drcpunk (drcpunk) wrote,

Mythcon and Cool Breezes

Mythcon 38 was August 3-6 in Berkeley.

Apologies in advance for spelling any names wrong or leaving anyone out. Yes, there are a lot of different people named Ellen.

Mythcon 38


We took the subway to the air train to JFK. That went smoothly, despite the air train turnstile not wanting to let me through. A transit staff person fixed that.

We wound up outside the terminal, and saw a nasty, humongous line of people waiting to check luggage, and perhaps check in. We figured out that we could go inside, to the much shorter line, and check our luggage. Rather than getting sticky check tickets, the claim numbers were printed on our boarding passes.

We got through the long line at the security checkpoint, parts of which could have been managed more efficiently. Then, we did a decent breakfast, caught a shuttle bus to the terminal where our gate was, since, for some reason, not all Jet Blue flights go from the same place.

We boarded on time, but the plane sat on the ground for an hour or two. We landed two hours later than scheduled, which really didn't thrill me. Then, we took air train to the BART to Downtown Berkeley, where there were two protests. One was anti-Bush, loud, and annoying, even though it's probably in line with my political leanings. The other was about Thailand, I think, and much larger, blocking a lot of the sidewalk, and far less annoying, as there wasn't loud yelling when we were trying to read a map.

We decided that we didn't have time to shop in Games of Berkeley or anywhere else. We caught the #7 bus to the Clark Kerr Campus, and spotted David Bratman. He told us that he'd just delivered Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman to the building where we'd be staying, and pointed us to check in. We said hello to Bonnie and Autumn Rauscher, and got room keys.

Five or ten minutes later, we were back. Our room in the suite not only had no air conditioning; it had heat. The folks at check in explained that there was no air conditioning, and that we really wouldn't need it, but agreed that we should not be getting heat. We were in a 3 bedroom suite, and only one other couple shared it, so they moved us to the empty room. This worked much better, and indeed, we did not need air conditioning. Opening the windows more than sufficed.

We unpacked a bit and settled in. By now, it was time for dinner.Meals were all on an electronic card, rather than on several separate meal tickets. Tables had pitchers of lemonade and water. We ate much good food, then assembled for the procession, feeling a bit underdressed. I'd expected it to be before dinner, you see.

We all walked in procession to the conference center, where Ellen waved like a grand dame. She and Delia had come from two weeks of teaching at Clarion, and they were far more wiped out than I was.

We heard a couple of announcements, and then a dramatic reading from The Fall of the Kings, with Sherwood Smith as an excellent Dr. Tortua. Just the right mixture of senile and sly, and old enough not to care what anyone else thought.

Then, we did English country dancing, missing the bardic for it. But, hey, dancing. Josh confirmed that the man instructing knew Susan, our local dance teacher. We also had live music from a guy playing the piano.

We went back to the room, and I did a full read through of the final-because-I-have-no-more-time-to-edit-it version of my paper, which ran 40 minutes and lulled Josh to sleep.


We got up in plenty of time to shower and make breakfast. Then, we went to a presentation about Inklings source material: Diana Pavlac Glyer, Cathy Hansen, and Hannah Thomas: Adept at Scholarship: Allies and Obstacles in the Field of Inklings Studies. Lots of juicy handouts. The book Glyer wrote, The Company They Keep, has, it seems, a great essay by David Bratman on the 19 Inklings -- 19! I hadn't realized there were so many -- and a great index.

After her presentation, Natasha Minnerly and another woman read:Snowflakes out of Fire: Tolkien’s Anatomy of Joy, read a paper about joy in Lord of the Rings. I had only two quibbles. First, they have to rehearse and get their reading speed down. Second, I think they spent too much time attacking people who did not understand what Tolkien was about. Oh, I grant, one wants to spend some time saying, "There's X argument, and here's my response", but, on the whole, the argument they were attacking has been discredited, and we're all more interested in the whole taxonomy of joy, the paper's real strength.

