...nothing here is promised, not one day... Lin-Manuel Miranda

Honey I'm Home - Bcon pt 3
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Okay, now let's talk about how this Bouchercon wasn't the convention it should have been and that I could have hoped for. I know, sour grapes. NO, it's not dammit. Yes I had a blast, but I would have had a blast with the people I hung out with in a little league field. At a high school DANCE (I'm trying to come up with places where there's enough room for a gathering of friends - and not too loud so well you get my drift. (I thought about saying "at a Seattle Storm game" since those are usually raucous but they LOST in the first round of the layoffs WAAAAAAAAA, and I imagine that the arena was really quiet at the end there. Waaaaaaaa). Sniff.

The hotel was not very good. Minor room hassles - running out of toilet paper, which is ridiculous - the layout of the room meant that it was a damn good thing Cornelia was there most of the time or I might have never exited the damn room, another roll-in shower which flooded the bathroom floor because the floor was not properly designed. The hotel might have worked had there been some form of hospitality suite for Bouchercon attendees, some main place where you could congregate and talk and see folks. But the hotel lobby itself was always noisy - between the registration and concierge desks (more on the latter later) and the "lobby bar" thing - the HUGE space that was unavailable the first night and open from then on was SO enormous that you'd practically have to bounce like a pinball from table to table to see if you recognized anyone (and then end up being rude and saying "oh, YOU're not who I was looking for, sorry to interrupt your conversation" and slink away. Blush.)

The signings were on one level, dealer's room on another and program on a third, feh. The bars and the steak/expensive restaurant not only allowed smoking but apparently, Illinois and/or Chicago law allows cigar smoking, which chased more than one friend, I heard, out of the damn place. I heard that even cigar-smoking fans were put off. And the huge distances between here and there meant missing people constantly. I was never so glad that I had the damn scooter as when I'd get up I the morning, head to find food, then to the dealer's room THEN up to the room….there were folks there with walkers and canes and man I was exhausted looking at them. Back before I had the scooter, RIGHT before I got it, was the Bcon in Monterey and I remember the schlep pretty well. I could not have done it now; I can't walk but a few feet and would have just ended up camping out at the start of the day and never moving. Adrian and Jennifer would have gotten sick to DEATH of me hogging the space at the LCC 2006 table, where I did hang out.

No pocket program; I heard this complaint so often, as I have heard it at too many conventions since 1994. One of the "innovations" we offered at the 25th Bouchercon was a portable program. I swear to you it's still talked about as a fantastic idea. And it was. I say that with no attempt to pat myself on the back as I had nothing to do with it except to agree with the entire committee that of course we would do one. It's something that s.f. conventions have done for ages because the big honkin' program is a nuisance to carry. You NEED a small portable version of the program grid, who's where and when they are there, as well as signing schedules. Bios go in the main program, not as addenda. Having two books was a true hassle. People who are uncomfortable when they hear that some idea comes from "sci-fi fans" should get over it. Bouchercon was started BY science fiction fans, and some of the best (and thank you Marv Lachman, yes, Seattle WAS done well in major part thanks to the talents and abilities of Thom Walls, whom few of you know but is a talented guy, a quiet man who knows how to find the right people and has been to enough conventions that he knows how to do them right.)

Restaurant guides. Concierges are not always the right resources, nor the only resources. In this instance, the "concierge desk" always had a line. There were two people, neither of whom, I believe had true "concierge" training, which might not matter but lemme tell you. When you are trying to find food the first night of a con, and find the elevator will not go down to the café, and you go to the concierge to ask why not, he should not have to a) call or b) go downstairs to find out the hours. The damn thing was closed for dinner. My options seemed to be room service or the spendy restaurant. Thank you to the awfully nice person who saved me by mentioning the bar that had food and invited me along. And tag along i did, instead of waiting while concierge dude was downstairs. Screw that.

And here, by the way, is yet another example of why I wish I had a recording device in my watch - a la Dick Tracy, maybe - because I was SO sure I'd remember her name and here it is Wednesday afternoon and it's gone from the memory bank. Damn. But thank you if you see this. That was very nice and I needed to eat and I got to catch up with Michael Dymmoch and meet some new people.

Restaurant guides should be offered in big cities where there are lots of options. Eating in the hotel gets dull, and one joy of convention travel is the chance to get to know a city. And seriously, when you're in Chicago over Labor Day weekend in DOWNTOWN, and don't know what's open and what cool little place might be worth finding, a guide by locals who know the real good stuff, not just the stuff from the tourist books, is a necessity. I feel that way about Seattle; we have damn good restaurants all over downtown, but some are chains, and some are locally run (some of the chains are damn good, but you need to know that, I think) and some are better if you're a vegetarian and some are open later and some aren't. But who knows if locals were involved; once again, we aren't given committee names or assignments.

