This weekend, my husband, The Gryphon, and I attended Philcon. Once again, we were both panelists. We had a fun weekend, and I got to meet a few people in person whom I'd only before known online.
(at left) Laura Anne Gilman and I share our thoughts on how new media has influence journalism.
Friday I had taken off work for the day. In the afternoon, I prepared for my panels, especially the one about Poe's poetry, which took me two hours.
In addition, I wrote some questions for the key note speaker, Catherine Asaro, whom I intended to interview for Wild Violet. I have interviewed the Philcon key note speaker ever year for the past several years.
While I was waiting for them to print, I took the opportunity to look through the online schedule to figure out what I might want to attend that night. The plan was for me to pick up The Gryphon at his work at 5. Then we would get dinner and make our way over to the Crown Royal Hotel in Cherry Hill, where the convention was being held. The earliest I thought we'd get there was 7, so that's the hour I started looking for events.
Imagine my surprise to discover I was on a 7 p.m. panel about which I had not been informed! As I learned later from talking to the head of programming, it was a last-minute changed, and they're not set up to notify the people who are affected by such schedule changes.
After IM'ing The Gryphon to let him know about the change of plans, I rushed to get my shower and try to get out of the house. As it was, I didn't get to his workplace until 5:15. Instead of a sit-down dinner, we grabbed some pizza at a nearby Italian restaurant.
Still, I walked in 10 minutes late to my panel, partially because I had trouble finding the room. Fortunately, a friend at the info desk pointed me in the right direction. When I walked in, Laura Anne Gilman, the only other panelist present, was sitting on the table, chatting with the audience. She told me if I hadn't walked in when I had, she would have given up. I don't know if the panelist who didn't show also wasn't informed of the last-minute change or whether there was another reason he wasn't there.
Fortunately, this panel was one for which I did not need to prepare. Here's the title and description:
"Can You Repeat That Mr. President? My Twitter Feed Was Down. Can You Repeat That Mr. President? My Twitter Feed Was Down.
We're living the future. Information distribution is instantaneous, and so are everyone's opinions. Panelists discuss how new ways of distributing information are changing the face of journalism.
The two of us, I felt, complemented each other well. Laura came primarily from an Internet perspective. She is an avid follower of the news from various Internet sources, as well as disseminating links through her blog and Twitter feed. I come from the point of view of both having worked in mainstream journalism, in the newspaper business, and more recently, from my job transcribing cable news, I'm very aware of how news is being covered today.
We discussed a lot of related topics, such as the way the instant feedback offered by the Internet has led to a multitude of voices. As a result, we agreed you're seeing more opinionated journalism, especially on cable, as they try to compete. I also brought up the fact that many networks are now using camera-phone videos and eyewitness accounts from breaking news around the world, one of the most prominent recent examples being the protests following the Iranian revolution, where mainstream media outlets were banned from reporting.
In addition, sometimes stories are broken by Internet outlets, such as TMZ breaking the fact that Michael Jackson physician was going to be charged with murder in his death.
We had about five or six people in the audience who seemed to be really engaged. Some of them even put their hand up and contributed questions or comments. All in all, I felt it was a very interesting conversation and a good panel.
(from left) Steve Vertlieb, Donald Wolcott, Catherine Asaro and Crystal Paul
(from left) Donald Wolcott, Catherine Asaro, Crystal Paul and Roberta Rogow
The next panel I attended was:
The Music of the Fantastic
When most people think about music and SF, they think of the theme from Star Trek, or Darth Vader's March. But music and SF have been intertwined from the beginning. From Jeff Wynne's "War Of The Worlds" to the steampunk music of Abney Park, find out how these two art forms have related to each other through their histories.
Catherine Asaro (mod), Crystal Paul, Roberta Rogow, Steve Vertlieb, Donald Wolcott
The panelists were diverse: Steve Vertlieb is a film historian who has been writing about motion pictures and symphonic film music in a variety of books, magazines, journals, and tabloids since 1969. Catherine Asaro, of course, was the key note speaker, whose latest book, Diamond Star, was paired with a music CD. Donald Wolcott is a young composer and musician who is touring with Asaro, playing keyboards as she performs songs from that CD. Both Crystal Paul and Roberta Rogow have music theory backgrounds as well as being avid filk musicians.
