Conversion, an all-adult sf convention, was held at the Deerfield Hyatt in Deerfield, Illinois, (one of the northern suburbs of Chicago) over the weekend of May 16-18, 1997. This was a convention for parents to leave their kids at home and be able to enjoy the company of other adults and for those of us who don't have children to enjoy a con without littles underfoot. While some of the programming could've been for all ages, there was on track that was definitely adult in nature (the alt.fun track), but it was held in the evening and the program booklet clearly explained that these events might be offensive to some and such people should simply avoid them.
Because Conversion was new, there were a few hitches and misunderstandings with the hotel (apparently it had changed managers in the time between negotiations and the con, and the new manager had a little different understanding of what the hotel contract meant than what had originally been negotiated). However none of these problems really ruined the con experience, in spite of some worries the first night.
The attendance was relatively small, which gave it more of a relaxicon atmosphere. Generally there were two tracks of programming, which made it easier to get to everything (although they still managed to schedule a few things that I wanted to see at the same times).
I drove up to the convention early Friday morning, going from my parents' home in the south suburbs of Chicago (I had been staying with them on vacation between spring semester and summer session at SIU in an effort to reduce my bills to a manageable level). I arrived at about 11AM and had some difficulty finding the convention area because so little was going on at that time. After a little searching, I found the art show room and got my pictures checked in.
Then I took care of getting my stuff into our room and settled. By that time registration had opened and I was able to get my badge and the list of panels I was to be in. Since this was a new con and they didn't have a large number of panelists, I was on seven different panels (four in the regular program and three in the alt.fun program).
Then I took a quick tour around the Hall of Hucksters (like Duckon used to be, Conversion does not have a single dealers' room. Instead, all the dealers have their rooms on the same floor and deal out of their rooms, which has its good and bad points). By then, the con suite had opened and I was able to get something to eat.
Early that afternoon, I went to a panel on the construction of realistic aliens, which was led by the author guest of honor, Nick Pollotta. However the discussion quickly ranged off that topic and onto everything imaginable, including the problem of stupid people who do idiotic things and then try to sue the manufacturers of the products involved because "it didn't have a label saying not to do that."
In the evening I had my first panel, "Alternate lifestyles in SF." We talked about how various sf authors (Heinlein, Delany, MZB, etc) explored various living arrangements beside the traditional nuclear family, and did it before such things were generally acceptable.
That evening I took a look at the party floor, but there didn't seem to be too many parties. So I decided to just turn in early for the night.
The next morning I got up early to go to the con suite before my first panel at 11AM. However there had been a miscommunication between the con and the hotel, so they weren't able to open the con suite until well after 10. However I did grab a few bites to eat before it was time to run to my first panel. That was on the basics of getting published (proper manuscript format, etc), and was with Nick Polotta and Deirdre Murphy. That went straight into the second panel, which was on getting over writer's block.
After that I had about an hour off to run over and check the status of the art show, go to the con suite and generally enjoy things before the writers' workshop. However it turned out that there was only one person in the writers' workshop, so that turned out to be a total bust (it was designed for only pre-registered members, who had to send their manuscripts in ahead of time, which may have been a problem in such a new con). So I took another trip down the Hall of Hucksters before my next panel.
This was the "Welcome to Gor" panel, which discussed John Norman's Gor series and the fandom that has developed around the books among the BDSM community. We had some people in the audience who just liked to read the books for fun and some who incorporated material from them into their role-playing.
Later that evening I was supposed to be in the Erotica Writers' Jam, but that turned out not to work, so I then went to the panel on cloning. We had some very interesting talk about ethical issues and how the Right to Life organizations have affected the reproductive-technology scene.
After that I went up to see if there were any parties, but didn't see any public ones. So I decided to turn in for the night.
The next morning I got up and got my stuff out of the room and into my car. Then I went down to the art show and picked up my pictures which hadn't sold (a friend of mine bought one picture, so I did make back the hanging fees but nothing else). I also helped with some of the break-down.
At 3PM I was in one last panel, "Strong Women in SF and Fantasy," with Deirdre Murphy and Minx Kelly. However we had just started when the hotel people came in and told us that they needed the room. We only had a few people in the audience, so we just wound it up.
I briefly attended the dead-dog party, then decided that it was time to call it a day and head home.
After the con was over, I heard that attendance was high enough that the con didn't lose money. Apparently they are planning to hold it again next year. The art show director seemed very hopeful, and when he was giving me pointers on improving my art, he said that he wanted to see me next year with even better stuff.
The real adventure for me came after I got home from the con. I left at about 3PM and drove back down to my parents' place. Just as we were about to have supper, I noticed that the air had that heavy feeling that often precedes a storm. I ran back in and asked if the computers were all unplugged. Shortly after we sat down to eat, the storm rolled in. Then we heard the New Lenox storm sirens start to wail. We turned on the radio to find out what was going on and learned that tornadoes had been sighted in nearby Plainfield and were heading our way. Moments later, the power went out. We fumbled for battery lanterns and candles, and then got a battery-operated radio to continue monitoring the weather situation. Fortunately, the storm soon passed over us without any severe damage, but the power didn't come on until later that night.
Copyright 2012 by Leigh Kimmel
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Last updated October 21, 2012.