Events Here, Events There

by wjw on May 11, 2013

I will be at the New Mexico Book Fiesta this Saturday, from 12:30-1:30, signing at the Page One booth.  Though there are a number of SF authors attending, all but one are signing only.  They seem not to quite know what to do with SF authors.

Which seems to be a theme this week,  since they didn’t know what to do with me at Jacksonville’s Sci-Fi Weekend, either.

They flew me in, and put me up at a very nice hotel, but then . . . not much.  I was scheduled for only one hour of programming the whole weekend, which suggested they had no idea what to do with a literary guest except to charge ten bucks for whatever it was he was going to do.  (They didn’t know, or inquire, what that would be.)

Normally at an SF convention, you register and are given a program book, which will include program items and a map (which the science museum in fact did).  Normally the program book will also feature essays about the convention’s various guests, which might, for example, include reasons to go see that guest.

No, in this case nuthin’.  The vast majority of attendees remained ignorant of me, or any reason to see me.  Or most of the other guests, too, I imagine.

In the end,  maybe seven or eight people turned up to see my interview.  I doubt any of them paid the ten bucks the convention charged to see me.  (I hope they didn’t, anyway.)  The event went well despite the size of the crowd.

What else to do with a literary guest, you may ask?  (I mean, I was there for the whole weekend.  Why not make use of me?)

Well, there could be panel discussions.  The event had a couple panels, both on cosplay.  Nothing wrong with that, but the event had (in addition to one rather bored author) some serious scientists, an engineer with more than a passing resemblance to James Doohan, and a special effects whiz.  Why not put some of all of these on a panel and have a talk about science and fiction and science fiction?  Talk about media SF, or literary SF, or whatever turns them on?

There could be a reading!  I not only write books, I read them, too!  I would have read!  For free!   (I did do a reading, as it happens, but at a separate event.)

My signing was as sad as everything else.  For one thing, it wasn’t on the schedule.  (I signed after my single event, figuring I already had about as big an audience as I ever would.)  The signing table was in a back room where no one went.  And the procedure for getting a book and having it signed was ridiculous.

At one point I was told that a bookstore would be on hand to sell my work, and was asked to send a list.  Then I was told the list was too long for the bookstore’s attention span or something, so could I cut it to three books.  Then I was told that Higher Authority had canned the bookstore, and could I bring books with me?  (Well, no, I’m not going to drag a sackful of books across the continent.  You obviously have me confused with one of those pushy self-published guys.  [Oh wait!  I am a pushy self-published guy!  Never mind . . . ])  But anyway, astronomy superstar Dr. Mike Reynolds called my publisher and got them to send books, and I did in fact sell a few in the particularly convoluted way demanded by Higher Authority.

You couldn’t just buy a book, oh no.  You had to go to a cashier and give hem the money for the book, and then get a ticket which you brought to me telling them that they were entitled to a book.  Which of course meant that you had to know where I and the books were, which was hard, because it wasn’t on the program or anything.

And what else?  No dealer’s room, though some of the exhibitors had some things for sale.  No art show.  And even though there were cosplay panels and plenty of people in costume, there was no costume contest— an obvious idea, really.

Apparently quite a number of sensible suggestions, by people who have actually attended science fiction conventions, were made to Higher Authority, but they were all turned down.  (Higher Authority did not show up in person for the event, either.)

On the positive side, everyone I dealt with personally was helpful and welcoming.  Folks kindly bought me some very nice meals.  The attendees seemed to be having a pleasant enough time

Normally I try to stay reasonably positive on this blog, except on those terribly rare occasions where my ire escapes me.  But on the other hand I found the convention a mere shadow of he terrific event that it could have been, and found that the sad result was pretty much the work of Higher Authority.

And really, what’s the worst thing that can happen if I make this public complaint?  Higher Authority doesn’t invite me to next year’s fiasco?

I can live with that.

On a completely contrary side, I’d like to mention the Astrogators’ Reunion.  the Astrogators were a sort of teenage astronomy club that romped through the Science Museum for several decades back in the day, and though I was not one of their number I was invited to join their fandango, and was even invited to give a reading.  Which I did, though I felt a bit like the teacher who has to call the kids to order during recess, and make them sit quietly and listen.   But they did in fact listen, and they bought copies of “The Boolean Gate,” and in general made me feel as if the weekend hadn’t been wasted.

So thanks to the two Astrogators, Dr. Reynolds and to friend of the blog Patricia Rogers, who provided the weekend’s high point, and a chance to meet some interesting people.

And Patricia also took me out to meet some real gators, of which more anon.

Matt May 11, 2013 at 4:01 pm

What to do with Science Fiction authors? I’m in favor of locking them all in a room and sliding pizza under the door.

wjw May 12, 2013 at 4:54 am

One of the things that’s wrong with SF writers is that other people think we can live on pizza alone.

Come up with some choice wines and a five-star chef and we’ll talk.

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