Kage Baker really enjoyed going to science fiction conventions.
She hadn’t expected to like them; in fact, initially she planned to avoid them. But even without her agent being incredulous at the idea, research did indicate that it wasn’t a practical idea. Luckily, she found them delightful – especially in California, where a significant portion of the Con-going population is also the Faire-going population.
The ambiance of cozy, comfortable outsiders building their play forts in the middle of nice hotels appealed to her. She loved the Dealer rooms, where all sorts of treasures could be found: jewelery and pirate coats. Old books and movies; Rock ’em, Sock ’em Robots and ray guns and steam punk goggles and little bags of raw semi-precious gems and wind up Godzillas that shot coloured sparks out of their mouths.
And she loved all the readers: especially so many, many people who read her books! Panels turned out to be interesting opportunities to give and shape opinion: Kage liked her a good soapbox as much as any other wordsmith. She made friends among the other writers, and found that there really were a lot of very nice, smart, funny people she could meet and have a drink with in a classy bar.
I’d been reading science fiction since I learned how to read (Really. Zip Zip of Mars at age 8. I did not read early.) but I had never gone to a convention either. As Kage’s Seeing Eye Sister, I discovered they were a wonderful alternate Universe. And part of the deathbed geas Kage laid on me was that I continue to go. So here I am at BayCon, waiting for Neassa to join me with her additional brain power before I go on panels tomorrow.
BayCon is weird to the max. (That’s why I love it so.) And the hotel is helping right along this year. Last night my scallops and risotto were served in a puddle of bitter green arugula puree. This morning, I got fried anise root with my bacon and eggs over easy. I’m worried and to see what I’ll get with the oatmeal I intend to order tomorrow …
Sitting disguised as a little old lady with her knitting, I have spent a happy afternoon watching furries, pirates, old-fashioned cyborgs in hard-hat diving suits, lots of pretty young people wearing mostly chiffon and ink and pointed ears, small children with stuffed shoggoths and light sabers and Disney Princess shoes. A willowy young lady with green hair floated down the escalator with what appeared to be a sword with a burning blade in her hand: when she disembarked, it was revealed as a curtain rod wrapped in plastic, catching the sunlight. Why? Who knows or cares?
There’s enough gold braid, medals, peaked caps and outre weaponry to outfit 4 or 5 distinct space navies. Plus more old fashioned seamen with octopodi on their shoulder or hips or belt buckles. There are naiads and mermaids, too. And one man-tall Cthulu look-alike. And it’ll only get better as the weekend wears on!
They’ve been redecorating here at the Hyatt, and I’ve spent a lot of time today sitting in the lobby, under the new and peculiar chandelier. I think it’s meant to give an appearance of airiness, or maybe floating sea-shells: dozens of tubes of perforated white plastic, housing light bulbs, all pendent from the ceiling on silvery cords. It’s pretty, at first look. But the more time you spend looking up at it, the more you realize that the tube-shells have the flat, matte white finish of plastic lawn chairs – you know, the one-piece molded ones, that crack apart after a summer outdoors? After a few minutes’ perusal, the chandelier begins to resembles some sort of insect colony; plastic caddis flies, maybe, or the egg sacks of polystyrene spiders. Something that will eventually hatch out into flip flops and visors and Slurpee cups.
Also, the lobby of the Santa Clara Hyatt is currently hosting an historic display on Alcatraz. I cannot really tell why; the hotel has no view of Alcatraz, or even the Back Bay. But the place is full of interactive displays and explanatory plaques. There are partial sets all over: the warden’s office. A prisoner’s cell. a wall with an escape tunnel chipped out of it. An authentic, Alcatraz toilet … that last one is preserved lid up, but with a transparent plastic shield over the rusty, chipped bowl. Considering the number of children I saw sitting on it, the reason is obvious. Especially since it’s set up right outside a bathroom.
Anyway, this doubtless educational display looks even stranger with the denizens of a thousand star systems wandering round in it. Elves and tattooed shamans go strangely with chipped concrete and iron cots. Of course, they are also pretty strange eating sushi in the hotel restaurant, or cheering at the baseball game on the telly behind the bar. It’s all part of the charm of BayCon.
I love to sit and watch and knit. I am knitting a tie, which makes inquiring people laugh. I don’t know why … Neassa, with better taste and a feel for the ambiance, is knitting a Tom Baker Dr. Who scarf, correct down to the duplication of the colours. No one laughs at that. Which is perfectly appropriate around here.
More from the kaleidoscope tomorrow, Dear Readers. I’m taking my anomalocaris as a mascot to my panels. That should fit right in.