July 15th, 2011

North American Discworld Convention

The second North American Discworld Convention was held at the Concourse Hotel in Madison, Wisconsin, July 7,8,9,10 and 11. Henry Osier, with whom I've worked a number of major masquerades, was running the "Maskerade" for this convention, and asked me to act as the judges' clerk. I agreed, expecting that this would be an opportunity to at least see Sir Terry Pratchett. Other than that, I wasn't terribly interested in attending a five-day convention devoted solely to Discworld, fun as that is, so made arrangements to attend Saturday only.

I did purchase a couple of "distressed" memberships for myself and Georgie so that we could go the whole day and enjoy the programming, etc., in good conscience, and had a pleasant time. There was a fair amount of programming. We sat in on part of the "Wyrd Sisters" play, and attended the "Victorian Internet" panel at which I learned some interesting things about shutter telegraphs (the original of the Discworld "clacks") and the development of the electric telegraph system in Britain. At midday, we went out on the square in quest of the Farmer's Market, which was, however, very reduced due to the Art Fair on the Square, which we walked through briefly.

Back at the con,we checked out the small dealers space, and heard guest Esther Friesner read a very funny fantasy story (forthcoming in Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine), about travelers encountering Norse legends in the wilds of Minnesota.

After that, we got seats for "Talking with Terry," in which Sir Terry and his personal assistant, Rob Wilkins, gave a very frank and affecting talk about what it is like to be one of Britain's most famous authors; the effects of Terry's Alzheimer's disease; the "horrors" of traveling to the USA and dealing with the TSA; and adventures in the rest of the world, including finding rugged bushrangers in remotest Australia who are "your biggest fan."

After checking that the masquerade green room was open and running, we ducked out to get a quick sandwich and then prepped for the masquerade. Judges were Sir Terry; his British agent, Colin Smythe; Esther Friesner; Bernard Pearson, who runs "The Discworld Emporium" and is reputedly the physical original for Archancellor Ridcully; and fan Pam Gower who became the image of Granny Weatherwax.

Discworld Emporium provided very handsome certificates for participants and awards, embellished with Ankh-Morpork stamps from their collection, as well as a pair of lovely trophies for Best in Show and Author's Choice awards. Georgie filled in the names and award titles in her calligraphic hand.

The masquerade rans smoothly with a lot of very nice entries. Considering that all but three of the entries listed themselves as "novices", some were flat-out astonishing. Best in Show was "The Dance of the Seven Deadly Weapons," in which the slim female presenter produced weapon after hidden weapon from her elegant dress, finishing up by causing a full size genuine crossbow to appear from under her skirts. There were some spectacular props: "Twoflower" had a beautiful "iconograph" prop, which not only opened up to show a full diorama of the artist imp inside, but incorporated a fully functional digital camera and color printer AND served as remote control for "The Luggage," which followed him about the stage. Another costume included a fully functional shutter telegraph mechanism. The "Author's Choice" award went to "Gladys the Golem," a very simple costume that was very well presented. Of course, there were a lot of novice errors--not speaking up enough, or too talky entries, but overall the masquerade was of a very high standard. Overall, it ran smoothly and fairly quickly, and we got lots of compliments from the judges about how well it ran. Apparently, Sir Terry mentioned the masquerade in his closing remarks as a high point of the convention.

Since we weren't staying overnight, Georgie and I packed up as quickly as we could and headed home. Henry still owes me a drink for this--I shall collect in good time!

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