Weekly Update: July 18, 2019

In which I make mead, attend Readercon, discover a new podcast, and nearly lose a stuffed dino.

Mead Again

I put on my first batch of real, two-stage, “long” mead on Monday based on the recipe in Ken Schramm’s The Compleat Meadmaker.

I only made one gallon, rather than the five gallons he gives the recipe for, mostly because it’s hard to sanitize a five-gallon carboy when you don’t have a working bathtub. This is intended to be a basic semi-sweet mead — 3lbs of honey and a little less than a gallon of water, and no flavorings. This one uses a wine yeast, Lalvin 71b-1122, which Schramm recommends for leaving some residual sweetness. This is also my first time using Fermaid K as a yeast nutrient.

And yet here we are, some… 56? hours after I started, and I still haven’t seen bubbles in the airlock. Hm.

Of course, it will take longer to start fermenting than my quick meads. The ratio of yeast to must is smaller, and there’s a greater ratio of air in the pail to displace (1 gallon in a 2 gallon pail, vs. a half gallon in a half gallon glass jug). Plus the plastic walls can expand a bit.

But still. I worry. Pointlessly, because the worst thing I could do is open up the pail and look at the must.

I’m just not sure at what point I’m like, okay, this thing is not fermenting, what do I try now?

(I’m also worried because some of the tools I ordered for this batch turned out to be utter crap — a racking cane that doesn’t hold enough pressure to siphon, a thermometer that seems way off. Maybe the yeast is old, or the pail has air leaks?)

(Alsoalso the starting specific gravity measurement was very slightly lower than where it should have been — 1.109 vs. 1.112. Worry worry worry…)

Readercon 20 and Writing Feels

I was at Readercon last weekend! I saw lots of writing friends! I attended panels about translation, curating a personal library, and the existentialist philosophies of Lloyd Alexander! I went to the Viable Paradise dinner! I ran into some newfound acquaintances!

I also spent a good chunk of time in my hotel room, playing Prison Architect, because SFF/writing cons give me Hard Feels sometimes. For more about that, see this Twitter thread:

However, I’m happy to say that I’m getting back to the editing of Lioness (again), regardless of these feelings. This last edit has really been more like a rewrite, moving a bunch of stuff that should have been upfront in the novel, but wasn’t, into the beginning chapters. Of course that has a butterfly effect on eeeeeeevery scene that comes after it…

But after this is done: that’s it. Both my therapist and I have agreed that, for my mental health, this needs to be the last edit. I may run it by one or two people for “pointing out glaring-but-easy-to-fix errors” duty, but the last thing I want is someone else to tell me I need to rewrite it.

Reading and Listening

I finished listening to Scott Westerfeld’s Behemoth, which I greatly enjoyed. Will probably read the final book at some point.

For now, I’ve moved on to listening to Stephen Fry’s Victorian Secrets, an Audible Original. I’d describe it more as an audio-drama-slash-documentary than an audiobook; Fry narrates parts of it, but he also talks to historians and other experts, and there are mini dramatizations of certain historical events, i.e. the trial of a Forty Elephants kingpin.

All in all, it’s amazingly entertaining, but one disappointment is that in the chapter on Victorian pornography, it’s not Fry who narrates the example of gay smut 😉

I also started listening to the new-to-me podcast Ephemeral, after hearing it advertised on other Stuff podcasts. It’s about “those things that were just barely saved, and in some cases not saved at all,” which is so sublimely On Brand for me — someone who has talked before about being a memorial, of remembering things that other people have forgotten. It should be no surprised that I binged the first six episodes while driving back and forth to Quincy for Readercon.

So far the most moving episode has been episode 2, “Diaspora,” which talks about music from the Ottoman diaspora in America in the 1910s and 1920s. The songs they play are hauntingly beautiful, and you know the only reason they are not more better known is… well, racism. It also tied in well with the alternate history of 1910s Istanbul that I’d been exploring in the Leviathan series.

I also liked episode 3, “EphemaWHAT?!?, where he talks with a material culture studies professor, Sarah Wasserman, about ephemera as “items that contain with them their own eventual destruction.” There’s something so incredibly Zen about that — and, I feel, relatable to writing practice.

The producer of the show, Alex Williams, is the sound editor for other Stuff podcasts, so unsurprisingly his focus is very audio- and music-driven. That’s fine, but if I have one complaint, it’s that I’d like to see more episodes that speak to the original meaning of “ephemera,” i.e. paper, or print.


In Parting

I nearly lost my beloved stuffed dinosaur, Instegra Helsing, this week! My husband cleverly snuck her into my suitcase for Readercon, but I not so cleverly left her in the bed at the Quincy Marriott. Luckily thehotel overnighted her back to me, and she arrived home yesterday. My husband snapped this pic to send to me while I was at work.

Instegra Helsing, back in her natural habitat. Also: Can you spot all the geeky things in this picture?

Look at her face. Doesn’t it just say, “I had the best adventure!”? That, or “local stegosaurus in great mood today!”

Things I may or may not have done at Readercon 28

  • Went to some panels! With topics like “The Politics of Villains”, “Mainstreaming Fandom,” and “Improving Intersectionality and Representation in Speculative Fiction”
  • Went to GOH readings! Naomi Novik read from her upcoming novel Spinning Silver, which is her retelling of Rumpelstiltzkin stories, and which takes off from her short story in The Starlit Wood anthology. Nnedi Okorafor read the first chapters of Who Fears Death, Akata Witch, and Lagoon. I asked questions about localization! (Or: why her Nigerian publishers strenuously object to the title and prologue of Akata Witch).
  • Spent a lot of time in the bar (mostly not drinking)!
  • Met many new and shiny VPers!
  • Ate pizza and talked WoW and MST3K with (now Hugo finalist) Natalie Luhrs!
  • Went to the VP dinner!
  • Had many long chats with my roomie and fellow VP17er, Beth T!
  • Went to a fascinating talk by Rose Fox, on “Habit Reversal Training for Writers.”
  • Spent too much money on rare Tim Powers-related books (Secret Histories, a bibliography and collection of ephemera, as well as a copy of the 1988 NESFA Press edition of Epitaph in Rust. The latter I was helpless against — it was made out to somebody named Elisabeth!)

  • Evangelized Tim Powers to folks who didn’t know why the aforementioned things were awesome, and made Chris Gerwel jealous.
  • Wore my Vincent Price shirt, and my cat print dress. (Pro-tip: the latter is geek catnip).
  • Crashed fellow VP17ers Paul and John’s bromance, and ended up watching the first episode of a pretty wacky anime called Silver Spoon. (The folks who made Fullmetal Alchemist apparently made a high school drama set at an agricultural school in Hokkaido! The first episode is about the main character getting over the fact that eggs come out of a chicken’s cloaca! There is an adorable calf that tries to suck on his shirt, and an adorable horse that tries to eat his face!)
  • Relatedly, discovered that Paul does not in fact hate me!

  • Very briefly visited the super-mellow Arisia 2018 party, and colored some Lee Moyer art!
  • Did not entirely stick to my diet!
  • Did not eat any medicinal brownies!
  • Still did not go to the Miscellany or Meet the Pros(e)!
  • Heard interesting stories about Lord Dunsany from a wild-haired guy at the Fantastic Stories table!
  • Told Neil Clarke that I really loved Emily Devenport’s work and would love to see more of her stuff in Clarkesworld!
  • Received a text from my husband telling me the septic was backing up and asking if I liked unicorns? That was the end of my weekend right there.

