Tuesday, March 29, 2016


So my husband and I got in a cab to go to Norwescon on Thursday afternoon. It was pretty cool to be able to take a cab to a con; I haven't done that in a lot of years.

The con was at a Doubletree, which pretty clearly used to be a Red Lion. I have a lot of fond memories of conventions at various Lions, mostly the one in San Jose (which is also a Doubletree now) but also a few others. There are a few architectural details that stood out and triggered memories. The long, low, arm-like blocks of rooms extending from the main building reminded me of the Lion where the Sacramento Westercon was held in... '85, I think. It made the hotel feel like a space station, which was pretty cool, and although the SeaTac Doubletree wasn't quite as symmetrically space-stationish as the Sacramento property, the architectural building blocks were clearly the same. And the woodwork around the room doors felt Liony to me, heavily blocky and in dark-grained wood which fits my Lion memories back through the eighties, although noticing a detail that minor makes me feel like a major hotel geek. :P But hotels refresh the cosmetics -- paint and carpet and light fixtures and such -- every so many years, so if it's been decades, you really have to look at the building's bones. Anyway, the hotel felt homey to me from the moment I walked inside, and that was cool.

Check-in at the front desk went quickly, and it was cool to see most of the desk staff wearing Norwescon T-shirts. It's great when the hotel staff can get involved, even if it's only in a small way. When BayCon was at the Santa Clara Hyatt, fans started giving staffers who'd helped them out badge ribbons, either in addition to tips for wait- and bellstaff, or just to say "Thanks" for staffers who don't usually get tips. The hotel management embraced this practice and set up a competition for its staffers -- whoever collected the most ribbons over the course of the convention got a prize. IIRC it was a bonus day of paid vacation, something like that. Very cool, and the staffers got into the spirit of the thing. BayCon has moved on this year, unfortunately, but that Hyatt seems like it'd be a good place to work, if you're in that business.

Back at Norwescon, we ran into someone weird on our way up to our room. I know, weird people at an SF con -- who'd have imagined? We found the elevator and a young man in a bright orange T-shirt was hanging out nearby. He came in with us, and I saw that his shirt said:


Umm, seriously, dude? I just eyerolled and ignored him. He didn't say anything that I recall while the elevator did its thing, and when the door opened on our floor, he got out and held it for us while the husband and I wheeled our luggage out. I think he said, "Have a nice day," or something similar, then got back on the elevator. I just thought he was weird and clueless -- his behavior was very polite, and I'd have thought, "What a nice young man," if it wasn't for that horribly obnoxious T-shirt. Then my husband pointed out that the elevator call button hadn't been pushed until I pushed it, on the first floor, and the guy hadn't pushed a floor button when he got on after us, nor did he get off on our floor. So apparently he was just hanging out by the elevator, in his obnoxious T-shirt, riding the elevator with random people...? Okay, yeah, after Jim pointed all that out, I had to admit it was a bit creepy. I do remember he wasn't wearing a convention badge. Maybe he hadn't gotten one yet, maybe he didn't want to be identifiable, or maybe he was just a mundane who hangs around hotels being creepy. No clue. I will say, though, that if it weren't for the stupid shirt, I'd have opined that he seemed like a nice, polite young man who probably wouldn't have had a horribly hard time getting into a situation where he could interact with someone's tits [cough] just through being nice and polite, and hooking up the way people often do. As it was, even if I were single and thirty years younger, I wouldn't have considered getting into a naked situation with someone who thought that shirt was cool, or even funny. Obnoxious Shirt Guy, if you're reading this, take a clue please.

Our room, in the main tower, was nice -- larger than an average chain hotel room, which the Lion properties were known for. A friend had a room in one of the space-station arms, and it was smaller, although still comfortable. Our king single had a comfy chair and a desk and didn't feel crowded. The bed was rather brick-like, and the pillows were way too soft (even after calling Housekeeping to exchange the feather pillows for foam, the foam was pretty clearly broken down), which is unfortunately common in a lot of hotels. Apparently most people like having their heads sink down through the fluff of their pillow until it feels like they're basically lying on the mattress. [wry smile]

Anyway, con.

