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ReCONvene

Yesterday was ReCONvene, a single-day virtual convention put on by the NESFA/ gang. It has two program tracks with panels, gaming, lectures, plus a Discord server and an art show on their website. I participated in all of that except the gaming, of course.

The convention started at 4pm my time, but the first panel I was actually interested in was at 5pm so I spent the first hour in the Discord and checking out the art show.

The art show was beautiful; it was a single gallery on one page, with a title card and five images per artist in the Main show. At the bottom was a smaller Open art show with a single title card explaining what it was followed by about eight images submitted by individual members. While this was a very good experience as a viewer, as an artist or as a buyer it was a bit clunkier in the sense that you had to click on each image individually to see if it was for sale and how much, and if interested you was to scroll to the top where there was a link to the list of exhibiting artists, then click through to that list to go to the specific artists website and find the image for sale. Some standouts; Lee Moyer, Anne E.G. Nydam, Robert Crooker, Dave Seeley, Vincent Di Fate, Donato Giancola.

For the Open art show there was no list provided, so aside from googling the name of the artist there was no way to find out more. In fact there was one artist I did look up and I have not been able to find them with just their name, which is a bit of a shame.

For programming, there were four programme rooms, each with it’s own channel in Discord for discussion during/after the panel. I spent most of my time in the Earthseed room. Obviously there was also the Zoom chat function, I generally kept an eye on the Zoom chat but was active in the Discord if there was chat there. I also popped over to the NOTWorldCon Discord to chat in the convention channel there, as a place where I could be a bit snarky with less risk of bumming out the panelists.

The first panel I attended was The Distant Future in Science Fiction which has some good stuff but was the sort of panel that wandered too far off topic for my preference, it got a bit existential so after about twenty minutes I wandered to the Discord. I was happy to see that unlike at Worldcon, there seemed to be a handful of pros in the chat as well as fans.

Second panel was The AI Among Us, with R.W.W. Greene (m), Ted Chiang, Alastair Reynolds, Karl Shroedger, and Martha Well. This one was top notch, on-topic, lots of great back and forth between panelists, a diversity of viewpoints including outright disagreements. All the panelists brought their A game, but Chiang in particular was great.

I got some beer and settled in for my third programme item, this time a lecture rather than a panel. Physicist and author Les Johnson talked about building solar sails and the like, with a good overview of the history (the ISS is pretty big y’all), the potential (Dyson dots, graphene), some juice alien speculation (the Boötes void), and finishing with some very cool stuff about recent and current solar sail projects. It’s a bit weird to realize that think about these as current engineering happening right now. We slide into the future piecemeal and don’t even notice. I say, participating in an international conference during a global pandemic on my overpowered home computer.

I got some more beer and a jacket potato and clicked through to my fourth item of the day; Inspiring Speculative Art with Erik Wilkerson (m), Bob Eggleton, Donato Giancola, and Ingrid Kallick. I hadn’t seen Giancola speak previously and was delighted that in contrast to his classical old master art style, he is a cheerful, enthusiastic dude. The panel started out as a charming lovefest between several of the panelists, who are fans of each others work, and expanded to some interesting topics and examinations of the practicalities and the business side.

And finally the last panel was Worldbending in Speculative Fiction which was a rollicking discussion between Ellen Kushner (m), Aliette de Bodard, P. Djèlí Clark, Dr. Carlos Hernandez. and Cerece Rennie Murphy. Kushner’s moderating style was very dynamic, reminiscent of a roundtable or teacher leading a discussion, it might not work for every panel but I greatly enjoyed its effect on this one. The topic was big, but the panel remained on topic, zeroing in on specifics to flesh out the full picture. It is a rare panel where I come out excited to read more by every panelist and their work, from the ones I have read previously to the completely new to me.

And that was it, there was a convention feedback session immediately following the end of the panel, which makes sense but it was a shame that was the only panel that didn’t really have a chat afterwards. I skipped that, and chatted with random people for a bit in the Discord, but things shut down pretty quickly, with the art show already offline before I signed off.

In summary, a really solid short convention with excellent programming. It benefited from a focused approach, offering a small variety well-delivered. At six hours of content for $10 it was also a good value and worth an impulse-buy if there was a single item of interest, John was able to decided on the day that he was up for it, for example.

