Windycon XXIX was held over the weekend of November 8-10, 2002 at the Hyatt Regency Woodfield in Shaumburg, Illinois, one of the western suburbs of Chicago. This year we were able to secure dealers' tables, so we came in our van packed full of books and other merchandise for sale. We arrived early Friday morning, after having spent the previous night with my parents, who live in New Lenox, one of the south suburbs.
We arrived early enough that the dealers' room still hadn't opened for dealer setup, so we got checked into our sleeping room and got our personal stuff up there. After that, I took my art to put on the art show, but they didn't have their computer set up yet. So I just laid out the pieces I was going to be selling, and took my boxes down to the dealers' room.
By this time we were able to start carrying in our merchandise. That took us a fair amount of time, since we were also handling some merchandise on consignment for a friend. When we did finally get it all in, we had to set our tables up. This was a bit of a challenge, since we got tables in a really awkward location, with almost no room behind them. When we did finally get set up, we had to squeeze into our chairs, which was not precisely a pleasant or enjoyable situation.
Once that was finished, I finally was able to take care of getting bid sheets on my art in the art show. I also got my badge and programming schedule from the green room. I put up some of the fliers I had prepared to advertize my reading on Sunday. After I had put most of them up, I discovered that the room had been changed since I got my programming list. So I had to go back to all the fliers and correct the room number.
Once that was done, I settled in to some rather lukewarm sales. I finished reading an e-book that I'd brought with me on my Palm Pilot. I also looked through the program book and other materials.
When the dealers' room closed, we went to Joe's Crab Shack for supper. This is a really good seafood place just down the street from the hotel, which means that we don't have to drive and risk losing our parking spot. However, they're also very popular, which means a really hideous wait. So I took the precaution of taking my Palm Pilot and keyboard with me, so I was able to do some work on my con report and on a story I was writing for an anthology.
After supper, we headed back to the hotel to check out the parties. Windycon is usually a very good party convention, and this year was no exception. The Catholic School Girls' Party included some good snackies, an excellent bar for those who drink, and some really fun irreverent music. The Man Show Party had its usual good munchies and tapes of the Man Show from the Comedy Channel. Several other Midwestern conventions, including Capricon (which had fresh pomegranites), Chambanacon, Marcon and the Wisconsin conventions. It appears that ToBeContinued will be happening again in 2003, since the MSFFA party was advertising it. After making the rounds of the parties, we turned in for the night.
On Saturday we got up and headed down to the dealers' room to get our tables opened for business. We also went up to the Green Room and picked up some breakfast goodies.
Sales were still rather spotty, with bursts of activity interspersed with long periods of waiting with nothing to do. I had an autographing session, during which I spent most of my time talking with Frieda Murray, who also had an autographing session at that time. I did have a few people drop by and ask how to order copies of Beyond the Last Star, the anthology in which I have a story, but no one had copies for me to sign.
Then I went to my first panel, "The Death of Fanzines and Other Fannish Myths," with Jim Rittenhouse and Leah Zeldes Smith. Alexander Bouchard was also supposed to b on it, but never showed. This panel was a total bust, since it was in one of the third-floor function rooms away from the main activity areas and we didn't have an audience. I was late getting to it, and woried about having to hurry past everyone, and instead came to a room full of empty chairs. We panelists sat and talked for the hour of the panel.
After that, I went back to the dealers' room to sit table. We continued to have business in bursts and spurts. While we were there, we connected with some friends and arranged to meet them at a nearby restaurant, Sweet Tomatoes.
After the dealers' room closed, we walked over there, but were unable to locate our friends. Since we were supposed to meet them at their table, we went ahead through the salad bar line, but when we got through, we couldn't locate our friends. So we told the greeter to go ahead and seat us, and to send our friends ahead to join us when they arrived. However, the whole time we were there, we never connected up with them. We finally had to give up because we were finished eating, and we couldn't just keep holding up the table while other people were still coming in. (Later we learned that they gave up because of the long wait, and went back to the hotel to eat in the hotel restaurant.)
Sweet Tomatoes is a rather unusual restaurant, a pure salad and soup bar. You come in the front door and go through the salad bar, then pay the cashier. After that, you meet the greeter, who shows you to your table. Then you can go to the soups and bakery goods area. It's a really nice place for vegetarians and people who are watching their fat intake (there are low fat selections in every food area, and they are marked as such), but carinvores are apt to be a little disappointed. If you have asthma, tobacco allergy or other respiratory issues, you'll like the fact that the entire restaurant is smoke-free, so there's no problem of smoke drifting into the non-smoking section.
