ShowMeCon was held over the weekend of July 30-August 1, 2004 at the Airport Hilton in St. Louis, Missouri. We drove through a pouring rainstorm to get to it, and although the rain had slacked to a light drizzle when we arrived, things quickly got worse. We were directed to load in through a door that had several steps to the main level, so that we had to carry each box up to our cart. I'd thrown my back out earlier in the week, and my husband has chronic back, hip and knee problems, so this arrangement was truly agonizing. But when we spoke to the hotel staff about the possibility of setting a board on the stairs so we could roll our cart up and down it, they got really snotty and made condescending remarks about how we were "supposed to be utilizing the bellmen" -- and tipping them generously for their trouble. No thanks, not when that additional expense would probably devour any profit we might be able to realize.
Just as I was about to reach the limits of my endurance, a couple of the convention people pitched in to help carry stuff in. That made things just doable enough that I was able to get through the rest of it. And then we discovered that there was indeed another way in, which although longer would have enabled us to pull on the level the whole way.
Once we had things in, we had to figure out how to get them all set up. There were too many tables crammed into too little space, leaving us with almost no room to set up our displays. We ended up not even bringing our costumes or the new hardcover books because of the space shortage. Fitting everything else in was a major organizational challenge, and we ended up with almost no backspace in which to sit.
Once we got the merchandise set up, I got my art onto the art show. Then I went out to the van and got our personal belongings to take to our sleeping room. I made the unhappy discovery that the ice in our cooler had run out, so I had to quickly get some more ice before our food spoiled. That turned into an unpleasant adventure, since neither one of the ice machines on our floor wanted to cough up any ice without a lot of coaxing.
After all this travail we finally settled in to sit table. However, we did have a few sales on Friday before time to close. Not nearly enough to justify our trip, but not a total loss either.
Once the dealers' room closed for the evening, we headed upstairs and ate supper. Then we went over to the con suite (or hospitality suite as they were calling it) and got some munchies before heading down to the pool in hopes of getting a good soak in thehot tub. Much to our dismay, we got down there to discover a sign informing us that the hot tub had been shut down for maintenance and would be available the following day. And this was after the only thing keeping me going through the agony of load-in was the thought of being able to soak out my aching muscles. We were so disgusted by the whole thing that we just went back up to our sleeping room and turned in for the night.
Saturday morning we got up and went down to the con suite to get breakfast. They were running cartoons, and we got to talking about how local TV stations no longer show cartoons all morning like they did on Saturdays when we were kids.
Then it was time to go down to the dealers' room and get our tables open for sales. Unfortunately things continued to be painfully slow for us.
At 1PM I had my first panel, "Harry Potter Fanfic." We talked about the various sites, and about the problem of sorting the good from the bad -- and that some fanfic is truly wretchedly written, while other fanfic is at a pro level in terms of the skills exhibited. I pointed out that fanfic is in actuality a re-development of a very old and honorable tradition of expanding and embellishing upon an existing work which goes back at least to the ancient Greeks. Although we have only Homer's Illiad and Oddessy in their entirity, subsequent Greek poets expanded upon those stories, filling in the blanks in the narrative and constructing a much larger narrative arc of which we have only fragments and plot summaries in various works of commentary. The major difference between those Greek writers and modern fanfic writers is the development of copyright and the literary work as commercially valuable property, leading to the rise of the corporate attack lawyer who writes nasty cease-and-desist letters to teenage writers who just want to enjoy their favorite characters while they wait for the next official book.
My next panel, "Writing Fantasy," was at 5PM. We talked about various approaches to writing -- whether we planned everything out meticulously, or let our subconscious unfold the story as we went along. We got some very technical questions from the audience about technique and about the business side of fantasy writing and marketing, which gave us an opportunity to correct some common misapprehensions, for instance about agents and their role in one's career.
After that I went straight to my third and final panel, "Fandom History and Trends," in which we discussed how fandom developed and how those developments are continuing and changing. One of the big concerns raised was the graying of fandom, the worry that fans are not replacing themselves and will eventually die out. Steve Silver happily reported his own daughters' growing interest in fandom and their eagerness to go to the next Chicago worldcon, a few months after the conclusion of Chicon 2000. At the same time, he felt sad that they would never have that "wow" moment of discovering that there was a whole community of like-minded people, where they didn't have to constantly hide their interest in sf lest they be ostracized as freaks. I pointed out that fandom has grown steadily more subdivided, particularly in the areas of media and gaming, but also with specialized costumers' cons, filkers' cons, furry cons, fanzine cons and even a con for con-runners. While there are still plenty of general-interest conventions that do everything, more fen are going to special-interest conventions, especially if they are interested in a particular media like anime, Star Trek, or Buffy. I also pointed out that cons are not the only manifestation of fandom, nor have they been -- for instance, fanzines developed in parallel with cons, with a certain amount of crossover as people found out about conventions from con reports in fanzines, or discovered fanzines at a convention. The Internet has changed fanzine fandom, with a number of fanzines going to electronic format either alongside traditional paper issues or in place of paper.
After the panel it was up to the room for supper, then down to the hot tub for a good soak. At least this time they actually had the hot tub running. However, it was only about the temperature of a hot bath and the massaging jets were running rather anemically.
We headed back up to visit the con suite, where we caught the performance by Vic Fontaine. Then we went to the artists' reception in the art show. If there were any other parties, we didn't hear about them, so we decided to turn in for the night.
Sunday morning we gathered up our belongings and got them out of our sleeping room. Then we got our tables in the dealers' room opened, but sales continued to be few and far between. Because of the difficulty of getting out, we started packing early, and actually got packed before the dealers' room closed. Even so, we were still one of the last dealers out. At least this time we were able to use the ramp on the other side of the hotel, which we hadn't discovered on Friday until after we'd taken everything in the hard way.
Since we were running behind and the con suite had been pretty much cleaned out on food when I'd visited it earlier, we decided to just go ahead and hit the road. We had a long trip ahead of us and neither one of us really wanted to linger.
Copyright 2012 by Leigh Kimmel
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Last updated October 21, 2012.