BayCon: Dispatch 5

Kage Baker really liked moderating panels. It gave her a sense of power, or so she always claimed. I think it actually just gave her a method to insist upon order, clarity, and sticking to the topic – things that, when neglected, always made her insane.

Some folks like to moderate because  it gives them a bully pulpit. Some like it because they feel it means that don’t have to do any work – just let the panelists carry on. Some folks are inveterate lecturers, or friends of the Con Committee, or own the only working microphone …

I, personally, don’t like to do it at all. I am rarely inhibited about speaking, and so don’t usually need help in contributing to the flow of conversation – and I hate being pointed out like a child in school, with someone else deciding it’s my turn. I don’t like running the topic. It’s usually an exercise in cat herding, and I get to do quite enough of that in real life. Authors are hard to control, and so are fans – but actors, freaking actors, are the very most difficult …

Nonetheless, it’s my turn in the barrel. I am off in a few minutes to moderate a panel on “The Last 50 Years of Exploration on Mars”. I have a sinking feeling that I was chosen as moderator because Kage and I made fun of the problems NASA has had with metric measurements – that contributed to the loss of at the Climate Orbiter satellite, and led  directly to Kage writing The Empress of Mars …

Really though, the reasons we chose that incident was because it was so out of character for NASA – which has otherwise had a splendid track record with Mars missions. And so many,many missions to Mars have come to grief, far more than any other catgory of space exploration. It makes the loss of one to mis-measurement and poor translation pretty funny.

Still – something eats Mars missions. It cannot be denied. We’ve sent out a lot of them from Earth in the last 50 years; inordinate numbe rs of them have crashed, missed the entire planet, landed and vanished, landed and gone inexplicably silent … it’s peculiar. Even more of them have never even made it out of Earth orbit. The Russians alone have launched over 2 dozen missions – only 2 even made it to Mars orbit, and they failed in situ. Very strange, tovarisch.

Makes you take H.G. Wells a little more seriously. Maybe. I’ll let you all know later, when the panel is over.


Well. Here I am on my afternoon break, between the Last 50 Years on Mars, and the Next 50 Years. And no, noone at the last panel was worried about H. G Wells. They were a very serious audience, sober and respectable people; my attempts at humour fell pretty flat. My antic moods are not for all markets … also, we were down a panelist, and the 2 of us who made it were both female. I think that offended some of the males in the audience; because, you know, GIRLS.  Nonetheless, it was a pretty good panel, we were thanked by several members of the audience, and I am done moderating.

The next panel will be more fun. “The Next 50 Years Expoloration On Mars” ought to bring the alien conspiracy folks out. I kind of hope so – they can be fun.


Me and the entourage are now safely back in our room, full of a nice dinner and self-satisfaction at a Con well-managed. By us, anyway – due to circumstances beyond all control, the whole circus had to drop the poles and clear out tonight. All the Sunday evening goodies and the Monday panels were re-scheduled or lost … but it was not BayCon’s faujlt, not really, and the Con was a good one.

My last panel was scary, but exciting. “The Next 50 Years of Research  On Mars” was moderated by a gentleman who is both a writer and an astronomer; another panelist was an areospace engineer, and a third was not only an engineer but he works for Elon Musk! I am a mere writer who is interested in Mars, and likes to research her stories as accuratgely as possible. I felt myself definitely out-ranked and out-classed.

However, all 3 of the gentlemen were charming and courteous, and did not scorn me for my lesser database and goals. They outclassed most of the audience, too … and I was able to pull my own weight on the questions and discussions. (I did my research on the topic, too, and was ever so glad I had.) Most of the questions were good, and even when the face on Mars and Richard Hoagland were brought up – as they inevitably were – things were interesting and informative.

Turned out one of my fellow panelists has met the bizarre Mr. Hoagland, and his frank opinion of the man was hilarious. I hope I do not offend any of you, Dear Readers, by expressing my opinion – which is that Richard Hoagland is a raving nutcase – but,  you know, he just is.

There are legitimate mysteries on and about Mars, that need to be looked at. Why is the electromagnetic field patchy? What did blow the atmosphere off? What causes the odd flashes of light seen in the Edom Promontorium? When can we get a good look through the “skylight” of a lava tube? Will the Russians ever get a lander to Mars?

