ConFusion and her Friends

ConFusion and Her Friends was held over the weekend of January 24-26, 2003 at the Van Dyke Park Hotel in Warren, MI, one of the Detroit suburbs. It was a bitterly cold weekend with snow, which made the process of getting there and loading in rather interesting. We arrived Friday morning, running a little late because we had to take a detour around some traffic problems, and took some streets right past several major automobile factories and the manufacturers' business offices.

When we arrived, we were able to get our sleeping room right away, so that we could take our personal belongings in. However, that proved a little easier said than done, because when we got to the room, the keys wouldn't work. It turned out that the electronic lock hadn't been properly programmed, and one of the maintenance people had to reprogram it before we could even get inside the door.

Once we got that problem taken care of and got our personal belongings inside, we went down to the dealers' room and located our tables so that we could start carrying things in. We were able to back the van up to the loading dock, which meant that we were able to bring things right into the dealers' room. Once we had everything in, we moved the van back to the parking lot and went to work setting things up. That was quite a challenge because we had more material than usual to crowd into the available space. We were so tight on storage space that I ended up taking some empty boxes back out to the van.

Once we were set up, I went up to the green room to get my programming packet, but they weren't ready yet. So I talked for a while with the green room hostess, before heading back to the dealers' room. The art show wasn't even set up yet, so I knew there was no use trying to get my artwork in.

After the dealers' room opened to the general con membership, I made another trip to the green room and finally acquired my programming packet. Then I ran over to the con suite, and discovered that one of the elevators was already broken down. That did not bode well for the convention, particularly since my husband has bad knees and cannot climb stairs except in the direst of emergencies.

After a while, the art show finally got set up, so I took my plaques over and got them on. It took a little more time than it should have, since I hadn't been able to use the Web form to pre-register my art. But I was able to get the space, and I hoped it wouldn't turn out to be a mistake.

Once that was taken care of, we settled in to make some fairly decent sales. Most of them were small, but we did get one really big book sale that instantly moved a whole bunch of books. While I was sitting between customers, I started working on my con report in the Palm Pilot.

After the dealers' room closed, we went to the green room to get some food. Then we went down to the art show and looked around. We saw some very interesting artwork, but almost nothing had bids.

Then we went to the Meet and Greet. They had some pretty good food, but instead of providing a range of beverages, they just set out a table full of various wines. When I asked about non-alcoholic beverages, I was rather coldly informed that there was a water station outside the door. I found it rather offensive that those of us who do not or cannot consume alcohol were being treated like horses to be watered. Some people were carrying in cans of pop from the con suite.

Then we went to the con suite, only to discover that they had half the path blocked off. This was for their convenience, so they needed only one set of badgers. After that, we went around to the various parties. There were some pretty good ones, including the Red Dwarf party and two different Buffy the Vampire Slayer parties. Penguicon had a nice party, and we touched base with some of the people who were putting it on, since we're planning to be dealers at it. We also visited the Stilyagi Suite, which belongs to the organization that puts on ConFusion. After that we finally decided to call it quits for the night.

Saturday morning we got up and went over to the green room for breakfast. There we had a slight discussion about whether green room priveleges were to be extended to spouses of program participants, as is the usual practice at most of the conventions I've attended. We finally agreed that at least for now my husband would be allowed to accompany me, although there was some question as to whether that would continue to be the case if food supplies were to run low.

Once we had breakfast, we headed down to the dealers' room to get set up for the day's sales. We also took a look around the room, and talked with some of the other dealers about such matters as controlling pests in one's home. When the dealers' room opened for sales, we settled in to deale with customers.

At 1 PM I had my first panel, "E-fandom," with Alex von Thorn, Devon McDaniel, Katherine Becker and Lawrence Kestenbaum. We talked about the role of electronic fandom in our lives, and whether it competed with or complemented other forms of fandom. We agreed that it did take up time, but that it also allowed us to reach people we might never have otherwise. We also talked about the problems with e-fandom, including such scourges as spam and flamewars. There was some debate about the factors that contributed to the prevalence of flaming and what could be done to prevent it. There was a consensus that a major factor in the problem was a sense of disconnect from the common humanity of the other people in the forum, and that restoring a commitment to personal reputation was a major part of keeping online interactions civil.

After my panel, I hurried back to the dealers' room. I also discovered that two of my pieces in the art show had bids, which was a very welcome discovery after having had no sales at all previous Michigan conventions.

Later that afternoon, my husband went up to the con suite for the pork roast that was a special treat for the year. Fortunately, since we were dealers and couldn't leave our tables unattended, he was allowed to pick up plates for both of us rather than my having to go up and stand in line separately. This was very good because by the time he got our food, the line was already out the door.

So we had a very good supper without having to go out to eat. After that, we had a few more sales before it was time to cover our tables for the night.

