Ineffable 2

Once again two conventions occupied the same weekend, but this time I did have to choose between them, alas. New con on the block FIYAHCon which by all accounts was awesome, and Ineffable 2, a Good Omens convention in its second year. Only Ineffable had an art show, so I signed up and got to work on some new fans! Or I say got to work… I did everything but work on fans until a three days before the convention when I finally had a good idea of what I wanted to do. I only got two new fans done, but I sold one of them and was happy with the result on both, and on a third one I am still finishing.

As for the con itself, I love the book and the series, and both authors together and separately, but am not a Good Omens superfan as such, so I only dipped my toe in. That said, it was a lot of fun, in some ways it reminded me of Gally – the enthusiastic and friendly vibe, the cosplay, and to some degree the demographics. The platform was Accelevents, which is clearly designed for business. There was a certain amount of clutter in the design and I did not find it particularly intuitive, but I got my booth set up and generally navigated around well enough, it’s clear Accelerants has a lot of good functionality – it just needs a better interface really. But the con staff was helpful and clearly making an effort to be accessible and updating as needed, there was a ton going on, and people were obviously having a blast. I’d definitely do it again.

Futuricon/C’Monfluence

Doing two virtual conventions the same weekend is easier when both have significant differences in timezones, like these two – Croatia and Pittsburgh respectively.

Futuricon is the one I spent the most time at, given it was only an hour off. It followed the website-streaming-video plus Discord model, although the streaming video platform they used was buggy and had the (dis)advantage that it also provided a chat form. Obviously it’s useful for folks who can’t or don’t want to use the Discord to be able to chat, but it also can dilute things by splitting the conversation. There were three video “programs rooms” with corresponding Discord channels, Futuricon 1, 2, and 3, but the result was mixed, either because things didn’t always start on time, or because less of an effort was put into staffing the Discord chats, so sometimes there was no discussion in Discord (but some on the website) or the discussion was for something else. Still, it was all friendly and relaxed and there were good conversations to be had.

Some of the programming I checked out were a quiz, which I was bad at, Alison Scott’s TAFF trip report, and a Deep Sea and SF talk recorded by someone in the Arctic Circle – which was pretty cool.

For C’Monfluence I mostly just popped into the Discord for the occasional chat. I was amused by randomly running into someone living in Pittsburgh who had just attended a Professor Elemental show streaming from the Art House, which is a half hour walk from here.

October starts with a bang

Two conventions this weekend; Futuricon, the Croatian Eurocon and C’Monfluence, the virtual Confluence. Neither has an art show and neither seems to be doing much with parties, but so far I’m enjoying the respective Discords and the panels seem decent.

Meanwhile it’s exactly one month till the election and the news is even more 2020 than it has been so far. Just. a lot. One piece of sad news that actually happened on the 30th but I just saw was the Quino, creator of Mafalda, has died. I actually had looked him up earlier this year in a fit of nostalgia, and hadn’t realised his parents were from Málaga.

Oh, and I got a new iPad with an Apple Pencil! It’s shiny and new, and basically magic, so that’ll keep my busy for a while – which is fortunate because it certainly blew a hole in my bank account.

September

I guess September happened?

We left the house a few times, to Unity for beer to go, to the Bookshop for beer to go, to the Butchers for beer to go (I sense a theme). We went to Paddle and Peel for date night – sat outside and had delicious pizza and chocolate calzones for desert. John’s friend Emma, who lives nearby now, came by for a drink and chat in the garden. Oh, I took Alice to the vet! That was a small adventure which she did not enjoy at all but was luckily a minor inconvenience and nothing to actually worry about.

And then there was one slightly bigger adventure, John’s parents drove down for a visit a week and a half ago and we went to Bournemouth to the Russell-Cotes Gallery. It was the longest I’ve spent inside a building I don’t live in since lockdown… but what a building. It was just as nice as I remembered and mostly distancing was good, except perhaps in the special exhibit section – we had fish and chips afterwards and ice cream on the beach, then a walk the park before coming home and finishing the day off with Venezuelan food delivery. It was very pleasant and we picked up some nice coasters for ourselves, plus they bought us a couple of lovely bits of blue pottery as our early Xmas present.

Then suddenly it was October!

NASFiC

NASFiC was this past weekend. The first thing I did was check if I was in the art show, although I had signed pretty early I never heard back, although I did get contacted on an art-related item which seemed to indicate I was set. Still, I was glad to see my art in the tidy, single page gallery they had chosen. On the plus side, was a nice clear layout gallery with names and bios prominent and the format was landscape, so pieces looked good. The disadvantage was that the images had no additional info or links, even though I am almost certain the form I submitted requested prices and titles – live and learn, that’s what watermarks are for after all. The main issue appears to be that the art director quit a week out from the convention so of course other folks were doing double duty. 

