Tag Archive | conventions

Geek Girl Con

S0, my hubby and I are attending our first GeekGirlCon, which is held at the Washington State Convention Center. It’s a sci fi con, dedicated to welcoming and celebrating girls, women, young women in geek/sci fi/fantasy culture.

And it’s fun!

First impression while we were in line to get our badges was that the crowd is much more like a pony con than a traditional sf/f convention. Fewer guys. A lot more kids. Not that there aren’t a lot of guys of all ages, here, but we’re in the minority. Which is the point, and not at all a bad thing.

There’s a Do It Yourself Science area that’s set up for kids to sit down and do science projects. Every time I’ve walked by today, it’s been pretty full. I first learned about it a couple months back when the GeekGirlCon mailing list sent out a link for people to donate to pay for the supplies and such in the area. You know I jumped on that. We need more science-literate people in future generations!

I’m writing this blog post in Introvert Alley, which is a room the set up for people to have a quiet, dark place to retreat to if you need it. It’s nice. I can still hear the con outside, but we’re clearly in another space. I had to adjust the brightness of my iPad screen several times before it felt right in here. Now I wish every con had someplace like this. When I feel the need for this sort of thing at some cons, I just head back to our hotel room. But since this place is about a fifteen minute drive from our house, and downtown hotels are never cheap, we don’t have that option.

The Exhibitor Hall (or dealer’s den) is huge. We did one long methodical sweep through it, only stopping at a couple of booths. I was pulled to one by a 1954 Hermes 3000 typewriter. The author whose table it was at, Eva L Elasigue, had typed some poetry on it. We geeked out about manual typewriters a bit, then I asked her about her book. She said it was mythic space opera, “think, Les Mis meets Cowboy Bebop.” No, I’m one of those queer boys who hates Les Mis. I know, sorry, it’s just too grim for me. But I understand the pathos and appeal it has for a lot of people. And I absolutely love Cowboy Bebop. And Cowboy Bebop’s noir-ish vibe certainly could go well with a Les Mis sensibility. So, as I told her, based on the pitch alone I had to buy the book: Bones of Starlight: Fire On All Sides.

We hadn’t walked far from her table when we hit one of those traffic jams that happen in crowed dealer’s rooms, so I opened the book, and read a few sentences. Yeah, I could totally hear a Cowboy Bebop soundtrack playing as I read. I got through the rest of the first page in starts and stops every time we had to wait while walking. I like it already and have high hopes for the rest of the book.

I’m seen several people I know, but other than Joi, it’s all been from a distance through the crowd, so haven’t talked to any of them, yet.

Michael reminded me that he hadn’t eaten before we left, so we tried to walk to a restaurant 600 feet away, but I managed to get turned around and go the wrong direction for at least that far before I figured out where we were. We’d exited the convention center from a side I’ve never been on before, and thanks to some construction projects happening outside (I think for the new light rail station), I couldn’t see any landmarks I recognized until we’d gone a block and a half the wrong way. We got to the place eventually, and the way we both inhaled our meals, clearly he wasn’t the only one who needed to eat.

I had trouble finding the room the next panel I wanted to see was in. By the time we did, the room was full with a guard at the door telling people the room was full. But the next panel I want to see is there, so I now know where it is and I can go get there early. I hope.

When I do check twitter, I’m trying to just skim over all the deplorable stuff. I much prefer the bright future I see on display here to the rationalization and rape apologetics that the Republicans are trying to pass off as political discourse this week.

Someone who loves the same books as me…

“Happiness is discovering someone who loves the same books as you do.” lastlemon.com

“Happiness is discovering someone who loves the same books as you do.” lastlemon.com (Click to embiggen)

This was a very busy weekend. Seattle’s Pride Parade was Sunday, the Locus Awards Banquet was on Sa turday, and there were many other things we either needed to take care of or wanted to do. I’ve never attended the Locus Awards weekend, before. I actually hadn’t really realized it was a thing, despite having followed the Locus fanzine for years, and having each year looked forward to seeing which books, stories, zines, and so on would win the award.

I should pause here, in case you don’t know what the Locus Awards are. Locus (The Magazine of The Science Fiction & Fantasy Field) was founded back in 1968 as a fan produced news magazine and to promote a WorldCon bid. The ‘zine has continued for decades since, printing news about fannish and pro activities in the SF/F realm. In 1971 Charles N. Brown, the founding editor, decided to have the readership nominate and vote on deserving works in the field, in order to help the Hugo awards. Think of it as an organized recommendation list. Readers and contributors to the zine recommended books and stories and editors and so forth, and voted on them. The Locus awards has different categories than the Hugos, and since you don’t have to have a membership at WorldCon to participate, in theory the awards may draw on a more diverse crowd.

