I'd mapped out a route designed to be slightly shorter and much less stressful than what I experienced last year (some of you might recall that I got so lost on the final lap that I didn't know which way was up). The new route was a rousing success. I didn't get lost. I didn't get stressed. I arrived at the hotel so quickly that I almost drove right by it because I wasn't expecting it so soon.
I pulled into the parking lot at 11 am. The room wasn't near ready and the lobby was smoky (drifting out from the bar, I think), so I went back outside and had a tailgate lunch and a walk. As Steve will confirm there aren't any walking paths in the vicinity. I ended up circling the unscenic parking lot a couple of times and toddling alongside the highway (with speeding cars zooming by) for a bit.
Returning to hotel registration at noon, per instructed, I was told a room still wasn't available and might not be for some time. <pout> I decided to brave the smoke. I sat in the lobby looking pitiful and soon had a room. Then came the gargantuan task of unloading items from my van, including Doorhanger Del, teletubby Avon, a couple of dozen videotapes, photo albums, four boxes of zines, vibrating Buzz Lightyear, squeaky David, and various other essentials.
After multiple trips between car and room I took a last, worried look at my slightly low right front tire then padlocked up my faithful vehicle with its talking alarm system (it obligingly said "armed"), took a deep breath, and entered the twilight zone of con existence.
It was eerie at first, except for a brief Kathy Agel (the Con Mom) sighting I appeared to be surrounded by mundanes. My attempt to locate Brooke (I had a cooler to turn over to her for cheese preservation) was thwarted by inefficient technology or Federation Central Security (take your pick). I called her room and left a message she never got, and she got a "party not available" message when she tried to call me. So I read some smut from my zines for sale box, tried to take a nap (and failed), and did my nails (Servalan would have approved). Around 3 pm the first of my three roommates arrived. She unloaded her car, including such necessary items as another cooler and a vcr, and our room was looking good. She then prodded me into organizing the for sale zines, which is why the floor was littered with gen, het and smut when Brooke and Tiger popped by.
Brooke came bearing newly written chartorture, cheese and nuts, hoping these distractions might make me forget about the numerous in-progress Tarrant stories she hasn't finished. What can I say? I'm easy. It worked. I clutched her writing binder to my chest and bid her welcome.
Everyone reported on their various journeys and we settled down for a gab fest. It would be nice if I could remember what we talked about, but I was really sleep deprived and only a couple of things remain branded in my mind (at this moment). One was Brooke mentioning a need to recruit Dairy Smugglers to carry hunks of cheese into the "one item per person" FC party. (You gotta love her rebellious attitude!) The other thing I recall was mention of an unsolicited catalogue of an adult nature that included mention of an interesting device that has already provided inspiration for yet more chartorture. Sorry for the vagueness, but I don't want to spoil the surprise when it turns up in a story.
That's it for Day One (for now). I hope I went to bed early. I can't remember.
Proving that timing is everything, my third roomie showed up after all of the decorating was finished. Her penalty for evading work was loss of prime door space. Her Vila and Really Old Snozzola (Methos) pics had to settle for the bottom of the door.
It was getting on about noonish and we thought maybe we should think about registering when Susan Beth appeared. As she couldn't get into her room, she was temporarily parking her luggage in ours. She also came bearing gifts: the most adorable cookies you ever wanted to see. They were little Tarrants. Some were decorated with his Death-Watch costume; others wore his late fourth season gray. I can't begin to imagine how much work went into them; they were almost too precious to eat.
Between Brooke and Susan Beth I was feeling like Marlon Brando in The Godfather movie, when folks were giving him gifts to show their respect. I could get used to this very easily. :)
After tasting Tarrants (I saved the head for last), we all headed for the lower levels to register, hang signs and set out flyers. I ran into Val and Linda on the stairs and we stood there chatting (and blocking the chairs) for a long time. Both Val and Linda were looking elegant in long skirts. (Not that I wasn't elegant in my blue jeans and denim top. ;) They immediately put in a plug for Redemption but I explained that I didn't know what I was doing next week let alone in 2001. We eventually realized we were making it difficult for people to use the stairs and parted (they went up and I went down).
