Showing posts with label conventions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label conventions. Show all posts

27 September 2016

A Convention for the Rest of Us


By Barb Goffman


There's a famous Seinfeld episode set during the December holiday season in which we learn that George's father, Frank, doesn't celebrate Christmas. It's too commercial for him. Wanting a different kind of holiday for his family, he came up with his own and named it Festivus. And Frank didn't just name this holiday. He gave it teeth. Instead of a tree, there's a plain aluminum pole. Instead of presents, Festivus has the feats of strength, in which someone at dinner must wrestle and pin Frank. And instead of singing carols, Festivus requires the airing of grievances. "I've got a lot of problems with you people," Frank said during that episode, and my heart swelled. But the best part of Festivus is its inclusive nature. As Frank described the holiday, set on December 23rd of each year, it's a Festivus for the Rest of Us.

I wasn't thinking about Festivus when I came up with my own mystery convention two weeks ago. I was sitting on my couch with my dog, Jingle, reading Facebook posts from friends who had already headed down to New Orleans for Bouchercon--the world's largest annual mystery convention. Determined not to feel left out, even though I couldn't attend Bouchercon this year, I decided that Jingle and I would convene at home, and I would share our activities on Facebook. And Jinglecon was born.

With a focus on animal mysteries, Jinglecon had book bags, a book room, the New Dogs Breakfast, an interview of convention namesake Jingle by Scooby Doo, an animal fashion parade, Jingle Go Round (in which mystery/crime authors posted about their books, some offering giveaways), and panels. Many, many panels, including Fifty Shades of Bay(ing): Racy Animal Mysteries; Squirrels and Foxes and Cats, Oh My: All About Antagonists; Dogs Gone By: Historical Animal Mysteries; Dogbumps: Spooky Animal Mysteries for Kids; and my personal favorite, The Bitch is Back, about female dogs who return to their hometowns to take over the family business and become amateur sleuths on the side.



I hadn't planned on Jinglecon becoming so involved. I had originally thought it would involve one or two funny posts each day with some photos. But then I started hearing from friends, readers and writers who couldn't go to Bouchercon, who were checking into Facebook repeatedly each day, looking for new posts. They were thrilled that this year they didn't have to feel left out because now there was a convention for them. Jinglecon had become the equivalent of the Festivus for the Rest of Us.

Social media is wonderful because it can allow the world to feel smaller. It can allow readers and writers to connect through things like Facebook and Twitter and this very blog. But it can also result in people feeling left out. Before social media, non-attendees might have heard some talk about how Bouchercon was after it ended, but they didn't have access to hundreds of posts as the convention went on, talking about all the great panels, the parades, the fun at the bar. Now we have that access. And it's wonderful, but it can also make people who can't attend feel left out.

(c) Becky Muth.
So I was so pleased that my stay-at-home virtual convention enabled people who couldn't travel to New Orleans to feel that they, too, were participating in something fun. We talked about books we love. We gave books away. We had a lot of laughs. As a convention goes, I'd call it a success. Others clearly felt that way too because I had people ask me to open early registration for next year. So Jinglecon 2 will happen next fall. I'm planning to attend Bouchercon myself in 2017, but I also plan to run Jinglecon at the same time.  I loved enabling people who couldn't attend the in-person convention this year to feel that they were part of the fun, too. And with a year to plan, next year's virtual convention should be even better.

So look for #Jinglecon posts on Facebook next fall while Bouchercon is running in Toronto. Jinglecon is open to anyone who loves mysteries, no matter where they are. (Indeed, this year we had a bunch of people attending Bouchercon checking in on the posts.) But Jinglecon is especially aimed at those readers and writers who want to connect but aren't able to get to Bouchercon. Jinglecon--it's the Festivus for the Rest of Us.
(c) Becky Muth. Thanks, Becky.