What I like about them is that they have multiple novel categories. While the Hugos just have Best Novel of the Year, the Locus Awards separate Science Fiction novels from Fantasy, and also have a separate category for Young Adult novels and first novels. Anyway, the recommendation list that is generated in the process alone is a wonderful resource for finding good things you would have otherwise not heard of.

Even though I have been reading the list of winners every year for a long time, it somehow never occurred to me that there was an award banquet, and even more important on a personal level, I didn’t know that the banquet has, at least for the last several years, been happening right here in Seattle. I found out because a woman mentioned it at a panel at NorWesCon, and handed out fliers.

The event is like a miniature sci fi con. There are a couple of Readings by pros the night before the banquet, followed by a party, then on Saturday morning there are a couple of panel discussions. There is an autograph session and a bookseller is there ready to sell you books by the authors who are signing, and there is the banquet. In addition to the awards, there’s several silly activities that have grown up as traditions around the event, such as a Hawaiian shirt contest (Charles Brown, Locus’ founding editor, was famous for his fondness of loud Hawaiian shirts).

We both have been having worse than usual hay fever lately, so neither of us have been sleeping well, and we both wound up taking naps Friday afternoon after work that lasted late enough that we skipped the Friday evening activities. Saturday, we made it to the event and had a great time.

First, no one told me that there would be free books. Apparently the publishers of books that make the shortlist often send boxes of the books to the event. So those (and other books) are set out in little piles on each banquet table. And a bunch more are on a give-away table in the back. We brought home free books whose retail prices definitely exceeded the cost of tickets to the event!

It was also just a fun event. There were a lot of familiar faces there (since I’ve been attending Northwest sci fi conventions for nearly three decades), but it was a smaller crowd, and a much higher percentage of the attendees were pros.

The event also overlaps with the first week of the Clarion West six-week summer writing workshop, and we wound up sharing our table with three of the students from the workshop. They were really nice, and were a diverse group: one guy was from Chicago, a woman was from Wales, and another guy was from India.

I knew our new acquaintances were “my kinda folks” when the young woman from Wales picked up one of the books in the free pile and said, “I should not pick up a new book that is this thick when I have no free time for the next several weeks” then, a second later she gasped and said excitedly, “It has a map!” and the other two immediately stopped their banter to add comments about how books with maps are temptations one can never resist.

I had been about to make a similar observation. Having written about it before: “Some of my favorite books have maps…”.

Whenever I go to a con, I come back feeling excited in new ways about my writing. Some of it is from hearing authors at panels talk about their own troubles and triumphs writing. Some of it is from learning new things or finding new stories that inspire me. Some of it is because I almost always wind up sitting in a corner somewhere with my laptop or iPad or a paper journal working on one of my stories in progress, and being out of my usual routine makes me look at the plotholes and so forth differently.

But a big part of it is simply the joy that comes from meeting other people who love the same kinds of books I do. Shared joy multiples. Chatting with another person who loves something you love, explaining to each other which bits made you squee and so on, increases that wellspring of delight inside you.

That remembered elation can help carry you over the rough spots in your next round of revision.

Performative badass—fannish or otherwise

200_sThere once was a fan artist whose schtick at conventions was to viciously attack and destroy plushies. He had a particular hatred for plush toys based on animated characters from programs that he disliked: Smurfs, for example. People would intentionally bring such plushies to his table in dealer dens or artist alleys and watch him scream and shout and foam at the mouth (not always figuratively)… and tear the thing to shreds.

A lot of people thought this was funny. Not just a teeny bit funny, but funniest thing ever in the history of funny things.

The first time I saw it, I was horrified. I was on the other side of the room, looking at some artwork in an artist’s portfolio, when I heard an angry shout. I barely got turned around to see what was happening before this man was standing up, screaming angry insults at what looked like a cowering young man. He lunged across the table, grabbed something (I couldn’t tell if it was a teddy bear, or what), screamed more angry insults punctuated with the phrase “Die! Die! Die!” and proceeded to shred the thing.

This was in the late 1990s, so I didn’t have a cell phone. If I had, I would have been calling 911. I thought this stranger had literally lost his mind. I thought someone was being assaulted.