All in all, it was a pretty excellent weekend, though exhausting in its social-ness (I came home and promptly took a long nap). Best of all, I mostly didn’t suffer from any of the professional angst I sometimes get in the presence of more successful writers! For the most part I was able to enjoy myself and other’s success, and revel in the warmth of community.

Return to the Sceptered Isles, part two: Consequences

Yes, I was in England in November. Yes, this has been a long time coming.

On the second part of my transatlantic trip, I flew to London and took the train to Christchurch, Dorset, in order to attend Imaginary Consequences, a larp convention.

This is my third year attending Consequences, but it’s never been exactly the same trip twice. This year, taking the train was the new part. I did not account for the fact that I would not have a place to stash my ginormous suitcase on Southwest Rail trains, nor the fact that I’d have to change at Clapham Junction, one of the busiest exchanges on the line, nor that I’d have to drag said suitcase up two flights of stairs at said station because there wasn’t an escalator or elevator.

Ah well. The best I can say is that we managed, and arrived at Naish Holiday Village, where most everything was more familiar to us. We shared a lodge with Tony and Elyssia, as well as two of their friends who I hadn’t met before — Steve and David.

I found the latter utterly fascinating to talk to about history, especially legal history, as he’s been a lawyer for many years. From him I learned why judges in the UK wear black (apparently they’re still in mourning. For Queen Anne), and what the difference between a barrister and a solicitor was (which made the relationship between Eugene and Mortimer in Our Mutual Friend make a lot more sense). David also runs a vaguely 17th-century, 7th Sea-inspired tabletop campaign where the characters just went through the Siege of La Rochelle, so we spent some time discussing that era in history, too.

My schedule was light at Consequences — I only played in three games, and one of them was an off-schedule private run of a game after the con ended. This is due to having more trouble than usual signing up this year; I think more people than ever were in attendance. (The 4pm Eastern signup time wasn’t great, either, but it’s probably the best option available).

As a result, I spent a lot of time in the board gaming room. (Where I played new-to-me games Kingdom Builders, Mysterium, and Among Nobles).

Anyway! To the larps!

My first game was Músþéof, a 2-hour game by Dave Collis. I signed up for this game largely for the “Mouseguard/ Anglosaxon/ Amber setting,” which intrigued me, because cutthroat politics with fuzzy animals sounds like fun. I’ve played in Dave (and his co-conspirator Ben’s) Amber games before and found them entertaining, so I figured this would be much the same.

The characters are the members of three mús (mouse) guard patrols returning from harrowing missions, reporting on and dealing with what they’ve found. The world around them is crumbling in various dramatic ways; on top of that, there’s a schism between believers of the Old and New Gods (the new being the princes of Amber), and some old family rivalries, which are tearing the mouse community apart from the inside.

As Asmindr Whitecloak, the de facto leader of a patrol gone horribly wrong, I spent the first half of this game locked in a room with the rest of the patrol, trying to decide what we were going to tell the others about what happened on our patrol. The rest of the game… was a lot of yelling. (This happened in the straight-up Amber game I played, too). We tried to agree on what threat we were going to deal with first and who was going to lead us, but came to no conclusions. Accusations were made of murder plotted in the past. More yelling, and fighting.

I think I ended the game by scurrying off with a group of other mús to a supposed promised land?

I’m not sure what to make of this game. It was too short to ever be boring, but I felt sort of adrift, uncertain how I felt about the terrible things I’d just seen, and uncertain what to do about it, or where my loyalties lay. I knew I was a follower of the old gods, but other than that I had no strong feelings about what happened to my character.

While the world-building is a real strength of this game, I feel it could use more structure in terms of what happens when you return from patrols and how decisions are made among the mús. There didn’t seem to be any mechanic to resolve any of our various conflicts, which is what contributed to the resolution-by-loudness, I think.

There was cheese served, and I got to wear fleece pajamas to game, though, so no complaints 🙂

My Saturday evening game was The Dying of the Light, a Peaky game by Nickey Barnard, Tym Norris, Ray Hodson, Richard Evans, Mike Snowden, and Alli Mawhinney. This game takes place on a near-future Earth on the edge of ecological disaster. You play a leader of a world government or organization at the Omega Conference, which everyone agrees is probably the last resort to keep the world from ending entirely.

My character was Rachel Stahley of the Neo-Luddites (a faction I continually referred to as Space Amish, even though space was not involved in any way). The Neo-Luddites were shepherding what remained of the world’s agriculture, and were eager to keep it that way. While being very traditional-minded, Rachel was up to some very non-traditional activities. (My costuming, incidentally, was my ever-versatile black layered dress and a white lace shawl). She was also, in many interesting ways, a character I probably wouldn’t normally play — but I’m glad I had the chance to, mostly due to a lot of casting issues.

I think I did pretty well in terms of my personal plot in this game (to say more would be spoilery), though the NeoLs definitely did not get what they wanted (which was a reduction in technology and a return to the “old ways”). We averted a few terrible disasters, but I think at the end of game we were all about to die of the avian death flu… so. Don’t know how successful the conference as a whole was, then!

I didn’t interact at all with the hacking mechanic (no surprise there), but from the outside it looked interesting, and fairly streamlined. (Apparently in the first run they had tried to use Netrunner as the hacking mechanic which… did not work so well).

What this game taught me, most importantly, was that a group of Bill Clinton clones is properly referred to as an “orgy.”

Finally, I played in a private run of Burning Orchid (Ben Allen, Nickey Barnard, Martin Jones, Heidi Kaye and Alison Rider Hill) on Sunday afternoon, after the con was officially over. This was probably my favorite game of the con.

The game is set in 1932 at the wrap party of a movie, Burning Orchid — “detailing the passionate heart of a claustrophobic forbidden love story set in the jungle villages of Guatemala against a background of a country riven by political turmoil. And that’s not just the movie!”

I played Judy Gardner, a supporting actress in the titular film, just getting her footing in the movie business.

… aaaand I pretty much spent my entire game sitting in a corner, blubbing at Graham A, who played my co-star.

This is not usually the sort of game you would think of me liking — it’s plot-light, character-heavy and emotionally intense — but I did, and in spades. I would love to see it run at Intercon some year, as I think there’s a lot for that crowd to love. Heck, I’d love to do a private run of it myself.

And that was my con! I didn’t even stick around through Monday, as I did last year, since I had an early-morning flight to catch.

You can’t Intercon P enough (con report)

Intercon Pirates! — I feel the exclamation point is necessary — was this past weekend. Despite some preliminary anxiety, this was probably one of my low-key and unstressful Intercons ever.

This was our first year at a new hotel, as our beloved Chelmsford Radisson told us it was washing its hair every weekend for the rest of forever. Instead we found ourselves at the Doubletree in Westborough, MA, and on a weekend two weeks before our usual date. This meant that the biggest LARP event of the year for me conflicted with Boskone, which I had dearly wanted to attend. (I did end up sneaking off to visit with friends at Boskone on Saturday).

I arrived at the con late on Thursday afternoon. I was still easing into extroversion after a rough winter, so I admit I spent a good chunk of that evening hiding out in my room (or a friend’s) playing Crusader Kings II instead of going to panels or socializing. However, I did attend parts of…


I made it to the Renaissance Dance workshop led by larper and SCA dancemaster Justin, which was a lot of fun. We spanned several centuries, learning bransles, allemanes, and even some English country dance. It’s always funny to me how many similarities I can find with contra dance — which I do a lot of — and yet how blasted bad I can still be at it. I have a left/right problem, which doesn’t help.

