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#DetCon1 Wrap-up – thanks, @DetconOne!

Ok, now that we are finally mostly done with the massive road trip home, here’s the rest of the recap of DetCon1, the North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC) held in Detroit last week.  The other entries relating to DetCon1 are here and here.

In a word: awesome.  This was by far the smoothest-run con I’ve attended.  Smoother than the two WorldCons I’ve been to.  Three cheers for the staff and volunteers!  I did not run into a single programming snafu or any people having a shouting match.  It was all smooth sailing, and I had a lot of fun.

For the most part my panels were good.  There was one that devolved into that dreaded one-panel-member-and-that-one-guy-in-the-front-row-hijack-the-whole-thing, and another (“Teens Talk to Scientists”) where we only had two teens show up, but the other four panels I was on went really, really well.  So four out of six ain’t bad.  Even the one in the last slot of the last day was interesting and well-attended.  Those were some hardcore audience members – clearly exhausted but still enthusiastically participating.

The “Designing Fictional Spacecraft” panel went so well that people were still commenting to me two days later on how much they enjoyed it.  So that made me feel all warm and fuzzy – plus it was a really fun panel to be on.  Kudos for that to the excellent moderator, Philippe McNally, for skillfully steering the questions and conversation.  If anyone from programming is reading this, I highly recommend him as a panel moderator in the future.

The hotel was great.  Having inexpensive options at the food court was a nice change of pace from overpriced hotel restaurants, and the variety was good.  The hotel bar/restaurant was also nice, with decent food and less exorbitant price inflation than many places I’ve been.  I rarely had to wait more than a minute or two for the high-speed elevators, and the room was comfortable.  Navigating the facilities was a little confusing at first, but quick and easy once I got the hang of it.  It especially helped that the con staff put up more signs after the first day.

The attendees were well behaved – better behaved than I have ever seen.  The code of conduct was taken very seriously by the con-runners, and it showed.  A couple panel audience members made some sexist comments, but they were not as overt or hostile as I’ve heard at other cons.  And many people jumped in to shut them down quickly.  Even the rowdier parties felt like completely safe places to be, and the staff made themselves very visible walking around, making sure party hosts were carding, asking if there were any problems, etc.

I’ve already written about John Scalzi’s ’80s dance but it bears repeating: bodacious, dude.  Totally radical.  Some folks dressed up, some didn’t, but I still smile at the memory of one of my favorite authors rocking out in a tiara, and executing a pratfall-roll off of a chair he’d been dancing on.  I even broke out the neon headbands and entered a dance floor for the first time in… well, let’s not go there.  A long time.

The panel topics and panelists were interesting.  My favorites I attended as an audience member – identified by the fact that on the road trip, my husband and I were still talking about our favorites and these kept coming up – were the “Science Education Roundtable,” “What Am I Looking For,” and “Gender Roles in Genre Fiction.”  I’m not an educator but I am a parent and I do STEM outreach, so it was good to hear what’s new in science education from the “Science Education Roundtable,” learn what difficulties our educators are facing, and  pick up new ideas for improving how our kids learn science.

The “What Am I Looking For” panel featured editors and agents who work with both short and long fiction, non-fiction, pro and semi-pro.  They talked about what they are looking for, what they don’t want to see, what they would really love to see, and common mistakes/habits/crazy things authors do that drive them nuts.  This was really valuable for my writer husband, and interesting to me, as a reader.  “Gender Roles in Genre Fiction” I’ve already written about as well, but in a nutshell: it’s time to get rid of the nastier anti-woman tropes, and Jim Hines is really serious about it.

The programming track had great variety, and I routinely faced the dilemma of how to choose between three or four things happening at the same time that sounded  great.  I also wished I had the kiddo along as an excuse to attend some of the amazing-sounding kids programming events.  Ditto for the teen programming track.  I still look so young I always get carded, so maybe I should have just gone to the teen stuff anyway!

Not too many hall costumes or masquerade entries at this con compared to most, but the costumes I did see were excellent.  The masquerade evening, a combination event with the Golden Duck and YA awards, was the one absolutely painful time of the whole weekend.  I have no idea what took the masquerade judges so long to judge so few entries, but they probably should have just told everyone to go away and come back, rather than continue to have people try to stall… and stall… and stall.  I do like that they started some YA & middle-grade SF awards, though.  About damn time, and hopefully they get added as a category for the Hugo awards soon!

Overall, great con.  Kinda sad that this isn’t one they do every year because it means I can’t go back.  But now I have high hopes for next year’s WorldCon in Spokane, if the schedule and budget allow for us going.  They and LonCon both have a tough act to follow…

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DetCon1 Here We Come!

