Feb. 17th, 2013 12:50 am
Well, this has been quite a fun weekend so far. Somehow over the last week or so I went from having no specific plans for the weekend to what may turn out to be one of my busiest in a while. Also, I appear to now be involved in Helsinki's bid to host WorldCon in 2015. My life, it remains interesting.

Should sleep now, but a brief recap (spoiler: I fail to be brief): [ profile] londo asked me to help run a room party on behalf of the afore-mentioned ambitious Finns at Boskone 50 (as in the 50th year of the con-- wow!) on Friday, and prior to that Crystal had asked me to help with another project throughout the con (more on that later-- first, the party). For a variety of reasons, a critical mass of people whose opinions I respect on this sort of thing seem to be on Team Helsinki, and inasmuch as I understand WorldCon stuff at all, their arguments for it make sense to me. Also, it gave me a place to stay for the night. Boskone tends to attract an older crowd and not have much of a party scene, so we expected things to have wound down by 11ish, but noooo, it seems wherever we young 'uns go, sleep withers and dies. The party didn't end up winding down until around 3:30am, and since I was to sleep on the floor where said party was being held, that means I didn't get to sleep until a bit thereafter. Side note: buying a high-quality cot to keep in the trunk of my car has proven entirely worthwhile multiple times now.

The party was a success, I think. Lots of people came by, I shilled for Helsinki like I was... umm... a desperate herring salesman? I'm actually not sure where I was going with that metaphor. Have I mention that I've not slept much of late? Anyway, had some great conversations with some swell people, ate tasty Finnish cheese, and met my match in some really intense (by my wussy American standards, at least) licorice. Also served hors d'ouvres to Vernor Vinge and Charles Stross. Good times.

Oh, and I appear to have volunteered to edit Helsinki's bid video later this year. Yay projects!

Anyway, slept a bit, and then on Saturday I did the thing that had originally pulled me into attending Boskone at all, helping Crystal run the Boskone "photo booth". The goal of this project was to "encourage whimsy" at Boskone, and to facilitate this we had some professional-quality photo equipment that was donated by another friend attending the con, and a big box of "props" which ranged from stuffed animals to silly hats. A bunch of us took shifts enticing people from the crowd to dig through the props box, snap shots of them, and then print them each a copy. Some people actually used the opportunity to get legit headshots and professional photos done, but mostly people buried each other in stuffed penguins, mimed being attacked by vampiric My Little Ponies, and so forth, like you do. We got some *great* photos, and people really seemed to enjoy it.

I'll be honest, I don't usually feel like I pull my weight at cons. I mean, I pay the admission fee and technically that entitles me to enjoy the con without lifting a finger to help out otherwise, but almost everyone I know volunteers and in most cases does so more than I do. So, basically, what I'm saying is that I was nervous to commit the better part of a day to helping run a single event, but also kind of looking forward to it.

I loved it. People got a lot of joy out of the photo booth, and it felt great to have had a hand in that joy. I split my time between being the barker (the one who invites people to take part, helps them get properly ridiculous, etc) and once I got up the nerve to even touch the Very Expensive Camera, shooting the photos. So I got both social and creative outlets and basically had a grand old time. Also, my friends now have more potential blackmail photos of me than I should probably be ok with, but there we are. If I had that much of a sense of shame, I probably wouldn't be doing most of the things that make me happy nowadays anyway.

There is probably more to say about all this, but there is also sleep to be had, and I need some. The remainder of the long weekend still includes at least making music with friends tomorrow and bussing to NYC to see my favorite French metal band on Monday, so I should probably try to pace myself, or something.

In closing, here is a photo booth photo of me trying to look legit.

You don't get to see the one where I'm smooching a My Little Pony. For now.

I've been sitting on this project for a while now, working on it a bit here and a bit there, tweaking this and that for months, which is a bit sad given that it's all of 12 minutes long. So, I've decided that it's time for me to flip the damn switch on this thing and put it out there. This is my first attempt at producing, for lack of a better term, an "NPR-ish", non-fiction audio piece (plus text preamble), and I would love to hear what people think. I've got a few more ideas kicking around, and especially if people are into this, I may make more.

Postcards from DragonCon
So there I was at DragonCon, one of the biggest scifi/fantasy conventions in the world. I was there because two audio theater podcasts with which I've had the pleasure of being involved, Second Shift and The Mask of Inanna, were up for Parsec awards (Inanna won!), but other than a short awards ceremony, I really had no idea what to expect from or do at such a huge convention.