After we came back from supper, we rested for a while to digest our meal. Then we went around to the various parties. There were some good ones again, including the Duckon party, which had ice cream and hand-decorated cookies. At the Marcon party, which was also doubling as a ConColumbus 2007 Worldcon bid, we talked to the organizers about the probable setup of their dealers' room. The mad scientists had the General Technics suite going again, and were tinkering with various electronic equipment right on the bar. Outside another party, I joined in a lively discussion about changs in copyright law and how various greedy companies are secretly lobbying to get laws changed to take away right of use and make it so that people can use their CD's and DVD's only a limited (but secret) number of times before they stop working, long before they'd actually wear out. These companies are trying to keep this very hush-hush so that consumers can't object, but there wil probably be a severe backlash when they do find out the hard way, rather like the total flop of DVix in the market. After we'd made the rounds of the parties on the third floor, we decided to turn in for the night.
Sunday morning we got up bright and early in order to get our personal belongings out of our sleeping room and get checked out of the hotel. Then we went up to the Green Room to get some breakfast. While I was there, I was talking about a discussion that had been happening on Baen's Bar, only to have it pointed out that Eric Flint, one of the people who had been involved in that discussion, had just entered the Green Room and was talking to Steven Silver. I subsequently went over to speak to him, and we talked about the woes of sneaquels (books that are actually only the first part of a novel, but are not billed as such on the cover, so that the reader gets closer and closer to the end, expecting the author to wind the story up, and instead discovers the words "to be continued").I had a very bad experience with one such sneaquel in which the second book never came out, leaving me perpetually hanging and wondering what happened next. I was so angry about that trick that I decided that I will always do my best to have each book I write be a complete story, although many of my series will be more than the sum of their parts. In fact, I set aside on novel I was working on because it got so long that no publisher would take it on, at least from a relative beginner with no big following, and there were no good places to break it up and have complete stories in each volume.
When it got close to 10AM I hurried down to the dealers' room to retrieve my copy of the anthology Beyond the Last Star, since I had a reading at 10AM and needed the book to read my story "Spiral Horn, Spiral Tusk." The book retrieved, I hurried up to my reading, only to discover that the room had been changed a second time. At least this time there was a sign at the old room directing everyone to the new one.
I arrived just in time, and found three people waiting -- a much better situation than my last reading two years ago, when I had not one single audience member. Taking a cue from the late Douglas Adams, whom I'd heard do a wonderful reading at Butler University shortly before his untimely death, I gave each of my characters' dialog distinctive in-character voices. My audience members complemented me on the quality of both my story and my presentation, and inquired about how to obtain their own copies of the anthology.
After that I hurried down to the art show to pick up my unsold art -- almost all the pieces I had brought. I also discovered that one of my pieces wasn't accounted for on the sales list. We had to get that straightened up, but then I carried my unsold art out to the van and got it into its boxes.
Then I hurried down to the dealers' room and gave my husband a brief break before going to two back-to-back panels. The first one was "Making a Name For Yourself in Fan Writing" with Dick Smith and Evelyn Leeper, the Fan GOH. However, we were in another of those third-floor rooms and had only two audience members, so we ended up having an informal conversation about fanzines, their nature and purpose. Several of us who had Palm Pilots set to beaming various things back and forth.
The next panel was "Fantasy Elements in SF," with Nick Polotta, Sean Mead, and Kristine Smith. We talked about what we meant by fantasy elements, and saw several ways of interpreting the terms. I talked about the reinterpretation of traditional fantasy and dark fantasy/horror archetypes like vampires, elves and dwarves in science fictional milleu and using the language of science fiction. I suggested Jacqueline Lichtenberg's Those of My Blood and Sime~Gen series as two examples of sicence-fictional takes on the vampire archetype, one of them making the vampires into aliens on a moonbase and the other making the vampires suck energy instead of blood in a post-apocalyptic Earth. I also mentioned how John Ringo's Legacy of the Alldenata series includes elements of elves and dwarves in his alien Darhel and Indowy, but in language consistent with the military-sf form of the series.
Nick Pollata talked about some of his own stories mixed fantasy and sf elements for humorous effect. He also pointed out that humorous fiction has much looser boundaries about mixing fantasy and science fiction, so long as the reader is laughing.
