CONvergence 2002 was held over the weekend of July 5-7, 2002 at the Radisson South in Bloomington, Minnesota, one of the southern suburbs of Minneapolis. We had been told that this con was almost as big as the old Minicons, before a new con committee took that con over and started shrinking it. So we decided to give it a try, especially since we were not able to get tables at InConJunction, the convention that is held in Indianapolis that weekend.
Although when we'd gone to Minicon in that location, we'd stayed in the Radisson, this year we were not able to get nearly such a good deal on a room. Instead, our travel club was able to get us a much better deal on a room in the Sofitel, a fancy European-style hotel just across the way from the Radisson, in easy walking distance.
We arrived early enough that we were able to check into our room before the dealers' room opened. We got all our stuff into our sleeping room and even had some time to spare. However, one of the downsides of being in a fancier hotel was the funny look we got when we carried all our stuff in on our handcart instead of having the porters bring it in (and needing to tip them out of cash that we didin't have to spare). Also, we soon discovered that there was no hot tub, which was a disappointment because we were hoping to be able to soak out some of the aches and pains of carrying in our merchandise.
That done, we went over to the Radisson to get a good spot for loading in.The dealers' room was in the same place as it always had been for Minicon, but load-in was being handled different. In the Minicon days, we'd always loaded through the freight elevator in the loading dock, and had a large number of gophers to help us get our merchandise out of our vehicles as rapidly as possible. However, at CONvergence we were told that we were not to use the freight elevators. Instead, we were supposed to take everything through the passenger elevators in the lobby. This made things very interesting, since a lot of the dealers had multiple cartloads of very heavy items. Fortunately none of the elevators broke down while we were loading in, although one of them was acting rather funny by the time everyone was done.
Then we got everything set up. After that I went over to the art show and got my art checked in. Here again there were both similarities and differences. They had the art show in the same set of rooms that Minicon had always used, but they had the opposite set of doors open, so I constantly had to remember to go past the doors I remembered.
Those things taken care of, we settled in to sitting table. Sales were rather slow, so I got a notebook out and started working on notes for the ending of a novel I've been writing, trying to pull together all the various threads into a suitable conclusion.
Because I was on a panel not long after the dealers' room closed, there was no time to go out to a restaurant for supper Friday night. Thus we decided to order pizza, and my husband left early to call it in, so that it would be ready as soon as I got back after closing our tables by myself. When I got back, our pizza had just arrived. However, we'd almost gotten someone else's pizza as well, and only by some quick thinking did we correct the mistake.
My panel that evening was "Living in a SF World," with Thaadd Powell and Dan Reising. We talked about how technology is catching up with the sf of yesterday, and how this has affected society, including people who never had any interest in sf.
After my panel was over, we made the rounds of the parties. Here CONvergence followed the pattern of Minicon, offering the cabana rooms that surrounded the pool area to people and groups who were willing to hold parties on both evenings of the conventions. There were lots of fun parties with interesting themes, and we really didn't have time to do more than make a flying visit to each of them before it was time to turn in for the night.
Saturday morning we had to get up early because I had a panel first thing, before the dealers' room even opened. This was "Are Online Communities Destroying the Fan Club?" When I arrived, my other panelist, Joyce Scrivner, hadn't arrived yet, so I waited for a little while. After several minutes had passed, I decided to just run the panel as a round table, and we settled in to discussing our various experiences with online fandom and its relationship to more traditional forms of fanac. My second panelist ended up showing up about halfway through the hour. Many of the audience had found that online fandom actually reinforced traditional formats like the local fan club by giving more opportunities to get the word out to people who might be interested, without the expense of media ads that are often beyond the means of cash-strapped fan clubs.
After the panel was over, I hurried over to the dealers' room to sit table. We did some fairly good business, but nothing really spectacular. I checked the art show and found that I was getting at least a few bids on my pieces, enough to cover my hanging fees.
