A Kate At Ravencon

Alas, alack, and aloha (that last is what my brain said when it skipped out to parts unknown but likely involving tropical islands and fancy drinks with umbrellas in them), I have a convention after-action report to write, and I cannot brain (the work Death March being ongoing at least until next Thursday, although it is now slightly less Deathy and more Marchy – but nobody said I was out of line when I suggested that a pinata of the person responsible for said death march would make a really good morale -booster). So this after action report is going to be rather ordinary, with no adventures of warrior maidens or tales of the trusty steed Toyota Camry braving the horrors of D.C. area traffic.

Suffice to say, the drive took about six hours, two of them involving the D.C beltway, its approaches, and outflows. Sadly, between where I live and where Ravencon is held, the D.C. sprawl is kind of like an all encompassing black hole sucking in anything that goes anywhere near that part of the world. But I got to the hotel in one piece, booked in, and fell asleep.

Thursday, I had a nice, slow start to the day, then went and volunteered myself to Con Ops since I was there and it was guaranteed to be more interesting than sitting in my hotel room. Stuffing goodie bags and chatting ensued, with a lot of laughter and people being generally helpful. I left in time to have a late lunch and catch another nap (combining recovery from the previous week’s death marchiness and preparation for the con) before venturing out for my panels.

I should add that Ravencon moved this year: instead of the only venue I knew the Holiday Inn then Hilton in Richmond (presumably it changed ownership or management chain), it was in the Williamsburg, in a lovely quiet location and a remarkably sprawling hotel that has about twice the convention space that the Richmond venue has. It was really nice to be able to have room to move in the opening ceremony and not feel like I had to escape before being trapped in a little room crammed with people drove me insane. Or more insane. Even the… interesting décor couldn’t detract from the extra roominess (really Hilton? Three different carpet patterns that all manage to clash horribly with each other and the walls? That takes talent, of an inverse sort).

My panels this year started with Steve Simmons moderating Today’s Science, Tomorrow’s Books, which actually managed to stay more or less on topic – although with a topic that broad there are all sorts of places you can go that are still on topic. Especially when the science bits include goodies like swarming drones and all the other fun military science that Steve gets to read as part of his job (lucky SOB).

Saturday, I spent most of the time I wasn’t in panels in my Ravencon safe space, aka Barfly Central, although I did venture out to get some goodies from Mystic Waboose and Viking Sheep (who do really neat hair sticks) and trawl the art room and dealers room as well as admire the costumes – although the best ones I saw were Friday afternoon’s Thor-ette and Loki-ette. Very well done costumes, and the ladies wore them well – although Loki-ette had hardly any clearance on the doorways between the heels she was wearing any the horns on her costume helmet.

My panels included Worldbuilding – Creating a Fictional Political System, in which most of the panelists tried to be polite in the face of the person who used the panel as an excuse to insert a plug for his book into every comment he made. I started by pointing out – politely – that his scenario didn’t hold water (or anything else) and proceeded to rebut/offer alternatives for/generally shut down most of what he had to say – and tried to show a good example by not plugging my work except in the one situation where it actually was relevant.

I got to moderate the panel on What Sciences Haven’t Been Used which, since most of them have been used, quickly morphed into a mutant mix of sciences that don’t get used much, and sciences that get used really badly (all of them).

Writing in Someone Else’s Skin was set up to be a typical male writing females/females writing males type of thing, but morphed really fast into something much more metaphysical with the help of really fascinating co-panelists (whose names I don’t remember – I suck at names and since I’m kind of sleep-writing here, there’s zero chance I’m going to look them up. The program’s online if you want to check it out). When you’ve got a black guy talking about a screenplay he’s written (and is filming, if I remember right) where the sympathetic-ish character (it’s horror) is a neo-Nazi and how he wanted the guy to feel realistic and to be more than your standard caricature which led to him realizing a whole lot about himself… and me on the other side of the rather stunned moderator talking about the tension between writing Vlad the Impaler in first person (and how alien his time is to us, before you even get to his well known habits) and modern life, things get interesting fast.

