Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Westercon 2008 Report

I flew to Las Vegas with my husband for Westercon the day before programming started. We had bought tickets in January, so our fare was reasonable.

We were on Southwest, and they are not charging extra for checked bags -- but have reduced the weight limit to 50 lb and enforce that. Because I was carrying books for "show and tell" on the panels -- plus flyers to give away -- my bag weighed in at 49.5 lbs. When we picked up the luggage in Las Vegas, I found the handle on my rolling suitcase had ripped off. I've got to travel much lighter if I do that again.

We got settled in the hotel, picked up badges and learned the way around this huge, spread out hotel. It's a sprawling, multi-building golfing resort/casino that usually charges $399 for the room we got for $150 (which is still way high by convention standards).

Thursday morning we went wandering through the convention area and started meeting people. I met The Wombat (Jan Howard Finder) and we had a good 2 hour talk, then wandered around talking to other people.

I found the Green Room just opening up and sat down for a while.

I got to talking with some people, and it turned out two of them were a reporter-photographer pair looking for a story. I gave them several. They took my name, but I forgot to find out who they were.

Back near Registration, I ran into Jan Howard Finder (The Wombat) again and he introduced me to the fellow who was running the hotel's "business office" where you can get stuff copied for an exhorbitant fee. Turns out he's an aspiring SF writer. I gave him a flyer or three and a pep talk.

Programming started at 2:30 and I had my first panel. I was surprised we had 6 people listening to this panel. I did an autographing and Kaires turned up while I was introducing someone to the Sime~Gen universe. Kaires was wearing her S~G T-shirt and silver starred cross -- so she became my "show and tell."

The Convention's party maven had not answered Kaires' emails asking for party-space at the con. (room parties were not allowed; you had to use the designated rooms) By the time Kaires got an answer from the party maven, it was "sorry, all booked" even though she'd requested space months in advance. Kaires had come all set to throw a whopper of a Sime~Gen party Friday night, but we just couldn't make it happen.

Friday I did another bunch of panels -- a few more people in the audience at each successive one as people arrived. I didn't have so much energy as I usually do, and wondered why. The topics were interesting and the audience awake -- the panelists clever and full of things to say. I wasn't. (got some laughs and a compliment or two anyway).

After a short discussion in the dealer's room with another panelist (Tony N. Todaro I think it was) someone came up to me in the hallway and gave me the most surprising compliment of my life -- that I exhibited great body language during that exchange in the dealer's room! I didn't know anyone was listening or watching. That made my day.

I woke up Saturday morning with a stuffy head and by 11AM I knew I had a cold, not just allergies. I'd have given everyone at the S~G party a cold -- so it's a good thing we didn't have the party!

My husband ran all over and finally found someone in the Con Suite who gave him some ephedrin for me. Saved my life. Later, the hotel gift shop produced NyQuil and DayQuil which I lived on until I got home to my more usual remedies. That's the first time in decades that I've gotten sick at a convention. Usually, it's after I get home!

Despite laryngitis and stuffiness, I did my remaining 3 panels on Sunday and garnered a number of compliments, gave out some newsletters, and had another unique experience.

I often carry around several books of mine and offer them for sale at the end of a panel especially if that title isn't in the Dealer's Room. And I often get some takers. This time I wasn't doing that at all, but did have a couple of books to wave around that I commented on during the panels.

At my second to last panel, someone came up to me and asked if I had any books of mine for sale because someone told her that I usually carry some around to sell. So I sold one of the books that threatened to make my suitcase over-weight.

I'd given out flyers too, so I went home a lot lighter than I'd come because I refused to buy anything in the Dealer's Room (that was hard). Good thing I went home light, though, without the suitcase handle.

I made a DIARY ENTRY: Don't Fly With A Headcold.

But I wouldn't have missed this convention for anything. Due largely to the oil crisis and that the venue was more expensive than usual, there were barely more than 300 people at this convention -- more like a pre-Star Trek con. Next year, when Westercon is in the Phoenix suburb Tempe, we might have as many as a thousand attend. I've already been invited to be on programming there, and since it's a 20 minute drive up the road from me, I definitely plan to be there.

But frankly, with the cost of air fare soaring, I'm not planning as many trips as usual next year.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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