Year 50 Day 256

Me in a hotel meeting room, wearing a black winter hat and coat with a rainbow scarft; behind me are a number of other people gathered around tables, all also bundled up in coats and hats.

Day 256: Today was our coldest Norwescon ConCom staff meeting yet! Not only is Seattle having a cold snap and topped out at 24° F outside, but the meeting room was having heat issues and was in the mid-40s at the start, and made it all the way up to 51° by the end! The things we deal with to make sure the convention comes together….

Year 50 Day 221

Me, wearing a mask and a button-up shirt that’s black on one side and has Santa peeking out from behind the buttons on the other, in a hotel room with holiday decorations and people behind me eating and chatting.

Day 221: Today was the Norwescon December ConCom meeting, followed by the annual holiday party. Lots of good progress at the meeting (including getting not one, but two new website assistants to work with me), and then a fun time chatting at the holiday party. Even got some fun stories from Norwescon history, some of which are for ears only, and not for publication! Plus, many people were amused by my shirt.

Year 50 Day 165

Me, wearing a Jack Skellington t-shirt and black facemask, standing in a hotel meeting room with a number of other people sitting at tables and chatting with each other behind me.

Day 165: Today was this month’s Norwescon planning meeting. Our theme for the meeting was Halloween, so I wore my Jack Skellington shirt, while other people had pointed witch’s hats, Pikachu onesies, a corn costume, an Alf mask, and probably other things that I missed or aren’t remembering. Lots of good progress being made — but lots to do over the next few months as well!

Year 50 Day 130

Me, wearing a black cap, mask, and t-shirt with the Norwescon logo in green, in a hotel conference room with other people sitting around a number of round tables.

Day 130: Today was the first ConCom (Convention Committee) planning meeting for Norwescon 46. It was good to get back into the planning mode with this group of friends, and I feel like we’re off to a good start. Once again, it looks like my job lineup this year is webmaster, social media manager, Philip K. Dick Award coordinator, and Thursday night DJ. Just six and a half months to get everything planned and ready to go!

Norwescon 45 Wrap-Up

Norwescon 45 is done, I’m back at home, and have had a day to rest and do the usual day-after duties (unpack, laundry, and various post-con website updates and scheduling social media posts). Our second year back was a good one and went smoothly from everything I could see, and was particularly good for me on a personal level.

On Wednesday, during the evening pre-con volunteer party, I was awarded a Lifetime Member award, given to ConCom members in recognition of years of contributions and hard work. It was a really wonderful surprise — this was something I’d thought I might achieve someday, but certainly hadn’t been expecting it. As many of the existing Lifetime members noted, there’s no escape now! :) Long-time photographer Thom Walls also received Lifetime Status.

Me and Thom holding our Lifetime Member award plaques.

Thursday night marked the return of DJ Wüdi, as I let my alter-ego out for the Thursday night dance. The Thursday night dances may be the most sparsely attended, but I still had what I’d consider a good turnout, and those that were there seemed to be having a good time. I’d also had fun adapting the OBS graphics I’d created for my Twitch streams so that I could throw them up on the video wall behind me on stage, so I had a pretty good-looking setup as well. I snapped a quick pre-dance selfie, and hopefully one of the con photographers got some good shots of me and the full setup as things were going on. As usual, I recorded the full set and have it uploaded it to my MixCloud page.

Me in front of the video wall with my graphics on display.

And Friday, of course, was all about the Philip K. Dick Award ceremony. Two of the nominated authors were able to join us this year, and so the first official-ish (-ish because for this, I was just a member of the audience) part of the day was the “All About the Philip K. Dick Award” panel, where the nominees and award administrator Gordon Van Gelder discussed the award and its namesake. Later that evening, after my inaugural Lifetime Dinner (an annual invite-only event for Lifetime members, Guests of Honor, PKD nominees, and Norwescon Exec Team members; until Wednesday evening, I’d thought my invite was only due to my position as PKD ceremony coordinator) was the award ceremony itself.

Happily, the ceremony went just fine, and I didn’t fall on my face, set anything or anyone on fire, or otherwise embarrass myself or the convention. So I’d say that’s a success! Both attendees read from their works, the other readers read from the works of those nominees who couldn’t attend, and then the winner was announced — and it was one of the two attending authors, which is always a lot of fun. The only downside is that a technical glitch dropped the audio from the first six minutes of the video stream of the ceremony, which was the section where I was talking, so there’s no good recording of my first time doing this. But as far as potential issues go, that’s really not that big, if a little personally disappointing. We’re going to work on using subtitles to approximate what I said, and it’ll do well enough.

Award winner Kimberly Unger holding her award certificate.

Saturday and Sunday, then, were fairly unscheduled days for me…though, somehow, I managed to find a surprising number of things that needed doing or that I could assist with. But even with that, I did make sure to get naps, food, and plenty of time hanging out, socializing, and being silly with friends old and new. And eventually, the closing ceremonies rolled around, and mid-afternoon on Sunday saw me packed up and heading home.

Other highlights: Being gifted some adorable wee little 3D-printed gnomes from one friend and a “LOOTR” (Loyal Order of the Ribbon) pin from Dragoncon from another, seeing a number of friends I hadn’t seen in a long time, soaking my feet in the hot tub one evening (must remember my swimsuit next year), dancing a lot at the two dances I wasn’t DJing for, and generally reveling in my annual geek vacation.

Two small gnomes and a dragon hatching from an egg, all 3D printed in grey, but the gnomes have had their hats painted red.A small square purple enamel pin with a stylized black dragon and the letters “LOOTR” in fancy type.

It’s been a good weekend. And now it’s less than a year until Norwescon 46!

Implanted Nostalgia

One of the side-projects I work on for Norwescon is the convention’s historical archives, my own little effort to preserve as much as possible of the convention’s history.

The project started a little while after I took over as webmaster, when I was poking around in our website’s directory structure and discovered a whole trove of old documents that someone in the past had scanned and stashed away. It seemed like a waste to have them sitting hidden away where nobody else could see them, so I did a little digging, found a good software package to use to manage the archives (Omeka, designed by and for librarians to manage digital archives), and started building the site.

I’ve long since worked through all the original material I found, so now most of what I do is adding new material as it’s produced for the current convention year by year. But every so often I get sent a scan or even some physical artifacts, and I get them processed and added to the collection.

Part of what I do is extracting the text of any text documents (progress reports, newsletters, flyers, program books, etc.) into HTML so that the text lives on the archive page itself as well as in the linked .pdf (as an example, here’s the Norwescon 11 Progress Report from January 1989). Not only is this better for searching, but it’s also far more accessible for anyone browsing the archives.

Of course, to do this often requires running PDFs through an OCR process to recognize the text, and OCR is often an error-prone process, especially when dealing with multi-decade old items. And, of course, OCR output is just a plain text dump, without any formatting. So, to get a good final output for the HTML version, I skim through the output, correcting typos and adding Markdown formatting before converting to HTML and adding to the database.

Which means I’ve read every single one of these items.

And now I have this weird form of pseudo-nostalgia for years and years worth of conventions that I didn’t actually attend.

I moved down to Seattle in 2001, discovered Norwescon in 2006 with Norwescon 29, and joined the ConCom in 2010 for Norwescon 33 — but I now have all these “memories” of when the con was at a different hotel, or when this or that event was added or removed, and things that this or that person who I know because they are still involved with the con did years ago, long before I was ever involved.

I’ve got to admit, though — it’s kind of hilariously on-brand to be self-implanting false memories of a science-fiction convention.

My Norwescon Exec Story Arc

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!).

Reading in Pandemicland

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.”

Norwescan’t Wrap-Up

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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