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Balticon: personal post-mortem

Been mulling over the long weekend and comparing this year's Balticon to last year's as well as to the conventions I've been used to attending these last seven years in Iowa and Minnesota. Aside from obvious stuff like "don't forget to pack the power cords", I think there's some lessons I need to take out of this year's experience.

I seem to be recapitulating the days of my youth in fandom, when the important thing about SF conventions was that they provided an opportunity to get together with friends and party. (More cocktail party than kegger, mind you.) This year I spent hardly any time in programming, being derailed several times due to temptations offered by friends to go off and eat. Thus I missed the nerve & mustard gas panels, and a few other things I was mildly interested in, but on balance it was okay since panels are not always win while conversations with friends during meals almost always are.

Next year I think I'm going to get a room at the Hunt Valley, assuming of course that I am able to attend Balticon at all. Last year I stayed at the Days Inn down the road, and this year I stayed with Melody at the Courtyard, and on both occasions I wound up very tired at the end of the evening and having to either wait for the hotel shuttle or drive around three sides of a square to get to my crash space. This was aggravated this year by my failure to pack all the parts of the nose hose, so what sleep I got wasn't very good. (Made up for that Monday night, by God.) I didn't even save money; convention rate for the Hunt Valley Inn was ~$104 and the Courtyard's best rate was $119. So next year, staying in the convention hotel.

Wegman's did severe damage to my budget, because I have no power over buffets. Sunday night was a little better since I did salad and not (so much) Chinese, but every time I walked into Wegman's it set me back $15. Not good. I should have spent more time and less money at Chipotle or McDonald's. The damage to my blood sugar was not quite as bad, though I need to get over the habit of having a Danish or two and a muffin with the various breakfast buffets on offer. I think I would have done less damage to the blood sugar Sunday morning if I'd just had a waffle instead.
For that matter, I should have packed some lunch meat, buns and pop so that I could have an occasional meal in my room.

As for the convention itself, there seemed to be fewer people in attendance this year. Certainly the hotel was less crowded, and I heard rumors that the concom was worried that they might not make their room block until the week before the convention. I was also surprised that I was able to get onto the GoH kaffeeklatsch signup sheet on Saturday, which normally is an almost impossible task. In general, with the number of professionals on hand at Balticon, it was easier to meet and have extended conversations with more of them than it's been at any convention I've attended since Diversicon or Arcana. I think this is a great thing, and all by itself would be a good reason to go to Balticon. Programming is still busy, still covering a wide spectrum of topics, and very open to audience participation. I didn't go to the short film program this year, which I gather was a good thing since the quality apparently wasn't as good and the A/C was cranked up to an appalling level. (You could feel it outside in the hall, where I was playing Social Class* with Filthy Pierre and others.) The consuite is more spartan than I'm used to from Convergence at AD, more on a par with Diversicon. As for the GoH, Mr. Stross was a great conversationalist and surprisingly less obnoxiously devoted to IngsocNuLabour than one would think from his writing; in fact he reminds me somewhat of my Canadian friend Starwolf, who is none too enthusiastic about the Grits and Dippers but hates the Tories with a flaming passion. It was worth the price of admission just to attend the Q&A and the kaffeeklatsch, ask him some questions about his work and life, and get answers.

So, yeah. Meeting deathquaker was a Good Thing, and I'm very glad she enjoyed the convention, while seeing the Hammers, McAbees and Mark Taylor reminded me that I need to be more social and see them more, since we all live in the same area. Looking forward to returning next year, assuming that cash flow permits.

*Readers may recognize this game as a plain-card variation of "The Great Dalmuti".

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