Salt Lake Comic Con is so big that it is impossible to write a single summary which encompasses all of what happens during the three days. (Four if you count the set-up day.) I have friends who were miserable throughout the event and other friends who had a fantastic time. Some of the miserable people were made that way by decisions that were beyond their control. Some of the happy people experienced serendipity that was likewise out of their control. In many ways planning to exhibit at an event this size is like planning an outdoor event. You prepare all you can, but you have to deal with the on-site weather once you arrive.
This is how I plan ahead to figure out what to bring.
I make little papers to represent tables and furniture. Then I slide them around until I’m happy with the configuration. Once I’m at the booth it is just a matter of putting the tables where I pictured them.
Every show we have something that sells better than expected and something that doesn’t move at all. This year the run away seller was the Shadows Beneath anthology. Halfway through the show we had to go and get more from the Dragonsteel folks. The other delightful surprise was how well our booth-mate’s books sold. Brian McClellan shared our space and he sold out of books on Saturday morning.
As is usual for Howard and I, our favorite parts were when we get to participate in interesting conversations. Sometimes those happened in small groups at our booth, other times they were when we participated in panels. I was particularly happy that there was a Writing Excuses panel where they didn’t have to record, they just got to talk. Mary was much missed in the conversation.
I was very fortunate in my co-panelists. They were all interested in sharing good information and making sure everyone got a chance to talk. This is not always the case. The only challenges with my panels were things outside the panelists’ control. They were the “weather” we had to manage. In one a loud speaker next door was booming through our wall. In another we were next to a zombie apocalypse live action roleplay, so we were treated to periodic screaming.
But the super mega challenge was the one where the fire alarm went off. I was moderating and it took me a moment to realize what was happening. Lights along the wall started flashing and a polite voice said “An emergency has been identified in this building. Please cease operations and exit the building.” Within a minute we determined that, no there was not really an emergency, we could stay. (Some child pulled the fire alarm.) Yet the emergency message repeated over and over for the next five minutes as we tried to talk intelligently in spite of it. I think we succeeded and the panel managed to be beneficial anyway.
Really that is the miracle of an event like this. Hundreds of thousands of people gather. They get in each other’s way. They cause problems that others have to solve. But then there are the people who move through the event making it easier on others. People band together to rescue each other; whether it is loaning tape, finding a child, or making a joke to cover fire alarm confusion. The building was full of heroes and many of them were not wearing costumes.
The final hours of the convention were very busy for me. At 4:30 I had to move my car to where I could easily load it once the show was done. Then I had back-to-back panels (including the fire alarm one). Then it was time to dash back to the dealer’s hall and tear down the booth. Many people stopped by to see if we needed help. There was kindness everywhere at this event. For the most part Brian and I had it handled. The hardest part was me remembering what came next through my fog of tired brain. It was less than an hour before the booth was packed and loaded into my car.
And the show is done. All that creative energy has scattered into hiding until there is another event to bring it together again.