Balticon 2011 Day 2: The Durian Tasting

I attended the first two days of Balticon 45 this weekend, and it was nice to be able to attend another convention so quickly on the heels of the fantastic Nebula Weekend. Most of Friday night I spent in the bar after enduring a horrific 4 hour drive over the space of a mere 50 miles. Here I am after finally arriving at the convention on Friday:

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But Saturday was quite different.

First, Saturday began with a normal commute. Leaving the house at 7:30am, I arrived at the convention hotel in Hunt Valley at 8:40am, which was a great relief. When I got there, I stopped into the hotel restaurant for breakfast and managed to finish reading Malcolm Jameson’s “White Mutiny” in the October 1940 Astounding. You’d think that at a science fiction convention, you could sit quietly at a table with an old issue of Astounding an be ignored, but no, I was asked about it by several people.

After breakfast, I wandered into the huckster room in the hopes of finding some old, rare issues of Astounding to add to my collection. However, despite the large room, there was not a single issue of Astounding to be had anywhere. (There was a single 1939 issue of Unknown.) To make up for my disappointment, I bought of a copy of Scott Edelman’s science fiction collection from the Fantastic Books booth, which Scott later signed for me.

The first event I attended in the morning was a reading by Michael J. Sullivan–or I should say a reading of a piece by Michael J. Sullivan, since Michael didn’t actually read it himself. Instead he enlisted Nathan Lowell to do the reading for him. He did pick (and write) a good opening to his second novel and Nathan did a good job of reading it. You can watch the reading here:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3_qBDfLSMc&w=400]

I attended two particularly interesting panels today. The first, after lunch, was the awkwardly named “Whose is it, anyway?” The panel, which included David Sherman, Hildy Silverman, Jean Marie Ward, Aisling Weaver, Michael Swanwick and Leona Wiskoker was about the difficult and awkward panels that people had been on at previous conventions. Some of the stories they told were just hilarious, others horrifying. But the standing-room-only crowd just ate it up and it was a great panel to listen to.

The other outstanding panel was the “Name-Droppers” panel at 3pm, which included Scott Edelman, Michael Swanwick, and Ian Randal Strock. The idea was to tell stories about famous people in the genre that the panelists knew or had met, but were no longer with us. But in reality, they told great stories about science fiction giants whether they were dead or alive. This panel could easily have gone on for twice as long and I wouldn’t have gotten tired of it, but Scott had a durian sitting in front of him that was calling out to be carved up.

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Perhaps the highlight of the day came at 4pm when Scott Edelman led a small band of brave souls out to the parking lot where he proceeded to carve up a durian fruit and challenged us all to try some. I took some video of the event and you can watch it if you are so inclined. (I apologize for the brief turning of the camera at the very beginning. I was still experimenting with filming using the new iPad.)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WvHQ7A29gkg&w=400]

I had dinner with Michael Sullivan and Bud Sparhawk, after which, Michael and I climbed into Bud’s car to help him pick up ice from the grocery store for the SFWA party that was taking place later in the evening.

I finally got to meet musician, podcaster, and fellow SF Signal peep John Anealio in person. We sat at the bar for a while, talking about podcasts and people we know, and science fiction. I fully intended to go to his concert at 9pm, but by 7pm I was completely and utterly wiped out, and thought it best to head home while I still had some semblence of energy. If I had stayed any later, it might not have been safe for me to drive.

I had a lot of fun, but I really was completely and utterly beat by the end of the day. I crashed almost as soon as I got home last night.