September 15th, 2005

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It's here!

...and not a moment too soon!

The registration form for TeslaCon is now available e-lec-tronically. Print it out, send in your membership fee, and start your plans!

Registration deadline is October 1st, so print and mail quickly, or contact dinogrl if you want to register using PayPal. She needs the info to plan for the van.

Far more information is at vintacon
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Union City Bound...

Yeah, Union City.

The Imperial Star Empire of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties had their Coronation Ball on Saturday, at the Crowne Plaza South Oakland in Union City.

Yeah, Union City.

It's possible to get farther south in Alameda County (and farther away from Oakland) than Union City, but Freemont is the only thing between it and Milpitas. Granted, the coronation is there because Hayward (which is much more the center of Alameda Co gay activity) doesn't have any hotels with conference facilities, and Oakland is, well, Oakland.

We really like Empress Niyah and Emperor Ellis, and were really looking forward to seeing how their coronation played out. Their theme was "Beauty and the Freak." Niyah never fails to live up to "Beauty" and, well, Ellis is a skinny black dude who does Marilyn Manson numbers. They had some difficulties together, but they did a great job together.

Once Saturday morning's chaos was over, we headed up to check in and spend some time in hospitality. They were having a busy day, and nearly ran out of alcohol by 2:30. The only irritation was that while hospitality was scheduled to run until 4:00pm, but it closed at 3:00. Well, there wasn't any booze, so it didn't really matter.

We spent a bit of time chatting with Madame Steele in the room before showering and dressing for the show. Coronation included a buffet dinner, so we made sure we got down to the ballroom on time for the doors to open.

Oh, kproche was scheduled to sing "O Canada" in the flag ceremony, so that was the other reason we had to be there on-time.

...but we were in Alameda...

At least the bar was open when we got there. 10 minutes after the door was supposed to open.

We ran into Jazmine James and Kiki Monroe, both Empresses of Denver, who were the show MCs. Kiki swore they were going to start at 6:00, even if the doors weren't open and nobody was there. The doors finally did open, but the show didn't start at 6:00 like it was supposed to. One of the ball coordinators (who swore she was going to show up at 5:00) didn't walk in until 6:00, so we didn't get dinner until then.

The show finally did start a bit before 7:00. The sets were great. Coffins, twisted trees, iron candelabras and cobwebs set a nicely gothic scene, and the traditional Crowne Plaza dark red worked in beautifully. Frank Salerno did the Mexican National Anthem as a reading rather than singing it (it's barely singable, perhaps worse than SSB), and Tank sang the US National Anthem. Amazingly, he didn't blow any words (I can count the number of times a singer hasn't blown the words on one hand).

Ellis and Niyah only had 12 seats for guests on the dais (an improvement from last year when entering and exiting 16 guests each act took longer than it did for most courts to walk), and they had quite a few command performers, but not a crazy number. The really cool thing is nearly all of the command performers went with the theme. No "WTF?" performances. OK, that's not true, quite a few were "WTF!!!???" numbers, but in a way that made sense.

First act (in-town stuff) took forever. Not sure why, since there weren't really any in-town organizations walking. Way too long. Second act (when visiting courts were presented) actually went pretty smoothly and pretty quickly. Third act was mostly performances (which would have been better if things were running on schedule), but was marred by aforementioned late ball coordinator shuffling folks back into the ballroom saying the doors were going to lock for crowning before the intermission that preceded act 4... and then repeating that routine for another 15 minutes before the doors locked.

So after all the BS and the doors finally being locked, Joe-Wanna Piece (the former Emperor Alex P) and Christian Dior were crowned Empress (Joe-Wanna) and Emperor (Christian) with apparently a handy number of votes. Then we headed up to the hospitality suite for the victory party, and off to bed.

