Oasis 16 '0
Con Report by Pagadan
Oasis 16 Con Report
by Joy V. Smith
This year we left earlier for Oasis 16, held as usual on Memorial Day weekend in Orlando, FL; and after registering at the hotel and dropping most of our things in our room, discovered that we were too early to register and donate our charity auction items. So I dropped off the freebies at the freebie table, which was full of fun stuff. I picked up a couple bags (Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion); a copy of Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine, Nth Degree (fiction & fandom zine), The Underworld Chronicle (promotion for the movie done in newspaper format with intriguing articles); excerpt from Tainted Trail; an Animatrix pin and card set, flyers, stickers and lots of SF & fantasy goodies. Later there were assorted posters, Underworld candy boxes, etc.
Next we checked out the art room. How can I choose when it's time to vote?! And artists were still setting up. There were paintings, prints, jewelry, plaques, goblets, mouse pads, decals, and more. Lots of fantasy, some SF, and a few furry pieces. I love SF and fantasy so I really enjoyed myself. Beautiful creatures--many of them winged, exciting scenes, intriguing ideas--especially Werehouse, vibrant colors, and monochromatic visions.
Lots of books in the dealers' room, including signed copies, an art book of Terry Pratchett's Wyrd Sisters video, comics, jewelry, ... And there were author signings there also. Good selection of Andre Norton, Robert Howard, C.J. Cherryh, Roger Zelazny, ...
Unlike some other years, it wasn't as crowded in the hotel halls and elevators; I heard there was a lawyer's convention. Were they the guys in black suits with big black notebooks? And they say SF conventions are scary. (A couple people in the elevator did ask about what we were up to.) I believe there were basketball players and their families there and a Christian group, which sang noisily across the hall from the video room once when I was watching something. (Later they closed their door.)
Creature by Committee, our first programming stop, is always lots of fun. The artists switch places while working and sometimes play games with another artist's creation. There was audience input for the artists: M.C.A. Hogarth, Michael Conrad, Craig Caldwell, and Stanley Morrison, working on two different canvases--art board actually. A methane planet for the SF board and furries for the fantasy board. Imaginative use of the methane gas concept... The moderator, Steve Parady, had to juggle the artists and field suggestions. Conrad created the tentacled monster floating on the sea, and the floatation sacs later became egg sacs with creatures inside, including Mickey Mouse. Conrad put a mushroom cloud on the planet, Caldwell added floating pyramids; Morrison put a dragon chef with a Mom tatoo in the diner; the Dalmation underwent a couple makeup changes, and there was lots of color at the end; oh, and the chef's arm caught on fire, ... No way to capture the creativity and ad libs that go on here!
There were some panels and art demonstrations we missed because you just can't get to everything. I did catch the chili contest in the con suite at 6 PM. Even more entries this year: Roswell chili (for aliens); Roswell chili (for humans), Pickman Family Recipe, The Dream-Chili of Unknown Kadath, Biohazard, Fowl Wind III, Kathy's Easy Chili, Bambi's Black Bean Chili, Dave's Other Chili, Chili--Qagh, and Slow Fire. My mouth was hot at the end, but they all seemed fairly tame; I didn't even need a drink. (I love Tex-Mex though.)
The opening ceremonies were at 7 PM--short, as usual. Robert Sawyer was the Author GoH; Stanley W. Morrison was the Artist GoH; Tom Smith was the Filk GoH; and Ann Morris was the Fan GoH. Terry Dahl and Jim Rogers are the con chairs. Tom Smith got an idea for a song during the introductions, wrote it on stage, and then sang it (incorporating the Oasis guests). This year's Oasis tee shirt was also introduced; it's created by the artist GoH each year; this year the design was Hollus, a character from Sawyer's Calculating God. Sawyer's from Canada so there are maple leaves around Hollus.
