FC 2001: A personal view
I had a very good time at the convention. This is my second Further Confusion, and I enjoyed it this year even more than last. The staff of the convention should feel very proud for having put on quite a wonderful event.
Michael and I flew down a couple of days early so we would have time to rest up, get our sleep schedules in synch, and run down to Monterey Bay Aquarium before the con got under way in earnest. As happened last year, there were a lot of con-goers checking into the hotel Wednesday evening.
Our first shock was discovering that the Denny's a few blocks from the con hotel had gone out of business (I have since been informed that it is merely undergoing renovations). That left only the 7-11 and the Broiler Express as places within walking distance to eat.
Our friends, Keith and Sky, flew in Thursday morning. We met them at the airport in our spiffy rental car then whisked down to Monterey Bay. We all had a great time at the aquarium. The high point was standing out on the observation deck in the rain (we're all from Seattle, so it was like standing outside in the sun to the rest of you) and watching one wild sea otter who had come up into the tide pool and was having a ball playing around the lights. I love the sea otters who live in the aquarium, but it was really cool to see a wild one that close.
We got back to the hotel fairly late on Thursday evening, as the rain had turned into a monsoon during the drive back. I barely got to Dealer's Ops in time to pick up mine and Michael's badges. The first con nitpick happens here: there wasn't a sign identifying the Information Table. The person at the GoFur Table didn't know where the Information Table was (right behind her, unstaffed at the time, it turned out). We couldn't find anyone who could tell us when Sky could hang his art in the artshow. We finally gave up.
Michael and Sky went out to see the other con goers. Keith retired to the room to read a Terry Pratchet book, and I went with him to get some writing done. My muse was fairly active and I got a lot of writing in over the weekend.
After snagging a danish and mocha, registering the room party, and chatting up a few acquaintances, we went in to set up our dealer's table. We got the table next to the con store. This led to the unfortunate occurrence that about fifty times each day someone walked up to our table and demanded something we didn't understand, or starting complaining about something we didn't have control over. This is understandable, in that there wasn't a sign over the Con Store Table identifying it as such. While we did have a sign, I guess that the joke I've often heard repeated that furry fans can't read might account for the confusion. (grin, duck, run, run, run)
The dealer's den was very busy with foot traffic, though sales were a little slower this year for us than they had been the previous year. I heard similar complaints from many of the other dealers, so I think folks just weren't buying as much.
I still think staffing a dealer's table is one of the best ways to see a furry con. Lots of people I don't get to see often walked by, and most stopped to talk.
I was on two panels on Friday. I felt rather superfluous on the "What Editor's Want" panel, but had a wonderful time with Watts Martin on the "Created Furries" panel. I am still trying to decide what sort of revenge to enact on Rod O'Riley for calling me "sir," though. ;-)
After the dealer's den close we ran over to the Broiler for dinner. Then I came back and spent most of the night writing. Our group split up.
The Big Day
Saturday is usually the busiest sales days at cons for us. The dealer's den seemed a bit noisier and busier, but our sales were about the same as Friday. A lot more people stopped by to talk, so that was fun.
I was on another great panel with Karen Daniels and Mel. White, in fact, I would have loved sitting around with the folks who were in that audience and continued talking about making furry characters more furry in writing for several more hours; it was a great group.
Saturday night was our room party. Since we don't serve alcohol and we publish a PG-rated zine, we aren't usually one of the raucous parties. We had a lot of people show up, though not all at once, and managed to play one game of "Before I Kill You, Mr. Bond" and two of "Give Me the Brain" before adjourning the party down to the bar at 11:30.
The Final Wrap-up
Sunday was definitely slower than the previous days. I had time to walk around to the other dealer tables (if not much money to spend, oh well). I won't go into the fiasco that happened with sign-up for next year. I know that when demand exceeds supply there isn't a way to solve to problem to everyone's satisfaction. I know the hearts of all involved were in the right place. The silver lining is that this problem is a sign of the convention's success; it's an embarassment of riches, which is certainly preferable to the alternative.
Our final tally was slightly lower sales than last year, but still very much worth the trip. Our whole group agreed it was a great time and we did our best to be close to the front of the line to reserve a table for next year, which says a lot for how great a convention FC 2001 was.
After getting packed up, we hung out in the dead dog party. Originally we were all going to stay to see if Michael, who had volunteered a rather large number of hours, would get a prize, but the music they were playing just finally got to me. I guess I really am an old fart, but I don't understand why people dance to something that sounds like the chipmunks singing what were good songs when the original groups recorded them, over a synthesized beat that sounds like it came from a bad porn movie.
The Trip Home
Keith and Sky flew back to Seattle on an early morning flight. Michael and I got to goof off until later in the morning. Surprise, surprise, about a half dozen furs we know were flying home on the same jet. In fact, there were six of us who are staff members for next ConiFur on the plane. I mentioned to Tibo that we should try to avoid this in the future. :)
I was very happy to arrive home. We could both feel the difference in humidy moments after stepping off the jet.
Reading over what I've written, it sounds more negative than I felt. The problems I mentioned were minor, if annoying. And so much else about the con was wonderful, more than making up for the problems.
All of the staff members I had to go to for help or information were nice, helpful, and patient. I witnessed more than one incident where someone came with an angry complaint, and even in the face of that the staff remained professional. Heck, they were more than professional, they were friendly.
The panels I was on were fun panels with lively discussion and a good atmosphere. I heard a lot of positive stuff about the panels I didn't make it to.
The art show had a lot of interesting stuff in it. I got out bid on all but one peice, but that's okay.
I had a really good time, and was impressed by how much went so very well. Congratulations all around.
Room for Improvement
I know the restaurant being renovated is not in the convention's control, but the lack of viable eating alternatives is a serious deficiency of the convention location, IMHO. Even if the Denny's is open next year, that's still not very many choices for a convention of over 1000 people. Some hotel restaurants are acceptable to eat at, but this hotel's is not ($4 for a cup of coffee, $15 for a small salad and they couldn't be bothered to come back to refill my coffee). Surely there must be a hotel with equal or better facilities that also has a variety a food purveyors nearby?
The signage problem is definitely under the convention's control and there really isn't an excuse for it. The convention store was the example that caused me the most headaches, but it wasn't the only one. Having so many people come to our table and launch into conversations about the con operations was a little disturbing. The fact that at least half of the people who mistook our table for the con store were themselves staff members was more disturbing. Most disturbing was the one member of the convention staff who never seemed to understand, even after we explained it a dozen times, that we weren't the con store.
Art Show rules weren't posted where you could find them. Art Show hours were also hard to find. Art pick-up times and art hanging times were not posted at all, as far as I and a lot of people I asked could tell. The Information Table didn't have a sign over it identifying it as such. The only sign on the GoFur table was hung from the table, which meant you couldn't see it if any one was standing at the table. Neither location was on the map in the schedule. The fact that two of the cash registers at art pickup were cash & check only wasn't marked. Things could have gone a lot faster if we were allowed to form two lines.
When there were signs, they were done with ordinary magic marker on poster board. Not only does that look cheap and disorganized, it is hard to read. It doesn't matter that the letters are two-feet high if the lines are only a couple of millimeters thick.
But these are minor problems, and if this was the only thing that went wrong, then this convention may be on the verge of achieving perfection. Keep up the good work, everyone!
Editor, Tales of the Tai-Pan Universe
Convention Book Coordinator, ConiFur Northwest