Archon 38

Archon is the St Louis area's principal science fiction convention, held every year in the fall. This year it was held over the weekend of October 3-5, 2014 at the Gateway Convention Center in Collinsville, Illinois, one of the St. Louis Metro East suburbs.

Because we wanted to visit my family on the way, we left on Wednesday after attending a meeting about Medicare changes. We made pretty good time and were even able to watch the local high school's homecoming parade, although rain was moving in by the time it ended.

When we got up on Thursday, it was quite clear that a fair amount of rain had moved through overnight. However, a quick check of the weather radar made it obvious that a lot more rain was in the offing, so we decided to move our schedule up and get on the road as fast as possible.

We stopped in Springfield to get gas, and I considered getting our lunch ready at that time. However, we decided to wait until we got to the first rest stop, a decision that turned out to be a huge mistake. We ran into pouring rain with hail, so heavy I had to slow to a crawl to stay on the road. Then the rest stop turned out to be closed, apparently part of the Illinois government's budget-cutting measures.

By the time we got to the last rest stop, we were pretty much famished. We were still getting some rain, but I went ahead and put together our lunch, even if I did get damp in the process. So we ate while we drove the rest of the way to the convention center.

Even with all our weather woes on the road, we still arrived too early to check in at the hotel. So we headed over to the nearby WalMart to pick up some stuff first.

When we did arrive, we had a few issues with the check-in process. But once we got checked in and our personal possessions moved into the room, we could take it easy for a while. I went on the Internet and did a few things before settling in to work on a book review. My book reviewing website is something that's really slid over the past few months as a result of family crises and a busy con schedule.

In the evening we headed over to the convention center to get our badges and get my art on the art show. We also made connections with our friends who would be helping us load in and out of the dealers' room. Then we returned to our room and I did some more work on the book review.

On Friday we got up and had the hotel's complimentary breakfast. Then we headed over to the convention center to be ready to load in, but there'd been a miscommunication and the dealers' room wouldn't open for dealer setup until 10 AM. So while we were stuck in hurry up and wait mode, I did some work on a book review for The Billion Lightyear Bookshelf.

As it turned out, the door opened about half an hour early and we were able to start carrying in. My husband did manage to grab one of the convention center's flatbed carts to speed up the load-in process, but then he was taken ill and had to run back to the hotel room, leaving me and one of our friends to carry things in.

As it turned out, we got in fairly quickly and then had the problem of getting set up in a reasonable amount of time. I soon discovered that we'd brought more t-shirts than we'd planned space for, so I had to give some of the table space I'd planned for collectibles to an additional t-shirt display unit.

A worse problem was the discovery that our neighbor behind us was setting up a display structure that significantly narrowed the passageway behind one of our tables. This is one of the problems with the arrangement of islands of tables around a common backspace -- there's a lot more gray area about who may do what with the space behind the tables, and there's often bad feelings if some people's complaints are given precedence. In a dealers' room with a booth arrangement, it's always clear exactly what piece of floor space belongs to whom, and disputes are easy to resolve.

Even with those aggravations, we were able to get things set up in a workable arrangement so that we could share that common backspace without killing each other. And we even had a little time to walk around and visit the other dealers before things opened.

Business was a little slow, but this is typical of Fridays at literary sf cons. People like to take in the whole dealers' room before making any purchases, and a lot of them want to sleep on their decisions. This is a marked contrast with the typical situation at anime conventions, where people tend to start spending the minute they see something they like.

About a hour before the dealers' room closed, business slowed down to a crawl. This was convenient because it gave us an opportunity to get to the artists reception before all the food got devoured. As it turned out, they kept replenishing the food, even after we got our tables closed and were able to come over and relax. So we got a reasonable amount of munchies, unlike the time when all the food vanished down the maws of the first few in line.

After we left the artists' reception, we headed back to the room and I wrote up a blog post about life imitating art. Then we turned in for the night.

On Saturday we got up and had breakfast. Then we rousted our roommates from bed so they'd be ready in time to help us at the dealers' room.

Once we got our tables open and ready for business, we did some more looking around the dealers' room. One of the local thrift stores had a table, and I saw some glassware we'd be able to resell for a profit, so I quick snapped them up. They all needed a good washing, so there could be no question of us reselling them right there, but I was looking at the long game.

When the dealers' room opened, we went a little while before we got our first sale. But once the sales started happening, we had some times when we were so busy we could barely keep up. We had some really good book sales, which was a happy change from the past several literary sf cons, where books sold by ones and twos.

Then it was time to go line up for our first book signings. We had so many books by that author that it took the whole team to get them signed, leaving my husband to run our tables by himself. As it turned out, that was just the time when everything got busy and he had to struggle to keep up.

We had a little break before our last signing, so I was able to gather up the appropriate books with a little more care. Since Tamora Pierce was the guest of honor, the line for her signing was really, really long. She would've been willing to have signed the whole lot for us once she realized we were all together and I had more, but by that point I'd already hurried to the end of the line and trying to get me back could've caused an ugly misunderstanding. So I just waited it out and read an e-book I want to get reviewed. When I did get back to the front of the line, I told her to only do what she felt she had the strength to do, but she insisted on doing everything I had left. I thanked her profusely.

By the time I got back to the dealers' room, I had to straighten out some problems, in particular a book sale that had been messed up. Then we had fairly steady sales until the last half-hour, when everything slowed to a crawl.

Once we got our dealer tables covered and got back to the room, we debated about going to some of the parties. However, Archon's parties have a tendency to be more heavily focused upon drinking than I like, and I had some writing I wanted to get done. So we stayed in the room and I got a blog post made and a beginning written on a short story for an anthology that closes at the end of the month.

During the first part of the night we had pretty good sleep. Then our roommates got back and there was a little drama related to something that had happened at one of the parties. I was never clear just what had happened, but it did disrupt my sleep.

The next morning we got up and had the hotel's complimentary breakfast. Then we had to get our roommates out of bed and packed so we could get checked out. We couldn't delay because we needed to get to the convention center and get our dealer tables open for business.

We actually had pretty good sales on Sunday, but a lot of people at literary sf cons wait until they've settled up with the hotel and the art show before doing their real shopping in the dealers' room.

At noon I got my art off the art show and started carrying in boxes to pack unsold merchandise. We had people buying even as we packed, which was heartening. By the time the dealers' room closed, we had everything packed but the t-shirts. So I loaded up the big gridwalls and the books and started hauling everything out, figuring we'd get done with them just in time.

However, I had such good help that I got ahead of the packing, and ended up having to wait until the necessary things were ready. But once those delays were over, we were able to get everything loaded in good time, and decided to go ahead and pay for next year's tables so we could lock in this year's rate.

Then we hit the road back to my parents' place. We did eat supper on the road, but got back in time to join them for dessert. Then I did laundry and took care of business.

On Monday we headed back home. At least the weather was good, and we did stop in Brownsburg to deposit our money before finishing the trip.

Copyright 2014 by Leigh Kimmel

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Last updated October 7, 2014.