Archon 41

Archon is the St. Louis area's old-school science fiction convention, generally held in the early fall. This year's convention was held over the weekend of September 29 to October 1, 2017 at the Gateway Convention Center and the Doubletree Hotel.

Because I wanted to visit my dad, we drove over to his place on Wednesday, I'd had a little trouble off and on with my laptop not wanting to start and needing two or three presses of the power button to boot up. This time I had to reset the SMC (a low-level controller that manages the battery and startup systems) before I could get it to start up. I texted my brother the computer engineer, who agreed the SMC could cause weirdness, because his current machine had given him some trouble that required an SMC reset.

On Thursday we drove the rest of the way down to Collinsville. We made pretty good time, so much that we decided to wait for a while at the last rest area rather than arrive at our hotel before our room was ready to check in. It got a little warm, and I was glad when we could get on the road again.

Once we got checked in and all our stuff into the room, I got my computer set up and tried to start it up. This time I had to reset the SMC twice before I could get it to start. After a few texts back and forth with my brother, we decided it would be best to avoid shutting down the laptop as much as possible, and to let it sleep on battery while we were in the dealers' room.

After supper we headed over to the convention center to get our badges. While I was waiting for Registration to get things together, I started working on a new scene on a novella that had become stuck. I was hoping that moving to a later scene might get the creative juices flowing again and enable me to get enough written that I'd be able to see how to join the two pieces together.

When we went back to our room, I was going to do some more writing. However, our friends had arrived, and we ended up spending the rest of the evening talking about our lives since we'd last seen each other.

On Friday we had to get up and get moving quickly, since we needed to be over at the convention center and ready the minute the doors opened to load in. As it turned out, this year they'd actually opened the doors early and we were able to snag one of the convention center's big flatbed carts. With the help of our friends, we were able to get everything loaded in and set up with a little time to spare. We even had the signs up, and I got to do a quick trip around the floor to see who else was there.

Then the doors opened and the crowd started trickling in. We knew that we were at a much smaller convention that the big comic cons and anime cons, and we were going to have to adjust our expectations downward. However, even when we were getting spurts of heavy traffic, it seemed like a lot of people were using this visit to scope out the territory and plan their buying strategy. A few people did buy some things they simply couldn't live without, but sales were pretty slow.

We did grab a little food at the artists' reception by taking turns running over there and bringing the plate of food back to the dealers' room to eat while we did business. However, this year they'd gone to a cash bar, even for the soft drinks and bottled waters, so we felt little inclination to make a second trip after the dealers' room closed. We just headed back to the hotel to have supper and try to unclog the drain in the bathroom sink. I did a little more work on my novella and made some posts online.

On Saturday we had the hotel's complimentary breakfast, then headed back over to the convention center to get our tables open for business. I had to re-sort some boxes of books that had been put out in the wrong order in the haste of setup, but I still had plenty of time to look around before the doors opened and I had to hurry back to our tables.

Sales did pick up, so I was feeling a lot better than I had when I counted our money Friday evening. We sold a fair number of the smaller dragon figurines, especially the cute little baby dragons. However, none of the really big figurines were going, and our book sales remained stubbornly small.

Once the dealers' room closed for the night, we headed back to the hotel to have supper. I did some more work on the novella, although I began to feel steadily more and more dissatisfied with the scene. I figured that maybe it was time to jump to yet another scene.

On Sunday we had to get our personal belongings packed back up and out to the van so we could get checked out before opening our tables for business. However, our friends were having a lot more trouble getting moving because they had been up very late dealing with a problem. Apparently someone they knew had caused problems, and con security wanted help in tracking this person down. I later heard several stories about what exactly happened, but they all agreed that the problem person had been permanently banned from Archon and that the civil authorities also became involved, taking the person out in handcuffs.

Because our friends were running way behind, I ended up walking over to the convention center while my husband settled up with the hotel and drove the van over. As a result, I spent a good chunk of the time before the dealers' room opened working on the booth by myself, getting the secondary books consolidated so that we could see just how much we had sold. We actually ended up emptying an entire box and beginning on another.

My husband got in a little before the dealers' room actually opened, so we had time to get our table covers folded and things arranged in our backspace. Then people came in, and this time they were finally spending in earnest. We had several people make substantial book purchases, and for the most part I just had time to grab second copies and stuff in a little overflow to close up the gaps. There was no way I could further consolidate the back stock to see if we'd emptied a second box.

The worst part was the last couple of hours, when I was supposed to be packing the unsold figurines and getting them ready to load out, but we also had people buying piles of books. It was good to sell so many books, especially now that we no longer sell online and those huge stacks of books are just sitting around in our storage unit. Because of all the last-minute business, I wasn't able to get all the figurines packed and start carrying merchandise out until almost an hour after we actually closed.

As a result, we were one of the last dealers to get out of there, and we would've been even later if we hadn't had excellent help getting everything carried out. Somehow I actually managed to pack things in even tighter, to the point that I kept asking one of our friends if he'd gotten everything. I was sure that we must've missed a box somewhere, to have such a large empty area in the rear cargo hold.

Finally we bade our friends good-bye and safe journey home, then made our last checks of the area before hitting the road north to return to my dad's place. The drive was pretty good, and we didn't have to make too many stops on the way, so we got there in good time and I was able to get some laundry done before bedtime. I also had a little time to visit with Dad and see how things had been going while we were in Collinsville.

On Monday I got one final load of laundry through, and I took out most of our stuff before having lunch. Then we said good-bye to Dad and hit the road for home. We made pretty good time and were able to get our cash deposit made in good time, which was a relief given how tight our money was running. However, it was less pleasant after we got home and I ran the numbers to find out just how much we'd have to take out of savings. If only sales had been better at Metacon the previous month, we probably could've gotten by. But they weren't, so we had to make do as best we can to ensure the bills would get paid until the next shot of money came in.

Copyright 2017 by Leigh Kimmel

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Last updated October 10, 2017.