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Serpent Con

Started: 2019-08-29 19:46:38

Submitted: 2019-08-29 22:58:23

Visibility: World-readable

17th August 2019: In which the intrepid narrator sees Serpents, accountants, readings, and tales of science gone bad at Worldcon

On Saturday, 17th August, Kiesa took our children around Worldcon, so I got to experience the convention on my own.

I stopped for coffee on my way to the convention centre, so by the time I got to the convention the panel I was interested in attending at 10:00, Misconceptions in medieval history, was already full. I wandered around the convention centre, taking the network of escalators crossing across the open atrium up to the fourth floor, where I stumbled across a full contact medieval combat demonstration put on by the Irish full contact medieval combat team.

Full contact medieval combat demonstration
Full contact medieval combat demonstration

The combatants faced off, one-on-one, in medieval-style armor with blunt swords. The referee called out one-minute matches, and the combatants tried to score decisive hits on each other without giving up hits on themselves. Most of the time the hits seemed evenly matched: either the combatants would block all of the blows coming their way and be unable to score any hits on their opponent, or they would trade hits on each other.

Be the Serpent at Worldcon
Be the Serpent at Worldcon

My next panel was a live recording of the Hugo Award-nominated podcast "Be the Serpent", a podcast of "extremely deep literary merit" co-hosted by Macey, one of my colleagues. The live recording was just as amusing (and prone to thrust off onto various random tangents) as the podcast, with the added bonus of a live audience to laugh and react to the panel in real time.

After Be the Serpent I headed next door to the play "The Eldritch Accountant", an amusing play involving secret rituals under the guise of consulting operation. (As a consequence of seeing the play, every time I saw the phrase "Chartered Accountants" for the next week I thought about eldritch rituals.)

After the play I stopped for a snack, so I didn't have enough time to make it to the next panel I was interested in, "Technology we can't believe we're still using". I wandered around the dealer room and displays before queueing for Charles Stross' reading at 15:00. He tempted us with an excerpt from his work-in-progress, a novel set in the Laundry universe but with a new set of characters around the periphery of the New Management's takeover of the UK. The only problem with the excerpt is that we're not going to get to read it until 2021.

At the end of Stross' twenty-minute reading slot, I cycled out of the room to the back of the queue to reenter the very same room for Yoon Ha Lee's reading. He also read from his work-in-progress, which we won't get to see until 2021; but his work focused on a fantasy version of the Japanese occupation of Korea, with the magic system based on panting. (Precisely how this worked was not specified.) We did get Yoon Ha's favorite Kel joke:

What's the difference between a Kel and a violin?
The Kel burns longer.

I made it to one last panel, Tall technical tales, which was basically a bunch of scientists on a panel telling stories of amusing and crazy (and often scary) things that happened in their labs, usually involving ridiculously corrosive or explosive chemicals (and often poor lab practices). This was one of the panels that broke my usual rule of looking for people I wanted to see and hunting down their panels; but it was worth attending.

I met up with Kiesa and the kids and we ate pizza for supper at a nearby restaurant before heading back to our apartment for the night.