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Again, I was a naughty con reporter. I didn't take any photos of Oddcon 2004. None. Not a single one. I had my camera with me and everything... but the need to take photos just wasn't there.
Thankfully, I did take a few photos during Oddcon 2003, so you can go over to that page and just pretend. No, I know it's not ideal, and I'm sorry. I'll do better next year. (Please don't hurt me.)
OdysseyCon 2004 was held, once again, at the RadMad (the Radisson in Madison, WI). Once again, the RadMad proved itself to be an excellent convention hotel, providing both a fan-friendly staff and a fine convention space. I am thrilled that the Madison crowd has this great resource at their disposal.
The convention itself, too, was smashing. Oddcon provides lots of good entertainment and chatting for such a small attendance base (which consists of about 300 friendly folks). It's an affable, inexpensive, and overall just thoroughly good convention experience, and so I highly recommend this little convention to those in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois.
Now, before I go further, I must unleash the usual disclaimer... I do realize that folks who read convention reports might be searching for more detailed information about features of the convention, Guests of Honor, etc., but really, this is just an account of what I did on this particular weekend. I often skip whole swaths of convention programming (i.e., gaming, which is a significant portion of Oddcon) and just drink and get into mischief. I hope my misadventures are entertaining in themselves, but I just thought you might want to know before embarking on this long-winded ramble that at no time during this tale will you find me interviewing David Weber.
And so... onward into the weekend of cows and fans!
04022004: We start our convention saga at roughly 3:30 PM on Friday afternoon. I was just scrambling out of work, making lists of things in my head. I was sucking on candy in an attempt to keep myself awake for just one more hour. I had only slept 90 minutes the night before, and had to somehow make it from Minneapolis to Madison before 9 PM that night.
Thankfully, I had a plan.
Step 1: Stop at house. Fetch things I forgot that morning, including my camera (which, as I mentioned before, never got used over the weekend), a bottle full of antibiotics and painkillers (which I used heavily), and smatterings of clothing.
Step 2: Stop by AmEx building downtown. Pick up Christopher.
Step 3: Stop by Powderhorn Park, three miles away. Pick up Eric Heidemann.
Step 4: Arrive at Mike Lee's place, where we four intrepid travelers would squeeze into his car and hit the road to Madison. Mike would be driving. Thank the gods.
This was a good plan. I thought I might accomplish it within one hour, which was the estimated amount of time I had left on my wakefulness clock.
Of course, you know how these things go.
Step 1 went swimmingly. My camera was even in the spot where I expected it to be.
Step 2 got a bit iffy. My planned arrival at AmEx was 4 PM; my actual arrival was 15 minutes later due to jackass traffic.
Step 3 was near disaster. Forgetful of the fact that four people would be cramming into a single Saturn sedan for the drive to Madison, Eric saw it fit to pack not only one large suitcase, but also one large cooler and two other bags. It was more luggage than Christopher and I had put together, and I was even bringing my computer bag. In fact, it was very nearly more stuff than we could fit into my car. We were only able to fit everything by making Eric sit with his suitcase in his lap. I boggled at how we were going to fit all this plus Mike and his luggage into Mike's car.
Step 4 was impeded by deadly traffic. Got to Mike's by 5:15 PM, about 45 minutes later than I had hoped.
Thankfully, Mike's Saturn has strange and mysterious powers of holding. Somehow, all the stuff that I could barely fit in my car fit into Mike's trunk, along with his suitcase. Soon, Eric and I were folded into the backseat, and we were off.
Somehow, we thought we would be in Madison around 9 PM. Hmmm.
After many, many miles of nightmarish traffic and road construction... after a dinner of sunflower seeds, strawberry milk, and string cheese... after many hours of snoozing while being unable to feel most of my legs... we eventually made it to the Radisson Madison. At around 11 PM.
So, I missed the first panel I was supposed sit, and I missed it by two hours. Oh, well.