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I now have my finalized – and therefore completely subject to change at some future date – itinerary for this year’s North American Science Fiction Convention NASFiC) – DetCon1 in Detroit, MI.  If you are going to be there, I hope to see you at one of these panels!

It’s going to be a very busy and very fun weekend.  I will also definitely be at the 80s dance, as I would not miss for all the world seeing John Scalzi as the DJ for that, and the masquerade (just as an audience member, as I have not remotely had time for cosplay this year).

What panel topics have caught your eye?  Do you have any suggestions for really badly done science/tech in movies or books that I can use in the Balonium! panel?

Teens Talk to… Scientists Duluth A Teen Fri 12:00 PM
Description Our panel of folks who work in the science fields (both hard and soft) talks about their work and answers questions about what they do and how they got there.
Designing Fictional Spacecraft Ambassador Salon 2 Literature Fri 4:00 PM
Description Our panel discusses aspects of designing non-existent spacecraft, such as applying current and historic shipbuilding and spacecraft-building practices to future designs, and keeping designs realistic. How do you make the ship suit its mission, and what considerations are there beyond engines and weapons?
Women in Science and STEM Mackinac West Science Sat 2:00 PM
Description Men still outnumber women in most STEM fields. What are the unique challenges for women in STEM fields, and how can they be addressed? What can be done to encourage more women to consider these fields and prepare for them?
Military SF Mackinac East Literature Sat 7:00 PM
Description Our panelists offer their opinions on the broad field of military SF. What themes and stories does military SF explore? Why do readers and creators like this subgenre? Who does it well, in terms of realism and good research?
Balonium!! Ambassador Salon 1 Media Sun 10:00 AM
Description Our panelist indulge their penchant for “oh, come ON!” in discussing the science, pseudo-science, and outright balonium in recent SF, whether in print, media, comics, or wherever!
Ask a Scientist Ambassador Salon 1 Science Sun 1:00 PM
Description Audience members ask questions they’d like scientists to answer. Carl Sagan once said: “There are naive questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every question is a cry to understand the world. There is no such thing as a dumb question”.

 

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My DetCon1 Preliminary Schedule!

If you’ll be in the Detroit area in mid-July, consider stopping by the North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFIC).  The NASFIC is a special con that’s only held in years that the WorldCon is outside North America.  This is mainly for those of us who can’t afford to go to the really cool WorldCon location (London this year) somewhere to go and still do all the wonderful things we usually do at a WorldCon, just a little closer to home.

I’ve just received my preliminary schedule for panels.  I’m really excited about the panels I’ve been selected for, although I’m a little disappointed that, once again, I haven’t managed to make it onto their military sci-fi panel or anything closely related to that topic.  If the military sci-fi panel is yet again comprised exclusively of a bunch of older white males who have never been in the military (and no, the guy who made it through two weeks of boot camp doesn’t count), I’m going to tear my hear out.  At least the last one I went to had some people who had actually been in the military!

The whole reason I got involved in panels at cons in the first place was after two straight years of a certain unnamed local con having a “Women Warriors” panel made up of old white men who had never been in the military, and a “Military Sci Fi” panel also made up of old white men who had never been in the military.  I figured the best way to try to get the panel representation to mirror real life a little better was to throw my name in the hat.  I hasn’t really worked yet, but I’ll keep trying.  And trying.

But for now, I am on some very awesome-sounding panels, with some amazing-sounding people who I look forward to meeting and panel-ing with (and please note these schedules are pretty much guaranteed to change in the next few weeks).  Also, I am very open to reader suggestions for the Balonium panel!

Fri 4:00:00 PM Mackinac East – Designing Fictional Spacecraft
If your story or artwork includes spacecraft, it’s a whole other kettle of fish.
Our panelists discuss aspects of designing non-existent spacecraft, such as
applying current and historic shipbuilding and spacecraft-building practices
to future designs, keeping designs realistic, making the ship suit its mission,
and considerations beyond engines and weapons.

Sat 2:00:00 PM Mackinac West – Women in Science and STEM

What are the unique challenges for women in STEM fields, how can they be
addressed, how can we get more women interested in these fields, what can
you do to prepare

Sun 10:00:00 AM Ambassador Salon 2 – Balonium!!
Our panelist indulge their penchant for “Oh, come ON!” in discussing the
science, pseudo-science, and outright balonium in recent SF, whether in
print, media, comics, or wherever!

Sun 1:00:00 PM Ambassador Salon 2 – Ask a Scientist
Audience members ask questions they’d like scientists to answer. Carl
Sagan once said: “There are naive questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased
questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every question is a cry to understand the world. There is no such thing as a dumb question.

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