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30 May 2007 @ 06:16 pm
Attempt at a Balticon Wrap-up: Take 2.... Electric Boogaloo... in da house.  
Okay, I'm trying this again.

I’m a little grumpy because LiveJournal ate approximately 2500 words of my Balticon 41 Wrap-up yesterday, (CURSE YOU, LJ-CUT!!!!) and because I have kind of a pinched nerve or something in my back just below my left shoulder-blade. Also, I suspect that I am still suffering from the lingering effects of sleep deprivation from the con. I’m pretty sure that my brain threw a rod at some point and I’ve been sort of mentally limping along ever since.

All that said, and my current grumpiness aside, I had a great time. The con was a lot of fun, and I spoke and hung out with some truly excellent people.


I took the whole day off work because it’s a 6+ hour drive from Raleigh-ish, North Carolina to Baltimore, but thankfully I didn’t have to do it alone, because cinemafreak drove up from the coast and picked me up. Company can make or break a long drive and Rich is a smart funny man. You should definitely consider him for your next road trip. I hear he does birthday parties too.

(Wow, this second attempt at a wrap-up is already off to a weird start)

Anyway, yay Rich, and we got up to the con in the early evening, and my first official task was to meet up with my con-roomies, Heather Welliver and Marc Bailey AKA Grailwolf. Figuring out how to get my luggage into their room, which was at a different hotel, seemed like one of those logic puzzles with the chicken and the rowboat. It was not an unsolvable problem, however, and soon I was ready to enjoy the con in earnest.

The best thing about cons for me is not the panels, it’s just meeting and hanging out with cool people. Some of them I’d met before at other cons, others I had only known from online, and some I was meeting for the very first time in any form. But there were a lot of really fantastic people at this con.

If you will indulge me for a moment, here is a partial list of the people I hung out with. (If I don’t do it this way, I know I’ll forget a bunch of people. This way, I’ll probably only forget a few.)
Michael R Mennenga, Evo Terra, Sheila Unwin, Paul Fischer, Martha Holloway, Rick Stringer, Matt Wallace, Matthew Wayne Selznick, J.C. Hutchins, sailormur, Jim Van Verth, Jason Adams, Tony Ruggiero, sfeley , George Hrab, Jack Mangan, Bill DeSmedt, Phil Rossi, MA in PA, Leann Mabry, Heather Welliver, Marc Bailey, Jared Axelrod, J.R. Blackwell, Earl Newton, Tee Morris, Davey Beauchamp, Steve Wilson, Nobilis, and his wife Dee, Command Line, Will, Susan, and a fellow dressed all in camouflage with the unlikely name of “Biscuit”. Oh, and BIG thanks to “Sci-fi Laura” for actually taking lots of pictures! I always mean to make recordings and take pictures, and then I never manage to actually do it. She took nearly all the pictures I'll be linking to.

Once the luggage and all was sorted out, I dropped by the Podcasting 101 panel, because I figured it would be a good rally-point for many of the people I was hoping to meet up with. I figured right, and from that point to the end of the weekend, I wasn’t alone unless I wanted to be. The whole evening got off to a great start with an enthusiastic, spirited panel about podcasting and a conversation with James Durham who was excited about starting a podcast of his own. Then I made my way to the Garden room for Phil Rossi’s concert.

Now Phil was pretty high on my list of people to meet, because of course I’ve known him online for a while now but had never met him in person. He was the winner of Pickle Tales, and recently he has launched a really cool scifi horror podcast novel by the name of Crescent, which inspired me to whip up a little parody called “Croissant”, which he played in a pre-launch episode.

Meeting Phil at last was awesome. He’s a great guy, and the concert was a lot of fun. I had only ever heard “Daylight Come” which is the song that Phil wrote for Round 4 of Pickle Tales, and even though he didn’t play that one, I really enjoyed all of his other songs too. Heather Welliver, the aforementioned roomie, accompanied him, and wow, she is a cool-cool person with a great voice. Slightly slurred speech brought the first (to my knowledge) in-joke of the con, as it was announced that the party room would be “Dirty-Fifteen.”

