So, when serving on the Norwescon Executive Team, team members can serve in any one position for a maximum of four years before turning the position over to someone else (Norwescon bylaws, Article 3, § 5).

Update: It’s been pointed out to me that I slightly misread the bylaws, and only elected positions are term limited; invited positions do not have that limitation. Even so, I’ll plan to stick to the four year term for this round, and I can come back later if invited. Now, back to the original post….

I’ve been thinking over the past few days that as weird as all of this has been over the past couple years, I’m glad my term of service as Secretary is covering the four years that it is (and this is making a bit of an assumption that I’ll be asked back as Secretary for NWC44; it’s not a given, but I’m hopeful).

  • Year one: NWC42. A normal year.
  • Year two: NWC43 (2020). We had to deal with canceling the convention due to a global pandemic.
  • Year three: NWC43 (2021). We had to figure out how to run an all virtual convention, with everyone involved, from Execs to guests/pros/exhibitors to members, doing all planning and eventual participating from their homes. And we did one heck of a job of it, if I do say so myself.
  • Year four (presumptive): NWC44. We hope and expect to be back in person at the hotel (🤞), and I’m absolutely fascinated by the possibilities and am looking forward to seeing how we adapt what we’ve learned this year into our plans for an in-person convention.

I’m sure there will lots to figure out. We’ll do our best. We won’t completely satisfy everyone, but we’ll come as close as we can, as we always do. But I’m really looking forward to NWC44, not just because of how much will be “like it used to be/should be”, but how much will have changed based on this year’s experiences, learning, and growth.

And in writing terms, that’s a far more satisfying story arc than if my term had ended at another point (so, please, next Exec Team, bring me back!).

A few weeks ago, I spoke to a student reporter from UW about Norwescon, reading habits, and how my own reading habits have changed as I aged and as the pandemic hit. While the conversation was a lot longer than the one quote that made it in, at least I wasn’t cut completely, and got a mention of Norwescon in front of UW students — so mission accomplished, I say!

Escaping through the pages:

Science fiction, dystopia’s similar but more optimistic counterpart, is also seeing an increase in popularity during the pandemic, much to the excitement of seasoned fans everywhere. 

Every year, Seattle hosts the Pacific Northwest’s regional science fiction and fantasy convention Norwescon. Michael Hanscom, longtime convention attendee, volunteer, and secretary of this year’s virtual event, has been turning to the familiar, curiosity-driven world of “Star Trek” since the beginning of quarantine in order to cope with reality.

“This is not always quality sci-fi; this is absolutely escapism,” Hanscom said, gesturing to his bookshelves filled with “Star Trek” paraphernalia during our Zoom interview. “I think 80% of my reading last year was ‘Star Trek’ novels because I couldn’t concentrate on anything more weighty than that. With everything going on and being locked down at home, I needed that escapism. I needed to get away.”

Under normal circumstances, I would have spent this past weekend at Norwescon, running around a hotel and getting up to all sorts of geeky shenanigans with ~2,000 of my closest friends. Of course, these are not normal circumstances, so that didn’t happen.

Instead, the party moved online, taking place mostly in the Norwescon Facebook Group, with lots of people posting past costumes, planned costumes, memories of cons past, or silly updates on what they were doing at the con that wasn’t happening. And all in all, it ended up being a pretty good weekend, with lots of community silliness keeping all of our respective spirits up.

I made a point of posting at least once a day on both my personal pages and in the group, starting things off in group each the morning with a photo post asking people what their convention outfits were that day. Here’s my “Norwescan’t” experience this year…

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Since we’re going to have a Longest Night masked ball at Norwescon this year, I picked up a basic mask this past Halloween season. However, it was all black plastic, so I knew I’d want to decorate it somehow so it didn’t look like wearing blackface. I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.

This Saturday, the Mercury is doing a masked ball, so this gave me the impetus I needed to find an idea. What eventually came to mind as inspiration was Vinnie, Pizza the Hut’s henchman in Spaceballs. He’s a robot, but it was all done with makeup, no prosthetics.

My painting skills aren’t great—I have no idea how to do actual shading, it’s all solid colors and lines—so I doubt people would really connect the final result with the inspiration. Even so, I’m pretty happy with the end result.

Day zero: The base mask.

The base mask.

Day one: Sketching the design in pencil, and the first coat of white.

Sketching the design in pencilFirst coat of white

Day two: Second coat of white, and adding the metallic silver.

Second coat of white, and adding the metallic silver

Day three: Detailing in black, and the finished product. Likely won’t be easily identified as the inspiration, but I think it still comes across as decently robotic. I’m happy with it, at least.

Detailing in blackThe finished mask

A Brief History of Convention Ribbons: “If you’ve gone to conventions like CONvergence, you may have seen the ribbons imprinted with catchphrases and clip art people stick to the bottom of the their badges—in some cases, collecting large trails of them. CONvergence does a great job of explaining how you can get your own ribbons on its site, including a variety of different vendors that print them. But what is the real purpose of badge ribbons, and how did the tradition get started?” (There’s a fair amount of ribbon collection/trading at Norwescon as well.)