The Con Mom herself was handling registration and it was smooth and quick. (Econ manages to run like a piece of precision machinery while maintaining an atmosphere of down-home warmth.) That is it would have been quick if I hadn't been sidetracked by photos of Molly and Tucker, Kathy's two adorably winsome dogs. They were so sweet but sadly misnamed. Molly (sex aside) should be Avon. They share a prominent nose and a calm, cool disposition. Tucker is Tarrant to a T; he has long legs and lots of energy. There was one pic where he was attempting to climb over the larger Molly; Molly had an expression of long-suffering patience on her face. I can picture the same expression on Avon's face if Tarrant were scuttling over his reclined body.
The dealer's rooms weren't quite open so we strolled by the con suite where a variety of tempting yummies were set out, including raw veggies, hot dips, crisps, pretzels and sweets. We settled in for a bit of noshing with Steve joining us. Steve kept saying to take the pretzels away from him and I begged people to put the crisps out of my reach. No one listened to our pleas, so our vices controlled us until we dragged ourselves out of the room. Steve then gave us a private sale opportunity at Judith's table. I bought, bought, bought for myself and for friends who couldn't be at the con. New zines, old zines...hooray! My tote filled up quite quickly. But that didn't stop me from trekking on to the other dealer's room. Where I did more buying, depleting some of Linda Knights' stock. By then I realized I needed to take some of the zines to my room or risk injury.
And I ended up in our room for most of the rest of the afternoon. Not by plan; it just happened. We had a steady stream of shoppers and visitors who provided entertaining diversions. Around 3 pm, Roommate 3 finally noticed how excited Tarrant was (she's usually a lot quicker on the uptake) and burst out laughing. Val and Linda were among our shoppers, with Linda attempting to keep control of zine frenzied buyer Val (who reportedly has bought duplicates copies of zines during feeding frenzies of the past). As I told Val, mere duplication is nothing. We know fans who have bought three copies of the same zine at the same con.
Before we knew it, it was time for the B7 slash panel. There were three B7 panels at the con. All were interesting, congenial and well attended, with most of those in attendance contributing to the discussions. Susan Beth, Tiger and Brooke moderated "B7: Slash That Works, Slash That Doesn't--and Why." As I didn't take any notes at the con (bad move!) I have to rely on memory. I hope others will provide corrections and additions to my panel reports.
Some of the things that don't work for some fans: Blake giving up the revolution for Avon, Avon falling on his knees in admiration of Blake's rampant tower, generic slash (any two names could replace the ones in the story and no one would notice the difference), driving a character into submission by housekeeping (though a few of us maintained that five days of housekeeping would turn us into demoralized wusses ;), saint or super anybody characterizations. Something that does work: any pairing when presented in a believable fashion. Which had Judith mention that she'd like to figure out a way to do Travis/Blake. Someone suggested making it Travis/Blake's clone and Judith seemed to like that possibility. (Judith: actually it was Servalan/Blake in the het panel)
Back to our room after the panel where we discovered that our fourth roommate had arrived and HAD noticed how excited Tarrant was. :) We hit the coolers for dinner then did some more shopping. I stopped back at Judith's table to pick up my Freedom City badges and a GT badge for a friend. That's when I noticed a refrigerator magnet with mature versions of Blake and T2 on it. Obviously, B and T2 didn't need Judith's help to get together; they'd mended their differences and opened up a magnet production company after GP. ;)
We had many more shoppers that evening, forcing us to once again use the local phone book to prop up thinned out zines. Both new Maverick Press zines and our collection of used zines sold very well all weekend. Sometime in that period I opened the envelope with my Freedom City badges and found a wonderful surprise: a gorgeous Tarrant button that Ellie and Harriet had crafted. It's absolutely perfect: a close-up of Tarrant from Ultraworld (he has a contemplative expression on his most handsome face) against a background of space. There's a big blue planet to match his eyes, a spaceship, and numerous other attractively arranged heavenly bodies.. I immediately pinned it on and wore it with pride and joy. My other badges were also lovely. The FINALACT motto of "up to our armpits in blood since 1998" received more than one chuckle in response. The cat's eyes are even more spooky and B7ish on the badge than they were on the web site. The reflection in the water is also a very neat effect.