The other pre-con event that stands out for me was The Social Contract of LARPing panel on Friday afternoon, which was near and dear to my heart after a post I wrote years ago on just that topic. I already knew, going in, about the many unspoken assumptions of the larp community (and the Intercon community in particular); but this brought to light many I hadn’t thought about in depth. It made me think of Alyssa Wong’s recent words on convention culture: “If that’s the pervasive culture of your convention, that’s not intentional malice; that’s people moving naturally within a toxic milieu.” I doubt anything Intercon is doing is quite that bad, but that doesn’t mean our milieu isn’t unwelcoming, or that we don’t occasionally brush off concerns about being unfriendly as outsiders not knowing the culture.

(Relatedly, very glad to see that this year Intercon has a code of conduct and a dedicated security staff keeping it safe).

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Between… was my first game, billed as “a swashbuckling occult four hour one-shot boffer game using the Accelerant rules told over a number of scenarios,” written by Dave Kapell, Alex Bradley, and Larisa Allen. From the moment I saw this game on the schedule I knew I had to play, if only because it listed Tim Powers’ On Stranger Tides as one of its influences. It was very much in demand, and closed in the first signup slot — but not before I got in.

Caroline Skive

I played Caroline Skive, the first mate of the Red Lady, with my mother (played by Jen B) as captain, and my sister (Hannah R) as the captain of the rival ship the Shatterjack. My goals revolved around reuniting my family and seeing what sort of terrible trouble — foretold by the tarot card readings I’d done — awaited us.

To be honest, most of that personal plot felt unimportant for a big chunk of the game. The scenarios that made up the game were largely about crew goals, like acquiring a new ship, raiding the governor’s mansion, and finding our way to a certain cave of wonders. This is fine — I wasn’t bored, but I would have liked to feel more personal connection to the character. It was clear that family was important to Caroline, but I had a hard time living that in game. Maybe I was just having trouble easing into character given that I hadn’t larped in a while… or maybe it’s due to another problem I experienced in this game — my level of immersion.

My immersion/ability to stay IC was rather low, which is unfortunate, considering this is usually a strength of “what you see is what you get” systems like Accelerant. I think part of it was that there were a number of players who were inexperienced with the system, and some coaching was necessary. That sort of meta discussion often drives me out of character. (This isn’t a complaint — I’m glad that new people are trying Accelerant, and overall they did really well — but it’s just an aspect of the situation).

Also there were some confusing rules arbitration moments — at one point I acquired a ritual that I misunderstood the usage of, in part due to some calls that were written incorrectly. Of course I didn’t realize this until AFTER I’d already used it wrongly. Dave pulled me aside and explained how it was supposed to work, which meant I had to retcon what I had already done. That never works out well, and in a WYSYWYG system, it’s even harder to swallow.

On the plus side for immersion, the claustrophobia engendered by the “ships” — tables arranged into a boat-like shape, with a limited number of places to sit — was very real. The lighting and sound design was also really good. I wish there had been the sort of neat interactive props Dave is known for, but perhaps this wasn’t a game that called for that.

Also, as my character sheet indicated I put a lot of stock in fortune-telling, I brought a tarot deck, and enjoyed doing impromptu tarot readings — which turned out to be surprisingly apt at times. Why yes, the seven of pentacles does accurately describe what’s going to happen when we raid the governor’s mansion!

Overall, I found this game enjoyable, but a little rough around the edges still. It’s nothing that can’t be refined, however, and I would definitely recommend future runs to others.

Costuming: Since Fair Escape will almost certainly want to hear details on this. This was pulled together entirely out of my costuming closet. The shirt was a white linen shirt from Matt’s costume collection, the pants and boots were street clothes, the belt and pouch were the ones I use for Ianthe in 5G, and the earrings were ones I used NPCing as the Queen of Jerusalem in 12th century Shadows of Amun. Everything else — sash, jewelry, coin pouch — was all just random tat I had lying around. I had actually found a coat at Savers that I wanted to use as a pirate coat, but when I tried it on with the full costume, it just didn’t work.


On Saturday morning I played in 1493, by Betsy Isaacson and Elisabeth Cohen. As I understand it, this game was written for sixth graders to teach the age of exploration in Western history. Given that, it is basically historical in scope (with some small adjustments to make female characters have more agency), with no weird supernatural stuff going on.

The writing of the game materials, on the whole, was simple — as befits something aimed at 6th graders — but not dumbed-down; it tackled some complex political and religious concepts.

Cardinal Cesare Borgia. “You look ready to kill some musketeers,” someone told me.

This was the first of two games where I was cross-cast this weekend — this time as Cardinal Cesare Borgia. I joked that my character sheet was basically, “My dad’s the Pope! I do what I want!” but I mean no slight by that. The character’s goals evolve quite naturally from that, and they kept me busy the whole game. Having great co-conspirators (Kelly D. as Alessandro Farnese and Katie G. as Ludovico Sforza) was also a ton of fun. (I had serious beard envy of Sforza. I know Katie plays a dude in 5G Wrathborn, so she knows her way around a facial toupee).

As Cesare, I succeeded in getting the Papacy declared a hereditary peerage (ruled by the Borgias, natch), gave the Pope’s blessing to Princess Margaret’s unborn child, and married the Duchess of Brittany (Quinn D), who became a queen again when I freed her from French tyranny by annulling her marriage to the King of France.

I feel this is a strong game, and would definitely recommend it. If I have complaints, they were more about the length of the game — at two hours, it felt too short for the amount of plot I had. On the other hand, other characters looked a bit lost, such as the folks playing the natives of the New World. I also know Matt (playing Prince John of Asturias) was annoyed to discover that even preventing a succession crisis in Spain didn’t keep France from taking over; he felt he was pretty much doomed to failure, with no way to stop that.

Costuming: I purchased a plain black trench coat and turned the collar under to use as a cassock. The red capelet and cardinal hat (not really shown in the picture) were borrowed from Alison, who had a whole bunch of them made for her game Venezia. The beard was drawn on with black and brown eyeliner.

Congress of Vienna

Congress of Vienna, by Ben Philip and Kristen Patten, is very much your standard secrets-and-powers larp, taking place in 1815 at the titular conference. Historically, the Congress of Vienna pieced Europe back together post-Napoleon. In-game, well… things were a little different.

This game does say in its description that it is a political game “with some weirdness,” so I went in expecting a certain amount of magic and/or supernatural elements. But what I really liked about this game is that it wasn’t about those elements, and while I could look on and watch crazy shit happen like Louis XVI coming back from the dead and King George III becoming magically sane again, it didn’t actually affect what I was there to do — the political sausage-making of creating a treaty.

I played Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, representing Great Britain’s delegation at the Congress. Castlereagh is a real historical figure, apparently so hated by Lord Byron that the poet wrote a eulogy inviting people to piss on his grave. As far as I can tell Castlereagh was one of the major players in the actual Congress; he is largely responsible for how Europe got divided up, which kept the peace until WWI.

It’s a spoiler — but only a minor one — to say that Castlereagh is one of the most mundane characters in that game. And his normalness is his fucking superpower.

This is illustrated by ability usage — a lot of the diplomats had a “tell me what you really think” ability to look at other player’s goals. So, people would use this ability on Castlereagh, and get things like, “make sure a treaty is signed,” “protect your family,” or “make sure the King is safe.” I’d use the same ability on them, and get things like, “figure out who is trying to steal your body.”