It's easy to feel alone in a crowd at an event like DragonCon so, reminded of my exchange with Mr. Glass, and encouraged by Seth Boyer, a musician and podcaster I met there, I... just started interviewing people; anyone who would talk to me. This is the result of that project. I recorded about 40 interviews over the course of two days, mostly between the hours of 1am and 6:30am (yes, am), and was only able to use a small fraction of them in this piece. The biggest lesson I learned is that when you go into an interview project without a specific narrative in mind (which seems to me the most honest way to do it), building a narrative out of what you get can be surprisingly difficult. I got a lot of great advice on this subject and others from Melissa Galvez, a public radio pro who was a huge help to me as I worked on editing this project. Thanks, Melissa! (by the way, as of this writing, she's in the job market, in case anyone's looking!)

One thing I wish I could have worked into the piece was some acknowledgement of the issues the con has had recently, which range from a problematic (if legally binding) relationship with its co-founder to conflicts with fan groups. I say this not because I want to bring down the many people who work hard to make Dragon*Con great, but because I think they're nonetheless important issues that warrant acknowledgement and due consideration in any introduction to the con that aspires to be comprehensive. Shortly after my return I wrote about the two biggest issues of which I'm aware, along with my general impressions of the con as a first-time attendee, here.

Music Credits (in order of audience):

Special thanks to and, where I found most of the music for this show, all of which is used with permission and/or under a creative commons license.

If the embedded audio above doesn't work for you, you can download the mp3 here. If I do anything else like this, I'll put it up on the RSS feed at

This has been a pretty amazing weekend. I sometimes say that the fun I have at a con is directly proportional to the number of people I know there and the number of events I'm involved in, and by that measure, Arisia 2013 was absolutely spectacular.

Cumulative sleep Fri-Mon: approx 16 hrs. Not bad for a con! ;)

Particularly noteworthy events (off the top of my head) include...

People Most Excellent )

The Stranger Ways / Sassafrass Concert ) know, this is already getting really long, and there's still so much more to write about, so I think I'm going to tie this one off and (hopefully) make this a series of posts.

There was so much going on at Dragon*Con that it's hard to isolate specific highlights, but there are a few things that seem worth mentioning, so the next few posts will cover them. The list is almost certainly incomplete, and definitely not in any kind of order!

The Parsec Awards!
For the two of you out there to whom I haven't expounded about this at length, the parsec awards are kind of the Emmys of podcasting. Ok, maybe not quite that big a deal, but it's still a pretty well-respected award within the community. I was honored this year to have taken part in not one, but two finalists in the long-form audio drama category, Second Shift and The Mask of Inanna.

The parsecs are given out at a ceremony at DragonCon, which was the excuse I gave myself for attending the con this year. To be honest, Second Shift and Mask of Inanna being up against one another led to some... complicated feelings for me, because I honestly believe that both shows deserved the win. Second Shift is my baby; I've personally put an enormous amount of work into it, and we have fans who've really fallen in love with our world and our characters in ways I've never seen from a podcast audience; I'm incredibly proud of that.

But then The Mask of Inanna is, hands down, the most ambitious audio theater project I have ever heard. A full-cast audio serial where each episode is over an hour long, and includes not only the two primary story arcs, each with a distinct setting and cast, but also an original, vintage-style radio play in a different style each week? My... my head hurts just thinking about it. And when you add to it the fact that after Second Shift and the PMRP's own Neil Marsh came up with the concept, outlined the story, and assembled a cast and crew, almost all of the writing, directing, and post-production was done by one person, Alicia Goranson... man. Don't tell Alicia, but I've become convinced that she's actually an android sent here from the future to study us, and does stuff like this when she gets bored with her primary mission.

On top of all that, we were up against some very strong competition, including Decoder Ring Theater, one of my personal favorite shows, run by one of my audio theater heroes, Gregg Taylor. So suffice it to say, I was full of... feelings at the awards ceremony. Julia Lunetta and I were both there, and as we'd each played parts in both shows (I am eternally grateful to MoI for casting me in a role that was not only fun, but about as far from my 2S character as possible! ;), we were there representing both.

I won't say it didn't feel kind of weird when Inanna was announced as the winner and I went up there to accept the award (strategically re-pinning my badge so that it covered the 2S logo on my shirt), but that's because I wanted my baby to win, not because I thought for a second that theirs didn't deserve to. The Mask of Inanna is Neil's love letter to radio brought to life by Alicia, and it is an amazing and most worthy thing. Check it out if you haven't!

My biggest take-away from this, though? Between Inanna, Second Shift, the PMRP, and all the other independent and side projects around here, Somerville has a friggin amazing audio theater scene! :)
I've been working on trying to write up some of my experiences at my first DragonCon, and boy is there a lot to say, so I'm going to do this in multiple posts.