And half the room (it was a dealer’s den at a smallish/medium-sized convention, so maybe 35-40 dealer’s tables, maybe a couple hundred people in the room) started laughing. “What the heck?” I said aloud. A fan I didn’t know standing next to me said, “Oh, that’s just so-and-so killing another Smurf.”

It was his schtick or signature move. Something he was known for. Everyone knew it was just an act. Several people assured me that he was really quite a sweet guy. He only did it when he knew the person wanted the plushie destroyed. It was all in good fun.

Unless, of course, you weren’t in on the joke. Like me. My heart was pounding like a trip hammer during the display. I was trying to figure out how to get over there and pull the person whose toy was being attacked out of danger. I was wondering why the hell no one else was doing anything. And I bet I wasn’t the only person in the room who didn’t know about this guy and his act.

Over the next few years I had other interactions with the same guy. Online he tended to be a curmudgeon and a crank. If he knew who you were and considered you an established person in fandom, and you happened to disagree with him, his arguments would be snarky, but he’d concede that you had the right to an opinion. If you weren’t in that category, he was a full-fledged asshole.

In person at conventions where I was staff, he behaved in a civil if gruff manner in our exchanges as long as things were going his way. He groused and grumbled and sometimes threatened if things weren’t. When I wasn’t staff, or when I wasn’t clearly identified as such, how polite he acted depended on whether there was an audience, and how big. If the dealer’s den was relatively quiet and he was browsing at my table or the table next to mine, he was soft spoken and almost friendly. If there was a crowd around, he would find reasons to declaim opinions, usually negative opinions, loudly and with colorful language.

I had a very hard time believing that he really was a sweetheart. Yes, some of his behavior was an act. The destroying plushies thing, once you had witnessed it a few times, had a rhythm and repeated sequence of phrases. He was performing. It was part of his brand. Exactly how behaving like a deranged ax murderer toward harmless toys was a brand worth perpetuating I wasn’t very clear about, but that’s what it was.

Performance or not, that doesn’t mean that everyone who witnesses the performance enjoys the experience. Particularly, like me the first time, if you aren’t in on the joke. Even once I was in on the joke, it was still upsetting. I’m a collector, and one of the things I collect is plushies. Anyone who has been to our house has seen that we have otters and tigers and teddy bears and other cute plush animals lined up on top of the bookcases and stashed in other locations. Some of those plushies have a lot of sentimental value. There’s a particular floppy tiger plush that was one late husband’s, for instance. There is a particular mouse in a Christmas scarf that my late husband gave me one Christmas that I have an incredibly strong emotional attachment to. Every time I have witnessed the performance of the destroy the plushie routine at a convention, part of me has wondered how does he know that the person carrying that thing past his table was in on the joke and wanted it to happen?

Call me a softy, but thinking of that happening to an unsuspecting person’s possession by mistake is almost as upsetting as seeing the act without warning was the first time.

If you’ve been involved in any fandom for any significant length of time, you’ve met or seen someone like kill-the-plushies guy. He or she has a schtick, whether it be:

  • partially disrobing in public spaces, declaiming loudly about body positivity, and daring people to be offended;
  • or making sexual gestures and comments at anyone and everyone while commenting to the significant other of said person about how lucky they are to have “that”; 
  • or pontificating loudly about people who don’t have respect for the classics while denigrating some new popular thing;
  • or spinning long humorous tales about how clueless some people are;
  • or being exaggeratedly offended at something and going on long, grandiloquent rants;

…and so forth. 

I’ve been thinking about that guy (and many other fans and pros I’ve known who have a reputation that their badass or angry or asshole behavior is just a schtick or a joke they do), while reading reactions and continued attempts at defending the things that happened to Mike Oshiro at ConQuesT.

Many of the defenders are using variations of the “it’s just a joke” excuse, of course. But there are other similar elements, as well. The fellow panelist who briefly defended himself (then deleted his comments) on the original post by saying, “We’ve been on panels together at conventions before” and “I thought we were friends” is essentially saying, “You should have known it was just an act. I’m really a sweetheart.”

But I think that the notion that he or she is really a sweetheart once you get to know him was also part of the brand. It is just as much a performance as the outrageous behavior. The outrageous behavior is only accepted by some of the audience because they know it’s only an act. They are making a choice when to treat someone with respect, and when to be a badass.

And the fact that often their attempt at apology is to simply say, “But I didn’t mean it that way. I thought you were in on the joke” is all the proof you need that the “sweetheart” part of the act is the least accurate representation of their true nature.

