Renovation, Day 1

Renovation, the 69th World Science Fiction Convention, was held at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center (RSCC), Atlantis Hotel, and Peppermill Hotel, on August 17-21, 2011. I attended the entire convention and will share some of my highlights.

My wife, Leslie, and I drove from Southern California to Reno on Tuesday, August 16. Although I offered to share the driving, she did all of it. Google Maps had recommended going north on US-395, but Leslie’s GPS steered her to I-5 to Sacramento and then east on I-80 to Reno. I suspect the distance was longer, but the time was shorter with this route, although sometimes the GPS gives some very strange directions. We arrived in Reno and checked into the Atlantis Hotel/Casino on S. Virginia St. After we got a bite to eat, we stopped at Borders Books, just down the street from the Atlantis, which was in the midst of their going-out-of-business sale.

The convention’s opening ceremony was Wednesday afternoon at 3:00, but programming began at 10:00 am. The exhibit hall opened at 11:00 and the dealers’ room opened at noon. The first panel I attended was at noon, “Welcome to Reno.” The main reason I went there was to meet panelist Mignon Fogarty, aka Grammar Girl, whose Quick and Dirty Tips podcast is one of my favorites. I don’t know why the convention, full of writers and readers, didn’t have her do a session on grammar, but it was nice to put a face to the voice I had listened to for years.

At 1:00 pm I went to the slideshow “A Trip to the Creation Museum” with John Scalzi. Scalzi had been dared to go to the Creation Museum in Kentucky by some of his friends. He challenged them to raise $250 within a week for a charity that works to maintain separation of church and state. He said they raised that much in less than an hour, and by the end of the week had raised over $5000, so he was obligated to go. The slideshow was what you would expect from a science fiction writer and skeptic. Hilarity ensued.

I spent the next hour in the dealers’ room with the intent of just scoping out what was there. It seemed like there were more book dealers and fewer crafts sellers than at the last Worldcon I attended in Denver in 2008, which I liked. I did make one major purchase, though, a first-edition hardcover, Uncle Scrooge McDuck: His Life and Times, written and drawn by Carl Barks, which included a signed duck print from the master. I got this from Bud Plant Books who had discounted the book from $850 to $450. That pretty well ate up my buying budget, but for anyone who knows me, I couldn’t resist a Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge collectible! I already had the paperback edition, but this is much nicer.

Then I rushed over to the Opening Ceremony, arriving a few minutes late and finding the large auditorium already filled to standing room. I wandered in and found a section of empty seats behind the sound board. I wasn’t able to see much of what transpired, but at least I didn’t have to stand for an hour.

At 4:00 was the panel “The Real Revenge of the Nerds: Geek as Hero.” You can’t go wrong with any panel that has Connie Willis on it. Joining her were Ginger Buchanan, John Coxon, Laurie Mann, and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. This was an entertaining and informative hour.

Next was “Before the Boom: Classic SF, Fantasy, & Horror Movies before 2001 & Star Trek.” Panelists were Richard Chwedyk, Bob Eggleton, Mark Leeper, and Yvonne Penney. This was a fun hour of reminiscences about watching those good old movies on late-night TV.

I went back to the hotel, and then Leslie and I drove a few miles south to the Summit Sierra Mall. We ate at a fast-food restaurant called Pace’s Pizza Balls. A pizza ball is exactly what the name says: a pizza baked in a ball of dough, instead of flat. It was actually rather good. After that we went next door to the Cinemark Theater to see Rifftrax Live: Jack the Giant Killer at 8:00. Rifftrax is ex-Mystery Science Theater 3000 stars Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and  Bill Corbet doing what they do best: making fun of less-than-stellar movies. Much hilarity ensued.

Back to the hotel for sleep, beautiful sleep.

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