ApolloCon, more than other science fiction cons, stands out for its gourmet-oriented activities. On Friday night there was a wine tasting with 3 white wines and 3 red wines. The hostess Kim Kofmel had us go through the entire ritual of noting the wine's color, smell, swishing in in the glass than in one's mouth, etc. I can't say that it helped me to distinguish more subtle characteristics than "dry" and "sweet", but that's just me. Other participants had no problem detecting oaky notes, various fruits and berries, or whatever it is one's supposed to detect in a wine. Or maybe they just let their imaginations loose.
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.