Short version: I had a much better time than I anticipated, to be honest. I started what I hope may turn into a really cool project, accepted an award on behalf of a podcast I'm proud to have taken part in, met a lot of interesting people, saw some amazing sights, and was given a lot to think about, not all good, but net-positive IMO.

First Impressions
It took me about a full day just to get used to being at DragonCon. When I decided to go I had no idea just how massive it is, and even after arriving it was still hard to take it all in. Current estimates for this year's attendance are 45-50 THOUSAND people, spread across five of the biggest hotels I've ever been in, all of which were booked solid months in advance. It's overwhelming, but in a good way if you're into that sort of thing (and there's always a hotel room to flee to when you need it).

DragonCon Culture: Joyful Celebration of Nerddom or Shameless Pit of Debauchery? Embracing the Power of 'And'
In terms of the cultural feel of the con, the most surprising thing to me was how much DragonCon felt to me like Arisia writ (really, really) large. For those not in the Boston area, Arisia is one of our local cons, with about 5k 3k (thanks for the correction, [ profile] juldea!) attendees in one hotel. I sometimes describe Arisia as a giant nerd party that also has a con going on-- that's not to dis the con at all, which has lots of fun stuff and is organized by a talented and dedicated staff, but even with all that the social and... let's call it "public displays of unashamed nerdery" element feels as or more important than the formal programming, and that's a good thing. DragonCon, despite being one of the largest cons in the country, retained the same sort of feel despite also having superstar guests and all the other trappings of a major convention. Indeed, apparently DragonCon has a bit of a... reputation as a "party con" or, to put it another way "pit of debauchery where desperate nerds go to get plastered and try to hook up with one another".

And you know, to a certain extent, based on my experience that's a fair cop. There's more to it, but that element was definitely there. DragonCon at night is a sight to behold. My hotel's common spaces never had less than 100 people, and that low point didn't come until around 6 am. The rest of the time there were 500+ dancing, drinking, carousing, flirting, and more. Hedonism Bot would have felt right at home (there was even someone cosplaying him).

But while others seem to sneer at the con for this, I don't. Well, not much at least. Any situation that combines thousands of people, alcohol and sexual tension has problems that can't be ignored. I heard fewer stories of harassment than I'd feared I would, but still too many (and even witnessed one myself). One female friend who has been going for years has two rules with her cosplay group: no one cosplays alone, and every group includes one person who is not in costume whose job is tell people who are misbehaving to piss off. Playing dress-up should not require a damn escort. There are also problems specific to DragonCon (which I'll talk about more later), and those can't be ignored either; and yet, overall the party culture at DragonCon seems to be a net positive thing for most of the people to whom I spoke.

In fact, the strong feelings that many of the attendees have about the con, and cosplay in particular, were really quite moving. The number of people who told me "this is the only place where I feel like I can really be myself, where I really feel free" was remarkable and bittersweet. It might seem silly for someone to equate self-actualization with being able to shamelessly parade around while dressed as a vulcan, but hearing these people talk I was reminded of the punk club I loved when I was in high school. I wore costumes no less ridiculous there, and that place changed my life for similar reasons. I'm eternally grateful to have had a regularly available place where I could not only go and be/do whatever I wanted without worrying about what was "normal", but be around other people who were being/doing the same. Many of these con-goers only get that kind of release a few times a year because their professions, communities, or whatevers require them to spend most of their lives in stealth mode, pretending to be someone who isn't a weirdo.

...and then they come to the con, and no one cares that he's dressed as an elf, and everyone is in awe of her home-made storm trooper armor, and thousands of pressure-cooker lives all blow their tops at once. The reason DragonCon becomes a giant debaucherous party at night is because it's all these people purging a year's worth of toxic dignity from their systems, and I can totally dig that.

...But It Has Its Problems
However, there are two things that have led people I know to at least strongly consider never attending, and whether one agrees or not, I think they're both important for anyone who is considering going to know about.

(Update: This issue has since been resolved) The first is actually old news, but I hadn't heard about it until @dromeda posted something about it, ironically just as I was returning home from the con. This article from Atlanta Magazine describes some serious allegations against one of the con's co-founders, Ed Kramer. Now, it's one-sided, he's innocent until proven guilty, etc etc, but it seems very thoroughly researched, and the hoops the guy has jumped through to avoid going to trial alone make me question his character, and that's where things get messy because, if I'm understanding this correctly, he's still contractually entitled to a share of the con's proceeds. The con has, to its credit, done its best to distance its self from Kramer, going so far as to make him sue to get his share from 2011, but the suit was successful, so if nothing changes attending DragonCon is effectively putting money in the pockets of a man who seems bent on hiring expensive lawyers to screw with the justice system (so far, at least according to the article, he's managed to delay bringing his case to trial for over a decade). EDIT: a user on Tumblr has posted what looks to (non-lawyer) me a decent summary of why the legal situation between DC and Kramer is more complicated than some of the con's critics have been assuming.

