MidAmericon II

MidAmericon II was the 2016 World Science Fiction Convention, held over August 17-21, 2016 at the convention center in Kansas City, Missouri. We had already committed to going to it before the whole blow-up about the Hugo Awards at Sasquan the previous year, and we figured we'd stay in the dealers' room most of the time anyway and avoid the majority of the fannish politics.

Because it was held so soon after Tampa Bay Comic Con, I had only a few days to prepare the merchandise for it. Since we were also visiting my parents on the way, I could do my cooking there instead of having to squeeze it into the time before we left.

However, as we were driving out of Indianapolis on Sunday, I noticed that our van was handling a lot rougher, especially on bad pavement. For a moment we considered turning back around and having it looked at, but figured there wouldn't really be time. Given it was probably a problem with the suspension, we figured we could just hang on until we got home and have it fixed.

We got to my folks' place in good time, and I decided to rearrange some of the merchandise to improve the weight distribution. Then I got my cooking done and looked through some chapters of a novel I had set aside as needing too much work to get ready for indie publishing in a restricted time period. However, it didn't take long to determine that my earlier assessment wasn't just despair -- it really needed serious rethinking, not just a little polish.

The next morning we carried our belongings back out to the van and hit the road. At first it didn't seem too bad, and I figured we could continue to ride it out. But just west of St. Louis we hit a stretch of pavement that set up a resonance which set the whole van to shaking like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. It was a very long and scary moment while I tried to find a speed where it would stop.

At that point we could both tell this wasn't something we could put off for a more convenient time. My husband got on the iPad Pro and looked for a Goodyear store on the way. We finally found one in Kansas City, but when I called from the next rest stop, they said they couldn't fit us in before they closed, but we could bring it by the next day after we got the merchandise unloaded.

Thinking I had things organized, we continued to Kansas City. We initially missed the turn to our hotel, and ended up on a lengthy detour while trying to find our way back. But once we got back, we were able to check in with relatively little trouble. I was happy to see that yes, they did have bell carts for us to haul in our stuff.

Once we got in, I tried to get some work done on my novel. However, after having struggled to drive the van with the intense vibrations, I had trouble with my hands wanting to shake. At least it subsided after a little, and I also made some notes on yet another new story idea before turning in for the night.

On Tuesday we got up and had the hotel's complimentary breakfast. Then we spent some time sitting in the lobby because it was too early to load in, but we didn't want to risk our room getting missed by Housekeeping. Then we headed over to the convention center, and discovered we could've started loading in earlier.

We got things out and loaded onto pallets as rapidly as we could so I could get up to Goodyear. However, just as we had everything out but still had several pallets sitting behind our van, the union guys who were running the forklifts left to take their lunch break. I was annoyed, since they knew we'd be loading in during this period. Why couldn't they have arranged to get their lunch break done beforehand so we didn't get left high and dry?

But once they came back on the job, they got the last two pallets out of they way. I headed off, noticing that the van wasn't handling so badly now that it was unloaded. I was able to find the Goodyear store with relatively little trouble, but once I got there, I made an unhappy discovery -- the casual affirmative on the phone the previous day did not constitute an appointment, so they weren't going to even get me in that day.

I begged and pleaded, but they wouldn't budge. So I finally had to make an appointment for first thing the next day, then head back to the hotel and park the van. Defeated and annoyed they hadn't mentioned the need for a formal appointment when it would've done some good, I trudged back to the convention center to get as much setup done as I could after the lost time.

When the dealers' room people finally scooted us out for the night, we headed over to Main Street to catch the free streetcar. It worked pretty well for us, since the platform was high enough that I could pull the cart right on and off. On the other hand, the station where we got off was a lot farther away from the hotel, making for a long and miserable walk. By the time we finally got back, I was thoroughly worn out. However, I still made sure to get in a little work on my novel before turning in for the night.

On Wednesday morning we got up and had breakfast. Then I took my husband over to the convention center to finish setup and start selling. On the way out I saw one of our wholesalers, who took a look at our tires, thinking we might be at risk for a tread separation. However, he agreed that everything looked sound, and wished me luck.

At least this time I was able to get the van in and looked at, although it took a good chunk of the morning. They put new shocks on front and rear, and warned that there was now uneven wear on the tires which would continue to cause vibration. However, with our finances being tight, I figured it would be best to pay off the shocks before replacing the tires.

So I headed back to the hotel, and while I could feel some vibration, it felt like something we could live with for a few months. I parked the van, then headed over to the convention center. As I was walking toward Main Street and the streetcar station, I heard a whole bunch of sirens north of the river.

As I approached Grand Street, I saw a whole swarm of cop cars come roaring across the bridge. They were chasing a car, and finally forced it to a stop just north of me. There was smoke coming out of the car, but it looked more like it was coming out of the passenger compartment rather than the engine. The cops were hauling someone out of the car, but weren't interested in me, so I hurried on.

When I arrived at the streetcar station, I tried to find out anything on the Internet. However, none of the local news outlets were reporting anything, so I tried not to worry too much about it as I rode up to the convention center.

Once I got to our booth, we had fairly steady sales, if not spectacular. I missed a couple of autographing sessions I would've liked to make, but given that the van had become a safety issue, it was time well lost.

When the dealers' room closed for the night, we headed over to the con suite. Instead of being in a big suite at one of the hotels, it was just a curtained-off area right there in the convention hall. Apparently the hotels were being real stinkers about corkage issues, so this was their makeshift workaround.

After last year's nightly con suite feasts at Sasquan, the fare seemed rather paltry. But it was still an opportunity to rest and do a little munching while we waited for the bid parties to open.

