Archon 26 was held over the weekend of October 4-6, 2002, at the Gateway Convention Center and Holiday Inn in Collinsville, Illinois, one of the Metro-East suburbs of St. Louis. This is one of the larger conventions in the midwest and routinely draws over a thousand attendees.
We didn't know that we'd be attending until almost the last minute. In fact, our application for dealers' tables had gone so long without a response that we had given up hope of getting tables, and had arranged to attend another convention the following week in hopes of having at least a little extra income in October. So it was much to our surprise that we got home from Worldcon in the beginning of September to receive an e-mail letting us know that we'd gotten tables at Archon after all. Suddenly we had to scramble to line up a hotel room, and discovered that the hotel where we usually stay was booked up for that weekend, and we'd have to stay in a different, less accessible hotel in the convention-center complex. I also had to hurry to get space arranged in the art show.
We arrived in Collinsville early Friday morning and checked into our hotel. There we discovered something that made up for the less than desirable location -- instead of a regular room, we had been given a suite with a separate parlor and bedroom, for the same price as a regular room. So we got our personal belongings up to it and settled in to wait for the dealers' room opening time.
That proved to be a mistake. In previous years we had not been allowed to start setting up until the official time the room opened to dealers, and had ended up sitting outside waiting (something we didn't want to do in the rain). However, this year they had opened over an hour early, and when we arrived, several dealers were already carrying in merchandise and setting up.
We checked in, only to discover that we had been given the absolute worst possible location -- directly in front of the big loading-dock doors. Because of the last-minute nature of the dealers' room decisions, we had been confused with another dealer who didn't need tables for his set-up, so there weren't even tables at our location. We tried to get switched to a more suitable location, but because enough of the other dealers had already checked in that there weren't suitable spaces left, that was no longer possible. So we were told to go ahead and start carrying in our stuff and pile it beside the door while they found us tables and got us a set-up.
However, even after we actually got the tables and started setting up, our troubles weren't over. Suddenly one of the dealers' room people came over and told us that our arrangement was unacceptable because it was supposedly blocking the path and the view to another dealer's tables. Furthermore, some of our boxes were considered to be blocking the fire exit and had to be moved right then, even though the loading dock door was wide open, and was bigger than their fire exit. No, moving the boxes as quickly as possible was not acceptable, they had to be moved instantly, drop everything we were doing and jump.
After we finally got our merchandise set up and the bureaucratic hassles dealt with, I got my art onto the art show. I thought I had plenty of time to do so, since the dealers' room wasn't supposed to open to the general public until 4PM. However, when I came back to get the checkbook so that I could pay my hanging fee, I found the dealers' room doors open and the room swarming with people. Apparently they had decided to go ahead and open the dealers' room early, even while some of the other dealers were still scrambling to get their tables set up. I had to stop and help with a couple of transactions before I could go back to the art show and write my check.
That taken care of, I hurried back to the dealers' room and settled in for some good sales. Customers seemed to come in spurts, with some quiet times alternating with frantic business. The first burst of customers went through most of my change, so I ended up having to run over to the hotel to make some change for a $20.
While I was there, I discovered that they had the con suite open. As usual for Archon, and unlike the Chicago conventions, they did not have any munchies in the con suite, just soda and beer. I've often said that Archon should follow the example of the other St. Louis area convention, NameThatCon, and stop serving beer and use the money to buy food that everybody of all ages can enjoy. However, I did get some soda for both of us and take it back to the dealers' room to help take the strain off our own stockpile.
Not long afterward, my husband went back to our hotel room to order a pizza for supper. Because the dealers' room was going to be open so late, we brought the pizza back to our tables and ate supper there, while continuing to do business. We made several sales, including a fairly substantial one, in the last hour we were open.
After the dealers' room closed, we went to the artists' reception. This got us some munchies and a chance to look through the art show. There was some really good stuff there.
Then we went over to the Holiday Inn and visited the con suite, where we got some pop. Then we visited the parties, including the Kansas City in 2006 Worldcon bid, which had some interesting munchies. However, several parties didn't open until later, and we really weren't interested in staying up until all hours to party, since we'd have to get up early to open our dealers' tables the next morning.