The article does end on a hopeful note, suggesting that he may actually have to stand trial some time soon, so hopefully this will be resolved by next year. If not... Idunno.

The con has been mired in scandal and controversy for a long time over this, and though Kramer has had some very vocal defenders (comment from the article "It's time for SF fandom to stop enabling criminal behavior, closing ranks every time someone in fandom gets nailed for a crime. Sandusky and Paterno have nothing on this crowd" ...youch), the concom seems to want very much to have nothing more to do with him and move on.

...which is why the other move that's pissed people off seems so bizarre.

So, there's this grassroots movement in fandom called The Backup Ribbon Project. Created in response to a sexual harassment incident at the 2008 DragonCon, the idea is simple: the creator of the project makes free ribbons that say "BACKUP" for fans to wear.

From the site:
If you take a Backup ribbon or you wear a Backup t-shirt, you are promising one very simple thing: You WILL help out anybody being harassed. Gender, orientation, presentation is irrelevant. You WILL find a way to help, whether by directly intervening, getting help from elsewhere, or simply listening the person being harassed. You WILL be there for them. You WILL accept that they believe they have been harassed. You WILL NOT question them or doubt them, You WILL give them whatever help they wish.

No judgement. No exceptions. We got your back.

The DragonCon concom had some concerns about this, primarily that someone might infer from the presence of a ribbon that a person is trustworthy, allowing for a "wolf in sheep's clothing" situation.

The thing about this is, I kind of get that concern. Kind of. I mean, it's not like anything remotely like this has actually happened to my knowledge, and it kind of requires someone to be phenomenally stupid, but I can see how they would be concerned about maybe appearing to sanction a movement that is pretty much outside their control. What I don't get is their response to it. Rather than working with the backup project so that it can work in a way that addresses the con's concerns, they basically say (paraphrasing here) "You don't need backup ribbons, we've totally got everything covered; don't worry your pretty little heads about it", the reasons why this is a spectacularly stupid thing for a con with as problematic a history of harassment and outright (alleged) sexual abuse as DragonCon to say should be pretty obvious, and anything more I could say about it is in my response to their post.

Despite all this, though, the Backup kerfluffle is not a reason I would reconsider attending in the future. First, I still hope the concom will take the hint from the waves of negative feedback attached to that post and use the intervening year to craft a more reasonable policy for 2013, but even if they don't, I think their move has resulted in the concom looking like asses and exactly nothing else. They were, to their credit I guess, not stupid enough to attempt to actually prevent people from wearing BACKUP ribbons, and one person even started making BACKUP buttons, just to address any potential confusion (since the con does use ribbons for official purposes). So I'll be sure to be wearing one next year, and that will be that. I understand the actions of the concom undermining people's trust in the con, but the truth is if enough of us care, all they have to do is stay out of the way. Btw, anyone reading this may consider it an invitation to request my "big guy standing nearby" services whenever they are desired.

Next post I'll move on to some nicer stuff: Highlights!
I had a really fantastic Arisia this year for a number of reasons. Maybe it's something about the Winter, or maybe it's just what happens when you put almost everyone I know on the east coast in one place for a weekend every year, but every Arisia, good or bad, seems to encompass the milestones of that year for me, and looking back on them shows me how much things change and how much my life has changed each year.

My first Arisia was my first live performance with Second Shift, on a double bill with this other audio theater group of whom I'd never heard, called the Post Meridian Radio Players.

I attended my second Arisia with Sequoia and [ profile] rigel, both of whom I was involved with at the time. I handled some things badly, and in a way it marked a turning point in both relationships.

I started my third Arisia in an awkward quasi-dating state with [ profile] juldea, and left it officially dating her.

By my fourth Arisia, [ profile] juldea and I had broken up, but I wasn't over it yet. It was also the first and only con where I didn't do any performing (which I've found has a huge effect on how much I get out of a con experience), and I got a cold Saturday night to boot. Needless to say, this was not my favorite time 'round, but even then I met both [ profile] sandrylene (IRL, at least) and [ profile] fontia, and I'm glad for that.

This year was distinct because not only did I do more performing and paneling than in previous years, but I was also in the most stable place socially/romantically I'd been in for any Arisias past. My romantic situation definitely deserves its own post sometime, but suffice it to say for now that not only am I very happily involved with two lovely people, I even got to perform with both of them over the course of the weekend. This among a number of other factors contributed to just about the perfect way to get 2011 started.

