Here on the fabulous inter webs we spend a lot of time griping. And pointing out when people are wrong. And proving to people that we are right.
And looking at boobies.
Ignore that last part. Move along. Nothing to see there.
But we do gripe a lot. And in the past couple of years there’s been a lot of noise on the web made about bad things that have happened at cons and bad things people have done. Well, since I just got back from JordanCon and had a great time down there, I wanted to point out some great things that conventions have done over the past year for writers, for guests, and just in general. Feel free to add in comments something awesome that you’ve seen a convention do that you’d like to see others emulate.
I’m going to try and hit all the cons I’ve been to this year with at least one thing they did really well, but if I miss one, it’s not because that con sucked, it’s because I
drink a lot and am sometimes forgetful. Not to mention that I do a bunch of cons.
Yes, I am enjoying the strikethrough feature in WordPress quite a lot, thank you.
Let’s start at the top of the year, shall we? My first con this year was a return to Illogicon. I attended Illogicon last year as a patron, and went back this year as a guest, along with the lovely Misty Massey. This con is only two years old, but it has a lot going for it. The staff has a lot of experience in conventions and fandom, it takes place in January, when nothing else is happening, and it’s close, in Raleigh. The best thing about this con is the organization. It’s a smaller con, so there aren’t as many kittens to herd, but the panels were well-attended and well-stocked with guests. I like it quite a lot when I’m not the most experienced person on the panel, and I didn’t have to worry about that here. I shared panels with Misty, Jim Mintz from Baen Books and other equally awesome folks. I like a con with fewer guests and fewer panels, it might limit options a bit, but it also makes for a better panel experience when there are twenty people in the audience as opposed to five. Just sayin’. I believe Illogicon did two tracks for writing, and that kept the rooms full. They also had hall monitors to let folks know when the panel time was almost up, which was very helpful.
Next I went to Mysticon in February, again with travel buddy Misty. This time we carpooled with Gail Martin, which certainly made the ride go by faster and cut down on expenses. This was my first Mysticon, and I was surprised with the number of sales I did. This was a con that I didn’t take a table at, because I heard there were only about 400 people there in 2012. Well, this year’s addition of Peter Davidson as Guest of Honor helped attendance triple, so I certainly could have sold more books than I brought. But I sold most of what I had with me, and that always makes for a weekend you can’t complain about. The hotel left a little to be desired for a con of over 1,000 attendees, but I chalked that up to growing pains, and we had an amazing time with Davey Beauchamp’s hair band karaoke. This was definitely a con that was made awesome by the company I kept all weekend, which is half of what we go to cons for in the first place.
My first March con was Connooga, and that was also the first con that I had a table at to sell books the whole weekend. Now some of you may have seen me in action at a book table, and you know that I can sell some books. This was no different, and the Chattanooga crowd was there to buy, so I covered most of my expenses by slinging books. The exhibit hall was pretty awesome, especially for such a young con, and it definitely joined my rotation of cons I’ll be back to.
Mid-South Con was next, and that was another dealer room con for me. I shared a table (and a room, and a car) with James Tuck, keeping expenses in the “reasonable” category. It’s also a little safer for me to sit behind a dealer’s table all day instead of being let loose to wander through the dealer’s room all by my lonesome. One thing they do at MSC that’s awesome is the con suite. It’s open 24 hours from Friday – Sunday, and there’s real food there. Hot dogs, chips, fruit for breakfast, free beer (which does have its drawbacks) and sodas, all conveniently located near the panel rooms and the exhibit hall. This con also had something I’d never seen before – runners for the dealers’ hall. There were volunteers that all they did for their shift was run refreshments, including food orders, from the con suite to the dealers’ room. It was awesome! They kept me fed and made sure that we didn’t have to leave our tables unattended. And it still didn’t save James from buying a buttload of signed Glenn Cook anthologies.
I took almost a month off between cons, until last weekend’s JordanCon. JordanCon was pretty awesome, and they, like Illogicon, kept the programming down to a number of panels that would ensure that the panels were well-attended. Even the 10AM panels were pretty well-attended. And any reports of me napping by the pool Sunday late morning are pure exaggerations. They also gave thrirty minutes between each panel, which meant you could run a couple minutes long without screwing the next guy, and left fans a few minutes to chat after panels. JordanCon also provided table tents for each panelist – for each panel, which is awesome because I’m the world’s best at destroying table tents (or name cards if you prefer) and I ripped my Mid South Con name card in half accidentally after my first panel, so I ended up not using it much all weekend.
So that’s my brief con report with a few things that made them all awesome. Ive enjoyed every con I’ve done so far this year, and while none are locked into my “must-do-every-year” list, they are all in my “every-other-or-couple-of-years” rotation. So con organizers, here are the little things that guests love – time to pee between panels, accessible con suites, spare table tents, our schedules on the back of our con badges (or our table tents), and either food runners or booth sitters for the dealers’ room.
What makes a con awesome to you, either as a panelist or as an attendee?