Monthly Archives: October 2012

Convention Survival Guide, Post #3 – Where to Stay at the Con or Don’t Mind Me, I’ll Sleep in the TARDIS:

I had a little difficulty deciding whether to address this subject or budgeting next. The real problem is that you need to know what your budget is before you can decide where to stay, and you need to know where you’re going to stay in order to figure out your budget.

For number of years I would go to conventions without a place to stay and would just stay up all weekend. Don’t do it. It ages you quickly and, honestly, between somewhere around 2 to 4 in the morning till 10 AM nothing really happens at a con. You may be young and disagree with this, but when you get older you will realize how right I was.

The best housing arrangement if you can afford it is to stay in the convention hotel and let them know you’re with the convention and want the convention rate when you make your reservation. This helps both the convention and you as you don’t have far to go in the middle of the night when you realize that it is time to crash or need a place to take your date.

In my opinion the second best arrangement is to be going to a convention less than 5 miles from your home. For economic reasons, being able to go home to sleep or having a friend you can stay with near where the convention is held is the best deal. For enjoyment and safety, the best place to be is in the convention hotel. Often times we have to compromise. Throwing in with several people to get a hotel room is common in fandom. Local ordinances and hotel rules aside, there is a limit to how many people you can get in one room. I recommend fewer than 10.

Three or four is usually the maximum reasonable number of people to have in a room but if the hotel room is in your name and you are going to share the room, get money from the other people who are going to be in the room before you check in. I don’t care if they are your friends. If you don’t get the money up front you better be able to afford the room. Generally you should get the money as close to when you get the reservation as possible or, if you are not reliable with money, just before leaving for the convention would be good.

Another option is to shop around for cheaper hotels near the convention. Often times you can find deals nearby but remember: the larger a convention the sooner hotel rooms will sell out. You can only expect to check in on the day of the convention without a reservation for very small conventions.

Looking for crash space at the convention. They used to put up a board for people looking for crash space, but I haven’t seen one of those in years. You can go to a convention and ask around and it is possible you may find crash space. Your chances are obviously much better if you are a girl. They are exponentially better if you are a pretty girl. Yes, the reason is that con guys are hopeful. Frequently delusionally and unrealistically hopeful, but most of them are not jerks who are going to try and take advantage of you. Unfortunately some of them are. Sometimes they will have a reputation for this and you can find out beforehand.

Over the years I have seen a large number of people sleeping in or behind hotel furniture. Personally I can’t sleep that way. Even I have on occasion tried to crash in an unused conference room during the middle of the night. We were snowed into the hotel for a week and I had not gotten a room because I was expecting to be back home and sleep in my own bed by Sunday night. That was when I realized that hotel staff never sleep and are always doing something.

Many conventions are not even in hotels and often you cannot stay on site after a certain time. I hope that if you’re going to a convention, you find out where it is first. If you don’t, somehow I doubt that you’re going to make it there anyway.

I have known people who slept in their cars but I’ve never done that for a convention. I have slept in my car when camping if the weather got too cold and honestly a car full of people trying to sleep sucks.

Sometimes if you’re working staff there is a staff crash room. This frequently involves carefully stepping over people while you look for a clear place big enough for you to lie down. After a few days, particularly if you’re doing a convention that starts on a Friday and ends Sunday week, this can look really good. Note; if you’ve been up for five days, it is not a good time to hook up with somebody you just met. Just saying.

If you work in a hotel, it may be possible to get employee discounts with other hotels of the same name or owned by the same company. This is not always true but some hotels do offer employee rates. You may have to get a “white card” or other documentation signed by your supervisor, but this could still make a convention that would otherwise be out of your price range affordable. It may even be possible to get friends and family rates for other people you know, but this can backfire on you if they don’t appreciate the effort you’re going to and start to expect it. This is not the sort of thing you can guarantee, but real friends will appreciate it if you can manage it.

If you are a famous big-name guest, try and get the convention to throw in a room for you. This may be especially easy if they have offered to pay your expenses. They might even pay you to come to the convention. That must be nice.

Finally, if you do own a TARDIS you can park it wherever you like and invite your friends to stay in it but please, please, please, pick me up and take me with you!

So in short, what this largely boils down to is make sure that you know where you’re going to stay, keep your stuff, or sleep. Before you go to a convention, figure out how much it’s going to cost you, and use this information to help you figure out how much to budget for the convention. Sometimes you can’t afford a convention and you just have to go. Under those circumstances all I can say is use your best judgment.