Some highlights:

The Starship of Madness
Friday night I did monster voices for the PMRP Doctor Who/HP Lovecraft crossover show, "The Starship of Madness", which was very well received. I hadn't expected it to be badly received, but people really liked it (apparently we even got a nice writeup in the Boston Phoenix). As [ profile] preraphaelite and I walked the halls afterward, we each got recognized and complemented several times. This was understandable for her, because she made an awesome sexy villain, but all I did was say things like "get them!" and "flee! flee for healing!" in a funny voice, and yet people still seemed to dig it, so yay! [ profile] read_alicia will be happy to know there were also inquiries after the author of the script. We referred them to the Mask of Inanna site. :)

Sassafrass/Stranger Ways: Dark, Nerdy, Norse, A Capella, Folk Concert Extravaganza!
On Saturday afternoon Stranger Ways and Sassafrass had a joint concert that was a joy to take part in. I'll let y'all in on a little secret: up until then I didn't really think of Stranger Ways as a band. We were just some friends who played music in my basement and were presumptuous enough to record an album to release at our second show ever. But once we were up there, jazzing off the energy of the people in the audience, and realizing that they were actually into us... it was great. I think some of the live versions of our songs are actually significantly better than the recorded versions, plus we ended up making back everything we spent on producing the album, and between the two groups we were approached by representatives of three other cons who all wanted us to perform there! I remember during one song, a sing-along where this room full of a couple hundred people were all singing with us...I started to get all choked up. It was just beautiful, and my thanks to everyone who helped make it happen.

For those who couldn't make it, we have video of most of the songs by both bands, in concert order, up on a youtube playlist here. Please check it out and share! I'm really pleased with the whole thing, but here are a few of my favorites:

- Our opener, Boys of Bedlam
- Our funniest/cutest song, Week Exchange
- A cover of one of my favorite Tripod songs, I Will Still Play (thanks to [ profile] rubicantoto for turning me on to them!). Getting to perform this song was huge for me!
- Our big sing-along closer for the first set, Fhear A Bhata
- Sassafrass' song about the runic alphabet, in which I am comically tall, The Futhark Song
- My favorite Sassafrass song Somebody Will. I love the lyrics and sentiment of this song dearly, and didn't get to join in on the sing-along parts because I was too busy crying in the corner. I remember hearing it for the first time at a Sassafrass concert I went to with [ profile] juldea... and now that's her singing it as a member of the group. Awesome. :)
- Finally, our big joint group closing number, Toys for Big Kids, in which [ profile] faerieboots gets her mad science on!

Story Improv!
As if that wasn't enough, I then ran a panel, and not just any panel, the Story Improv panel! This is an event where four writers take turns writing a story based on prompts from the audience. I was the emcee, which means I was in charge of coming up with prompts to solicit from the audience and giving those prompts to one writer while interviewing the other three to keep the audience entertained. To be honest, I was really, really nervous because I'd spent so much time prepping for PMRP and Stranger Ways that I really hadn't spent much time getting ready for this, and was madly reviewing a recording of a similar panel to remember how the format went just hours before the event.

It went pretty fantastically. There is a thing about myself that I keep forgetting: if you put me in front of a responsive audience and just tell me to start talking, I can generally do it. Hopefully that lesson will stick one of these days. Anyway, there's a transcript and an mp3 up here. The recording is about an hour long, but I'm really happy with how it turned out, and it's a lot more fun than just reading the story. ;)

2010: Our Hideous Future
I continue to be amazed by the creativity and talent in the community out here. Case in point: have I mentioned that some friends of mine wrote and produced a full-length musical in their spare time? Seriously, how cool is that? It's a really fun show, and the brand new soundtrack is currently on sale super cheap at Amazon.
If you're looking for something to sample, I recommend tracks 7 and 12, which are both good songs for different reasons and both show off Kamela Dolinova's great voice, as well as #21 in which [ profile] lediva makes an awesome singing, world-dominating computer, and #23, which sums up the show's sense of humor pretty well.

Everything else
There were just too many other things, too many little moments, to list them all. From conversations with people I don't see often, to reminiscing and joking with people about things that had been sources of great tension between us at the time, to a big, Saturday night cuddle-pile that segued straight into the con's big dance party.