I pretty much got what I wanted in this game. Great Britain doesn’t have all that much of a horse in the division-of-Europe race, so mostly Castlereagh wanted to balance power on the Continent. The one issue where I couldn’t get traction was the annexation of Saxony by Prussia, but it was clear to me that I wouldn’t hold up the treaty just for that. I also got both Austria and Prussia into the German Confederacy, and made sure that if Russia wanted the Grand Duchy of Poland, they had to at least constitute it from their own land. I still think Austria is over-powerful, but maybe we’ll prevent WWI for a few extra years in this timeline.

I had a few moments of concern when King George suddenly became sane again, and indicated he wanted to take my place at the treaty table. However, after getting briefed on the state of the treaty, he told me, “you know what you’re doing, you know what I want, I’ll leave it in your capable hands,” and ran off to do mystical stuff involving the spiritual leader of Europe. I’m not sure if that was the player realizing he would basically end my game if he did that, or if the character just had other stuff to do.

Overall, I thought it was brilliant –and rare — that despite being Captain Normal in a game with a lot of weirdness, I got to the end and didn’t feel like I’d been playing the wrong game. Other stuff was clearly happening, but what I accomplished still felt real.

Also, I am really sad that I didn’t have more of an IC reason to interact with Lafayette (Alex P), or to give the King of Saxony (Aaron N) what he wanted. The players clearly knew their history, and it was interesting just to talk to them on that level — even if only after the game.

Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh

Costuming: this was probably my most involved costume — but it was still almost entirely thrifted! Following instructions in Instant Period Costumes, one of my favorite thrift-costume books, I turned a men’s suit — $15 at Savers — into a Regency-era tailcoat. I added slim-leg white pants from Target, my riding boots, a white Victorian-ish shirt recycled from a Hellsing cosplay, and a cravat I threw together in 30 minutes with leftover eyelet lace and hot glue. Oh, and Mel loaned me a hat. I brought along a men’s waistcoat to wear underneath the tailcoat, but it ended up too long for the high-cut coat, so I didn’t end up using it.

And Now, For Something Completely Different…

Those were basically my games — which meant that functionally, my con ended at 6pm on Saturday. Given that, I decided to take a trip into Boston and visit with folks at Boskone. In particular, I wanted to see my dear friend Django and his girlfriend Casey. Living across the country, I hadn’t seen him since… 2007? 2008? and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity when he was actually in my neck of the woods. I also had never met Casey before, and wanted an introduction.

It turned out to be a strange “six degrees of separation” experience. I knew going in that Casey was a Viable Paradise grad, the same year as my larp pal and VP16 grad Kevin/Kellan — I, of course, am VP17. I figured we’d have something to talk about in that regard.

What I didn’t know beforehand was that Casey was also a Vassar grad — class of 2010 to my class of 2003. Moreover, she’d been involved in the NSO, the geek club I was an officer of. She was interested to learn that I had been part of the team that founded Noncon, Vassar’s annual SFF convention. We talked about the craziness of the English department at Vassar, the disorganization of the NSO library, what dorms were considered party dorms when she attended, etc.

(Even weirder degress of connectedness: Congress of Vienna, the game I was coming from, is written by Ben Philip, not-so-secretly known as Benjamin C. Kinney, VP19 grad, and Vassar class of 2002. Also an NSO officer and co-founder of Noncon).

I felt a little guilty because I think I spent more time reminiscing with Casey about Vassar than I did talking to Django! I do love it when I meet someone’s S.O. and they turn out to be even more awesome than I had hoped. In my defense, we did also talk our respective writing projects, Django’s books, anime, and various SFF fannishness.

Eventually we headed to the bar to play board games with other writerly folks — Fran Wilde (or, as we were all calling her that night, “Nebula award-nominated Fran Wilde”), and another VP16er, Lauren Roy, and their husbands. We played Code Names, a party game by Vlaada Chvatil, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Max Gladstone joined us for the final round, and helped turn his team’s loss into a victory — surprising no one, it is a game he is really good at.

Alas, I had to leave shortly thereafter — I didn’t know when the T stopped running, and I was depending on it to get back to my car.

The Rest of Intercon

The rest of the con was mostly pretty uneventful! I didn’t go to closing ceremonies, which is rare for me. I did find out that Cafe Casablanca is running in October in Chicago, which I have already signed up for — I’ve been wanting to play for a while. I ended up going to lunch with Mel, Will, Kevin R., and a bunch of RPI grads, which was as much of a dead-dog party as I got.

Overall, it was a pleasant weekend, and it makes me want to start writing larps again. A dangerous pastime, that…

Return to the Sceptered Isle(s), part one: Dublin

Last week I was in Ireland and England, doing some tourism and attending Imaginary Consequences, the British LARPing/freeform convention in the tradition of Intercon.

In the past, we’ve flown through Dublin on our way to England, as Aer Lingus, an Irish carrier, usually has some of the cheapest flights. This time, rather than spending hours in the Dublin airport in the middle of the night, we decided to stop for a couple of days and do some tourism and adjust to the time change.

We flew out from Boston last Monday evening, taking the usual transatlantic red-eye, and arrived, sleep-deprived, in Dublin on Tuesday morning. We shuffled off to a taxi rank and got one to take us to the Croke Park Hotel, right across from the stadium with the same name.

The hotel had been recommended to me by some FB friends who had stayed there, and it did not disappoint. I had contacted them ahead of time saying, “hey, we’re coming in on a red-eye, do you have early check-in?” They told me there wasn’t a formal process, but they’d try to have a room ready. Thus, when I arrived at their door at 9am, there was in fact a room ready! Delightful!

Did you know that some hotels in the British Isles have power only when a keycard is inserted into a slot by the door? Neither did we! Cue a few frantic minutes of trying to figure out why our room didn’t have power.

Tuesday was mostly a wash. We slept for a few hours, woke, and went out in search of food (in the middle of the afternoon, no less). It was rainy and windy, and there wasn’t much near us. I was hoping to find something like an Irish pub — because, goddamit, we were in Ireland! — but there was very little near our hotel except a closed Italian restaurant and a lot of sketchy bars. Bars are not pubs, as I learned, after I awkwardly walked into one, sat down, and then left, realizing this wasn’t going to get me food, since it clearly didn’t have a kitchen.

We returned to the hotel defeated, and visited the hotel bar instead, where I fortified myself with a cider and an egg mayo (egg salad) sandwich. I’m not sure why I thought cider was a good idea, but I was in a land where cider was taken seriously, and I was going to have some. (Orchard Thieves — good stuff. It has foxes on the label! I liked it a lot better than the Bulmer’s I tried later in the weekend. But I freely admit I have no taste, and prefer a sweeter cider).

There was more trying desperately not to fall asleep in our hotel room while watching RiffTrax on Matt’s phone, and then dinner at the hotel. I knew if I walked far enough I could probably be in the center of Dublin (I would later prove this true), but I had no energy for that. And I needed to stay up until midnight, I knew, for Intercon signups. (We managed).

Wednesday we did a little tourism. Our hotel stay came with tickets for the Dublin Bus Tour, a hop-on hop-off circuit of the main attractions of the city. We did the whole tour (and parts of it twice), getting off at Kilmainham Gaol and Trinity College.

Kilmainham brought up a lot of Shadows of Amun memories — it’s where the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising were imprisoned and executed, and there are plots around that in Shadows. Matt referred to the experience as “Bradford Reilly tours Kilmainham.”

