I took a half-day of work on Friday and got to Burlington a bit after four. (I knew that programming started Thursday night this year, but since I was going by myself, and since I'm taking so much vacation this summer already, I didn't feel I could justify it.) I rested instead of trying for a 5:00 panel (there was hail on the drive, a first for me), and finished my re-read of the ARC of The Mirador.
Allow me to mention here that it is not a good thing to have Felix Harrowgate's voice in one's head, when faced with the socially-maladroit comments that are often more prevalent at cons. I did not, however, say any of the things Felix wanted to.
The badges this year were spiffy, with text printed directly on hard, opaque plastic—on-the-spot, for walk-ins.
The highlight of the evening was reading an old Lego-club magazine with batwrangler. We found it lying on a couch, and it was full of things to marvel at—for instance, this depiction of Princess Leia. (I believe theodosia took the magazine with an eye to possible scanning, so there may be pictures soon.) As for programming, I went to the Little, Big bookclub, and about 10 minutes of "Meet the Pros(e)", when I realized that I was yawning and shivering [*] uncontrollably and really should go to bed.
[*] When I get particularly tired I start shivering. Also, I wasn't warm in that hotel all weekend, with one exception, but since the thermostat in my room read 72°F and I still was cold, it was probably not the hotel's fault.
My hotel room was a flight down from the main floor, which was very convenient. For instance, when I saw the line for breakfast on Saturday morning, I headed right back downstairs and ate some crackers that I'd brought with me. (The hotel's main restaurant was being renovated. The pub had overflow space set up, which I never did use, and not-very-good sandwiches being sold in the hallway.)
One morning and two afternoon panels, namely "Other Points of View" (very good), "Fantasy as Inner Landscape," and "The Case for Archetypal Evil in Fantasy." I skipped "Towards a Promiscuous Theory of Story Structure," being paneled-out, and heard later that I hadn't missed much, as "promiscuous" wasn't even explained.
I restrained myself to a single pass through the dealers' room, and purchased Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century, edited by Justine Larbalestier; Kalpa Imperial, by Angelica Gorodischer, translated by Ursula K. Le Guin; and Burning Your Boats, by Angela Carter. And, of course, talked with various people in the hallway—that hotel really could use more places to sit—in the dealer's room, outside, and so forth. (veejane, oracne: it was a nine-bunny walk tonight.)
Dinner with my parents, then back in time for the bad prose competition, which the program describes thusly:
The 21st Kirk Poland Memorial Bad Prose Competition.
Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald, Craig Shaw Gardner (L), Glenn Grant, Yves Meynard, Eric M. Van (M).
(90 min.) Our traditional evening entertainment, named in memory of the pseudonym and alter ego of Jonathan Herovit of Barry Malzberg's Herovit's World. Ringleader Craig Shaw Gardner reads a passage of unidentified but genuine, published, bad sf, fantasy, or horror prose, which has been truncated in mid-sentence. Each of our panelists—Craig and his co-moderator Eric M. Van, champion Yves Meynard, ex-champion Glenn Grant, and new challengers Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald (as always, writing as a team)—then reads an ending for the passage. One ending is the real one; the others are imposters concocted by our contestants (including Craig) ahead of time. None of the players knows who wrote any passage other than their own, except for Eric, who gets to play God as a reward for the truly onerous duty of unearthing these gems. Craig then asks for the audience vote on the authenticity of each passage (recapping each in turn by quoting a pithy phrase or three from them), and the Ace Readercon Joint Census Team counts up each show of hands faster than you can say "Bambi pranced." Eric then reveals the truth. Each contestant receives a point for each audience member they fooled, while the audience collectively scores a point for everyone who spots the real answer. As a rule, the audience finishes third or fourth. Warning: the Sturgeon General has determined that this trash is hazardous to your health; i.e., if it hurts to laugh, you're in big trouble.
This year the audience finished second, and led until the very last round, when Yves Meynard won. The published works were two by Lionel Fanthorpe; the first pages of L. Ron Hubbard's To the Stars, and an excerpt from its glossary (which, for no reason that anyone can tell, includes an entry for "cud"); and something from Famous Fantastic Mysteries which was also used at Noreascon 3, the author and title of which I didn't catch.
Memorable phrases by the panelists were: "Einstein knew blintzes!"; "E equals m c Fred!"; "silent space weevils"; "the vast hole refused to negate"; and "cwuck: an undead chicken". The best, though, was this excerpt from Fanthorpe:
. . . light that had mildew on it. It was obscured, as though the wick of the cosmic torch had been turned down; but nevertheless, it was light.
After that, matociquala got together a big game of Mafia (rules at Wikipedia; we played with no action on the first night other than Mafia identifying each other, no cards kept by the players, and an investigative role. Also, veejane, apparently you can kill God.). I watched the first round and played in the second, which was fun but not wise, because the game ended at 2:30 a.m., by which point I was offering to be killed just so I and my spinning head could leave the infernally hot room and go to bed. (I was a villager, to my disappointment, because it looks like the Mafia has more fun and is more likely to win. The villagers won our game, kind of (it's complicated), but it was close.)
I don't think I was very good, surviving to the end more because I was an unknown quantity than anything else. (If I were allowed to take notes, I'd be a lot better. I suspect I'm not.) And I think 20-odd people may be too many for a good game. But it was fun, and a very good way to meet people, and now I want to read up on strategy in case I play again. =>
I decided that I wasn't even going to try for the 10:00 a.m. panel on horror and social observation, but managed to get to "See it Like Saruman: Reconciling Fantasy and Progress" with minimal difficulty, which was interesting. Saw a bunch of people in the lobby after, and resolved to go to World Fantasy Con, as it's very close this year, a lot of people I already know will be going, and apparently a lot of the people I met at Readercon will also be there.
On the whole, this was somewhat different con for me, as some of the people I usually hang out with weren't there, or I didn't see them much. So the social anxiety quotient was higher, but I hope I made some new friendly acquaintances and didn't cause anyone else to channel their inner Felix Harrowgates.
And now I'm stretching my extremely-annoyed hips and going to bed, so I can be coherent tomorrow at work (what a concept).