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URBAN TAPESTRY AT AD ASTRA 20
By Allison Durno

Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday

Ad Astra is the local sf literary con in Toronto. For many years when I was first in fandom it was the only sf convention in the city. Since then many "special interest" fan groups (filk, media, anime, etc.) have started up cons of their own, but Ad Astra is still the sentimental favorite of many Toronto fans. My first exposure to sf fandom was at Ad Astra 5 in 1985 and that was also the con where I attended my first filk circle. Therefore it was a very nostalgic and special honour when Urban Tapestry was invited to be the Filk/Fan GOH for Ad Astra's 20th anniversary.

Thursday, February 22, 2001

We arrived at the con on Thursday night for a party to meet the concom and the other guests. Two cakes were eaten to celebrate Ad Astra's 20th year and we had a good time meeting people like Gaming Guest Ed Greenwood and Writer Guest Connie Willis. It was a highlight of my weekend to spend time with Connie, as I really admire her writing (if you haven't read "The Doomsday Book", go buy it now) and she's also charming and fascinating in person.

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Friday, February 23, 2001

Jodi and I were working the next day, but Debbie chose to stay at the hotel to rest and prepare for the activities ahead. Jodi and I came back in time for the opening ceremonies at 6:00. About ten minutes before the Opening Ceremonies it was casually announced to us that we would be expected to give a brief speech to introduce ourselves (!). Sighing, I said to Jodi and Debbie that it was too bad I didn't have my guitar because our song, "We're Urban Tapestry" would have been the perfect introduction. Thirty seconds later we were racing back through the hotel to get a guitar :). It did prove to be the perfect introduction and woke many people to the fact that there were filkers at the con and that we might be worth checking out later in the weekend.

After some initial trips to the dealers room, con suite and art show we ended the evening by hosting an "Intro to Filk" panel before the open filking. The panel went really well and several new people came to find out about filk. Before the end of the weekend it was satisfying to know some of them were converted and making plans to attend FilKONtario, Toronto's filking convention. Open filk was fun- other filkers included Judith and Dave Hayman, Joel Polowin, Glenn Simser, John Hall, and a one night visit by Tom Smith, who was passing through TO with Leslie on their way to a BareNaked Ladies concert further north. UT crashed around 2, which wasn't particularly late, but in a week where I was dealing with ski trips, report cards and prep for two cons, it was late enough :).

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Saturday, February 24, 2001

We had breakfast in the hotel the next morning before preparing for our 1:00 GOH concert. Our concert went well. It was a casual, laid-back event attended by about 20 people and it allowed us to play some of our quieter, more complex material that we knew would be more difficult to do in our Pre-Masquerade Concert later that evening. It was relaxing and fun and in no way prepared us for what was to come in the evening :).

We stuck around after our concert to see Media Guest Rick Green speak. Rick Green is a popular, well-respected fixture of Canadian sf fandom because of a wonderful documentary/interview TV series he hosted for a number of years called "Prisoners Of Gravity", where he interviewed people involved in sf writing, comics and film each week and explored many significant sf issues. He is now involved in a humorous history series (which I saw for the first time this week and really enjoyed) called "History Bites". It plays on the Canadian History Channel.

We went for an early dinner after that, then rested for an hour or two before starting to prepare for our evening concert. Unfortunately, I spent most of that hour or two in frantic phone calls to my husband, John, who was supposed to be at the con, but was stranded downtown in a van with a toasted battery. Sigh... we've had the van two weeks... John would eventually show up at the con, but the van wouldn't.

Debbie has written a terrific description of our Pre-Masquerade Concert, but needless to say it was one of the scariest and most intimidating concerts I've ever done. As Deb said, the professional lights and curtains, the elaborate sound checks and more sound checks and the shadowy unknown audience, who we feared were simply there for the Masquerade and might be impatient or hostile to filkers and unexpectedly numbers in the hundreds, was a pretty heady mix. But once I got over the fears that I was gonna faint dead away before strumming my first chord, the concert went well. It went -very- well. The audience -sounded- like they were enjoying the performance, though I couldn't see them through the spotlights. Whoa, a major adrenaline rush. We got many compliments on the show and many people asked to buy our CD, so we were happy. We also stayed around to see Jason Tanaguchi's comedy performance based on Star Wars: Episode II and it was very goofy and fun.

We went down to the open filking for a few hours in the evening and Tim Jennings, Grant Millard and Yvonne joined the gang that had been filking the night before. We were also very happy to see Karen Linsley at the convention. She was attending panelling and the Variety Show, though she wasn't at open filking.

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Sunday, February 25, 2001

Sunday morning Deb, Jodi and John and I went to the GOH brunch, where we had a great meal and a chance to talk to other attendees at the con. They also passed out free books from publishers and I was happy to get the latest Callahan novel by Spider Robinson. After some last minute shopping, we helped run the last filk panel of the con with Judith, Stephanie and Evelyn. it was gratifying to see some new faces back yet once again who we had seen in the Intro panel and at our concerts. We pressed FilKONtario flyers into their hands and reminded them to thank the Ad Astra concom, especially co-chair Mike Green and programming head Russell Martin, for their support of filk at this con.

We finished the con at a dinner for the GOHs where Jodi, John and I felt like star-dazzled geeky fans as we listened to Connie Willis and Robert J. Sawyer tell stories of their sf writer buddies and experiences at cons around the world (Deb needed to leave before dinner to attend a family birthday party). The concom also gave us laminated copies of the gorgeous con poster. The poster is by Michael Whelan and is based on the theme of 2001 and it is easily the coolest poster Urban Tapestry has ever had our names on :). I plan to get it professionally framed.

Our heartfelt thanks to con co-chairs Mike Green and Mary Ellen Casciato for inviting us as guests to Ad Astra and for their warmth and support at the con and in the months leading up to it. Our thanks, too, to Russell Martin for all his programming help, his interest in filk panelling and his friendly support throughout the con. Thanks to all the tech crew who helped us through our Variety Show Concert and thanks to the welcome of all the rest of the concom. Also thanks to Judith and Dave Hayman and the rest of the Ad Astra filkers who gave us such wonderful support this weekend. We had a wonderful and memorable weekend. The neo who walked into her first convention at Ad Astra 5 could never have imagined such a cool experience :).

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