Overall experience was sobering, but strangely beautiful — especially the panopticon, with its late 19th century stylings. (Used, apparently, for a lot of movies).

Here’s a photo, though it’s not my own:

Kilmainham Gaol

Another photo that I wish I had taken:

"Beware the risen people..."

The second place I went was Trinity College’s Old Library, to see the Book of Kells and the Long Room.

I found the Book of Kells experience … kind of underwhelming? There’s a lot of lead-in — you go through a whole exhibit about the life of a monk, other contemporary prayer books, pigments, symbolism, and practices in illumination, etc — before going into the Treasury and viewing four pages of illumination.

(I expected the pages would be laid out side-to-side, but nope, it’s bound, so you only see what pages the book is turned to at the moment).

That’s fine; I learned a lot, which is all I ask. Also, the title of the exhibit — “turning darkness into light” — is from the Robin Flowers translation of Pangur Bán, so hey, cats!

Here, have a public domain image of the famous Chi Ro page, which we only got to see pictures of (the book wasn’t turned to that page):

KellsFol034rChiRhoMonogram“. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Upstairs from the Treasury is the Long Room of the Old Library, which is a beautifully-architected mausoleum of books. I wish I could have seen more of the old, calfskin-bound volumes from (at latest) the 19th century, instead of the exhibit about YA lit inspired by mythology. There’s something beautiful and haunting about a room full of people’s lives’ works, lying forgotten and dusty.

Possibly I am just weird.

Long Room Interior, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland - Diliff.jpg
Long Room Interior, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland – Diliff” by DiliffOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons.

Other than that we followed the bus tour around, hearing about attractions only glancingly seen. Twice we heard about the Duke of Wellington’s birthplace, and his attitude about that (“just because you’re born in a stable doesn’t make you a horse”); blessedly, we only had to hear once about James Joyce consummating his relationship with Nora Barnacle (or about a character in Ulysses buying something at Sweny’s). (I have no love for Joyce. Sorry-not-sorry).

We got off the bus for the day on O’Connell Street and wandered aimlessly for a bit, in the wrong direction for food. Finally we found ourselves in a restaurant called Flanagan’s, where I had fish & chips and Matt had beef & Guiness pie. Then we made the long-ish walk back to our hotel.

We had an absurdly early flight to Gatwick on Thursday, so that was pretty much the end of our Irish adventure! There was still much I would have liked to visit — Dublinia, the national museums, the Teeling Whiskey Distillery, etc. — and that’s not even leaving Dublin.

Next time I’ll talk about my time at Consequences itself!

I went to Readercon and all I got was this inferiority complex

Readercon 26 was this past weekend. It was a decidedly mixed bag for me.

On one hand, I got to see VP tribe! (Including some I hadn’t seen since the workshop itself, like Leigh Five). There were fascinating panels, as there always are. I met new, interesting people. I bought Sonya Taaffe’s book, at long last.

On the other hand, it turns out that hanging out with more attractive, successful writers for a long period of time is no good for one’s self-esteem, i.e. my Friday night. I ended up spending most of Saturday morning/afternoon recovering from this.

So I guess I’ll talk about the events I went to? I attended way fewer than normal, preferring to spend much of my con in the bar with VP folks.


I ate dinner at Seasons 52 with a group of VPeeps, after a failed attempt to get into Not Your Average Joe’s without a reservation.

I went to Chris Gerwel’s reading, which was practically required of me, since he is VP15 and now VP staff. (This is a lie; I missed a lot of VPeeps’ readings). He read from his unpublished novel, set in a Roman empire that has never fallen, ruled by an automaton emperor with all the memories of the original Caesar. Good stuff. I still remember the line “mortal Caesar bleeds memories.”

Afterwards I hit If Magic Was Always Real with panelists Karen Burnham, Lila Garrott, Max Gladstone, Romie Stott, and Walt Williams. This panel tackled the idea that, if magic has always been around (the premise in many urban fantasy-type books), why hasn’t it improved the world? I liked the idea of magic as privilege, which got me thinking about magic in the world of Lioness.

I ran into fellow larper Brian R briefly, who was checking out the free night of the con. He was headed to different panels than me, though, so I didn’t get to see him again. But Brian, I totally want to hear how it went!


I had to work, so I didn’t arrive on site until 6pm or so. Then, despite having panels I wanted to go to, I spent most of the evening hanging out in the bar, with an ever-varying group of VPeeps. I did get restless around 7pm, and stepped out to attend the end of How Intelligent Are We, Anyway? This panel really didn’t do anything for me; I mostly just sat on my hands, feeling bored and antsy.

However, the next panel I went to, Revealing the Past, Inspiring the Future was quite good — probably my favorite of the con. The panelists were Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone, Alena McNamara, Sarah Pinsker, and Julia Rios, and most of the conversation concerned interesting instances of women, POC, or LGBTQIA folks doing cool stuff in history — stories which tend to go unnoticed because they don’t fit the narrative of what these folks’ roles in history are. I learned about the “Elephant Girls,” a gang of young women in 1930s London; I had the book Makeisha in Time recommended to me.

After that I returned to the neverending bar party, which now included Elizabeth Bear, Amanda Downum and her fiance whose name I never caught, fellow VP17ers Arkady Martine and Beth T, VP16er Kellan/Kevin/sprrwhwk (who looks pretty good in a dress), and Alex, someone who I totally recognized solely from her Sabetha cosplay which I’d seen pics of on Bear’s and Scott Lynch’s Tumblrs. (I am neeeeeeeerd).

Most of them were dressed up for the dance party that night, and I felt very… inadequate beside them. It was also the sort of conversation where it was hard to get a word in edgewise, which basically just made me feel like an NPC in cooler people’s lives.

(I did have interesting side conversations with Alex about the magic of bound buttonholes, which I’m now convinced I need to try).

It got a little better when we went to the VP room party that Latasha and Leigh Five were holding. Uncle Jim and Doyle were there (they were staying in the adjoining room), and we heard stories of their working on the novelization of the terrible script for the terrible Prince Valiant movie. Uncle Jim did magic tricks for Beth and Conni and me; I had interesting conversations with ckd (who had somehow managed to infiltrate our party despite not being VP. INTERLOPER ;)).

Chris Gerwel was there, too, and he and Beth and I talked about the various disappointments of being a writer. (I felt somewhat better about my one novel with no nibbles from agents after hearing about Chris’ three novels in the same situation — including the Roman emperor automaton one we’d so enjoyed his reading from).

Most importantly, I put Doritos on a very drunk Kevin’s head.

I stayed sober throughout, and headed home around midnight, so it was not a very wild and crazy night for me at all. Still, it left me feeling maudlin, even into the next day. Realizing I’d lost my credit card, and waking up in the middle of the night with a coughing fit didn’t help.


I spent Saturday morning and part of the afternoon at home, reading (still working my way through Our Mutual Friend) and writing. Regarding the latter, I did a few word sprints and put down ~750 words on Lioness, which made me feel human again. I’ve still gotten waaaaay behind on Camp NaNo, but time remains to catch up.

I returned to the con just in time for the VP dinner, for which we returned to NYAJ, this time with a reservation. (I also found my credit card, just in time to pay for dinner). Seated near Kevin, Leigh, Beth, Laurence, Latasha, and Conni, we mostly discussed our current projects, and other folks (more up to date on their Hugo reading than I) got sucked into conversations about The Three-Body Problem and The Goblin Emperor.