Along with that, somewhere in that guide or the pocket guide, offer the stuff that we all got word-of-mouth, like "there's a Walgreen's two blocks away". I heard that early on and it was valuable because I needed a drugstore during my 4 1/2 days in Chicago. Ditto the Starbucks and the Dunkin Donuts. It's a huge area of Chicago we were in and you couldn't see where things were because of tall building that blocked sight lines at times so you'd never KNOW you were only a few blocks from something useful. (and Starbucks' lattes still were better than hotel coffee).

The program book - This did not register until last night but I don't know what event I was at IF I rely on the program book to tell me. While the "addendum" had "Bouchercon 36" on it, the program book just has this odd blob, which was the design/logo (meaning what, Lake Michigan? Reminded me of a blob that grew and grew from an old Bill Rotsler story) and the catchphrase with Chicago 2005 and the dates. The word "Bouchercon" did not appear inside the blob.

I admit to being very much uninterested in the slogan thing (ok, even though I think LCC 2007's "Reading in the Rain" is wonderful) so "Wicked Times in the Windy City" is pretty useless to me (what DOES it mean here, wicked?) but I would wonder at the massive printing problem/error which means that the convention's program book does not identify the convention. Of course there's also the question of why the logo on the BACK cover shows the Philadelphia logo while referring to this year's dates But since there is no indication who did the program book, since there's seldom any indication of who is on one of Deen Kogan's committees (the website never identifies those with any specific job, the emails ALL go to one person, and that is Deen Kogan, and there is no committee list in the program book, but a few "acknowledgements") - thus there's no way of knowing what happened.

I'd also have liked to see acknowledgements that the "Peanuts" cartoons were reproduced with permission. But then, I don't think the cartoons - "Peanuts" or otherwise, were necessary to a good program book. GOOD cartoons, yes but well, an O'Leary's cow reference? Nor the large photos of the writers of certain articles, which were confusing. I guess I think the slug that reads "by Andi Shechter" is enough, especially if I'm writing an appreciation of anther person (and I'm pretty photophobic). I don't see the point of BIG PHOTOS in this case. And I heard gripes that instead, there were no photos with the author bios.

Oh yeah, and it's a dealer's room not a book room. I mean in most instances books are the only things sold but in this instance, there were more things than books; there was jewelry, there were magazine publishers, there were convention tables and organization tables, there was clothing; so why not be clearer? Heck, in s.f. it's called the Huckster Room as often as not, but we don't dare do that in mystery as I suspect some folks wouldn't find the term funny. What's wrong with a little accuracy, for the sake of the attendees, especially newcomers?

Not sure either why "moderators" of panels were referred to this time around as "chairs"; it's JUST a panel, sheesh. But then I did NOT get to see a single program item, except the one I was invited to join shortly before Bcon and that was Thursday and done. I LOVE early programs. I really really Oh really I did mean to get to some, at least to poke into some panels. I can't say a lot of them really grabbed me this year though I'm not sure why, but as I'm doing program for LCC 2007, things like head counts (12 people or 50 in the audience?) help inform me if it's a topic worth looking at. I know that often it's the panelists, but I take that into account too. And sometimes hearing laughter or seeing a lively discussion informs me too that a moderator is worth paying attention to. But finally, Saturday morning I had to face the realization that I was NOT, simply NOT going to make it to program this year. It was a combination of, at times, having plans that were way more important - lunch an breakfast meetings that mattered - or not getting up/moving in time, or realizing I had to eat or mostly, being involved in a conversation. And it's that simple. I really would rather sit and talk with someone at a convention that attend a panel. It's NOT that I don't plan to go to program at my next convention and it's not that I don't plan to try to make LCC 2007 the best program ever, but I'm at the point in mystery that I was years ago in s.f. - that I go to conventions more to see people than to attend the formal events. At s.f. conventions, I'm most often in the fan/fanzine lounge OR working in Operations. Getting to program, unless I'm ON it, is less valuable to me. Dealer's room, art show, yep but first things first and that's friendship. That's conversation. That's learning stuff and catching up with people and HAVING that talk that we promised ourselves next time.

And I have Rob Lopresti to thank for this line with which I'll close out for this installment.

"Thank you. You've been a great laugh track." -Kermit the Frog

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