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Nothing lasts forever — DeepWalker Lives

Nothing lasts forever
Deep Walker Lives

       My good friend Richard Gurley used to make fun of people who insisted that if you were big and strong you had to be stupid.  He was a computer programmer who used an over-sized keyboard.  At conventions, when we weren’t involved in a game, we would sit and talk about strategy, tactics, philosophy, the relative value of different kinds of blade, etc.

So many times I saw him acting gruff and laying it on thick to trying keep from bursting out laughing.  He did not always succeed.

If I had not met Richard Gurley back in in 1982 he would’ve been dead by 1984; instead, he helped develop the MRI as their main test subject.  We have been gamer friends since we met at a party Jerry Collins (a local artist) threw.  Not long after we met I took him aside at the party (well, actually, we were talking and went outside) and I told him, “You have acromegaly.  It is a serious health condition.  You need to see a doctor immediately.”

On my prompting, he immediately went to a doctor and was diagnosed with pituitary cancer.  Unlike most cases, his pituitary was fully functional and the size of a golf ball.  Very quickly it was found that his bones were too thick and too dense to use x-rays on him so he got referred to the people who were trying to develop a device which has become known as an MRI.

I remember one time we were at ChattaCon sitting in some chairs near the hotel elevators talking about how great it would be to get to colonize and explore alien planets when some kid came up to us and asked if anyone had a knife.

Richard pulled out a tiny penknife opened it and set it on the table in front of us.

I then pulled out a pocket knife opened it while saying, “That’s not a knife.  This is a knife,” and put it on the table next to the penknife.

Then Richard pulled out a tanto while saying, “THAT’s not a knife.  This is a knife,” and put it on the table next to my pocket knife .

While saying, “THAT’s not a knife.  This is a knife,” I pulled out a Marine survival knife approximately 1 inch longer than the tanto and set it on the table.

All the while, the kid’s eyes just kept getting wider and wider, while a crowd began to gather.

With a hearty, “THAT’s not a knife.  This is a knife,” Richard pulled out a foot long, double bladed knife that I think was a Scottish dirk but in his hands it still looked tiny and delicate, and tossed it down on the table.

At that point I reached into my jacket and pulled out my machete and dropped it on the table with a hearty, “THAT’s not a knife.  This is a knife.”

Just then, the kid started waving his arms back and forth saying, “Wait a minute!”  He reached down and picked one of the knives up, pulled out a string, and cut it.  He then put the knife back down, looked at both of us, and said “thank you” while backing away slowly.

I know what you’re probably thinking, if you’re a con-goer. “What about the weapons policies?”  First off, there were no weapons policies in those days.  They were not needed. Second, both of us were probably staff and on top of that at least one of us was probably security.  I say “probably” because it was a long time ago and I don’t really remember anymore.

For years, Richard and I had each other’s backs.  After his pituitary grew back and he had to have it surgically removed a second time, his bones became so large that his vertebrae locked into each other and he could barely move.  Since that time Richard has not been able to get out so much and I have been struggling and did I have the money or time to spend that much time with my good friend, but we never ceased to be close.

On Facebook, a lot of people have been talking about how important Richard was to them. They have been getting a lot of sympathy.  I can’t really tell you how important Richard was to me and I have not been getting any sympathy.  Richard was one of my two friends who have died in the last four years who I really expected to outlive me for the longest time.  Jimmy Wheeler was the other one.  Most of these people who have been talking about how important Richard was to them and how close they were to him would never have met him if it had not been for me.

The really frustrating part for me is that I had just figured out how to get his legs to uncramp just before he had his initial heart attack.  I was planning to go up and see if I could get him walking again when he had the heart attack.

I remember one time back when he was being treated, Richard was walking across the street from Lenox Mall to the Marta train station when he was hit by a car that ran the light.  I should stop at this point and mentioned the fact that Richard’s femurs by that point were already as big around as my upper arm.  If you don’t know, the femur is the bone in the upper part of your leg.  There was no time for him to get out of the way, so he hopped up an inch off the pavement so the car would not shatter his leg, and he shoved his elbow as hard as he could into the center of the car hood with the momentum created when it hit him.   The result was that he shoved the car hood into the carburetor of the vehicle, totaling it.  He then got up off of the hood when the woman stopped her car.  He growled at the lady in the broken car and walked off into the Marta station while the lady cop who had witnessed the accident stared at him with her mouth open.

Massive destructive power with a twisted, sick sense of humor was in many ways a hallmark of Richard Gurley.  He liked to act gruff and found it funny that a lot of people were afraid of him, but down deep he was a gentle and caring soul so long as you did not try to hurt him or those he cared about.  Like me, you hurt those we care about and, well, ever seen a cat hunt and kill something?

Richard was one of the main forces helping me maintain optimism about humanity.  He always had a sense of humor.  He wanted me to make sure that he was remembered the way he was before he ended up in a wheelchair.  I am glad that I let him know that his memory will be preserved both in the game that I’m designing and in several of my stories.  Richard was always a good friend.

I keep asking myself, “What’s the point of saving people’s lives if you end up watching them die later?”