Art show check done, I moved on to find my way to the schedule. This turned out to be confusing because I failed to realise that I wasn’t registered; the convention was free, and obviously I had signed up for the art show, so that added up in my brain to “all done” – I went in circles a couple of times and finally twigged that the registration link on the website was a pretty straightforward sign in form. You agree to the CoC, sign your name, and then the rest of the website content appears automagically.

The schedule page seem to just be a list of all the panel titles, each item a button that went to the corresponding pages. I don’t know if I looked too early (it was the day before the convention) or if I just didn’t scroll down far enough, but I completely failed to see the proper schedule list with names and so on the first few times I checked. But eventually I was all set!

The Discord was set such that you could join the server the regular way, but you could also use it through the website. There was some problem with the link provided, but obviously I use Discord so I used cut and paste and that worked fine for me. I let the Help Desk know, and saw quite a few folks having that problem as well. They were very responsive on Discord helping with sign up and tech problems, the primary issue they seemed to be dealing with was more of a design than tech problem. The Discord had a #registration channel, and some folks who had correctly use that to set up their Discord account for the convention were confused when told to “register” in order to see the schedule. Of course that referred to the website sign in mentioned above, but a few people were not understanding and frustratedly going in circles. I’d suggest future conventions pay attention to their naming schemes across platforms, duplication of this type is bound to lead to confusion. Eventually the Help Desk added some screenshots, which helped.

Sadly there was no way to save the schedule to a calendar, so I manually went through and added panels I was interested in to my calendar one and a time, it was tedious but in the end I had everything in my own timezone one click away from watching it. In an ideal world online conventions would localise to your timezone, but at the very least they need to make the timezone prominent, in their banner even, now that they are likely to get a percentage of guests from out-of-zone.

Panels were broadcast only, no Zoom to log into for the audience. Initially I was worried it would feel less participatory, but each panel had a moderator in charge of monitoring the appropriate Discord channel to pass along questions and comments. Sometimes the panelists also did the same. This ended up being much better since there was only one place the audience conversation was happening, it also seemed to lead to more frequent instances of the panelists entering the Discord conversation post-panel, which was very nice.

My first panel was CovidFX Social Gatherings, which was lively and helped by Alison Scott paying attention to the Discord while on the panel, she has the experience after all. Moderators were taking questions, though we didn’t know that at the time, the system is good but needs more publicising. The panel was fun, though it slid a bit too much into discussion of conventions rather than general clubs and groups – I was part of the problem there, whoops.

Opening ceremonies went smoothly; Tom Smith introduced himself, then the guests, handed off smoothly and it all just worked, because it was just Zoom and you can pre-record, it’s not that hard! I didn’t notice on the first go that it was recordings, but honestly for this sort of thing that’s fine, it worked and went well. Herbert and Anderson were both good speakers, they even dressed for the occasion, which I thought was nice. There was captioning, but was a bit problematic since the text was too large and couldn’t be changed. Reception was mixed as a result, accessibility plus for some and impediment for others. The toastmaster pointed out the Artist GOH’s single panel, and told the time and place, which was a nice touch.

The next panel for me was about selling your art, once again Alison Scott was on it. On their recommendation I am trying out ArtStation, which was mentioned several times at CoNZealand but I had dismissed as a digital/concept artist platform. Another of the advantages of virtual, is that you don’t have to take notes since it’s all there in the chat!

Friday night the evening party was in a platform called Gather.Town? First I’ve ever heard of it, looks simple, but disconcerting to run across it while perusing the schedule with no added info. 

After some initial tech issues it was actually pretty neat! Unfortunately it only worked on Chrome, so not everyone could use it. There was much discussion of other similar platforms, I’m sure we will get to try many of them over the next months. Alison was hanging with an Australian and I had a brief chat, then I ran into Brad Templeton who shared an article on the topic, then I went to bed. Much like previous cons I feel like the evening parties could use a channel with pinned announcements or something, since the conventions tend to only mention them at the end of the day, meaning there’s a good chance to miss or not ever find out about them. Would also be useful to put party stuff in the newsletter or the discord.

On Saturday I checked out the Women of a Certain Age, about older women as protagonists. It was a really great panel, comprehensive and with tons of participation from the Discord, lots of back and forth in real time with the panelists.

On Sunday I was a bit. tired and had other engagements, which may have soured my mood a little, but felt the art show ended up being a bit of a damp squib after the complete radio silence on the colouring book and if/when the show would be taken down, on top of that having to correct my info twice in the Souvenir Book. Eventually, after closing ceremonies but before dead dog, I did get replies and apologies on both items and felt mollified. To be fair the colouring book looked great and it was probably nice for folks to have a little aprés-con treat.

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.