As soon as I stepped foot in the hotel, I was beset by a fan. (!) Margo, with whom I had sat a Star Wars panel last year, came scrambling up to me, talking a million miles an hour about how cool she thought I was. (!) Needless to say, I was amused by this, and wondered just how much she had been drinking. She's a sweet girl, but it was a bit of an ordeal trying to get my hotel room while she hovered.
Interestingly enough, she then dashed off and happily fan-girled Mike for a few minutes, which bought me enough time to nab the hotel room. Sadly, I didn't see Mike's reaction to this.
Armed with room keys, I returned to Christopher and Mike. I was quickly introduced to Alicia, who Mike knew from Capricon. She would be the fourth person staying in our room. (Eric had his own space.)
While Eric busied himself with setting up the Krushenko's party room, the other four of us trekked upstairs with our luggage. I tried the keys in the lock of our room.
Huh. Neither of them worked.
So I went back downstairs to have the keys re-scanned, and then came back up.
Interestingly enough, there was someone already booked in that room.
Thankfully, the third time at the front desk was the charm. We wound up in a room across the hall from our original location. After about half an hour, we were fully nested: my computer was plugged into the hotel network, we had rested up a bit from the trip, and I had input all of the rest of my panels into my Palm Pilot.
Christopher and I then went down to Krushenko's to check up on Eric. He was doing fine, but he seemed to be beset by an older gentleman who seemed to be hellbent on inflicting his, ahem, "vast" knowledge of comics upon others. Christopher, Eric, and I were all quite amused by this gent, since he clearly had only rudimentary knowledge of the field. Seriously... don't talk authoritatively about Stan Lee unless you know the difference between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. (We were all a bit baffled when this guy kept referring to "When Stan Lee went to DC Comics...") Hell, even *I* was correcting this guy.
Most amusing to me was when this guy dismissed Christopher's corrections, because, "Us old guys [referring to Eric] will teach you something about the history of comics." Clearly, he didn't know who Christopher was. I mused at the thought of telling him that the young guy he was dismissing has worked for DC Comics for the last several years. However, it was more amusing to feed him rope to hang himself with.
After I tried to correct him on Martian Manhunter history, I got fed up and left Christopher and Eric to their sport. I instead joined most of the Oddcon concom near the hot tub, where we all dangled our feet in the exceptionally pleasant water.
Somewhere around 2 AM, Christopher, Mike, Alicia, and I all decided that we needed sleep, so we all adjourned to the room. After the light was off, Christopher decided to torment Mike.
"Mike," he whispered, "Which Doctor Who episode is GGG?"
I heard gears turning for several minutes. Mike, apprentice god of all Whovian knowledge, finally responded that he didn't know for certain, but it was definitely a Pertwee episode.
I love conventions.
04032004: My phone alarm went of at 9 AM, which was just nasty-early after my recent history of not being able to sleep well. Thankfully, Alicia beat me to wakefulness, and was already in the shower. Thus, I got to snooze until she re-emerged.
I then scoured myself clean in the hotel shower. Very hot water + high water pressure = sheer happiness.
After we finally scored a fourth towel for Mike so he could shower, the four of us headed off to register for the convention (the registration desk was closed by the time we arrived on Friday night). Along with my badge and program, I also scored an uber-cool BPRD ID card and card-clip. I toyed with the thought of giving them to Rick, but I might be greedy and keep them for myself.
We then hit the hotel restaurant for some breakfast buffet action. While the Basie's buffet is rather mediocre, it was pleasing and filling. I give extra points to the biscuits and gravy.
10:30 AM rolled around too soon, so I had to scramble out before the check came. Thankfully, Christopher was kind enough to pick up the tab while I dashed, as my first panel was starting just a quick run down the hall from the restaurant.
Within moments, I was sitting next to Eric Larson, whom I hadn't seen since the Star Wars panel we shared with Margo last year. This time, we were to talk about "the future of sci-fi in TV and film."