That was followed by an Alternate History panel which turned weird – for starters I was (I think) the only non-lawyer on the panel, so the first part of the thing was a very polite argument about what alternate history is and is not, and do alternate futures count (yes, as long as they don’t involve magic or vampires and aren’t alternate only because they were pure science fiction when they were written). Somehow magic and vampires kept creeping in. Maybe it was because this panel started at 9pm and everyone was tired (especially me – I warned everyone at the start that I had no filters and would be likely to say whatever came to my mind). The really nice thing about this one is that Michael Ventrella and I have wildly different political perspectives, but we can get on really well on topics like this because we both discuss matters politely. The world needs more people like Michael (and the other panelists whose names I don’t remember).

My last panel was Sunday morning – Alternate History Change Points – talking about the kinds of events that made good choices for change points in alternate history and the inevitable is history something that has its own inertia or is it something that one extraordinary person or event can change? (The answer, incidentally, is “yes”).

After that, I bummed around my room for a while, joined the shambling zombies of the Dead Dog party for dinner, then went to bed so I’d be alive to drive home the next day.

On the plus side, despite being busy busy busy and talking more in a weekend than I usually do in a month, I didn’t have a single headache or backache. That came back within a few hours of getting back to work on Tuesday…

28 Comments

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28 responses to “A Kate At Ravencon

  1. Christopher M. Chupik

    “…which most of the panelists tried to be polite in the face of the person who used the panel as an excuse to insert a plug for his book into every comment he made.”

    Yeah, there’s one of those at every con. Not naming any names.

    • Kate Paulk

      Alas, yes. Neither am I but I did mention to the guest liaison (kind of accidentally – she was in Barfly Central at the time) that it might be an idea to add a bit to the opening ceremony spiel to say that being on a panel is not an automatic “pimp your book” opportunity.

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        And the person I’m thinking of has managed to accomplish the complete opposite of what they intend: I not only have no desire to buy their book, I never want to even see its cover ever again.

  2. CACS

    (really Hilton? Three different carpet patterns that all manage to clash horribly with each other and the walls? That takes talent, of an inverse sort).

    Yes, it does take a particular talent. Having become involved in the business of conventions I have spent time in various hotels. While most chains stick to blandly pleasant decor and a few aren’t half bad, there is the occasional one that you really have to wonder – What were they thinking? Or were they thinking at all?

    • Or did they run out of re-carpeting budget half way through?

      • sabrinachase

        Nyrlathotep Flooring and Carpet has occasional backorder issues during certain phases of the moon. Don’t look too closely at the patterns, or you will surely go mad. I know it makes carpet-covered stairs at those places a hazard to navigation, anyway.

        • This would explain so much.

          • CACS

            But does it explain the hallways decorated in a deliberate and systematic patchwork of all three different carpets? I have seen this done.

            • “Hey! We got A great deal on this!” “but… it’s in 3 ft wide strips…” “So… cut it into 3ft squares and tile pattern. Problem solved!”

              • CACS

                Seen at one chain hotel: The edges along the wall were in one carpet; most of the center strip was another. A third was used from time to time to form a medallion like feature at junctions, in the elevator areas, where there were a cluster of doors and ends of halls. Yes, I noticed. There was a cacophony of color and my mind insisted that I attempt to make sense of it. Then yelped in pain and rebelled.

        • But it’s perfect for rooms with non-Euclid geometries.

      • Alan

        The contractor’s excuse is “your conventions will be so popular that nobody will be able to see the floor for the people, anyway.”

    • Uncle Lar

      Chains buy stuff like carpet in bulk lots.
      It’s carpet. Most guests won’t care as long as their feet don’t stick to it.
      Cheap stuff that will have to be replaced soon, or durable carpet you can buy cheap because it’s ugly. Not a hard choice for a corporate bean counter trying to shave pennies.

  3. aacid14

    The writing in someone else’s skin sounds interesting. Especially for sci fi or fantasy genres where you are completely out of the loop but get other concerns wrt realistic characters. Honestly it seems an underutilized skill not to make your opponents caricatures

  4. Uncle Lar

    Was SP4 not a topic of conversation at Ravencon, or are you saving that for a separate post?
    Would think someone would have brought it, the Hugos, or the new proposed Dragoncon awards up.

    • Kate Paulk

      It didn’t come up on the schedule, and the discussions I was involved in and heard were largely in favor.

      • Draven

        The co-con chair who died last year was my friend of over 20 years. Hence the sigh… (and hence why i didn’t go this year)

        • *sympathies* One of the historians who mentored me is probably not going to make it through the summer. He’s in his 90s, but still . . . It’ll make next year’s regional history meeting difficult for a lot of us.