Penguicon was held over the weekend of May 2-4, 2003 at the Van Dyke Plaze in Warren, Michigan. This is the same hotel that hosts ConFusion every January. However, Penguicon is a convention with a difference -- it's a combination of a science fiction convention and an open-source computer expo. This created some very interesting juxtapositions, including the tables full of computer parts set up directly across from us in the dealers' room.
We arrived shortly before noon on Friday and immediately were able to locate the dealers' room person and start carrying our merchandise in. We were the first dealers to start, and were able to get everything brought in before most of the other dealers had even arrived. This meant we were able to bring our van right up to the loading dock and bring it straight into the dealers' room. It was especially nice because we were also bringing a full load of merchandise for the tables of a friend who'd had vehicle trouble and wasn't able to attend, and was having us run his tables in his place.
Once we had everything in, we had to set up. This involved a lot of digging through boxes, moving them around, and generally trying to get things into something resembling order. Once we got that done, we got checked into our sleeping room. However, it was pouring down rain, so we held off from trying to carry in our personal belongings until it slacked up to a drizzle.
However, both art show and con registration were having trouble getting set up, so we weren't able to get our badges or get my art up. So there wasn't a lot to do except sit in the dealers' room and mind our tables while the first few customers started trickling through. There was supposed to be a wine and cheese tasting in the con suite, so we were going to take turns going up, in order to keep our tables covered. However, we ran out of time to get up there, and didn't get anything after all.
Once the rain slowed down, we got our stuff into our sleeping room. Then I went to the Green Room and to Ops to find the programming person and get on a panel. I finally returned to the dealers' room and sat our tables for a while, mostly talking with people who were looking but weren't interested in buying yet.
Because the dealers' room was going to be open so extremely late on Friday, we had to call in a pizza and eat there in the dealers' room. After that we just kept dealing with customers until closing time.
After the dealers' room closed, we headed up to the Green Room and got a little extra food. Then we checked out the parties and the con suite. There was a Sluggy Freelance party that had a lot of hot foods, which I carefully avoided because spicy foods don't like me. There was also a party for ConFusion, which is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary and is going to be moving to a new venue.
After the parties, we turned in for the night. We were somewhat annoyed that the hotel still had not fixed the lamp beside our bed, which wasn't working.
Saturday, we got up early and went to the Green Room to get some breakfast. While we were there, we neeped for a while with some Linux techies. After that we headed down to the dealers' room to get our tables opened. Then I had to hurry to my one and only panel.
This was "How to Get Published" with Eric Flint. There was supposed to be one other person on the panel, but they never showed. Eric did most of the talking, since he had more publishing credentials, having a number of novels published. He pointed out that there is a huge difference between getting published and getting one's works publicized, although the two verbs come from the same root and are often confused. He pointed out that the publishing industry hasn't really changed much, and the way to get one's first novel published is still just as slow and frustrating as it ever has been.
We both talked about some of the perils and pitfalls that a new writer must avoid, For instance, there are plenty of scammers who are perfectly happy to separate would-be writers from their money with big promises and no results. I suggesed some sources for information on problem agents and publishing houses, so that beginning writers can learn who to avoid without having to do it the hard way.
I also talked briefly about writing non-fiction, and how it can help a fiction writer build a career. I was careful to point out that non-fiction does not lead directly to fiction publication, since fiction publishers will not regard non-fiction publications as a positive credential. However, writing non-fiction does help build important general writing skills, most importantly that of applying the posterior to the chair and the fingers to the keyboard to turn out wordage.
After the panel, I headed back to the dealers room to cover our tables. Sales were fairly slow and coming in spurts, so I headed up to the con suite to see if I could score some hard candy for a developing sore throat. They didn't have any, but I was able to mix up some hot tea with honey, which is another tried and true remedy for sore throats. Then I headed back to the dealers' room.
Later in the afternoon, we had a question about some of our consignment merchandise. Since this convention featured Internet access, I went to the Internet room and sent an e-mail asking for clarification on the prices. While I was in my account, I also found an e-mail from Clocktower Publications, telling me that they were buying my short story "The Wolf and the Well-Tempered Clavier" for their magazine Far Sector, formerly titled Deep Outside.
Later that afternoon, we discovered that some loser had swiped one of our books. It was a cheap paperback, but that wasn't really the point. And when we weren't doing that great already, losing merchandise this way was particularly annoying.
After the dealers' room closed, we walked up to a Greek diner for supper. Then we went back to the hotel and took a nice long soak in the hot tub to work the cramps and aches out of our muscles.
After that we went around to the parties. In addition to the ConFusion party, there was also a party for Conclave (the convention in Ann Arbor in October), a party for the Church of the Subgenius (all hail Bob) and a Farscape viewing room. Then we went to the con suite to get a few more munchies and met the person who had bought two of my artworks. After that we turned in for the night.
Sunday morning started way too early. We had to get our personal belongings out of the sleeping room. Then we went to the Green Room and got some breakfast. Since we still had plenty of time before the dealers' room opened for dealer setup, we headed down to the computer room and made one last check of e-mail. However, the network was hideously slow and nothing of importance had come through.
Then we went down to the dealers' room and got our tables opened for one last day of sales. Since I was still extremely tired, I went up to the con suite to get some caffinated pop and some of the mints with caffine to help get reasonably awake. Then I picked up my art from the art show.
If the con had ended then, it would have been fairly decent, if not very successful financially. Instead, everything started going wrong. I discovered that they were handing out copies of the Posleen disc (the CD-ROM that comes with Hell's Faire) in the Baen Free Library presentation right after the event was over. I ran all the way to the auditorium only to discover that the event was already over and they'd left, but they might still have a few if I could find them. So I took a quick look around, but didn't see them in any of the obvious rooms. This was a huge frustration because had been looking forward to getting a copy ever since it was announced on Baen's Bar that they'd be bringing free copies and passing them out.
Since we had tables to keep, I couldn't keep searching indefinitely, so I had to trudge back to the dealers' room in defeat. I asked everybody I could catch if they'd seen either of the people who were doing the presentation, and several people even promised that if they came across either of them, they'd send them down to get me a disc. However, none of it ever did pan out, which was really frustrating after spending almost a month eagerly awaiting my chance to finally get my hands on it and actually see how my Posleen fan story, "Food Will Win This War," turned out. This kind of crap is why I don't like making detailed plans in advance -- it's just a way of setting myself up for disappointment when someone yanks it away.
Then this little creep tricked us out of an extra ten bucks of change he didn't have coming by exploiting the similarity of the sounds of "eight" and "eighteen" and of "thirty-two" and "forty-two." So he ended up getting an eighteen-buck shirt for only eight. As soon as we discovered the miscommunication, I went looking everywhere for him, but he'd already made himself scarce. And while I was doing it, I pulled a muscle in my leg and ended up lame for the rest of the con. The kid who did it was a little short guy with really bright red hair that's obviously dyed, and I'd really like to get my hands on him to wring the additional ten bucks back out of him.
Then we had to pack up and get our stuff loaded out. Because I was lamed, it was really hard for me to carry stuff out. Fortunately another person from the con offered to help and as a result we were able to get everything in much more quickly than we usually would have. So we actually had a little time to go up to the con suite and hit the dead dog party before heading home. However, I still wasn't able to locate a copy of the Posleen Disc anywhere, which really made having to give up and head back home a major downer.
Copyright 2012 by Leigh Kimmel
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Last updated October 21, 2012.