All in all, it was a pretty fantastic weekend. I just hope that the rest of 2011 can keep up.
Leaving for Arisia in a bit! I actually have a fair number of performances and other such things going on this year, and I'm really excited about it:

- Friday, 10pm: I will be in "The Starship of Madness" with [ profile] preraphaelite, [ profile] audioboy, [ profile] read_alicia and the rest of the Post Meridian Radio Players cast and crew. It's Doctor Who meets HP Lovecraft! That's not just a description of the style, by the way, that's the plot! :D (except that the DW fanboy in me objects to referring to the main character as "Doctor Who", but what's a little pedantry between friends?) I will be doing raspy monster voices that, in time-honored Doctor Who tradition, walk the line between creepy and silly sounding.

- Saturday, noon: Stranger Ways / Sassafrass double show! Not only do we get to play with [ profile] faerieboots, [ profile] juldea and [ profile] aurelia_star's norse-inspired a capella group, this will also be the release party for Stranger Ways' new album. Yay! We'll be selling copies of the CD and download cards for the digital version. Bandcamp links will go up tomorrow for those who can't make it.

- Saturday, 6pm: I'll be moderating the Story Improv panel, which involves two teams of two writers each, who will take turns crafting stories based on audience feedback. I attended a panel like this at Balticon and it was so much fun I pitched it for Arisia. It only added to my sense of dread/joy when I saw that two of the writers are [ profile] elenuial and [ profile] lightcastle! :)

There are a lot of other things I'm hoping to make it to over the course of the weekend, too many to advertise all of them here, but here are a couple of the big ones:

Friday at 9p AND Saturday at 10a, Michael Anderson will be doing his one-man show, "Hallucinating Shakespeare", which includes "A Bloody Deed", the funniest half-hour of a dude talking about Shakespeare that you are likely to ever hear. If you can't make it in-person, there's a video of a past performance here, but seriously, I saw this show last Arisia and it was good enough that they're bringing him back for two more performances this year.

Then at 7p on Sunday, 2010: Our Hideous Future, The Musical, Camberville's own home-grown nerd musical. Saw this when it was first produced, and I don't think there exists a better audience for this show than Arisia. It'll be a great crowd and a lot of fun. Plus, [ profile] lediva plays an evil AI bent on world domination. It's like someone put life at BCOS up on stage!
As mentioned earlier, I met a lot of nifty podcasty types at Balticon. I've debated whether to even try and pimp all the fun-sounding shows I've learned about or been reminded of lately, because I'm sure that if I try I'm going to forget someone. But I figure networking is good, there are at least a few of your on my flist who are always looking for new shows to check out, and some recs are better than none, so here goes...

Misc nifty podcasty people
There are a bunch of folks I met whose work I haven't yet gotten to sample, but who have me completely convinced of their abilities, such that I'm quite looking forward to doing so.

Podcasting's Rich Sigfrit is a remarkably versatile voice actor, from what I hear, and I look forward to checking out his Pulp Adventures show. He also does a movie reviews 'cast if that's your thing.

Practically every member of the "production master class" panel let me pick his brain afterward about ways I can get 2S wrapped up. Of particular help were JD Sawyer, who has a couple of very cool-sounding podiobooks out, Chooch, who does a 'cast about blended families (eg Brady Bunch, which I hope is not an offensive comparison for them or anything) with his wife Viv, who also hosts the Girls Rules show, and John Taylor Williams, for whom I sadly have no web link, but the guy was a lot of fun to talk to.

Also, special thanks to Chooch and Viv for hosting a swell party for all the New media types Saturday night!

In addition to the pros, I had some good talks with other amateur folks who seemed downright eager to help out.

In particular, I talked with and was on a few panels with Paulette Jaxton, who has just finished what sounds like a really interesting full-cast podiobook called The Empress Sword. I don't wish to pideon-hole it, especially without having heard it yet, but from what I've gathered, it will be particularly interesting for folks who like fantasy stories that play around with gender roles, gender identity, etc.

On a note related to that, one of the voice actors present for a lot of the panels was @ddog, a smart and articulate young person who is also FtM transgendered/genderqueer, and runs a blog and podcast on the subject, which sounds interesting, particularly for people like me who know trans people, but don't have much direct access to that experience.

The creepiest Escape Pod story I've heard in a long time
There was an awesome panel that [ profile] andrea2s1 was on called "Improv Story Writing", or something along those lines. As the name implies, it was kind of like Whose Line is it Anyway for authors, and [ profile] lediva and I are totally going to pitch it for next year's Arisia and/or the Intercon pre-con (though it would probably fit best at the former).

Anyway, the guy hosting it, one John Cmar, was one of those people whom I encounter and immediately think "damn, I have got to larp with this person some time". Not only was he an excellent moderator, improvising questions and audience interactivity to fill space while writing was being done, he had, well, I'll just say it: a damn sexy voice.