To prevent a conflict with the FC Party, Steve and Judith had managed to switch their "Blake and Tarrant - What Were Their Objectives?" panel to Friday at 8. Early on during the discussion, we concluded that the men were not alike. Blake was a political animal. Tarrant was a product of the military.. That led to interesting examinations of each character as individuals. In regard to Blake's long-range plans, some attendees thought he intended to have each planet govern itself should the revolution succeed. It was pointed out that might not be the best plan given what has happened to the Soviet Bloc after it broke up. We all pretty much agreed that Blake's goal was broad and sweeping--he wanted to bring down the Federation in its entirety--while Tarrant was content to chip away at smaller injustices (trying to prevent the Teal-Vandor War, etc.).
There must have been soma gas diverted into the panel room because many of us were yawning and ready to start tucking after it was over. We kept our room open for shoppers for about an hour or so after the panel, then we called it a night. Thus ended Day 2.
Before I move on, let me fill in a bit more from Thursday. I remembered a major focus of our Thursday evening conversation: football. Leigh, Brooke and I are all fans. I'll spare the list our detailed analysis of the sport, the eccentricities of this season, etc. :)
There was another trip to the dealer's rooms. Some dealers hadn't been there the day before and I checked out their zines and magazines. There was Buffy loot to point out to my one roomie, but nothing new B7ish. :( Another of my roomies got ambitious and blew up balloons for balloon "bobbits" (you put two round balloons and one long balloon together and...well, you get the picture). One set was given to Doorhanger Del, another to sprawled Tarrant on the bed; others were free floating about the walls.
The afternoon was most productive. Susan Beth, Robin and I worked on the B7 adult board game (inspired by a door at MediaWest) that has been discussed on the list. I had the rudiments of a game that we'd devised at one of our local bashes, which Susan Beth and I later discussed and refined. Much to our amazement we managed to finish refining the game, played it, and it worked! In fact it was great fun, very B7ish, and ended up drawing spectators to watch us.
The game board consists of a pathway of squares arranged in a spiral that moves from the outside to the middle. Each participant chooses a pair of characters and the object is to move the pair from the beginning ("Blast off") to the Honeymoon Suite in the center. Along the way they encounter B7 episodes, relationship squares, take a chance squares, jails, med units, black holes, etc. The relationship squares are spaced diagonally along two sets of corners and progress along the lines of a developing relationship: Proposition, First Time, Internal Fight/Conflict/Crisis, Reconciliation, Third Party Crisis, Separation. Whenever one of your characters reaches those squares, he/she has to wait for his lover to catch up and they take a card that describes what is happening in their relationship. Then a roll of the dice determines how good or bad that development was. An example of a proposition card: "The ship rocks. You and Partner clutch each other for support." One of the First Time cards reads "Cured of childhood trauma by sex."
Landing on a Chance Square turned up cards such as:
"You catch your S.O. swiping spit with a Space Rat. Send him/her back five spaces."
"Your lover is sold as a sex slave and 'trained' before rescue. Roll die. If odd-you are jealous. Lose one turn. If even-take advantage for a really hot night. Roll again."
"If one of your characters wears black leather, advance one space."
"You believe in the Cause! Put half your credits in the pot."
Which reminds me, there were opportunities to gain and lose credits along the journey.
A particularly clever idiosyncrasy that Susan Beth came up with is "Quickies." When both of your characters land on the same square per a roll of the dice, they have a "quickie" and get to take an extra turn.
