So, yeah, about Armadillocon. You know, the one that was held at the end of July. While it’s a little late for a con report, I’m going to post a brief one. I’m home waiting on a service technician, who will be by sometime between noon and 5:00. I thought this would be a good time to kill one of the items on my Should Have Already Done List. It’s better than killing someone, such as the person who called at 10:45 wanting to know if I was available because the rest of the service calls are out of town. (No, I thought I made that clear when we talked last week. I have office hours and appointments with students in a few minutes.)
Anyway, I wasn’t planning on going this year, mainly due to distance and money. Then I learned that Bill Crider, who is a regular, had been diagnosed with cancer. I thought I had missed the con but found out it was a week later than I’d thought, namely the upcoming weekend. I looked at the guest list. None of the headliners appealed, but there was a long line of folks I hadn’t seen in years. I used to hit Armadillocon just about every year, but since I moved to the other side of the state in 2010, I hadn’t gone. The summer of 2009 was the last time I was there.
It was a last minute decision, but I was able to make it work. Armadillocon was one of the first conventions I attended, and it was back at the hotel where it was held the first few years I went. Nostalgia won out.
Because I literally didn’t register until a few minutes before the preregistration deadline and make my room reservation, I didn’t get the basic room but one a little fancier, at the end of the hall with a balcony. I came in, noticed a few balloons tied to pieces of candy on the bed, and hit the restroom. When I came out I saw some items that had been out of my field of view when I got in the room. A bottle of bubbly on ice with two fluted glasses. A card in an envelope with a woman’s name on it. A cupcake alongside a smaller card containing the same same woman’s name. A bouquet of birthday balloons. Clearly the front desk had made a mistake.
So I called and they said they would send someone up to remove the items. I waited, half expecting the birthday girl to show up. (“Surprise! I’m your birthday present. Would you like to unwrap-” No, that would not be good.) The manager himself showed up, thanking me profusely. I didn’t think it was a big deal, but he offered me vouchers for free drinks for my “help”. Not wanting to appear churlish, I quickly accepted.
Armadillocon had related to fiction writing plus a few of the science panels. And wished I could have attended more. One of the most informative panels was one on using Scrivener as both a word processor and a self-publishing platform. I’ve downloaded the trial version and will be purchasing the full version when the trial runs out.
The rest of the time, I hung around with friends, none of whom I got to spend enough time with. The weekend flew by far too fast.
Some of the highlights included meeting Ari Marmell, visiting with HFQ editor Adrian Simmons and Skelos editor Mark Finn, chatting with Bill Ledbetter and Alexis Glynn Latner among others, and having lunch and breakfast with Lou and Patricia Antonelli. (I originally met Lou through Patricia, who was one of my students; this was after Lou and I had attended a convention the previous summer and hadn’t met.) The rest of the time I hung out with Joe Lansdale, James Reasoner, Scott Cupp, David Hardy, Willie and/or Chuck Siros and whoever else was around.
Among the nonwriter panels I attended were one on Writing Partners Tell Stories, Action Adventure Writing: How We Did It, a panel on apes in fantastic literature, and a panel in memory of Tom Reamy. I’m hoping to reread his novel Blind Voices this fall since I didn’t manage to work it in last year. This panel could easily have gone on for another hour as all of the panelists had known Reamy for years at the time of his death.
The weekend ended with an Armadillocon tradition, a reading by Howard Waldrop. Then the 6 hour drive home into the sun. I doubt I’ll attend Armadillocon next year since World Fantasy is in San Antonio.
Things were a little different from the last time I was there, and I don’t just mean the convention was at a different hotel. The audience was greyer than seven years ago. No surprise. We all get older, and a few have unfortunately passed on.
But there weren’t a lot of young people there. That was a topic of conversation late Saturday night. How do we as an extended community reach out and grow. There needs to be some continuity, not a die-off. I don’t have the answers or pretend to. I just know that the last few conventions I’ve been to haven’t look too healthy long term. Both here and the convention I went to last year, the only room parties were behind closed doors and were invitation-only. There’s nothing wrong with that, but only a few years ago there would usually be at least one Worldcon bid party plus parties for all of the regional cons. That was often where I bought my membership to take advantage of the con discount. There was nothing like that this year.
I had a great time, and I really didn’t want the weekend to come to a close. Living where I do, I don’t see as many of these folks as I used to. I miss the camaraderie and the excitement that online communities have a hard time replicating. I can’t speak for other areas, but I hope we aren’t going to lose it here in this part of the country.