A brief recap: Last year's Philcon was my first con. I don't think I'd ever even been in a hotel that big, let alone stayed there by myself. I knew exactly one person who was there, clarkesworld, who I hadn't seen in years. The only other person who talked to me all weekend was one of the panelists on the first panel I went to, who figured out I was a shy scared first-timer and chatted with me then and again later that weekend. The only times I saw people within twenty years of my age were after 10 PM.
After four more cons and two Jeff Mach events, I hope the wide-eyed newbie look had worn off. I'm still terminally shy (just because it hasn't killed me yet, doesn't mean it won't) and terrified of saying the wrong thing, but determined to take the chances anyway. And, as I turned into the Crowne Plaza hotel on Friday evening, I felt like I was coming home. daeron met me at the front desk, and by the time we'd taken our stuff up to the room, palingyuan had also arrived. We had dinner in the hotel restaurant, then they headed for panels while I people-watched in the lobby.
At 9, D and P joined me at Dirty Harry Potter, ostensibly a panel about sexuality and other dark elements in the books, but actually more of a freeform discussion of all sorts of things from the books, movies, and a certain amount of the fanfiction. Then I joined the minds behind Lobbycon down in the lobby and watched them play Chrononauts for a while. I was starting to get the "why is she still here?" vibe from them, and was considering where to go next, when Jeff Mach, the devious mind behind Wicked Faire and the Steampunk World's Fair, asked us all to go to the dance for a little while to make the DJ happier. I don't think people say no to Jeff. He's a soft-spoken man with a sad face, and I think I would be afraid of making him cry. So off we went. I danced until I was thirsty, overheated and worn out. Back in the lobby, I bumped into hughcasey, and sat and talked with him until he had to run off to save the world yet again. I was planning to go to the Eye of Argon reading, but didn't think I would be able to stay awake, so I headed up to bed.
The first time slot of Saturday morning was the one where there were FOUR places I wanted to be. I opted for the panel on Overcoming Geek Shyness. I am undeniably an expert at being shy. I also know quite a few ways to cope with it. I went prepared with notes. I was determined that either they were going to teach me the great secret I've been missing all these years, or they were going to cover everything in my notes, or I was going to have to speak up at the end and tell them what they missed. Well, I didn't learn much, but they did cover all the major points I had, and the few minor comments I could have made weren't worth it.
Katie talked me out of the panel I'd planned to see in the following hour, so I went wandering through the dealers' room and art show. I hadn't decided what to do next when Hugh spotted me and begged me to come be the audience for the Jeff Mach Appreciation Panel (roast). Well, I can't say no to Hugh either, so that's what I did. It was hilarious. Jeff is never without a clipboard, so the first thing they did was separate him from it. He waited a couple of minutes, then pulled out a notepad and pen. When that was noticed, they were confiscated, and those present patted him down to make sure he had no more. A few minutes later, he produced another notepad and pen. Those also were confiscated. When he then started writing things on business cards with yet another pen, they bound his hands with the lanyard of his badge for the remainder of the panel.
I grabbed a wrap from the coffee shop for lunch. One of the men from the Jeff Mach panel joined me at my table. We both completely failed at making conversation, to our mutual embarassment. At least it wasn't just me. After that I went to the Dating & Fandom 201 panel -- what happens after the flirting. I had more I planned to go to after that, but I had no concentration. Between what I did to myself making the cookies, the dancing, and the lack of sleep, I was tired and in a lot of pain. I took painkillers and then sat on the edge of conversation in the lobby and stared into space for a couple of hours. Finally, I decided just to go upstairs and take a nap.
P woke me up when she came back to the room around 5:30. She said she'd been asked to tell me I had hypnoboobs. "That's a superpower I could actually get some use out of," I thought. Then I said, "Wait. Who told you that? Who told you that?" I was so puzzled that when she said "the tall one" it took me a minute to figure out she meant oidhche and not someone at the con. In my defense, I had just woken up. So I called the boys to find out what they'd been doing with my character and how the game was going.
