Penguicon: The Highlights|
Most Embarrassing Moment
Starting the “Limited Female Roles In Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Comics” panel, which was based on one of my strips, and forgetting my own dialogue.
I'd prepared for this eventuality by bringing five copies of said strip with me to the con, but I lost them before the panel started and thus had to tell the audience what the strip looked like... And failed abysmally, blowing the whole gag from the start as I stammered my way through it. Elizabeth Bear actually knew my own writing better than I did in that moment, and mercifully took over to recite it almost verbatim. Thank God she did, because I bet the people on that panel were wondering, “Who’s the logorrheic idiot who good writers are pointing at?”
Most Gratuitous Apology
Howard Tayler, who is in fact one of the nicest people in all of webcomicdom, laughingly shot me the double-finger when I mock-insulted him on Saturday night.
The next morning, he pulled me aside to make sure that he hadn’t accidentally hurt my feelings.
Now, I’d spent the day before hearing Randy, Eric, and Rob on a panel, talking about angry readers who’d cornered them in parking lots and in their own apartments. I’d listened to their tales of folks who’ve practically posted death threats in public forums. So by then, I was completely inured.
Truth is, Howard probably could have kicked me in the nuts and I would have shrugged. But it was nice of him to make sure, because he’s a sweet guy.
Greatest Distance Between Imagination And Reality
Randy Milholland is large and hulking. He looks like a lumberjack temporarily working as a car mechanic (since he wore a lot of Davan-style workshirts that weekend), and has a voice that booms out like a cannon. It’s difficult to be on a panel with him – not that he tries to overshadow you, but the man always has a better story. You kind of feel like you'd be doing the audience a favor if you slunk off and let him talk.
I anticipated that he’d be a lot funnier than I am, and he was. But Davan (and he, in his own comic) looks so mild when he draws himself that I anticipated I would have to tread softly around him so as to avoid having his bones shatter inside the milky sacs of residual flesh that passed for Randy’s muscles. I thought that at least I’d outweigh the motherfucker. Instead, I stood in fear, for he could have body-slammed me into the carpet if he took a disliking to me.
Good thing he’s almost – almost – as nice as Howard. Unless you piss him off. Then he body-slams you verbally.
Unseen Funniest Moment
It has been established, both in words and in photos, that I gave not one but two bodyshots to girls at the con. But the thing that I heard all night was Rob Balder’s reaction.
You see, I was around a corner by the con suite when I first took my shirt off, and it was loud, so Rob had no idea what was going on. Then he heard some commotion and turned around just to watch me, my sagging fishbelly streaked with faded purple stretch marks, grinding my cavernous manboobs together to present a tangled bouquet of chest hair, sweat, and alcohol.
Apparently, he recoiled with such a revulsed expression that people were laughing about it for hours afterwards. Not that I can blame him - well, actually, I couldn’t even if I wanted to, for I never saw his face. I just heard about it an hour later, and the next morning, and then at brunch….
But man, I hope he doesn’t filk the moment.
(That said, I don’t usually take my shirt off that much. I actually despise my body. But sometimes, you gotta work in the name of science, and I had to verify the existence of the male-only bodyshot.)
This came after the con, when in a blog post someone mentioned how “approachable” I was. This is not my fault.
Honestly? I’d love to have a coterie of sycophants and well-wishers, each shielding me from the harsh reality of the unwashed louts that populate every convention. How I groaned every morning upon arising, only to realize that I would have to descend bodily into your foul and toxic humors!
You accosted me in the hallways, one by one, like an endless horde of karate mooks besetting Bruce Lee… And I had no escape. Penned in by the expectation of common civility (and oh, how sadly I need your help to achieve the fame and fortune that is my birthright), I had no choice but to pretend to be your friend momentarily – to feign an interest in your tiny, mundane lives.
I wished I had the clout to cut you off. “Have you a beautiful orifice I can penetrate?” I’d snap. “Or a media platform to lift me to still higher heights? Oh, or mayhap you think you’ve created some sort of fictional construct that deems you worthy for me to call you ‘peer.’”
“What? You have nothing? You’re just, as they say, a fan? Bristol! Harvey! Faithful bodyguards, escort this feckless Dalit from my presence!”