I took advantage of the hiatus afterwards to go to the video room and check out Birds of Prey, which I'd never seen. Not missing much. At 8 PM we went to the Alien Artifacts panel, which may be my favorite. Jim Rogers was the moderator; he handed out the artifacts. Mike Conrad, Tom Smith, Robert Sawyer, and Jeff Mitchell were the team of experts. Conrad's personna was a professor at John Edwards U (He's usually a very funny psychic.); and there was a reference to the channeling channel. Mitchell was from MIT, AM, & FM. Smith once identified 14 pizza ingredients.
The first artifact was a green plastic alien; Sawyer said it was a holographic life form figure; Mitchell thought it was a rocket nozzle, and Smith used it as an instrument. Other artifacts included a Dilbert talking head, a glass insulator (a fossilized mushroom or the last Dalek--Mitchell), an M&M dispenser (the mummified remains of Michael Jackson, said Smith. Think gloves.) Plastic fork w/pink top was neuralizer for the Boys in Pink or sled used on a cold planet, Sorbet. Tea infuser was a small captured planet on a chain because the twine wouldn't hold, even though he liked having the world on a string (Conrad). Grenade, said Mitchell. Terminator's egg, said Sawyer; that's where we get the "T". Impossible to capture all the physical byplay and word play that goes on.
9 PM was Random Acts of Filking. We rearranged the chairs into a circle facing Tom Smith. He played and sang such old favorites as the condensed version of Babylon 5 and When I Was a Boy. Singers in the audience participated, including his companion who sang the Ninja Turtle song (beautiful voice). The Sentient Chili was sung by several people, and song sheets were passed out so more people could sing. Other songs included Come On Down to the Mortuary (funny take on dying), The Men in Black (sung to My World is Turning Black), The Telly Taley Heart, gaming songs, and lots more. They were still going strong when we left. We stopped at the con suite for munchies and ice (they were short of ice machines) before going to our room. Lots of enthusiastic conversations always going on.
At 9 AM Saturday was the SF Trivia Contest. Before going there, I stopped by the video room to see a Cowboy Bebop (another show I've never seen) episode, "Jamming with Edward"--interesting. I only caught a little bit, but I loved the bounty hunters' Corgi. (I'd watch that again.)
This was my first time for the trivia contest; I'd always skipped it before because I didn't think I'd do that well, but I walked in on the end of it last year and became interested. (I think it was the chance to win dealers' bucks.) I'm not interested in Trivial Pursuit, but I enjoy Jeopardy, which was a good thing since it uses the Jeopardy format with categories, points, and a buzzer. Juan Sanmiguel was the Trivia Master, and he had a Quizmaster--a gadget with long arms with buzzers at the end and lights. (He bought it on ebay this year; previously he'd borrowed one from another con.) We paired up; Alan was my partner, and he had to remind me now and then to keep my hand over the buzzer. The categories included Fanzines, Charles Sheffield, George Alec Effinger, Robert Sawyer & Canadian SF lit (because Sawyer was a Canadian and the GoH), 80s SF TV, and Anime. I had a lot of fun, and Alan and I came in third and won $20.00 in dealers' bucks, which we split. (I bought books.) I'm now an addict and am itching to play again next year. (There were only three pairs, btw.)
I caught the end of the raygun workshop; they were still enthusiastically working and didn't want to stop--strong smell of paint and glue. Conrad and Morrison had really impressive guns, but they were all great and made out of bleach bottles and other recyclable household items. The panel I came to see was How to Create a Credible Alien. Rogers was the moderator; Jack McDevitt, Sawyer, Rick Wilber, Will Ludwigsen, and Dean Warren were the panelists. Sawyer asked, Is the alien a device or a real character? He says that's the science in SF; some writers use the alien as metaphor. McDevitt asks, How is it different from us? Possibly a mirror to us, but not programmed like we are. Wilber: They are a tool, so use similies in description. One of his alien cultures is based on the Hudson Bay Co. Ludwigsen says: It's like a serial killer. What is his motivation? The real challenge is--this creature has an agenda. Warren points out that for interaction, they must be like us in re: atmosphere. Sawyer: We have hands far from the fragile parts of the body; the Puppeteers had eyes in each of their hands. He looks at the evolution of aliens: How did they get that way? McDevitt thinks aliens will be somewhat like us; they'll have families to protect... He says Nancy Kress believes that we won't be able to communicate with aliens.
