An account of our activities after leaving the UK. Written by Eric, with interjections, editing and photographs by Jean Weber. Last updated 4 October 2001. Previous episode Southeastern England.
14 - 23 May 2001
We spent 10 days at Jean's mother's place in Lacey, Washington (a suburb of Olympia, about an hour's drive southwest of Seattle). During this visit her sister Barb and Barb's husband Ted came up from California for 5 days, so we could all celebrate our mother's 80th birthday. A fine time was had by all, and it was nice to catch up with Barb and Ted, whom we don't see very often.
Thursday 24 May 2001
Since we were in the USA so close to the Wiscon dates, it seemed a great shame not to attend, even though it meant backtracking from Seattle to Chicago again, so we went.
Today was another long travelling day. We got up around 3:30 AM to catch the 4 AM express bus to SeaTac. Fortunately the service we use picks up at your door (for an extra charge). We could have taken the 5:30 AM bus, which theoretically would have got us to the airport in plenty of time for our flight, but we tend to assume that if something can delay us, it will, so we opted for the earlier bus.
So we got there in record time and were wandering around the airport looking for breakfast at 5 AM. We found cereal and fruit and hot tea for Jean, and got some exercise walking up and down past the (mostly closed) shops.
We got the 7:50 AM plane to Chicago, this time checking to make sure we had seats together. Lots of people were waiting for upgrades and standby seats.
At the last minute, we saw Allen Baum and Donya White get on the same flight. "What are you doing here?" we exclaimed. "You're coming from the wrong city!" (They live in the San Francisco Bay area.) Turns out Allen had a business conference in Seattle the day before, so Donya had come along with him. They were, of course, also headed for Madison, but they were flying on from Chicago.
We had found the Chicago-Madison airfare just a bit high for our budget, so we took the 2:30 PM Van Galder bus ($20 per person one-way) from O'Hare to the Students' Union at the University of Wisconsin, about a mile from the convention hotel. http://www.vangalderbus.com
We had some difficulty finding the bus, as the map we'd got off the website was a bit vague if you weren't familiar with the ground transportation pickup areas at the airport (we're not; usually we're just in transit and never go outside the airport buildings). The instructions on the notice boards in the baggage collection area were even more vague and in fact downright misleading, but eventually we asked someone who pointed us to the right place (across the road from the baggage claim) and we arrived with about 5 minutes to spare.
The bus didn't depart until 2:30, but it started boarding around 2:10 and rapidly ran out of seats. We did manage to get seats together, and later spotted Maureen Kincaid Speller on the same bus, looking tired and sleepy after the flight from London.
When we arrived in Madison (around 5:45), the three of us shared a taxi to the Concourse Hotel, as the walk was a bit long for dragging suitcases. After checking in, we looked for the conbag-stuffing party, which was just finishing. We managed to collect our badges and conbags, and reconfirmed our willingness to help with registration setup in the morning, or do anything else that needed to be done.
We went out exploring nearby streets, looking for places to buy breakfast food, then returned to buy dinner in the bar. The small deep-dish pizza and bowl of chili went down quite nicely. We didn't see anyone we knew, so Jean collapsed soon afterwards.
Eric went out again to a pre-con event, and later hung around the hotel bar talking with, among others, Nancy Kress and Karen Joy Fowler.
Friday 25 May 2001
Eric went out early and grabbed breakfast materials at a small grocery store. The room had a coffee-maker which Jean used to boil water for her essential cup of tea. Like most coffee-makers, it needed several go-throughs of water before the coffee taste had been washed out, but after that it worked fine.
Thus fortified, we went down to work on Registration from about 10 AM. We helped set up the area, and put up a display of our Australian and GUFF stuff, including a large wall map with Airlie Beach marked on it. Later we found someone else had added a marker for the town near Sydney that they were from. Eric worked Registration almost all day, while Jean went off to help in the Green Room for awhile. Everything seemed to be going smoothly.
We checked the dealers' room around 4 PM, soon after it opened. George Elgin (Suzette Haden Elgin's husband) was selling a Toshiba laptop computer at his bookstall. It's quite similar to the laptop Jean has, but with more memory (81MB), a larger hard drive (4GB) and a bit more speed (still sloooow compared with today's machines). We dithered about buying it, and decided to sleep on the idea.
The con suite supplied pizza and hotdogs, not great but not bad either. There was also plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit as well as copious supplies of tea, coffee and soft drinks. We saw, amongst many others, Alan Baum, Donya White, and Spike Parsons.
