I spent Friday morning typing up the exposition panel, and was a few minutes late to a lunch meetup with sloanesomething, fearlessdiva, Mr. Diva, and hhw (if I haven't completely spaced on her username). We went to the food court, where I had naan bigger than my head and everyone else seemed to have decent food. Major topics of conversation included fannish gossip and Sloane explaining her system for evaluating costuming, a binary "commit" or "did not commit" (imagine signs held up over the head). As I understand it, "did not commit" is if one wears (say) a space pilot's jacket with jeans and sneakers—no matter how well done the jacket, it gets a thumbs-down. (I was a lot more enthusiastic about seeing the Masquerade after this—knowledgeable company! More on that on Sunday.)
Sloane and I tried the 1:00 pm panel, "One Day in the Life of an Editor," which did not live up to its billing as "An hour by hour account of what an editor actually does," so we bailed. (Also, it had no book editors, which I found puzzling.) We probably wandered the dealer's room for a bit, and then lined up for Lois McMaster Bujold's reading at 2:00 pm—which inexplicably was in one of the Sheraton conference rooms, not one of the bigger rooms in the Hynes Convention Center. Well, it was jammed, a complete fire hazard, and I'd heard at least part of what she was going to read before, so we bailed again.
Sloane took this opportunity to drag me, only protesting a little, to the Regency dance. We weren't dressed for it, but then neither were the three or four people in full space flight uniforms, or the many other people in street clothes. I'd never been to a Regency dance before; it's basically a lot of walking around in patterns, with occasional brief holding of hands. No wonder the waltz was so daring that (at least in the Heyer version of the Regency) women needed permission to dance it (and even that's at as close to arm's-length as possible). I cannot hear rhythm or count beats to save my life, so I was actually rather nervous, but I don't think I made too much of a fool of myself. I wouldn't have done it by myself, and I might not do it again, but I'm not sorry I went. We ducked out after learning and completing one dance, which took a full hour.
I then went to a 3:00 pm talk by Hank Reinhardt on "Edged Weapons—and How Writers Get Them Wrong." This was quite fun, and very packed, with people standing outside the room to listen—fortunately he knew how to use his microphone. fearlessdiva has some good links about the speaker in her report, though I believe he said he's since sold the company Museum Replicas. I took notes, somewhat re-arranged here:
- Modern fencing (as recently seen on the Olympics) has nothing to do with swordplay. Someone's comment, possibly his, of how it would be described if it were real swordplay: "two clowns who skewered each other on the first pass." Not only that, but it's scored so that a touch anywhere counts the same.
- Writers should read the Icelandic sagas; very practical and laconic about fighting.
- (Writers should know, though, that it's really easy to write around combat, and some of the most exciting writing has very little technical detail.)
- When you're actually fighting: deception is very important.
- In mass battle, with two lines meeting: most of the fatalities aren't the initial clash, they're where a line breaks.
- "You can't duplicate real combat until you start killing people."
- Be very very careful when trying to duplicate techniques from
translated manuals; he said you'll find a lot of the stuff in them
doesn't work, and you can really hurt yourself or someone else
(which holds true in general).
- He's just developed three swords that feel and look like the real thing but shouldn't injure people. One was metal with a special tip, and I don't recall what the others were made of.
- It's very difficult to choreograph a sword fight for stage or
film, since the goal is to further the movie and the plot, not to
- On one hand, katanas are well-suited for entertainment, because they lend themselves to broad strokes.
- The Last Samurai did have great fighting, even though you can't cut through a rifle barrel with a sword.
- On the other, you can do all kinds of cool things with rapiers, but they won't show up on film (and broad strokes with a rapier will get you killed).
- The very last question: someone asked what his favorite movie swordfight was. It was The Princess Bride's duel, which has nothing to do with its accuracy.
- The cliche of guys in plate armor hacking at each other with
swords doesn't make sense. Swords can cut mail, but once plate
armor was developed, the sword was a weapon of last defense; all
they'll do against plate armor is damage their edges. For plate,
you want pole arms (when mounted), or maces and war hammers.
- Full Gothic plate armor (which I believe was chosen as an example because it's the heaviest) is about 45-50 pounds. It's not the weight that'll get you, as it's well-distributed, it's the heat.
- Someone from the audience chimed in that there was a UMass study that showed even on a hazy day, the temperature inside plate armor would go up 10 degrees C in three minutes or less.
- Swords don't weight as much as people think.
- A one-handed medieval sword: 2 to 2 1/2 pounds.
- Claymores: 4 to 4 1/2 pounds.
- Two-handed bearing swords (meant to look impressive only): 12 to 14 pounds.
- Two-handed fighting swords: 6 to 7 pounds.
- Sword breakage rate: normally, a good sword shouldn't break when hitting people, but there's always that spot where, if something hits it at the right angle and speed, the sword will break. Cheap swords are actually less likely to break, because they'll be of iron (or have more iron?) and thus will be more bendable.
It was a very cool talk, and definitely too short at 30 minutes.
After that, I retreated to the room and actually managed to get a few hours' of work in (that was basically the last time all con). We had our traditional Boston-con dinner at Marche with prince_eric, spouse, and infant (this last not being traditional yet, of course; said infant was really amazingly asleep all through). I won't get their pizza again, as I want a really crisp crust on a thin pizza, but otherwise the food was fine. There was a very credible Trinity sitting nearby: right hair, body type, and face shape, paired with black tank top, pants, and boots, under a full-length PVC duster. I mentally held up a "commit" sign for her.
After dinner, we met back up with Sloane and headed for the Tor party. It was, as always, very crowded, very hot, and very good. I picked up my cat-vacuuming rec.arts.sf.composition pin (see icon), which is very spiffy; gushed at Madeleine Robins about how much I loved Point of Honour (coming not-so-soon to a booklog near you! Oh, and don't read the sequel first.); caught up with Del Cotter; met John Scalzi, who is cool and who boggled me by saying I appeared popular—it was really just that of the handful of people I knew, most of them were within his line-of-sight; met alg who politely put up with my quizzing her about the paranormal romance program; and talked with papersky and the LJ people I'd had lunch with. We turned into pumpkins about 1:30 am, not long after the second or possibly third noise warning by hotel security.
(Mary Kay and Tor are my standards for the con party, and if I do end up throwing one at Boskone next year, I shall be such a wreck trying to live up to that. But that's only if Tor doesn't throw one, so everyone buy lots of Tor books.)
Friday was also an excellent day, and somewhat typical for this con: very little programming, much dining and hanging out. I was really trying to pace myself, and as I managed to get all the way through Friday without a breakdown, I think I did a pretty good job of it.
ETA: other people's reports: