by Rob Balder
April 16-18, 2004
Not since JerseyDevilCon (a moment of silence, please) has a small con done such a successful impression of a major con. Penguicon 2.0, the second annual Linux/SF crossover convention in Michigan, not only booked an ambitious range of “A” list guests, created an intriguing program and activities schedule, but also scored major points for carrying it all out. What do I mean by “A” list? Well, if you had to have “a” guest for games, Steve Jackson is a good pick. If you had to have “a” guest for Linux, Eric Raymond (The Cathedral and the Bazaar) is a good pick, too. If you had to have “a” film/TV guest with a Linux connection and an internet celebrity status, you’d certainly choose Wil Wheaton. Pete Abrams is an a-lister for webcomics, Tom Smith an a-lister for filk, Hemos and CmdrTaco from Slashdot were a-listers for net culture, and Neil Gaiman is, of course, an a-lister for writer guest. But call it celebrity-redundancy, because the master engineers of Penguicon worked in a slew of other serious names in these fields: John Ringo and Sandra L. Brewer for authors, Howard Tayler (Schlock Mercenary), Fred Gallagher (Megatokyo) and me (PartiallyClips) for webcomics, Tony Goldmark, Worm Quartet and The Great Luke Ski for filk, Jon “maddog” Hall for Linux, and Vince Locke for art. All of this for a con with an attendance of less than 700. It boggles the mind how they pulled it off, but they did (except for Wil Wheaton’s unfortunate last-minute cancellation due to a movie audition). The con itself was held at the Sheraton in Novi, a nice, airy venue and very accommodating to the con. Among the many highlights: A great LAN room with net access and gaming, including “celebrity frag fest.” The Chaos machine, a constantly changing, fan-built and re-built kinetic sculpture with rolling marbles. An in-hotel theater which played host to a live-action RHPS performance (with John Ringo as Riff Raff), as well as a four-man tag team filk show and many other concerts and events. A marriage proposal by the con chair to his girlfriend at the end of the opening ceremonies (she accepted). And the snapping of the now-famous “Tronguy” pics of Jay Maynard, internet celebrity.