These are weirder than anything on Earth; they are weirder than anything we have invented or speculated about Mars. We don’t need spurious faces or pyramids or jelly doughtnuts (check it out on and other examples of rampant pariedolia to inspire us with the mystery of Mars. It’s got more than enough on its own.

So I quite enjoyed my panels today, and my stint at BayCon in general. Neassa and Michael have taken excellent care of me – retrieved my cane and my room key, got me to my panels on time, read the maps for me. Tonight we are all having a quiet evening to rfegenerate our everyday brains, and tomorrow we will go on our ways to more mundane locales.

For a while, anyway … next week, Neassa is helping out at a Dulcimer Festival. Michael and I haved yet to make it back to Los Angreles. And In August is the WorldCon in Spokane, whence I am bound to carp from the mezzanine.

Just no end of fun in the life of a writer!

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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5 Responses to BayCon: Dispatch 5

  1. Miz Kizzle says:

    It sounds like loads of fun, although it’s a shame about losing out on the Monday panels and goodies (swag? Was it swag? swag is the best!)
    The Face on Mars is interesting, isn’t it? I’m pretty sure it’s Tutankhamun, as it’s well known in certain circles that the ancient Egyptians established a colony up there. If you look closely at the high-resolution images from NASA’s Global Surveyor, you can see his headdress with the sacred cobra.
    Seriously, though, Hoagland is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. He’s a distant cousin, although we’ve never met. There are loads of Hoaglands in New Jersey and he’s one of the more interesting ones.


    • Kate says:

      Oh my gosh, you’re related to Hoagland? I am sorry for having a low opinion of your relative … I certainly don’t see any similarities between you! Unless his ability to get a real sharp focus on photographs is related to your painting skills.

      There was no swag to speak of at this Con, although the Dealer Room was well-stocked with goodies. Nephew Michael had a wonderful time in there … we all had a great time, really, despite having it cut short by a day. The only thing we missed out on was the Regency Dancing, and Neassa decided she was too tired to dance anyway. So we were fine.

      It was just so quiet and sad last night … last nights are hard.


      • Miz Kizzle says:

        No worries, Hoagland is a very distant cousin on my mother’s side. His antics are amusing but I wouldn’t know him if I fell over him.

        Two of mom’s ancestors were popularly known as the Adam and Eve of the New World. They came over from Amsterdam as newlywed teenagers on the good ship Unity in the winter of 1624. As honeymoon cruises go, it wasn’t very pleasant, what with rough seas, bitter cold, horrible food and people arguing over who got to sleep next to the cows because it was the warmest spot
        Young Joris and Catalina Rapalje, my great-great-many times great-grandparents, had loads and loads of kids, who in turn had loads of kids. Hoagland is somewhere in the far distant branches of my family tree.

        I’m pretty sure that everybody in the world is related somehow.

        And your dispatches from the Con were awesome. It was like being there without the social anxiety!


  2. Kate says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed my reports from Santa Clara. We (me and my patient entourage) had a wonderful time. Social anxiety is seldom a big problem at a Convention – there is always someone being louder, weirder or sillier than one is, and usually not caring at all. My carefully-cultivated Elderly Eccentric persona works just fine there.


  3. Ingrid Geibel says:

    Hello Ms. Bartholomew. I am a avid fan of your sisters work and was delighted to see you are carrying on her ideas. I was wondering if you have a Facebook page I could use to aid me in my challenge of keeping up with my wish list material. Kage helped me escape from reality during some hard times in my life in addition to spurring me forward in learning about some of the local California history and culture. I look forward to sharing Kage’s work with my grand children with the target on my grand daughters Reagan and Isabel in the not too distant future.

    I think of her often, I was doing some research on one of her story lines just around the time of her death and was heart sick to hear of it. When I put my few “tried and true” authors in a search engine to find out what they have in store for my pleasure in the near future, I still, and I suspect for many years to come still want to type her name in there.

    Thank you for continuing on with her ideas in a collaboration that I will look forward to exploring.


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