But no. Sadly, I’m one misstep away from “schlub” like the rest of you. And so I must bide my time, hoping that eventually I will gain enough of an audience that you can blur into the faceless masses that you deserve to be.
Most Recycled Moment
I originally wrote this up for StarCityGames.com, but the article was deemed (rightfully, I may add) to be a little low on Magic content. So I’ll just put the relevant bits here, which was cool… Uh, exciting. Oh, you know how it is. Anyway, have my leavings.
In the end, it was the liquid nitrogen that caused me to miss the prerelease, and I don’t regret that one bit.
See, I was at Penguicon, the science-fiction and open-source software convention, where all sorts of geekish pursuits can be had – from the ever-changing, room-sized tinker toy endless loop ball run of the Chaos Machine to the many Linux installs on laptops everywhere to the print-on-demand T-shirt machine, there’s something for every nerd.
But me? I wanted the ice cream.
Liquid nitrogen, in case you didn’t know, is kept in a coffin-sized metal canister, complete with a frost-furred dispensing hose. You twist the valve and there’s a high-pitched squeal that sounds like something straight out of a Star Wars film as the various gas shunts click into place… And after a few moments of squirting fog, a pure clear fluid shoots out of the nozzle and into the stainless steel dish. Within seconds the bowl is a frosted white.
What lies inside that bowl is over three hundred degrees below zero.
Liquid nitrogen is so far below room temperature that seventy degrees is enough to get it to boil – which it does, bubbling madly inside the smooth walls of the bowl, exploding in smoky jets of pure gossamer fog, so cool the hairs rise up on the back of your hands when you get near it. It billows out and over the sides of the bowl, spilling down in a refreshing mist.
Liquid nitrogen is potentially deadly in large amounts, but paradoxically it’s trivial to handle because it’s so cold. If you were to stick your hand into that clear boil, you would contract a case of instant frostbite, your flesh crystallized into chunks that would fall bloodlessly off the bone.
But the temperature differential? Ah, you feel scientific just doing it. Because when a drop of liquid nitrogen gets near your skin, comparatively you’re so hot that it’s like tossing a cup of water into a blast furnace. It explodes into gas, which forms a protective barrier that shields you from serious injury.
So if you know what you’re doing, you can dribble this stuff down your arm, splash it across your chest, spill it on your pants so your pants burst into a frigid cloud-exuding expanse of fabric. You can hurl it on the floor, upon which point it fills the room with a Starlight Express-like coating of dry ice-styled fog.
Or – as they do at Penguicon – you can mix a quart of half-and-half, some milk, sugar, flavoring, and liquid nitrogen together. Then stir. Rapidly. When the cold boils away, if you’ve stirred properly, what you have left is a slightly chunky ice cream.
It is awesome.
But come the end of Penguicon, no matter how many quarts of ice cream they make, they still have a lot of leftover liquid nitrogen. So they do the only sane thing you could do with a bunch of super-chilled chemicals: they put as much of it in containers as they can, then throw them all into the hotel pool.
They did this last year, and there was a YouTube video that made the rounds. There’s a shot of a man with a bowl, and he flings it in, and the entire pool bursts into tendrils of fog that cover every available space. If you’ll excuse the pun, it is incredibly cool.
I missed it then, so this year there was no way in hell I’d miss the latest pool hurl. Especially given that several girls in bikinis were then going to be jumping into the pool afterwards. Especially given that I had been trained in the handling of liquid nitrogen and was one of the trusted ones who was going to help fling it into the pool.
So I helped direct the flow of LN2 down to the pool, and Molly shouted “Go,” and then there was a swimming pool ablaze with light and smoke and then there were chicks diving in and squealing as they hit the cold shock of the water, and you know I think I saw a porno like this once.
It’s the Internet, kids. It’s somebody’s fetish.
Immediately afterwards, I called up the Michigan prerelease site. “When’s the last flight?” I asked.
“It’s starting in two minutes,” they said. I was half an hour away.
“Never mind, then,” I said, dejected. I’d been hoping to get in a quick round, but I had two panels I was contractually obligated to appear at on early Sunday afternoon, so I couldn’t have gotten out of the hotel before 2:00…. And the nitrogen toss was at 2:30, so how could I miss that?