Friday, June 2, 2017

Baycon with More Detail (and a Terrifying Tale of Non-Harassment) (How’s That For Clickbait?)

Well, let’s see. I arrived in a great mood, because my Lyft driver was accompanied by an adorable little dog named Rocky and I spent most of the trip playing with Rocky and his squeaky toy in the backseat.  This was a far far far far far better idea than renting a fricking car. 

My first panel was Witch-hunts and Watch-lists with Diana Paxson, Jacquelyn Bartel, Edward Kukla and Jean Batt.  The panel discussed fictional witch hunts, and contrasted them with things going on in the real world such as surveillance of activists. Unfortunately my phone went off and I slunk out of the panel in shame, and then I got distracted by the info desk, and the dealers’ room.

The dealers’ room was small and compact. There was an impressive table for the Library Bards, a filk band with clever t-shirts. There were old and new books, jewelry, t-shirts with dragons and cats and books and such (I bought one with cats and books). There was a selection of t-shirts from past Baycons, in case I felt like falsely representing myself as having attended them, but I suck at prevarication so I didn’t buy any. 

At some point a headache attacked me and I used a combination of aspirin and Tylenol to turn it into a bellyache, and that was my first night at the San Mateo Airport Marriott. 

For Saturday, I started with a talk on risk and uncertainty given by Christine Doyle, M.D., one of the Guests of Honor at this Baycon.  I became a minor Dr. Doyle fangirl for the remainder of the convention, following her around to different panels so I could bask in her warm sciencey wisdom.

In fact – and this made me all sentimental and gooey at several points during the panels – in a world where science … may not be held in the highest regards by some of our political and religious leaders, coughetty cough cough … although several of the GOOD ones get it, and for example, in my great state of California we now have single payer health care … okay, there’s my political dream for the last forty years come true.  I have a story about how American-style health care is involved with the fact I never finished any of my diplomas, but I’ll save it for another day. 

But what I was getting to was that at Baycon, several times I found myself in the presence of all-female science panels!  Or panels of scientists of all genders hanging out talking about their nerdy sciencey hobby for the sheer fun of it!  There was so much sheer love for science, all around me, that it made me tingle.  Rational, evidence, fact-based science.  Mmmmmm.

All the people who go around saying things like, “oh, science is hard, it makes my brain strained, I think I will just watch some television” – they weren’t even there.  Only science lovers were there.  Which makes me think I will be returning to Baycon even if maybe it’s not particularly suited to my audience demographic.  It’s suited to my emotional demographic. 

So yeah, Dr. Doyle talked about risk, in terms of surgical outcome, epidemiology and suchlike, with the intent of decoding the frequently-contextless “odds” published in non-sciencey journals by derpy journalists. 

Next I went to a panel on Autism and Asperger’s in Fandom. Lots of my biological relatives are on the autistic spectrum, and it’s a subject that interests me. Back when I first got into fandom there was an unarticulated sense that a lot of us were “weird” and could pass as normal to varying degrees, and this was written off as a side effect of having a high IQ.  These days the labels have become more clinical and precise. I’m very fascinated with cognition, and with how it varies according to innate factors, and how it recovers from traumatic injury. I carry that into my writing, and I was interested by what these individuals had to say.  Science fiction writers have been contemplating alien intelligences for years without paying much attention to the many divergent forms of cognition right here in our own species. The fandom community, meanwhile, has historically been a place accepting of all forms of diversity, including neuro-.  I’m looking forward to reading (and writing) more explorations of neurodiverse characters from a modern standpoint.

I did my restlessness thing for a while, checking out fragments of several panels without actually settling down until I got to the one about DNA and Gene Research panel, where Dr. Doyle expounded, accompanied by Rebecca Inch-Partridge, Sydney Thomson, Dr. Ellen Coatney and Trinity Adler. There was clarification about genetic tendency versus fate, and discussion of some of the latest cancer research.

I needed a retreat from the crowd at that point and I serendipitously found myself having dinner with Heather Rose Jones, a fellow Filer and wicked smaht lady who knows all kinds of stuff about history and biology and writing books that people actually read and buy.  She gave me all kinds of sage advice. Her books are more for adults but she told me she’s going to write one for YAs soon, and I’m looking forward to reviewing it. 

Full of steak, I waddled off to the hotel jacuzzi.  I had every intent of partying but somehow I found myself lounging in bed watching Samurai Jack and his new girlfriend Ashi.  And then falling asleep.

On Sunday, my first panel was Making Readers Care About Your Characters, with Ezra Barany, Laurel Anne Hill, A.E. Marling and Tyler Hayes. Quick ways to get readers to love your characters (and hate your villains) were discussed.

Then, the best panel of Baycon in my humble opinion: Ethics of Bio Engineering, with the same women as the DNA panel on Saturday, extrapolating further on smart viruses, evil clones, bioengineered dinosaurs and most of the plot of my current series.  I had a great time.

Historical Writing is not something I ever intend to do, but Heather Rose Jones was on the panel and I hear she’s pretty good at it.  Other panelists were Lillian Csernica, Gregg Castro and Jay Hartlove, talking about their various historical approaches. 

I darted into a few more panels and parties and ate a nice passion fruit dessert and said hi to Lurkertype (another Filer), and met editor Relle indirectly through Facebook.  On Monday, I lost an auction for this particular print:

(I should just buy it)

My favorite party was the Bear’s Picnic, hosted by Chazz, who baked a great many cookies, all of them delicious, particularly the Vesta Bars. 


I didn’t get harassed at all, possibly because a Harassment Policy was posted – literally taped to the walls in several locations – warning people that they’d be 86’d for harassing.  I did have an amusing adventure during one of the many times I was lurking in my room, watching cartoons and being introverted.

Suddenly I heard an exasperated growl at the door, and clicking, as if someone were trying to insert a card key.

I opened the door. Standing on the other side was a man dressed in head-to-toe camouflage.

He muttered something about being very sorry, wrong room, and sounded appropriately mortified; I said something to the effect of “oh, I thought I heard somebody trying to get in, glad to see it’s only a strange man dressed in camouflage two days after some crazy guy got arrested for bringing live weapons to Phoenixcon.”

Later on, I found pictures of him in my Facebook group -- part of a cosplay squad. It occurred to me that this could have metastasized into a very ugly situation had I been a little more paranoid (or maybe if he had growled louder). 

No matter. It didn’t even occur to me as weird until later on when I reflected I probably had a legitimate reason to be disconcerted.

NOTE: I want to make it very clear that I am not accusing this gentleman of anything whatsoever aside from misreading the hotel room number, which is just a silly error. He committed no crimes, offenses or misbehaviors. He seems like a swell guy. At no time did I feel threatened. It was just kinda ... strange to find some kinda space marine jiggling my doorhandle y'know what I'm saying ...  if I were twenty years younger I might've flirted with him and I might have screamed like a banshee, you never can tell.


  1. I smiled all the way through your post about BayCon. I was there, went to different panels than you, and also had fun. It was a good con!

  2. It was! I'm definitely leaning toward heading back next year!