Windycon XXX was held over the weekend of November 7-9, 2003 at the Hyatt Woodfield in Schaumberg, Illinois, one of the western suburbs of Chicago. This year is the last time the con will be held at this hotel, and next year it will be moving to a new hotel in Rosemont.
We arrived early on Friday, having stayed with family in the south suburbs the previous night. We were able to get checked into our sleeping room and got our personal possessions up to it. However, the art show wasn't ready to take art yet, so we went to see about getting our stuff into the dealers' room.
Fortunately we were able to get a couple of volunteers to help, which sped up the process of loading in. However, setting up was a major nightmare. We got two of the worst tables in the entire dealers' room, stuck in the back corner with almost no backspace to speak of and awful lighting. We had to jam everything back in there, and there was realy no room to store anything, so I had to haul all the empty boxes back out to the van. We were still setting up when they opened the dealers' room to the general membership, and somebody was making snotty remarks over the PA systeem about people who still had "major construction projects" going, and how we needed to clear the aisles.
Once we got the merchandise set up, I headed up to the art show and got my art set up. I also got my badge and my programming information from the Green Room. Then I headed back down to the dealers' room to help cover our tables. However, business was so slow it was almost non-existant, so I got my novel out and set to work on the final rewrite I've been struggling on for the last month, between commissioned non-fiction projects for Salem Press.
Since the dealers' room was open late, we ordered in a pizza and ate it behind our table. When the dealers' room closed, we went up to the Green Room to get some munchies before making the rounds of the parties. At one we had a very interesting scholarly discussion of the historical origins of the doctrine of heaven and hell in Jewish theology and the political circumstances surrounding the origins of Christianity.
After making the rounds of the parties, we turned in for the night. We were both getting really tired and knew we had a long day ahead of us.
We got up early on Saturday and headed down to the dealers' room to get our tables ready for business. Then we ran back up to the Green Room for breakfast before heading back down to do business.
At 10AM I had my first panel, Politics in SF Research with Kathryn Cramer, Mark Tiedemann and Freida Murray. We had some very interesting discussion based upon varying interpretations of the panel title. I did a lot of talking about my own specialty, which is historical research, and noted how many science fiction works suffer from shallow research. Some have obviously been written by people who never read a work of non-fiction on the subject, let alone primary sources by people actually involved in politics. Their worlds are pale and blurred, like copies of copies.
We also talked about how the Internet is both a boon and a bane to research. Although it makes it much easier to obtain information from anywhere in the world, it also is easier for people to put up absurd theories and make things look as slick and professional as the site of a respected scholar or academic institution. It is essential to apply critical thinking skills to the material one finds on the internt, in order to decide whether it is useful or if it should be ignored.
After that panel was over, I headed back to the dealers' room to watch our tables. Sales were still miserably slow, and we were beginning to despair of even making our expenses. We did have our lunch, eating leftover pizza from Friday night.
At 2PM it was time for my second panel, Warfare in Space, with R. Garfinkle, J. Helfers, C. Petit and J. Stockman. Nick Polatta never did show up. We talked about how we are already using assets in space, such as communications satellites and the GPS network, in warfare, and how their improvements in the decade between Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom changed the nature of the war. We then turned to trying to see what the future of warfare in space would look like. We made the point that as soon as we put human beings on military installations in space, we create supply lines that are vulnerable to attack. Also, the very nature of space physics makes many of the assumptions of warfare in a gravity well invalid. For instance, it may be easier to simply destroy a captured station than to try to recapture it, unless there are political reasons that the national command authority cannot simply write off the people aboard it as dead. This of course assumes a democratic society in which the leadership is accountable to the electorate -- Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin wouldn't hesitate for a moment to destroy even a station full of Soviet civilians if it were captured by enemies, nor would any of his present-day counterparts in tyrannies like China and North Korea.
After that panel, I had my autographing session. Although it was located in a busy corridor, and I had come armed with a pile of copies of my e-publications that I had printed up, so that people wouldn't have the excuse of not having anything I had published, I got almost no activity. I spent most of my time talking with old friend Siobhan Murphy, who was running for a local judgeship and had her campaign table right beside the autograping table. I also talked with Steven Leigh, who was also autographing at the same time, and had the same lack of activity.
Afterward, I talked with the National Space Society people, who had a table directly across from us, about the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle mess. I ended up giving them signed copies of my stories, so that I wouldn't have to carry them back with me.
Then I went back to the dealers room to see that we had almost no sales at all. By that time we were so disconsolate with the major financial loss that we were figuring that we wouldn't even try to sell at Windycon the next year. This was bad because Windycon has usually been one of our very best sales events. We figured that we'd just stay at my folks' house and commute, and I'd just try to get on some good panels to keep my name in people's minds.
After the dealers' room closed, we headed back up to our sleeping room to drop off some stuff. Then we headed over to Joe's Crab Shack next door for supper. There was an hour wait, so I got out my Palm Pilot and set to writing my con report. I even had time to do some work on my novel before we got seated and served.
When we got back, we went around to the various parties. Because it was late and we needed to get to bed reasonably early, we had to limit our partying rather severely. However, we did want to make a point of checking out the Chicago in 2008 Worldcon bid party, to see what their plans were. Unfortunately, I can't exactly say that I was overly impressed. Apparently they're planning to go back to the same downtown hotels that were such a problem in 2000, and when we expressed our concerns about secure parking for large vans, they copped this snotty attitude about how "that's a personal problem" and that there were plenty more dealers who wanted to get in if we didn't. Disgusted at their attitude, we headed off to bed.
Sunday morning started bright and early as we got up and got our personal belongings out of our sleeping room. Then we headed down to the Green Room to get some breakfast before opening our tables for business. While we were there, we got to talking about different ideas of what is and isn't appropriate mealtime conversation among medical personnel and laypeople.
We went to the art show to see if I could get my art checked out, but they weren't ready. So we headed down to the dealers' room and got our tables reopened for business, but sales continued to be lousy. I headed off to my reading, which was being held in the con suite. Supposedly this was going to ensure us an audience, but in fact I felt rather embarassed about performing before a captive audience who might or might not even be interested in listening to me. After a brief hesitation, I started in reading my latest story, "The Wolf and the Well-Tempered Clavier," which appeared in the September 2003 issue of the online zine Far Sector, formerly Deep Outside.
After my reading I went back to the art show to see about getting my art. By this time there was quite a line. Due to a miscommunication, I thought that there was a single line for both buyers and artists, and ended up standing in the really long line for buyers for a while before someone figured it out and got me in the shorter line for artist check-out. Because they were running so slow, it still took me a long time to get my art, but I was able to get my check for the one piece of art that did indeed sell. That money was a welcome addition to a thoroughally bad convention.
When I got back to the dealers' room, I got the cart and started bringing in boxes so we could pack. Because of the extremely cramped quarters, it took us longer than usual to pack, and we were still packing when the dealers' room closed. Fortunately, we were able to get a gopher, and thus got our merchandise out in a reasonable length of time, making up for the time we lost earlier. Thus we were able to make one last trip to the con suite and get munchies for the trip.
Copyright 2012 by Leigh Kimmel
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Last updated October 21, 2012.