Tag Archives: AAR

ShadowCon AAR

Greetings all

I got back last night from the first con of 2019, ShadowCon in Memphis. I got invited to the convention a couple of years ago because it’s essentially an SCA household holiday party writ large. Schedules have prevented me from going previously, and that’s too bad because I had a very good time.

Given its origin and its billing as a Relaxacon, you would be correct to assume that it’s laid back. It has all the stuff. In fact it’s got a ton packed into Saturday, but it’s pretty laissez faire about structure. This is a virtue for a con of its size. I was able to get on three panels, play a round of Pathfinder Society, and socialize until 3pm on Friday. I’d have done more but, as a Cowboys fan, I essentially took Saturday evening off to watch them play the Seahawks.

The first panel I was on discussed books new readers should look for to get started in science fiction and fantasy. There was some confusion on where it was supposed to be, and I think it might have actually been done in two places. For me, I sat with four or five people and discussed where to go and some of the subgenres. In all honesty, this was probably the best way to have this sort of panel. It might be fun to schedule a session with a number of authors in a room with various tables and interact with new readers on this level as opposed to lining us up in front.

I intended to join the Indie Publishing Pros and Cons panels. Unfortunately, I wrote down 2pm Saturday on my notes instead of 12noon. Of all the panels, it was the one I wanted to be on and I missed it. Next time, I suppose, but I’m still frustrated with myself on that one.

The one panel the organizer wanted me to take was a comparison of Star Trek: Discovery and The Orville. He had a scheduling conflict at the last minute and needed help on that panel. Humorously, I’ve never watched either, though Orville looks fun. The other person on the panel had only watched a few episodes of either, but was a major Trekkie with a ton of experience in that fandom. We ended up riffing on the kinds of characters that draw us into shows and the kinds of writing keep people watching. More than anything, we talked about how Babylon 5 did both of those things well, as did some other shows. All in all, it turned out OK, but I sure felt clueless walking in.

Immediately after was my favorite panel, Where Did It Go Wrong. We panelists all had slightly different viewpoints where we going with that, and we sort of settled on where movie adaptations of books go wrong. The first answer, which is fairly obvious, is that two hour long movies will always struggle with a novel. Short stories, like the ones that spawned Shawshank Redemption and Blade Runner, are much more likely to translate well to the big screen. Novels that do translate well will tend to be fluffy, short, or both. Other novels, like Lord of the Rings or Dune will need mini-series or seasons of a regular series to tell their complex stories well. The second answer is that the producer of the movie needs to know and love the ethos underlying the book. My personal pet peeve is the animated Beowulf, where they did not have any recognition of personal responsibility. Contrast this with 13th Warrior, which gets it. That’s what makes 13th Warrior a much, much better film and, in my opinion, the best retelling of Beowulf on the screen so far.

In general, it was a good schedule of panels. Had I made the Indie Publishing Panel, it would have been about the right number for Friday and Saturday. I could have done more, but about right.

Nothing was officially scheduled for Sunday, by the way. It’s a decision I’ve thought about on the drive home. On the one hand, scheduling stuff for Sunday allows time more panels and more things to do. On the other hand, Sunday panels and events, especially those at 10am, are inconsistently attended. In the case of ShadowCon, which is at its core a social gathering, setting it up that people can hang out until whatever Saturday night without any real need to be at a thing Sunday morning makes a lot of sense. At some other cons, where the basic foundation is different, Sunday scheduling is important, but not ShadowCon.

I really enjoyed myself, though I must mention the quality of the hotel. Or rather, lack thereof. It’s the first hotel I’ve dealt with that will not allow, under any circumstances, room entrance before 3pm. It’s a request I often make, and only a request, but every other hotel I’ve asked tries to accommodate it. Then, at 3pm, they had a shift change, but if the next shift is late, as this one was, there was literally nobody to check anyone in. That meant there was a ton of people in the lobby trying to check in, waiting for way too long. Panels and other events started at 4pm and I barely made it despite being one of the first in line.  For all this, I blame the manager, who was rude and clearly did not want to deal with anyone. How dare customers intrude upon her job? Oh, and as a side note, the posted hours for the breakfast aren’t actually true. Get there early, or you won’t get anything. It’s a decent con space, especially for a con the size of ShadowCon, but I’d suggest not going to the West Memphis Clarion for any other reason.

Despite the hotel, the con is worth it. The people were helpful and relaxed. Lots of good conversations. The gaming was good and there was lots of it. The con suite was one of the best I’ve seen. I didn’t go to any, but there were a number of SCA and Larping demos. The dealer’s room was bigger than most of a con its size. The panels all had attendees who were interested and had good questions. I am intending to go back every year that my schedule allows.

Pennsic AAR

Greetings all

This year’s Pennsic is approaching the end and I should be writing more on the short story I started tomorrow, but my brain is tired. Instead, I thought I’d go ahead and write my AAR.

Ever since Gulf Wars in March I have been almost continuously on the road between conventions and our move. It has been a wonderful time, and wonderful for my future given that I have (generally) met all my writing deadlines, made new customers, plotted new plots, and ended up in my wonderful house with my wonderful sweetie.

I am so happy to be at this point. I am also beat.

Nevertheless, this has been one of the best Pennsics I’ve had in many years.

The main reason is that my sweetie joined me. Not only was it fun to have her around, she did the vast majority of the camp chores and cooking so that I could focus on work. I ate better than I have in years and yet had less work than ever. Also, my apprentice was able to come. It was, basically, the first time my SCA household was together at a major event.

