Oasis 19 '06
Con Report by Pagadan
Oasis 19 Con Report
by Joy V. Smith
Oasis, a literary SF con, takes place in Orlando, Florida every Memorial Day weekend, and I've been going there and having a fantastic time for a few years now. So, the morning of May 26, Friday, my sister and I drove to Sheraton World Resort, the new hotel (new to the convention this year). The hotel wasn't hard to find, but locating the hotel registration desk was harder. We came across the Oasis registration desk first, where I could have registered immediately, but I never relax until I've unloaded and settled in; then I register and drop off the fanzines, etc. on the freebie tables.
The Sheraton World Resort is huge! There are buildings everywhere, along with three swimming pools and stores and restaurants. Thanks to the kindness of strangers, we were directed to the main desk and registered. Fortunately, the Oasis area, including registration, the dealers' room, art show, gaming room, and the two panel rooms, wasn't too far from the building where our room was. The con suite and adjoining media room were a lot farther! There was a good map on the back of the program--thanks to Susan. I talked with one of the con workers, and he said that he knew the hotel from anime cons and it's a good facility.
The panels had started at 2 PM, but I started off with a 4 PM one (actually about 4:10 as the preceding panel ran long, as usual, because people enjoy them so much), and wasn't really a panel. It was Cover Art by Committee, a favorite of mine. Michael Conrad (local artist and theme park designer) moderated (the scheduled moderator couldn't make it); the other artists were Ellisa Mitchell, Stan Morrison, Steve Parady, and Paul Vincenti. The five artists worked on two different canvases with colored markers, taking turns working on each canvas. One canvas has a SF theme and one has a fantasy theme; they're actually cartoons, and they do this every year. They ask for suggestions from the audience, and Conrad, who coordinated the artists, said (as I recall)--Let's do something besides fairies, orcs, and wizards, and I said--Sentient plants! (Sentient plants are what my stories, Seedlings and Crystal Quest--in the Magistria anthologies--are about.) So the fantasy theme was sentient plants, and the artists came up with lots of fun ideas, including a killer tomato, a power plant, one with a sign that says Will root for food, a flower pot with a strange little plant, insects, and more.
For the SF fiction cartoon, an audience member suggested ferries. (I think the artists weren't sure how that was spelled, so we ended up with both...) Then I suggested a cargo ferry (an idea from my story, Cold New Planet, in the Tales from the Big Black anthology.) Soon there was a tentacled alien in a cage on the deck, robot space pirates with a parrot, and a lot more. Lastly, the artists added details and background for a feeling of dimension, and they all signed both pieces since they'd switched back and forth. It's a fun challenge; the artists work well together and there's a lot of word play and puns. (The two art pieces were sold at the art auction, and I bought the plant cartoon: I was outbid on the SF piece.)
While I was enjoying the fun, my sister went to a writing panel, Getting It Wrong/Getting It Right; her notes are full of useful info! Then she went to Costuming on a Budget at 5 PM. I visited the art show and tried to decide which pieces of art I would vote for. That took several visits. I had to decide on SF, Fantasy, and Best in Show. I loved the dragon/plant combos; there was some nice furry art, and much more! Favorite pieces included Fashions for Star-faring Young Ladies, The Bath, Shore Rider, Fennecs by Lamplight, Dance of the Hippocampus, ...
I checked out the dealers' room also. (I loved the full scale Tardis (courtesy of Guardians of Gallifrey) and bought a few books.) At 6 PM it was time for the Cthulhu Chili Challenge, which I never miss. On the way there, we got caught in a noisy thunderstorm. I was sorry we had to go outside; it was quite a trek. Not as many contest entries this year, but they were all hot and good. There was a fudge chaser. Later I learned the winner of both Fan's Choice and Cthulhu's Choice was Cob's chili (Colleen O'Brien). Since the video room was next door, I checked it out and caught the end of a Dr. Who episode and part of a Firefly episode, Our Mrs. Reynolds, which I've seen a few times. (I have the DVD.) Arthur Dykeman has been running the video room for a long time; it's mostly his inventory, with additions from his connections.
It was still raining when we returned to the Oasis building; on the other hand, I never saw ducks at the old hotel. The opening ceremonies were at 7:30. We met Steven Brust (author guest of honor), Ellisa Mitchell (artist guest of honor), Carla Ulbrich (filk guest of honor), and Peter Popovich, the new president of the Orlando Area Science Fiction Society. Brust was first and entertained us. Ulbrich was chosen to be different from the Dorsai types that Oasis usually has. It was a simple and fun time as always.