After that, it was time for my paper. David Lenander taped it, and I'm hoping to get a copy. Ellen Kushner was in the room for it, and I think Delia Sherman may have been there for part of it. I did not get many questions, and I was assured that this wasn't because folks didn't like it, but because I seemed to cover the topic so thoroughly.

Josh asked what the difference between a failed apprentice, like Ferris, and an apparent master, like Roger Crabbe, was. In
retrospect, it seems clear that Crabbe's masterhood is in question; indeed, that's what the academic duel is all about. But, despite his clear politicing for the Horn chair and the way he makes Justis feel stupid, there is no textual evidence that he is only concerned with himself, as there is with Ferris. Hm. Also, Crabbe passes the requirements for mastery within his community, the community of the university, while Ferris fails his -- the master he must satisfy is Diane.

Alexei asked about the king-wizard relationship, and that was one I really couldn't answer. There just isn't enough in the text for me to be able to talk about it in the context of patterns in the master-apprentice relationship.

Ellen was delighted and asked for a three minute summary of what I would have said about Thomas the Rhymer if I'd had time. I gave a sort of general idea of how I would have looked at it in the context of the poem and of Kipling's poem. Both her novel and Kipling's poem look at Thomas when he has become a master. But, as for specifics, that I could not say without having written the paper.

Ellen also said that I read the paper well, and when I told her that I had rehearsed, she said that it was time well spent. On the way to lunch, we discussed the art of writing a paper to be read aloud. She and Josh noted that there were places where it wasn't immediately clear I was quoting. I was aware of this, but had run out of time to make another editorial pass. Ellen also said that there was perhaps one place where I had chosen a less than ideal sentence. I should find out where that is and fix it.

I got complimented on the paper at lunch by a woman who said that her mother had told her that writing a paper is like putting socks on an octopus. She said of my paper that she had never seen an octopus so thoroughly socked before.

After lunch, we went to the panel Becoming Adept: The Journey to Mastery, with Ellen Klages, Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, Alexei Kondratiev, Diana Paxson, and J. S. Lawrence. The focus was on mastery in writing, and the consensus was that as soon as one believes one is a master with nothing more to learn, one has proven to all but oneself that one is not a master.

At 2:30, we went to the panel Coming of Age: Life in the Interstices, with Lynn Maudlin (moderator), Delia Sherman,
Sherwood Smith, Autumn Rauscher, Cat Lenander. This was a panel about YA fiction with 2 genuine YAs on it. Topics touched on included genuine YA fiction as opposed to fiction with YAs written for adults, fiction intended as YA fiction that had characters who were essentially adults in YA bodies, and the trickiness of handling teen angst, without which it could perhaps not be YA, but with too much of which most YAs don't want to read it.

I did a bit of shopping after that, and went to most of Ellen Kushner's reading at 5 pm. She read from Swordspoint and The Privilege of the Swords. Lots of good scenes, especially scenes with Ginnie Vandall. Ellen does a great job with the voices.

Then, we went to dinner. After that, the evening entertainments began with Lord of the Ringos, aka the Lord of the Rings musical that the Beatles might have written. Late in the performance, Josh and I got up to dance, which delighted folks.

Then, the Not Ready for Mythcon Players performed Harry Trotter and the Grocery List of Gloom, a seven book sage about Harry's dangerous quest for the items in a supermarket. Ellie played Harry, and was scarily appropriate for the part. A very odd bit from Book 7 was tossed in around the Book 5 section, and the Voldemort clone's spell was "Falsus Latinus". We didn't hear Harry's response, as the laughter was too loud, but Ellie said it had been Pig Latin.

Then, Ellen did an abbreviated version of her Thomas the Rhymer show, weaving old ballads which she sang with sections of the novel which she read. We'd seen this at Noreascon 4, but it's different every time. I'd like to see it with the fiddler once.

After all that, we went to the bardic circle, which was run by Diana Paxson. The mood was serious, but not necessarily ose or somber, and a lot of good old songs. I did Golias's Song from Silverlock, and Gawaine's Leavetaking. I think Josh did the Kibbeth song he wrote, and I think Creature of the Wood. When we left, I was falling down tired.