But before we headed up there, the “Sex in Podcasting” panel was the rally-point. It was fun, but kind of an odd discussion, because it seemed to keep coming back to whether or not a podcast like Pseudopod, which offers horror short stories, needs to have a warning at the beginning. My own opinion, it shouldn’t be done as an obligation, but rather as a service. Another in-joke started here, where everyone was imitating Steve Eley’s “Warning” which begins the episodes of Escape Pod that contain potentially objectionable content.

From there, we all headed up to “Dirty-fifteeen” and it was a good time. Booze and conversation were plentiful. Some notable incidents included:

• A good-natured wrestle-fight on the room’s bed was temporarily paused so that one combatant could hand his glasses to a friend for safe-keeping.
Phil Rossi presenting himself as a human sushi platter and Tee’s contemplation of same
The disrespect that led to Tee’s banishment from Mur’s bitches, and the vigorous defense of Matt Selznick and J.C. Hutchins. “I will so podcast your ass!”

We (that is, Heather, Marc, and I) didn’t end up leaving the party and getting to bed until ~3:30 in the morning, and I had to get up for a 10AM panel. I had already had a couple of late nights leading up to the con, but this was where the serious sleep deprivation began.</ljcut>


The panel, (Podcasting 201) went pretty well. I would have recorded it, but I ended up loaning my portable microphone to Steve Eley so he could record it instead. This sort of began the trend of my not recording anything, despite having my iRiver on hand the whole time. :P

After the panel, my next scheduled event wasn’t until 3 so a small group of us went to Caribou Coffee for breakfast-y type things. I had some excellent lemon poppy-seed bread. Coming back to the hotel, we met up with a bunch of people who’d been having lunch at the hotel bar. Lots of conversation about all sorts of things. As I said before, casual conversation with smart, talented people is my favorite part of going to cons.

At 3PM, I was on a “Podiobooks 101: Why Should I Listen?” panel, which was good, though mostly everyone in the audience was already familiar with podiobooks, and so the conversation actually leaned more toward the production side of things. One guy really nailed me about how coy I was being regarding my still-not-finalized print deal for Nina Kimberly the Merciless. Of course, the reason I wasn’t just stating the plain facts was because I don’t want to look like a jackass if for some reason, the deal were to fall through. Yet I had not fully comprehended that by giving so many hints and then refusing to just explain what I was talking about, I was already looking somewhat jackass-like. It was all pretty good-natured though.

I’m pretty sure that the next thing I did was attend the “Podiobooks 102” panel, which I was not on, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what they talked about. Maybe I wasn’t even really there, but just wandering the hotel corridor’s in a daze. I know that I had originally planned to attend “Podholes Live” at 6PM but ended up going to dinner at Chipotle instead, which proved wise, because the rest of the evening was pretty much packed with activity.

At 7PM, Matt Selznick was kind enough to let me join in on his “Writers Talking Live” panel, which was all about how attending cons can help a writer’s career. It was a good time.

Next was the first of the events that I had actually spent time preparing for, and I’m glad I did. sailormur’s Geek Fu Action Grip #100 was, for me, one of the big highlights of the con, and even though I only did the intro, I was really happy to be a part of such a cool show. The intro seemed to go over well, which made me happy, but I was by no means the main attraction. The episode included a guest essay by Steve Eley, a live audio-drama version of Heaven Part 3: Earth, and then Young Will did a reading of chapter 1 of Mur’s novel, Playing for Keeps! How cool is that? Answer: Very.

After Geek Fu #100, it was time for the George Hrab concert, but instead of being in one of the programming rooms as planned, they moved him out to the lobby. It was a little weird, but you know what? I’m kind of glad they did. It was kind of a cool atmosphere out there, and much more bar-adjacent. Plus, there was a great little courtyard where you could go for cool night air and a little more quiet, but you could sit out there and still hear the music. It was really nice.