I’m a lucky man. Well, until they gang up on me 🙂

From the work side of things I would grade this a solid B+/A-. I was a little cramped for space in the trim shop, but even so this was my best-selling Pennsic. I went well past my basic sales goal, thanks to a very good Friday.

I have proof of concept that selling Ren Faire, Celtic, Traditional, and SCA CDs can make money. I’m ending up with about half the number of CDs that I brought, even though I bought 9 more from a couple of performers here on site, Emer nic Aiden of Ealdormere and Finnech inghain Labhrainn from Atlantia. I’ve got more artists coming, as well.

We are looking at ways to expand my portion of the trim shop so that my growing stock will be better displayed. I also have a number of fun ideas to increase traffic. There’s a lot of moving vectors, so it’s hard to say exactly how things will be arranged next Pennsic, but I am clearly leveling up.

Again, I have to thank Master Andrixos for giving me the opportunity to sell with him. I wouldn’t have had a chance to get off the ground without his help. He’s also been looking at ways to facilitate that leveling up. We’ve made a pretty good team so far and I look forward to continuing that partnership.

In other news, I did my first live interview as opposed to the form I send out. You can find my interview with Vincenzo here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1283. I think that went very well, so I will start planning on more face to face interviews at future events.

From a writing perspective, I finished a short story and sent it to an editor. I don’t know yet if it was accepted, but it’s always good to get things sent out. I also made good progress on a couple of other short stories.

I had more energy than in past years, mostly because I had help. That meant I was able to do more bardic than in past years, which was nice.

Tonight we will empty the shop and do the pre-packing. Tomorrow, we’ll finish packing and get on the road as early as possible. We’ll get as far as we can before getting a hotel and finish the drive on Sunday.

With that, I’ll start doing my prepacking in the shop. Catch you all when I get home.

Wichicon AAR

I went down to Wichicon this past weekend. Overall, I did far better than break even, though it was not entirely because of sales.

Traffic was sparse on Sunday, at least early on, and it was an odd crowd for a con. Wichicon is part of the Wichita Riverfest, which is a week long thing that’s been going on as long as I can remember. It’s got all sorts of stuff that in general is not related to SF/F/comics/anime at all.

Entry to the con only required a Riverfest button, which in general gets you into everything. Nominally, those are $10, but they’re in just about every radio competition, given away as parts of specials in stores, and many businesses just give them to all of their employees and their families.

I expected that would mean a completely different flavor of crowd, but in general, I saw little difference between that crowd and that of Planet Comicon. The primary difference was a much smaller percentage of cosplayers. In my suggestions to the con, I will suggest that they do more to make it fun for them, which I think will improve traffic for us all.

I did, in the end, break even with my sales. Cost for the artist/author table was $80, so it wasn’t a terrible risk anyway. Also, since one main reason I attended was to visit my mom, I did not have to worry about hotel expenses, and those vendors who did have hotel rooms probably did not break even.

The big profit from the weekend was the interview that ConCast did for their podcast. I don’t look completely stupid! And it’s a video. As soon as I have a solid link, I’ll be posting it everywhere.

Many thanks to ConCast for doing that.

The best news, I think, is that the Riverfest wants to make Wichicon a success. I was asked by quite a few officials at a variety of levels how I was doing and how to make things better. This came from actual Riverfest people and the normal organizers of SF/F/comic type things in the Wichita area. Everyone seems to be all in.

So here are the criticisms I see that they can fix.

One, the Bob Brown Expo Hall was too big for Wichicon. The good news is that they also held a gaming event this past weekend. The plan is to combine the two. This is all e-gaming, but the crossover is there. Plus, if they reach out to the local game stores there shouldn’t be a reason not to have more than just Magic: The Gathering tabletop gaming going on.

The load-in could have been better. Primarily, the big thing is Friday setup. It turns out a bunch of people were allowed to set up Friday, but they did not mention that and I didn’t think to ask. It made Saturday morning far more hectic than it should have been. I have a lot more patience when I have a whole evening and morning to set up than a 7am to 10am window, and it would reduce the hit on the dock.

Wichicon did not do enough to support cosplayers, as I mentioned. Some specific changes I’d suggest is making the cosplay contest a big thing. They had one, but make it as big as they can make it within the structure of the Riverfest. Perhaps even inviting cosplayers to walk or ride in the parade the Friday before Wichicon opens.

Whatever else, cosplayers add a level of wow to cons that brings people in, and I’d like to see more of them.

Oddly, since some of the con organizers are in a pirate band, there wasn’t any music. They had a stage set up for panels, but only one. It would seem like that stage, which was too big for most of the panels, could be used for music.

Panels, on the other hand, might be able to go along another wall. The expo hall, as far as I know, is one big open space, but one wall has some half-contained areas that might work for at least one panel room.

There was absolutely room to have an SCA demo, plus other similar groups like belly dancers and such. Put it this way, we vendors occupied about 1/3rd of the hall, and we were not squished together. They were 8ft tables, which meant rows were 20ft wide (8ft table – 4ft gap – 8ft table), then about 50 feet long (5 8ft tables with 2ft gaps between them). Plus some endcap sections which were something like 20×20.

In other words, they could add a ton to the event and it wouldn’t feel squished at all.

Overall, I had a good time. I doubt it will ever be hugely lucrative for me, though some vendors did pretty well. I do think it can be expanded, though, with maybe even some cross-overs I’ve not thought of.