Since apparently Readercon no longer has programming other than the Miscellany after 3pm on Saturday (!), after dinner we repaired to the gazebo and continued our partying there. And by partying, I mean “conversing,” because again: nerds. I talked to Beth and Laurence about historical smut, and to Kevin and Scott (Ali Wilgus’ husband) about video games, until mosquitos forced me inside. There, I chatted with VP… 9? 10? graduate Suzanne P, about my job as a front-end developer. I headed home before 10pm.


I returned just before noon to found Arkady and John chatting with a guy named Peter with a bunch of cool Middle Earth tattoos. (One of the many people I regret I did not give a business card to!) He was looking for recommendations on flintlock fantasy, since he was thinking of writing one of his own, so of course I had to mention the inestimable Django’s Shadow Campaigns series.

Arkady and John and I went to the BTAIQ: Writing the Lowercase Letters panel which focused on QUILTBAG folks that don’t normally get as much attention in fiction. Panelists were Kythryne Aisling, Amanda Downum, Sioban Krzywicki and Rachel Steiger-Meister; Delany was supposed to be there, but wasn’t. Since Lioness has characters of the B and T persuasion, this seemed relevant to my interests? Most of the conversation was focused on representations of trans characters, because the moderator identified that way. That was a little narrower of a focus than I was hoping for, but still interesting to listen to.

I think what this panel made me realize is that my fears about “writing the other,” to borrow the Nisi Shawl book title, have evolved. I think like most privileged people I used to be afraid that I would say something “offensive” and get called on it. Nowadays my worries are more that I’ll say something hurtful and that no one will tell me — just silently judge me.

I… think that’s a development? Except for the fact that I pretty much worry that people are silently judging me about all my failings.

(If I say something hurtful to you, or represent a character in a way that’s not authentic to your experience, please do tell me, if you feel up to it. I’ll try to make it right with minimal fuss).

After that panel, I went to A Visit from the Context Fairy with Kythryne Aisling again, Stacey Friedberg, Gwynne Garfinkle, Kate Nepveu, and Sonya Taaffe. The panel was about how the context in which one reads a book changes one’s opinion of it, and thus it tied into fascination with how different an experience re-reading is from reading.

Anyway, this was one of my favorite panels of the con. Kate Nepveu did a great job as moderator, allowing the panel to both accommodate audience points of view and yet stay on target. We discussed many of the factors that might influence one’s perception of a book, from life experience to supplemental reading to even the music one listens to. Sonya, who always has clever things to say about the intersection of memory and literature, talked about how she’s spent much of her life tracking down the references in The Last Unicorn, and how that has influenced her enjoyment of the book.

Over and over I kept thinking you can never read the same book twice. I wish that was a sentiment that had been expressed.

The panel did get off-track near the end, when one of the panelists brought up how evolving social mores can change one’s enjoyment of a book (i.e. all the racist caricatures which the author of Mary Poppins went back and removed from the book in later years), which led That One Person in the Audience to start talking about “political correctness” and “whitewashing,” but Nepveu managed to steer it back on course.

My ulterior motive in coming to the panel was to get Sonya’s book, Ghost Signs. And I succeeded, with an inscription: “There’s Wittgenstein in here!” Indeed; and even Lovecraft. I’m working through the book slowly, pausing and mulling over every poem. I feel so much more capable of appreciating them and taking them apart when I’m not staring at them on a computer screen. Poetry is really not suited to that medium, you know?

That was pretty much my con, aside from lunch and taking some folks to the Logan Express. Overall it had some rough patches, but I recovered from them and was ultimately glad I went.

Intercon Overscheduled

It was an exhausting and exhilarating and strange weekend at Intercon O, and I am feeling some serious con crash now 🙁

For posterity, what I did:

I spent much of Thursday daytime having a panic attack, because this is how I greet Intercon, apparently. Maybe one day this won’t be so, but this year, at least, I was freaking out about preparing my panels and getting up to speed with all the characters I’d be playing.

Pre-con: I participated in a bunch of panels — so many that I was basically incoherent at the end of Thursday, having talked and thought too much that day. These panels were:

  • Turning a Work of Fiction Into a LARP (moderator), with Quinn D and Lisa P.
  • Film Noir Fashion: Dress of the 1940s (a presentation I did all by my lonesome). Three people showed up, counting Matt, and one of them left halfway through 🙁
  • Why We LARP (moderator, again), with Tony M and… I don’t even remember who else.
  • Useful Handsewing Techniques for LARPs. No one showed up, except Steve K, who had no interest in learning about hand-sewing. It ended up being “social hour with Lise.”
  • So You Want to Run a Game: Questions You Should Be Asking Yourself, with Steve K and Chad B.

The biggest disappointment was the lack of interest in the stuff I put together. I think this is the last year I’m going to do presentations/workshops on costuming topics, at least by myself.

Friday afternoon I played in run A of Shadow Over Mars, a first in a series of one-shot larps set in the Space 1889 setting. I was Chloe Monteil, an angry Frenchwoman, gunner on the ship The Moon of Shastapsh.

Imagine I’m saying, “Zese British bastards!”

It’s amazing how much mileage I can get out of being French and angry — four hours worth, at least. I got to shoot things, and swear in French a lot, and I ended the game by dying(?) dramatically — I was stabbed and pulled off the ship, yelling “MEEEEEEEERRRRRDDDDDEEEE!” on the way down.

Quote from the game: “Ze only people I trust right now are zese two,” (points to A.J. and Jeff D’s characters, two ex-naval officers), “because zhey are trying to sleep with me.”

Bingley, A.J’s character, nodded and said, “I admit there may be some truth in that observation.”

Also, I got to play off Steve B, Consequences con chair, who was returning to Intercon for the first time since G. That was delightful 🙂 I’m looking forward to seeing him and all my Consequences crew again in November!

Finally, the game was responsible for this sign, which entertained me greatly:

Friday evening I ran Midsummer Mischief, that delightful Wodehousian game which I like so much that I keep running it for Americans. The game ran very smoothly, many people got engaged (and un-engaged, and re-engaged, and re-un-engaged), pigs were loosed, and Nuance wore a fabulous hat as Lady Constance. She also was part of one of the best exchanges in game:

“Was that before or after you started blackmailing my brother?”
“Before! I mean, after! I mean…”

Warren T, who played Lord Emsworth (and who was one of the writers/GMs for my Saturday game), also showed up wearing a bathrobe and carrying a book about pigs, which I think says everything you need to know about that dreamy peer, Clarence Threepwood, 9th Earl of Emsworth.

Most of Saturday I was in Ex Ignorantia, an eight-hour game of Lovecraft in academia. I played Briony Travis, socially clueless grad student in the physics department. It will surprise no one to learn that there was, in fact, some Mythos stuff going on in my plots 😉

Nothing says “srs bzns grad student” like a Rowsdower MST3K t-shirt, a suit jacket (with bonus cat hair), red shoes, red button earrings, and a Nyankochan sakuramochi purse.

I think what I liked so much about this game was the fact that… it’s a lot like a game I would write! By which I mean, it has fairly detailed mechanics, but it also has great writing, and characters that are much, much more than cardboard cutouts.

Like seriously, the writing. From what I understand, most of what I interacted with was done by Kristen H, as she was primarily the writer for my faction’s plot. Everything from my character I identified a leetle too much with, to the adventures in the sacred groves, to our trip to Carcosa to stop the summoning of Hastur, was beautifully evocative.

The upshot of the game was that Dagon/Cthulhu got control of the earth, minus a few patches carved out by lesser summonings. Briony ended up in one of those with Geoffrey, Will F’s character, after losing most of her faction to the trip to Carcosa.