19 September 2016

Unconventional Convention —
Susan Cooper, Unbarred


*hic* You may be wondering why my name is attached to this post instead of Susan’s. See… we went out drinking… Well, not drinking exactly but imbibing slightly. Okay, we were drowning in our cups, flippin’ inebriated. And at the bar Susan says “There’s Brad Pitt,” and I say no, it can’t be, we’re too blitzed to see straight. “It’s Brad Pitt, I tell you. He’s drinking mimosas and flirting with me,” except she pronounced it “mirmoshash.” It’s not, I say staring into my empty glass and then she says “He tastes like Brad Pitt.” I’m not sure what happened or if Suze has a 2-foot Tex Avery tongue, but I grabbed her and we ran before the cops arrived. We raced to SleuthSayers Corporate Headquarters to post her article when she says, “Oh, no. I slipped Brad Pitt the wrong key.” So without her office key, the Crider Building security guard, who was already irritated by Leigh’s stupid article a couple of weeks ago, wouldn’t let Susan in. While she happily napped snored in the lobby, I rattled up the elevator by myself and posted her freakin’ article. So there. *hic*

Velma

by Susan Rogers Cooper

In honor of Bouchercon week, I thought I would tell tales from previous conventions. The Statute of Limitations has expired, so any admissions made in this post cannot reflect adversely on those involved. That said, let’s talk about ClueFest.

Many of you may never have heard of this particular convention, mainly because it was very small, held in Dallas, Texas, and only lasted about four years. The mystery fans who started and ran this convention did so with gusto and grace. The tales to be told revolve more around the hotel of choice than the convention itself. It is only apt that I tell these tales now as I plan on traveling to New Orleans with my dear friend Joan Hess (a co-conspirator) and rooming with my other dear friend Jan Grape (at times an instigator).

My first inkling that the location of the convention was not at a Five Star hotel was when I took my shoes off in my room and my feet stuck to the floor. Never a good sign. Then we, my roomie Jan Grape and I, discovered that the hotel bar closed at ten p.m. For a mystery convention? Were they out of their minds? Did they not want to make the big bucks? Had they never heard the rumors about writers? This brought about the great wine opening fiasco. They – the hotel staff – wouldn’t allow us into the closed bar to find a corkscrew, nor would they send someone up to the room with one, due to the fact that there was only one staff member on duty. In the entire hotel. The fact that we also did not have any pillows in our room only intensified the situation. That was the first day. And it was only half a day.

The first full day of the convention the air conditioning in a room that was to be used as a panel/discussion room failed – this convention was held in July, in Dallas, where temps often reach and steady at 100 degrees or more. This caused them, the staff of the hotel, to relocate the panel/discussion to, you guessed it, the lobby. Yes, the lobby. Joan Hess and I, both smokers at the time (this was the ’90s, get over it) had moved to the lobby to smoke as the bar was, again, closed. They, the staff of the hotel, made us leave. Seeing as it was over 100 degrees outside, we, Joan and I, decided to sneak into the bar to smoke. I mean, come on, we could see into the bar and there were ashtrays everywhere! A clear invitation.

The bar was a section of the hotel lobby area bordered by a half wall. Joan, in pants, jumped over. I, in a dress, managed to keep my ladylike demeanor intact by carefully maneuvering my way over the wall. We were halfway to an ashtray when the alarm went off. Let’s just say I wasn’t as ladylike as I lept over the wall to safety. Walking carefully to the front of the hotel, one could clearly hear Joan Hess say, “Is it a fire? Must be. Maybe we should leave.” I could not respond. I was giggling too hard. And I’m not much of a giggler, but then the situation clearly called for nothing less.

It was that evening that we discovered that the hotel next door to ours (with, we assumed, clean floors and an open bar) was hosting a sci-fi convention. Joan, Jan and I looked at each other and, of course, Joan said, “Well, duh. Let’s go.” So we did. On the escalator to the lobby we saw a man dressed in a full “Cats” the musical costume. He was gorgeous.

