by Chris Garcia
May 28-31, 2004
San Jose, California
As always, Baycon has proven to be a highlight for Bay Area science fiction fandom. Even with FanimeCon drawing nearly 5000 attendees less than three miles away, Baycon still managed to bring more than 2200 attendees together for panels, parties and madcap hijinks.
This year’s guests were a varied bunch, featuring Writer Guest of Honor Michael Swanwick, Artist Guest Jael, Fan Guest Elayne Pelz, Toastmaster Esther Friesner, special guests Mark Ryan (Swordmaster for King Arthur) and Chase Masterson (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) as well about 100 program participants from around the US. The Meet the Guests event featured several hundred folks schmoozing, Esther presenting each participant with a brief hula dance, and a terrible lightbulb joke from Swanwick. The event was followed by a charity casino which drew a strong crowd as it does every year.
The panels themselves crossed more boundaries than ever before, featuring many panelists who had not yet appeared at West Coast conventions. Some fan favorites included the Chicks in Chainmail readings featuring authors including Kevin Andrew Murphy and Lee Martindale; the Armored Combat Shows; $5, a Dead Fish, and a Time Machine which led to many curious alternate history gem-lets; and Dr. Destructo who took apart all sorts of modern contraptions for the delight of children of all ages. The Masquerade was heavily attended and allowed 30+ fans to show off some amazing costumes. Trailer Park showed off the previews of some great films coming to theatres in the near future and gave out tons of movie schwag.
This year’s panels had more breadth than any other. Baycon attracts more techie fans per square inch than any Con on Earth, and folks like Hugh Daniels, Annalee Newitz, Tom Galloway, Adrienne Gromley, and Chris DiBona made for fine discussions on everything from PDAs to privacy, PGP to piracy. Authors like Rudy Rucker, John Shirley, Howard Hendrix, Jonathan Fresmire and Irene Radford spoke on a variety of panels including film, television and writing. History panels featuring wells of knowledge like Ben Yalow and Brad Lyau were exceptional, as were writing panels by folks like Lori White, Ken Wharton and Ashley Grayson. Panel attendance as a whole was way up from previous years, on par with the attendance found at the larger East Coast cons.
Of course, a Con would not be complete without CONsumption of drinks and parties. This year’s party floor featured the League of Evil Genius inducting another batch of villains into their Hall of Fame while the bubbly flowed. Screamworks presented both a sanctioned dance and a fine party room. Many of the bids and seated Wester- and Worldcons held delightful parties as well.
The DoubleTree Hotel, which has housed all 22 BayCons, will host BayCon ’05 on Memorial Day weekend, with Writer Guest of Honor Robert J. Sawyer, Fan Guests Kevin Roche and Andrew Trembley, and Toastmaster Christopher J. Garcia.