Monday, July 21, 2008

Weekend of the Damned -- er, Dampened

We headed off to Necon Thursday afternoon: a three hour drive but all highway, so it wasn't much of an effort and it stayed a beautiful day. There had been a last minute venue change, so instead of the homey dorms on the Roger Williams campus, we were in their new conference center, AKA the dampest place on earth. Really -- everything felt saturated. Paper left lying in the room soon curled and undulated, including books. There was a white lacy splotch of mold between the panes of our window that looked like a fractal snowflake.

But you don't come to Necon for the ambience and we had time enough to get settled before the Saugy roast in the courtyard. As usual, people kept arriving all evening, saying hello and nattering on about this and that. The upshot, of course, is that the noise in the courtyard grew rather considerably in no time. When we're over in the dorms, everyone on the quad is part of the show. If you don't like the all night noise, you ask for a room in the middle quad. There'll still be crazy rambling noises all night, but not nearly as many.

But this wasn't the quad -- it was a hotel with other guests. Other guests who complained about the noise. There wasn't a Broadway show tune sing-along that night -- it was just a bunch of people talking, but in an enclosed space, yeah -- it became deafening. And the lights kept going out -- and the bugs were eating us alive. Over-worked organizer Dan Booth pointed out that folks could go into the lounge which was open for us, but people were so used to being at "camp" that few took that route. We chatted with Rod and Elena, who were staying in Bristol and caught up with Phil and Anya when they arrived, as well as a bunch of the regulars, but we didn't stay up all that late the first night.

Friday started with actual breakfast -- hmmm, we thought, maybe this hotel thing wasn't going to be so bad. Next up the first Olympic event, mini-golf, which meant our usual foursome was off to Fantasyland (a little late, but that just meant we didn't have to wait in line long to start). We had the usual craziness and teasing, but for all that pretty good rounds for us. Gene was one stroke away from a medal, I think we each got a hole in one, and most importantly, I had a better score than Phil (that one stroke means everything). We had our complementary slices o' pizza after, played skeeball and splat the spider, and found a new addition to the Fantasyland regulars: bumper cars! Yee ha! That was great fun.

Having found out that we were going to have the Necon's Got Talent? Show instead of the always agonizingly interminable That Damn Game Show, we set out for the Dollar Store to muse our options. Anya already had a plan and a purpose, but the rest of us meandered around finding things that made us laugh (ant farm candies and plaster rubber duckies). After the requisite stops at Stop & Shop and the 1776 liquor store (wondering yet again if they make all of their profits the third week in July), we were back to the conference center and actual panels. I caught part of the artist panel and then the gay writers panel which was good to see at Necon, which can sometimes seem just a little too much of an old boys network (which in this country inevitably seems to mean making lots of homophobic jokes). We skipped out for dinner to our favorite seafood restaurant which had changed names but little else. I had a lobster roll -- yummmm.

We were back in time for the Hall of Fame induction and the tasty art show reception. Gene bought me one of Richard Sardinha's cool faux-medieval fire dragon plaques which will go up in my office. Then it was Meet the Authors time which meant packing us and all our books into a much too small lounge which was quickly filled with people and enormous heat. We didn't sell near enough books (Gene had his latest tome too), but Elena was a big hit with her off-the-cuff caricatures of folks passing by. We caught a couple of shorts played in the lounge later: "Eater" based on Peter Crowther's short story (and which even he hadn't seen yet) and "Peepers" scripted by Rick Hautala. Again, a not very late night, but we were pacing ourselves (and anyway, I had an idea for the Talent Show that I needed to write).

