Archon 39

Archon is a science fiction convention held every fall in the St. Louis area. This year Archon 39 was held over the weekend of October 2-4, 2015 at the Gateway Convention Center and the Doubletree Hotel in Collinsville, Illinois, one of the Metro East suburbs.

We left on Wednesday afternoon and drove over to my folks' place in the Bloomington-Normal area. This gave me an opportunity to visit with them, something I don't want to pass up these days. As we get older, I'm seeing more and more that we can't take it for granted that we'll have all the chances we'd like to have to see each other.

On Thursday we went the rest of the way to Collinsville. We left shortly after breakfast to allow plenty of time for road construction and traffic backups. However, we encountered only one major delay, which meant that we arrived before our room was ready and wound up stuck in the lobby waiting. I did some work on a story for Liberty Island's Halloween contest.

Once we got in, we connected with our friends who are crashing in our room in exchange for help loading us in and out. Then we had supper and went over to the convention center. The art show was ready, so I was able to get my art set up. However, registration was running behind, so we got to sit around and wait for almost an hour before we could get our badges.

That business taken care of, we headed back across the way to our hotel and settled in for the evening. I tried to get some book reviews written, but ran out of time before I could finish them. We needed to get up early to be ready to load in the next morning, so it behooved us to turn in at a reasonable hour.

On Friday we got up and had breakfast. We also made the unhappy discovery that the hotel's key cards demagnetize easily, which is going to be a huge hassle with multiple people sharing the room. Every time we have problems with a key and need it recoded, we have to collect all the keys and get them all recoded at once.

Then we headed back to the convention center to set up. Because we wanted to make sure we had a good position to load in from, we went there extra early, which meant waiting. I used the time to get a head start on my con review.

Once the doors opened, we started hauling stuff in. Because we had so many people helping and were able to get one of the convention center's flatbed carts as well as our own cart, we got everything in really fast. Then we all started working on getting everything set up. The biggest problem we were having was keeping everyone coordinated so we didn't get into each other's way, and we got the priority stuff out before it got crowded out by less important merchandise.

Even with a few little glitches that had to be fixed, we were finished well ahead of opening time. We even had some time to walk around and see who else had set up.

When the doors opened, we had a brief flurry of business when a whole bunch of people came in and saw the thing they did not want to risk getting away from them. After that, things slowed down and we were doing as much standing around as actual selling.

In the evening we went to the artists' reception. Because it starts before the dealers' room closes, we each hurried over to the art show to get some food, then hurried back to be around in time for closing. Once we got our dealers' tables covered, we headed back to the art show to really enjoy it. I did run our personal stuff out to the van for safekeeping, which did take a little time, but we still had enough time to look through the whole place.

We also decided to go over to the Doubletree to check out the con suite and the parties. However, the con suite was all drinks, and I didn't see any parties. So we headed back to our hotel to turn in for the night. We did have a little time to unwind, but there wasn't really much writing time. I did want to get a little writing in, just to keep things moving forward.

On Saturday we had the hotel's complimentary breakfast, then headed back over to the convention center. Saturdays are almost always the big sales day, so I spent some of our setup time fiddling around with our displays, trying to figure out ways to get more merchandise out and better display what we did have out.

Once the doors opened, we had fairly steady sales. I had to consciously adjust my expectations downward, since we've really had them altered by doing the big comic cons. However, I was happy to see a lot of our books going out. People were actually buying a fair number of books at a time, even if they didn't reach the point at which our volume discounts kick in. It might not be like the days when we could count on emptying three or four trays of paperbacks and a box of hardcovers, but it was better than several recent science fiction conventions have been.

When the dealers' room closed for the evening, we headed back to our room to take it easy for the evening. We had a little drama when one of our friends discovered she had lost her badge, but she figured out it must have fallen off outside and headed out to retrace her steps in search of it. After that, we settled in to rest and relax. I got some notes made on a story I want to write some time in the future, and then we turned in for the night.

On Sunday we had breakfast, then started gathering up our stuff to get checked out. We also had to make sure our roommates had all their stuff out of the room before we got finished checking out. We also heard from them that yes, our other friend had indeed found her badge and all was well on that front.

Then we headed back over to the convention center. This time we were able to come in through the rear entrance of the dealers' room rather than walk all the way around, which saved time and effort. I got a few more things out on display, then looked around. I got to see some photographs from Larry Smith's van accident on his return from Dragon*Con. That was a really close call, and made me aware of just how lucky we've been some times when I was pushing hard and driving tired.

When the doors first opened, traffic was pretty slow. I even had time to go to Jacqueline Carey's book signing, and was pleased to see the line wasn't inordinately long. I asked her whether she planned to write anything further in the Kushiel universe, and she told me she'd come to view it as pretty well mined out, although she wouldn't disallow the possibility of future inspiration. I was a little disappointed, but acknowledged that it's better to stop on a high note than just keep churning out more volumes after one has run out of things to say.

Afterward, I went over and picked up my unsold art, then started packing merchandise. At that point, things really started picking up, to the point that I didn't even get a chance to eat my lunch. About the time the doors opened, I was to the point I was almost sick with hunger, and demanded that I have a chance to at least eat my sandwich before I keeled over.

I was quite happy to see several boxes empty or nearly so, and that with some of them badly packed by people who weren't familiar with the optimal way to get a box packed. We also managed to get the van loaded tighter, since we had more room than we had when we headed off. It almost made me wonder if we'd missed a box somewhere, but when I went back in to pick up our personal belongings, I was happy to see that everything was in order.

Then we hit the road back to my folks' place. We had good weather and made good time, and I was even able to get two loads of laundry done before bedtime. I also did most of our bookwork, and made some notes on stories I want to get written.

On Monday we stayed for lunch with my parents. Then I carried out our personal belongings and we hit the road home. We got back in time to deposit our cash money and get to the meal at one of the local churches.

Copyright 2015 by Leigh Kimmel

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Last updated October 6, 2015.