The panel went quite well. We were each well-informed on projects that the other was unfamiliar with, so we balanced each other out pretty well. I had the honor of unleashing Batman movie rumors (thanks to Christopher) and fresh Dr. Who casting info (thanks to Mike), while Eric had the scoop on Firefly and Farscape . The best part of the panel, though, was Eric's bizarre, joyous gush about a Green Acres marathon he had recently seen...
After the panel, Christopher chatted for a minute or two with Eric L. while I went off to the consuite to nab something to drink. Apparently, Eric got all excited when he realized that Christopher was the person who drew Connie for CONvergence.
When Eric dashed off to his next panel, Christopher and I wandered off to the Dealers' Room. The Oddcon Dealer's Room is a rather small and simple affair with about ten dealers, but two of those dealers please me greatly: the Action Figure Woman, and Fantanimals.
We stopped at Fantanimals first, so I could let Christopher gawk over Judy's gorgeous wooden puzzle animals. As I wasn't flush with cash and I already had two of her pieces, I didn't buy another... but that leafy seahorse was definitely calling to me. I should just save up the $40 and nab it next time I see her booth.
We then visited the toy booth, which featured, as always, boxes upon boxes of loose action figures and doll accessories. Since the dealer had a sale on the loose figures (5 for $10), and she had a whole box of Batman Animated Series toys... well, you know where Christopher and I spent $10. I now have a Creeper toy. Fear me!
The rest of the Dealers' Room was gaming stuff and books, which neither of us needed. Since I still had time to kill before my next panel, Christopher and I decided to visit the pool instead. For some strange reason, the pool and hot tub were completely empty at that time, so we had the place all to ourselves.
1:30 PM rolled around eventually, along with my next panel: How to Run a Convention. Christopher joined me on the panel, along with Jerome Van Epps (Oddcon chair), Eric Larson (who chairs Filmcon), and Tracy Benton (who is involved with WisCon and Corflu). It was a full panel, but I wished that Eric H., who was in the audience, could also join us up there.
It was a great panel. The audience was large, interested, and inquisitive. The panelists all found it easy to find commonalities even among the vastly different conventions represented on the panel. Discussion was lively.
(I may have made a slight misstep by mentioning a couple things about the horrendously mismanaged [now dead] MadCon on the panel. I had no idea that the con chair for MadCon was in the first row. That was especially bad, since I'd met the guy before, and I should have recognized him. Oh well.)
In a nutshell, the most important things about running a convention are: volunteers, budgeting, and knowing your audience. Booyah!
After that, Christopher, Mike, Eric L., and I nabbed one additional person (who I was never introduced to -- friend of Eric's) and headed off to Qdoba for lunch. (Eric's car has plates that said "B FETT". I wondered if he and Jeremy Stomberg ever have parked next to each other, as Jeremy's plate reads "FETTCAR".) Within minutes, we were all eating burritos the size of babies, and bantering about convention publications, Star Wars insider info, and various other flavors of high-octane SMOFing.
I need to work with Eric Larson more. I wonder if he needs any websites...
Once we were filled with burrito goodness, we eventually made it back to the hotel. I soon decided that I needed a nap. Ensuring that Christopher had my phone (Mark Stegbauer had plans to meet up with Christopher for dinner, and was using my phone to reach him), I answered the siren call of nap-time.
At 5:59 PM, one minute before my alarm was due to go off, there was a knock at the hotel door. Fully expecting to see Christopher with my phone (and perhaps Mark Stegbauer), I opened the door.
Surprise! There stood Paul, Heather, and their friend D.! They beckoned with promises of sushi! Glee!
So, the four of us squeezed into Paul's car and headed off for Ginza, the same place where we ate with John Kovalic last year. Sadly, there was no hellish ice storm to drive away diners -- the place was packed. Due to poor front desk management, we waited for about ten minutes before we learned that it would be a loooong time before we could be seated at all. We promptly gave up on Ginza and went to the Sushi Box instead.
