Our Balticon 50 road trip report

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So, the core of the Fast Forward: Contemporary Science Fiction production team went to Baltimore, MD this past weekend for Balticon, a major regional science fiction convention. Because it was the convention’s 50th anniversary there were many special guests, including several guests of honor from previous years. We felt this was a great opportunity to get to talk with some people who haven’t been able to come to the Virginia studio recently. So, we once again took Fast Forward on the road to a convention.
No surprise, it turned out to be a lot of work. Even at the cable access and YouTube level, there’s a lot more that goes into these little chats than you would think.

Tom and Mike had to try to coordinate with everyone’s schedule. I don’t know all of the crazy details about that, so I’ll let them post about it if they wish. I managed to arrange for a portable three camera video setup from our (amazing) community access center Arlington Independent Media (AIM). Tom reserved a suite in a hotel across the street from the main convention hotel, which we planned to set up as our “studio.” Steve Cordle, the heart and soul of our crew, volunteered to come and help. In fact, by the end of the shoot we were thinking that maybe we should rename the show Steve Cordle’s Fast Forward! A special thanks also to John Pomeranz, who helped load out everything and get it back to Virginia even though he was still recovering from a nasty shrubbery accident.

We actually had a plan. We would set up the studio on Friday and shoot Friday afternoon/evening and all day Saturday. Then we would pack up on Sunday morning and head home. Why not record interviews for the entire four day convention? First, it takes time and effort for Tom and Mike to prepare for interviews, and they can only handle so many interviews before their heads explode! Second, money. Frankly, it costs a lot to do this, even though we get lots of valuable support from the science fiction community, our wonderful volunteers and AIM. There are hotel and travel/parking costs, food, convention memberships, and time taken off from work. So, we decided that we had to cram all the interviews into a day and a half to keep the costs down.

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Mike is happy to finally get on the road!

We packed up a bunch of our own gear as well as the AIM equipment to transport it all to and from Baltimore. By the time our somewhat inefficient process was done, there were three cars full of “stuff” headed to the convention. Once there, we had to unload it all and get it into the hotel room. While the hotel was quite nice, there were only two elevators, and no freight elevator that we could find. That made the process a bit slow. As we started to set up, Steve mentioned that his room (same hotel, different floor) was located on a corner of the building, and had more space. After comparing the two rooms, we decided to move the “studio” to the Steve’s room – so the gear went back on the elevator to get to the new room! We ended up using the first room for storage of cases and extra equipment – which of course meant we often had to run upstairs to find that “one piece” of gear that was in the wrong room!

 

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and After

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Before setup…

It took a few hours to get everything set, but we were able to get the room ready by 5pm, and we got two interviews done. On Saturday we cruised through seven more interviews – though I will let you know right now that we did NOT get an interview with guest of honor George R.R. Martin – he was a little too busy with the convention! Some of the sessions went more smoothly than others – we are still convinced that there was a convention of emergency vehicles happening outside our window during one interview!

 

Control Room

Control Room

The room’s climate control was pretty anemic, so it got pretty hot during some of the interviews. There were also a few inevitable equipment problems with microphones and lighting, but overall we think that things went okay, and we hope that you will enjoy some of these conversations as we release them in new Fast Forward episodes during the next few months.

 

Because of all the setup and tweaking as well as the ongoing file offload and backup process we didn’t get across the street to the convention very much. And, once the equipment was packed back into the cars, we had to head back to Virginia, so we didn’t actually attend Balticon so much as drive by and wave hello. But we got to have some wonderful conversations with friends both old and new, and we have enough material that we can get episodes out on a more regular basis for the rest of the year! Hope you like that groovy curtain background!

Kim Stanley Robinson

On Set with Kim Stanley Robinson

Joe Haldeman

Screen Shot with Joe Haldeman

Maria V. Snyder

On set with Maria V. Snyder

 

 

 

 

 

The production team often discusses how much easier Fast Forward would be to do as a podcast. We could basically do the entire show out of a single suitcase, while dressed in our jammies!  But there are already lots of good podcasts out there – and we like to think that some folks enjoy seeing, as well as hearing, conversations with interesting people. Hopefully it adds something to the audience experience. Hey, let us know if you like an episode – it’s not like we’re in this for fame or fortune, so a little positive feedback means a lot to us!

I would also like to say that this weekend has reminded me of how friendly, patient, and generally nice most science fiction professionals are. They not only give us wonderful work to read/look at/watch/listen to, but they give generously of themselves, as well. That’s why after more than 25 years I’m still willing to put time, effort and money into Fast Forward – to help others discover more about these people and the work they do. Thanks to all of you working in the speculative fiction field!

Enjoy the show, and, as always, thanks for watching!

 

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