We went to both the New Orleans and San Jose bid parties, and talked to both of them about arrangements for dealers. We finally agreed that the pluses and minuses of each pretty well balanced out, so it was going to be hard to decide.

Then we headed back to the hotel. Because my husband was so tired, I took him over to the Marriott to sit while I took the streetcar back and hiked to the hotel. Then I retrieved him in the van, since the Marriott had a good area to pull in and pick him up.

Back at the Comfort Inn, we had supper and I did some writing. Then we turned in and tried to catch up on sleep.

Thursday morning we got up and had breakfast. I took my husband over to the Marriott and dropped him off to walk over to the convention center, then took the van back to park until evening. At least the streetcar line did shorten my walk, if not a lot.

I spent a good bit of the day standing in various autographing lines, trying to get as many books signed as humanly possible. However, I also spent a good bit of the day trying to make much-needed sales.

I also discovered how to find the location of Puppy Central, headquarters of the Sad Puppies group. Since it was being hosted by friends, I wanted to at least drop in and say hi once. After the dealers' room closed for the night, we put in a brief visit at the hospitality suite, then headed over to the Marriott and Puppy Central. The Marriott has a really strange elevator system, such that you request a floor on central station and then are assigned an elevator. Perhaps it's more efficient for regular guests, but for going to a party it was a real hassle.

Then we headed back to the hotel to have our real supper. I got a little writing in before turning in for the night.

On Friday we followed our usual procedure for getting both of us over to the convention center. Then I went through several more rounds of autographing sessions. It was a little annoying when they scheduled Larry Niven and Bob Silverberg against each other, but there wasn't a lot we could do about it. I just had to make my best guess at whose signature was morel likely to get books to sell.

After the dealers' room closed for the evening, we went over to the hospitality suite and had some munchies. However, with thunderstorms in the offing, we didn't want to stay too late. I had the big umbrella with me, but I didn't relish having to deal with it in high winds and pouring rains.

As it turned out, it stayed heat lightning until we got back to the Comfort Inn. Shortly after we got inside, it really cut loose and poured. I was very glad we were inside, and did my best to make good use of the time writing.

Saturday morning the temperature had dropped markedly, and the air was damp to the point of being uncomfortable. However, once I got back to the convention center, I was ready to work. Things seemed slower, and I stood through a lot of lines for signings. I did find out that San Jose had won the 2018 Worldcon bid, so I texted my brother and let him know to save the dates.

After the dealers' room closed, we hung out in the hospitality suite to munch for a while. Then I headed back to the Comfort Inn to retrieve the van. It felt weird to take that last streetcar ride, since I'd become quite fond of that sophisticated system.

On Sunday we gathered up our possessions and got them out to the van. Then we checked out, although it took all our cash to cover the cost of the room. It was a definite sign that sales were down.

This time we parked in the lot right beside the convention center. Apparently we could've parked there all week, since the con had paid for dealers to have access to it. However, in doing so we could've lost the handicap space at the hotel, which made it really easy for my husband to go back and forth.

This time I had plenty of time to walk around the dealers' room and visit with various dealers, including a lot of indie and small press authors. I'm hoping to be able to add a lot of them to the promotional posts on my blog.

Then the doors opened and it was time to start selling. I stood in several autographing lines, including Kate Elliott's. She was handing out bookmarks announcing the digital reissue of her Jaran books, which had become almost impossible to find even second-hand (unless you were willing to pay collectors' prices for used books that were closer to reading copies).

Then it was time to tackle the process of packing up loading out. We were still getting sales, so we really hated to have to start packing and drive off customers. But we needed to get loaded out reasonably quickly if we were going to get to our hotel for the night at a reasonable time. At least this year we had only twenty miles to drive rather than two hundred, but we wanted to get there before it got too dark.

As I packed, I discovered we'd emptied a number of boxes, especially of ceramics. We might not have done that great financially, but we had definitely reduced the volume of merchandise we were dealing with.

Even so, we had a lot of loading to do. And the pallet system meant that sometimes things came in the wrong order, so that I'd be trying to keep things happening while waiting for the thing I really needed to load in next. Several times I moved boxes to one side just to free up a pallet so someone else could use it. In the process of moving some t-shirt boxes, I dropped one and the side seam burst open. I had to scramble to find tape and get it closed up before shirts started spilling out.

Even with help, we were still one of the last dealers to leave. As we drove out, we discovered that the vibration from the tires got a lot worse now that the van was carrying a load. As we went down the ramp to I-70, the whole van started shaking again, and I had to find a speed that broke the resonance so I could drive again.

We made it to our hotel in Blue Springs safely, but I was very glad to be there before dark. We hauled our possessions inside and had supper. Then we went over to soak in the hot tub, which was a welcome relief for our aches and pains. However, our relaxation was spoiled by two unsupervised and unruly children, apparently the offspring of the manager.

When we got tired of their antics, we retreated to our room and relaxed. I worked on my novel and then we turned in for the night.

On Monday morning we carried our stuff back out and checked out. Then we headed back across Missouri and Illinois to my parents' place. Keeping the vibration down to a manageable level was a major challenge, and by the time we arrived, I was tired and ready for a break.

As a result, we decided not to even set an alarm that night. We figured we needed our sleep more than we needed to get back home by any particular time.

As a result, Tuesday morning was a welcome relief from the relentless time pressure we'd endured for over a week. We could take some time to get things ready for the final part of the journey.

And it was a good thing, because the final leg of the journey home was the hardest. The vibration was getting steadily worse, to the point that I had trouble with resonance factors as I was driving straight on US 136 to I-74. I was very glad to get home, but we both knew that we had to get new tires before our next trip.

Copyright 2016 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 19, 2016.