Tiger showed up just as we are about to start play, so there were four pairs in the initial run through: A/B (Susan Beth), A/T (me), V/T (Tiger), and C/A (Robin). It was interesting to see that Vila's power (he was allowed to escape any jail he was put in) and his handicap (his reluctance to participate meant he always had to deduct "1" from whatever number the die allowed him to move) balanced out. He was never significantly behind or ahead of the rest of the characters. But since V/T had to retire early (Tiger had gopher duty), we didn't get to follow him for an entire game.
The progression of the game was fascinating and very true to the series. At the beginning were grumbling about missed turns and getting sent back a few squares. By the time we neared Gauda Prime, we were relieved when our turn resulted in mere delays. "I only lost a turn. I only got sent to jail. Phew." By then all of us had had at least one player "die," which forced that character to go all the way back to the Clonemaster Square near the beginning of the board.
Another interesting facet of the game was how we started reacting in character to obstacles we faced. My Tarrant was in a sweat because he was way back at the Clonemaster while his Avon was already in the lobby waiting to go into the Honeymoon Suite. Then to make things even worse Tarrant lost half their fortune. He was wondering if he would survive a reunion with Avon. Meanwhile, Robin's dice roll was such that either her Avon or her Cally was going to be "mistaken for Bayban and sent to prison." She decided Cally would never manage that (unless the trooper was really blind), so it was her Avon who ended up in jail.
As I've long suspected, Avon and Blake just aren't meant to be together. They ran into more obstacles than the other pairings. And as I also suspected, Avon and Tarrant are fated to be mated. They won! (Though I'm sure Tarrant was greeted with a good tongue lashing for being so slow and for losing the credits before they tucked into the heart-shaped bed in the Honeymoon Suite. ;)
While the game was in progress, Steve stopped by with camera in hand. (Hadn't anyone told him that cameras were banned at American media conventions? <g>) He snapped our bobbits and our Tarrants and a few of us as well. I may have to choke my fellow game players who didn't warn me of the dangers of bobbit play until after Steve had lured me to Doorhanger Del and told me to do something with his balloon. I just wish we had had a camera on Steve when he was munching on Tarrant. Next time we'll be prepared!
We also had a gathering of spectators. One of them, my friend Jen, jotted down some additional chance cards for us to use, including the "you believe in the Cause" one that resulted in my Tarrant losing half of his and Avon's fortune. Thanks, Jen!
The one refinement we made after we finished had to do with credits. I had a huge accumulation at one point, but there was no advantage to that. So we've revamped the rules so that players will be allowed to bribe their way out of punishments under certain circumstances. Other than that, the game looks pretty good. We could use more cards and are working on those, and we're also working on how to spiff up the board, cards and playing pieces.
We were three hours + on the floor during the preliminaries and the game; it's a wonder any of us had working muscles left. We ended up hobbling on cramped legs to the con suite for a bit of noshing before evening activities. I cleverly did not sit at the table with the crisps this time, which only changed my vice rather than eliminating it. I inhaled popcorn instead. I do appreciate that Robin kept reminding me that it was at least high in fiber.
Even with just the food present when I arrived, the room was growing short of flat space on which to deposit it, so we moved beverages to the air conditioner. Just in time, as additional fans bearing food arrived at the party in quick succession.
It was probably inevitable that we'd end up with enough food to feed the city of Newark. There was Deborah's trademark ham (delicious!) along with breads and eating supplies. Soda, Steve's supply of beer (Brooke's Swiss army came in handy once again, serving to act as a bottle opener for the beer), and champagne. I was pleased that Tiger had come up with blue and green glasses to serve as reminders of adrenaline and soma and other B7 beverages; anything but Kool Aid! <g> There were 8 or 9 different cheeses. Too many to pick a favorite beyond: smoked pepper jack, brie, smoked cheddar and Asiago. (I'm pretty sure one was Asiago. Brooke?) Then there was spinach dip and smoked salmon dip, crackers, Nachos, cheese bread, and chex mix. Sweets included homemade cookies (Avon balls, the adorable Tarrant cookies, oatmeal-cranberry-white chocolate cookies), jelly babies, Cadbury chocolate, chocolate bobbits, and Vila balls (Uncle Joe's Mint Balls). I'm probably forgetting items. Everything I ate was wonderful! I just wish I had room for more.
