cathyr19355: Stock photo of myself (Default)
posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 09:44pm on 31/05/2010 under , ,
I just returned from Balticon, the annual Baltimore-area regional science-fiction convention, less than an hour ago. Since I never managed to write about Penguicon, which I attended at the beginning of the month, it seems as good a time as any to talk about both of them. For those of my LJ friends who don't know or care about science-fiction fandom, I'll put the rest of this under an lj-cut.

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Mood:: 'pleased' pleased
cathyr19355: Stock photo of myself (Default)
posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 10:16pm on 25/05/2009 under ,
Now we're home again.

I had a good time at Balticon, though it was more of the quietly-hang-out-and-game-and-see-old-friends variety, and not the bustle and excitement of a Penguicon. I think there were all of 10 parties throughout the three days of the convention, 6 of which were on Saturday night.

There were panels, but a look at the panel list turned up nothing that inspired me to go attend.

As usual, the Dealer's Room was excellent, in both quality and quantity--it is large, and features a big variety of dealers who carry interesting wares. The Art Show was also large and very good as Art Shows go, but I've seen so many art shows that it's rare I see anything in any of them that impresses me anymore.

There was an anime room and a room showing old SF movies, but I was too busy gaming to stop by.

The gaming room, as always, had a great selection of games loaned by local fen, but was too small and thus too hot a lot of the time. (Not that this stopped us from spending a lot of time there. I don't think we went to bed before 3 a.m. any of the three nights of the convention.)

The con suite, which continues to be housed in an unused hotel restaurant styled like a 1950s diner, was more than large enough but didn't have enough comfy seats to be a good hang-out place.

As we were heading out of the hotel to head home on Monday, I overheard someone remark to another fan nearby that the same old gripes are made at every year's gripe session, e.g., "They didn't have raw vegetables when I was there!" (though raw vegetables were clearly stocked--I saw some when I stopped by last night). No wonder the con is changing so little from year to year. I wonder what would happen if I stopped by next year.
Mood:: 'thoughtful' thoughtful
cathyr19355: Stock photo of myself (Default)
posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 03:14pm on 23/05/2009 under
So here I am on Saturday afternoon at Balticon, the Baltimore-area regional con that takes up the three-day Memorial Day weekend.

It's warm. It's sunny. It has a great dealer's room and a good art show. There are panels, somewhere, and I'm about to check the program to see if any of them interest me.

Contrary to what you'd expect, it's not *in* Baltimore per se. It's in a nice suburban hotel, that's about 10 minutes away on foot (and about a minute away by car) from a mall with lots of great restaurants of different types.

Last night, [livejournal.com profile] esrblog and I played Ticket to Ride and Power Grid until nearly 4 A.M. I won the first, and came in a heartbreakingly close second to [livejournal.com profile] esrblog, He's sleeping now, having had to get up a bit early to do a radio interview by cellphone.

Yes, I know I didn't do my Penguicon report yet. It's on the to-do list. Fun at Balticon now, more writing later.
Mood:: 'cheerful' cheerful
cathyr19355: (Haley)
posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 11:58pm on 22/05/2008 under ,
We head to Balticon tomorrow night... where I will publicly debut my Haley Starshine costume. Yes, I've finally found a way to get in touch with my inner Rogue.
Mood:: 'mischievous' mischievous
cathyr19355: Stock photo of myself (Default)
posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 10:06pm on 30/05/2006 under ,
This past weekend, Balticon was held in the Marriott Hunt Valley Inn, where it has not been held for nearly 20 years.

Unlike the crew who runs Lunacon, the con didn't officially rename the Hunt Valley after Escher--the fans did, for excellent reason.

Twenty years ago, the Hunt Valley was a three-story, slightly sprawling hotel, near a low grade commercial strip on a quiet highway in suburban Baltimore.

Now, the highway is higher-speed and sees a lot more traffic, strip malls are everywhere, and the Hunt Valley itself has...changed. For one thing, it's a lot larger. "They've expanded and built onto it quite a bit," a long-time Baltimore fan told me.

But it's also gotten weirder. The building sprawls about the landscape like Cthulhu having a hangover. Worse, it has floors that are only accessible from certain sides of the building--and nowhere else. There is a mezzanine--used only for hotel offices, and only accessible from a stairwell and certain elevators near the lobby. The hotel gift shop has miscegenated with a Pizzeria UNO that serves a reduced menu of mediocre deli sandwiches and undercooked thin crust pizza. There is also a Lower Lobby level. On the other side of the building, completely unconnected to the Lower Lobby level, a lone elevator descends to a Floor 0. I swear I'm not making this up. (Perhaps inevitably, the con put the few room parties on Floor 0.) In addition, the hotel structure is full of arches and roofed outdoor walkways, like the courtyards you find in a monastery--or an Escher painting. Except, of course, Christian monastery courtyards usually are shaped like a square or rectangle, and don't branch off in all directions like seaweed.

The con suite was a bit odd, also. Its home base was an abandoned 50s-style diner--complete with red, black, and white tile, red leatherette booths and stools, and neon trim--that lurked at the heart of the building. However, the con suite was relocated to totally different areas at least twice. [livejournal.com profile] esrblog was inspired to make a joke about it. "It's the quantum con suite; you can know its location, or you can know its momentum, but not both at the same time," he quipped. "And it didn't appear to cross the intervening distance." In fact, over the weekend it seemed as though no one was traversing the intervening distance (except maybe me). If you went from, say, the dealers' room to the Concierge Lounge (a prime programming venue), both locations had reasonable numbers of fans, but there didn't seem to be a large number of people traveling through the corridors at any one time. This was especially odd since there were supposedly 2,000 people at the convention.

Despite the fact that [livejournal.com profile] esrblog and I were thrown out of the room where we were supposed to do our martial arts workshop because Neil Gaiman was signing autographs there, I never even caught a glimpse of him during the convention. I thought I saw a guy who looked like Gaiman in the parking lot on Monday afternoon kissing someone goodbye, but I was quite a distance away and couldn't be sure.

Supposedly, there was a Masquerade, but I'm not sure when and where it was held, and there was a fairly large Hall Costume contest (which I entered but didn't win). I'm also told there was a Star Wars LARP, but except for a few signs on the walls, there was no evidence that it existed either, except maybe in a galaxy far, far away.

I had a good time at the convention (in between episodes of having to march to our room, which was located on the 3rd floor on the far fringes, directly above Floor 0), but that was mostly because there were lots of board gaming and I was able to spend quiet time with a few good friends. It had a reasonably good art show and a good dealers' room, and the filkers seemed pleasantly occupied every time I passed the filk area. But the movie and anime schedules were anemic, the dance was held in a tiny room and was still underpopulated, and the programming, though fairly abundant, was remarkably free of panels I really wanted to see.

Yet there were a lot of college age and younger fans at the convention. Maybe it was just Gaiman's presence, but I'd like to think that maybe Balticon has a shot at becoming an exciting, fun con once again, instead of the languid nostalgia fest I saw.
Mood:: 'thoughtful' thoughtful
Music:: the hum of the air conditioner and my computer
location: home again

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