Jim and I both had our signed print-out saying we agreed to abide by con policies (which I've never had to literally sign up to before, so... weird?) and our ID. Theoretically this was to speed up badge pick-up for pre-regged members, but if this was the fast track, the slow-track people must still be waiting. There were four (a few minutes later cut down to three) lines leading up to the pre-reg windows, each line about ten feet long. They cut off there for traffic-and-Fire-Marshal reasons, which, okay, perfectly reasonable. There was a much longer single line leading away to the left, which was feeding into the four lines. I eventually noticed a staffer hovering around the ends of the four lines, occasionally motioning people from the one line to join this or that of the four lines, although his primary focus seemed to be on keeping the four lines from getting too long. Okay, I get that keeping the Fire Marshal from potentially shutting down the whole show has to be a priority. But I definitely saw at least a few people just wander up and get into one of the (much shorter) four lines. In that kind of a set-up, where there are two line sections with a break in between, it's helpful to have gofers who can point line-jumpers (often inadvertent, I'm sure, since it wasn't immediately obvious what was where and how the lines worked) to where the end of the actual line was. If the guy keeping the lines from blocking a major fire lane couldn't do that, having someone else there to direct traffic would've been nice.

Seriously, though, the line was horribly slow. Considering this was just a "Hand over your signed form, show your ID, tell the guy if you want a clip or a lanyard and take your clipped or lanyarded badge," sort of process, I don't know what the hold-up was. I have mobility issues and can't stand for more than a few minutes before my feet start griping at me, and then the pain starts spreading upward, so standing there for however long (I think it was about twenty minutes or so, all together, mid-afternoon Thursday) wasn't fun. When we made it up to the window guy, he was friendly and fast and efficient, and we both had our badges within a minute. Clearly the reg folks weren't slacking off.

Someone mentioned that there were people in line who didn't have their forms, or weren't pre-reg. That's another area where a gofer or two to direct traffic could help, pointing people to the right line so pre-reg can go as quickly as it should. The fact that of the four stations the four lines led up to, only two were marked "PRE-REG" -- the other two were just "REGISTRATION" but they were using all four for pre-reg on Thursday. This makes sense from an efficiency POV, but probably added to the confusion.

Oh, the badges. Okay, this I have to complain about. One reason people wear badges at a convention is so you know who you're talking to, standing next to, buying a book from, etc. The badges were medium-dark grey, and the names were printed in black, in a very thin font. Come on, folks, seriously? The only way to actually read someone else's name badge was to lean down so your face was ridiculously close. And I was wearing my glasses. I get that, from the con's POV, badges are to tell them who's paid and who hasn't when they're controlling access, but from an attendee's POV, I also use them to identify the people around me, see if maybe that woman there is a favorite author, or if that guy next to me in line is someone I've been chatting with online for five years. Next year, please make the badges readable.

After picking up badges, we got reg packets from the info desk, right across the way. The guy there -- also friendly and efficient -- asked if we were first-timers at the convention. We were, so we got orange badge ribbons saying first-time attendee. That was pretty cool, and it was interesting seeing how many of those orange ribbons I saw walking around. This was Norwescon 39, and the fact that they're getting a lot of new people says good things about the con.

Once we were badged, we met up with my friend Karen, who's a costumer, and went to get food. The restaurant sort of attached to the bar, the name of which I forget, had a limited menu, but what we ordered was very good. I got a bacon cheeseburger -- first bacon I've eaten since 2015, yum! -- and was very happy. The service was a bit slow, but not overly so IMO.

We chatted over food, and found that Karen still had some things to do on her costume yet. Hey, the Masquerade's not till Saturday night, right? Pleny of time! :) We sat talking for however long, then I went back to her room with her to help.

Karen's costume was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's "The Telltale Heart." It was all red and beige and black, sort of a blend of Victorian and Heart and Crazy. She had a length of all-over lace with sparkly embroidery and beads and sequins on it in a scrolly floral pattern -- a really gorgeous piece -- that she'd dyed, first red IIRC, then re-dyed black. The center panel of the bodice was red and the rest was beige, all covered with the lace. She made a skirt of multiple layers of gradient-dyed tulle, from black at the top to red at the bottom. I sat for a while cutting out little bits (hopefully esthetically shaped) out of the lace while Karen glued them on to the top two layers of tulle, to give the skirt some interest and a bit of sparkle.

When we were done with the skirt, she put on her tights, got out the bottle of red paint, and "dyed" the bottoms of her tights with her hands, from about mid-calf down, with blotchy red. It ended up looking like she'd gone splashing through a pool of blood, which, yuck! but it matched the feel of the costume. :) She also worked on decorating her mask, with markers and some glue-on bits from the lace. This is what the whole thing ended up looking like:

We spent most of the evening hanging out, talking, and working on her costume. Karen and I have been friends for over forty years -- we met in seventh grade homeroom -- and for the most part I only see her at conventions now. Half the reason I go to cons is to hang out with friends, so it didn't bug me too much not to see any actual convention stuff that evening.

