LoneStarCon III

LoneStarCon III was the 71st World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon), held in San Antonio, Texas over the weekend of August 29 to September 2, 2013. Because the Worldcon is intended as an annual gathering of science fiction fans from around the world, it is held in a different city each year so that everyone has a chance to have one nearby some year.

Because of the distance, we had to leave on Sunday in order to get there in time for load-in on Wednesday. We would usually leave in the early afternoon, but we were supposed to get some consignment merchandise from a business associate, and he was at a show that weekend and wouldn't be out until early evening. So we couldn't leave until he'd dropped his stuff off, which meant we didn't get to my folks' place until almost bedtime. However, I was able to get some critical laundry done, so it wasn't a disaster.

On Monday we drove over to some friends in Springfield, Missouri. At least we were able to get there in time to visit, because we had to leave very early on Tuesday morning to get to San Antonio in a reasonable amount of time. And that was allowing for delays, which we had in abundance. Just outside of Joplin, Missouri, the police had completely closed down I-44, and we sat there trying to find out on our iPad whether there'd been a bad accident. As it turned out, they were just installing a huge sign and didn't want to risk any trouble. Then we had heavy traffic around Dallas and Austin, both of which slowed us down.

By the time we rolled into San Antonio, it was getting dark. We were staying at a less expensive hotel on the outskirts of town for the first night, and we had a little trouble finding it. Worse, they didn't have any bell carts, and our merchant cart was behind a bunch of merchandise, so we ended up carrying everything in by hand.

After a reasonable night's sleep, we got up and had the hotel's complimentary breakfast. Then we got our stuff back in the van and headed in to the convention center. It was already getting hot when we arrived, and due to a miscommunication, we thought that having our merchandise loaded in on pallets would be a separate charge. As a result, we carried two loads in by hand on our own cart before the situation was clarified.

It was really interesting to watch the union guys handling the palletized merchandise. One of the forklifts was equipped with a scales, so that the guy operating it just had to lift each pallet a few inches to get its weight, which was added to the list. Then another forklift operator would come with a regular forklift and take the pallet to the appropriate tables.

Once we got everything in, I had to move the van to a nearby lot before we could start setting up. We hadn't gotten very far before we discovered that the tables for our booth were only six-foot instead of eight-foot. So we asked the dealers' room coordinator what had happened. Turned out the decorator thought that six-foot tables looked nicer in the booths, never mind that we'd paid for eight-foot tables.

Some of the people who'd gotten booths just let it slide. However, our setup depended on our having all the table surface we'd paid for, so we got them swapped out before we started setting out the t-shrts. It made a huge difference, and I could see we'd have a lot more merchandise out. Even then, we had some trouble with the tables we'd brought from home not being as wide as we'd planned.

When we were just about finished, I took a break and checked my e-mail. This was when I discovered a missive from our homeowners' insurance company, informing us that they wouldn't be renewing our policy. Since I had been under the impression that if we did all the repairs they'd listed in the letter they'd sent in June, we'd be kept, I quick got on the phone to ask what was going on. First they try to claim that we were supposed to replace the entire roof and had failed to, and when I called them on that, they said that they weren't going to renew the policy based on "the general condition of the house" and we should look for a local agent to write us a policy with another company.

Getting dropped was upsetting, but not nearly as annoying as being lied to about it. If they had no intention of renewing us, why did they act as if they'd keep us if we just fixed their laundry list of stuff? And then why did they try to tell me that their decision to not renew was based on a failure to make a repair that wasn't even on their list?

So I was pretty upset when we finally got to the hotel where we'd be staying during the con. I set up my laptop and wrote a blog post detailing my experience. I don't know if it'll make any difference, but at least I got it out there.

The next morning we got up and headed back to the convention center to get ready to do business. We had some last-minute setup to complete, and I was getting annoyed with the continual assumptions that Of Course my capacity to deal with stuff was infinitely elastic and I could contort myself to handle any task that was put to me. So I got a little sharp with some people, and got called on it.

When the dealers' room finally opened for business, things got off to a very slow start. Maybe we've just had our expectations shifted by our experiences at anime conventions, but it felt almost dead for such a big convention. I even had some writing time when I wasn't standing in line helping a friend get stuff signed.

After the dealers' room closed for the evening, we connected with some FOSFA friends and headed over to the con suite, where we connected with some more friends from Louisville. We also got the news that Joe and Lisa Major had bigtime car problems and weren't going to be attending after all. I was disappointed, since I'd been looking forward to talking to them.

Then we headed back to the hotel for the evening. I did some catching up on my e-mail and other computer stuff, and we decided to turn in a little early.

Friday morning we got up fairly early to get breakfast. Then we headed over to the convention center to get into the dealers' room and get our tables ready. We also needed to get our votes in for the site selection for both the 2015 Worldcon and next year's NASFiC.

In the afternoon the process of getting autographs began in earnest. As it turned out, there were simply too many people wanting Robert Silverberg's signature to get though the line more than once, and I only got Elizabeth Moon to sign anything because a friend took those books through the line. However, Tanya Huff's line was much more manageable, and she was extremely gracious about signing for the full time in spite of having recently broken an arm in an accident while loading bales of hay.

However, it soon became obvious that the next signing session would be more difficult to get through. Ben Bova's line was already forming when I got through Tanya Huff's line the last time, and I really wanted to see him because he was co-editor of an anthology that I'd been invited to contribute to. Although I wasn't going to bring it up because I didn't want him to feel any pressure (they were running late on editorial decisions), I wanted to see whether he'd recognize my name and connect it with my story.

