This past weekend I went to DodecaCon 4 in Columbia, MO. Despite some huge challenges for the con organizers, I had a great time.
One of those challenges is perhaps the worst thing that could ever happen to the con organizers a couple of weeks ago. They lost one of their daughters to complications from sickle-cell anemia. How they continued is beyond me, but despite their grief they kept smiling and working. Kudos to Toni Westbrook-Taylor and Randy Taylor for somehow plowing through.
Knowing that makes it no surprise that many of the things they wanted to organize ahead of time did not have a chance to get done. Despite this added work and extra adjustments on the fly, they managed to get things covered reasonably well.
A second challenge was the fact that the original football schedule had this weekend marked as one without a home game for Mizzou. The schedule changed. If you know Columbia, you know it’s awful for traffic in the first place for such a small town (the I-70 / US-63 is one of the worst interchanges I’ve ever seen, even counting some in places like Boston and Montreal). Home games, shockingly enough, makes traffic problems get worse.
Not only that, many of the people who might have come to the convention, especially students, were at the game or tailgating. I’m sure this dampened attendance from last year.
Finally, the other complication was the site itself. It was held in the big aisles in the middle of Parkade Mall. This meant extra security and less than ideal room arrangements. Still, they made it work, though they got an extra curveball on Sunday morning when the mall decided it was that morning they needed to paint new parking lines in the lot, meaning half the spots were roped off. I actually liked my spot in terms of how I was arranged, along a wall with an electrical outlet.
There were other issues, too, that I’m aware happened but not any details of what happened.
And yet, people had fun.
I was on two panels and moderated two others. I like moderating panels where I’m not an expert on the topic, but still can periodically add things.
The first one I moderated was one about creating strong comic books, including characters, stories, and art. Two of the other panelists were both comic book artists and writers, while one was simply an artist. We had a lively discussion that went far afield, and yet I thought we had a lot of good information.
Rob Davis, the artist in that panel, said something that I thought was particularly important to add to my writing. He was talking about the way posture shows character, and his example was Superman as opposed to Clark Kent. My personal image was the character in a League of Their Own who was a great ballplayer but had zero social skills until the last scene at the Baseball Hall of Fame. It’ll be easy for me to do too much of this, like any other exposition, but I need to remember to be aware of it.
The second panel I moderated was on how to turn a cosplay into a contest-winning entry. I was actually surprised by how much I could contribute here because of the SCA, but the session was successful because of professional cosplayer Alexa Heart. I was impressed by not only her practical and crafting skills, but also the thought and philosophies that went into her cosplaying.
The first panel I was on talked about getting your manuscript published once it’s completed. It wasn’t a bad panel, but I think the panel would have been more successful had there been a designated moderator. Bryan Thomas Schmidt and I both had lots to say, and I think we threw too much at the audience in an overly scattershot way. Still, I think the prospective writers learned something.
The second panel involved creating strong characters. This could have benefited from a designated moderator too, but once I realized there wasn’t one I took over a little bit to make sure we didn’t go quite so far afield as I think we might have in the one before. I enjoyed all of the different perspectives from D.A. Roberts, Raz Wickham, and at the end, Liz Schulte. Certainly, I feel much better about having given useful information in this one than in the other.
As for sales, they were light. I happened to be at the far end of the arrangement and I suspect that hurt my traffic. Still, I got a few sales and about 20 names for my mailing list. That’s not useless, especially since it’s almost a local con for me. I’ve done a poor job of getting myself known in Kansas and Missouri, something this con went towards fixing.
I did make some good new contacts, as usual. I’ve some potential plans to do a show in Columbia in December. Also, I had a great conversation with Liz Schulte about some of the differences between writing fantasy and writing romance, even if it’s a genre romance.
My favorite new work that I saw, by the way, came from Scott Schmidt and his Steele Vs. comic book series. How did I never think of having mounties fight monsters?
DodecaCon did two things I thought were really cool, though I couldn’t take advantage of one because I eat low-carb. They came along throughout the day and offered us food. Bagels for breakfast, spaghetti for dinner, periodic candy bits, and then also brought us water as needed. It did not match the variety of things at many con suites, but bringing it around to people stuck at booths was very nice.
The more important thing was how much they reached out to the local jr. high and high schools. Friday for most of the day busloads of students came to the con. I’m guessing that the schools relaxed dress codes, as many of them came in costumes. Some of their parents joined them. From a merchant perspective, it was mostly just work with no real chance of sales, but it is the kind of thing that I think keeps all of this sort of thing going.
I don’t know if I’ll go next year if only because I might want to go to TopCon in Topeka next year if the two conflict again. We’ll see when they get scheduled, which they cannot do until they know the football schedule.
I initially went because several friends help out with the con, and they suggested I come. I’m glad I did. Despite all of the challenges, it was much bigger con than I expected and I think it will be even better in a year where things aren’t conspiring against it.