After the panel, we went out for a quick lunch with David Bratman. After fighting the clouds of dust the winds were whipping up from the State Street construction zone, we were a bit dismayed to find that our goal, Mediterranean Cafe, was closed Sundays. We fell back on Potbelly's Deli, which provided us with quite good hot sandwiches.
Back at the hotel, we made rendesvous plans with co-conspirators Tracy Benton and Bill Bodden, and sallyed forth for the great Fancy Dress Party Grocery Shopping Expedition, which occupied the early part of the afternoon.
We got back in plenty of time for my panel, "On the Lifespan of Genres," moderated by Benjamin Rosenbaum. Joining me on the panel were Eleanor Arnason, Helen Keeble, and Steve Silver, filling in for absent Darja Malcolm-Clarke. The panelists were generally dismissive of John Barnes' premise, set forth in his "Helix" column, that genres have an inherent lifespan of about seventy years, after which they are "undead," but for different reasons. Eleanor provided some formal definitions of "genre" which sparked discussion as to whether the term was being used incorrectly, and if so, how. Steve Silver put his encyclopedic knowlege of SF publishing history and dates to good use, showing that Barnes' definition of SF as a genre having a starting point of 1927 (the "Amazing" era) was arguable at best. I showed how the resticted lifespan arguement was invalid when applied to any other genre, such as the Western story, let alone major art forms such as opera and the symphony. We had a good audience and a lot of participation, and I was very pleased with the panel.
After that, Bill and I went out to fetch the half-barrel of Capital Amber beer I had on reserve, and the party setup began in earnest.
This year's theme was "Fantastic Academe," and we had encouraged people to attend as graduates or faculty of schools they had, or would like to have had, attended. Georgie decorated the walls with school crests: Hogwarts, Miskatonic, Transylvania Polygnostic (from the "Girl Genius" comic), Pratchett's "Unseen University," and "Saganami Island," the space academy of the Honor Harrington universe.
The food theme was "Classic Wisconsin Graduation Party," honoring Maureen Kincaid Speller's matriculation from the University of Kent. Total surprise was obtained when Maureen first saw her smiling visage adorning the cake, and she was thrilled with the glitzy gown Tracy had made for her. If there was cake, there had to be ice cream, and there was. There was also the aforementioned bheer, cranberry-orange punch (popular recipe available on Tracy's journal "replyhazy"), cheese and sausage (natch), "taco dip" and chips, and cocktail franks in barbecue sauce.
Of course we costumed, and Tracy and Bill were quite spectacular in coordinating emebellished lab coats as members of the Transylvania Polygnostic faculty. Georgie was very 19th century elegant as "Headmistress of the Ladies' Academy of Grace Adieu." I had had Tracy make me a set of current doctoral regalia in my persona as "Sagramor the Sagacious," a long-lived sorceror who started his academic career at Oxford in 1208 and has collected schools and degrees up to Wisconsin 1979 (my own real class). We had some other good costumes show up, and were pleased to the extent other people dressed up for the evening even if not costuming.
The party went very well and we were pleased by it. Food and punch held out well. I had thought we had over bought the beer a bit, but got a last rush of thirsty fans after midnight; turns out there had been some very popular Dr. Who and "Galactica" panels that ran very late, and by the time the attendees got up to the sixth floor, other rooms were either out of beer or closed up for the night. When word went out that we had plenty of beer left, we were instantly popular! Things finally ran down shortly before two AM when we gave "last call" to the ten or so people left and closed up, at which time we may have been the last party open, even the con suite having closed due to the con contagion having taken a toll on their volunteers.