I’ll definitely be there if they do another one, or if Boskone goes virtual in February.

Water from the sky

The heatwave has properly broken and we can think again!

In the end I sold four fans altogether at CoNZealand, so I’m calling that a success. This weekend is ReCONvene, which is a single day convention and I’ve just signed up for the Open Art Show so I don’t expect sales necessarily, especially given that it is tomorrow and there hasn’t been much communication. Still, the programme schedule looks good and there was no cost to the art show so no risk. Then next week is NASFiC (my first) which is a bit bigger of course.

Virtual conventions are easier to submit to, of course, even though fewer of them have art shows (the panel/lecture and to a lesser extent the social aspects of the convention are the easiest to replicate, naturally) so I’m trying out Airtable to keep track of upcoming events. So far it seems pretty handy.

Beat

CoNZealand is all wrapped up. I sold one fan and got a nibble on another, plus a commission for a third, so not gangbusters but not bad for new territory.

Didn’t do much else other than skim through the Discord this morning, but at noon it was time for a live recording of Octothorpe, which was a good episode with several discussions of future projects, exactly the sort of vibe I hope for after a good convention. One of the things that got mentioned was fannish Discords popping up in the wake of CoNZealand, which is something I briefly pondered setting up myself before sanity was restored. In any case, I’ve joined a couple of those, so that’s something positive.

Days, what even are those?

Day three of the convention, I think?

Watched the Greg Broadmore guest interview, which was pretty great. Went to a Peadar Ó Guilín which was great, not the least because although the subject matter was dark the author is just has the most mellow, positive vibe imaginable.

Kicked around the Discord having nice conversations for a bit until the afternoon lull, it was very hot here so I walked the cats, twice. Alice is getting very adventurous, Quentin less so.

For some reason I had missed selecting the party stream on the Grenadine site so it didn’t pop up on my calendar, I realised and got changed in time to spent ten minutes or so chatting in the Chicon 8 Zoom party, which was nice. Then there was time to get a beer and be ready for the Hugos.

Journey Planet didn’t win, alas. There were a few technical glitches, some very good winners, some rambling by GRRM as Toastmaster (which I don’t mind, especially in a year where I am comfortably at home and in total control of my environment) to which the Discord chat responded with relentless negativity, making me feel a bit bad for any newbies there. There was unfortunately also several serious missteps by GRRM that were less charming, and which he was quite rightly excoriated for, all the more surprising on a year when so much was pre-recorded.

Overall this year didn’t feel particularly hopeful or positive, despite a few nice surprises. Which I guess is not surprising, this is 2020… but on a purely personal, emotional level I usually come away from the Hugos feeling pretty good – this year I called it a night at the In Memoriam. I’ll watch the highlights tomorrow.

Oh, so it’s going to be that sort of Worldcon

Went to a couple of parties, one small and informative the other packed to the second Zoom page. Did a little more last minute Exhibits stuff, bounced around a few enjoyable Discord conversations, and ate some Tim Tams.

Then it was the fallow time so I napped, we ordered pizza and watched a super bummer episode of For All Mankind and I was ready for the evening. Did a little more last minute stuff, potentially got roped into a probably super fun (??) fannish project, contemplated getting a drink…

… and then I remembered the artist reception is at 6am my time, whoops. There are good panels all night, but I think the better part of valour is to get some sleep now.

CoNZealand Day 1

The first half of today was last minute convention set up, my own (art show) and theirs (Exhibits pages). Then after dinner, going through the schedule a ticking off far too many panels, as is tradition. I spent too long trying to figure out how to get Grenadine to show my schedule local timezone – turns out that isn’t a feature it offers, it will only show the local time when you click on a specific item. However, someone on Facebook mentioned that it does allow you do download an .ics file of your schedule and your calendar will do it for you instead. After some struggles with the download I eventually achieved my goal! So many panels, so many conflicts… that’s how you can tell it’s a real Worldcon.

I got a little nap in before Opening Ceremonies, grabbed a half pint and clicked on the event link. It didn’t work, and along with some other folks in the Discord events channel I clicked around trying to sign in. With their help I eventually did so, and it was a lovely video. Both the retro and regular Hugo bases are fantastic this year.