We skipped NorWesCon

Some of my bestest friends hanging out at the convention this year. I didn't take this picture, because I wasn't there.

Some of my bestest friends hanging out at the convention this year. I didn’t take this picture, because I wasn’t there.

So we didn’t go to the Northwest Science Fiction (NorWesCon) again this year. Quick background: I started attending the convention back in 1987, after being envious of friends who attended the previous few years, and I didn’t miss a single one for the next 25 years. Michael and I met at a NorWesCon. For years he has referred to NorWesCon as our anniversary, since neither of us can ever remember the date of our Commitment Ceremony (of course, both have been superseded since we were able to finally legally marry on December 9, 2012). For a couple of decades it was my habit to buy our memberships for the next year before we left the convention.

Since NorWesCon has been on Easter weekend since 1989, I have kept track of Easter by remembering when NorWesCon is going to be. I have habits built around NorWesCon. For many years, now, I spent a lot of time during the rest of the year plotting what new cocktail I will buy Keith on Saturday night at the con, because Keith almost never drinks, and it amuses all of us, including his wife, to watch him react to alcohol (and it’s tricky to find ones he will actually agree to drink more of). During the weeks leading up to the convention I start longing for the evening I’ll sit in the bar or restaurant with Juli-sans-e (not to be confused with Julie-with-an-e, who might join us with the wings, but is more likely to find ways to trick us into saying “nipple” at inappropriate times) eating plate after plate of hot wings and exchanging stories.

I could go on and on.

But, for a variety of reasons, the last few NorWesCons we attended were not much fun for either Michael or myself. And when I realized that four out of the last five we attended, I had found virtually none of the programming interesting (except for Auntie’s costuming panels). I had found it so unappealing, that I had wound up spending all of the time I wasn’t sitting in a bar or restaurant with our friends, sitting at my laptop writing.

To be fair, I got a lot of writing done each of those conventions. More than I usually get done on an ordinary weekend. But it seemed a little silly to both of us the spend all that money on a hotel room, memberships, and all of those meals at hotel restaurants, if all I was going to do was sit in a hotel room tapping away on my computer keyboard.

The one exception out of that span was the year that both Jim Butcher and Patricia McKillip were guests of honor. It’s pretty difficult for me not to enjoy hearing either of them talk about their writing.

So we skipped last year. We gave a few other local conventions we haven’t attended in a long time a try, and we enjoyed those. We would have enjoyed them more if our usual gang had been in attendance. I did miss hot wings with Juli. I really missed hanging out with the gang.

We were leaning toward coming back this year, but when we weren’t able to get certain answers we needed before the hotel room block filled up, we decided to skip again.

As it happens, another friend that I’ve been trying to get to attend finally went for the first time this year. So not only didn’t I hang out with our usual crowd and do our usual things, I didn’t get to hang out with Sheryl at the con.

I also regret missing this year because Michael Moorcock was Guest of Honor. I really like his writing, and given his age and the distance to travel to a west coast con, it’s highly unlikely I’ll get another chance to see him.

NorWesCon is almost always the same weekend as SakuraCon. My dear sweet husband was actually one of the founding SakuraCon committee members many many years ago. It’s been several years since we’ve attended it. So we had talked about the possibility of getting memberships to SakuraCon for this year, though by the time we had decided not to do NorWesCon, neither of us was feeling enthusiastic about anything. We had a couple of conversations this weekend about next year attending either SakuraCon or NorWesCon. I know we could both have fun at either. Most of our friends will be at NorWesCon, but we’ll have a few friends at SakuraCon.

A lot of people seem to be excited because George R.R. Martin is going to be the Guest of Honor at NorWesCon next year. Frankly, that makes me slightly less likely to attend. Not that I have anything against Mr Martin, it’s just that I suspect a lot of people who don’t normally attend fan-run conventions will decide to attend this one because of the television version of Game of Thrones, and the atmosphere may be more like a corporate con than a fan con. Yes, sometimes I am a fan-snob.

We need to decide soon enough that we can get the hotel rooms and everything else in order either way.

In related news, thanks to some suggestions from friends, since we were already planning to attend EverfreeNW again this summer, but we’ll stay at the hotel next door that many of us like a lot better, and since that same weekend a gaming convention, PaizoCon will be happening in that next door hotel, Michael and I now have memberships for both conventions, the same weekend. And several of our friends are doing the same. So, we’re going to be two-fisted congoers (or dual-weilding badge-holders, or something) this July.

