Sunday, April 12, 2009

Norwescon Notes

Conventions have been a hit and miss affair for me over the years. I've attended well-managed, well-run, and enthusiastic conventions, and I've had more than my share of bankrupt con committees, disastrous personal relationships among the con organizers, con nazis, vaporware scheduling, car accidents, personal injury, midnight fire drills, LSD-laced juice, and surprise visits by the police and/or EMTs. So my approach to cons is always with the politeness that one would normally show any explosive device you might suddenly find in your kitchen.

And just so there is no surprise, I put Norwescon in the former category, under the well-run, the well-managed, and the enthusiastic. Yes, there is always something going on or going wrong, and a good team rises above it and keeps everything moving smoothly, helping the convention experience of the participants.

The big challenge for the convention was parking, which approaches legendary proportions. The con is located at the Doubletree at SeaTac, and things filled up very fast. This year, they got additional parking available behind an office building two blocks away. I had to balance my convention panels with my day job, and soon discovered I could drive up, valet the car for a modest surcharge, and let the hotel staff find a parking place for me. It was a neat trick, but unfortunately, by Saturday the hotel had rumbled the ruse and restricted valet service to those staying at the hotel. Even so, it was only two (reasonably long) blocks away to the overflow parking, so it wasn't like it was going to kill me.

The gaming track of panels was very strong. This year they invited Bob Salvatore as GoH, and WotC as Publisher. Often SF conventions treat gaming like the AV room - a space put aside that they occasionally toss raw meat into (I'm looking at YOU, Emerald City). In addition to several such locations (open gaming and planned events), we had a boatload of panels on gaming and the gaming industry. AND Seattle has such depth of creative writers, designers, and editors, that not everyone was on the same panels (I think I teamed up with Erik Mona three times over the course of the week).

I also liked the fact that they got me out of my comfort zone in a number of places, putting me on panels that were not horrible strong points for me, like talking about Tolkien on a panel with a real Tolkien scholar, or talking about creating comic books with Paul (Concrete) Chadwick and Donna (Desert Peach) Barr. Those were my favorite panels because they were so outside my regular topics (and I really liked the fact that the Tolkien scholar gave a shout-out to the Gnomes of Dragonlance for being really cool).

And its been years since Bob and I have had a chance to talk, and we were nattering on like old grandmothers (grandmothers talking about server loads and poly counts for our respective MMOs, but still grandmothers). Plus it was the first time I've seen a lot of long-lost local friends for months, so it was way cool.

Norwescon is a strong costume convention as well. I showed up in my long-running costume as "older gaming professional". This consisted of a loud Hawaiian shirt and jeans during the day, and adding a black or linen suit coat for the evening panel. It was fun seeing guys in Klingon Battle Armor giving me the "Who's THAT guy" look in the halls. I think I was freaking the fandom.

And the fans themselves were extremely nice, and the bozoid particles seemed to be operating at an all-time low. The wonderful thing about having a long career in a number of different areas, is that I never know what I'm going to be talking about when a fan comes up (Of course, some fans may say I don't know what I'm talking about, regardless of the subject (NOTE: REMEMBER TO INSERT SMILEY FACE HERE)).

The dealer's area was heavily stocked for all the basics of modern fandom, such that armor, cloaks, corsets, weapons, wands, games, and videos vastly outnumbered books. I set out to find a copy of The Anubis Gates in non-collector-first-printing-signed-by-the-author version. I was unsuccessful, but I did score big at Night Shade Books, which had a Jay Lake book I've been meaning to read, the first two parts of a trilogy by Matthew Hughes, and a pirate short story collection with a Howard Waldrop tale in it. Bonus!

Plus, I ended up at a signing party next to Ken Scholes and his lovely (and expecting) bride, and now have to pick up a copy of his first novel, Lamentation (hmmmm... I see I can get it for the Kindle...).

So all in all it was a great convention for me - a lot of people I haven't seen in a while, a lot of interesting stuff going, panels that I wanted to attend, and good, solid level of enthusiasm and professionalism. Good Going, guys.

And then, of course, there was the part where a member of audience was making out with Carrie Fisher. No, wait. That was later in the day, at the Seattle Rep.

More about that later,