Audience member queries re: Lovecraft... Sawyer agrees with McDevitt; aliens will have emotions. McDevitt: Make the alien accessible to readers, but intriguing. Warren wonders about computers with a will--not possible. Wilber agrees with Kress. Audience member points out that creatures in an imperfect world develop technology. Warren: Will we help or destroy an alien culture that we come across? Wilber: We can't measure the intelligence of creatures on Earth (dolphins, whales, etc.); how can we measure aliens' intelligence? Ludwigsen: Can we measure pollution in a planet's atmosphere to check a planet's progress? He says that Heinlein discusses how Earth colonists become more alien. Audience member says that Podkayne is just a 50s American girl.
Sawyer says that SF is limited to the western world. He also says that we want aliens so we can redeem our past (enslaving and destroying Earth cultures) [He assumes that the East didn't?] Wilber: Some people can't see that other world views are valid. Audience member says that Agatha Christie's Americans are hilarious.
12 PM: I went to Arne Star's Movie Preview Extravaganza. It started out with video game previews based on movies like LotR, Hulk, Doom, ... And there was a games' improved graphics demo that was interesting, but I wasn't interested in games so I left early. I learned that the movie previews came later. I went to the Art Show and voted. (You vote for Best of Show and two each of SF & Fantasy.) Then I picked up some more freebies and visited and bought books at the charity auction table. (Too many Star Trek and other books to go to auction, so they began selling some of those off; I bought some.) Then I caught the end of Tom Smith's concert, including the quickie version of Babylon 5 again and A Frog and His Boy (about Jim Henson; he does Kermit's voice well).
At 2 PM I watched Conrad's Slide Show: Fantasy in Theme Parks:What I Did on YOUR Summer Vacation. I saw the Disney birthday cake (Cinderella's castle), the Vegas arcade with animated characters (he wrote the script too); the queue line displays with the restored motorcycle and signs such as--No fatal accidents in two days; weapons; murals (the Guiness World Record mural has been removed); the sculptures of family in the future, ... There were anecdotes about that, the Michael Jackson theme park, etc. Working in different cultures is interesting. He did a modern castle that is really nifty, and he recently did Mickey's Jungle Parade, which I'd like to see. Then he ran out of time and had to whip through the last slides.
We took a con suite and room break before going to the Charity Auction at 4 PM. The auctioneer was Richard Lee Byers. There were lots of books, including signed first editions, software, prints, posters, a DVD player, a Marvin the Martian cup, con memberships, tee shirts, the two Creature by Committee artworks, and a bunch of other stuff. (Later, I saw in the art show a table with the rayguns marked For Charity Auction, but the rayguns weren't dry in time. However, Michael Conrad did the art auction the next day with Craig Caldwell and sold them for the charity. BTW, Morrison's won the first prize in the Raygun Junkyard Wars (with an assist from Karl Gee). Second was Caldwell's, and third was Conrad's.
Afterwards we stopped at the con suite and had pork (better than I've had in a lot of restaurants!), spaghetti, etc. After that I went back to the art show and thought some more about the kitten/dragon print, which I've wanted for a long time, and then I went to the video room and watched Dr. Who and Turlough (I'd forgotten how boring Peter Davison is.) and Birds of Prey (I learned the background of that series. I didn't know that Batman and Catwoman had a daughter, and her name is Huntress, and that Batgirl was crippled by Joker.) Upcoming was musical animes (sorry to miss that), Spirited Away, and The Crow, which I've never seen.
