Balticon 55 – an Experience of Music, Programme and Conversations

Balticon 54 was one of my first online cons. I enjoyed it immensely so when Balticon 55 was announced as an online convention I knew I had to attend it. Soon I realized that I wanted not only to visit it but also help a bit. And so I did.

Multiple Venues

Similarly to last year’s Balticon, its 2021 edition was not limited to Discord and Zoom. Parts of Balticon 55 took place on the website, Gather.town, Second life and YouTube as well. I must say I did not use YouTube and Second Life and I barely used the website part. As for the rest – they worked pretty well.

Discord was one of the main social venues for the con. It was not as busy as I thought it would be though. Yet there were plenty of channels where the conversations took place. The social spaces for volunteers were there too. I can only say that it was huge. I didn’t count the channels, but I would not be surprised if I learned that it had the highest number of channels out of the conventions I visited. Zoom was a programme hub but it also hosted a Consuite so it functioned as an additional social hub. When it comes to Gather.town, I used it only to check the Art Show. I saw other spaces for dealers and for socializing, but I am not sure how busy they were.

Screenshot from Gather.town. It shows part of the programme room, a corridor and the large hallway.
Part of the Gather.town space. It seems that it was based on the Hotel where the convention is usually held.

Volunteering

At one point when visiting Balticon 55 website I saw a call for volunteers. As you know, I like volunteering. I also enjoyed the con last year and I thought that devoting some of my time to helping out with the con may be a good way of thanking the team for running it. So I applied. Somehow, I ended up in three departments. It was not my initial plan, but this is what happened. Here I must say I regret I did not spend more time helping with the Programme and Programme Tech. I did only a few hours for both these departments together. Most of my volunteering time was devoted to Discord moderation.

Moderating Discord was a win-win situation. As I am six hours ahead of Baltimore the overnight shift was quite comfortable for me. It didn’t require a lot of effort though. Every morning I was monitoring the whole big server between 4 AM and 8AM Baltimore time. As you can imagine, the server was pretty quiet at that time. Should I not be there nothing would happen. Yet someone had to be there in case something would demand taking an action. The first morning was surprising as Kristin and Daniel stayed with me for some time. In fact, Kristin stayed almost till the end of my shift. We had a long conversation about the fandom. It was fascinating to learn about many things. The two subsequent mornings I spent alone with a book, some tours around Gather to make sure it is calm and occasionally single messages on Discord.

Shifts I had in Consuite (my Programme related responsibilities) were fun. It was a helping role in case someone needed support with Zoom. Apart from that, it was a great opportunity to meet people. I was happy to be there, and regretted not choosing more shifts (but I wanted to attend so many programme items at the same time…). My last responsibility was technical support for one talk. Its topic was seagrass.

Fascinating Programme

Despite the fact that there were 30-minute breaks between programme items, I managed to visit quite many of them. Somehow, I focused on the topics of Science and Music. The filking part was amazing. Both the filk circles and concerts I attended were awesome. Should I choose my favourite ones, those would probably be Theme Circle: Songs From CJ Cherryh’s Worlds and a concert of Sassafrass. The latter I had to leave early though. As for the panels and talks Fantastic Geologies and Where to Find Them talk by Dr. Caitlin Ahrens was terrific. It was clear how fascinated with the topic presenter was. The amount of information provided was too large for me to grasp everything yet I was enchanted with it. I also enjoyed the panel on Creative Cursing and a talk called A Newly-Discovered Volcanic Caldera in Alaska. Apart from those also other items I attended were good, but those few definitely stood out.

Picture features a person sitting on a very small island. Next to the person there is a small building and some trees. To the right there is an inscription 'Welcome to Balticon 55 The Session Will begin Shortly'.
When waiting for the programme to start one was able to see beautifull artwork designed by the Artist GOH – Alyssa Winans.

Meeting People

I had some occasions to meet people and have interesting conversations. Thanks to the volunteer trainings that happened a week before the con, I felt like a part of the team. So I spent more time in the ops/moderators social voice channel. I hopped in there to have a chat and I stayed there long after one of my shifts. It led to a nice discussion mainly with Tree, Pat, and El Securidor. It concentrated on RPGs. All the chats I had here and in the Consuite led me to crave to visit Balticon in person. I want to meet everyone in real life and have the conversations flowing throughout the night.

Last year I wrote about the online cons. I mentioned that they are a great occasion to visit cons in the parts of the world you would normally not be able to travel to. I still believe it is a great thing to do. What I did not realize then is that my presence at those online cons will make me want to travel everywhere in person. Wherever I had good talks, I met new friends. And I want to see them and have more conversations. It applies not only to Balticon 55. I felt the same during other events – Demicon, Boskone, Punctuation, Necronomicon, and so on. Yet now when I’m writing this report, the urge is pretty strong. I know I won’t manage to travel to the US often, but I hope that I will be able to at least visit some of those conventions in person.

Convention Badge showing three tigers. The inscriptions top to bottom are: 'Copyright Alyssa Winans', 'Balticon 55', and 'Alqua'.
Balticon 55 offered colour and B&W version of the badge. I chose the coloured one.

Great Time

As you can see, I had a great time the Balticon 55. Last year they made an awesome con and this year it was even better. It was a pleasure to be able to help a tiny bit. As in the previous year, BSFS prepared a GoFundMe campaign to help them fund the con and the year of their activities. From what I can see the campaign was not successful enough to sponsor the goal ($25,000) but the members donated over 70% of the goal. The option to get the digital convention badge was $5 only. The most expensive option ($150) included both digital and physical items (tote bag, t-shirt, Souvenir Book, coffee mug, and a lapel pin). I decided to go with a simple virtual support providing me with the badge and PDF copy of the Souvenir Book. I have already received the first item. The second one will be mailed when it’s ready – cannot wait to read through it :).

I can recommend Balticon to anyone who would like to visit it. I hope I will get the chance to attend it in person in future :).

My next post will treat about Punctuation.2. and will be published within two weeks.

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