Hrab, of course, was awesome. If anyone reading this has not heard of him, you should definitely check him out, though some of his songs are not for the easily offended. After Mr. Hrab, Jack Mangan took the stage, but not before Bill DeSmedt and Matt Selznick each took the stage for a song or two. It was a really nice evening. I had a good buzz going, and had a nice long conversation with Biscuit out in the courtyard while nearby, Mur was writing her Wingin’ It essay and the melodious tunes of Mangan floated through the air. Good times.

I hung out there in the courtyard until it was time for the live Wingin’ It. I have to say, it was pretty chaotic even for their standards, but it was fun for all that, if perhaps, not quite as transcendent as the infamous WI #75. Beer was drunk, noise was made, and George Hrab stripped to his underwear for polysyllabic words. It was groovy scene, man.

Then it was up to Dirty-Fifteen again, and just like the previous night, we were up well past 3AM, and to tell the truth, I was not looking forward to getting up for another 10AM Panel.


Morning came like that party guest that shows up while you’re still cleaning the apartment, but I had lots to do that day so I marshaled my remaining faculties and got up anyway.

First up, I was cast as “The Crimson Moth” in a live ‘podplay’ of Mr. Adventure, by Davey Beauchamp and produced by Rich Sigfrit. There was some confusion/drama/issues getting script pages in everybody’s hands, but it was lots of fun. Steve as Dark Mask Jr. may dismiss his own performance as simply a rip-off of Mandark, but it still made me laugh whenever he did the “Ah-ha-ha! Ah-haha-haha!” We all had a good time and the audience seemed to enjoy themselves as well.

There was some non-structured wandering and eventually, a bunch of us headed out to Noodles and Company for lunch. I had some really tasty Pad Thai, and it made me wish there were franchises closer to the Triangle, where I live.

After lunch, and assisted by the really sweet and fun MA in PA, it was time to solicit some extra prizes for the game show that I was running at 2PM. On that subject, I was really honored, but also a little bit freaked out when Paul Fischer asked me if I would run Michael and Evo’s Guest of Honor presentation.

I spent a lot of time preparing for it in the weeks leading up to the con, and I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t some stress there. But as I discussed with my old friend Mike Meitin, sometimes that kind of stress can be good, because it makes you actually spend time preparing instead of just half-assing it.

So I created the whole concept, a geek-trivia game show called “Are You Smarter Than A Podcaster?” I wrote all the trivia questions (way more than necessary, it turned out), designed the rules and made the posters. But of course, any game show needs prizes, and though Paul and Martha had already lined up some cool prizes, I felt that it couldn’t hurt to have more. So MA and I went around the dealer’s room soliciting for prizes. Tee donated some books, we got some donated art and a necklace and more books, but by far, the best was Gryffon Armory, which donated a Samurai Katana! How awesome is that?

Just when I decided that it was time to sit for a little while and make sure that I had everything ready, I discovered that I had somehow misplaced the answer key of all things. There was nothing for it but to go back to my other hotel, get the file and get it re-printed, but saying it like that doesn’t really convey the stress and the hot, sweaty running back and forth to get a new answer key. We made it back to start getting set up for the show in time, but I was about half an hour behind where I’d hoped to be, and so setting everything up was a lot more disorganized than I’d wanted. Those hiccups aside, the game went really well, everyone seemed to have a good time, and we actually had people win the big prizes. Everyone told me that they thought I’d done a really good job, which was nice to hear. I believe there was video of it too, but I’m not sure who has it or where it might show up. If and when it does though, I’ll link it here.

After that, a lot of my stress, good though it was, was gone. I still had Mike and Evo’s roast to do that evening, but at least I’d gotten the most complex event out of the way. The rest of the afternoon was pretty unstructured until it was time for the roast itself. I’d never written for a roast before, but I just went for the traditional stand-up-comedy approach and I was really glad I’d prepared something. It went extremely well! I enjoyed everybody else’s portions as well, especially a video sent in absentia by Scott Sigler. But everyone really seemed to like my bit. Everybody was laughing, and lots of people, Mike & Evo included, came up to me afterward and congratulated me on how well I’d done. I feel like I’m bragging now, but it was a big highlight of the weekend. There should be video of that at some point as well.