So even though we’ve skipped NorWesCon two years in a row, I think we’re holding onto our geek/nerd/fanboy cred.

(Un)conventional solution

Close up of otter appearing to smile while holding his paws together.

Sometimes, only an otter will do!

I only got about 4400 words worth of new scenes written for the novel over the course of my weekend at RainFurrest, but I made more progress than the word count implies.

I’d written recently about a big plot hole problem which has been stalling the book for a while. Late on Friday night, while I was futzing with a new scene that wasn’t quite working, I had an idea. I revised a couple of lines of dialog, and suddenly the rest of the scene just flowed. Because I’d figured out the solution to the plot hole, and once I’d made the choice to go with it, a bunch of other things starting falling into place…

Read More…

Conventionally speaking

A toy dog, fanzines, and toy ponies.

This adorable corgi plushie is my table mascot this year.

I’m having a good time at the convention. I haven’t slept in very much, but I seldom do when running a dealer’s table at a con.

This year, in addition to the usual copies of fanzines full of anthropomorphic science fiction, we are also selling an anthology of fiction produced by another publisher, My Little Pony blind bags, buttons designed by my husband, satirical bumper stickers designed by me, trading cards based on the fanzine project, badge ribbons, and t-shirts.

Though it would be more accurate to say we are offering all of those things for sale. As there hasn’t been a lot of actual purchasing happening at the table this year.

Thursday I sold mostly blind bag ponies and buttons. Friday the big mover was the badge ribbons. Oh! And all the My Little Pony coloring books (I only had three left after Everfree NW) also went on Thursday.

I’ve had good traffic at the table, and a few interesting conversations. I also got a decent amount of writing done Friday.

I’ve been having more fun, as usual, hanging out with friends for meals or up in our hotel room after the dealer’s den closes.

I did have a surprise visit from Julie. She and her mother had returned from a trip to London and Paris, and after Julie dropped her mom off at the airport, she came over to the convention hotel. Someone from con staff sent someone into the dealer’s den to tell me Julie was out at the door. She dropped off Lucky Tuppence coins for several of us, and showed me a tiny fraction of the photos she took on the trip.

I should grab some breakfast…!

Running off to a con

The car is very nearly packed. I still need to pack the computer, make a final run through the house to get everything turned off, et cetera, and I may hop in the shower one more time before I go.

I go to conventions because I enjoy hanging and goofing off with my friends, enjoy seeing people I don’t see except at fannish events, also to people watch, get some writing done, and (it is hoped) sell some books and things. It’s my version of a vacation.

There is a point (or, to be honest, several points) before I get on the road where I’m stressed out about almost everything: Have I packed everything? Is the inventory ready and in an order where I can find everything? Are my display materials ready? Did I remember to back up my computer before I left? Do I have my medications? Did I remember this, that, and the other?

Then during the drive and/or flight at least half of those questions keep coming up again, along with a lot of others: Did I double-check that the stove was turned off? Did we get the windows locked? Did I start the dishwasher before we left? Did I take the trash out? Did I let the responsible neighbors know we would be gone for a few days? Did I make sure no leftovers that won’t last are sitting in the fridge? Am I sure I locked the door?

When I write them out, it sounds like I’m a complete mess. Which is usually a slight exaggeration. Don’t get me wrong, each question wells up from my subconscious delivered in a voice of utter panic (usually sounding like Don Knotts’ character, Luther Heggs, in the movie The Ghost and Mr. Chicken). But the more rational part of my brain will sigh and say, “Yes, yes we took care of that.”

On trips where I’m experiencing a bit more of the worry than usual (such as, say, during times near the anniversary of Ray’s death, or his birthday, when I’m been working a lot of extra hours at work…), Michael has to intervene and remind me that if something is wrong or missing or forgotten, we’ll deal with it, “We always do.”

Which is great when he’s with me.

Unfortunately, he forgot that this was a Thursday through Sunday con, so he didn’t arrange to take today off from work. He helped did most of the loading of the car before he left. He’s going to come home after work, change, grab a few things, then take the train down to the hotel to join me this evening. As he reminded me just before he left, I can call him if I realize I forgot something, and he’ll check the house once before I go.

He’s always so calm, and capable, and endures my worry attacks with the patience of a saint.

I don’t deserve him.

Anyway, time for me to do those last few things and hit the road. If you happen to be attending RainFurrest, come to the dealer’s den, find the Tai-Pan table, and say “howdy!”

