Day: August 18, 2011

Notes from the first two days of WorldCon

When I’m working a booth, I have to be radiating energy. I need to be alert and watching for people who need help or have questions. I try to remember names and faces because in a five day show many of those people will come back to the booth. I also need to assess new people to figure out what flavor of patter will best engage them and be comfortable for them. Some people want to browse in peace. Others are brightened by having me talk to them and explain what they are looking at. I was not doing any of that yesterday morning. It puzzled me until I realized that lately I’ve been in a retreat and re-group emotional state. Running a booth is very much an outreach event. I poured a can of caffeinated soda over that realization and suddenly I was able to be fully involved in all the booth running.

It helped tremendously that so many familiar people are here. I love turning around and seeing someone I haven’t seen for months or years. Each day is full of a dozen little catching-up conversations. They are like little appetizers. Hopefully I can find some of those same people in the evening hours when I can sit down to really talk. I did exactly that last night. I found groups of good people and reveled in conversation. The night was capped off when Howard and I were among those who found John Scalzi’s forgotten laptop bag. We went on a quest to return it to him and succeeded. As a suitable reward for this effort, Scalzi bestowed upon us SFWA guest stickers. This means we have weekend long access to the SFWA suite which is full of lovely people and food containing nutrients rather than preservatives.

As is usual we ended up being a meeting place for friends and sometimes a bag repository. We planned for this, deliberately trying to create a space big enough to invite folks in to sit. Having our own little lounge space means that we have people to talk to when there is a sales lull. Sometimes it seems like WorldCon is made of talking. My head gets a little over full, then I step away from the booth for a bit and talk to no one. Or I pull out a notebook and scribble down thoughts. If I pin them to paper they won’t get away and I can stop trying to hold them in my poor overstimulated brain.

Today’s delightful moment which inspired a scribbled note was the moment when I introduced my friend Sal Sanfratello who is former military and a current weapons instructor in Michigan to my friend Larry Correia who has done much the same in Utah. Standing nearby was Ethan Skarsgardt who is current military. Within three minutes they’d covered the sad lack of concealed carry reciprocity in Nevada which meant none of them were armed. But then they all three flipped out their folding knives almost at the same time. The knives all looked the same to me, but they traded them around talking edges and manufacturers. I love it when I can introduce friends and have them instantly get along.

Next I’m headed into another convention evening. I’m not sure if this one will run as long as the other one did. I was up until 2 am last night, which is a wee bit late if I want to be effective the next day. Fortunately it seems to have energized me. I have had a marvelous day and expect to have an even better evening.

Oh, and yes the sales are going well. We’ve paid our expenses and have three days left.

Wednesday morning at WorldCon

Copied from notes handwritten at 11 am on Wednesday August 17, 2011:
The convention hall is large, like a cavern. There is twice as much open air above us as any of the dealer’s room booths use. The booths themselves are like the stalls at an arts festival or a farmer’s market. Each small space has it’s own focus and flavor. I wander through them and wonder how far the contents of each booth has traveled. I wonder how hard the booth runners worked, propelled by their dreams.

If I close my eyes, I hear the steady rumble of the air handling system. It blows cool, and creates the illusion of a breeze. Above that, bangs and clatters echo as people continue to set up and organize their spaces. Sometimes I can hear the sounds of voices. They blend into a pleasant babble, like a stream. Occasionally a cluster of voices breaks into comprehensibility. Usually this is because someone is angry or frustrated. Booth set up always exposes tools forgotten or problems not previously considered. There is a frission of stress in the air, because the doors will open to the public in an hour. Not everything is ready and no one knows yet if the sales will be enough to cover the pile of bills necessary to transport merchandise and set up the booth. Most of the arguements are simple sparkings of stress, not actual emergencies.

We are not immune to any of these stresses. WE had the emergencies of the wobbly tables, these thumbtacks won’t work, and the forgotten camera cable. We set up the table and display the merchandise. As per our usual pattern we have already rearranged things twice. Each convention space is different and our merchandise changes over time. We always have to shuffle things around. Then I make notes about how we could run things differently and what supplies would be more useful to us.

At huge shows like GenCon, the convention center rolls out carpet and pipe and drape to help define spaces. We have only what we brought, the tables, and some tape lines on the concrete floor. Creating a congenial space is a challenge, yet so many booths succeed. Bare tables turn into book shops, jewelry stores, and craft stalls. Each space acquires its own feel. Witht the booths set up, the shopkeepers have some time to visit. We begin to know our neighbors and the booth starts to feel like part of a small town market rather than a foreign and sterile place. Five days from now, when it all gets torn apart, I will be sad. This market in this configuration will never exist again. I must do my best to savor it while it is here.