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06 June 2014 @ 07:17 am
BayCon 2014  
Oh look! It's a short (kinda, for me at least) and timely (kinda) con report!

Avalyn and i both took friday off of work before Memorial Day weekend so we could actually get up to BayCon for the friday afternoon stuff. We got up at 3-something and headed out the door at 6 am.

Drive Up: With Explodey Bits

The drive was going pretty good, with light traffic and a scheduled arrival time of about 11:15. Then around three and a half hours into the drive, about 50 miles before we got to the junction with the 152 over to Gilroy, i noticed the car seemed to be drifting a bit. At first i thought it was just the wind or something, but i kept having to turn the wheel more and more to keep going straight. I spent 30 seconds thinking perhaps i should start looking for an offramp when there was a bang and a lurch and i decided that maybe i should pull over _now_, offramp or no offramp.

After pulling over as far i could i got out and discovered that what looked like the tread of the front left tire was still kind of wrapped around the rim, but the entire rest of it was gone.

I called AAA, which took awhile because we were right on the border between their Southern California and Northern California jurisdictions and i was automatically routed to the wrong one at first, and arranged a tow. AAA wanted to send us to Fresno, which we were dubious about, and did some research while the tow was on the way and decided that Los Banos would be a better option if we could find a place there.

When the tow arrived he pointed out we did have a spare tire (apparently there's a secret compartment i didn't know about underneath the secret compartment in the trunk that i did know about) but since it was one of those dinky fake spare tires and since he was already there with the tow-truck we decided to just go with the tow instead. He did have a place in Los Banos he could take us (we'd tried calling AAA again earlier to see if they could recommend anyplace, but when they found a place they said they'd forwarded the info to the tow company, and didn't tell us anything but the name. We couldn't locate the place by name, and the tow company said they hadn't heard anything from AAA since the initial call.)

So we arrived at a small garage/tire shop in Los Banos around 11:30. There was no one else waiting there so we got instant service. I ended up paying just over $500 for all new tires (the other ones were getting fairly worn too, so it made sense to do then all at once.) I know if i'd taken the time to shop around at some other point i could have gotten a 4 for 3 deal at a number of places, but given the emergency situation the price didn't seem especially gougey.

We were back on the road around noon, and got to BayCon right before 1:30

BayCon Day 1: Kaffeeklatsch, Parties, Filk, and an early night

So the first thing we did after picking up badges was stop to see if the sign-up sheet for the David Weber kaffeeklatsch at 3:30 had filled up or not. Given that it had been put up at noon, yes it most certainly had. The next thing we did was go meet Avalyn's mom, who Avalyn had convinced to show up for the con as well. (Avalyn's mom used to go to cons as an artist, and she remembers being dragged along to them as a kid. Since her mom lives in the Bay area she thought it would be cool to get to see her.) We all got some lunch and then discovered that despite it being pretty early we could in fact check into our hotel room and dump all our bags there.

It was getting close to 3:30 by that point, and i decided to show up for the start of the kaffeeklatsch and see if there were any empty seats available. There weren't any empty slots, but since there were only two of us extras there they declined to kick us out, so despite missing the sign-up due to a blown out tire i managed to sneak in anyways :)

After that i found Avalyn and her mom again. We went and checked out the dealer hall, then we grabbed some food, then we went up to the party floor. We were happy to see the Klingon Bar was there as usual, since it was when Avalyn first saw that party at Convolution the year before that she first got the idea that it would be fun to have her mom come to a con. So we showed that party to her, and she was suitably impressed. Then we wandered by the "Bricks by the Bay" Lego party room and spent awhile putting some things together with the Legos that were spreading all over the bed. (We were also there to get our picture taken, or at least a picture of our hands taken, for the BayCon twitter feed =)

We did a quick glance at the other parties, but Avalyn's mom was interested in checking out the filk concert going on downstairs before she headed home, so we went down to check that out. We listened to several songs, but i forget if we actually stated till the end or just decided that it was getting late. We saw Avalyn's mom off and then went back up to the room, in theory just to drop off some stuff any maybe change before going back to the parties. However when we got up there i made the mistake of lying down on the bed and couldn't really move after that, so we ended up deciding to call it a night :)