You might get a free badge ribbon or something out of it!

The co-opting of the Nerds

The Great Nerd Summit (also known as San Diego Comic-Con International, or SDCC) of 2013 has just happened.

I have only attended once, back in the mid-80s when attendance was a mere 6000 people. Yes, I said “mere.” Last year’s attendance was more than 130,000 people. I don’t believe that official figures are out, yet, for this year. While the convention (called the Golden State Comic Book Convention when it was founded in 1970) originally was about Comics, and the word “comic” is still in its name, it had expanded far beyond that realm to embrace sci fi/fantasy books, movies with any sci fi or superhero connection what-so-ever, and gaming back when I was there.

Of course, comics is a style or medium of storytelling. I grew up reading both Donald Duck/Uncle Scrooge comics and X-men and the like, so even I knew that as a child. Yes, I said grew up. My mom was an X-men fan in the mid-sixties. I have mentioned before that I’m a second generation fan, right? My point being that you can conceivably tell any kind of story in comic form. And there have been the extremely interesting and well done examples of memoirs, biographies, and other kinds of story that don’t fit the comic book stereotype.

That said, SDCC has gotten to the point where it is the trade show for just about the entire entertainment industry. I understand why there are events highlighting upcoming movies such as sequels to The Avengers, Captain America, and Thor, as they’re all based on comics. And I understand why there are events rolling out teasers for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. It’s a cartoon, not a graphic story (there are comics, but those are spin-offs, and the official MLP events were all about the cartoon), but animated cartoons are an allied artform of comics. I even understand all the video game stuff that happens at the con.

But, much as I love Benedict Cumberbatch and the current BBC Sherlock series, I think that Sherlock events at SDCC is stretching the definition a bit. Whereas the fact that there were events for How I Met Your Mother, Veronica Mars, and Community is just insane.

The official SDCC award (as opposed to Awards sponsored by other organization which are simply presented at SDCC), the Inkpot, is given out for “outstanding achievement in the Popular Arts industry.” Which makes me think the event should more properly be called the San Diego Popular Arts Con.

I’ve gotten into arguments with fellow nerds about why Sherlock Holmes, as in the original character and stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, has often been included in science fiction events. I have defended the inclusion because Holmes could be argued to be an archetype of a particular kind of nerd: hyper observant, possessed of encyclopedic knowledge of a vast range of topics, an uncanny ability to find relationships between the most minute details, and infamously incapable of relating to people empathically. Serious articles have been published in psychological journals debating (pro and con) whether the fictional Holmes had Aspergers syndrome, for goodness sake! The Holmes stories may not be sci fi, but both the character and the methodology by which he solves his mysteries are highly identifiable to a significant portion of the fan community.

While I have made that argument, and will continue to do so, I’m also the first to admit that all it provides is a reasonable rationale for stretching the envelope to include Holmes as an allied creation. It’s a stretch, and I admit it.

A sort of similar argument can be made for the specific television show, Community, because its ensemble includes some nerds. But it’s a much more tenuous connection to make based on a couple of supporting characters, as opposed to the main character and his primary activity.

I can think of even more tenuous (and ludicrous) arguments that might be made for shows such as How I Met Your Mother, but all of them would be a smoke screen. The truth is that, as I mentioned, SDCC is a trade show, not a fan convention. Its purpose is to advertise, generate buzz, and fan the flames of enthusiasm for any popular art property that can shoehorn itself into the convention. That isn’t a bad thing, per se. Certainly no one is forcing fans to get online at a particular time on the final day of the convention so that the entirety of the next year’s memberships can be sold out in less than two hours. No one is forcing people such as myself to track down stories and videos of the events to get some ideas of what movies and shows I should be looking for in the future.

If you want to fan the flames of enthusiasm, there is no better place than the heart or mind of a nerd or geek. We’re more politely called fans, which is short for fanatic. The one trait that most distinguishes us from the mundanes is how incredibly, obsessively enthusiastic we get about the things we like. So even though some of us are primarily enthusiastic about science and science fiction, if you can get us interested in your show— even one that doesn’t have any discernible science-y aspects—we’ll talk about it. We’ll set our DVRs to catch your premiere. We’ll mention that it’s coming out to our less nerdy friends. We’ll make and post fan art or create and share silly memes based on photos from your show.

We will be your viral marketing campaign. And because tens of thousands of us are willing to buy memberships at SDCC each year, that means some of us are paying for the privilege.