We were wondering where Pat R and Nancy D were (wanting them to help eat the food) when Pat showed up. She dumped more food on us (candy and snacks) and left. Sadly, both she and Nancy were under the weather and had to skip the party. And as Vickie reported, she and Barbara missed it because of the concert.
There was a good group in attendance. I was situated in the middle of the room gabbing about stories (including some very promising Tarrant stories...yeah!) and Tarrant with Pat N-J, Brooke, Linda, Steve, Tiger, and Val. I think we also talked a little about the differences and similarities between British and Yank cons, and what one might expect at Redemption. Val and Linda told me about the many activities at British cons, including a costume making workshop that actually produced costumes (now that's ambitious!). Another difference is that British cons don't have con suites. And I gather that the bar is the main place for social gatherings at British cons. Here, we tend to hang out in rooms.
There was a raucous group behind me (Judith, Deborah, Pat C, Julia and probably others). I heard "Tarrant" mentioned more than once but couldn't tell if I should be throwing pillows their way or not. (All right, one of you, time to fess up. Just what were you saying about Toothsomes? :) Another group by the door (Susan Beth, Jen, Lorna, Leigh, Robin, maybe others) appeared to be plotting a feminist takeover of the media (I highly approve). I hope that would include more scenic male bodies (not that I'll name any specific name) on tv and movie screens. Everyone appeared to be having a jolly good time. If there was one blight on the party, it was that the room was so crowded you couldn't circulate. So groups stayed together for much of the evening. It did make for quality time, though it was disappointing not to be able to visit with everyone.
As Susan Beth already reported, a couple of male mundanes peeked in the open door as they strolled past. I couldn't hear what the mundanes said, but they smiled and seemed friendly enough. They probably wouldn't have been too shocked if their eyes had locked onto the chocolate bobbits or adult art (provided by Val). I did wonder what the mundanes thought of our lone male, Steve, and his rather large harem.
It must have been after 10 before I realized I had to move my bones (and do another food run). It gave me a chance to stretch and to try the Vila Balls. They were sooo good, refreshing but not overpowering. Most mints in our country are white or green, so the brown coloring surprised me. I was assured this wasn't a Federation poisoning attempt, it was actually the natural color for mint products. (Learn something new each con!) Then I managed to find floor space by the door and to have a quick visit with that group before packing up the wagon train and heading out, with Vickie and Barbara arriving just as I was leaving.
I moseyed down to the lobby to wait for the hotel shuttle with my friend Jen (she had come over from NYC for the day). She was positively euphoric. It had been years since she enjoyed a media con and had forgotten how much fun they are. She'd enjoyed the panels, the con suite, visiting with fellow fans and the party. She hopes to be at the con for more than one day next year. Susan Beth was still up, taking down the party flyers. She didn't want Tiger and company to get calls at 2 am asking "where's the party?" as had happened to her the year before. (Very wise move, SB. I'm impressed that you were still thinking that late in the evening.)
It was off to the het smut panel at 10. SB has again beat me to the punch and reported on this. I heartily second her praise of the "Smut Test" handed out by the panel's perps: Oliver Klosov and TigerM. It was a hoot. Snickers built to laughter as the assembled fans read through it. I'll be looking forward to a bound copy of this in a future zine. I questioned the perverted fans of het about what they wanted in het stories. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to learn they greedily want both erotica and emotional involvement. I agreed with many of those present who don't like women to be victims or doormats in het stories. We prefer stories where the women are as strong, if not stronger, than the men. For me it's a knee jerk reaction to traditional Romance, where there are far too many treetrunk thigh males rescuing whimpering damsels in distress. That's not my cup of tea. This was no doubt the panel where Judith pondered Servalan/Blake (that I mistakenly remembered as Travis/Blake). I'm in agreement with Susan Beth's take on birth control in the New Calendar (which she shared at the panel): that all Federation citizens are dosed with birth control as teens; it needs to be undone to restore fertility. Unplanned pregnancies in the B7 universe need clever plot device explanations to work for me.