At 8 PM it was Steve Brust in concert. (He didn't bring a guitar, so they bought him one, and it will be autographed by con guests and auctioned for charity. That's something you don't see every day.) He covered a lot of territory, including a bagpipe imitation, an Elvis imitation, When I Was A Boy (a favorite), a Robert Service poem, a song by Joe Haldeman, and more.
Alien Artifacts, one of my favorite--and possibly the funniest--panels, was at 9 PM. Jeff Mitchell moderated and gave out the artifacts. Panelists were Mike Conrad (using his psychic personna), Richard Lee Byers, Glenda Finkelstein, Ellisa Mitchell, Ann Morris, and Steve Parady. One panelist was hiding from the Alliance; one was from Mars; etc. A ladle was a helmet, a cradle, a hypnotic tool (affecting some panelists), and more. Lots of fun and puns, a reference to Alien Idol, the usual sexual references, ...; but this year, thanks to Jeff Mitchell, two of the artifacts were from space! They were a Spacehab nut and bolt with two washers from the STS-89 (The bolt us used to bolt the back bulkhead of the module to the cylinder which is the module.) AND a shuttle tile! (I don't know where the shuttle tile came from, but I was thrilled!)
After that, a brief stop at the con suite and on to the video room, where I saw the end of a Firefly episode, Trash. Then I got to see the new Dr. Who (David Tennant); he's the tenth actor, btw.
Saturday morning we were up and about, checking out the dealers' room, the con suite, and the video room, where we saw the ending of the original King Kong (1933)--well done for the period. Back at the main Oasis area, I came across a couple guys chatting while one played a guitar (a solid body electric, he told me) and the other watched Chronicles of Riddick on a little DVD player. (He got it for traveling.) Later I voted at the art show.
Piers Anthony was also a con guest; he was on a panel and had an hour to himself. I missed both of these opportunities, but got to see him as he waited outside room B. (There were two panel rooms--A and B. A was frigid.)
At 11 PM my sister went to If I'd Only Known (a writing panel) while I went to the SF Trivia Contest. I didn't make the cut this year though, which turned out to be a good thing. The trivia contest is based on Jeopardy, and Juan Sanmiguel, who's in charge of the contest, had some tough categories, including music themes, Octavia Butler, Anime, Aliases, Narnia, Robert Sheckley, and SF TV--the 60s. Final Jeopardy was Irwin Allen (Name his four SF series in the 60s). [I'll list them at the end of my report.]
We skipped some panels to watch new Dr. Who episodes in the video room. (K9 is back, along with the Daleks.) I was tempted to stay longer to see more of the new episodes, but moved on through the con suite to our room and then the charity auction. You can never tell what you might find there. We got there early enough to help carry boxes to the auction. Lots of good book buys, including autographed books and first editions and The Da Vinci Cod (a parody). There was also jewelry, a Quidditch tee shirt, the autographed guitar, prints, original art, a screenplay, and quite a few box lots at the end. (I missed some panels because the auction ran three hours.)
Then we made a quick trip to the con suite for a snack and hurried back for the masquerade; however it was running late because of the auction, and it takes a while to set up anyway. Conrad was the MC. (Odd. He has an arrow in his chest and his shirt is bloody.) The judges were Ellisa Mitchell, Ann Morris, and Steve Parady. Contestants included the Phantom of the Opera, Mystra from the Forgotten Realms, The Doctor (loved the clothes changes), a vengeful Cupid (explaining Conrad's arrow), Princess Leia as a belly dancer (from Return of the Jedi), and Wallace in Oz (and Grommit, who's been transformed and must be changed back. Grommit would have accomplished it already.).
During the interlude we learned the art show voting results: Best in Show was When Hope Seems Lost by Vincenti. Fantasy winners were 1--Autumn by Vincenti, 2--Storm Bringer (sculpture) by E. Mitchell, and 3--Spring by Vincenti. SF winners were 1--Chronos Ascending by Ralph J. Ryan, 2--Answering machine (robot bust) by Conrad, and 4--Le UFO Eiffel, 1934 by Jack Connelly. Entertainment was provided by Joe Giacoio, who played the guitar and sang, including I Sing the Body Acoustic. (The entertainment while waiting for the judges to come back is always great!)
