Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic

Westercon Highlights & Critique

Westercon 64 at the San Jose Fairmont was a huge success, I enjoyed it very much, and anything else in this posting should be weighed against this Great Truth™®©.

First things first: Chairman Glen worked hard, traveled far and wide, and surrounded himself with a mostly excellent staff who mostly did an excellent job.

I had heard of all three GoHs, but their work does not appeal to me, so that was not a big win as far as my own personal enjoyment of the con went. However, they are all Class Acts™, their appeal in local fandom is Legion, so I call that a WIN.

The program guide was not available until the day before the con, and there was no program grid. The so-called pocket program only fit in my pocket because I wear 5XL pants. The layout of the pocket guide was non-intuitive - it took some studying to figure out what time slot you were looking at. Not a win.

Program signage on each room started out as a huge WIN, easily readable and complete, but by the end of the con a couple of rooms sported hand-scrawled signs which were not so much win.

There were several programs on very similar subjects which were scheduled at the same time. The most flagrant example: In the same Friday time slot were Book View Café, and Your Local Library: Fortress of Solitude or Last Best Hope? and Role of SF in Higher Education. Reviewing the program guide, I see that most of the conflicts were just my own hard choices, but there were two more side-by-sides later in the con.**

The room layout was a rectangular loop. At the center of each hallway was the same quasi-map thing where the only thing different from one sign to the next was the placement of the "you are here" marker. Again, it was non-intuitive and took some study to figure out. It did not display the rooms where they were on the map, it just listed each group of rooms which could be found in each direction. It did not clearly show how to get to the one lobby level room. Having the signs was a WIN, the signs themselves, not so much.

The meeting rooms were pretty good, a nice selection of sizes. WIN
Sometimes the hotel staff would leave a room set up in a particular special configuration long after it should have been put back to normal seating. And I think the Regency Dance may not have happened once because the chairs were not removed from the room. I could be wrong, I may have misread the program.

The dealer's room and art show seemed to have plenty of space. WIN

The room assigned to filk concerts was too small. not a win.

Audio for the concerts I attended was very good, with minimal setup time. WIN

Masquerade only had 8 contestants. Not a win. Every contestant, IMHO, was award-worthy. WIN. The Masq started on time - WTF? - so I missed the first two entries because service was slow for dinner across the plaza. It was well-organized, ran like clockwork, and each contestant was brought up on stage after the judging so we could get good photos. WIN WIN

Match Game SF, both sessions, was highly entertaining, kevin_standlee as the MC and his production staff did a great job. WIN. One panelist showing up tipsy for the 10 pm session and continuing to drink during it was not a win.

I missed figmo's concert because it was scheduled opposite Match Game. Considering she has been a panelist in previous MGs, I count this is a scheduling conflict, and a not-win.

caprine's concert was well--attended, and very enjoyable. I bought her CD when it came out, and listened to it a few times, but in person she brings out a lot more of what is behind the lyrics, just by the way she presents them. For instance, during one fast-moving romantic ballad, I almost whipped out my Android to look up Bell's Theorem. I guess you had to be there. ;-) WIN

Moira Greyland's concert was also a WIN, except for one tiny annoyance (to me) which was that the CD she had on display in front of her showed a younger blond woman, and Moira is currently auburn haired and while she is not old, for most values of old, she is no longer the person on the CD cover. Minor annoyance because I first saw her perform when she was that person. I love her voice and her harpistry, and her warped sense of humor.

The con suite for me was a FAIL. Food was sparse and often non-existent. It was set up as a suite with someone living in the bedroom, which was awkward, and  places to sit and chat were lacking.

The 19th floor was the party floor, and was way too warm at party time. The Fairmont's room numbering system was invented by the same folks who brought us fuzzy logic, and the signage was by apprentices of Escher. Party hosts and perhaps concom needed to post clearer directions to the con suite and the party rooms. not a win. The party suites were small and some had long narrow, almost hidden entryways, so hotel FAIL on that point.

Unwoman. OMG I am in love. I do not know how johnnyeponymous managed to score a cello concert from her in the fanzine lounge, but it was worth full con price, including parking and gas money. And my firstborn, which I am dreaming would be hers. Okay, that's not gonna happen, and is way out of line, but talent, brains, looks, class and a sense of humor will do that to me.  When I post the full photo set on Flickr later this week, you may see what I mean.Click for two pix. WINWINWIN

Speaking of the fanzine lounge, it was a nice nook for hanging out, many prints of usually PDFed fanzines as well as Chris' vast collection of print zines, a very nice display of maurinestarkey's work- featuring Tiki art. And lots of good company. WIN. There was no food or drink. lessened win.

Speaking of food and drink, FAIL for having no snack bar concession in the con area. The hotel had nothing of the kind, and the nearest place to grab munchies was the boutique Safeway three long blocks away. Other than that, places to eat actual meals nearby were plentiful, and ranged from one of the most tempting bakery cafés in the region to the most disgusting Thai restaurant in Santa Clara County. So, mostly  a WIN. Someone needs to open an ice cream parlor in one of the empty plaza spaces.

Wi-fi was not available in the con area. There was no mention of why, or hints for work-arounds in the program guides. FAIL.

Beautiful T-shirt design. WIN. Place to buy was not obvious or well signed - less win.

**Some were made mostly moot by the length of the business meeting Sunday morning.

The business meeting could take six more posts, but I'll be brief. The main purpose of the meeting was to decide the winner of the bid for the 2013 Westercon (#66).  Portland had the only legally filed bid, but gave a less than inspiring presentation at the bid meeting on Saturday. bovil and kproche had put a lot of effort into a hoax bid for Granzella's in CA Olive Country, and between their presentation on Saturday and their bid party, they started a lot of people thinking. They won the election by one vote. Each voter had to pay $25 to vote, so this was a serious result. Since they had not formally filed, and no bid won a majority of the votes, the decision was thrown to the business meeting attendees.

kevin_standlee chaired the meeting, and showed skill, charm, tact and humor in presiding over what could have been a train wreck. His opening remarks were brilliant, and I wish I had a copy to frame. Except for its length (11:30 am to almost 3 pm) it looked to this outsider like any normal business meeting. Rules were read and followed, protocols established, and a crowd of about 120 people participated fully. I was frustrated by the number of needless procedural questions, but Kevin handled them well. Toward the end of the meeting when those started to pop up way more often than logic and reason could justify, he had the members on his side, and his suggestion that we actually vote was immediately followed by a member calling the question, and several others seconding. 

In a nutshell, none of the bids won the required 3/4 majority during the vote. A member who had voted against Olive Country moved to reconsider that vote, the motion passed, and the vote was 93 to 27, which was more than 3/4. Voting for the bid was the head of the Portland bid committee, who was sitting next to bovil and kproche.  My hat's off to him for grace under pressure.

Westercon 65, next summer, will be up at SeaTac. I doubt if I will go. The con chairperson was one of the angry birds when Portland lost its bid, and the story the Portland bid chair gave was she had called him to suggest he run W66. So she had a dog in the fight, and it was a pit bull. The writer GoH I have never heard of, the other GoHs I've seen enough for them to not be a big draw for me. They plan to start the con with closing ceremonies to "take it out of time". I don't think so. But who knows? A lot can happen between now and then.
Tags: cons, review

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