As it turned out, the line was moving quickly enough that he didn't have time to really look at my badge and see my name, since the books I was having him sign were merchandise and didn't need to be personalized. But I figure it doesn't matter, since it wouldn't be fair to slow the line while we chatted when so many other people were waiting. So I got in the line for Greg Benford and got a few books done before we ran out of time.

By then it was time to get our dealer tables closed for the night. We headed over to the con suite to hang out for a while, then went back to the convention center to check out the artists' reception. They had a bunch of fancy food, but far too much of it was spicy. Worse, they didn't have a proper bag check set up, so we had to suffer through having our bags inspected on the way out.

Then we went back over to the Marriott Rivercenter to see some of the parties. We checked out the Sime~Gen party, where they were showing a video to promote the new game Ambrov X. Then we visited the Helsinki bid party. We were going to look into some of the other parties, but they were on another floor and it was getting late, so we decided to call it quits and head back to the hotel to get some sleep.

Saturday morning came way too early, and we had to struggle to get to the dealers' room on time. It didn't help that my hotel room key card went astray, and then we get to the parking lot only to discover that the cost of parking had doubled for the weekend.

Once we got in and got set up, sales did seem to be coming faster than on the first two days. However, we did make the unhappy discovery that one of our products from a new wholesaler had hidden damage. It looks like their supplier on that item has quality control issues, so I don't know if we'll continue ordering that item.

I had some more signings to get through. Our biggest concern was Harry Turtledove, since we had several boxes of his books. However, he signed them while he was going through the dealers' room, so what had looked like a non-doable task got a whole lot more manageable. I had been ready to write off the Charlaine Harris signing when I heard it was limited to only a hundred people, but when they didn't get the anticipated turnout, I was able to get everything of hers signed after all.

By the time the dealers' room closed for the night, we were tired enough we decided to just knock off early for the night, rather than try to go to parties. I did get a little writing done before bedtime.

Sunday morning I woke up with a nasty headache, which was not a good way to start an important sales day. A good hot shower loosened it up a little, but it lingered with me all day long.

We had some more signings to get to, and some, such as David Brin's, attracted long lines. I didn't find out that Lois McMaster Bujold was signing until it was too late and the line far too long, but there was almost no line at all for John Maddox Roberts.

However, we also had some unwelcome excitement when someone spilled a big cup of pop right behind our booth and it started spreading in an area where we'd piled boxes of backstock. We had to quickly move those boxes to keep them from getting soaked, and then we had to wait for the convention center to get someone in to mop up the mess.

We also had some hard decisions to make. Detroit had won the 2014 NASFiC, but they had a really iffy table setup, so we had to decide how many tables to buy. Also, Spokane had won the 2015 Worldcon bid (apparently the organizer of the Orlando bid had alienated a lot of people), so we started the process of considering the probable costs of a trip out there in relation to what we could anticipate making.

After the dealers' room closed for the night, we headed over to the con suite to grab some munchies. Then we went up to the SFWA suite for our one and only visit of the con (having been too busy with our business concern the rest of the weekend). While we were there, we got into a conversation about why New York City never gets the Worldcon. I pointed out that it was the location of several early Worldcons, but that was when NYC prices were much lower, and now it's pretty much priced itself out of reach for a Worldcon.

Then we headed back to the hotel for some sleep before tackling the final day of the convention. The walk back to the van was through some very crowded streets in terrible heat, so we decided to take a different road back to the hotel to avoid the worst traffic problems.

Monday morning we got breakfast before heading back over to the convention center for our final day of the convention. When we got to the parking lot, we were happily surprised to get the weekday rate in spite of it being a holiday, which saved a little money.

We got our tables open and settled in to get some final sales in before time to pack up and load out. However, sales continued to be slow and disappointing. We ended up starting to pack early, but we were still packing when the dealers' room closed and they started bring pallets around. We had so much stuff left that it took nine pallets to load it all.

Once we were ready, I went over and retrieved the van from the parking lot. Then the forklift drivers started bringing stuff out to us. Not having to haul the unsold merchandise out did reduce the misery of the hideous heat, but we still had to load everything into the van, which had become a sweatbox. I had to stop and take a break in the middle of the process because I was getting sick, but once I went inside to get some chilled water and a bit of time in air conditioning, I felt better enough that I could resume. With some help from our friends, we were able to get done in a reasonable time.

As we headed back to take one last look around our booth and make sure we hadn't left anything behind, somebody came by with the announcement that there was pizza in the art show area. So we headed over and got ourselves a few slices, which were quite welcome after all that work.

Then we headed back to the hotel room to rest and recover after the load-out process. We knew that we wouldn't be able to get very far if we tried to take off right after load-out, so staying one last night would enable us to start the journey home rested and refreshed.

On Monday morning we had one last breakfast at the hotel before carrying our belongings out and checking out. Then we hit the road for the very long trip to our friends in Springfield, Missouri. We had some trouble getting on and off the roads when we needed to get gas and some food for the trip, and by the time we arrived in Springfield, I was struggling to stay awake enough to drive.

After a good night's sleep, we helped our friend run an errand, and then continued across Missouri and Illinois to my folks' place. We arrived right as they were sitting down to supper, so we joined them for supper before getting some laundry done and taking care of other essentials.

Tuesday morning, we took off from my folks' place and headed back home. We got there in good time to pick up the cat at the vet's and get her home. After supper, I unloaded the merchandise back into the storage unit to prepare for getting the van to the shop for a much-needed oil change. And thus we completed our Worldcon trip.

Copyright 2012 by Leigh Kimmel

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Last updated September 29, 2013.