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Con Survival Guide, Post #13: Surviving Con Crud

Con Survival Guide, Post #13: Surviving Con Crud


        Obviously, the best way to deal with Con crud is to avoid catching it in the first place.  The key to that is getting some sleep, eating some healthy food, taking extra vitamins and, well actually, if you check out my earlier post on Fatigue you will get some really good tips on dealing with this sort of thing and getting ready to go back to work on Monday.

        Con crud is any one of a huge number of generally unidentified illnesses that people regularly pick up after going to a convention.  They are usually viral in nature and leave you feeling achy   They can vary from a general feeling of crappiness to a ‘flu or intestinal virus.  It is generally a good idea to help head these off by taking a little extra Vitamin C, Cat’s Claw, or an immune-boosting formula like Wellness Optimizer by Jarrow or Planetary Formulas Astragalus and Cat’s Claw formula.  Frequently people will come away with a cold as well.

How you deal with these things depends a lot on the symptoms.  If, for instance, I were having diarrhea, I would take either Immodium or Plum Flower Brand Coptis.  For a bad cough, I would tend to use my mother’s home remedy of ⅓ Tequila, ⅓ raw honey and ⅓ lime juice.  Most of the time, however, I don’t let things get that far.  Before getting sick, I will typically take a half dose of the Chinese Plum Flower Brand formula Gan Mao Ling.  It boosts the immune system and will tend to prevent most viruses.  I always drink a little extra water during the course of conventions because dehydration can cause a lot of symptoms of illness and is the basic cause for hangovers.  OK, actually hangovers are caused by a combination of dehydration and the effects of congestants found in alcohol (especially rum and beer).  Vodka actually has the least amount of congestants, and is less likely to give people a hangover, but I will have more to say on that in the “Responsibly drinking” blog yet to come.

If I actually get sick, I will usually take Oscillococcinum and Plum Flower Brand of Gan Mao Ling at the first sign of illness,   After that I try to sleep it off.  Now, you may have noticed that I am consistently recommending Plum Flower Brand.  The reason is because they consistently use higher quality herbs, have never been found to contain heavy metals or unlabeled drugs, and tend to work reliably well.  I also never use the sugar coated pills because I have found that they don’t work as well, and if you just swallow the pills there isn’t that much taste anyway.

For a cold, I use Ginger and Onion Tea.  This really isn’t as bad as it sounds.  It tastes kind of like chicken soup without the chicken.  Note: It is acceptable to add chicken and noodles to it.  If I feel like I’m coming down with a cold but don’t yet have it, I take the green parts of a bunch of green onions and three slices of ginger, put them in a small boiler with a cup of water and bring it to a boil, then pour off the liquid and drink it.  If I already have a cold, then I use the white part of the green onions.  Usually, I find that one dose gets rid of the cold, though it could take as long as a few hours.  You can take this tea once an hour, but if it hasn’t gotten rid of my cold by the first hour, I definitely switch to the white part of the onions and if I still have it after three hours I use ginger, lemon and honey tea, which is an old African remedy.  I use three slices of fresh ginger, one teaspoon of raw honey, and the juice of a whole lemon and throw the peel into the tea.  I add one cup of water and bring to a boil just like the Chinese tea above.  If those two teas do not get rid of it, I know that it’s not a cold and probably is the ‘flu, although it might be some other virus.

If symptoms persist, definitely go see your qualified medical practitioner, whatever their initials may be.

Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease.

Copyright © 2013 Julian Thomas Reid III

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Convention Survival Guide, Post #6 – Fatigue: or oh God I have to go back to work!

Extreme fatigue can make it difficult to enjoy the convention, make it nearly impossible for you to make it to work the day after, and endanger your life on the drive home. So how do we deal with this?

The first and most obvious answer is get some sleep at the convention. I realize that for some of you this is not going to be a popular answer. Really, nothing goes on between 2 or 3 AM and 10 AM at most conventions. When I was in my 20s I would have argued for hours that the statement was wrong but by the time I hit 30 I had to admit that it was true. When you’re younger that seven or eight hours can make all the difference and when you get older it is not enough.

Now, for the sake of knowing my audience, I would assume that you’re going to completely blow off and ignore that first piece of advice. If you don’t the second piece of advice will be even better but if you do the second part will be essential for survival.

Now for a little background. This is really vital to the information but it keeps my blog from being three paragraphs and should make it easier for you to remember the information.

See, that’s why I can’t be a politician; I’m always telling the truth.

As a science nerd growing up I read every science paper I could get my hands on. In college taking premed, psychology, and astronomy, working on an astrophysics degree, I still read journals for fun. Research had shown firmly that if you wanted to stay up you really needed to eat protein not sugar and things like caffeine and sugar both can make you crash after a while. When you’re ready to sleep you need a complex carbohydrate like rice or pasta.

A good friend of mine was going to conventions and living off of sugar and caffeine. Okay, let’s be honest, most of my friends were doing that. But I proposed an experiment to one of them in particular and he accepted the challenge.

One convention we spent using sugar and caffeine to keep us up. The backbone of this was jolt cola (all the sugar, twice the caffeine) because energy drinks weren’t available yet and Little Debbies because the convention con suite provided them for free. A lot of potato chips were also involved as a supporting cast member.