Brunch the next morning was pretty decent. The Crowne Plaza's banquet room is nice, and their kitchen is pretty good. Ellis and Niyah gave out plaques. Actually, Ellis gave out plaques and candles, Niyah gave out bottles of Cuervo 1800 with engraved panels attached to the back. Christian and Joe-Wanna announced their new titles (I forget) and their new court name (I forget). We finished up and headed home.
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About traveling conventions...

kevin_standlee and fr_john have both recently brought up the question of WorldCon and NASFiC dates, and as a side-note, the question of Westercon in the first place.

I don't think there's any serious debate about whether WorldCon should continue, but there have been serious discussions about the viability of NASFiC and Westercon. Some pretty respectable folks have been making arguments that one or both should fold.

For those of you who don't know, NASFiC is the North American Science Fiction Convention. It takes place in years that WorldCon is off the North American continent. There was one this year in Seattle because WorldCon was in Glasgow.

It got some pretty mediocre reviews. It got no glowing reviews.

So what's up with that? Well, for a lot of people, it's the "also ran" convention. "Oh, I can't go to WorldCon, because international travel is too expensive, so I'll go to NASFiC." It doesn't have the resonance that "WorldCon" does. It's smaller than the area's annual local convention. Why go?

There's going to be another one in St. Louis in 2007 (when WorldCon is in Yokohama). A few folks rattled some cages when, at the last minute, they came in with a bid to run NASFiC in San Jose as a small relaxacon on the way to Yokohama. I've got some issues with how this all played out, but when one of the biggest complaints about the Seattle NASFiC this year was "It was designed for 4 times the attendance it garnered" there is perhaps a grain of a good idea inside it.

I had an excellent time at the '99 NASFiC in Anaheim, but I think St. Louis has a lot of work ahead of itself to be more than just another "also ran." I'm not sure NASFiC can ever get out from under that, and I don't think that we're well-served by another big, complicated small convention. I'm looking forward to St. Louis, but if they can't pull the rabbit out of the hat, perhaps NASFiC should go.

Westercon is a different animal. It's the West Coast Science Fantasy Conference, and while the name still says "West Coast" it's much more a regional western phenomenon, with the last two years in Phoenix and Calgary (hardly coastal). It's an annual event, not just from time to time when the stars are in the right configurations.

Westercon has been suffering many of the same problems that NASFiC has. The last Seattle Westercon was also characterized as "Norwescon Lite" (Norwescon is Seattle's annual convention and draws over 2000 people) and ran in a hotel much bigger than necessary. I'd say it's a Seattle thing, but Phoenix was smaller than either of the local annual conventions, and Calgary was only bigger than their local because they've never had a convention over 400 people.

The thing is, Westercon shouldn't be thought of as an "also ran;" it's not. It's not the alternative to anything. It's got decades of solid continuing tradition and defines itself in regional character. Recent committees haven't done a great job executing that, though.

Westercon has to be worthwhile to local fans; it needs to promote itself as bringing something special to the area in the form of guests, presenters and out-of-town members who aren't available for local cons, but will come to a Westercon because it is Westercon. It needs to promote itself as bring local flavor to Westercon so guests, presenters and out-of-town members will see something more than just "It's a Westercon."

San Diego and San Jose get to battle this over the next two years.

Except for San Diego Comic-Con (the 800 pound gorilla of a convention), San Diego (like Calgary) doesn't have any big local conventions, so they don't have to worry about being anything "lite." They do have to worry about drawing out-of-town members who haven't been to San Diego in recent memory and locals who don't know about the fannish convention scene.

San Jose is going to have a real fight to not just be "BayCon Lite." BayCon is 2400 people, bigger than Westercon has been in years, and it's only a month before WesterCon. They've got a great base of people who already come to a convention in San Jose, but they've got to convince these people to go to WesterCon (so they don't end up like Seattle has twice). They're also going to have to work with the other conventions in the Bay Area (and there are quite a lot of them) to bring a more general "South Bay" feel that will bring folks who aren't BayCon attendees.

If there isn't a revitalization of NASFiC and Westercon by 2007, I'm probably jumping on the "None of the Above" bandwagon for both of them.