DucKon IV was held on June 2-4, 1995 at the Corporetum Hyatt in Lisle, Illinois. Appropriately enough, the weather at the beginning of the con was suitable for ducks -- pouring rain so hard that even Chicagoland drivers slowed down. This made getting into the con without drenching one's belongings (in my case four pictures for the art show, which I did not want to have damaged after spending hours getting them ready) aninteresting proposition.
I finally settled on leaving my portfolio case in my car while I went in to get registered in hopes that the rain would clear up by the time I got back out. That actually turned out to be a good decision, since check-in for the pre-registered was hopelessly snarled due to a mistake in badge production. All the badges were arranged in numerical rather than alphabetical order, meaning that the registration people had to look each person up in the alphabetical list to find their badge number and then find their badge. It took over half an hour to get my badge, but I put this to good use in getting to know some of the fellow fans in the line.
Once I got my badge I returned to my car to retrieve my art. By this time the rain had slacked off enough that an umbrella sufficed to keep me and my art from getting drenched between car and front door. Checking my art in to the art show proved to be a learning experience for me, since this was the first time I had ever showed art. The art show manager was kind enough to spend several minutes of his time explaining professional methods and standards of matting for artwork and how my muddling efforts fell short.
Just as I was ready to quietly put my pieces back in my portfolio, he told me that he'd go ahead and let me show this time because they were on a backing, albeit a substandard one. Even as I went to hang my pieces up I started having serious second thoughts, since I could see that my work fell far short of the level of skill I saw evidenced in the other works. But I decided to go ahead and take the chance in hopes that I would be able to learn something from it.
Opening ceremonies that evening followed the "weather for ducks" theme that had been set up by nature. The con com introduced the guests of honor, who made speeches telling about themselves and how they became interested in science fiction fandom. The rest of Friday was occupied primarily by parties.
Saturday was the truly busy day for the con, packed with panel discussions that could prove quite useful to writers and artists. Particularly good for writers was the panel on "The Rules," led by Author Guest of Honor Jody Lynn Nye. This started with the basic rules of properly submitting manuscripts, and by this I mean the very basics -- typed, double-spaced on one side of the paper, formatting of headers for the first page and for following pages, the importance of including a SASE, etc. This led to the question of whether one could save money by sending disposable manuscripts or if the practice was likely to turn off the editor in question. This was followed by a discussion of "the care and feeding of the editor," which dealt with how editors determined whether or not to seriously consider a given manuscript for revisions or publication. This in turn lead to a more lengthy discussion of what to do when an editor is interested, whether or not one should get an agent and the ins and outs of dealing with agents.
For people interested in hard-science background information, there were several good panel discussions, including "The Moon IS a Harsh Mistress" (discussion of the technical issues of a permanent moonbase) and "Asteroids & Comets." Later in the afternoon there was "Meet the National Space Society," in which several members talked about the aims and activities of the organization.
For artists there was a constant informal artists' jam in the area in front of the art show, which could serve as an informal workshop for artists interested in improving their craft. While I was there I had three different artists take a look at the works I had on display and give me pointers on how I could improve my work. Since there was a large "furry fandom" (anthropomorphic animals) track at DucKon, much of the interest centered around furry art, and one of the marketing hints I got was to take this into consideration in choosing which pieces to hang in future years.
Other activities that might well be of interest involved the alternative medicine and esoterica tracks. There were several workshops on alternative medicine and on wellness, and throughout the day the Chicago School of Massage Therapy gave theraputic massages for tired muscles. The esoterica track included Tarot, telepathy and other psionic abilities, paganism and the philosophy of magick. Even if you don't believe in any of them, the information can serve as valuable background material for one's fictional universes.
The art auction was held that evening, but due to a misprint in the schedule which indicated that it was to be held a half hour later than it actually was, attendance was poor. This was good for potential buyers, since it meant that pieces went for ridiculously low prices. However it was a disappointment for those who like to attend art auctions for the entertainment of seeing people get in bidding wars over choice pieces.
Sunday had a few more interesting panel discussions, but for the most part the con was winding down. Closing ceremonies were held in the con suite and leftover supplies were auctioned off to raise funds for next year's con.
DucKon is a small and relatively new Chicagoland con, and as such it had a few glitches and rough places in its programming. However the people at it are really great and its small size makes informal socializing easier.
DucKon is unusual among cons in having healthful foods in its con suite along with the usual assortment of junk foods. Among the pretzels and potato chips one can also find fresh veggies, whole fruits and even tiny pigs-in-blankets made from mini-hot dogs, and in the morning there is even cereal, juice, milk and other real breakfast food. This probably goes hand in hand with the strong wellness track in programming.
DucKon also does not have a single dealers' room like many cons do. Instead there is a "dealers' floor" and each dealer takes a room on it, using the room as a store as well as a place to sleep each night.
Copyright 2012 by Leigh Kimmel
Permission is granted for reproduction in fanzines and other non-profit fannish publications.
For permission to quote or reprint in other venues, contact Leigh Kimmel
Last updated October 21, 2012.