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…