The discussion brought in Stravinski's ballet music, which was seen as being fantastic, even shocking, at the time. They also discussed the fact that folk music is full of ghost stories, as is filk music, which music revolving around SF and fantasy.
They discussed Alexander Courage's symphonic music for film and television (Star Trek, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Superman IV), as well as Bernard Herrmann, who composed music for The Day the Earth Stood Still, Vertigo, The Twilight Zone, and Lost in Space. Of course, they also talked about John Williams, whose music for Jaws, Star Wars, the Indiana Jones movies, Jurassic Park and the Superman movies is legendary.
Vertlieb recommended the documentary Music for the Movies for those who'd like to learn more.
As far as composers and musicians to watch, they suggested James Horner, the goth metal band Epica, and Advantasia, among others.
Afterwards, I introduced myself to Asaro and told her I'd like to interview her this weekend. She said she was busy all day Saturday, but I asked her if she'd have some time Sunday, which she said she could do. I arranged to come by her key note speech the next day to work out a time.
By this time, it was 9 p.m., and I considered checking out another panel but spent some time with The Gryphon instead. The Meet the Pros reception was going on, where various panelists mingle with the attendees, everyone enjoying some fruit, cheese, crackers and selections from a cash bar. The Gryphon got me some orange juice, which I thought tasted like Tang.
I sat down with The Dormouse and The Cheshire Cat at one of the tables. We discussed our upcoming panels and what we'd done so far. It was a pleasant respite.
(from left) an unidentified panelist, Tim Souder, Robert Hranek,
Brianna Spacekat Wu, The Gryphon and David Moore
(from left) The Gryphon and David Moore
Next, for a short while, I attended:
MMO 101 WoW, EVE, Everquest, and Beyond!
From Quests for meaning in World of Warcraft to helping shape the universe of EVEonline, how to get the most out of your Massively Multiplayer Online experience. Whether your interest is as a player, parent, or concerned significant other, this panel will introduce you to MMOs, why we love them so much, and the perils of becoming an MMO addict.
Robert Hranek (mod), David Moore, The Gryphon, Tim Souder, Brianna Spacekat Wu
I was a few minutes behind The Gryphon, so he was already seated at the table when I arrived. I had run into the The Ghost Captain, whom I'm nicknaming because she titles her blog "The Ghost Ship," and we were just about to walk in when a guy seated near the back door stood up and brandished a plastic light saber right in front of me, charged down the aisle and started battling one of the panelists, Brianna Wu.
He then charged back down the aisle before rushing up to fight her again. I stood frozen in the hallway, thinking there was no way I was walking inside until I knew he was finished. If I'd walked in a second earlier, I'm almost certain he would have hit me. All I could think about was protecting my unborn baby! It was instinctual, really. Turned out that it was Frank Wu, the artist guest of honor.
Once he'd left, perhaps to battle elsewhere, I entered. I had told The Gryphon I wouldn't stay for the whole panel, because the Social Networking Social was going on in one of the suites upstairs, and I'd promised to go. So I stayed for about half of the panel, and once the room had filled up with late comers, I waved at The Gryphon and headed up.
The Filmmaker (far right, wearing black) regales the room.
When I walked in, my online friend firesign10 recognized me right away and walked across the room to give me a hug. It was cool to see her in person. I was a little surprised to see just how dark her hair was. The pictures she's posted in Facebook make her hair look a little lighter.
She introduced me to her daughter, furuba9, and her husband, blogula. Even though it was the first time we'd met face to face, I felt very comfortable with her. We fell into an easy conversation. Her daughter is amazing: a brilliant, perceptive young woman with a great sense of humor. Her husband was a bit quiet but very nice: he got us both cool bottles of water from downstairs when we got thirsty. This year, the social didn't offer any food and drink, although I'm almost certain it had the year before.
