I’m always terribly sad when Balticon is over. Those four days during Memorial Day weekend are a welcome break from work, the blues of the news and the nastiness of this election cycle, and the grimness of life in general.
For those four days, it’s nothing but good feelings. It’s non-stop science fiction and fantasy. It’s a chance to meet cool people and geek out over stuff you’d dare never bring up in your day-to-day life. This is a place where you can attend presentations about dinosaurs and Pluto by paleontologists and scientists who actually work on the New Horizons probe. It’s a place where you can have drunken late night conversations with philosophy professors and bioethicists about your favorite Doctor. A place where you can see science fiction grand master Larry Niven walking the hallways in the middle of the night on his way to a filk concert. A place where you’ll be forced to get up in front of a crowded room and read from “The Eye of Argon” until you mess up and are cheered for messing up. A place where you can attend a live podcast where two people wearing luchador masks engage in a rap battle to determine the fate of earth.
In other words, it’s a magical place.
This was the fourth year I’d gone and every year has been better than the last. This year was particularly insane with the Guest of Honor George R.R. Martin who is, despite all of the fame and acclaim, a very down-to-earth, nice and generous man, and a true fan. Every talk he gave was full of tweetable nuggets of wisdom mixed with interesting stories from his life, from the inspirational role comics played in his early and impoverished life to the memories of attending past Balticons as a fan.
He had nothing but nice things to say about Balticon and he made a very good distinction between fan-run, all-volunteer conventions like Balticon and for-profit conventions that mostly feature actors – you purchase a “membership” to Balticon and you purchase a “ticket” to these other conventions. It’s fandom versus profit and it’s a big part of what makes Balticon special.
Other cool stuff:
- Connie Willis, one of the most awarded science fiction and fantasy writers of all time, dropping some serious knowledge on the craft of writing at an 8am panel.
- Writer and all around hero Kim Stanley Robinson signing my copy of 2312 and giving good advice and encouragement to a new writer.
- The volunteers who run the ship. They’re amazing!