Copyright 2012 Julian Thomas Reid III

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Convention Survival Guide, Post #2 – How to Select What Convention to Go Attend

So sometimes you wish everyday was Halloween and want to go live inside your favorite book or movie. If so then conventions are the place you want to be. Once you’ve been to Serenity you can never leave, just like Hotel California.

When selecting a convention there are a lot of things to consider. Are you a fan or some kind of professional working in the field? Note; if you’re a professional working in the field and you’re not a fan, there’s something wrong with you. That’s just my opinion, but how can you be any good at writing, acting, or doing anything else in the genre if you don’t like it?

This is a very different question for fans who are not professionals than it is for someone whose livelihood depends on the right choice. There are several questions that you should probably ask if you are new to conventions and want to start trying them out:
1. Do I already have friends who go to conventions who can give me advice about what cons they like?
2. Is the convention centered around a genre that I like?
3. How much does the convention cost?
4. How big is the convention?
5. How far away is the convention?
6. How many days is the convention?

If the convention, for instance, is in the town in which you live, is free, is a one-day event, and is on your day off then it would be worthwhile to go to even if it isn’t in your favorite genre and is only expected to have 100 people attending. However, for a convention that you’re going to pay for then you probably want to start with the convention that has 1000 to 1500 members, is less than 100 miles away, is dedicated to your favorite genre, and is a three-day event. Note; the term three-day event is a bit of a misnomer as most people will arrive on Friday evening and leave by noon on Sunday. Some people may show up on Thursday and not leave till Sunday night but not many. Most of what happens will be on Saturday. Still these conventions are much better than one-day events.

I do not recommend starting with a huge convention like San Diego Comic Con, Dragon con, or WorldCon. They’re just way too big and unless the only thing you’re looking for is sensory overload and to lay out a large amount of money to go shopping there’s really not much point. These conventions typically have thousands of people, complex schedules, and it is impossible to find anything. Once you are used to convention maps and schedules then they are definitely something to see at least once. If on the other hand you are a professional trying to promote yourself, network, and do business these are often the places to be. Please note that in my opinion anytime you have the opportunity to go to WorldCon you should.

I’m not saying that these can’t be great conventions to go to; I am saying they’re not where to start. Similarly I don’t recommend the little conventions that are under 500 people as a general rule as a place to start for a number of reasons. The small conventions are frequently disorganized and they may be just starting up which frequently is a good thing or they may be dying which is usually depressing but they’re just not the best introduction to fandom.

Another important thing to consider is whether or not the convention has a con suite. A good con suite with real food is preferable but free sodas and snacks are an essential part of a truly good convention. Most Anime conventions do not have con suites. I consider not having a con suite to be one of many symptoms of not really caring about or respecting the fans. Anime conventions on the other hand tend to not really exist after the official schedule times of the convention and generally don’t have room parties. In fact most Anime conventions are not even in hotels.

If you are a dealer then Anime conventions and the really large conventions like WorldCon, Comic Con, and DragonCon are probably the best places for you to make money but even a small convention can be profitable especially if you have the right products for the right convention and stick to doing one job well.

If you are a professional, one of your big concerns is always going to be: do they want you as a guest? Another big concern is whether they’re willing and able to pay you. Furthering your career is not really relevant to conventions unless you’re going there to network with other people in the industry or meet up with your agent. I used to go to Dragon Con to meet up with my agent but he’s been MIA for a while now.

Literary conventions are frequently the best ones unless of course you are going expressly for the purpose of partying. Media conventions are more popular and can be fun but really, read a book.

If the convention doesn’t respect you then why should you give them your money?

I can’t think of a single reason.

The other two possible methods are taking names of all the conventions you know about, put them in a hat, and draw one out, and the much more reliable method of waiting until your friends abduct you by telling you to “get in the car, we’re going somewhere” and look up from your cell phone, book, or Game Boy five states later and say, “hey where are we?”

One of the big difficulties when going to conventions is that just when you’re getting used to being able to use your whole vocabulary you have to go back to Mundania where they don’t understand any word with over five letters.

Once you’ve gone to a convention, of course, there will be flyers for lots of other conventions on the freebie tables. You just have to find the freebie tables. Whether you are an Anime fan headed out to Anime Central or a steam punk fan in search of Anachrocon there is a convention out there for you and if there isn’t here is your chance to start a convention. Just make sure that if you go to Necronomicon that you say all the words. So until next time have fun and stay safe.

Copyright 2012 Julian Thomas Reid III

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