Apart from other branding considerations, I think that’s why for the foreseeable future they won’t be replacing the “Comic” part of the name.

Only the ponies

Ponies, Disney pins, and other merchandise on our table

The table I was sharing with Edd (MU Press) at EverfreeNW 2013.

I had a lot of fun at EverfreeNW. As mentioned earlier, I spent most of the time behind a table in the “Vendor’s Room.” I’m used to the place where people sell stuff at a con being called “Dealer’s Room” or “Dealer’s Den.”

My half of the table was selling buttons, small My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic toys, some MLP:FIM coloring and sticker books, a couple of pony-themed bumper stickers, and a few of the most recent publications from the Tai-Pan Literary & Arts Project.

Edd’s half of the table was selling Disney Pins and one of MU Press’s graphic novel-type books.

A pile of rag doll ponies

Joi was at the next table, selling rag doll ponies.

We drove down and checked into the hotel midday on Thursday the 4th. Our friends Jwyl, Sky, Anthony, RJ, Wendy, and several others (I don’t remember how much of the gang was actually there at that time) were hanging out in the lobby of the hotel so they could see people as they arrived.

The convention was happening at the Seatac Hilton, but several of us like the Marriott next door better. So a bunch of us took rooms there. It was like having our own convention within a convention. We discovered that there was a gaming convention going on at the same time in the Marriott, so both places there were lots of people walking around the hotel wearing badges on lanyards around their necks.

Cute soft plushy

A close up of Bedtime Derpy.

When I had assembled our merchandise into a display the weekend before the convention, I’d put a super cute plushie pony I’d purchased from Equestria Rags on top.

Our friend, Joi, is the genius behind Equestria Rags, and she was sharing a table with Sky in the Dealer’s Den. I made up a little sign that identified the doll as Bedtime Derpy, made by Joi, and encouraging people to go see her table. I thought that 1) Bedtime Derpy is just too cute not to be seen, 2) it would be a way for me to direct people to Joi’s work, and 3) if someone with a kid expressed interest in the doll, I would be willing to part with her, because I really think she needs to be held and cuddled by a child.

Nami, Sky, and the back of Xen's head.

Nami, Sky, and the back of Xen’s head. View from behind the tables.

The only problem with my brilliant plan was that I had completely forgotten that Sky and I had both asked, on our Vendor Applications, to have our tables next to each other. So if anyone was at my table, they were likely already looking at the ponies on Joi’s table. Oh, well, I still had a lot of fun getting people to hug Bedtime Derpy and look more closely at the rag doll ponies.

We brought my large format printer in case Sky or some of our other friends needed to print more prints or buttons. I have an Epson color inkjet that will print sizes up to 13″ by 19″ posters. I didn’t realize until we were unloading the car that I have forgotten to pack the extra ink cartridges. But we’d come down a day early, and since it was a holiday traffic had been clear, so while Michael went off to work in Con Registration, I drove back home and grabbed a few other things we’d forgotten. And Sky did need to make some new buttons, so it was a good thing.

Anthony with buttons over his eyes

Anthony goofing off in our room.

The weather wasn’t really hot, which was a big improvement over last year. But it’s warm, sunny, and high pollen season. When you combine that with sleeping in a hotel room, which always make my sinuses either dry up and ache or clog up and ache (I always assume it’s the mostly closed-system air conditioning that does it), I often feel as if I’m coming down with a cold when I’m at a con. Other people get sick after they come home, but usually not me.

The coming down sick feeling was especially bad on Saturday. I was getting cranky. My head, sinuses, and throat hurt. My eyes were itchy. And I was dozing off at the table. I was convinced I was sick. Anthony was trying to organize a run to a restaurant he liked, but we didn’t have enough transportation for everyone, and I just wanted to go curl up in bed and die by that point. So, Michael got me up to the bar at the Marriott. We’d eaten a few meals at the Marriott restaurant, and I’d been disappointed that the burgers and sandwiches I liked from earlier stays weren’t on the menu. They were on the bar menu, now!

So, I ordered soup, the Oregon Bleu Burger, and a coffee nudge. People keep asking me what a coffee nudge is. I can never remember: it’s coffee, some kind of booze, and whipped cream. And it’s really nice to drink when you’re feeling sick. According to the interwebs, a coffee nudge usually has brandy and dark creme de cacao, and sometimes coffee liqueur. I essentially inhaled the soup and the nudge, and felt a lot better.

