Monday, October 04, 2010

VCon - day 3 - The End

Another year, another VCon, another lazy Sunday afternoon where things drew to a close.

I decided to catch up on a little sleep and then grab some brunch before heading to the hotel, so I didn't make it in until shortly after 1:00. Originally, I'd planned to start the day with a hefty dose of literary suffering at the Turkey Readings. For those who don't know, the Turkey Readings are a VCon tradition (don't know if they do this at other cons) where a group of panelists reads passages from a selection of some of the worst novels ever written in the SF genre. We're talking the literary equivalent of Plan Nine from Outer Space, or Manos - The Hands of Fate. Books that are so poorly written, their prose might come close to being classifiable as Vogon poetry. The panelist reading from a selection is assisted by volunteers from the audience who act out whatever's going on in the story as it's read. The rest of the audience has to suffer through this until someone in the audience offers money to make them stop. The catch is, once the money's been paid, anyone else in the audience can make a higher bid to keep the, um, "performance" going. This can in turn be trumped by a higher bid to force a stop, and so on. Bids initially start at a quarter or a buck, but as people in the audience continue to try to outbid each other to force a stop or ensure continuation, the price can soar, with, in some cases, winning bids being in excess of ten dollars. Then the next Turkey Reading begins, and the suffering and bidding renew. Money collected goes to the Canadian Unity Fan Fund, which each year selects and pays for one person from one region of the country to attend a con in another part of the country in an effort to build bridges between fan communities.

At any rate, when I arrived, the Turkey Readings had been rescheduled to later in the day to free that room up for a special surprise session: actor Robert Picardo, of Star Trek Voyager and the Stargate franchise fame (not to mention Innerspace!) dropped by to do a Q&A with con-goers, followed by an autograph and photo session. Seems he was in town shooting an episode of Stargate Universe. I went in and grabbed a seat for the Q&A. Picardo's an entertaining guy to listen to, sharing onset anecdotes from the sets of his various shows, and thoughts on the characters he's played.

After that, I went over to the History is My Playground session, where a panel of authors talked about, well, writing stories in historical settings. At one point, they spent a great deal of time talking about how much their research had taught them about the toughness of people who lived a century or more ago, despite their relatively short lives. This also led to a discussion of battlefield injuries and mortality rates, hospital mortality rates (and how they compare to today's statistics), and medical practices of the previous century. The only downside to the session was the crotchetiness of one of the panelists, Dave Duncan. At the beginning of the session, when Duncan was quietly wheezing through his spiel on something or other, one of the people who was sitting about midway back in the audience asked him to please speak up. A fair request, given his low volume, the size of the room, and the amount of noise from out in the hallway that was getting through the walls. Without missing a beat, Duncan growled at her that there were plenty of empty seats up front. True, but not enough empty seats for everyone who was sitting beyond row 2, and past that point, the noise was an issue. He was also gruff with another person in the audience who had put up her hand to ask a question within the first 10 minutes of the session. Okay, in all fairness, the first 10 minutes of the session is a bit early to start shotgunning questions or wanting to put your own two cents into a discussion that's really only in its nascent stage, but still, I think Duncan could have been nicer about it. Since, you know, it's people in the audience who buy his books and all (not me) and can choose whether to continue to support him and whether to share their reasons for doing this or not with other readers. Anyhow, the other panelists, Donna McMahon, Cherie Priest, and Lisa Smedman were louder, nicer, and, on the balance, had more interesting things to say over the course of the hour.

Once that was over, there weren't any other sessions for the next hour that were even remotely interesting to me, so I headed down to the movie room to see what was playing. Big mistake: they were re-running a low-budget piece of garbage called The Beast of Bottomless Lake that had made its debut Friday night at the con. I could only sit through about 20 minutes of it before I had to walk out. The story about an expedition to find Okanagan Lake's famed Ogopogo (BC's version of the Loch Ness Monster) was shot, written and acted poorly, and given that it was probably supposed to be a bit of a satire of this type of low-budget monster-hunting flick, it didn't even work on that level. I decided my time would be better spent in some quiet corner in another part of the hotel reading and checking email until the next session block started.

When it was time for the next round of panels to start, I decided to take in Where's the Science in Our Science Fiction?. As you can probably guess from the title, the panel consisting of SF mag editors, a physicist, and an author called for more hard science fiction to be written.

From there, it was time to wrap things up. I sat through most of the closing ceremonies, but left when the charity auction started (none of the items up for grabs really interested me, and even if something had, I'd already spent my allotment the other day on books).

Now that it's over, I have to say it wasn't a great con, but it was good enough. I was a bit disappointed that none of the session options really wowed me, and there weren't enough of the ones that managed to catch my attention. But, on the plus side, most of the sessions I did attend were interesting enough, the new addition of Uncle Victor as host of the movie room made for some fun times, the Chinese-influenced steampunk prints by James Ng in the art room were very cool to look at (and the link I passed along the other day has already made a friend of mine into a fan of Ng's stuff), and most importantly, over the course of the weekend I had some good chats with a number of fellow conventioneers. And that's enough to ensure that I'll probably be back next year.

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