I talked to him afterward, and it turns out that he did recently read for a short story on Escape Pod called The Love-Quest of Smidgen the Snack Cake, which he described as "the story of a seductive, sociopathic, bio-engineered cake". Needless to say, I obtained this story post-haste and we listened to it on the way home.


This story expertly walks the line between creepy and absurd, with a creamy center of eroticism (yeah that's right, I said it), with a net effect of a combination of all three that is ultimately even more creepy. If that doesn't sound like a complete turn-off to you, check it out, but don't say I didn't warn you.

Plans to go back to my room and nap were interruped by walking by one of the performances room and hearing guitar/mandolin duo performing an upbeat, folkish ditty, the chorus of what was "There's a fetus in the kitchen!". I could explain the context, but trust me, it still wouldn't make much sense. Despite this, though they were musically quite talented and their songs were really catchy and fun, such that I ended up staying for the rest of their show. The guy who writes all the songs also does a podcast called The Drabblecast. At least for me, though, he's a bit like Paul and Storm in that the energy at his live shows makes them a completely different, and IMO better, animal (though if you see him play and like it, buy a CD so he can keep doing it ;)

There was also a lovely spontaneous group-sing led and accomanied by @sinspire aka Comic Book Goddess, a local filker and one of the people who really made an effort to reach out to me and make me feel welcome, not to mention giving me an excuse to sing. Thanks!

I also saw a pretty nifty low-budget, indie movie called "I <3 Doomsday". The whole thing was made for less than $10k, and it shows in being pretty amateurish in some ways, but what it lacks in polish it makes up for in originality and a sort of over-the-top, nerdy charm. If you saw my tweet about watching a "mad-scientist proxy-android romantic comedy", this was it. It's not out on DVD currently, but if that ever changes I may well be hosting a showing.

I also picked up a really nifty pendant at the art show made by Hibernia Curios, which I have dubbed "The Steampunk Shodan". It really needs to be seen in-person to be appreciated, though, so no pic. Her stuff reminds me a bit of [ profile] slyviolet's, and since Vi just released a gorgeous new piece, here's a link to that, too.

Metamor City
I had heard of Metamor City ages ago, but had never really taken the time to listen, but I talked to the guy who runs it at the con, and saw a live performance and now I am really intrigued. The remarkable thing about MC is that the creator sort of outlined the world in which it all takes place and then licenced it under a Creative Commons/Share-Alike license. So, while he still gets to pick which stories become "official canon", anyone is welcome to play around in that world, create spinoffs, etc.

Since it's creation many years ago, it seems to have grown into a pretty expansive world, which lots of details and characters contributed by a host of authors, which is pretty dang cool. I look forward to exploring it further.

TekDiff/Waking World/The Account
I'm saving this one for last, both because technically it's not connected to Balticon (though I did find out about it when doing research for my panels), and because, to be honest, it's my favorite new thing I've found in a while. Oddly, no one at Balticon had heard of this one, so its seems that, like Second Shift, this guy's been off doing his own thing in a little bubble, and he's produced some amazing results. The show is called Teknikal Diffikulties, by a guy who calls himself Cayenne Chris Conroy. It's mostly sketch comedy which, in an audio-only medium, is something I don't see much of, but I've been paying particular attention to his "Waking World" series of serialized stories (look for episode titles that begin with "The Account:"). It's a fantasy comedy series that is remarkable in a number of ways:

  • The writing is some of the best I've ever heard. I'm three eps into the "Relic Skies" series, and in the most recent episode he had me both laughing out loud and seriously, seriously creeped out.

  • Cayenne Chris Conroy does almost all of the voices. His skill as a voice-actor is really quite amazing, and I'm learning a lot just by listening to him. If you know what to listen for, you can tell all the voices are being done by one person, but every character is still distinct. Sometimes it's by accent, but often it's just by differences in attitude and inflection. Quite impressive.
  • This is a weird thing to say, given that so many of the characters are done by one actor, but the chemistry between cast members is fantastic. I'm assuming that much of this is done in post, but however he manages, the comedic timing and delivery is consistently absolutely spot on. This guy is good.

  • Cayenne Chris Conroyis a pretty badass name. Just sayin'.

Ok, that's all for now. Apologies if I left anyone off. Too many awesome people doing awesome things! :)
Spent the weekend at Balticon and had an absolutely lovely time. Fan cons are generally not my thing, but I think there were three unusual things about this one that made a real difference for me.

