In Issue 4 of Critical Miss we included a piece advertising Killercon 2000, a
convention which took place in the UK in early March. We said then that we
would most likely be attending, and we did in fact go.
To be perfectly honest, we were in two minds about whether to go right up until the final days, since the aforementioned advertising piece had caused us a fair amount of hassle (we had to nag a bit for it, and in the end wondered who thought who was doing who a favour). But then, on the day before the con, we found the following snippet whilst browsing the panels section of the Killercon website:
Death of the Fanzine
Starts at 15:00 in MLT on Saturday.
Have Websites lead to the end of the Fanzine? Could this be due to such successful sites as Critical Miss and it's ilk?
Phil Masters compers this panel
Now, I suppose I really ought to admit at this point that we were just a tad put out when we read this - since no-one from Killercon had bothered to contact us to tell us about it. I'm not trying to make out we're major league stars. We're not. We're just a little fanzine (although we're gradually getting to be not-so-little).
But we felt that since the description of the panel actually mentioned us by name, in fact actually suggested that we might be responsible for the death of the fanzine, we felt emailing us would have been nice, especially as they had previously communicated with us by email over a three month period regarding the advert.
(There is a further irony in us being accused of killing fanzines when we've always considered ourselves to be a fanzine).
It also seemed a missed opportunity. I would have thought that if you are doing a discussion panel which is debating the effect that web fanzines have had on print fanzines, the obvious format would be to invite the editor of a web fanzine and an editor of a print fanzine, and see what they have to say. Especially if you know a web editor, and know that he *might* be coming.
And when choosing which web fanzine's editor to invite, wouldn't the obvious one have been the one that you actually mentioned by name?
E.g. Critical Miss... and me.
That probably sounds very egotistical, but it was really started by them mentioning us by name. If they hadn't, then I would have assumed that we were too insignificant to mention, but they did.
Anyhow, so we turned up and went to the panel, all eager to sit in the "public gallery" and witness our show trial. We thought it would be quite funny to let everyone start talking about us, and then at some point pipe up and say who we were. (Although since we were walking around wearing convention badges saying "Jonny Nexus", "Bubba" and so on, we were hardly undercover).
But it never happened. It wasn't cancelled, it just never happened. The previous talk overran into "our" time period, then the speaker and everyone else just got up and left for lunch.
We were left sitting alone in the lecture theatre. One of the organisers came over and asked us who we were:
"We're Critical Miss," we replied, a little pathetically.
"Oh," he said.
And that was it for our discussion. We never did find out if everyone thought we had killed fanzines.
I don't think any of it was intentional. It was just administrative confusion. The right hand (who had come up with the topics for the panels) didn't know what the left hand (who did the publicity) was doing. I don't want to get too negative. It was only a little thing. But unfortunately, little things have a habit of colouring your view of things.
Other than the mess over the panel, we actually had a really good time at Killercon, on both days.
My strongest memory is probably the Paranoia game we played, in particular one of my character's deaths (if you've never played Paranoia, you have a number of clones and so can die several times).
My character (I think the second clone) had been given a personal groombot (E.g. a personal grooming robot) by the Research & Development department. Like all things handed out by R & D it was experimental, and probably unreliable. The GM had some kind of R & D supplement, and he read out a nice long description of all the things it could do: trimming nails, combing hair, soaping and washing; applying deodorant and so on.
Good enough for most people. But not for the editor whose own readers voted him a screaming pervert with an anal fixation. I asked if it could do "wiping" and "bidet stuff" when I went to the toilet.
I think the GM was a little taken aback by this, but give him his due, he didn't get fazed, and replied that yes, it did do those functions.
So at the end of our mission briefing, I announced that I was off to the toilet with my groombot. I did my business then said that I would present myself to it, unwiped as it were, and let it get on with things.
The GM rolled some dice, took a deep breath, consulted a few tables in his book and announced that it had suffered a critical failure and malfunctioned.
Apparently it rammed a nuclear-powered curling tong up my anus, turned the heat up to super-nova and cooked me from the inside out.
The other characters heard a very, short strangled cry from the toilet, noticed the smell of cooked meat, broke the door down and found the charred and blackened me, still impaled on the groombot's curling tong.
I wish I'd exaggerated or made that up, but I didn't. It's all true. Unfortunately.
We also played in a really good Fung Shue scenario (a kindof Indiana Jones thingy), and a GURPS Traveller scenario with a really cool name ("Not Without My Dolphin") where some scientist was defecting and wouldn't go without his sentient dolphin.
I think the dolphin ended up getting depth-charged by a frigate. Bit of a cock-up that one.
Another highlight was a session with James Wallis, the head honcho at Hogshead Publishing, playing an unreleased game of his: Youdunnit. It's a difficult game to describe. It's like Cluedo, but with roleplaying elements and a lovely cynical twist. You are each a character at a setting where a murder has taken place, and the idea is to pin the blame for the murder on someone else.
It was a really great crowd that we played with, and at the end Bog Boy, who'd got fingered as the murderer, got to make a really good confessional speech.
And speaking of James Wallis, I can't sign off without mentioning Bubba's little cock up. After we played Youdunnit, we were hanging around the main hall, and looking at the live roleplaying stall. One of the items on display was an LRP crossbow which fired corks. One of the blokes there encouraged Bubba to have a go, saying something like: "Go on, shoot at me."
So Bubba did. The cork arced just over the bloke's shoulder and straight into the chest of the aforementioned James Wallis who happened to be standing behind (who was actually quite nice about it).
But shooting the bloke who's arguably the most influential in the UK roleplaying industry...
Way to go Bubba! Not.
So that was Killercon. A few blows to our fragile egos, but on the whole good fun. We had a really good time and will definitely be going next year. (If they'll still have us after this article).
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