We dropped by the hospitality suite, and we actually met our suitemates, Anthony and Jessica. Anthony tried to lure us to Mythcon
39. I explained that we just couldn't do another west coast Mythcon next year, since, unlike this year, we really do intend to get to WorldCon.

Me: Er, where is Mythcon 39?

Anthony: Connecticut.

Me: Ah, shit.

Practically our back yard. And, he and Jessica are from Staten Island. The next day I asked about transportation, and he said that
there might be enough people to hire a bus, but, regardless, Amtrack and Greyhound did go to the college.

We also talked briefly about the SCA, and he mentioned the Tuchux. When we talked about that the next day, he wanted to know how many beers he'd had.


We crashed out, intending to wake up slowly, grab breakfast, and make the discussion panel about the MFA finalists. We woke up slowly enough to miss breakfast and barely make the panel. It was a good discussion. We talked about Three Days to Never. Stephan and Ellen weren't buying that the old version of the father would go from saving his daughter's life to wanting her dead. I noted that, to him, the post-restaurant daughter was not real. It was also interesting hearing from people who weren't as enamoured of Corbenic, which, YA or not, may be more for adults.

After the discussion, Josh went to Ellen's Sound and Spirit talk, whil I shopped. We met after and went to lunch, having one of those wonderful multiple conversations with Alexei Kondratiev, Diana Paxson, Jon De Cles, and everyone else at the table, a conversation that went much smoother once we moved the giant plant out of the way. I have no idea why the staff decided after Friday's dinner that we needed plants.

After lunch, I went to David Bratman's presentation on Music and Middle Earth, at which point, exhaustion caught up with me, and I dozed through most of it. So did someone else, resting in the aisle. After that, Josh joined me, and I stayed awake, while he dozed through the panel The Lyf so Short, the Craft so Long to Learne, with Ellen Sweetser, Ellen Kushner, Delis Sherman, Jon De Cles, and Marjorie Burns.

After that was the banquet, where the food was even better than what we'd been having all weekend. Then, there were speeches and awards. The speeches were from David Bratman, Glen GoodKnight, Sheridan Smith, and Delia Sherman.

After that was the Broceliande concert, where Josh and I did a lot of dancing, and a lot of other people decided that if we could do it, they could too. Much dancing. Much singing.

We went to the Hospitality Suite and saw an odd little play. I liked it. Then, we went to the bardic circle. I think I did "The Ballad of Lord Idath" and Kipling's "The King", as Josh had just done "The Undertaker's Horse". Diana closed the bardic at some hour that would be early at a WorldCon or filking convention, but that felt plenty late here. We dropped by the hospitality suite, then back to the room.

We got lots of compliments on our dancing. I think it was the fact of, more than the quality with which, but it still felt nice.


We grabbed breakfast and arranged for a cab to pick us up at 11:15. Then, we caught the second half of G. Ronald Murphy's paper on Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parsival, which I really need to dig up and reread (Parsival, that is). Then, Delia read her story from Coyote Road, and it was my turn to doze, though I cuaght the beginning and the denouement.

After that, we got a call from the cab, which had arrived 10 minutes early. We were startled, but hustled to get there. The driver dropped us at the BART, and we took a brief detour to Games of Berkeley, which has an excellent selection of Indie RPGs. I picked up a couple of things, and we went to the airport. I'm quite sure we took air train from the airport to the BART, but we did not need air train getting to the airport.

We confirmed that lost and found did not have Josh's headphones, grabbed a meal, then went to our gate. The flight was delayed a couple of hours because of ground conditions at JFK. And it took a while to get home from JFK. We walked in the door at 4:15 am.

Next year's theme is Warrior Women. I wonder if anyone's planning to do Buffy papers. I was thinking of maybe doing something on Holly Black's Valiant, if it clicked, and then I started thinking about Buffy, Valiant, Gil-Shalos -- there may be something in a paper on 20th - 21st century works with women from our world who want to be warriors. But, that may be a bit too broad for me to tackle.

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