After the dealers' room closed, we went up to the green room to pick up a few more goodies. However, that ended up being a little more of an adventure than we'd expected, because the elevator in the poolside wing was acting up. It would go to the floor without any problems, but when we got to it, the door wouldn't open properly. The door inside the elevator would open, leaving us staring at the inside of the door on the floor. We ended up having to force the door so that we could get out. After we were done at the green room, we went to the front desk and let them know there was a problem.

Then we stopped by one early party, put on by a group re-creating the Knights Templar. They had lots of really good stuff, including whole shrimp. Those were really tasty, and I had to restrain myself from being a complete pig.

After that we went down to the hot tub for a good soak. The hot tub was really hot, which was great for soaking out muscle aches, which made us really wish we'd had time to squeeze in a good soak on Friday, when we were sore from lugging in all our merchandise.

After that, we went around to visit the parties. We stopped at the parties in the poolside wing first. This time the elevator was actually working properly. We stopped at the Conclave party and got my membership purchased, since the rate was just about ready to go up and there was no provision for dealers to buy additional memberships at a lower rate once dealer information came out. Since the dealers' room person told us that there should be no problem getting tables, we decided it should be worth the risk. Then we went over to the Farscape party, where we were able to get two of the very last slices of pizza before it was completely devoured.

After that, we headed over to the tower section to get to the bulk of the parties. We sat for a while in the Con Suite waiting for one to open, and met a fan who was dressed up as a character from a mystery series. We talked about the Rational Dress League and how much work it was to reproduce the styles the character wore authentically.

Then it was off to the rest of the parties. We reprised our visits to the LA in '06 Space Cadets bid party and to the Penguicon party. At the latter, I talked to the programming person about being on programming. We also visited the Seattle in '05 NASFiC bid party, and the Subgenius party, where we got some really cool ribbons for our badges. We also stopped by the Stilyagi suite again. Then we decided that it was time to turn in for the night.

Sunday morning started bright and early, since we needed to get our personal belongings packed and out of our sleeping room before the dealers' room opened. However, before we actually carried stuff out, we went by the green room to get some breakfast. When we did take our stuff out, we discovered that someone had parked in the loading dock area, even though it was supposed to be a no-parking area. We hoped that they would be gone by the time we needed to load out, but had a bad feeling that it was going to end up being a problem, particularly considering the problems we'd already had.

After we got our personal belongings out to the van and got checked out of the hotel, we opened our dealers' tables for business. We ended up having a fairly busy day, with good solid spending. I had to bring in a number of boxes that we'd stored in the van due to the limitations on space, and then I ended up having to wipe up meltwater from snow that had been carried in on our handcart. After that, I went over to the art show and picked up my unsold art. I was also able to pick up my payment on the spot, in cash.

At 2 PM I had my second panel, "Your Public Library, Librarians and SF," with Feff Beeler, Jim Frenkel, Cindy McGee and Kim Kofmel. This was rather awkward scheduling, since I really needed to be in the dealers' room to help finish with the packing, and I ended up arriving late. The panel was small enough that we all sat in a circle and talked. Almost all of us were either current librarians or had library experience (I have a library degree and have worked in both public and academic libraries). We discussed some of the problems in library funding and in getting people to know about the library's science fiction and fantasy collection.

Fortunately, the panel ended up getting out early, and I was able to get back to the dealers' room while it was still open. However, it still meant that we were running late getting packed. Worse yet, we were so busy while we were packing that someone was able to swipe an Albus Dumbledore figure that we had on a high shelf in the back part of our display (so it clearly wasn't a little kid who didn't know better).

Because we were running behind, we were still finishing the last packing when the dealers' room actually closed. We quickly finished that up and my husband went out to move the van. The car was still in front of the loading dock, so the person in charge of the dealers' room told us to go ahead and block it in. However, this still meant that we had to carry every box a full car-length longer than we should have, which made everything take more time.

We had just gotten the steel gridwall in place over the stacks of books when the owners of the car arrived and began carrying on about how we'd blocked them in and were being rude to them. We pointed out that they shouldn't even be parked there, and they started whining about how they'd come in at 2AM and couldn't see that it was a loading dock. We commented that their headlights should have been working enough to see the loading dock, and wondered if they'd been blind drunk when they arrived (in which case it was probably fortunate that they didn't ram the loading dock in trying to park, and have a wreck blocking the loading dock, instead of just a movable car). Since we did have a marginally stable load, we did end up moving the van enough so that they could get out, and then pulling the van in so we could load the rest of our unsold merchandise much more easily.

The rest of the loadout went much more smoothly, and we were finished a little after 5PM. Since we were already running behind and had a long trip in uncertain weather ahead of us, we decided not to go up to the con suite to get any last-minute munchies. Instead we just double-checked that we'd gotten everything out of the dealers' room, then took off.

Copyright 1998 by Leigh Kimmel

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Last updated October 21, 2012.