We enjoyed the great opening ceremony at 7:30, which was done as a Cinderella reading, with many fannish jokes. Later, Joyce Scrivner arrived, so we talked for awhile. (She was sharing a room with us.) Eric partied until 1:30 a.m. Jean gave up around midnight.
Saturday 26 May 2001
Eric went to the farmers' market in the capitol square a block from the hotel, where he bought a cinnamon bun the size of a dinner plate. Jean dashed off to the Lands' End shop and returned with two pairs of the shorts she wanted, at almost half price. Jean also visited the farmers' market but found the crowds too much to cope with, so she bought a huge cranberry-orange bread loaf which she nibbled on for the next 2 days.
Some of the panels Eric attended during the weekend were:
- David Emerson's Psychohistory 101, about William Strauss and Neil Howe books Generations, The Fourth Turning, 13th Gen and Millennia Rising. Not convinced but could be interesting as a basis for devising social paths.
- Crisis, Highs, Awakening, Unravelling as eras in US history. Who thought of that, why and how come it's so popular. Bunkum.
- Hard SF panel absolutely wonderful.
- The Feminist Cabalist Guide to XML with Bill Humphries at Internet cafe. Music interferes late. http://www.whump.com/www/xmlone/ Ask Bill Humphries about the URL for more details of the presentation of XML.
- Why is Biotech so scary? (No comments on this one, Eric?)
- Memetics and viral marketing. Books mentioned Thought Contagion by Aaron Lynch and the best one The Meme Machine by Susan Blackmore Oxford University Press. The Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell is superficial but is popular.
- What Remains to be Fictionalised
Jean talked at some length with Elisabeth Vonarberg and Kristine Smith during a quiet time at the book-signing table. She's been a fan of Elisabeth's fiction (translated into English) for years, but had never previously heard of Kristine. After this conversation, Jean rushed down to the dealers' room and bought all of Kristine's books she could find. (And enjoyed them greatly when she got a chance to read them later.)
In the dealers' room, Jean admired some wooden puzzle sculptures, but managed to restrain herself from buying any, knowing there is *no* place to put them at home. However, she did buy a Toshiba laptop computer from George Elgin (Suzette Haden Elgin's husband) who had several at his bookstall. They were a step up from Jean's current laptop, having lots more memory and disk space, but still woefully slow for today's programs. Jean thought it would be fine for word-processing (which it is), but later decided it was inadequate for the increasing amount of graphics work she's doing, so she sold it to Eric.
Eric spotted Don, the designer of his blinking badge, and they talked about old electronics and computers. We both foraged in the con suite on pizza and hotdogs.
Jeanne Mealy organised a photo of ANZAPA members. We grabbed a passer-by to take the photos using several of our cameras, then we all sat around nattering for awhile. (Click to see photo larger.) Seated, left to right: David Cummer, Lyn McConchie, Jeanne Mealy, Maureen Kincaid Speller. On floor in front: Jean Weber, Eric Lindsay. It was particularly good too meet David for the first time.
Tiptree auction was most entertaining, with lots of in-jokes. Ellen came on stage wearing a beard and a plaid shirt and said Ellen had been delayed. Then did strip of several layer of clothing, at one point wearing a skirt. Apparently Ellen in a skirt is almost as rare a sight as Jean in a skirt.
Eventually Ellen removed the beard, and someone offered to buy it, but bidding didn't raise the $17 it had cost.
Ellen holds up little box of No-Doze signed by Nancy Kress. Voice from back, "What's No-Doze?" Ellen explain it's a caffeine pill, popular with students cramming for final exams, and the Kress connection is with her series of books about Sleepless people. It sold for something like $60.
Ellen sells Psychology text book that had belonged to Alice Sheldon, with marginal notes. Someone asks "Who is Alice Sheldon?" Ellen explains that's James Tiptree Jr's real name. Bidding improved only slightly.
A jar of Tiptree jelly or jam from Britain was for sale. Supposed to be source of Sheldon's inspiration for her pen name.
Jean was annoyed that silly stuff often went for far more money than things like Freddie Baer's jewelry, which hardly covered the probably cost of the materials, much less Freddie's time of making it. Mixed feelings: it's good to raise money by auctioning whatever sells, but almost offensive for trivia (and junk) to go for so much more than "good" stuff.
Tor party is very active and good place to be. Found a bunch of book titles to check at the dealers' room. Eric stayed up to 2:30 a.m. As usual, Jean dropped out a bit earlier.