That led to a discussion of genre boundaries, including those between mainstream/literary/"quality" fiction and ghettoized genres s uch as science fiction and fantasy. We talked about the phenomenon in which an author who becomes perceived as writing high-quality works will no longer have science-fictional or fantastic elements recognized as such. Nick Polotta offered the example of an Italian writer's story of a priest who talks with the Jesus on the crucifix over his alter, and Jesus talks back. I suggested an author whom Robert Silverberg had mentioned in one of his editorials for Asimov's Science Fiction, a Portugese author who wrote a novel called (in English translation) The Blindness. It explores the social consequences of a mysterious contagious blindness from the first case to impending social breakdown. But it's not perceived as science fiction because the author is a writer of "literature" and has won the Nobel Prize in Literature.
After that panel, I hurried over to the art show to see about picking up my check so I wouldn't have to wait for it to be mailed to me. When they gave it to me, I discovered that it reflected only the sale of one of my pieces, not both of them. Since I'd had trouble with this the previous year and had waited for several months before I finally received my check for the other piece, I immediately asked about the problem. It turned out that the one piece had not been picked up by the person who had bid on it. Bill Roper, who was in charge of the art show this year, asked me how long I'd be sticking around. I told him that we had dealers' tables this year, and would probably be sticking around until 5PM. He told me that if the piece wasn't picked up by the time the art show closed, he'd have it brought to our table.
Then I hurried down to the dealers' room to do at least a little packing before my final panel. This ended up being a very hurried situation, since we were also getting a lot of last-minute purchases. Once I was frantically trying to deal with two different transactions at once, and having trouble finding the credit slips to run a charge.
Then it was time to hurry off for my 2PM panel, "Cool Cons Outside Illinois," with Kyym Kimpel, Dina Krause, Emmett Gard Pittman and Sharon Sbarsky. We discussed a lot of conventions outside the Chicago area, most of them in Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Missouri. I also mentoined ConGlomeration in the Louisville, KY area, which took over from the old Rivercons, and CONvergence in Minneapolis, which is rather like the old Minicons used to be, before they were made "intimate" and "literary." Another panelist mentioned Chattacon in Chatanooga, Tennessee, a very southern convention in which the con suite is located in an enclosed parking garage and they pull the beer truck right in and open the doors.
We also talked about other types of cons beside general-interest science fiction conventions. For instance, when talking about media conventions, it is important to distinguish between promoter-run conventions like Creation and Slanted Fedora events, which are run primarily to get as many paying customers through as possible, and genuinely fan-run conventions like Filmcon, which are about having a good time. Often they aren't able to afford the really big-name stars, but because the security concerns regarding such major celebrities make it difficult for them to simply mingle with their fans, this is probably not a huge loss anyway. Often the lesser-known people, and especially the behind-the-scenes technical crew members who are frequent guests at Filmcons, are actually more interesting to meet and talk with than the big stars, who often unfortunately have egos to match.
We also talked about other specialized conventions such as anime (Japanese animation), furry, and gaming conventions. I mentioned Darkover Grand Council, a convention devoted entirely to Marion Zimmer Bradley's fictional world of Darkover, but also featuring the fandoms of her various proteges, including Jacqueline Lichtenberg, creator of the Sime~Gen universe. We also discussed such specialty conventions as SMOFcon, which is dedicated to discussing con-running and its problems, and is frequently attended by members of convention committees. People interested in fanzine fandom may want to check out Corflu and Ditto, both dedicated to fanzine fandom and pubbing one's ish. CostumeCon is dedicated entirely to costuming fandom.
After that panel was over, I hurried back down to the dealers' room to finish packing and help load out. I soon discovered that the one piece of art was waiting for me, having been left unpurchased when it was time for the art show to close. It was a bit annoying to have someone bid on the piece and then fail to follow through and purchase it (especially since I had the same thing happen to me at Archon in October). I later heard from someone who'd been working in the art show that mine was one of twelve or fifteen to have received bids but never been picked up by their purchasers.
I finished packing the last few things while my husband started carrying things out. We were able to get a volunteer to help us, which really speeded up the load-out process. We actually ended up finishing loading before 4:30, so we had some time to go to the con suite and check out the dead dog party before we needed to head back to Mundania.
Copyright 2012 by Leigh Kimmel
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Last updated October 21, 2012.