Thoughts on Balticon 44

Despite a deep set fatigue on waking this morning, I feel mostly recovered from Balticon 44 which I attended this past weekend. I failed to get to sleep before 2AM any night I was there. The only morning I slept in, and then only for a bit, was Sunday. My room mate and traveling companion, John Taylor Williams, and I were responsible for a staggering amount of potable consumption. Most of that was in the form of beer to which we are well accustomed. I mention these particular facts only as an explanation for why I utterly failed to blog while at the convention.

We had more volunteers this year for recording author readings than any year since I’ve been helping on that front. I don’t know how the other volunteers made out but for once I did not feel overloaded between recordings, being on panels, and trying to see some of the other panels I merely wanted to attend. Overall, I felt I managed my schedule the best out of any Balticon yet, so much so that the late nights and early mornings took a much more limited toll on my enjoyment.

I am finally resigned fully to the impossibility of seeing everything and everyone I want to at a convention. Even if I did not volunteer or participate as a panelist, programming and schedules are simply too chaotic to do much more than be open to the opportunities when they arise, otherwise just relaxing and enjoying full immersion into the gnarl that is the con experience.

I enjoyed all of the programming I saw or in which I participated. Despite the constant conflicts, I don’t feel short changed and I hope those whose panels and events I missed understand my regrets and my reasons. I did get out to quite a few live shows and book launches. The buzz amongst the writers who podcast (or are they podcasters who write?) was that all of the book launches went well. I heard many reports of brisk sales and excellent turn outs.

My ad hoc FLOSS/techie BoF Friday night was lightly attended though I was tickled that Mur Lafferty sat with us a spell. As I explained to her our gathering was not exclusive, Nathan Lowell and his friend joined us last year and we were happy to have them. Rather attendance by non-tech geeks is really limited by their tolerance of us hackers, sysadmins and others talking shop without restraint. I am not deterred by the low attendance and will try again next year. The other unofficial event I helped pull together, the BYOBS went better though I or JTW will write about that more at Living Proof.

The new media party, put on once more by my dear friends Chooch and Viv, was amazing. A mob of folks showed to help them set up, myself included. I only hope I wasn’t in the way too much during the preparations. Despite the couple of small things with which I pitched in, I honestly thought I might have better helped by getting out of the way. I am comforted by my contribution during clean up, however, as predictably a slightly reduced mob remained to help with that. During the party my claustrophobia got the better of me and I spent most of the time out in the hallway like last year. There was pretty good traffic, though, so I got to see and chat up a lot of the folks in attendance.

On a deeper level, I came away from Balticon with a lot of food for thought. I think for the first time ever, a friend offered me some constructive criticism of my participation on panels. Dave Slusher is a man with a talent for expressing the heart of a matter in clear, honest and in this case welcome words. I have been bumbling my way through speaking at conventions through trial and error and trying to observe and reverse engineer others. I am trying to take Dave’s criticism to heart, in the spirit of friendship and support it was offered. I think that is the best way I can repay his honesty and earnestness in offering it. It isn’t anything huge, merely a weakness he admitted to having in common, that I’ll have to work through at future gigs.

There are other lessons I took away but none I am ready to share. They are equally challenging, on a personal level, but I welcome the opportunity to improve myself and my experience at conventions and other gatherings with a deep networking dimension. There is a strong element of serendipity to my most recent personal realizations so the ultimate outcome should be all to the good.

Overall this past Balticon was a renewing and sustaining experience. Any frustrations or challenges I encountered there or took away with me just add a richer texture to the whole which was entirely a positive experience. I owe a good debt of gratitude for being able to see it that way from a friend, Chris Miller, who wasn’t able to join us despite early plans to do so this year. Chris gave me a head check before Balticon 43 that is still echoing around, in a good way, inside my skull. I have faith that we’ll find ourselves in the same location at some point or another amongst of nexus of friends and family. In the meantime, I know I can give him a call any time I need a refresher on the head check, just want to shoot the breeze, or chew over some story idea or other for the podcast.

Finally, I did manage to come away with recordings of the two panels I felt would be most appropriate to share on my podcast. I haven’t listened to the audio yet so cannot make any predictions on what I’ll be able to get into shape worth sharing. I am optimistic as the recorder I brought with me is a huge improvement over the piece of gear it replaced. I am nervous because I was too lazy to more aggressively mic myself and my co-panelists. I do have a new reserve in what I have been able to process out of the vast knowledge my friend, JTW, has imparted to me in our short friendship so far. These lessons and nuggets of knowledge are informed by his years and years of audio engineering, composition and musical performance.

Which reminds me that I am very proud of successfully introducing him to the podcasting contingent at Balticon. By all accounts he had as fantastic a time as I did and made many new friends and acquaintances. He is on a mission to share his knowledge and experience specifically with poor self taught audio geeks like myself. That goal seemed well received by those he met and I anticipate that more casts than my own will benefit from his influence in the coming year.

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