(Also, as far as HPL knowledge goes, these people knew their stuff <3)

Alsoalso, I got snubbed by Nyarlathotep, so there’s that.

Alsoalsoalso, the fact that the game was mostly run by people who had been in MM the night before makes me wish there were such thing as a Lovecraftian Wodehouse game. Of course, it would have to be named after that chapter in LoEG Black Dossier: “Wot Ho, Gods of the Abyss.”

Saturday night, I played in A Song of Mergers and Acquisitions, which promised Game of Thrones-style politics in a corporate setting. I was Helen Zakarian, assistant to the president of the Congress, with no particular house affiliation. (There is a GoT character who is my analog, but it would be spoilery to say who).

I wanted to like this game — I very much like the type of character I was cast as — but in many ways it didn’t work for me. On the whole, it was a rare game that would have benefited from more mechanics.

For one thing, it’s the sort of game which needs an information economy, and there just… isn’t one. Plus, my character sheet gave me very little sense of my character and what I wanted, and so bargaining couldn’t really happen. I had so many conversations that were, “I can tell you incriminating things about Stark! In return could you… oh. I see you’re already going to vote the way I want you to.”

There was also the fact that no one apparently knew until the end of game that all the votes required a two-thirds majority. Which, despite the fact that almost everybody agreed on everything (another problem: not enough conflict for a GoT game), meant that nothing passed. (In part this was my own oversight: I said to Baratheon — played by Kevin R — something like “Everyone agrees on reducing tariffs!” and he conveniently decided not to correct me).

On the whole, I think this game has a lot of potential, but the writers might not want to shy away from mechanics so much, as it would do a great deal to make the game feel like a GoT game.

And that was basically my con, game-wise. I sadly did not have wakefulness for any parties, which was to my detriment 🙁

Sunday was Packing the Car: the LARP, which I always have to play alone because Matt is in Sunday games 🙁 There was also the “chatting in con suite” part of the day, in which I discovered that Alex P’s first Intercon game was also my own (A Question of Faith, at Intercon F). I also received a bag full of real British Cadbury from Suey, listened to Mike Young talk about the terrible games he has been in, and went to the now-traditional Chicago/Brit-contingent dead dog at Priya, an Indian restaurant in Lowell. I spent most of that chatting with Laurie and Ian, first-time Interconners who turned out to have a ton in common with us.

This is what a fuckton (metric) of Cadbury Dairy Milk looks like.

Oh, and I went to closing ceremonies long enough to learn that a) Sharp & Sensibility is running in Delaware in October, and b) it’s the same weekend as the final event of Cottington Woods 🙁 🙁 🙁 I may decide to go without Matt. We’ll see.

I also learned that there will be another Whateley’s game in the fall, and Matt insists that this year is the year we finally get out to Chicago to play.

And now… Intercon P is Pirates, and I’m cogitating ideas for new games. Oh no…

The Intercalm before the Interstorm (also, Barbara Stanwyck love)

Intercon O is coming up this weekend! It’s like LARPer Christmas!… wait, no, that’s the day after Halloween.

Nevertheless, it’s big, and I have a lot of prep to get done, for games I’m running, games I’m playing, and stuff I’m doing at pre-con.

Here, have a to-do list:

  • Finish Film Noir fashion presentation
  • Review/update hand-sewing handouts
  • Put together kits for hand-sewing workshop
  • Put questions together for panels I’m moderating
  • Do pin curls and 1940s makeup for presentation on Thursday night? Maybe? But that’s probably too ambitious. Pin curls are hard, yo.
  • Finish packing Midsummer Mischief (we’re 90% there — but we still have romance contingencies, room envelopes, etc)
  • Review Midsummer Mischief GM materials
  • (Re)Read Shadow Over Mars materials
  • Find pants for Shadow Over Mars costume (Savers?)
  • (Re)Read Ex Ig materials — make notes, if necessary
  • Assemble Ex Ig costume(s) — I’m imagining my costume evolving over the conference sessions
  • Re(Read) Song of Mergers & Acquisitions materials
  • Assemble Song of M&A costume
  • Gather stuff I’m loaning
  • Pack!

Probably my biggest task is putting together the presentation for my Film Noir Fashion (fashion of the 1940s) presentation. All of the history of costume presentations I’ve done in the past have been about eras that have significantly less documentation. But now I’m getting into the “we have photographic evidence of this period, and LOTS of it,” and it’s a little like trying to drink from a firehose.

For comfort, I look at pictures of Barbara Stanwyck, who, as we all know, is my spirit animal. Pinterest offers me much in this vein, from pictures of her as a 15-year-old Ziegfield girl who still went by Ruby Stevens, to her iconic blond-bewigged Double Indemnity femme fatale, to an elderly matron in The Big Valley. I have some definite favorites:

This one from 1940 will probably be in my presentation, since it’s a good example of a very popular color of the period (copen blue) and a very popular dress style. But man. That sultry look! That perfect cat-eye! The touch of animal print!

I don’t care who says she wasn’t “starlet beautiful,” I think she was gorgeous.

And she liked beagles!

Here she is with Clark Gable, flipping off the camera. I cackled when I came across this.

And a quote from her:

“My only problem is finding a way to play my fortieth fallen female in a different way from my thirty-ninth.”

Relevant for Intercon, too, I think 😉

Arisia 2015

Importing this post from LJ; please excuse the markup.

I hadn’t been to Arisia in… possibly a decade? I know the last time I went it was at the Ziggurat/Q-bert Hotel/the terrible Hyatt in Cambridge, and there was a snowpocalypse that weekend, and we drove home to Watertown in that. At that time, I promised I wouldn’t go back until it was not at that hotel. That took five years or so, and at that time I wasn’t attending many conventions besides LARP ones.

But this year, the delightful Phoebe R. had a show, Mrs. Hawking, going up on Friday night, and having read the script, I really wanted to see it performed. Plus, N.K. Jemisin, whose work I enjoy, was the author GOH, and I thought she would have some interesting things to say. And, of course, there’s the fact that nearly all my friends go — the ones that aren’t doing Mystery Hunt, that is.

So I bought a membership very last minute, and went! I had an amazing time, too. There was some concern that I wouldn’t be able to make it to the con in time for Mrs. Hawking, but I was able to work remotely from the hotel on Friday afternoon, so that worked out well.

Things wot I did:

– A long-ish wait in the registration line with my roomie natbudin on Friday night, in which I ran into approximately everyone I knew, ever.

– Went to Mrs. Hawking, which was wonderful to see staged, especially the action scenes. Things like the scene at the club — where Mrs. Hawking uses a knife as a step to climb up into the rafters — worked surprisingly well with the set. (I suppose not that surprising, since the set was basically a deconstructed jungle gym). If I have any complaints, it’s that the sound wasn’t great, and I ended up having to move to the front rows to hear better.

– Attended the “Tricksters of All Trades” panel on Friday night, with Jemisin, Andrea Hairston, Daniel José Older, Vikki Ciaffone, and Catt Kingsgrave. What an entertaining panel! A lot of it was Older and Hairston talking about Yoruba gods and Santeria orisha who were tricksters, like Eshu and Elegba. This was fine with me, since they were clearly very excited about the topic, and brought that to the table. It succeeded in making me want to read Older’s new book, Half-Resurrection Blues, if nothing else! Jemisin talked about the tricksters in the Inheritance trilogy — primarily Sieh — and very obligingly told us all to cover our ears at the right point if we didn’t want to be spoiled on The Awakened Kingdoms. (I’m making my way through The Broken Kingdoms right now).