And thus, all stress gone! That was my last scheduled event, so I was able to just completely relax for everything else for the rest of the weekend, which included another Lancelot Biggs: Spaceman podplay adapted by Mur, then the launch party for Serve it Cold, the new podiobook produced by Paul Fischer and Martha Holloway. That was followed by the premiere of Jared Axelrod’s “Department of Public Words” podcast, which features live readings of works in the public domain. There were three amazing readings by Rich Sigfrit, Steve Eley, and Mur Lafferty. I think it’s a great idea for a podcast, and I’ll definitely be subscribing.

Then there was more of the room party, and I’d been hoping to set up the gamecube for some multiplayer Bomberman, (which if you’ve not tried it, is the best party game EVAR!) but the hotel TV’s had that annoying little security panel, so we couldn’t set it up. That was okay though, because it was still a good time. As the evening progressed, Jack Mangan and Matt Selznick broke out the guitars and Heather did some singing. It was really cool. I turned on my recorder just in time for security to come and tell us we were too loud. We all moved down to the courtyard then and I was glad because of the cool night air and less crowded thing. There was casual music and great conversation and I don’t know about everyone else, but I hung out a lot longer and later than I really wanted, just because I didn’t want to leave and I didn’t know if I’d see everybody again the next day. I was really feeling the sleep deprivation thing at that point and at one point, I felt like my brain had just popped up with the “Low Battery Power: Shutting Down” message. But there were so many cool people there and it was such a cool time, I just didn’t want it to end.


Eventually, of course, the evening had to end and there was sleep, and it was good. I didn’t have anything early so I was able to sleep in a little bit more than I had the previous nights. It still wasn’t anywhere near what I needed to get completely caught up but it made a dramatic difference. After checking out of the hotel, I hit the second half of the voice-acting panel, and from there, it turned out that there were still a bunch of people around and we all had lunch at the hotel bar, where I paid too much for a crappy hamburger, but it was worth it because of all the cool people. Like the courtyard the night before, lunch dragged out longer and longer just because nobody wanted to leave. All good things must come to an end of course, so Rich and I finally hit the road again around 2PM. It was another long drive, but with a cool funny guy, but boy I tell you, when I finally got back home, I was just about ready to collapse with exhaustion.

I’m still not completely recovered, but boy, I had a great time. It was comparable to Dragon*Con in the fun category, but felt a little more intimate and personal. Harder to lose yourself in a crowd, and I felt like I saw behind the curtain a little for some people, which shouldn’t be interpreted as an all-bad thing. It was interesting. All in all, fantastic con. (Now are you getting why I was so annoyed that this got eaten the first time?)
Current Location: Home... sleepy
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
Current Music: Farscape
Kevinkmkibble75 on May 31st, 2007 01:13 am (UTC)
That sounds like an amazing time... and I can't wait for the not-finalized Nina. Or I guess I should say that i'm looking forward to not being able to wait for it.

Wouldn;t want to jinx anything, you know?
Christiana Ellischristianaellis on May 31st, 2007 01:24 am (UTC)
I can neither confirm nor deny that I know anything about any hypothetical jinxing that may or not be going on.
MA in PA: Memainpa on May 31st, 2007 01:58 am (UTC)
As think I told you many times during the course of the whole weekend - it was so great to meet you. I do wish we had been able to get to play Bomberman because it sounded like so much fun. Oh well - maybe next time.
Christiana Ellischristianaellis on May 31st, 2007 01:01 pm (UTC)
It was really great to meet you too, and we'll definitely get you on "Hey, want to watch a movie?" one of these days.

If you get a chance to try Bomberman, you definitely should, but only multiplayer. Single player is a whole different thing and not nearly as fun. Multiplayer, the more people the better, is the way to go!
v_frequencies on May 31st, 2007 06:00 pm (UTC)
Balticon 41 was a blast
It was great seeing you again Christiana. I had a great time at Balticon 41. I'm hoping that I can make it to Dragon*Con this year too, but I'm not certain yet.

Variant Frequencies