Next day we had breakfast at the Coffee Garden. I had the buffet, which was a bit expensive for breakfast but had a lot of stuff, from cereal and yogurt and fresh fruit -- both cut up and whole -- to eggs and bacon and sausage, and you could order an omelet with whatever you wanted in it. I've seen a lot of worse breakfast buffets.

After breakfast, I hung out until things started up, then went through the Art Show and the Dealer's Room. There were artists whose work I'd never seen before, which was very cool. I hardly ever buy art anymore, but I like looking, and having new pieces to look at is always fun. It was the same in the Dealer's Room -- there were dealers I hadn't seen before, which was cool. It can get monotonous seeing the same thing every year, so browsing around was fun. There were gaming dealers with dice and such, which I'm not used to seeing, and some costume/accessory dealers who were new to me. All I bought was books, which is pretty usual for me. I was Dave Clark's first sale of the day, yay. :) And I stopped to chat for a minute with an indie publishing writer who was selling some steampunk fiction. I've sold some steampunk too -- "Rites of Zosimos" in Alchemy and Steam, -- so it was like, "Yay steampunk!"

We had lunch, me and Jim and Karen, at a coffee shop across the street, just to try something outside the hotel. I think it was a Denny's. It was okay, not great but not awful. I've been in some awful Denny's; I remember we used to warn people about the Denny's nearby, back when BayCon was at the San Jose Lion. I had a big salad that wasn't bad.

Afterward, my husband wanted to go to a panel on comics on TV, and then one on feminism in SF, which were both handily in the same room, one right after the other. That sounded good to me, so we both went.

The Comics on TV panel turned out to be more Comics in Media, and the panelists had seen a lot of cartoon adaptations Jim and I haven't seen, but other than that most of the discussion was about either TV shows and movies we'd seen, or ones (like Green Lantern, ick) that we very deliberately didn't see. I mean, seriously, just from the trailers it looked like they took the character of Hal Jordan, who was chosen by the ring because he had the strongest will on the planet, and tossed it into a wood chipper. What came out was this complete idiot frat-boy type. Who decided that Green Lantern movie, about the Hal Jordan Green Lantern, needed to be a comedy?? Umm, no, I don't think so.

DC's been doing a great job with TV series lately, but not so much with movies. I haven't seen Batman vs. Superman yet, and I'll probably only see it to keep up with the continuity when the JLA movie comes out. [sigh] Marvel's been doing a lot better on the movie side, but even their TV shows are good, the ones I've seen so far. I like Agents of SHIELD -- apparently unlike most of the panelists, oh well. I'm sorry, but Phil Coulson rocks, and Melinda May is the 21st century's Chuck Norris. :) I'm not a huge fan of all the characters, and I agree that they've tossed so many new characters into the show that it's hard to remember who they all are at times, but in general I like the show and the way it's built its continuity, rather than being a villain-of-the-week episodic type show.

Someone asked about constant reboots, like with the Spiderman franchise. I said that was about contracts rather than art, but I don't think anyone except the panelists heard me. [shrug] But seriously, from what I've heard, Sony has to produce a Spiderman movie every so often or the film rights will revert back to Marvel. Sony pretty clearly has no idea what to do with the property, but they know they don't want to lose it, so every couple of years they spit out a new Spiderman movie, and half the time it's a complete reboot. I didn't bother seeing the last... two? Three? I don't even know anymore. Although the bit at the end of the Civil War trailer gives me some hope that Marvel Studios will get at least some control over the character back. [crossed fingers]

The feminism in SF panel was interesting, and it was a positive experience in the way that echo chambers tend to be. I didn't hear anything I hadn't already known, but my husband -- who was the one who wanted to see it in the first place -- learned a few things, and that's always good. I recognized one of the panelists, Amber Clark, from a panel at... I think it was Reno WorldCon, about representation in SF or something similar. She's a good speaker, very confident and out there without being offensive to people who haven't had the whole curriculum yet.

That evening, Karen had a Masquerade meeting to go to (seriously, between Friday and Saturday she had like three or four meetings to go to, to hear presentations, to turn in a form, something else I didn't get, then a tech run-through; if costumers hardly ever get to see any of the convention until after the Masquerade is over, I guess I understand why), and Jim had something he wanted to go to, so I hung out in the room for a bit. I had a story due to an editor that needed a bit of sandpaper, so I did that and sent it off, then decided to go check out the parties.