P and I, and D when he came up, chatted for a while, then headed back downstairs to see what was going on. Hugh was collecting a bevy of beautiful young women to join him for dinner at Wegmans, so P and I went along and D went off on his own.
Back at the hotel, Lobbycon was in full swing. And that's when it got strange. I guess I was just in the right place at the right time. Somehow, I'm not sure how, I ended up talking and giggling with two other women for hours. One I'd met before, but not really talked to, and the other I met then. Quite unexpectedly, I made new friends. And of course I know that's how it's supposed to work, but see also expert on being shy and too scared to open my mouth.
There was a panel running at 11:00 on Non-Mainstream Lifestyles. I would have gone anyway, from interest in the subject matter, but I also knew that one of the people I'd been hanging around with earlier in the day was taking a big personal step at that panel, and I wanted to be there as a supportive and friendly face. It ended up being the sort of thing that makes me proud to be where I am. Just by going to the con, we're all declaring ourselves to be outside the mainstream. We're all geeks, freaks and weirdos. We've all been outcasts. And people who can accept the premises of science fiction and fantasy are much less likely than the average person to quibble over little details like sexuality, gender expression, religious beliefs, or any of the other things that any of us have to hide from the rest of the world. I'm very proud to be part of the safe space where people can just be themselves.
Anyway, after that, I wandered through the periphery of several other conversations until winding down enough to go to bed.
Last-day morning panels always seem to be hit-or-miss. Everyone's sleeping in and then packing up and checking out. Panelists don't bother to show up. Audiences are mostly just looking for places to sit and drink their coffee. At 10 on Sunday, I went to a panel on Robots Since Asimov. The panelists never did get around to introducing themselves, and the discussion was much more media-focused than book-focused. At 11:00, I went to Gilbert & Sullivan in Fantasy (or the other way around). G&S is in my blood. I barely know enough to be recognized as part of my mother's family. And even without any preparation, I was better-equipped for the discussion than any of the panelists. None of them knew more than a few of the plays each. Fortunately, a knowledgeable gentleman in the audience brought out a great deal of what they were missing, and it did end up being very much worthwhile. I would have loved to see my grandfather on that panel, though! We did some singing at the end, and left on a good note (pun intended).
I made my final run through the dealers' room and bought some books, then parked myself in a chair in the lobby for a couple of hours and let the world come to me. Much to my surprise, it did. I didn't get to the 2:00 panel on Mid-Atlantic Fandom until almost 2:30, because D and Neil got me started on Medfest politics. Neil had some useful suggestions, though, and I'm very glad to have had the conversation.
I attempted to go to the gripe session to relay my complaints and some of D's, but (gripe) the time and location had been changed and insufficiently publicized. Instead, I went back to the lobby to squeeze the dregs out of the con. While there, I was absolutely unambiguously hit on, by someone who reminded me rather a lot of Alex Pla. So I handled it the same way I would have from Pla: Ignored the statement and distracted him into talking about his biggest suggestion, argued with him about it for longer than I wanted to, then redirected him to a person who might actually be able to do something about it. And then made sure to be very busy somewhere else when that conversation ended.
I didn't leave the hotel until 5:15, when a bunch of us decamped down the road to Houlihan's for dinner. There the conversation and laughter and camaraderie continued until about 7:45, when I reluctantly headed home. And found a few Facebook requests waiting for me. ("They like me! They really like me!")
Let's see, what else did I miss...
I got a couple of drive-by hugs from popfiend, who does indeed give good hug as advertised.
The cookies were fail. I put a lot of time and energy into the cookies, and I was a little disappointed that nobody seemed to have any interest in them. They did look pretty on the kitchen counter, though:
I always look forward after the cons to seeing jcholewa's pictures on Facebook. He gets to so many things, and is usually wherever something interesting is happening. So it's like a little game to see how much of whatever he photographed is something I recognize, and whether I made it into the pictures. Well, it appears that this weekend, I was right in the thick of things.
Anyway, all in all, it was just a really terrific weekend, and I was so sorry to have it end.
Next up: Arisia, in Boston, mid-January.