Combining a Fluttershy hoody with a matching ninja mask.

Xen as Ninja Fluttershy at AFK Tavern.

Members of the gang that I thought were being ferried to the off-site restaurant started show up at the bar and joining us. I learned that our friend, Nami, had never had a coffee nudge, and since I was about to order my third by that time, talked her into trying one. She seemed to enjoy it.

Jared watches Nami putting on a ninja mask.

One of the only pics I got of Jared, shooting between a bunch of people.

As usual, I’m always forgetting that I have a camera in my pocket all the time, so I didn’t take many pics. I’m especially irritated that I didn’t get pictures of several of our friends.

Jwyl spent most of the weekend down in Oregon visiting Katrina and Terry. Then Katrina and Jwyl drove up and joined us for the last few hours of the convention, and more importantly, the excursion to AFK Tavern. Even more people came up from the con for that this year. Which is cool, but made it difficult to actually enjoy any one’s company at the tavern.

I know several folks left early because it was just too crowded, too loud, and some folks had other problems related to those things. I’m not as much of an introvert as some of our friends, but the whole thing got to be a bit much for me, as well, so Michael and I left early, too.

It was a fun convention. We sold pretty well. Several of our friends sold a lot of stuff. A few of us have begun to more seriously conspire to have a book to sell next year. Yes, I’m planning on coming back. I hope a bunch of our friends are, too.

A bunch of people at the end of a table.

Jwyl at the center of things at AFK Tavern.

“So, why isn’t your husband here?”

I’m sharing a table at the vendor’s room of EverfreeNW, a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic convention.

I love going to conventions. I love going to conventions in order to spend time with friends who I don’t get to see as often as I like, to see and occasionally buy cool and odd things, to get away from mundanity for a few days, and sometimes to learn new things. Because I am a big introvert, I don’t really do well at the kinds of convention activities where one is required to interact in an open-ended way with a lot of strangers.

Oddly enough, I have discovered that the best way to see all the cool costumes, nifty artwork, and so on, while avoiding too much stranger interact is to staff a table at the convention and try to sell stuff. This may sound like a contradiction, but the structure of the dealer’s den means that generally I am only interacting with strangers in a limited number of ways. I am usually simply answering questions about the merchandise at the table. I’m not a hard-sell kind of guy. I will try to make eye contact and smile or greet people who are looking at the merchandise, but then I let them make the next move.

It is easy to spend the time when people aren’t asking questions writing. The last many years I usually have either my Macbook or my iPad with a bluetooth keyboard. Previous years I would have a notebook and a pencil. I wrote the first draft of one of the funniest, horror/epic fantasy/Christmas ghost story cross-over pieces ever entirely by hand in a dealer’s den in Chicago one con, for instance.

I got a lot of writing done on the first day of EverfreeNW.

I also had a lot of cool conversations. One of things I’m selling are a bunch of our duplicate 2-inch vinyl pony toys. We bought several extra boxes of them last year to do our pony-themed Christmas tree. So I had a box full of them which people were picking through looking for their favorite characters. One woman kept holding up some of the obscurer (“background ponies”) characters and asking me their names. I had to confess that I don’t recognize a lot of them, either.

At one point I said, “I’m sorry. My husband knows the names of most of the background ponies, not me.”

“Why isn’t your husband here, then?” she asked.

I pointed to the enormous line of hundreds of people waiting for registration. I had been hearing stories all day that people were waiting in line for hours to buy their memberships. I said, “My husband is on registration staff. I don’t know when I’ll see him again.”

“Oh, yeah, you may not see him again until the con is over.” She went back to looking at the ponies. “I must say, even though they’re being slammed, the people who waited on me were all very nice and helpful.”

She bought about half a dozen ponies.

Several other fun conversations were with younger kids about buttons. My husband has recycled a lot of the packaging material for some of the pony toys by turning them into pin-back buttons. The buttons are popular with lots of folks, but the kids seem especially enamored of the buttons. Most of the conversations centered around which is their favorite character, and what the best picture of said character was that we had on a button.

I noticed that the younger kinds most liked the inch-and-a-quarter size. Though the slightly older ones would pick the small buttons, then realize that the price was the same for a big one, and go looking for a large one with the same character. Because the buttons have been made by cutting out pre-printed packaging, we seldom have the exact same pose in both sizes.

One girl tried to talk her younger sister into switching to a bigger one of the same character. “No! This one’s better!”

Can’t argue with that!

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