well, no surprise to you folks since you know how I love the topic). We had a great mix of people on the panel including David Peterson, expert on language design and language-culture links for HBO and SyFy, Paula Butler, expert on creating planets and ecosystems as part of the Contact conference, Aaron Mason, novelist, and Leslie Ann Moore, novelist. This was a great panel, mostly because everybody on it had such great things to say. Because we had 90 minutes, I was able to let each participant have time to really dig into their views on the issues of created worlds, and we covered everything from "the alkalinity of the soil" to language and cultures and still were somehow able to tie it all together.

After lunch with my family and with David Peterson, I headed into the BayCon Writer's Workshop. This is actually a really fun workshop where you get to sit around the table with (in our case) five people who have submitted stories and three professional writers, and one moderator. We'd received the stories in advance and written up critiques, and we were then able to deliver them and discuss them with the group for each person who had submitted. I like to participate in this workshop because it was actually the first place I submitted a short story (back when I'd only ever written one), and I like giving back to the community as well as looking out for good new writers who may not even realize how good they are.

The workshop ended at 3:30, and at 4:00 I was back in a panel, this time with David Peterson and Taunya Gren, about creating alien and fantasy languages. Taunya brought the perspective of a non-linguist faced with having to create a language (for a TV pilot), and was a great contributor to the panel not least because she kept me and David from getting incomprehensibly geeky. David and I actually complement each other quite well because he works in the visual media and I work in the written medium, and each of those requires a different kind of language design. Of course, it's always a kick to talk about the range of human languages and how to explore different features while creating something workable yet fascinating. Some of the languages discussed were not auditory ones.

Between 5:30 and 7 I sneaked down to dinner at the hotel restaurant with Deborah J. Ross. They had a nice buffet, which was tasty, and I managed not to get too much food (which can sometimes be challenging). Thereupon Deborah and I went up for our last panel, which the lovely Programming directors allowed us to add at the last minute: Worldbuilding discussion and reading. This was just a kick. Basically Deborah and I spent about half an hour talking about worldbuilding - but not in a general sense. She talked about the world she had created for her novel Collaborators, which was inspired in large part by the city of Lyon in France, and I talked about Varin and the inspirations behind it, including the pervasive metaphor of being trapped (trapped underground, socially trapped, trapped in a marriage, trapped in one's own head). Then she read from Collaborators, and I read the first chapter of For Love, For Power. I really enjoyed the sections she read, especially the use of detail to provide world information but simultaneously to further character and plot. It reminded me of Ursula K. LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness in that the aliens here have no gender - but it was fun to see her approaching it more from the insider's point of view than from the human point of view. I have to admit I loved reading my chapter. Normally when I'm on a panel I feel a bit like I used to when I was teaching, but this time I felt like I was on a stage. We had a terrific audience of about 15 people, and they really got me amped up! Both Deborah and I autographed and gave away the pages we had read from, and we left the room grinning and giggling with how much fun we'd just had. I really hope we get to do something similar next year.

At this point I've had a day to fall in a heap and so I should be back to blogging today and tomorrow, with a hangout on Thursday at 11am. I know I'm behind on some hangout reports too, so I'll catch up on those as best I can.

What a couple of weeks it has been!


  1. Man, that panel sounds like it would have been great to attend. Glad you're having a better time. :)

  2. What a fabulous time we had! WE ROCK!