Gar and I headed up to Balticon at the venerable Hunt Valley Inn last weekend, for a day visit. We were a little stymied when we discovered the indie film festival was on Sunday and we went on a Saturday. Call it faulty memory– maybe we DID go up on Sunday last year? (yes we did; should have read the online program first) Oh well, we didn’t let that dim the luster.
Impressions: For starters, B49 seemed very lightly attended. It wasn’t the standard cheek by jowl situation in the Salon areas, and the usual mob of costumery seemed greatly diminished. I like Science Fiction conventions quite a bit, but I’ve never been one of the faithful– meaning, I don’t wear costumes, I don’t “filk”, I don’t wear a lot of buttons. So SF Con Fandom isn’t really my thing– I’m not part of that culture. I read books, and I like SF authors, and like to hear them talk, and I buy books. So that’s what I come to a convention for– and maybe see indie films and play some games. In that respect, we were only partially successful, but that’s fine.
There were two writer GOH’s I wanted to see, Chuck Gannon and Jack McDevitt, but I missed both. I did buy a book of each of theirs however. FireFall by Gannon and the reissue of The Hercules Text from McDevitt.
The Con Suite was a big disappointment. The munchies budget was clearly halved. No WiFi signal in the Con Suite, which was very annoying. Still, it’s a nice place to collect and plan our precious hours, so we mapped out our day. I went to the Dealer’s area and bought some books from vendors who I don’t normally see on Amazon. I also made a point of buying three books from the late great C.J. Henderson, whom I liked and will miss. C.J.’ s wife and family incurred lots of expense in the final stages of his illness so every little bit helps. I also sat in on his memorial service at the convention. I certainly hope C.J.’s work remains in print and someone (not necessarily his wife) continues selling his titles.
I didn’t hit every panel talk I wanted to– I went to a Pulp discussion that was notionally about C.J.’s work but ranged far and wide, and was very engaging. I enjoyed it. I followed that up with dropping in to see a little of the anime film Princess Mononoke but as I A) had seen this film multiple times and B) was falling asleep in the back, much to my son’s embarrassment, I nipped out to the next talk, which was on the Ancient Art of Celestial Navigation and Land-Finding, as practiced by Polynesians. This was very interesting indeed. The professor (a public scholar from the Smithsonian Institution Museum of the Native Americas) was a great speaker and projected his enthusiasm for the subject to his rapt audience. A very fortuitous find. After that, we were hungry, so we went to Wegman’s to get the buffet and make use of the WiFi.
Since we were at sixes and sevens not being able to make the Film Festival unless we spent the night, so I suggested we try Mr. John Montrie’s RPG session about Victorian Horror using Howard Whitehouse’s Dashing Adventure rules. Garrett readily agreed and this activity proved to be the high point of the day. We were using minimal rules/maximum storytelling approaches to the game– Howard’s rules are very forgiving. The scenario was pretty cut and dried– we were a team of trouble makers sent to a mansion to investigate the recent ghost sightings reported there. I played “Biggles” the Pilot, and I played him increasingly skeptical of the events transpiring at the castle. We played it all the way through to the end, and part of my prediction (that the former owner of the estate was somehow caught up in the hauntings) would come true. Even if there was a leprechaun. It was a very satisfying conclusion,and thus we drove homeward, it being elevenish.
Despite a low attendance and a bad con suite, I enjoyed myself and so did Garrett. We tried something new (RPG games at a convention) and got a decent return for our buck. There were rumors of Balticon moving into the inner harbor next year– not sure what to make of them. The only convention I’ve been associated with that tried to go to the Inner Harbor (convention center) ended up losing 30K plus. I hope the planners have thought of everything. I’d still be inclined only to do a day trip under those circumstances, and maybe only once, if the parking is too astronomical. As it tends to be.
So that was my Balticon 49.. kind of a shade of what it once was, but still enjoyable.