BayCon Day 2: Panels, Parties, "Masquerade", Slave Auction, and Eye of Argon

Saturday we did basically more of the same. Avalyn got up before me (of course) and tried to go to the morning meditation session, except that ended up getting canceled. I thought about going to the Ursula Vernon kaffeeklatsch, but although i certainly know _of_ her, and a lot of my friends are huge fans of hers, i didn't feel i really knew her stuff well enough to justify monopolizing one of the ten spots. So instead i had a slow morning and then went to the David Weber interview at 11:30, while Avalyn was hanging out with her mom, who'd just arrived.

During lunchtime Avalyn decided to go to a keychain crafting workshop while i went and got some lunch at Togos. After that i went to another David Weber panel, then Avalyn and i went to a paranormal romance panel, and decided to follow that up with the erotic science fiction and fantasy panel. After that we tracked down Avalyn's mom again and got some dinner. We went to see the masquerade, but we got there a little late and apparently the (very short) masquerade portion of the show was over and they had moved on to the variety show part of the program. We were sad that we'd missed the costumes (though we'd certainly seen a reasonable portion of people in costume wandering the halls of course) but Avalyn was very glad that we caught the performance of the fight scene between Luke and Vader from Empire Strikes Back that a Star Wars troupe put on.

After that Avalyn's mom headed home again, and Avalyn and i went to check out the Klingon Slave Auction. Then we went up to the party floor for awhile, before heading to the midnight Eye of Argon reading. Sadly Avalyn started getting sleepy and decided to head up to the room about halfway through the reading. I stuck around for the end of the reading, then went by the party floor again to see if anything was still going, to which the answer was "yes, but barely." I managed to catch the tail end of Lance's party, in which i managed to catch the yearly gripefest between Lance and the guy who runs the Klingon Bar. Sadly it sounds like Lance may not be back again next year, partly because of the declining party scene at BayCon, and partly because of some choices the BayCon committee has made that they don't really agree with. (The Klingon Bar people are also thinking of calling it quits for BayCon, though they haven't quite committed yet. Both they and Lance said they probably ought to have stopped showing up a year or two ago, but have been reluctant to let it die the final death.) I finally got back to the room and got to bed around 4 am.

BayCon Day 3: Panels, Burlesque, and lack of parties:

I got up a little earlier Sunday morning, or at least got ready a little quicker. I went to the panel discussing the making/announcing the launch of the audiobook for "Traveling in Space" by Steven Paul Levia. I was mainly interested in it because i'd noticed that the book had been voiced by one of my favorite podcasters, Jeff Cannata, and that he was going to be there to talk about it! So i got to hear about the book, and hear Jeff Cannata read the first chapter, which was pretty cool.

After that i met up with Avalyn and her mom for the panel on Star Wars 7, which was pretty cool. For the lunch break Avalyn decided to go to the Star Trek Pillow crafting session, while i went to find an ATM and then stop by In-n-Out to grab some lunch. I got back and hung out with Avalyn and her mom for a bit while they were making the Star Trek pillows, then left to go to another David Weber panel and a "Outdated Information that Shaped SF" panel.

Avalyn's mom decided to head home early that night. After seeing her off Avalyn and i went to check out the burlesque show for a bit. We saw a David Bowie act, which was kind of interesting, but they had a short intermission after that, so we decided not to stick around. (We found out later that they also had a Doctor Who performance and a Kaylee performance, so we kind of wished we'd been around for more of it.)

We went up to the party floor and found that there wasn't a lot going on. After the disappointing turnout the previous two nights Lance and the Klingon Bar didn't even bother to open up that night. Avalyn and i got sucked into our own gripefest with an older fan of BayCon, who'd been there for it's heyday, and a younger fan who'd just decided to switch over to BayCon from Fanime, because she'd decided that Fanime had gotten too shallow. A couple other people also wandered by and joined the conversation on and off. As usual a lot of things were suggested that _might_ help, and as usual the question of course is if the BayCon committee can actually be convinced to do any of them.