I must say that The Sushi Box is a delightful place, and I want one on my block. I was soon noshing upon a huge bottle of Sapporo and an obscenely tasty feast named The Godzilla Roll.
During dinner, I caught up with Heather and Paul and got to know D. There was much discussion of MCAT testing and interpersonal relationships. It was delightful and even healing.
Once we were full of sushi and beer, we eventually drove by the light of the full moon over to D's place, where we dropped him off. We then traveled back to the hotel, where the three of us sat in the lobby and chatted for a very long time. There was much talk of action figure dioramas, shocking Christmas photos, CONvergence, and general news. I simply must get together with Paul and Heather far more often.
We were eventually joined my Mike, Christopher, Alicia, and their smoking, frothing blue drinks (dry ice was involved). Paul entertained us all by declaring that Mike should be the head of a cult of personality. Paul set about this project right away, of course, but I don't think it stuck.
(Mike did produce the answer to which Dr. Who episode was number GGG. Christopher and I later established that "oh, fuck off" would also have been a valid response to Christopher's challenge.)
Eventually, Heather declared that she needed to get back home to do more MCAT studying, so I bid them goodbye. It was really great to see them.
Christopher and I then headed over to Krushenko's to hang out, which we did until midnight. Then we went to our next panel: The Midnight Horror Panel.
This panel was the bane of my existence last year. "Horror" is a pretty generic subject, so my co-panelists and I last year just chatted awkwardly about movies. It was also very poorly attended and had to compete with the drum jam in the next room. Oy. At least this year I knew who my other panelist was: Christopher.
So, Christopher and I walked over to the panel room. Since the previous panel was still talking about Buffy fandom, we sat in the audience and caught the end. (Did you know that David Borneaz can command a $200K appearance fee for conventions? And that women will pay up to $2K to touch Anthony Stewart Head's ass? Holy fuck!)
As the Buffy panel ended, Christopher and I found that we were both hoping that nobody showed up in the audience, which meant that we could go do other things. Unfortunately, there was still one guy sitting in the audience chairs after the Buffy folks left. Well, damn.
Thankfully, Mike and Alicia joined our lone audience member for the panel, so the panelists didn't outnumber the audience. (Roughly a half hour later, two more people joined them, for a total audience of five.)
Much to my relief, this year's panel went much better. There was much discussion of what films, TV shows, and books effected us most as children, as well as recent projects that have proven to be interesting. The panel still wandered quite a bit, but it was definitely better than the "um, so, what are your favorite movies?" thing that happened last year. We even had a strong discussion right up until the end of the panel, rather than just fizzling out.
(Christopher, Eric H., and I were discussing later about how to improve the panel for next year. Our solution will be to hold it in Krushenko's [so we can have Eric sit the panel, and so we can have snacks] and to hold it in the dark -- the panelists will each have a flashlight that they hold under their chins. Genius!)
The remainder of the evening involved drinking lots and lots of beer in Krushenko's. Eric H. is very funny when he's drunk.
Sadly, Saturday night/Sunday morning marked the end of Daylight Saving's Time, so we lost an hour of partying into the ether. 4 AM rolled around far too fast. I could have gone longer, but the fact that I had to be coherent for a 10:30 AM panel scared me into going to bed.
04032004: Thanks to some clock-screwyness around Daylight Saving's Time, I woke up an hour late on Sunday morning. I had just enough time to shower and get to the panel. No breakfast for me!
Thus, it was an excellent stroke of fate that the Midwest Fandom panel was held in Krushenko's. Eric H.'s bountiful snacks easily replaced breakfast for the time being.
