Last weekend I attended Radcon
an SF convention in Pasco, WA. The name and theme of the convention
are derived from the Hanford nuclear reservation that dominates the
town, which sports plenty of cafes, drycleaners, and high school
sports teams with "atomic" in their names.
Last year some of the attending pros got a tour of the nuclear waste
clean-up project, including a nifty folding robot bulldozer. I was
fortunate enough to get another tour this year, a visit to the "In
Vivo Radiobioassay and Research Facility." This is where Hanford
workers are scanned for radioactive exposure. It includes several
small rooms shielded with a foot or more of steel and concrete, in
which the person under test sits quietly while sensitive radiation
detectors listen for low levels of radiation in their lungs, bones,
or other body parts. A rank of television monitors, each showing
the quiet closed-eyes visage of an anonymous Hanford worker waiting
for his test to be over, looked to me like an art installation.
Also very cool were the plastic body parts they use to calibrate
the equipment. Most of these are solid plastic, but a few include
bones from people who suffered radioactive exposure during
their lives. I took lots of pictures, but haven't posted them yet;
for now you can check out Jay Lake's blog and Flickr
The convention was heavily populated with young people (mostly
gamers, I think) who looked just like the fans at Orycon except
that I didn't know any of them. Most of them were in costume, a
motley assortment of furry, steampunk, video game, and Insane Clown
Posse. I felt terribly underdressed, and on several occasions I
had to stop myself from running into one of the costume dealers who
had set up shop in guest rooms and shouting "Give me sometihng that
fits! Ears, goggles, faerie wings, I don't care, I just need a
costume!" But I stayed cool and professional and writer-like.
I spent most of the time hanging out with writers and editors,
includingcscole and kzmiller (who gave me a ride to and
from the con, thanks!), scarlettina, jaylake, mcjulie,
anghara, kenscholes, jens_fire, casacorona, tbclone47, bravado111, mikigarrison, criada, kehrli, joycemocha, tinaconnolly, curiositist, camillealexa, h_ingens, bethpeters3, and no doubt many others whose names or LJ handles I've
neglected to remember.
I was on a lot of programming. My favorite was the "Who's Line Is
It Any Way" [sic] hour right after opening ceremonies, which was
actually a series of theatre games ring-led by GoH Joe Kucan. I'd
never done most of those games before and it was a real hoot. I
also participated in Pictionary and Charades. Pictionary was, as
usual, highly biased by MC radconbob. The writers had
to sketch words such as "smiley face" and "dog," while the artists
were stuck with "the Louvre" and "the Pythagorean Theorem." Mind
you, I could have done either of those in thirty seconds myself,
but the artists were handicapped by a desire to draw properly rather
than executing a quick sketch. The order in which the lines are
laid down on the page is also key. Charades was cut short after
two rounds due to lack of participants. The first round was a movie,
which we quickly guessed was Star Wars. The second was
announced to be a TV show; I said "Star Trek" and got it before
the first gesture. I can name that song in no notes.
There was some kind of bug going around. I caught it, but never
had any symptoms worse than sniffles and a slight sore throat.
I'm almost completely better already.
Bottom line: Radcon is not very organized, but really knows how to
show its guests a good time.