Kage Baker loved going to science fiction conventions.
She’d never been to one before her first stories were published. Her tastes ran more to Beatlefests, and even there she wore earplugs (to keep out the screaming) and spent most of her time in the dealer room. She only went to her first genre convention out of a sense of duty – but she came home a confirmed enthusiast.
She still liked the dealer rooms best: not only signing her own books, but looking for goodies like ancient games, old peculiar films, local band CDs, cool accessories. However, as much as Kage hated speaking in front of crowds, she also quite enjoyed being on panels. That surprised her – it surprised me, too, because it was a matter of family canon that I would pontificate at the drop of a topic, while Kage was much more lady-like and reserved. But it turned out that, given the safety of a table, a podium and a microphone, Kage loved to talk.
The odd cocktail in the hotel bar didn’t hurt, either. And there was people-watching to amuse her. And there were still the dealer rooms … especially after steam punk began to heat up; she loved brass and glass and finely articulated clockwork, and there was always a lot on offer.
I loved being Kage’s entourage. I loved the activity, I loved seeing her spread her wings and enchant the audience as only she could. I mean, I knew what an eloquent raconteusse she was – but it was only me and a few people who spent evenings in the darkened Inn Yard who had known what she was like when she got going. It was marvellous, watching Kage relax and perform, because she was a born storyteller.
And there were still the people-watching, the bars, the dealer rooms and so on to amuse me, too. Those were all better in her company as well, as she spun stories and speculations about the passing crowd … and the crowd at BayCon is especially rich and entertaining. Usually, besides the genre crowd, there are a cheer leading contest and a missionaries’ symposium at the Santa Clara Convention Center – the mix of cheerleaders, clergy and the Con people was the best illustration ever of Zaphod’s line from The Restaurant At The End of The Universe: “The things are also people … “
One of my panels this weekend is about devising anatomy for extra-terrestrials (I think. This is why I bring notepads and an entourage.). One of the first such projects Kage and I ever tried was figuring out the anatomy of Zaphod Beeblebrox. Her sketches were amazing. And very much NSFW … but working out creative physiology is no end of fun.
Anyway, I have numerous things to keep me happy and busy. It turns out, to absolutely no one’s surprise, that I thrive in a panel atmosphere. Lights! Microphones! A topic! An audience! Engage mouth and set the repeat lever to infinity, man. I am in my element. And while I can be verbose on any subject going, there is little I like lecturing on as much as Kage Baker’s stories. Among those few things are biology, Mars and colonial ecosystems, in all of which BayCon has chosen to indulge me this year.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I am going to have a great time.
I’m bringing an entourage – Kage taught me that was vital. The saintly and inhumanely patient Neassa will be meeting us there, as my keeper. And this year, I am also bringing along my nephew Michael – who is now impressively large and bearded and can mutter into his lapel like a proper bodyguard: when I can pry him out of the game and dealer rooms. Neassa is a past mistress at making sure I get where I am going and don’t lose my keys, my notes or my knitting. Like a noblewoman of the fae, all she ever asks is to subsequently dance all night when the panels shut down; so I hope there are some dance parties this year!
Anyway, Dear Readers – tomorrow I am off, driving out on the Road of the Weird in an effort to get my life back on track. There will be dispatches from the front, and reports on what is haunting I-5 this season; analyses of fashion among the Con folk, anecdotes of alien lifeforms, and critiques of snacks and cocktails. Hopefully, I won’t get my foot too far into my mouth anywhere.
The road beckons …