Con Review: BayCon 2004

by Chris Garcia


BayCon 2004
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.


Con Review: BayCon 2003

BayCon2003by Chris Garcia


BayCon 2003
May 23-26, 2003
San Jose, California

Bay Area fandom has had a busy 18 months, from the half dozen regular conventions to hosting last year’s Worldcon. BayCon returned to the DoubleTree hotel in San Jose for the twenty-second time in twenty-two years. As always, BayCon brought together fans from all over California, plus Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, British Columbia, Alaska, and Great Britain, more than twenty-two hundred over the course of the convention.

As always, BayCon brought some great guests: Greg Bear, who brought with him tales of the forth-coming Science Fiction Experience museum in Seattle; Artist GOH Mark Ferrari, who gave a delayed, but highly regarded reading from his up-coming novel; Fan guest Janice Gelb; and Toastmistress Rachel Holmen, along with more than one hundred guests made BayCon 2003 the most impressive line-up in years.

BayCon tends towards the highly decorated. The huge ScreamWorks party took up two large guest rooms, plus a significant portion of balcony. At one point, more than 200 people crowded into the space. The League of Evil Geniuses’ celebrated alumni including Cruella DeVille and Eric on the Elevator, an elevator talk show, hosted a party that featured the debut of the first two seasons, filmed at BayCon 2001 and 2002.

The panels were far-ranging, fascinating, and typically well attended. Some highlights included “Five Dollars, a Dead Fish, and a Time Machine, or Turtledoving for Dummies,” which filled a room designed for 50 with nearly 80 attendees. “Futurism: or How the Future Has Failed Us at Every Turn” took the classic Where’s My Flying Car debate into areas such as world government, single pill meals, real internet security, and the fifteen-hour work week. Panels on art and tech were highly successful, as were all the Buffy panels, despite the fact that author Nancy Holder had to cancel at the last moment. All that, plus great readings from Ferrari, Howard Hendrix, Lori White, Cory Doctorow, and Irene Radford made for much great stuff for daytime consumption.

Running alongside the parties in the evenings were the largest masquerade in recent memory, Off The Wall films (actually shown on the side of one of the hotel’s towers), half a dozen concerts, and at least two dances a night. And every issue of Nth Degree that hit the fan handout table flew into a greedy fan’s hand almost instantly!

All in all, a great weekend that signals the begging of a little rest for NorCal’s hardest working SMOFs. Next year’s convention, with GOH Michael Swanwick, will be held May 23-31 (