Monday, August 3, 2015

Galacticon Recap: Parts and Pieces

Well y'all, it's Sunday evening and I'm freshly arrived in Portland, silently bearing witness to Auntie M's wonderful hospitality, not to mention her incomparable car-packing skills.

Yes, that is a black-mesh banana containment field. Your argument is invalid.

This is fresh on the heels of Galacticon, which was – well, a first for me in several ways. 

Back in June, I was hugely surprised and delighted when the programming director took me on board, even though I was applying less than six weeks out – and then took all three of my panel suggestions!  "Hot damn!" I thought. "This is going to be a great time!"

And it was!  Just not in the way I'd originally planned.

See, it took a bit of doing to get there (an hour and a half of busing, another hour of me wandering around the Seattle Center like a clueless rube because I was too dumb to check my email and actually look up where registration was).  That was kind of sweaty.  And I was a little nervous to realize (way, way too late to do anything about it) that media cons don't work like literary cons – you have to bring your own panelists. Which meant that I was going to be by myself for mine.  But finally I made it to the panel room... and nobody was there.

I may have had a diva moment.
But I stuck around, and eventually a couple of folks wandered in, and then a couple more, and they all had the same question: "what's this panel about?"

That was when I realized that all the schedule said was "What Does God Need With a Starship?" And that there were no panel descriptions in the program.  And that they weren't on the website either. So people had literally no way of knowing what this one was about. (I'm so lucky they were curious enough to come find out!)  Not only did I not have a bio or photo anywhere, my name wasn't even under the panel title on the schedule, so nobody who enjoyed one of my events would have had any way of knowing that I was also running two others. (And, as I found out the next day, the printed schedule didn't match the online/emailed schedule, so I showed up for an 11:00 panel that had theoretically started at 10:30. Ouch.)

Later that night, I checked the Twitter tag and found out that Galacticon was having major, major issues.  I can believe it: I was there all three days, and didn't see a single panel in my corner of the world with more than ten attendees. (Word on the street was that the mainstage activities and events were super fun and well-attended; I just didn't get to stay for them because of the commute.)

But you know what, y'all?  It was a really, really good time.  I had five to eight people at each of my three panels, which meant that it was the easiest thing in the world to deputize them as co-panelists, pull the chairs into a circle, and have us a good hearty gab. It was genuinely fun and wonderful and relaxing, that was what – easy and stress-free in a way that sitting up at a head table in front of a room full (or half-full) of people can't be.  It worked out great when this happened at CONvergence, too – there were sixty people in the room instead of six, but the spirit of the thing was the same.  It felt like the invisible wall between the audience and the panelists disappeared, and we were genuinely part of a single shared conversation.

From left to right – Nicholas, Joel, Jessica, Catherine (whose name I am almost certainly misspelling) and Emily. I am so happy to get to say I know them!
You know, there's a trend in education right now, which trains teachers to think of themselves not as the 'sage on the stage', but as the 'guide on the side'.  And the more I see that in action, the more I love it. Some of the most rave reviews we got at DFWcon this year came not from the classes, but from the workshops – where people bring in their work and their questions and get help with both.  Some of the most fun I've had at conventions has been at kaffeeklatsches and 'literary beers', where you pull a drink and a seat and get to have a ten-person totally unscripted chat with the author of your choice.  I know that's not always feasible or appropriate, but I also know I want more of it.

And as for the con itself... you know, I don't know nearly enough about the whys and wherefores to venture any opinion about it, except to say this: anybody who invests their time in a convention wants it to be a success. It is a hard, grueling, invisible and thankless job, often sucking up hundreds or even thousands of hours for the higher-ups, and I'm amazed that it works as well as it does as often as it does.  I know that Galacticon didn't turn out like its organizers intended – but everyone I interacted with, from the first email to the programming director to the last wave to the janitor, was pleasant, professional, and working their hardest to make this event a good time for everyone.

Well, I didn't have a good time. I had a GREAT time, and I couldn't be more impressed or grateful for their efforts.  At the end of the day, you can break fandom into as many parts and pieces as you want - staff vs. attendees, panelists vs. audience, fanficcers vs. cosplayers, whatever. But we are fundamentally one community, and the more I see that community come together, the prouder I am to be a part of it.  Thanks for a wonderful weekend, Washington - I'll see you again for Worldcon in two weeks!

So say we all!


  1. You got Catherine right, but you missed Niklaus, Joyel, Gessika and Emmaleigh. ;-)

    1. Dammit, Jodi - don't you have some orphans to send to college?!

  2. Joel here (spelled correctly, thank you). My sister and I had a great time.

    1. Man, I'm so glad to hear that - y'all seem like you are no strangers to good-time-having! (Then again, giving what I learned about your lives outside of con-time, I daresay you're easy to please...!)