Most of the room was gathered around The Filmmaker, whose massive friends list was well represented. Since that room was also being used for readings and other events, the chairs were set up in rows. It almost looked as if he was teaching a class on being cool.
The Browncoat was also there, playing the social butterfly, drifting from group to group.
I spent my time talking to Firesign, because I wasn't sure if we'd get any other quality time at the convention. As various other people drifted away, we met Lynati, who was wearing some plastic horns on her head, which I found out later she'd bought from my friend, The Anthology Editor. I also met a friend of Firesign's, who runs a zombie audio theater site, Good Morning Survivors.
The Browncoat and Filmmaker had talked up the Eye of Argon reading, which started at 11:59. We decided to check it out, Firesign and her family, Lynati and I.
(from left) Lawrence M. Schoen, Hildy Silverman,
Oz Fontecchio, and Keith R.A. DeCandido
The Showboater sings the dreadful SF story.
Eye of Argon Reading
Reputedly, the worst story in the genre's history. Just try and read it without laughing.
Oz Fontecchio (mod), Keith R.A. DeCandido, Lawrence M. Schoen, Phil Kahn, Hildy Silverman, Victoria Janssen
This reading was run differently from what I'd always imagined. While it was a reading, it was also a contest. Oz Fontecchio served as the moderator and judge, while the other panelists were contestants. Their job: to read "The Eye of Argon," a dreadful SF story written by a 16-year-old back in 1970 and published in a small newsletter. Even in those days before the Internet, the story was circulated widely among SF fans, for the express purpose of making fun of it!
The story is bad in many ways: bad grammar and spelling, impossible feats of daring, ridiculous vocabulary choices, stilted dialogue, and a pointless plot. The goal of each of the contestants is to read a section of the story the way it's written: so if he misspelled "the," they have to read "teh" instead of "the." If a reader misreads a word or starts laughing, he or she is buzzed out. Those who do the best, as determined by audience vote, compete in the finals for the coveted title of winner.
The first round, none of the panelists did very well, so he gave them a second chance. This time they all did much better, and Keith DeCandido was doing so well that the only reason Fontecchio stopped him was to give the others a chance.
After the panelists read, Fontecchio asked for audience volunteers. The first to stand up was the daughter of Hildy Silverman, who did quite well, although she did nearly laugh through most of it. Then I volunteered. I was trying to really sell it, to be very dramatic, but I'd only gotten about two sentences in when I stumbled on a word. The most frustrating aspect is that I mispronounced a word that was spelled correctly, saying "shoulder" instead of "soldier."
Then The Showboater took over. As you might remember, I gave him that nickname because, whenever he's at a party that involves dancing, he does all sorts of fancy moves, including splits, and wows everyone present. So I shouldn't have been surprised he would do the same with his reading.
He chose the unusual technique of singing it, trying out different genres according to audience requests. First, he sang it much like a minstrel around a fire. Then he did a little blues, a little funk, and the one that people found most amusing, a Gregorian chant.
In addition to singing the text (and the mispronunciations), he also noted the faulty punctuation. So he might get to the end of a phrase and add, "Space, question mark, apostrophe." This would occasionally cause the line to rhyme with a previous phrase, which was great.
He really brought down the house when he pulled a miniature harmonica out of his shirt and began to play. He probably could have gone longer, but Fontecchio stopped him, saying he was definitely in the finals now. Even DeCandido, who had been the favorite up until that point, got up and bowed to him!
Next up was an audience member whose name I happened to catch on his badge, James Harper. He read it as a BBC news reader. In one respect, that was easy for him, since he does speak with a British accent. But he also managed to use exactly the right intonation to sound like a news reader. He ended on a particularly funny line which involved lusting after a wench then voluntarily handed the script over to Fontecchio as he began laughing.
I left right after that, because The Gryphon had texted me a while ago to tell me he was tired. So when I caught up with The Showboater the next day, I asked him who had won. Turns out it was James Harper. So if he happens to come across this, good show!
The Gryphon was playing a game with his buddy The Game Designer in the lobby, as well as a few other people. The Game Designer told me that The Gryphon had actually been falling asleep most of that time, though.
It's always best to read the schedule before you get to the event.