Saturday we had another big breakfast and spent so long chatting with John Douglas that we missed half the film panel that we told Phil we were coming to (sorry!). The myth panel afterward was excellent. It featured Ginjer Buchanan, Laura Anne Gilman, Charlaine Harris, Toni Kelner, Tom Sniegoski. I had seen Toni at World Fantasy and enjoyed her comments, Ginjer and Laura Anne are always interesting -- Charlaine Harris was a hoot. It was a terrific and lively panel, much fun to hear about the very different ways people developed their books' mythologies -- from Tom's remembrances of the gigantic archangel Michael painting in his childhood church to Laura Anne's detailed research into lightning strike victims. I got a big laugh out of Charlaine's struggle with Irish fairy names and made sure to go up and tell her afterward that, having worked with medieval Irish texts, she was right to have gone with her gut and just made a choice. Inconsistency is the by-word of medieval Irish works -- argh! Look for the new HBO series based on Charlaine's True Blood this fall. I bet it will be a lot of fun.

We had a birthday dinner with Rod and Elena at the Lobster Pot and did a little shopping before hand. I bought a great new moss green wool cape for a fabulously cheap price -- I guess July is the time to buy woolen goods. The Pot was amazing as always, although Rod wouldn't let us tell the waitress it was his birthday. Back in time for the Talent Show, which to seemingly everyone's surprise had a good balance of talent. Phil and Anya and Sephera did a spooky mad scientist version of "Two Ladies" and there were a number of guitar singers, which prompted referee Cortney Skinner to declare a good number of 5 yard penalties even though Beth Massie declared them all to be "The best thing I ever saw!" MC Craig kept things moving, and although we were the penultimate act, it hardly seemed like a long evening (unlike ANY version of the game show, especially the "shortened" ones). If you want to read our bit, you can, but I warn you that it's chock full of in-jokes as all Necon bits tend to be. I prefaced it with the comment "We're academics: we don't sing, we don't dance, but we have put our research skills to use for you." Most of the humor relied on Gene's delivery of the lines, of course.

The big surprise: the long rumored film brainstormed by Phil and shot by Sal actually appeared. Of course there were some technical difficulties that prolonged the wait for the captive audience, but finally it was on. Amazing -- "tubesocks" became the word du jour and Gene found a new fan base. Next up was the far too gentle roast of John "Mac" McIlveen, bookseller extraordinaire and then the usual Saturday night babbling conversation, helped along by another load of saugies. We did stay up late talking and talking, blessed at a late hour by Laura Anne Gilman, the Lovely Lady of Laphroaig, celebrating with the film-makers and co-stars, listening to Dan's Navy tales, getting a Larry Blamire update from Cortney (bad news, Trail of the Screaming Forehead is in limbo; good news, Dark and Stormy Night is coming along) and chatting with all and sundry while the singers sang, the movies played and everyone had fun.

Sunday morning came too soon, time to pack up and check out, although the day continued. At the town meeting, people came around to the realisation that despite the initial shock of the conference center, it had its positive aspects. Since we can't be on campus next year either, the decision seemed to be that we would return -- perhaps with dehumidifiers. We didn't have the usual barbecue send off, but the food was good and the desserts plentiful. The usual sad goodbyes followed, always making it difficult to extricate yourself from the crowd, but we finally did.

We filled up on cheap Massachusetts gas and made the long drive home in good time. We found that there had been big storms in Albany which we had missed. As I walked to the lake this morning, there were still limbs down every where. Of course, I miscalculated and found myself soaked by a shower while I walked. The ducks laughed at me, but I didn't care. Naturally, it stopped raining by the time I got back to the Aerie. Figures.


Anonymous said...

Your act at the talent show may have included many in-jokes, but it was very funny even to this Necon newbie. It was extremely clever, and I wouldn't have guessed you came up with it that day.

Toni Kelner

Laura Anne said...

Thanks for the download -- I was laughing hard enough that I missed some of the details....

(and there was enough single malt being poured to qualify as MaltCon 08-8a (MaltCon 08-8 being held over at Readercon the same weekend).

Cranky Yankee said...

Speaking of booksellers...was Michael Bordon there?

C. Margery Kempe said...

Cranky -- Michael was there but I didn't get a chance to chat with him. He would have seduced me into buying more books if I had!

Laura Anne -- thanks again for sharing the wonderful peaty goodness with us. Mmmm. Folks, check out her media empire!

Toni -- you were a great addition to the Necon campers! And I love "How Stella Got her Grave Back" (read it, you'll love it).