The Midwest Fandom panel was perhaps the most fascinating panel I took part in during the weekend. While there were certainly more panelists than audience in the room, we all engaged in an extremely insightful discussion of the history of conventions in the Upper Midwest. I was also very happy to be included in the discussion -- if it wasn't for me, the room would have been entirely filled with grizzled old guys who have been inside fandom for longer than I have been alive. Thankfully, rather than being excluded, I felt like I was part of the discussion.
Unfortunately, my time with the panel was cut short at 11:30 AM, when my roommates came in and informed me of when check-out was. Christopher had already packed my clothes and backpack for me, but he didn't feel good about packing my computer.
So, I dashed upstairs and packed up my laptop. I then settled up with the front desk. Duty done!
At noon, Christopher and I stepped up onto our last panel: the Humor in SF and Fantasy Panel. We were joined by authors Kathy Sullivan and Dale Mattheis, as well as a fairly large audience.
I knew from last year that, while Kathy is a quite a wonderful and sweet person, she isn't the most outgoing person on a panel. I did my best to keep her from being lost on last year's panel, but it was difficult when everyone else at the table was a force of nature (Luke Ski, John Kovalic, and Nick Poletta). This year, she was marked as moderator. Which didn't really happen.
When the panel started, Christopher immediately stepped up to the plate and played moderator. The first half of the panel involved trying to get the authors to talk about their methods of using humor in their works. It was a bit awkward, as nobody wanted to take the ball and run with it. I certainly didn't want to step in at that point, since I was the only non-professional on the panel.
About halfway through, though, Christopher and I lapsed into our trademark banter, and the audience started getting into it. The best moment may have been when I pointed out that all the people heard on television laugh tracks are dead. You'd think that was a major philosophical discovery by the way the audience reacted.
After the panel, Christopher and I were asked to sign this woman's autograph book, which was crammed full of signatures from thousands of fans and guests from the various conventions she attended. I drew Fol'Juurs for her. Christopher, of course, drew Connie.
For the next hour or so, Mike, Alicia, Christopher, and I sat in the lobby, chatting. I further occupied myself by exploring the new astronomy program on my Palm Pilot.
At 3 PM, the Dr. Who panel rolled around, so the four of us were compelled to go.
This panel was just sad.
The panelists were Jim Nichols, Kathy Sullivan, and John Wardale. John Wardale didn't know much of anything about Dr. Who at all (he hadn't watched it in 20 years). Jim Nichols didn't know the name of K9. Kathy, thankfully, knew at least something about the new series (she had arrived armed with the newest issue of Dr. Who Magazine). But she had no control over the panel or the room. Within a half hour, the panel had degraded to the point where Mike, Christopher, and Eric L. had commandeered the discussion from the audience, while the other half of the room embroiled themselves in a debate about what the population of London was.
And yes, Eric L.'s obsession with Green Acres popped up again.
So, that panel was interesting. Next year, I'm going to make sure Mike is on the panel, for the sake of humankind.
Around 4:30 PM, we manage to nab Eric H. and all his stuff. Again, Mike's car proved to have special powers. Even though Eric managed to leave the hotel with more stuff than which he came, it still all fit in the trunk. Hallelujah!
After a dinner break at KFC, I spent much of the car ride home snoozing in the back seat. The rest of the car spent the intervening hours dream-casting all the comic book heroes they could think of. Thus, the conversation for me kind of went like this: snooze, casting of X-Men, snooze, casting of the Justice League, snooze, casting of The Avengers, snooze...
I also ran down the battery on my Palm by playing Solitaire.
Christopher and I eventually made it home around 11:30 PM. This is roughly when we realized that we left his leather coat in Madison. A phone call to the hotel informed us that they hadn't found it, either. Bummer. (It eventually turned up a day later, and they shipped the garment to us by the end of the week.)
It was a good weekend.
I'd like to thank Mike for driving; Mike, Alicia, and Christopher for being good roommates; Eric H. for all the food; Eric L. for introducing us to Qdoba; and Jerome Van Epps, Oddcon's Fearless Leader, who made sure everyone had a good time.
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