BayCon, a science fiction fantasy convention held in the San Francisco Bay Area over Memorial Day weekend, has been my local con for almost 20 years. Attending has been more of a challenge these last couple of years when the convention moved from a location where I could commute from home, to one that required me to either get a hotel room or crash with a friend. Last year, I stayed with a fellow writer and carpooled to the hotel. This year she was out of town, so I booked a room for Saturday night and asked the programming folks to schedule me for only Saturday and Sunday. It was an interesting experiment, one I am apt to repeat.
In order to discuss the convention, I have to write about the hotel. The San Mateo Marriott has earned its nickname of “the Escher hotel” not only for its inexplicable split-level staircases but the difficulty of finding the elevator that will take you to your destination floor. (Once you’ve made it to the floor on which most but not all of the events are held, it’s not all that hard to navigate – but beware if you want to go from there to, say, the Green Room or Con Suite.) This year, major renovation of the hotel’s lobby added a whole new dimension to the chaos. The restaurant got moved to the 6th floor, the bar to the 3rd floor (meaning that from the convention floor, you had to go down one elevator, through a maze of corridors to another elevator to go back up to either destination). Given these challenges, the convention folks put forth a heroic effort, by way of signs and many helpers wandering the halls in search of those who are lost, to ameliorate the confusion. And the hotel registration staff allowed me to check in quite a few hours early, so I was all set for my first panel.
As for what I was thinking when I asked programming for my usual heavy schedule, without taking into account unforeseen illness, the less said the better. I was a Very Busy Camper.
My first panel, one I did not moderate so I had a chance to transition from driving through my redwood mountains to being in a hotel with lots of people, all talking at once, was Saving What We Love: A look at how the concept of resistance in SF has changed as well as kept a continuity and what different generations have to teach each other, ably moderated by Jennifer Nestojko, with Colin Fisk, Skye Allen, and Tyler Hayes. We looked at how resistance movements have been depicted in genre literature over the decades, and examined the role of literature in general and sf/f/h in particular in generating, supporting, and being the voice of the resistance. I talked about how I came to write Collaborators, my occupation-and-resistance sf novel that was a Lambda Literary Award Finalist. I’d lived in Lyon, France, the center of the French resistance to the Nazi occupation, and had become intrigued by all the ways people either resisted or collaborated. With my memories of protesting the Vietnam War in mind, I wanted to show each side acting for reasons that seemed good yet getting caught in a cycle of escalating, violent retaliation. It’s important in our fictional portrayals that we not demonize or dehumanize the other side but to create bridges where, by slow steps or sudden epiphanies, enemies can discover common ground.