In the afternoon I went to my last panel, "Oscar and Science Fiction: Why Aren't Genre Films Good Enough?" with Tim Wick, Amanda Gordon and Jody Wurl. We talked about why sf films are regularly passed over for "mainstream" movies that are often seen as inferior. This discussion ranged far and wide, touching on other forms of prejudice beyond that against science fiction and fantasy -- for instance, comedies are often considered to be inferior to dramas. I pointed out that this holds true even within the sf genre, and the Best Dramatic Production Hugo is often given to a movie or TV episode that is considered to be "serious" drama in preference to one that is seen as "light" comedy. I cited as an example how the original Men in Black lost the Hugo to Contact, which I considerd to be tedious and droning.
We also talked about rules of nomination procedure that could skew the Oscars voting against certain types of movies. For instance, nominations for the Best Foreign Film category have to be made by the governments of the countries in which the films are made. If the country's government is reasonably democratic, like France or Germany, this is not a major problem. However, if the government is repressive, it can nominate worthless tripe that sings its praises while ignoring the works of directors who challenge the government in various ways. I offered the example of the former Soviet Union, where Socialist Realist films would be nominated for prizes while the work of such dissadent directors as Sergei Paradjanov were treated with scorn.
During the panel, one of the panelists who was also a staff member got an emergency call and had to leave to take care of it. This was a little unnerving for the rest of us, but we later found out that it was a relatively minor medical emergency.
After the panel was over, I hurred back to the dealers' room to sit for the remaining time it was open. After it closed, we went out to eat at TGI Friday's, which was within walking distance. However, we soon discovered that this was probably less than a completely wise choice, since almost everything on their menu was fried and thus very fatty. Because my husband had just been put on a low-fat diet by his doctor, this was a really major problem. We finally found something that was at least not too bad, and ate.
After supper, we went back to the Radisson for the parties. These were pretty good, but there was one that had a really officious door dragon. It wasn't enough to have our over-21 badges, because "someone could switch badges." No, we had to show state-issued photo ID before they'd let us through. Since my pocketbook had worked its way to the very bottom of my purse and a whole lot of other stuff had gotten piled on top of it, getting my driver's license out would be a real hassle, but she wouldn't relent, even when I pointed out that I don't drink. I finally decided that it wasn't worth the hassle of jumping through an extra hoop when I wouldn't even be drinking, and I passed the party by in spite of people telling me that it was a really cool party.
Tired and frustrated by this, we decided to call it a night and head back to the Sofitel. But when we got to the door, we found that the weather had turned stormy and it was pouring down rain. We sat around for a while hoping for a break in the weather, but after a while we gave up and made a run through the rain.
By Sunday morning the rain had stopped, which made it much easier for us to get our personal stuff out of our sleeping room. Then we headed over to the Radisson to get into the dealers' room. However, when we got up there, we discovered that the dealers' room wouldn't open until an hour later, and wasn't even open for dealers yet. And no, we couldn't even drop off some of the stuff we were carrying -- we had to keep shlepping it around with us until the official time, whether we liked it or not. So we had to drag all of it to the con suite while we waited. I also went over to the art show, but they weren't ready to check out unsold art yet.
When the dealers' room finally opened, I got my first actual chance to look around at other dealers' merchandise. I talked with several other dealers, and told the story of the awful wreck we'd seen on the way up, where there'd been a Ryder truck overturned and on fire in the southbound ditch, and we had been having trouble getting through the northbound side because of the gapers' block of people slowing down to gawk. And to top that off, we'd no sooner gotten through that mess than we almost got involved in an accident ourselves, when an idiot came racing around us and passed with only inches to spare. Everyone agreed that these were pretty bad situations.
Once the dealers' room finally opened to the run of the con-going public, we settled in to handle sales. I did get down to the art show to pick up my unsold art.
Because we had so far to go to get home, we started packing extra-early and started carrying out our unsold merchandise before the dealers' room actually closed. Of course one of us had to stay at the table to make sure that nobody tried to help themselves to any of the merchandise. Thus it was harder for us to get loaded, and it took longer than we were planning. Because we were running late by the time we got everything in and we had a long trip still ahead of us, we decided not to even bother going back up to the con suite to say any final good-byes. We just hit the road on the long trip back to Mundania.
Copyright 2012 by Leigh Kimmel
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Last updated October 21, 2012.