Archon 40

Archon is the St. Louis area's annual science fiction convention. This year it was held over the weekend of September 30-October 2, 2016 at the Gateway Center and the Doubletree hotel.

Because load-in starts at 9AM on Friday, we wanted to be there Thursday evening. We could have gone straight from Indianapolis and made it in one day, but I wanted to visit my folks. They're both getting elderly and in increasingly frail health, and I've gotten altogether too aware of how short the time can be.

So we headed over on Wednesday, and were able to make a stop at Vitamin World on the way. We arrived just in time for supper, and just as the Heyworth High School homecoming parade was forming up. We sort of talked about going and seeing it, but with the rainy weather in the air, we weren't really eager to go out and stand in the chill, damp air to watch. And quite honestly, it probably wouldn't have been a good thing for my folks to be out in that weather..

So I did some laundry and some cooking. I was going to work on a book review, but I was tired enough that it was hard to focus on it. We decided to get to bed early in hopes of catching back up on our sleep.

On Thursday morning we got up and had breakfast. Then we carried our stuff out to the van and hit the road south. At least the van was handling a lot better than it had been the last time we went down I-55, but new shock absorbers and new tires make a big difference.

Traffic went pretty smoothly until we reached Lincoln. They were working on I-155, the spur up to Peoria, and it spilled down onto the interchange. But once we got past that, it was smooth sailing the rest of the way. We got to the hotel early enough that it might have been a problem to check in, but they had a room available, so we got right in.

As soon as we got our stuff in, we set up our computers to get on the Internet. However, my computer and the hotel's WiFi wouldn't connect properly, so I got out our hotspot and set it up. I wrote to my dad to let him know we'd arrived safely. Then I caught up on various websites and finished a book review so I could put the book back in our stock.

As the afternoon gave way to evening, we went over to the convention center to pick up our badges. While we were waiting, I pulled out my Treo and started working on a con review. Then a friend of ours showed up and we caught up on our various adventures and misadventures.

Afterward we headed back to the hotel and I got to work on another book review. I had added two paragraphs to it the previous night and was pretty sure I'd saved. But when I opened it, all that text was gone, and I wasn't able to find any other version saved somewhere else. So there was nothing for me to do but reconstruct the text as best I could.

Because we were still tired from the previous weekend's event, we decided to turn in early. However, I didn't get as much sleep as I hoped because I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't fall back asleep until it was almost time to get up.

The hotel's complimentary breakfast turned out to be better than we'd expected. I needed that good start to the day because we wanted to be over at the convention center as early as possible to get into position for load-in. I used some of the waiting time to work on my con report, but ended up dozing off.

Load-in was complicated by a drizzly rain just heavy enough to be aggravating. We had to tarp all our merchandise, and we were getting just enough wind to make it difficult to keep the tarps in place.

At least the rain stopped before we got to the books. I've had to load and unload books in rain, and it's never easy, and never without risk of damage that will devalue them.

Once we got everything inside, we started building our structures and arranging our merchandise. I'd cut us way back from what we'd take to an anime con, but we still had a lot of merchandise we couldn't get out. At least we were able to get set up before the doors opened. We even sold something to a fellow dealer, which we took as a good omen for the weekend.

Although a substantial crowd poured in when the doors opened, sales were slow. A lot of people were looking around, scoping out the merchandise they wanted to acquire and planning their purchases.

When the artists' reception opened a little before the dealers' room closed, we took turns going over and getting some goodies. After we closed for the night, we both went over together, but by that point we were both tired enough that we didn't feel like looking at the art. I hadn't put anything on the art show because I hadn't had time to do anything new, and with funds tight, I really didn't want to drop money on hanging fees that would probably be a guaranteed loss.

Then we went back over to the hotel and took it easy until time to turn in for the night. I did some more work on the book review and a little fiction writing.

On Saturday we headed back over to the convention center to get our tables open. This time I even had a little time to look around before the doors opened.

Sales did pick up, but they were in spurts. The effect was to give me just enough time to get bored and start disengaging mentally when a bunch of people would all show up at once. Then there'd be so many people that no matter who I went to help, I got pointed at someone else.

Then I had this little incident with some people who were taking their cosplay altogether too seriously, and had swallowed altogether too much Political Correctness. There is a difference between playing a fictional race in a Secondary World, however beloved, and one's actual Primary World racial and ethnic identity.

On the other hand, I did have a bright moment in the afternoon when I got to Ellen Datlow's signing. We didn't need to have any books in stock that needed signed, but I did have three of her anthologies in my personal library, so I brought them to be signed and personalized. We chatted briefly and she commented that my copies looked well-loved.

After the dealers' room closed for the night, we headed back to our hotel room. Although there are parties at Archon, they tend to be too centered around drinking for us to enjoy when we need to be ready to do business on the morrow. Also, going back to the room gave me an opportunity to make more progress on my book review.

Sunday morning we had some unwelcome anxiety when we discovered that the third person who'd been sharing our room had never returned for the night -- but her stuff was still there. Given the reputation of Archon's parties for wild drinking, we started worrying about all the ugly possibilities. However, we needed to get checked out in time to open our tables, and we weren't going to abandon her possessions to be disposed of by Housekeeping. So we packed everything up and put it in the van, and even put the perishables into our cooler with our remaining food.

Because every ice machine in that hotel was broken, I had to make an unexpected trip up to WalMart to acquire ice for the cooler. Even with that trip, I made it back in time to do a little looking around before the doors opened. During that period, we heard that one of the parties got so far out of hand that the police busted it, giving us further reason for anxiety about our friend.

Once the doors opened, we had to just concentrate on selling. Sales were slow at first, but soon picked up markedly. By the time we started packing the figurines, people were buying stacks of books, and I had no time to do anything but mark them down and try to get second copies up. We just had to leave the gaps open, so we ended up with a bunch of loose boxes.

And our friend finally showed up. She'd been partying, but at a private party which didn't get out of hand. However, she hadn't felt she could get back to our hotel safely, so she'd stayed there. Glad she'd had a safe place to stay for the night, we got her stuff back to her.

Then the dealers' room closed and it was time to carry stuff out. With a whole bunch of people working, we were able to get everything out quickly, and left the convention center while it was still light.

The trip back went pretty smoothly. When we stopped to get gas, I put together our supper and we ate on the road. We still got back to my folks' place in time to visit and do some stuff on the computer before we turned in for the night.

On Monday we had an early lunch with my folks before heading back to Indianapolis. We made the drive in good time and even stopped at Brownsburg to make a deposit of decent size at the bank branch. Much as I enjoy the conventions and getting to travel, it's always good to be home.

Copyright 2016 by Leigh Kimmel

Permission is granted for reproduction in fanzines and other non-profit fannish publications.

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Last updated October 19, 2016.