BayCon 2019 Con Report (Part 1)

BayCon 2019 bannerI started this post once already, but it was more about figuring out how to enjoy BayCon despite my limitations, a worthy topic in breaking down the invisibility aspects of disability, but not quite a con report. So, I’ll finish that and post it next week. This week, I’m going to ignore the energy management in favor of the specific con aspects.

So, we arrived on Thursday so were able to get our badges early and said, “Hi” to the many friends we’ve made over the years who labor tirelessly to make BayCon possible. We also attended the Live Kitten party for the first time. While there weren’t live kittens exactly, we had fun watching live (recorded) streaming from several kitten rescue sites and talking about the furry members of our families. It was a low-key start to the con, blending interesting people, a topic that I adore (we did deviate from just the kitten aspects), and funny stories.

Meet the guests was fun. I especially enjoyed Wanda Kurtcu’s impromptu table-drumming performance.

I had much fewer responsibilities this year so wanted to attend some panels. I only succeeded on the first day, often due to hanging out with friends, but the panels were a good mix of ideas that make you think.

The first was Daddy, Can I Have a Dinosaur? with Diana L. Paxson, Jon De Cles, G. David Nordley, and David Brin. I’m a lifetime dinosaur fan, so I am happy to report the title question was, in fact, addressed, looking at books and movies like Jurassic Park. They also spoke a bit on genetic and seed libraries, both in fiction and reality.

The discussion of responsibility and the famous line about just because something is possible doesn’t mean it should be undertaken got a lot of attention from the panelists. The general conclusion seemed to be the problem with these problematic instances is more secrecy than the science. David Brin took this moment to bring up a crowd-sourced think tank project he’s involved in where science fiction readers provide published fiction examples in response to the questions proposed. Over time, this will build a database of explorations, reactions, etc. that will be available to authorities when, for example, we’re contacted by life from outer space. This way they can benefit from hundreds of “what if” scenarios to guide their responses and (we hope) rule out some of the ones that generally end in disaster.

Clearly, it was an engaging, fascinating discussion to make a person think. I do have to add, though, there was an undertone that bothered me. It came up several times by almost all the panelists who, whether dissing the “politically correct” movement or restrictions from other groups that failed to see the value, where who was allowed to have a voice was limited. I found this an unnerving counterpoint to the “secrecy harms and if done in the open, ethical and other concerns would be properly addressed” position. I have my own issues with the PC concept, but intended or not, I could easily see this approach applied to deny native groups who want to preserve cultural treasures that stand in the way of scientific progress as one example. There is a Wild West cowboy approach to science that often runs over the needs and wants of others, and whether the ultimate benefit is clear or not, time needs to be given to determine how to pursue such things without harming people whose cultures are often misunderstood.

BayCon 2019 Author PicThen I took a break to go through the Dealers Room and admire the amazing crafts on display. I did not get the chance to purchase the one I was drooling over from SteamyTech so it will have to go on my wish list, but I loved seeing their many offerings and how they put true gear works into each one.

These are build-it-yourself wooden sets (by subscription or single purchase) that would make for a perfect project with your kids or on your own. I consider it the steampunk equivalent of undertaking a complex Lego build. They’re even in the process of adding a subscription option where, instead of a “build it once” mentality, like Legos, the projects are designed to be built then disassembled to use the parts in original designs. I was looking at a gear-box game table with that sort of design in that whether I used it as a game or just to build, the gears assembled with screws instead of glue so could be reused.

The kits aren’t cheap, but they are both beautiful and functional in a fascinating way.

I also had a lovely conversation with the Artist Guest of Honor Gary Villarreal about his amazing line work and how he brought the faces in his drawings to life. He began by warning me they were a little weird, to which I laughed and waved around the room, saying they don’t seem weird to me at all. You can enjoy some examples of his work here: Pay close attention to the faces and you’ll see what I mean.

BayCon is far too efficient for me and has already taken down the 2019 site in favor of next year so I can’t give you any other names, but the leather work booth had a lovely pouch with a raven on it I wanted to show my son, but it had found a new home before I could manage. It’s always a good thing when the dealers don’t have to bring everything home with them.