At 8 PM was the costume contest. The emcee was Conrad, and he introduced the judges and also introduced Terry Dahl, who ran the art show; she announced the art show winners: First place in fantasy was Morrison; second place was Conrad with Werehouse; and third place was Morrison also. First place in SF was Conrad with Adam's Quest; second place was Conrad with Alien Attack!; third place was Jean Pierre Targete; and Best in Show was Targete with Turning Point/Thieves World.
While waiting for the contestants to get ready, we sang Happy Birthday to Stanley Morrison; then Tom Smith went on stage and sang a couple songs and phoned his mother, and we all sang Happy Birthday to her. Then came the parade of contestants: the Black Guardian (from Dr. Who?); Lady Rosa; a Dalek--the 2003 model, Imperial, the Cadillac of Daleks; it goes from docile to deadly in two seconds; there was more from the funny catalog description; Susan of the Griffin Riders (she only had a leash; it had escaped); Ozzy; Cousin Itt; ... from Smallville; and Cat-a-Bat. Smith sang several Smurf songs (Smurfing USA, etc.) while the judges decided.
Special awards were given to Lady Rosa, Cousin Itt, and the Black Guardian. Third prize was a tie between ... Super Soldier and Kriptonite(?) from Smallville? Second prize was Cat-a-Bat (cute little girl in an adorable costume). First prize was Susan of the Griffin Riders; and Best in Show was the Dalek. She accepted her prize in a brief outfit. (It was hot in there!)
After that I went to the video room, where I heard an audio tape warning against the dangers of children being drawn into playing D&D--very funny. Then I got to watch musical anime (edited)--a good overview, including Spirited Away done to White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane. I would have enjoyed more of that.
I missed hearing the chili contest winners announced, but I got the info from the workers in the art show: Susan Cole for Fen Choice:Roswell (for aliens) and David Ratti for Cthulhu's Choice (hottest): Slow Fire. Btw, there was always a lot more panels and things going on than I've mentioned, including the gaming room, where people were always having fun.
Sunday morning I got up and read the paper (free and delivered to your door), descended to the second floor to check the freebies table and the art show (when it opened). Con workers bustling about as usual. (I suppose they go to other cons to enjoy themselves.) In the Dealers' room I came across Lenore hanging from a dinasaur's mouth and had to ask about that. Lenore, who is attached to a key chain, is a comic book dead girl who goes about trying to do good, but wreaks mayhem and maiming instead. (The Lenore comic books are available from Diamond (publishers) and/or through the Sun System.)
I talked to a jewelry dealer also and admired her dichroic (sp) glass, which is beautiful and glitters in various colors, reminding me of opals. Then I headed to the video room; I never have enough time to see everything I'd like to, but I've seen a few films there that saved me from renting them. I saw the Star Wars Fan Films Awards; Kevin Smith was the host and gave a great introduction. George Lucas gave a speech, which went on way too long, with his award for a fan film. Loved the fan films.
Then I caught the end of the Hot Sales panel with artists discussing art and selling it. In fantasy, artists need imagination, but the creatures have to work! They laughed at Boris Vallejo, who apparently often uses the same figure. His figures are too stiff and posed (from photos). Frazetta has more life in his art. Stan & Mike are draftsmen; some artists use models of buildings--that's the hard way. This was very interesting.
Next (for me--there were other panels, demonstrations, readings, etc.) was Your First SF book panel--What got you hooked? Byers said Wells & Burroughs. Urbancik said Star Wars & Batman, then into dark fiction and fantasy. Castro: Comic books; his first SF prose was Asimov's because of his unadorned style. Good entry point for a young reader. Sawyer: First The Runaway Robot, possibly by Lester del Rey, published by Scholastic; Alan Nourse's Trouble on Titan; Fireball (?); the original Star Trek. Carolyn Clink (wife of Sawyer): Bought the Scholastic books, including The Enormous Egg. Gilbert: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. [Btw, she said she was a loner; books were more interesting. I believe others said something similar.] Urbancik was also influenced by Greek mythology; now he's filling in the gaps. Castro mentioned Alfred Hitchcock's anthology for young readers, also Hitchcock and The Three Investigators. This has been reprinted with another character replacing AH, btw.
