ConFusion -- Mystery God Confusion

ConFusion was held over the weekend of January 19 to 21 at the Van Dyke Park Hotel in Warren, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. This year's theme was Mystery God, and there was a contest to identify the secret god. To play, participants had to find the clues placed around conspace and piece them together, then turn in the answer at Ops.

Another interesting thing they did was Radio Free ConFusion, a sort of pirate radio station with a fannish sensibility. This was actually put on the airwaves via a low-power transmitter, and could be picked up on any radio in the immediate area of the hotel.

They also produced a daily news sheet, InFusion. This was distributed at various locations around the hotel.

We arrived at the hotel late Friday morning and had time to get checked into the hotel and move our personal belongings into our sleeping room before the dealers' room opened for setup. Getting our merchandise in was a little interesting, since we had to back the van up to a loading dock designed for semis, then lift everything onto the platform and carry it in.

Once we got everything in and set up, I put my art on the art show. Then we settled in to do business for the remainder of the afternoon. However, sales proved to be disappointingly slow, and I even had tlme to write on my current work in progress.

To make matters worse, we had a book disappear from our tables. After that we warned the other dealers about the possibility of a shoplifter. This is the third con in a row that we've had items stolen. It's a shame that we no longer seem to have such a strong sense of community in fandom.

Another bad sign about this con was a sudden announcement in the middle of the afternoon that the elevators would not tolerate heavy use. Accordingly we should take stairs whenever possible to spare the elevators for those who really need them.

After the dealers' room closed for the day, we went to the hotel restaurant for Mongolian stir-fry. Unlike similar restaurants we've visited in the past, this one offered both an unlimited and a single-trip option (the latter being cheaper). We decided to go with the single-trip option, since business had been so poor and we figured we could get enough to fill us up on one trip through.

They also included a soup and salad bar in that price, which made us wonder if they were encouraging people to fill up on cheap stuff before getting to the actual meal. As if to confirm our suspicions, the ingredients for the stir-fry were arranged with the vegetables first and the meats (the more expensive stuff) last. But since it wasn't busy, we simply went ahead and got all the meat we wanted first, then picked up our vegetables. We managed to fill our bowls so full in that single trip through that we couldn't even eat it all.

After a rest to digest our excess, we made the rounds of the parties. By this time one of the elevators had broken down, and the other was acting very strangely.

The Babylon 5 viewing room was showing some animated material as well. There was a party for the upcoming Dr. Demento convention, as well as a general-interest party. Then we visited the con suite one last time before turning in for the night.

Saturday started early with a trip to the hotel's complimentary continental breakfast. Then we headed down to the dealers' room to open our tables for the day. Business continued to be frustratingly slow, and we seriously questioned whether we would try to sell at the convention again.

By this time the elevators were showilng the strain. Both the regular elevators had given out, so people were being told to use the stairs. Those who were physically unable to climb stairs could use the freight elevator; however, if you aren't in a wheelchair or on crutches, it can be difficult to convince people that you aren't just goldbrickinq out of laziness. For instance, chronic knee problems can make stair-climbing agonizing but not need the use of a cane, etc.

In the afternoon there was a Mad Scientests' Science Fair and a Classic Computer Show in the hallway outside of the dealers' room. The Mad Scientests' Science Fair featured some really wild applications of scientific principles, such as using liguid nitrogen to make ice cream. The Classic Computer Show had some really old computers, including two hand-wired homebrews. Beside one of them was a copy of the semi-legendary "blinkenlights" notice. (This is a notice written in a sort of fractured pseudo-German, warning people not to tamper with the equipment). Then there were various early commercial terminals and microcomputers. There was a rather bulky and awkward Epson portable that had less power than my Palm VIIx handheld.

Shortly thereafter, we discovered that our shoplifter had struck again. At least this time we knew the title of the missing book, so we looked around in case we saw someone walking around with it. However, we never did see it, and neither did a friendly former dealer who volunteered to keep an eye out for it after having been a customer at our tables when we discovered the theft.

Sometime in the afternoon the transmitter for Radio Free ConFusion broke down. However, they ran a CCTV broadcast on the hotel TV system while they were trying to repair the transmitter.

After the dealers' room closed, we called in a pizza for supper. Then we went to the dessert buffet that was put on by the con. The desserts were excellent and included such delights as cheesecake and cherry pie, but there was only coffee and tea to drink. They were going to bring in ice water, but they never seemed to get around to it.

After that we went to the hot tub for a good soak. The hot tub was exquisitely hot, which was one point in favor of the hotel.

Then we made the rounds of the parties. One featured face and body painting. Then there was the party for the Boston in 2004 Worldcon bid, where I also talked to the person in charge of programming for this year's Worldcon. Other convention parties included Conclave, Contraption and Gaylaxicon

There was also the Heaven and Hell party, which occupied adjoining suites, one for heaven and the other for hell. In each were sheets asking us to list the things we considered to be from that realm. I listed egotistical, micromanaging bosses and busywork as being from hell.

Then we went to the con suite before we returned to our room for the night.

On Sunday we had the complimentary continental breakfast again. Then we got our personal belongings out of our sleeping room and got checked out of the hotel. That done, we went to the dealers' room and got our tables uncovered and ready for business. We had a few more sales, but not nearly enough to turn it from a loss to a success.

By noon we started packing, although we had a few more sales. I also retrieved my unsold art from the art show. I hadn't sold a single piece, which made it an even bigger loss.

When the dealers' room closed, it was time to carry our unsold merchandise back out. That was easier said than done, because the doors to the loading dock had been locked. We had to get them unlocked, and the hotel people were decidedly unhelpful. One officious type gave us a snotty lecture about not getting upset.

Even after we got it opened and the van positioned, we still had to get all our stuff out and loaded. That was mostly awkward, since the loading dock was too high to put things straight in. While we were loading, we discovered that our thief had struck again. This time we had a hardcover book missing.

When we finally got everything loaded, we made one last quick trip to the con suite. The regular elevator worked well enough for the way up, but when we were ready to go back down it wouldn't answer the call button, so we used the freight elevator. Then we headed out for the long drive back to mundania.

Copyright 1998 by Leigh Kimmel

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Last updated October 21, 2012.