Thursday, December 04, 2014

Chessiecon 2014

The first annual Chessiecon debuted over Thanksgiving weekend in the same location as its predecessor, Darkover, with many of the same staff members and attendees. Bestselling YA fantasy author Tamora Pierce, a regular guest at Darkover, was the author guest of honor. The Friday night masquerade wasn't reinstated, but they did hold a "Time Travelers' Social" in that slot, inviting people to show off their costumes, mingle, and share refreshments. The dealers' room offered the usual bounty. I bought two novels I'd heard mentioned in panels, illustrating the principle discussed at a session on "Reaching Readers"—that personal interaction is one of the most effective book promotions even in this age of Internet media.

I appeared on three panels—one on dark fantasy, one on the appeal of vampires and zombies, and a late-night session titled "Sex and the Believable Alien." The last had ample attendance in spite of its 10 p.m. time and its starting before the concert had quite finished. We addressed the question of how humanoid an alien has to be in order to fit into a romantic or erotic story. We agreed that the important factor isn't body shape but the expectations of the target audience and how the author handles the characters. The consensus was that the alien love object does not necessarily have to be humanoid.

In place of the folk group Clam Chowder, which has disbanded, the Saturday night concert featured filk singer Tom Smith. He has lots of funny material; you can read his lyrics on his website under the "Music" tab (including a Winnie-the-Pooh-Cthulhu crossover—I wish he'd sung that one!):

Tom Smith

Various singers performed casual music in the lobby, a nice feature. And the midnight sing-along of the "Hallelujah Chorus" went on as usual. I always enjoy listening to it from the window of our room overlooking the atrium.

The perennial problem with the hotel, which isn't the con's fault, continues to plague us: Slow restaurant service. Under the old management, the hotel served buffet dinners each evening, so we could easily allow ourselves an hour to eat and pop in and out with time to spare. Now we're at the mercy of the waiters. I had to leave most of my dinner uneaten on Friday in order to make it to my 7 p.m. panel. (Fortunately, our room had a mini-fridge in which to store the leftovers.) Admittedly, the restaurant staff seemed aware of the complaints and made a visible effort at later meals. Still, reinstating the buffet would solve the problem. I've run into similar restaurant foot-dragging at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, too. Wouldn't you think that a hotel hosting the same convention year after year would catch on that people have schedules to keep and want to get through meals quickly?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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