After the panel I made a last run through dealer's rooms but didn't luck into any missed treasures. Many of the dealers had already packed up and moved out, so I didn't linger for fear of a premature case of post-con blues. Next on the agenda was tidying our room and setting it up for my roommate's Krycek party. Never one to miss an opportunity to enlighten, I made sure to display my Krycek/CSM button on top of the tv. Those Ratboy fans are far too fixated on Krycek/Mulder; they need to expand their horizons. <eg>
Then we wandered about looking for quiet floor space where we mostly chatted or worked on game refinements and questions. Vickie asked if I could provide a ride to the train station later in the day, which reminded me that I hadn't checked my tire all weekend. Alas, the tire was not good. In fact it looked like it needed a hefty dose of Viagra to firm it up. Vickie and Lorna kindly offered to accompany me on a Search for Air. As I expected, it was not easy to find an open gas station on a Sunday. To find anything open on Sunday. But luck shone on my limping van. I stopped where some young men were holding a car wash and asked them for advice. They directed me to a hole-in-the-wall business two blocks away. The police car and minor ruckus on the opposite corner had us a little nervous (we weren't in the best neighborhood), but the name of the tire store offset our fears: Delta Tires. What more could a person want, especially with two good-luck Vila fans serving as my support troops? The kind and skilled head man of Delta Tires had the tire off, patched (there was a nail in it!) and back on lickety split. And it only cost $5. I had been prepared to hand over my bulging wallet (zine sales at the con had been very good) and my two passengers in payment.
Back at the con we linked up with fellow fans and began the inevitable string of farewells as various friends headed back for the Real World. Between good-byes, last minute noshing and gabbing, packing and a little bit of football, the day waned. Our last fannish activity was watching X-Files. My roommates were engrossed (I'm not a fan of the show), so I answered the door when anyone stopped by. Such as when a concerned Val, Linda and Julia came by to inquire about a Missing Judith (Judith: I'd gone to look for Linda Knights - we'd been in different dealers rooms and hardly had a chance to say more than 'hello'. She's my trading partner and I needed to offload my US currency on her before I left for England). I told them I scold my roommates when they go wandering without leaving notes.
Then it was off to bed, as I hoped to get an early start the next morning. Which I did; I pulled out of the parking lot at 5:30 am. I was glad I got such an early start since I got lost in Newark. I wouldn't have been wanted to wander around lost during morning rush hour. Once I tracked down an access road to the freeway, it was an easy drive home. I felt sorry for the drivers going the other way (toward NYC). There was a slow- moving ribbon of headlights five lanes wide that stretched almost to the Delaware Water Gap (the border between NJ and PA). Some of those poor fools must have commutes of up to two hours each way every day. It boggles the mind.
As with the trip to NJ, I was entertained by a mix of tapes with B7ish music (songs that remind me of B7) and Steven Pacey reading Jeffrey Archer short stories. That included a newly delivered tape from Twisted Sister--it was nice to have "fresh" songs for the trip home.
Miscellaneous Con Notes: It was disappointing that I never got to connect with Barbara T (except as ships passing in the night) at the con and didn't get to spend much time with a handful of other B7ers. Judith P was wearing a gorgeous burgundy costume one day. (Was that a character specific costume, Judith?) (Judith: My 'technomage' outfit, otherwise known as any excuse to glam up in a velvet cape) New zines added to my personal collection: All Change and Chronicles 64. There weren't many room dealers this con, which may explain why we sold so much. Nor many decorated doors.
Let me end with a big thank you to Kathy Agel and her wonderful crew of volunteers who put on the con. They couldn't have been more kind, friendly and accommodating. It was a fantastic weekend.
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