Friday, October 29, 2004

Kellie's First Con, Part One

The following documents the first part of my first science fiction convention ever. It was written while at the hotel, in whatever increments of time I could find to sit down at my laptop and type up my comments, thoughts, and experience during the weekend.

Friday, 2:12 PM: Hardly two hours into the convention and I've already experienced a problem. Nobody bothered to tell me that there were THREE hotels called "Four Points Sheraton" within a five-mile radius of each other. Do I really need to explain this in so many words? Let's just say that I started my con at 12:30, and my first order of business was a ten-minute trip in the hotel shuttle. 'Nuff said. Really. I'm working with the idea that this is my total newbie bonehead move of the weekend, and I'm grateful to have gotten it out of the way so soon and no one else at the con was there to witness it. Excellent.

Then I checked in, registered, and went exploring. I decided that, since the early writing workshops I had hoped to check out were cancelled due to lack of interest (that so totally blows), I would see about volunteering until other activities started around 4. Of course, it was too early in the con and they weren't even set up to start taking on volunteers. This is where I bumped into Pat Coleman (can't find her website; she writes mysteries), at the con to do research for her next book whose MC is a SF fan. (I'm beginning to wonder if I have some sort of magnet when I go to these things, as just a couple hours into my last writing conference, I ended getting swept into a dinner with Teresa Nielsen Hayden. By the way, Pat is a big conference planner, one of the original group who put together RMFW, or at least the conference. I don't mind being a magnet for such people, not in the least.) We decided to explore the art and dealer rooms together. We were able to see what was already set up before con staff saw we were there and shooed us out so they could finish setting up. One of the staffers handled this well, another...not so much.

We parted ways with still a couple hours to kill before anything got going. I went back to my room in hopes of writing or just starting this report. Turns out I pulled Newbie Bonehead Move #2 by locking myself out of my room. Note to self: You have two keys (well, three now); never, ever take one out of your back pocket. It shall live there in perpetuity.

Friday, 10:50 PM: Lots of panels and experiences. I feel like a kid in a candy store looking at all the fun costumes, listening to famous authors be people, catching snippets of ConCom gossip. (I think someone might have a stalker, but I didn't catch enough to be sure; intriguing to say the least.) By this point, they were ready to take on volunteers. The great part about volunteering to help with the panels is that you can sign up for the panels you were going to go to anyway, get there early to set up placards and water for the speakers, chat with them a little, then let them know when they're five minutes away from the end of the panel. Easy, fun, you were going to be there anyway, and you can get some author schmoozing time. I'm sold. But the first two panels I went to, I was just Suzy ConGoer, not a volunteer. My writing buddy Pat was the volunteer, so I got to see exactly what my duties entailed. The panel was about the Nuts & Bolts of writing. Good panel, but some guy in the back kept joining in the discussion. He had a green "participant" ribbon, so I knew he was either an author, an artist, or a big fannish sort. He was too far away to read his name tag. I found out later that the eager contributor in the back row was L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

Then I went to a panel about future food. Nothing exciting here. I was hoping for a discussion of what food might be like in the future (given the title of the panel, I didn't think it was an odd hope), but it turned out to be a discussion of the current evils of food trends and diets and GMOs--with a lot of wrong, weird, and vague science by all sorts of people in the room. The plus side of this panel was that they had free food.

Then I went to a reading by Hilari Bell and Carol Berg. I sat next to the window that looked west over the city to the mountains. I didn't follow most of what they were reading so much as I listened to them read and stole glances at the sunset.

Then it was off to my first volunteering gig: the Opening Ceremonies (I have no idea how to aim low). I spent the minutes before everything started folding the placards and tracking down a pitcher of water for the head table, which included Bob Eggleton, Elizabeth Moon, Charles de Lint, MaryAnn Harris, Fred Saberhagen, and Bob Vardeman. Bob's toastmaster introduction stint was to make these illustrious personages put on chef's hats and aprons and do a parody of Iron Chef called "Iron Writers". Very entertaining. Then the Fan Guest of Honor candidates were introduced. Lord Voldemort and Lucius Malfoy, complete with a campaign speech. Very entertaining. I bought buttons for their campaign later ("Deatheaters for Voldemort" and a big cross-out symbol over the words Muggles and Mudbloods).

After a quick dash through a couple of autograph signings (got a book signed by Elizabeth Moon for my brother--she's a former Marine herself--and one signed for me by Carol Berg--that "quick signing" deteriorated into a chat about writing, she's a fellow organic writer), I raced back to my next volunteer panel. And who should be the moderator but L.E. Modesitt, Jr. Since I haven't read any of his books, I didn't have much to chat about with him, although he did say I was "angelic" later on (for whatever reason, he was talking about how some people never got caught cutting corners and some people always did; I mentioned how some people always think you're perfect no matter what you do; that's when he said I looked angelic and talked about how one author played on that idea by having a psychopath go through plastic surgery to look more angelic; do we feel story juices flowing yet, people?). By the end of the panel, I had the chance to hold an original Bob Eggleton sketch--for a few minutes before I had to pitch the Coke can he had doodled on into the recycling bin.

In the process of checking back in at the volunteer room, I got roped into playing watch dog at the game room tomorrow morning from 6 AM to 10 AM. I will be bringing a book, my writing notebook, and various research materials that need to be read. And I'm also going to be here shortly so I won't be all that grumping with the RPGers.

After peeking my head into the Charles de Lint / MaryAnn Harris concert, I helped Bob Eggleton find a restroom (I was in need of one myself). Then it was off to my room to change into PJs for a late night reading and my last volunteer gig for Ed Bryant.

I decided to call it a night after that. There was only one problem: my key wouldn't work. Another quick detour to the front desk later, I'm ready to go to sleep after Day One of the MileHiCon.

Saturday, 5:54 AM: The room came with conditioner, but not shampoo, apparently. This was discovered after I was already in the shower. I think the Sheraton hotel chain may have it out for me, which makes sense considering my experience at the Colorado Springs Sheraton last year with the barbershop regional competition. Will have to wash hair later today, instead of going to dealer room and wandering. Probably better for my wallet.

Saturday Sunday, 1:06 AM: Am surprised to find myself still functioning. Am not surprised to find myself sliding fully into incoherency. Saturday's full report must wait for sleep.

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