Sunday, August 9, 2015

Convention Report: Shore Leave 37

The First Doctor
This weekend saw me at the Shore Leave science fiction convention in Hunt Valley, MD. I went with my 14-year old daughter (the wife stayed home to enjoy some much-needed alone time), whose main experience of conventions has been NY Comic Con. Shore Leave is, as might be imagined, a much smaller-scale, and to my mind more enjoyable, convention. I used to go to this con regularly with my wife and friends, but hadn't been there in a decade, so this was a bit of a homecoming.

One of three dealers' areas
There are several programming tracks available throughout the weekend, including the usual panels on science fiction, fantasy, and superhero topics, as well as an excellent science track (the location of the con means that a lot of genuine NASA scientists and astronauts are able to make it), a large gaming room (more about that in a sec), a costume contest, and ballroom presentations by big-name media stars.

I'll start with the latter, as John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who and Torchwood, and apparently some sort of villain on Arrow) was the headline guest, and the chief reason my daughter wanted to go. I went to both of his presentations and I have to say he was fantastic. Absolutely hilarious. He spent his hour taking questions from the audience (including one from the afore-mentioned daughter), but it was a lot more than that. He'd answer the question, eventually, but the time was spent riffing on the question and questioner, telling amazingly funny and touching stories, even singing a little. He was really excellent.

An R2 unit
The game room was always hopping. I played in a demo game of the Honor Harrington space battle miniatures game, and while it was a lot of fun to play with someone who knew the system inside and out, and who could basically translate my tactical decisions into game-mechanic-decisions, the thing was a lot more fiddly and had a lot more bookkeeping than I am really comfortable with. Mostly having to do with the three dimensional aspect of the game; ships can climb and bank and flip over on their sides and do all sorts of other antics that require you to be able to picture the 3D situation in your mind to properly plot movement and fire, and it was really just beyond my old brain. Folks were doing miniatures, RPGs, and card games throughout the weekend.

Some troublemaking Dr. Who fan
The panels were excellent. Some of the standouts were run by the USS Chesapeake, the local chapter of the Starfleet International fan club, which also hosted a party on Friday night. (Alas, in the good old days, there were really wild parties that went on late into the night, where guests would often make appearances, and which annoyed the hotel no end; those parties are a thing of the past.) I have to give a specific shout-out to Lorenzo Heard, who is a writer with no end of stories about pitching Star Trek scripts to Paramount, the personalities of and behind-the-scenes insights into the production and writing staff of the various shows, and similar things. I could listen to him go on with war stories for hours (and did, now that I think about it...).

Cobra Viper
The Masquerade (costume contest) was a hoot, and there were plenty of great cosplayers throughout the weekend. It made me regret not having a costume myself, but I did try on some of my old Star Trek uniforms, which unfortunately seem to have shrunk in storage. Alas.

On the whole, Shore Leave was a great convention. Because it's fan-run, it doesn't have the feel of one of the professional cons like Comic-Con or Creation, to its credit. I'm looking forward to going back next year.

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