Well, we survived it: A Science Fiction Con with no WiFi. Most of us were less than happy about that, and the hotel had a plethora of problems, including a badly leaking roof which forced staff to evacuate the art show to a new location due to the heavy rains and tornado weather. However, the Con was so well run, we all had a great time in spite of this. Even the hotel staff urging us downstairs at one point couldn’t dampen spirits for long.
The dealer’s room was a happy place with a generous group of people supporting each other and steady visits from always helpful staff even as attendees made their way through. I sold 13 books at the Con and had 3 more online sales during the convention, which makes it my most successful Con for book sales so far. Attendance reached 250 this year, a new height for the Con, and I’d say that definitely helped. I also gave out a lot of cards with my website info on it as well. Despite my new ebook cards drawing interest, I didn’t get the first sale on them but that was due in part, I believe, to Sams Dot not having ebooks and thus not wanting to push them, and I didn’t go out of my way either. They were readily in sight for anyone who looked at the table. At ConQuest, when it’s just me at my table, I’ll try a different approach. I must admit, I do prefer selling paper copies, however.
Two of my three panels were well attended. 10 people showed up first thing Saturday morning at 11 for CHARACTER BUILDING. They were attentive, but, perhaps, tired. It took me a bit to work them up to interaction, however, they were all eager to learn. My reading that afternoon had no one present, but I waited there for 15 minutes and then got an influx of people and wound up reading to 6, which was almost double my reading at Conclave last October. And they really seemed to enjoy that as well as the Q&A time following, so I felt good about it. I also know at least two of those people bought books, so I’d call that a success as well.
On Sunday, I did two panels back to back. The first, FAITH IN SFF, drew a dozen very engaged people. I didn’t go to all of the other panels, but I’d say I had as many as the Conan panel before had drawn and these people engaged very much with the material and me, leading to a great discussion. They even applauded at the end. I had approached this as a discussion of faith in all of its forms: not just faith in Higher Powers, but faith in magic or science or even wealth. I asked everyone to be respectful and stated that our purpose was not to argue validity of beliefs but discuss how they motivate us and how their presence is handled in world building. I read my list of SF classics with religious themes from SF Signal and then added those mentioned in the comments on that post as well as a few others I’d discovered. Attendees added even more. I’ll have an even longer list when I do this panel again at OsFest. In fact, the OsFest chair was present and complimented the panel, encouraging me to repeat it at their Con. I honestly wasn’t sure we’d get much interest in the topic and that, if we did, it might devolve into incivility. I was so pleasantly surprised. Very enlightening for all of us, I felt. I learned as much as anyone.
My second Sunday panel, GREAT READS, drew only 3 people but they were lively and we had a great discussion on books we’ve loved. I read books from my 2011 Year’s Best Reads List and didn’t even get to my 70 Most Memorable SFF Reads which I also had brought with me. My list of books people suggested, which I want to read includes: Starplex by Robert J. Sawyer, Persistence Of Vision by John Varley, Flight of The Dragonfly by Robert Foster, Chung Kuo by David Wingrove, The Leandros series by Rob Thurman and Integral Trees by David Niven.
My own schedule was so busy that I didn’t get to hear Elizabeth Bear’s panels, unfortunately. Between my own panels and reading and then dealer room duties, I missed her activities. I did, however, introduce myself and I’ll see her again soon at Convergence in Bloomington, MN. She also agreed to do an interview by email for SFFWRTCHT soon, so that will be two great chances to learn about her more.
I also sold a series of interviews with short story writers to Sams Dot Publishing for their Aoife’s Kiss zine and booked Jack McDevitt, who turned around my questions so fast, I’d already turned the thing in Monday, well ahead of the May 1 deadline for the June issue. I’ll be looking into Tanith Lee and others for upcoming issues, 1 per month. This is my first paid interview series. The small press pays a token amount, but it’s regular income of a sort and, added to other sources, is a step in the right direction.
One of the more humorous events of the Con also involves McDevitt, whom I told in my emails I would look forward to meeting at OsFest in Omaha this July. He’s list as Guest Of Honor, only, he said he wouldn’t be there. Too busy. I ran into the Con chairs of that Con at my panels and mentioned that to them, suggesting perhaps emailing Jack soon might be a good idea. To say they were a bit worried would be an understatement, but on Monday, Jack informed me he would indeed be at the Con. He said he’d forgotten to write it down and commented: “I’m beginning to understand why my wife won’t let me out alone at night.”
Altogether, a success and enjoyment. I’d certainly do it again, if asked. I certainly recommend it to other dealers and creatives as well. For what it’s worth…
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, andThe Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories featured in anthologies and magazines. His children’s book 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids from Delabarre Publishing along with the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 which he edited for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.