There were also Scotch tastings, but sign-up sheets for those fill up really quickly; I wasn't fast enough to sign up. And there was a cheese tasting, which I went to; but I was full from lunch, and the cheeses were a rather basic kind. It was like a cheese primer for those who have eaten Velveeta their whole lives and needed to be made aware of brie, gouda, or fresh mozarella :-)
A fun, well-planned, though not-quite-true-to-its-spirit concept was Corner Con -- a room party taking on a format of a mini-convention. A con within a con, if you will. Last year it was a spontaneous group of people hanging out in the corner of the hallway, and this year they had their own room. It had a mini-art show, a mini-writers' workshop, a mini dealers' room, and a few other convention attributes -- at least formally, if not in spirit. It wasn't really any different from any ole' room party, but I still appreciate the effort. And it had cooler decorations than most room parties.
Corner Con "dealers' room" -- an arrangement of figurines on a side table.
Programming was thin on the ground this year. Thin for me, in any case, though I'm sure many people enjoyed debating such topics like futuristic drinks, skulls as a fashion accessory, herbs in fantasy, angels, or hurricane preparedness. I like something more idea-heavy and abstract, but such panels were few (and I managed to miss one I would have really liked to see).
It's a symptom of a general quandary I've been experiencing lately. I don't hear many new and interesting ideas and observations at conventions anymore. It may be party because I only go to Texas conventions; venturing further from the home state would take too much time and money. So naturally, I see all the same people on panels, and there may be a limited amount of what they have to say. They keep saying the same stuff, so every panel becomes a 101 on the particular topic (whatever the topic of the panel is). Kind of like the above-mentioned cheese tasting. But after a few years of convention-going you may no longer be satisfied with the 101 -- especially when you regularly read more in-depth discussions of those topics on the internet.
Unfortunately, even when there have been new developments in a particular field, panelists don't seem to have anything new to say. Hell, a lot of those times I can think of something to add to the topic, and I'm not even a "pro" like they are!
Thus, I've been thinking lately how should I revise my convention-going strategy. Despite the criticism expressed in this post, I will keep going to them nevertheless, because I write science fiction, and as such, I want to know what people think about this genre. But if panel discussions have become so stale, I will have to think how and where to gain new insights.
That said, I have still collected a few ideas and observations from various panels, which I will enter into my super-secret idea database. :-) No, actually, I will share them here, in my blog -- in the next post.
Pictures from ApolloCon 2010 are in my photo gallery.