Monday, February 18, 2013

Radcon 6A Madcap Recap

Okay, false advertising. Radcon 6A was not actually madcap, nor is this post. But sometimes a title presents itself and refuses to dislodge itself.

Weather-permitting, Radcon has marked the first of spring for me since my college days in the late 90's. Mid-February is often the first day of warm sun in Eastern Washington, turning the winter's average 20's chill to a nice 50-something. That tradition carried on even after I moved to Seattle, where the winter is a bit warmer, but the sun more scarce. There have been disappointing exceptions, especially the year an icy wind tossed around a thick layer of gravel-sized dust particles all weekend. Yuck.

This year, however, did not disappoint. On our drive, the car reported an outside temperature of 54 degrees, and the sun shone a little too brightly to make for a comfortable drive. I found myself wishing I'd packed more short-sleeved shirts. As soon as we reached the hotel, I stripped out of my boots and thick thigh-high socks to free my feet of the swelter.

This year, the theme for me seemed to be "Growing Old". This was my 18th Radcon, and I've not missed a one since 1995, not even the year I had a kidney infection and had to sit out most of the con. This was my ninth Radcon since moving to Seattle, which means I reached an equilateral point - as many Radcons living away from the Tri-Cities as local.

Radcon used to be a river of familiar faces rushing down the hallways. Each year, there are fewer and fewer, and this time, I realized I can no longer identify Radcon by its people. Some held a hint of familiarity, yet changed so much by age. Most were entirely new faces, a young generation of Tri-Citian geeks. They will never know that I once attended CBC across the street and traveled to NorWesCon with my Sci-Fi Club friends. They will never know that I bounced excitedly through the halls LARPing with my Camarilla friends or that I ran tabletop games and was in a fake secret-society and helped put on the LAN party every year, or that I wore glitter or that people asked me what I was on when I was stone cold sober. They're too busy making their own friends and having their new experiences, which for me are well-tread adventures.

I stopped to chat with very few people, because even of those I recognized, many did not recognize me, and I had long forgotten their names, if I ever knew them. I was happy for the familiar faces I did see, and the people I was able to reconnect with. Those I expected to see, and didn't, I miss with a deep remorse. I am old enough to know that you cannot recapture time.

I am old enough to know nostalgia can be an intense sad feeling of loss.

But I've always complained about being too old, even back at my first Radcon, age 20, when my now-adult son was just a baby. Of course I didn't know what I was talking about then. And I'm sure I don't know what I'm talking about now.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. I'm the one who changes, and even then, not much. Perhaps that is what growing old is -- realizing how little is new.

If being jaded is a result of having too much life experience, there's a flipside to that coin. One I rather enjoyed. Now I don't just know stuff, I've done stuff. Lots of stuff. I'm wise and more confident, and that makes me awesome.

It means this year I got to be on panels, and what a rush that was.

My reading Friday night was sparsely attended, and by sparse, I mean three people. Quite a far cry from my first reading last summer, in which my and Michael Montoure packed the Wayward. But as I learned from another author, Laurel Anne Hill, audience size will vary. Earlier that day she'd spoken to a crowd of 500-700 students. Just a few hours later, we (and our partners) were each other's audience. I greatly enjoyed hearing her story.

After that, I sat on my first panel, Stop Thief!, about piracy and other intellectual property topics. There I met Peter "Frog" Jones and Jim Burk. We didn't agree on everything, and I learned a few new things, and I think our audience learned even more. A question was asked about how to detect online piracy and what to do about it, which requires a far more technical answer than I could offer in person. I promised a detailed post on the subject, so stay tuned.

Roland and I took Friday night pretty easy, which set a pattern for the rest of the con. We had drinks at the Grizzly Bar (yes, that is its real name) and wandered around a bit and then went to bed.

I had two panels the next day. As I guessed, I was sorely outclassed in the Worldbuilding for Planets panel. CJ Cherryh and Hugh Gregory know a ton of science, and when CJ builds, she starts with the geology and astrophysics, and moves up. I have a completely different approach -- I start with the story idea and then research the science to see how I can build a planet to suit. That left me little room to interject.

I learned a valuable lesson that how I introduce myself at a panel will set the tone for the rest of the hour -- a character template of who "Luna Lindsey" is that can open or close doors. Even if I don't have the kind of experience I'd like, it's good for attendees to see a variety of opinions. I will always have something I can highlight, which will direct the conversation towards things I know more about. In this case, I truly love worldbuilding in general, and while I've not completed any sci-fi stories written off-earth, I've been working hard at a couple of hard-sf worlds. I should have made that the focus of my introduction.

I put that hard-earned knowledge to good use later.

Either way, I learned lots of fun things about astrophysics from Hugh and CJ, and even managed to say one or two things.

Directly afterwards, I paneled on Sex, Love, and Writing in a Changing World. That was a really fun one. I got to meet Tamra Excell and Christine Morgan, and got to re-meet Jim Burk and Peter Jones. In this case, I got to rely not only on what I've read and written on the topic, but on my own life experiences. My fellow-panelists were from a wide variety of backgrounds, which I quickly learned makes for the most interesting panels. The attendees had lots of questions and there was never a dull moment.

The next stop was an interactive panel not previously on my schedule -- Image This! hosted by Tim Morgan. The concept is simple - an author (in this case, me) reads a story while artists sketch, as inspired. In the second hour, attendees are shown a painting, and write a story. Thankfully, I had two other stories with me, both of which I've read before and are visual enough to sketch. The Metro Gnome and Let the Bugs Work Themselves Out. Since I couldn't fill the whole hour, another attendee read from his work, which was quite well-written. (I didn't catch his name.) As always, I loved reading aloud. It was a special thrill to see the drawings my words inspired.

The second half was not on my schedule, so I was only able to stay for the first picture. The writing side was fun, but it was even more fun to see what other stories people came up with, all based on the same image. I've done similar activities in writer groups, where we all write a story with the same title, or write to a specific theme. It just goes to show that an "idea" is less important than its implementation, and every writer can have something new to say.

I would love to see this activity at more cons, and I hope Radcon does it again next year.

I met up with my friend Jenboi and with Roland and we hit the parties. We spent most of the time at the SpoCon room party. My favorite con party is the mellow kind, with low-volume music and a small crowd, with places to sit and talk. The SpoCon party did not disappoint, and we conversed until 3 am.

The next day I had only one panel late in the afternoon, so we took it even more easy. Why Horror? was late enough on a Sunday that we could have a small, intimate discussion. Once again, we had a wide variety of panelist backgrounds - Devi Snively is an academic with a background in film and was the Media GOH. Ron Leota authors games and runs a podcast. Eric Morget is a voice actor and indie film maker. Yet despite this, we all had one interesting thing in common -- a religious and sheltered past. I had a lot of fun doing this panel.

Several of the panels generated lots of interest in my writing. I also met a few people who had seen my bookmark and become interested in Emerald City Dreamer just from that. I also ran into a few people who had read my Sucker Punch analysis on this blog.

It's all very encouraging. I hope I was entertaining and informative to those who listened to me, and thanks to Radcon for giving me this opportunity. Being a panelist was everything I dreamed and more, and I hope I can do it again and again.

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