I've never been to Norwescon before, and hardly knew anyone there. I'm not a big party person, and haven't regularly hit the party floor at a convention since probably my late twenties, but it seemed like a good way to meet people. It was after nine when I set out. The party floor(s) were way out at the far end of one of the space-station arms. I headed out, listening for people, maybe music, and looking for open doors. The first party I found, open (resting on its latch so it was mostly closed but not completely, and couldn't lock) had a sign on it saying "Invitation Only." Ummm, well, okay. My memory tells me that any party room with a door on the latch is an open party, for anyone to wander into, but maybe that's changed? At least they put up a sign. Onward.

That was the only party in that hallway, apparently. Or maybe I was just early? I found the Cthulu party, which had someone at the door checking IDs. I hadn't brought mine, oops. I don't drink alcohol, so it didn't occur to me to bring my ID. Another party was open and full, yay. I wandered in and looked around. They had a lot of hot food down one side, and a row of various drinks across the back, with one or two guys behind the drinks tables serving. The rest of the room was packed. I mean, seriously. There were a few chairs, all full, at one end, and the rest of the floor was packed with people, standing right up against one another like a bamboo thicket. The adjoining room was set up for dancing, with a DJ, but there was nobody there, so I took off.

Note that this was probably a great party. I have arthritis, though. I can walk for a while, usually, but I can't stand in one place for more than a few minutes before things start hurting. A party so packed that there's nowhere to sit down and probably won't be any free chairs for quite a while is not a place where I can hang out. It was too bad, but not the hosts' problem, so I left.

And... that was about it. I don't know if Norwescon just isn't a party kind of convention, or whether this is what the party floor looks like at a medium size regional convention these days, or whether the parties don't start up till eleven or so.

I wandered back toward the main area of the con, and saw a sign pointing down a hallway toward the Con Suite. Okay, that was a possibility. The place was brightly lit and there were plenty of tables and chairs. There was some food and some drinks. I got a glass of water and circled the room slowly. A couple of staffers were doing something behind the food table, but didn't say hi or make eye contact. The fans in the room were in a couple of groups. They seemed to know each other and were kicking back talking, which is what a con suite is for. I didn't feel comfortable just sitting down with an established group, so I finished my water, tossed the cup, and left.

Okay, it's been a while since I did the party thing, and I usually had friends I was walking around with back then. People who know me would probably deny it, but I'm pretty shy when I'm around strangers. I'm not comfortable just walking up to a strange person and saying hi in most environments, much less a group of people who seem to be getting along perfectly well without me. It's my issue and nobody else's. It's been a while, though, since I got hit in the face with it quite as strongly as I did that night.

Next door to the Con Suite was a room with another bunch of people sitting around. There were bins with costuming-type materials in them, and I wondered if it was the room where the Masquerade meetings took place. I looked around for Karen, but she wasn't there. Some of the people sitting were knitting, and I think one person had a piece of embroidery. On the way out I saw a sign saying it was a Stitch-and-Bitch event. Okay, that's very cool. Next year I'll bring my knitting, or whatever I'm working on a year from now, and go hang out there. With activities in common, even I can probably manage to talk to one or two people. :P Right then, though, it wasn't much help, so I went back to my room. Meeting people: epic fail. [sigh]

And it turns out that was pretty much all the convention I saw. :/ The next morning, we had breakfast in the Coffee Garden again -- yay buffet! -- and then I started feeling sick. I went back to the room, took some meds, then took some more meds and tried to sleep. Sleeping didn't work, and by mid-afternoon I texted my husband; I needed to get to the hospital. While I was down in the lobby near the seating area, waiting for Jim to get us a cab, I was hunched over and gasping and trying hard not to vomit. A nice lady sitting nearby asked if I was okay. I shook my head, and she told me she was a nurse's aide, asked some questions, including whether she could help me. She couldn't -- once I've gotten to that point, the only thing that'll help is at the hospital -- but it was great of her to ask. A lot of strangers wouldn't, but if you're in trouble at an SF event and are clearly in distress, there'll usually be at least a few people around who'll offer to help. It's one of the reasons I love this crowd.

After I was done at the hospital, Jim took me right home, then went back to the hotel to pack our things and check us out. When he explained why he was checking us out early, the hotel cancelled our third room night with no problem, and didn't even charge us their (normally horrendous) late check-out fee, so that was very cool of them. Props to the Doubletree for that.

I talked to Karen the next day -- she won the Judge's Choice Award at the Masquerade, yay! I just wish I could've been there to see her presentation, and all the other costumes.

On the whole, despite how it ended, I enjoyed Norwescon, and I'm looking forward to going back next year. It seemed well run (yes, I had some nits to pick, but I've worked a lot of conventions and little crap always happens) and the people I met were friendly. The staff I interacted with were friendly and helpful, and seemed to know what they were doing. Good stuff, see you again in 2017. :)


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