Reflections on Balticon 45

I want to share some of my thoughts about Balticon 45 while they are still fresh. I returned home a few hours ago. My bags are all unpacked. I’ve tended to a bunch of other post-convention chores including preparing the recording from my copyright panel for sharing in Wednesday’s podcast.

I’ve struggled with science fiction conventions in general for the last couple of years. I owe a great deal to the organizers who have invited me, offering me tons of opportunities for valuable public speaking experience. Coming largely from the technology and policy worlds I’ve always felt a bit of an outsider. The common thread of podcasting has not always helped. In some ways it has made it harder because of the assumptions my peers make about what it is that I do and how I go about it.

This year I think I finally managed to strike a comfortable balance both personally and professionally. My new job may have something to do with it. In my mind, my recent shift to working full time in public policy as a technologist is thanks in no small part to the public speaking I’ve been able to do and the almost six years I have been podcasting. I am uncertain how many of the over capacity crowd who showed up for my copyright panel knew of this latest step in my career until I mentioned it in my introduction. Make of that what you will but my own knowledge of my new situation helped when I felt almost overwhelmed at the start speaking to such a large, interested audience all by myself, unlike years past where I’ve had some great panelists to help share the load.

Just as likely contributing to the general positive experience I had is the possibility that I’ve just learned to let go of some of my expectations and second guessing. At the polar opposite from the near panic inducing crowd for the copyright panel, my FLOSS and tech geek birds-of-a-feather was really only attended by a couple of good friends. A few other friends and acquaintances spotted me in the bar and wandered over without realizing why I was there. I didn’t feel the need to push the conversation strictly to the topic, especially since the event was unofficial. I probably could have promoted it more strongly if I really wanted a larger, more focused turnout. Regardless, I simply enjoyed the time with the folks who were there, whatever it was they wanted to talk about.

The new podcast I have been doing with my good friend John Taylor Williams may also have contributed to my greater enjoyment and ease. The home brew panel I was on because of Living Proof went well with the only criticism I heard being that it really should have been two panels so that an hour each could be dedicated respectively to beginning and advanced topics. I would be up for that next year especially as I will have that many more beers under my belt. Outside of the programming, I suspect my being increasingly known as a home brewer, a beer enthusiast and a podcaster who talks about these subjects may have also made it easier for some folks to approach me. I get that the tech and policy geekery can be intimidating which I why I usually don’t bring it up unless specifically asked.

I’ve long since made my peace with the fact that conventions are simply too hectic to spend anywhere as much time with my far flung friends as I would like. All the same, I was delightfully surprised with how many friends I did see. Often that renewal of friendship or acquaintance went well beyond the simple exchange in passing that is the much more common occurrence. My volunteering load was much lighter this year, some of that by design and some by accident. I am sure that also helped me have a better social experience. I will definitely consider my experiences this year when deciding on how much I want to shoulder at Balticons future.

On the whole I have to put this Balticon well towards if not at the very top of my list of science fiction convention experiences. That positive ranking even includes the almost whole day of the convention I missed due to feeling very shabby (a likely touch of food poisoning exacerbated by a series of misfortunate decisions the evening before.) No one thing really stood out but overall I enjoyed myself immensely and feel I acquitted myself well (with the exception of the panel I missed due to being MIA) as a program participant. I have plenty new experiences (one inspiring one in particular) from this convetion that I hope will serve me well at future ones as well as at the new venues, events and engagements where I will find myself thanks to my new day job.

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