We decided to go grab some food, since we'd had a late lunch and were starting to get hungry again. After which we went back up to the party floor in the vain hope that perhaps some of the other parties had opened up. Instead we found that pretty much the only one still going was the Kansas City worldcon bid party. They had a geeky crossword puzzle and Avalyn and i spent awhile filling it out, before finally deciding to call it a night.

We got up relatively early Monday morning, and decided it was a good time to head back down to LA. There were a couple panels in the morning or early afternoon that we were interested in, and i was definitely interested in the second David Weber kaffeeklatsch at 2, but we decided we really didn't want to be getting home as late as sticking around for those things would entail.

So after checking out of the hotel and stopping to get gas, we were on the road by ten. We stopped by the Fruity House (Case de Fruta) on the way back, around 11 or so, and had brunch. And bought some jam. And some wine. And about a pound of chocolate. And then continued the drive home.

The drive back was thankfully _much_ less eventful, and we got home just before 5pm, and spent the evening decompressing and watching a little Sailor Moon. (Because it just got added to Hulu, and i discovered that Avalyn has never seen any Magical Girl anime before.)

So overall BayCon still seems to be on the decline. After the death or potential death of so many parties i was actually considering skipping it next year... until i found out the guest of honor is going to be seanan_mcguire :) So i guess BayCon gets one more chance to try and pull things together.
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Robynnecorpsefairy on June 6th, 2014 03:57 pm (UTC)
What do you think they could do to reverse the decline?

I think they need to invite the furries back and generally make it party-friendly again. Also it was a huge mistake to not partner with Clockwork Alchemy and let Fanime have it instead. (Evidently, CA approached BayCon first, and BayCon said "No, we don't think we're a good match for you.") Almost all the costumers have gone over to the steampunk scene, and the Masquerade, which used to be a thing of glory, is kind of a joke now.
DonAithnendonaithnen on June 6th, 2014 08:23 pm (UTC)
Well the biggest change they could make, and the one they almost certainly won't, is to concede that they are not competitive enough for Memorial Day weekend as things currently stand and move to another weekend. That would be a little sad for me as an out-of-town person. And one of the suggestions that came up was moving to the weekend around 4th of July, which would be doubly-sad for me since i'd be going to Anime Expo instead. However it might be a good thing for the con as a whole.

Failing that, obviously some kind of reconciliation with Fanime and Clockwork Alchemy would be helpful. Not as helpful as actually partnering with Clockwork Alchemy at the start would have been, but it would be a step in the right direction. Perhaps they could do some kind of cross-registration thing. "Show up with a Fanime badge, get a BayCon badge for just $20!" If they were really willing to get into the idea, they ought to arrange to have all three conventions within walking distance if that would be possible.

They really need to advertise the Masquerade better, and offer better prizes to encourage participation. There are clearly people there in costume, they just need to be convinced to participate.

As for parties, according to one of the party organizers the con gets a special deal on the suites at the hotel. From what i was told it was asked if the party organizers could get in on that deal so they could throw real parties instead of being cramped in regular rooms, and they were told that the suites were all reserved for the con staff. Which seems like a monumentally dumb decision to me. Given the option between having a suite for myself or having a regular room and having all the parties be in suites, i'd definitely go for the regular room. (LosCon has had the parties on the suite floor for as long as i can remember.)

The "new girl" had a couple good suggestions, the main one i remember was creating and promoting special tracks of programming devoted to whatever's popular that year and/or have a room of the con dedicated to that fandom. Game of Thrones being an obvious suggestion. We told her she should send her suggestions to the committee for consideration, and good luck with that.

(Along with some valuable outsider perspective, she did also have some charmingly naive blindspots. Like thinking that BayCon ought to attract more people, just not those immature younger people at Fanime that she was trying to get away from. She also thought the problems Fanime had a couple years ago with with long slow lines due to too many people were the same as the problems BayCon is having with its declining population. All Fanime had to do was come up with a better organization for registration and lines and the problem went away and attendance increased, so BayCon's problems ought to be just as easy to fix, right?)

I guess in short the answer is they need to stop being leary of "what those kids are doing these days" and embrace it instead. Catering exclusively to the older crowd can't possibly work out in the long run.