After that, the judges returned with their decisions. The winners got free con memberships and dealer bucks. The winner was Princess Leia (she was very impressive!), followed by Wallace, Dr. Who, Cupid, The Phantom, ...
The filk concert with Carla Ulbrich was next, at 8 PM; songs included I Have to Kill You Now, You Know More than I Can Allow, which I really liked. After the concert we whipped over to the video room, where I got to see the end of Howl's Moving Castle, followed by a fun variety of videos, including Jak Jak Attack (I love this cartoon from The Incredibles DVD) and Top Secret (also from The Incredibles), several of Wallace and Grommit's Cracking Contraptions, and then a music video presentation of anime, hosted by Juan Sanmiguel, who is working on his own anime projects. I especially loved A View to a Kill with Sailor Moon as the Bond girls. Well done! There's an anime festival in Orlando in July, btw. I passed up a chance to see the new King Kong (three hours). Then we went to the con suite for Dessert Night (hosted by Guardians of Gallifrey). Thank you!
I'm not a gamer, but I like to check out the gaming room, which is always open, I believe, so Sunday morning I stopped by and chatted with a couple guys who were nice enough to take the time to explain a few things to me. There's a medieval fantasy game, Living Death, which is Victorian gothic horror based on Loft's Raven--if I'm reading my notes right... There's too much product nowadays (We discussed D&D briefly), and games are expensive--because of the books (manuals), I learned. There is anime role-playing, but not here.
Then we went to the con suite and video room. (I appreciated their being next door to each other since it's a long walk there, but we walked along a sort of arcade with people eating outside the restaurants, birds and squirrels darting everywhere, and the occasional duck.) I caught the end of the Justice League and decided to skip Fantastic Four, even though I haven't seen it yet, because I wanted to get back to the con panels. There were also a number of dramatic readings and book signings going on.
One of the 10 PM panels was Pulp Fiction, which I enjoyed. The moderator was Taylor, and the panelists were Bruce Boston, William Hatfield, Christopher Cevasco, and Dr. Edward Wysocki. They discussed the Golden Age of SF and Fantasy (there were more than one.); and they discussed early writers, going back to H.G. Wells. Even Kipling wrote stories with an SF feel, said one panelist. Authors mentioned included Tolkien, Mervyn Peake, Lovecraft, Fritz Leiber, and a lot of others! Favorite authors of panelists include Eric Frank Russell, Heinlein, Howard, Lovecraft, ... Fantasy is more popular now. Hatfield pointed out that pulp fiction was different from mainstream then.
We had to check out after that, but I caught the end of the 12 PM Writing Groups panel; they discussed online writing groups and blogs; I mentioned AOL's writing chat rooms and forums. (I've chatted with Jane Yolen, Patricia Wrede, Michael Flynn, and other writers there.)
I picked up some more gaming info while roaming the great hall and going into the various rooms again. The RPG tabletop gaming is provided by FRAG, and there are colorful battle maps. It's mostly RPG board games and card games; and there's a once a month RPG meeting somewhere local. (Frag urls: www.fragorlando.com; groups.yahoo.com/Fragorlando)
So much to do... People are wandering and wondering which panel to choose. I passed by the NASA: Highs and Lows panel; I saw some interesting info and graphics on a big screen. (It's great having scientists on the panels here.) There are thirteen one day guests here today, I heard. I talked with Susan, one of the busy con workers, about the logistics of setting up and taking down the pegboards, doing the accounting and packing of the art work, etc. I see the con members working hard and running back and forth and dealing with glitches now and then. So much to be done behind the scenes...
I bought some more books in the dealers' room and met a dealer who was just there for the day. Thank you, sir. I can always use more books. Then it was off to the art auction, where I bought my plant art work, and I got to the D.I.Y. panel just a little late. (They were both at 2 PM.) They discussed self-publishing, Print On Demand, publishing houses; some of which they dissed, though some of the panelists used them. Proof reading is hard; you may need a book doctor. Be careful out there!
Then it was time to go; there were still panels and the closing ceremonies, but with so much work waiting at home, along with all those books to read, we hit the trail.
Trivia answer: Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Time Tunnel, Lost in Space, and Land of the Giants.