– Went to Tess’ Friday night party — sadly, never made it to laura47‘s — which was mostly WPI grads and related folks. I talked with Brian E., who was wearing a great Earthforce uniform, about the Elder Scrolls for a while (“are you in the Morrowind camp, the Skyrim camp, or the wrong camp?”) and to hanasaseru about Cottington Woods. I drank moscato and a Dark & Stormy that was mostly rum; sprrwhwk showed up later in the evening, and we ended the evening chatting in his room, drinking most of a bottle of Templeton Rye — the favorite drink of Al Capone, I’m told!

– I spent most of Saturday with the worst hangover of my life — and blind, because I had thrown out my disposable contacts before I realized I’d forgotten to bring my glasses or any other pairs with me 🙁 As a result I went to very few events, but in the afternoon, I was able to catch up with juldea, who had a similar prescription to me, and used the same brand of disposables, and gave me some of hers.

– I did stop in at the “Avoiding Culturefail” panel, but I ended up feeling so sick I had to leave. It didn’t help that the room was approximately 300 degrees, I couldn’t see the panelists, and they kept talking not about how to avoid culturefail in writing SFF, but the ethnic makeup of the U.S. post-WWII. While that could be an interesting topic, a) that wasn’t what the panel was about, and b) it wasn’t.

– Able to see and feeling half-human, I went to Jemisin’s reading at 4pm. She had three unpublished pieces in the world of the Inheritance trilogy she could read, and she let the audience vote on which — one from the POV of Glee (Oree’s daughter), one from the POV of Nahadoth, and one from the POV of… a character I haven’t met yet. Well, since I’m not far enough along in The Broken Kingdoms that I wanted spoilers about Oree or her offspring, I voted for Naha, and so did most of the audience. So we listened to a really cool piece, set before The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (I think? Time is wibbly-wobbly if you’re a god), which was about him being convinced to fight back against the Arameri.

I had questions I wanted to ask about the piece in the Q&A, but unfortunately, we were subjected instead to inane questions like, “What do you think the future of books is?” (To which Jemisin replied, “… could you be a little more specific?”) and “Why did you decide to write this piece?” (“For the same reason I write anything?”)

– A Codex dinner was planned, but fell through; I ended up having drinks at the bar with John Murphy, Joy Marchand and her husband, and the aforementioned Kevin (who it is uncanny to hear called “Kellan.” I will never get used to calling friends by their pen names). I tried to convince Joy to come to Intercon or Festival, as she was interested in trying out LARP; John told us about the “Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That” anime panel, which apparently went pretty far off the rails, and didn’t actually discuss short series, like it had promised to. Instead we gave him some of our suggestions — Baccano, Spice & Wolf, Madoka, and of course I had to mention Hellsing and Gankutsuou 🙂

– I went to PMRP’s gender-swapped radio play of “Space Seed,” the famous classic Trek episode that introduced Khan. It was delightful — nothing like gender reversal to really make it clear how creepy 1960s sexism was! Adria–who I know from NPCing Shadows of Amun, and who most people know for being on The Quest — played Spock, and was delightful in that role. Liz Salazar (I think that was her name?) who played Khan was amazing too, as was the gentleman who played the unfortunate historical officer Khan seduces.

– I browsed the art show, since the dealer’s room wasn’t open that late on Saturday night. I especially liked the photography series of cosplayers/costumers in costume and in street clothes. I also really enjoyed the exhibit for the artist GOH, Lee Moyer, who I did not realize had done the cover for The Broken Kingdoms and for one of the Kushiel books. And, apparently, several Lovecraft collections; there were a few HPL-with-tentacles portraits. If I had $375, I would have taken one home! I also enjoyed his series of gender-swapped classic author pinups (i.e. Miss Carroll, Miss Dumas).

– While in the art show, I noticed a guy dressed in what I noticed immediately was cavalier-era garb (I guessed 1620s at first). This is impressive, because while Arisia has a lot of cosplay, most of it (that isn’t re-creation) tends towards the medieval or steampunk; the cavalier era doesn’t get a lot of love. I asked him about it, and he told me he was part of the Salem Trayned Band, a re-enactment group of one of the first civilian militias in the U.S., dating to around 1630. I missed their pike demonstration, alas, but I saw him later on the “So You Think You Can Write A Fight” panel.

I turned in early on Sunday, due to my severe lack of sleep the night before, and was up, feeling mostly human, at 9am the next day…

– The first panel I made it out to on Sunday was the end of the “So You Think You Can Write A Fight” discussion, where audience members read fight scenes they had written, and the panelists critiqued them. Among the panelists I recognized not only Uncle Jim (who I expected), but also aforementioned re-enactor (Mark Millman?), giving advice on halberds, and Gie, who I knew not as an editor for an SFF erotica magazine (which she apparently is!) but as someone I played Masquerade with, back in the day. To me she will always be the Assamite cheerleader who wanted to be a Toreador. Who also, apparently, knows a lot about martial arts and writes lesbian vampire pr0n.

– I ran into John Murphy again at this panel, and together we ended up going to “Tales from the Slush Pile,” held in a room which was entirely too small for its popularity. Gie was on this panel, as well as Joy Marchand, Cecilia Tan, Joy Crelin, Hildy Silverman, and Inanna Arthen. Since many of these editors dealt in erotica, a lot of the examples of terribleness from the slush pile were bad smut. Although, kudos to Gie for pointing out that sometimes the line between ridiculous and hot is paper-thin.

– I spent some time in my room writing after this. I wanted to prep for my 4pm event (more on that in a minute), but I happened to look at the writing prompts for this week’s round of the Codex flash contest, and one of them sparked an idea for a short piece in the world of Lioness, telling the story of how Yfre ended up accused of treason and nearly hanged. The prompt in question was “someone has made a terrible mistake and someone else must pay for it,” which is pretty much the definition of what happened to Yfre. I knew I couldn’t make it 750 words without ruining it, however, so I was in no hurry to finish that day. Which is fine, because nevacarusoand Nat came back to the room around then, and we ended up chatting about various things.

– I headed off at 4pm to my final event of the con — the pitch session with Nora Jemisin, which I had to sign up for ahead of time. To be fair, this was really more of a practice pitch session — as she pointed out, she’s not an agent or an editor, and her agent is pretty much not taking new clients. (I did query her already!) So I got my ten minutes with her, pitching G&F. My pitch came in under five minutes, which was the perfect length, and she said she was intrigued by it, but offered suggestions for making it better. One of the best pieces of advice she gave me was when I asked how to deal with the fact that there are two protagonists, but trying to focus on both in a query letter comes out muddled. She suggested I send the Serevic-focused one to male agents, and the Mirasa-focused one to female agents — because everyone wants to read a story with a character of their own gender. I had never thought of doing that before, but it makes perfect sense.

I mentioned I was also a VP grad, and we chatted very briefly about that. (I asked her if The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was her submission piece; she told me it was actually The Killing Moon, it just took a lot longer to sell).

All in all, she was cordial and complimentary of my pitch, which left me a bit reeling! I tried not to be too much of a fangirl, but I did tell her in parting how much I enjoyed her work.

And that was the end of the con for me! I had to go home Sunday night because someone was coming to my house the next day to fix my central vac. Also it’s pretty much all I feel up for writing, because I have come down with a cold and feel like my head is stuffed with cotton.