Once in the lobby area we saw more women than we cared to see dressed in the skimpy Star Fleet women’s uniform, a man with a black wig and pointy ears, three or four red suits (we didn’t stand too close to them -- you know they’re always the first to die), and then the contingent of Star Wars characters: three Princess Lea’s, a couple of Han Solos, and one Chubaca. Which was all quite fascinating and instigated a discussion of why we mystery people didn’t dress up. Of course, for the guys it would be easy: a couple hundred Sherlock Holmeses, a few Hercule Peroits, a Sam Spade or two. But for us, the women, who did we have besides Miss Marple and a few dames in red dresses? We decided to let that idea stay on the back burner. Eventually we found ourselves in the basement level in a room occupied by fantasy gamers (always the basement, the poor guys), with nothing very exciting going on. So we headed back to our dingy, mostly barless hotel.

The one really good thing about those conventions are the stories that can be told. When everything goes right, there are no stories. It’s the mess-ups and derailments that made a con memorable. If I could remember the name of that hotel, believe me I’d post it here. Hell, I’d post it anywhere, although I’m pretty sure it died a natural death years ago.

Looking forward to new adventures in New Orleans, where I’m sure the bar will always be open.

P.S. Whatever Velma might have told you isn't true.

— Susan Rogers Cooper

02 September 2015

Alien Fires


by Robert Lopresti

Two weeks ago my family cruised across Washington state to Spokane to attend Sasquan, the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention.  It was quite an experience, not least because it was the first such con to be held in the middle of a federal declared natural disaster.  On the way out through what has never been more accurately described as the Dryside of the Evergreen State we were listening to NPR.  The announcer came on and, quite out of the usual calm public radio persona, announced "The towns of Winthrop and Twisp are being evacuated.  If you are in Winthrop or Twisp head south immediately." We were already one hundred miles south.  That was the day three brave firefighters died.

The night before this I realized that I was coming down with a cold so, hoping to spare my car-mates my germs, I picked up a box of paper masks like the one above.  Little did I know that I had scored the most popular fashion accessory in Spokane that weekend. All the members of my group were wearing them and people were asking where they been acquired because the city was sold out.

This is what the view from the Conference Center is supposed to look like:

And here is how it looked on Thursday afternoon just after I left a panel on climate change:

My first thought was, jeez, the panel was convincing enough without the visual aid.

But this is supposed to be a blog about crime fiction, so I want to concentrate on the difference between the mystery fan world and the science fiction fandom, which is larger and has been around longer.  You will notice that some of these differences relate to each other (especially to the first)..

* The median age at a Worldcon is much younger than at Bouchercon.
*  There is much less emphasis on books.  I would estimate that at last year's B-con seventy percent of the energy (panels, special events, etc.) went into fiction with ten percent going to true crime including forensics), the same amount to media (film and TV), and ten percent to other.  At Worldcon I would estimate forty percent was about fiction.  The rest was scattered among real science, media, gaming, art, costuming, etc.
* Speaking of costuming… At B-con you will see a few trenchcoats and fedoras, some deerstalker hats, and occasionally a woman dressed for tea in St. Mary Mead.  But at any given moment at Worldcon at least twenty percent of the crowd was in costumes ranging from full Boba Fett armor to fairy princess complete with wings to a simple set of wolf ears poking out of one's hair.
* Free food is much more plentiful at Worldcon.  In orbit around the main hospitality suite were rooms for gluten-free/vegan, nutfree, kosher, and simply overflow (That's where the hot dogs were turning on rollers.)
* They have tech problems just like us!  I walked out on one panel because there were no microphones and I couldn't hear a thing.
* The swag bags are much better at B-con.  There you expect to find free magazines and half a dozen books you can swap at the multiplying freebies tables.  Nothing like that at Worldcon.
* A few times a year (like B-con and Edgars Week) the mystery writers and readers turn into a community.  But science fiction fandom is a culture, all year round.  There were actually workshops on the history of fandom, to help newbies get on board, and separate discussions of what should be collected now so that fen (SF people like their deliberate alien-y misspellings) in the future will have a record of fandom in the dim distant past of 2015.

And speaking of culture, every family has its feuds and this year a big one broke out.  Next time I will talk about that, and some of the panels as well.