First off, the community that's developed around podcasting, podiobooks, and audio theater is just amazing. So many friendly, interesting and supporting people! Thanks to each and every one of you for making me feel like a part of that community right away. At most cons the main thing I have in common with people I don't already know is a shared self-association with this vague thing we call "fandom". At Balticon, thanks to its strong New Media track, I was interacting with people from a much more specific scene, which made for relatively easy conversation. Plus, a lot of the people there knew Second Shift, which was cool, and the admiration of peoples' work went both ways. At a party on Saturday night, the hostess (who was also one of the people behind us getting invited to the con) was being flatteringly squeeish as she told me how much she enjoyed Second Shift, when a friend of her's approached. She introduced him, saying, "This is Patrick McLean. He does a podcast called The Seanachie". Now, The Seanachie happens to be one of my favorite 'casts from back in the day. Several years back he did a story called "How to Succeed in Evil" (the original, un-finished version, for those familiar with it, which for the record is not what I've just linked to, though I'm told that the re-vamp is also excellent), which I absolutely loved, so I then got to turn around and fanboy at him, even earning a hug when I told him that I actually had the comic book version of How to Succeed, which he'd sold once upon a time as a fundraiser.

Over the course of the con, I ended up having a lot of great conversations like that, plus a very nice lunch with McClean and Nobilis Reed, another well-known podcaster/author and Second Shift forum-goer from way back (note that he specializes in erotica, so link may be nsfw).

I think I enjoy hanging out with podcasters for the same reason I enjoy hanging out with larpers. Aside from having something in common with them, it's a subset of geekdom that self-selects for people with some modicum of social skill, which makes interfacing significantly easier.

The second factor is simply that of distance. I enjoy, for example, Arisia, but because I'm not as tight with the communities represented there, most of the people I see are local friends. Now, I love my friends, but Arisia is basically a big, expensive house-party largely populated by the people I usually see at smaller, less ambitious parties. I probably won't have the opportunity to see the people I met at Balticon again until next year, which means there's something different to be excited about for next year, and while I'm not guaranteed to go next year, I'm seriously considering it for that reason, especially if I can be involved in events again, which brings me to the third thing...

Actually being on panels and whatnot (my first time doing so) made a huge difference in my con experience. People who know me will be shocked to learn that the presence of an audience really put me in my element, and made for a much more engaging time than I usually have at (non-larp) cons.

I was on four panels, each of which I was nervous about for different reasons, and each of which ended up going really, really well if I do say so myself. Even the "Open Source for Everyday Use" panel with ESR and Thomas Gideon of The Command-Line podcast went really well. I was nervous about this one both because I feared being out-classed in terms of technical know-how, and because I'd heard from others who had had "personality conflicts" with ESR. I'm glad to report that I left the panel feeling like I'd contributed pretty well, that I'd gotten along well with both of the other panellists, and most importantly that I'd had fun. ESR was very friendly and a great co-panelist. He digressed on a few topics, but they were by way of some pretty undeniably cool stories, so that was easy to overlook, and while there snark, it was clearly all in good fun. And yes, I said hi to him for you, [ profile] tpau. ;) The panel is going to be podcast on an upcoming episode of The Command Line, and I'll link to it when that happens.

The subjects of the podcasting-related panels ranged from things about which I felt pretty qualified to talk, like "Herding cats: Producing large-cast audio theater" and "Audio Theater Today", which turned out to be mostly a Q/A about how to get started in audio theater, to ones where I wasn't even entirely sure why I'd been put there, like "Storytelling". The reason I was worried about that last one is that the one thing I didn't ever do on Second Shift was write, and I'd read the panel as being primarily about that. As it happened,though, the panel ended up evolving into a really cool conversation about storytelling in general, the difference between an author and a storyteller, the role a voice actor plays in telling an author's story, and the effect of the Internet, podcasting, etc on storytelling, I'm rather proud of one of my lines, "We're all around one big campfire now, and that's awesome". Another great comment, though I sadly forget from whom it came, was the suggestion that if recordable audio media had existed since time immemorial, maybe we never would have bothered conveying non-fiction with the written word alone. An interesting thought indeed. I also got to plug my idea for storytelling parties, which was well-recieved, and in fact someone approached me afterward and told me about the National Storytellers' Network, about which I'm excited to learn more.

Other highlights of the con included a "master class" panel/demo being run by some professional audio engineers on how the technical side of things worked. I think I only took in about 30% of what was said, but it was good stuff. I also got some great networking done and might, juuuuust might have some help lined up to get the remainder of Second Shift actually done. Stay tuned.

So yeah, anyway, I could go on with nifty things and people encountered, but you get the idea. Had a fine time, and a big thanks to all the lovely folks involved with the New Media track for being so friendly and nice. I'll do some pimpage of specific media things in a separate post. (ETA ...and here it is!)



October 2016

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