Sunday 27 May 2001
Lunch in hotel restaurant with Henry and Letha Welch, and their three children, Jean Weber, Eric Lindsay, Joyce Scrivner, Don Selzig Jr., Mary ? Showed photos.
Sunday evening's highlight was the dessert banquet (great concept), followed by the GoH, Tiptree award and other speeches. Minor scandal at banquet when people discovered the whipped cream in the desserts was fake. In Wisconsin, the dairy state! Presumably concom will Have Words with the caterers over this. Ellen's comment later: "It was sweet and it was soft, but it was not whipped cream."
Some statistics: 621 memberships received, including some duplicates, 587 actually here. Badge says year is 2000, not 2001. The Wiscon 26 flyers said 2001, and were then changed to 2003 (should have been 2002). Tiptree auction raised just over $5000, bake sale just under $400.
Victor Gonzales turned up, briefly. Jean: "What the f*** are you doing here?" Victor: "I'm moving to Boston." We all spent a few minutes catching up on what we'd been doing since Eastercon.
Four women turning 50 held a Cronecon party one evening. Jean wondered, "is 50 old enough for cronedom? *I* certainly don't feel like a crone, and I'm closer to 60 than 50." Some discussion of Ursula Le Guin's GoH speech from Wiscon 20, in which she talks about some of the social and personal problems of ageing.
Jean says: Wiscon is my favorite convention (other than Corflu), even though I've only been to two of them. This is mainly because everybody there shares an interest in some aspect of feminism in science fiction and fantasy. Those interests range quite widely, which is a valuable diversity, but the con doesn't fragment into what appear to be completely separate interest groups, as at so many other large or medium-sized cons. Wiscon is also the only con of its size that has a large number of program items that actually interest me. I didn't manage to attend very many items, but not from lack of interest; somehow I always seemed to spot someone I really, really wanted to talk with, just before I was due to go to a program item. Knowing that I might not get another chance, I always chose to sit down *right then* and talk.
Monday 28 May 2001
Breakfast with Jeanne Mealy, John Stanley, David Cummer; met Jeanne's mother and youngest sister later. Over the weekend Jean had been giving Jeanne long pep talks about using visualisation to help her find the right job, using Eric's and Jean's experiences as an example. Remarkably, Jeanne did not seem to find these harangues as tedious as some people do. ("I get carried away in my enthusiasm," explains Jean.)
Jean spent some time catching up with Lyn McConchie and her friend Sharman. Another woman came up to the table and asked if any of us knew anyone making money selling e-books over the Internet. I said yes, I sold my books that way. We discussed self-publishing and other issues. That topic (e-books and Internet sales) had been a theme in several conversations over the weekend.
We also talked with Tom Becker and Spike Parsons before they left for home, including some ideas Tom has for boating activities at our relaxacon in Airlie Beach in June 2002.
Dinner at Gino's Italian restaurant with Jean's friends Susan Reitz and her daughter Kat, ex Intel. Enjoyed it thoroughly. On the way back Jean and Susan were accosted by a male passer-by who started telling us that his mother is a space alien. Jean yelled for Eric, who took over the conversation while the rest of us walked ahead a bit faster. Eventually we got to a corner store where we were planning to buy some supplies for the evening, so Kat yelled to Eric, "Stop lollygagging and get in here! We have shopping to do!" Eric said to the pest, in a wonderfully apologetic tone, "Sorry, I've got to go" and the guy immediately wandered off, apparently used to the idea that women order men around. We managed to refrain from laughing out loud until we got into the store.
Tuesday 29 May 2001
Walk to lake, with some obstacles, mainly buildings between road and lake, with no public access. Walk to other lake, passing through capitol square. As the area we're in is on a ridge between the lakes, it's a steep hike (though short) up and down. We pretend this is a useful part of our fitness program.
Diane Martin collects us from hotel, where we were chatting with Jane Hawkins and Jeanne Gomoll. Diane Martin and Jim Hudson kindly gave us crash space after the con.
Eric went with them to a great health food store near their home, expensive but really good, where we got lunch makings. We enjoyed the company of their cats, though preparing a meal was something of a challenge. At least one person had to stand guard to toss cats off the countertops while another person cooked. Fortunately we don't have a cleanliness fetish where cats are concerned, so we found this all quite amusing.
In the evening we all went to a party at Jae Leslie Adam's home. Many of the Wiscon committee were there. Some of the entertainment involved readings from the local apa. It was great to meet so many of the con committee in less stressful circumstances.
Next episode Return to Australia.