So we headed back to our hotel and got a good soak in the hot tub to help work out the aches and pains of having carried in all our heavy merchandise. The hot tub wasn't quite as hot as we might have liked, but it did have good whirlpool action, so we felt better when we headed up to bed to turn in for the night.
We got up bright and early on Saturday morning to get the free breakfast in the hotel. Then we headed over to the convention center and the dealers' room. Before we went in, I stopped at the freebie table and dropped off some fliers I'd forgotten about Friday.
In the dealers' room we got our tables open and ready for business. Then we looked around to see the other dealers' merchandise. I struck up some very interesting conversations as well.
Sales went fairly briskly. While I was talking to one person, the subject of David Weber's Honor Harrington series came up. I mentioned how I'd been drooling over the latest, War of Honor, and couldn't afford to get it. The other person suggested Webscriptions, but I noted that it had to be purchased in a bundle with several other titles, and that price was still beyond my current fun budget. She then pointed out that there was a CD-ROM in it, and that it was permissible to copy it, provided that the copies were shared and not sold. A friend of hers had it and a CD burner, so she hurried back and got me a copy. Of course it doesn't have the pretty label that the original has, but it does have the data, and as long as my computer can read it, I'll be able to read the book without the agonizing wait for our local public library to acquire and process it. (Note after the con -- it works, and I'm going to have a lot of cool reading ahead of me).
While we were dealing with a very large sale, there was a rather alarming announcement over the PA system calling all security personnel to the front desk. Although there was no visible sign of an emergency, I was unnerved because we went through a very bad situation at Duckon X. Afterward I asked around, and was eventually told that it was just a call for a general meeting, which puzzled me because the person making the announcement had sounded very tense, as if trying to put a calm face on a bad situation. Later I was told that there had been a medical emergency (a woman with chronic high blood pressure had passed out and been taken to the hospital) and the "meeting" story was being circulated for public consumption.
After the dealers' room closed for the evening, we headed back to the hotel and took a soak in the hot tub. While we were there, we talked to some other fans about excessive hotel charges and other con problems.
After that we walked over to the Ponderosa and got a very hearty buffet supper. Then we went to the Holiday Inn and checked out the parties. However, they weren't starting until later, and we were both tired, so we went back to our room and went to bed early, since we had a long day ahead of us on Sunday.
On Sunday morning we got up early to get the free hotel breakfast before getting our personal possessions out of our sleeping room. Then we moved the van back over to the convention center and went in to the dealers' room. Although the forecast we'd seen earlier had called for only light showers, we were getting a substantial rain, which did not make matters pleasant. We also heard that the county immediately south of Collinsville was under a tornado watch, which did not bode well. But once we were inside, we were able to get our tables opened for business and to work through our backstock to replace books that had sold in several large last-minute sales.
After that, we settled in to get whatever sales we could get in the last hours that remained before the end of the convention. When I first went over to the art show to get my unsold art, they weren't even ready to start artist check-out, so I went back to the dealers' room to keep doing business.
When I went back later, I was able to get my art out, but the one piece which had received a bid had yet to be picked up by its purchaser. Thus I wasn't able to get my control sheet, since that still had to be taken care of. So I went back to the dealers' room and started packing so that we'd be ready to load out as soon as the dealers' room closed at 2PM.
When we started carrying stuff out, the rain had stopped and the sun was shining in a relatively clear sky. But after the first load or two the sky was getting really dark and ugly, so we snagged one of the convention center's flatbed carts in order to increase the speed at which we were able to load out. We ended up actually getting out in well under the usual two hours.
Since I still hadn't heard anything from the art show, we went over to find out what was going on. However, I got told to stand in a long line to get my question answered. When fifteen minutes had passed and the same person was still laboriously going through her bid sheets, my husband decided that he didn't want to see all our time gain devoured by this trifling problem, and that the art show would probably take care of the problem without having to have me wait to ask the question, so we were going to go ahead and leave, then. So we headed out to the van and hit the road back home.
Copyright 2012 by Leigh Kimmel
Permission is granted for reproduction in fanzines and other non-profit fannish publications.
For permission to quote or reprint in other venues, contact Leigh Kimmel
Last updated October 21, 2012.