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 set.

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. Mostly.

I spent most of the time hanging out with writers and editors, including C.S. Cole and Kamila Miller (who gave me a ride to and from the con, thanks!), Janna Silverstein, Jay Lake, Julie McGalliard, Alma Alexander, Ken and Jen Scholes, Beth Meacham, Patrick Swenson, John A. Pitts, Miki Garrison, Elizabeth Coleman, Keffy Kehrli, Joyce Reynolds-Ward, Tina Connolly, Sara Mueller, Camille Alexa, Anthony Pryor, Beth Peters, and no doubt many others whose names 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 Radcon Bob. 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.

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