Sawyer: Asimov's collection, The Rest of the Robots (what did that mean, he wondered, not being aware of the first robot story collection) and Arthur C. Clarke's short stories, which are also accessible to young readers. When he was eight, Clarke's 2001 came out. At ten he read the book and explained the movie to his friends. Castro:Twilight Zone was an influence; the stories were about ideas and words. The current Twilight Zone stories are not so good, except for It's Still A Wonderful Life (sequel). It could be a Hugo nominee. He also mentioned Richard Matheson as being accessible.
The moderator, Gilbert, asked: Why do schools teach literature? Can we change that? Byers: Students do have to read books about our culture, not necessarily Silas Marner. Urbancik: They should read Poe in school. Castro: Some kids read Harry Potter because it's in, and they don't move on. Another group moves on. Clink: Too often the same books are taught: teachers are comfortable with that.
Castro: Beyond entry fiction? Byers: Lovecraft, Howard, Cordwainer Smith. Gilbert, who is blind, wants more audibooks & braille books. Now some publishers put out print and audio at the same time. Castro: He got into horror via Matheson before it was a genre. His parents gave him a SFBC membership. Lathe of Heaven was accessible to him. He read I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream at 12; it left him aghast. Sawyer: He bought SFBC books also; the first books he ordered were Silverberg's The Second Trip, which was dirty; that got him hooked. Bradbury was read later for most of the authors.
Sawyer: Heinlein isn't as popular in Canada. He's too right wing political for most Canadians. Our frontier was wild; Canada had Mounties. Castro: Have Spacesuit, Will Travel is accessible. Then he read Podkayne and she died, and he didn't touch Heinlein again for a while. Recommendations for young readers: Lloyd Alexander's Prydain series. Clink: HP, A Wrinkle in Time (she read it recently). Gilbert mentions McCaffrey's dragon series. An audience member mentions Ace Doubles. Some writers seem more hackneyed now to a more mature reader. Some writers are too predictable--like Eddings. Gilbert (moderator): Fun at the time and so was this panel. (Great way to close as we were out of time. Another really enjoyable panel.)
Targete's painting demonstration was at the same time as that panel, but now it's time for Digital or Paint (another artists' panel; more of these this year, and I enjoyed them all). Conrad: Is it original art if you take a photo and manipulate it? John Stevens: No. It's photo retouching. (Photoshop is mentioned; I believe it's a program.) Targete: Digital painting is creative; it requires an eye. (Some programs add texture, like oils, etc.) Conrad: There are degrees of art. Most photography is craft, but some is art. (The Bryce program can give you a landscape--it's named after Bryce Canyon because it's so beautiful. Use Bryce for perspective.) Conrad sometimes gets a beginning framework from a client of a building; it's a concept.
Caldwell, I believe, said that you can make an alien landscape on Bryce by rotating it, etc. Conrad mentioned Poser--a 3D rendering program; it gives you a body, clothes, ...; but the people look dead to him. It's the same mannequin. You can get art off the web to add to your artwork, like a pterodactyle.
Conrad told about the time he talked to an artist about the artist's work--on a building or something, as I recall. The artist told him that he didn't use a design checker on it. Conrad thought he was joking, but he was serious. I found this to be another fascinating panel. Readings by authors were going on at the same time, btw. Next up was the art auction, more author readings, and a Crafting Your Ideal Vampire, Monster, or Ghoul panel with horror writers Owl Goingback, John Urbancik, and Byers. Followed by an Oasis tee shirt blowout sale and the closing ceremonies at 5 PM; but we'd already packed the car and checked out. And I'd bought my kitten & dragon print (no other bids. Yay!) It was time to go home and back to work. Next year I'll be back for the SF trivia contest and all the fun panels and guests and happenings. Thanks a lot to the con committee!