Gaylaxicon 1999

(Don - 119th)(Thomas - 127th)

1999: October 8-11
Arlington Hilton & Towers
Arlington, VA

GOH: Diane Duane
Art GOH: Nancy Janda
Media GOH: Jean-Pierre Dorléac

Attendence: 300+


Gaylaxicon 1999 was a very enjoyable con, well-organized and packed with friendly, intelligent people. One of the Con Chairs was the multi-talented Rob Gates, and much of the rest of the committee were members of Lambda Sci-Fi, the DC-area chapter of the Gaylaxians; with the experience that they'd gained from running Gaylaxicon 5 in 1994, they threw a really fun con. They were ably abetted by Judy Gerjuoy (aka Jaelle), the Chair of the Darkover Grand Council, who lent them her vast experience, her helping hands, and a good deal of Darkover's office supplies. (One of the jokes at Registration was a new book based on the experience: Staplers of Darkover.)

The con facilities were all on the mezzanine floor, just off the elevators and through a single door; the physical space made for a fairly unified convention. There was a nice common area, and on Saturday and Sunday nights the large central ballroom served as dance floor. At the same time, covered overhead walkways led to the upscale shopping mall two blocks away, where the food court became the place to eat. As a bonus, the overhead walkways connected through the lobby of the National Science Foundation building, a fantastic atrium space that looked like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise from the year 3000.

The panels at this Gaylaxicon were superb: the panelists and audience approached their topics with intelligence and ingenuity, and just about every panel ended far too soon. Thomas was on two panels, Friday's "Blame MTV! Blame D&D! Blame Canada!" (about personal responsibility and the media tendency to assign quick and simple blame for anything that goes wrong) and Sunday's "Gays on Screen," which he was on with Jean-Pierre Dorléac, a Hollywood costume designer who did the outfits for Max Headroom, Battlestar Galactica, and many others.

Don was on a total of four panels: "Sexual Obsession and Horror" on Friday night (where he sat in for Don Blassingame, who was not present); "He, She, and It" (gender) and "Alternate Family Structures" on Sunday (these two shared several panelists and most of the audience, and so were almost the same, long panel); and "Utopia Isn't" on Monday.

On Saturday night, Thomas emcee'd the masquerade, which -- in the style of previous Gaylaxicons -- was very simple. Several declared entrants showed their costumes, then everyone wearing any kind of costume (or interesting clothing of any sort) was encouraged to come up and show off their outfits. Many photos were taken, and everyone who appeared received enthusiastic applause and encouragement -- which was the only sort of "award" given.

The two dances were great fun. On Sunday night, the con showed the movie The Matrix, arguably one of the best science fiction movies ever made. Don and Thomas enjoyed seeing it again.

One of the most enjoyable things about cons in general, and Gaylaxicon in particular, is spending time with friends -- either established or brand-new. At this con, there were entirely too many to list. Don & Thomas' all-around favorites, though, were the couple Nan Fredman & Kay Cornwell. Artists in many media, including aural and electronic, Nan & Kay are full of energy, fun to be with, endlessly creative, and (to paraphrase Tom Lehrer) just the sort of people who make you realize how little you've accomplished.

Of course, not everyone at the con was pleasant. Don's last three panels, unfortunately, were ruined by two of the most objectionable women he has ever met. Karen Knowitall (not her real name) was a panelist on all three, and her confederate, Pamela Pushy (also not her real name) sat in the audience on the Monday panel. Both of them made it their business to contradict every single statement Don made, often interrupting him before he had even finished making his point. Things came to a head on Monday morning's "Utopia Isn't" panel, when Don said "I have infinite faith in the human ability to find dissatisfaction in any situation. We want our unhappiness, and we will find things to be discontented about." Pamela Pushy piped up, "You can't generalize that way. Maybe the people you know are like that, but I know people who are perfectly content with their lives and wouldn't want anything to change." "That's right," Karen Knowitall agreed. "I know people from other cultures besides the American middle class, and some of them are quite satisfied."

Woe betide Don, who tried to argue the point -- the pair would not allow him to continue, until at last he stood up and walked into the audience, saying to Pamela Pushy, "Why don't you take my place, since you belong on the panel more than I do?"

As the panel continued, with Karen Knowitall and Pamela Pushy carefully allowing no viewpoints but their own to be expressed, one of the other panelists (whom we shall call "Innocent Bystander") made a point in the form "People do such-and-such." Since the point agreed with Karen Knowitall's views, Karen agreed enthusiastically and went on to pontificate for a while. When she was done, Don raised his hand and asked, "Karen, I'm wondering why it is that you didn't object to Innocent Bystander's comment that people do such-and-such, because one shouldn't generalize that way?"

Karen Knowitall responded that she "did not want to get into this sort of childish argument, it's not productive."

Don was scheduled for another panel immediately after that one, but since Pamela Pushy was also scheduled on the same panel, Don decided to skip that one.

Subsequently, Karen Knowitall accosted Don in the hall and started to pontificate, undoubtedly to prove how wrong Don was -- Don answered, "I don't want to get into this sort of childish argument, it's not productive." Oddly enough, Karen Knowitall kept pushing and pushing, so that Don had to repeat the phrase six times. Apparently, when Karen Knowitall doesn't want to get into it, one should shut up -- but when someone else doesn't want to get into it, they should shut up and listen to her.

The entire experience soured what had otherwise been a very enjoyable con.


Nan and Kay, in costume for the Masquerade.


Part of the lobby of the National Science Foundation building.

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