And then the first panel; Shared Common Myths, which was very enjoyable and will probably add to my reading list. Having the Discord to chat in during the panel is nice.

But now it’s twenty past two, and the next panel on my list isn’t till three am. At that point there are actually four panels/events I am interested in, but I think I will sleep instead.

Well that went fast

Right around the time of my last post I had signed up to volunteer for CoNZealand, and a solid chunk of the hours between then and now were filled by helping out with Exhibits. There’s been a lot to do, but its also been fun playing around with some tools that I otherwise wouldn’t have access to, specifically building WordPress pages in Divi. Also learning quite a bit about the New Zealand fandom and genre scene.

I also spent most of last week in the pre-Hugo deadline crunch, absorbing a lot of written material in a short time. It’s funny how every year I think I’m actually ahead and then realise I have a bunch of novellas unread! Still, thanks to furlough I have definitely read far more of the nominees than usual, might post later with more detailed thoughts.

Probably have not gotten as much art done as I should have, but I think I’ll have a decent display for the convention art show all the same, so I’m trying not to feel too bad about that. I did paint our bathroom, which while less artistic is very satisfying in a mundane sort of way. Also finally managed to make a loaf of proper sandwich bread that would pass muster at the cafe I used to work at.

We had our first visitors since pre-lockdown, John’s parents came down for a couple of days. They stayed at a hotel but it was a proper visit with errands (paint for the bathroom, the traditional Costco trip), and an outing to Lyndhurst. We are participating in an NHS testing program, so we were actually tested just before they arrived and a few days after (negative) so that was fortunate timing.

And now it is just a few days till Worldcon, which I will attempt to time-shift for. Looking forward to seeing what they pull off!

ID2020

I mean, it’s a weird year for Independence Day on every level, even if it was something I was invested in. Last year we had a barbecue, I made a playlist with songs about places in the US (it’s much harder to find good songs for some states than for others), and it we enjoyed the sun. I added to the playlist it over the past year; I Am America by Shea Diamond is a current favourite, but lockdown plus greys skies mean no barbecue even if the mood lent itself.

On the other hand, Hamilton is on Disney, and we are only human. So I’ve made shredded beef in the slow cooker, and (hopefully) tortillas, and we have beer from out local, so that’s us sorted for the evening.

Life in the UK

Yesterday we went to Southsea so I could take my Life in the UK test. This was our first train trip since the before-times, I don’t know how busy that route used to be, but it was pretty empty around 2pm when we went down and a bit busier but still chill on the way back around 5pm. Masks are mandatory on public transit and everyone was in compliance, outside I only saw two or three others.

Even though I know all these things have been outsourced, I sort of expected the testing centre to be a large government-type facility. It was actually about the size of my local dentist practice; one a small office, a waiting room, and a testing room (plus the toilets). It was pretty well organized though; coloured tape on the floor to mark where to go and where to wait, the staff had masks and guards, and everything was as distanced and sanitized as possible. The test itself took about five minutes and was easy, they emailed me my results ten or fifteen minutes later (I passed).

If it had been slightly less windy we would have enjoyed a proper wander up the beach and maybe a takeaway along the promenade or common, but as it was we hustled back to the train station to catch the earlier once-an-hour train back to St. Denys. Once home we celebrated with Indian delivery and a movie; Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, which I recommend if you like Eurovision and/or silly fun movies.

Who watches the shadows

The weather is gorgeous and the garden happy, I harvested my first (and maybe only?) courgette. The plant is self-fertilising but there are almost never male and female flowers at the same time, but then again the internet claims the plant should continue producing for a while so fingers crossed. In any case it was a little round thing, rather than long, but tasted good and it’s always satisfying to eat produce from your own garden. Keeping an eye on those tomato plants now.

In other news, we watched all of Watchmen during the HBO free streaming. It was pretty great, and I was impressed that they were able to make it current and relevant while also maintaining the style and feel of the book, the production design is top notch as is the cast. I also just finished series one of What We do in the Shadows. It isn’t as great as the movie version, but I am enjoying it quite a bit and loving the cameos, especially in the season finale.