There was so much more to explore, but those were the highlights for me in the time I had, along with Carrie Sessarego and SallyRose Robinson were doing Tarot readings for those who wanted to see their futures.

I’ll admit to already having suffered the need to split into 4-5 versions of myself where the panels were concerned, but sometimes you just have to go with the flow. The funny thing is the second panel I managed was not the one I thought it was, having tangled two friendship panels (the other on Saturday).

Anyway, I ended up going to Is Friendship Being Redefined? with Jennifer Nestojko, Heather Rose Jones, and Gregg Castro. I was confusing it with the artificial friendship panel, but generally, Gregg can be relied on to make a panel complex and interesting, so off I went.

The panel, as it turned out, was looking at whether electronic friendships, and especially the way platforms like Facebook use the term, is diluting the concept. As a concept, I have my own opinions that are not usually in sync with others, but I found the discussion fascination as it explored how different cultures and age groups interacted with the concept of friendship both historically and in these increasingly isolated times. I rarely hear others bear down on the way modern culture isolates the individual from family and community groups, so I appreciated that aspect. I did find it amusing how the panelists admitted, often in spite of themselves, how electronic community is helping with that isolation and even expanding the definitions of true community. I would have liked to see a younger person on this panel because growing up with an electronic community does offer a different perspective, but one of the audience helped provide that view as well.

Though I only managed to go to these two, this is exactly what drew me from the start. I love the mix of perspectives and learning things I didn’t know, or expanding my understanding of what I did.

I spent a lot of time in Gaming on and off because it provided a break from the complexity. I could listen to other conversations but didn’t have to engage, or I could have smaller conversations on my own while working on puzzles.

Hallway conversations, whether catching up with friends, exploring interesting conversations, or exchanging knowledge, made up a big part of my con as they always do. As much as I enjoy the panels, the discussions they spark are a critical part of that. (One of the nice things this year was more seating in random spots so conversations were more comfortable.)

Saturday, I gave a storytelling workshop for teens. It was scheduled against several big things, and at 9pm, making it late for younger teens, especially commuters, so I didn’t know how many to expect and planned for anything from none to a full room. I ended up doing an intensive workshop for two teens and two adult support staff ;). We focused on the differences between oral and written storytelling, how to understand your characters through seeing through their eyes, situational comedy, and half a dozen other things tailored to their existing characters and needs. Everyone seemed to have fun, and from the lovely feedback I received afterwards, it had been a grand success on many levels.

Sunday, I had committed to offering break coverage for Gaming so I spent the whole morning there, teaching backgammon mostly and having fun.

I saw the beginning of the Bad Bar Trivia: The “80”s Edition with Colin Fisk, JC Arkham, Frank Wu, and Fara Otterbeck, which was less bad bar trivia than reminiscing on 80s culture and personal experiences. Eh, I found it interesting and the rest of the audience seemed to be enjoying themselves. I had to skip out early for a dinner gathering, though.

Then a catch-up with Cliff Winnig turned into a dinosaur/kaiju discussion through the avenue of introducing small children to Godzilla and Jurassic Park at far too young ages ;), and Colin and I were invited to join the Kaiju Monsters Then and Now panel on Monday since they had lost a panelist. Of course, we were willing. Who wouldn’t want to talk about giant monsters and what they were trying to teach us? (Okay, maybe the last is more me, but…)

The panel also had Denise Tanaka and a room full of giant monster aficionados. We had a lively discussion ranging from older kaiju movies and what brought them about to the implications of the movies and whether they hid or personified the underlying messages of consequences, environmental or otherwise, to human hubris. It was great fun.

Looking at the Grenadine schedule (to get people’s names and timing) I can see a ton of things I wanted to check out and completely failed to. Sometimes it was a scheduling conflict, and often it was being pulled into a conversation or helping out, or needing a nap. Honestly, beyond the naps, I regret nothing. I had a wonderful, vibrant, thriving con full of good friends, good conversation, and leaving me with a lot to ponder.

As I mentioned at the top, for those who want to learn more of the “behind the scenes” experience, I’ll do that next week. I am happy to have caught up with so many friends, old and new. If I missed you at the con, there’s always next year. I plan to be there with an open mind and eager heart.

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