Thursday, December 04, 2008

Darkover Con

Over Thanksgiving weekend we attended Darkover Grand Council, just north of Baltimore, as we always do. Despite the name, the con no longer has an exclusive focus on Marion Zimmer Bradley's work; it's a general SF and fantasy con of cozy size featuring lots of sessions that address issues of writing craft and world-building. This year's special guest was Patricia Briggs, author of the Mercy Thompson urban fantasies. She's an interesting speaker. One of my favorite panels she participated in was the one about wolves. In most memorable session of the weekend, however, she and her husband described the process of casting silver bullets (with props). It's a lot harder than horror novels make it sound; a main problem is that silver has a much higher melting point than lead. I was surprised to learn silver is also harder. I'd thought it was softer, like gold. A very educational hour! On her website,, you can go to the "News Archive" page and click on the "silver bullet" link to read her husband's detailed account of the quest for usable silver bullets. Another celebrity who attended and appeared on several panels was Esther Friesner. As you would expect, she's very entertaining. Among many other authors who've become regulars, Katherine Kurtz, Tamora Pierce, Diana Paxson, and C. S. Friedman were also present.

Sadly, the costume competition has been steadily dwindling in number of entries over the years. This year's contest had only four. A strong hint was dropped that the masquerade will be discontinued. I'll miss it. Our Sime-Gen Faith Day gathering has also decreased since Jacqueline had to stop attending, with only two people in the room this time. (We hope you'll be able to rejoin us eventually, Jacqueline!) We read aloud a portion of one of Jacqueline's Sime-Gen works in progress, an exciting drama set earlier in the history of the universe than we’ve ever seen before.

As always, the eclectic folk group Clam Chowder performed Saturday night. Their songs, both traditional and original, range from melancholy to rousing to humorous. They finished with "Zombie Jamboree," accompanied by a large portion of the audience lurching gleefully up and down the aisles. Darkover has a custom of collecting donations for Children's Hospital during the Clam Chowder intermission, to the tune of four figures each year. Some funds come from auctioning off "comfy chairs" at the front of the room and two opportunities to sing karaoke with the group. The rest of the money, which comes straight from the audience, ostensibly bribes the Clams to sing "Bend Over, Greek Sailor." I won't quote the chorus here, but you can probably guess what kind of song that is. This year, they included a few new verses written especially for the occasion.

To read about the history behind the "Bend Over, Greek Sailor" tradition, go to and scroll down to the link under "Clam Chowder" labeled "fund raiser for Children's Hospital."

At midnight Clam Chowder launches the holiday season by leading anyone who wants to join them in the “Hallelujah Chorus” in the hotel atrium, followed by a Christmas carol sing-along. Alas, I don’t have the stamina to stay up for those events, not with the prospect of waking up Sunday morning for breakfast and 10 a.m. panels. Maybe some year in the future.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like so much fun! Wish I could have been there. Maybe next time. I'll come as Grilka, a female Klingon, and don't forget my invitation to Jacqueline's party!