The second convention we brought cheese, nuts, vitamin pills, some vegetables, peanut butter with bread, milk, and I don’t remember what else. We did have one or two of the higher protein snacks and I think I drank a Coke.

I heard him telling the story of this recently and it was fascinating to hear him telling people how it changed his life. At the end of the first convention he kept having problems with almost passing out at work and at the end of the second convention he was fine after a single night’s sleep.

One of the unusual things I’ve discovered through the ancient scientific method of trial and error is that if you wait to take extra vitamins till after you are already tired you will crash hard. Yeah, okay, get the sleep you need. If, on the other hand, you start taking vitamins before you get tired and keep taking them all weekend, they help you handle the stress and have more energy.

If you take vitamins every day your body gets used to it and you can actually become dependent on them. For that reason even though I take relatively frequent supplements I will skip for a few days (usually about three) before conventions and take a much larger amount of vitamins just before going to a con..

A good balanced meal before the convention and lots of sleep are of course an essential. You should plan to have one or two meals in local restaurants or at least the hotel restaurant. Hotel restaurants usually are not very good and are always overpriced but have the advantage of being convenient.

Alternating between exercise and rest is also good but this is generally facilitated by going to a panel then going through the dealers room and then walking to the con suite to sit and talk for a while. So in a sense that part is built into a convention. If you don’t get a lot of exercise normally you may be sore after a convention. A hot bath with a quarter cup of powdered ginger (more or less depending on your sensitivity) will help sweat out the toxins and cause your muscles to recover faster. Drink lots of fluids.

Coffee is an interesting compromise because it is reasonably high in protein but has caffeine and if you add milk or cream adds calcium and more protein. Not so good if you had a lot of sugar. If on the other hand you have asthma you should not drink coffee unless you are having an asthma emergency. If you do not drink coffee on a regular basis is more effective than an inhaler for stopping an asthma attack. It does not matter whether you are drinking decaf or regular that’s not the part of the coffee that stops the asthma. It actually has some adrenaline analogues better what open your lungs. Tea has caffeine but does not stop an asthma attack. Chocolate has caffeine and adrenaline analogues but has no effect on asthma either unless of course you’re allergic to it.

In my previous blog “where to stay at the convention or don’t mind me I’ll sleep in the TARDIS,” I discussed the effects of staying up for five days surviving off of what the con suite provides. Let’s just say you don’t want to wake up on a bus in the wrong state. Now that was of course before con suite started providing any real food.

Well, please excuse me. I need to go pass out now. Good night, and good luck until next time.

Copyright © 2012 Julian Thomas Reid III

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Convention Survival Guide, Post #4 – Budgeting for Your Con Experience or Stop Eating My Gold-Pressed Latinum

Your con experience should not be interrupted by having to worry about money. For many of us the only vacation we get is when we go to conventions so we should try to get the most enjoyment out of the experience that we possibly can. It is easy to overlook essential aspects of the expenses needed to go to a convention. This blog entry is for the purpose of improving your planning and increasing your enjoyment of conventions.

Your first expense that you need to concern yourself with is transportation whether we are talking about gas for your car, a bus ticket, a plane ticket. If you’re like Moebius and can hitchhike your way to Amsterdam from Florida for WorldCon you can forget about this expense, but for the rest of us who live in the real world making sure that you can both get there and home is a priority.

So really this blog is for those of us who can’t hitchhike to Europe for a convention and then borrow money from Anne McCaffrey to get back.

Your second consideration, of course, is where you’re going to stay during the convention. See my previous blog on the subject for further information.

If you are young and still fallaciously afraid that you’re going to miss something if you sleep and money is a serious concern you may think that it is a good idea to just stay up for two or three days. Of course these things do eventually catch up with you and nothing really happens between three in the morning and 10 AM but there are other things at work here which you have not considered. For an example:

When I was a young man, I went to Chattacon on Greyhound without getting a room or making arrangements because it was a three-day event, meaning I could stay up Friday night and Saturday night and sleep at home on Sunday. Chattacon, like Liberty Con, was started by the S.M.O.F. known as Uncle Timmy. This particular year we got snowed in. It was nine below zero. Chattanooga is about as far south and east as you can go in Tennessee and the Read House opened in 1926 so if you had told the builders it was going to be nine below they would have laughed at you. I still remember when it was decided that houses here in Georgia should be required to have some insulation. What I’m getting at here is that with the heat running and 1500 people huddled mostly in the con suite and the one remaining room party the inside of the hotel was very cold. I tried to get a room on Sunday but the hotel was completely booked. Five days into the convention I was watching colored blobs, mostly blue, float down the hall as I was walking back and forth between the room party and the con suite in the hopes of keeping warm.

Eventually, the snow cleared up, it got warmer, and the streets cleared within a few hours and Greyhound started running again. I walked the I think it was two blocks with my 1950s hard sided suitcase full of clothing down to the Greyhound station and caught my bus to Atlanta.

As soon as the bus pulled out of the station onto the road I passed out. Now, the bus that goes from Chattanooga to Atlanta eventually goes to somewhere in Florida. They don’t exactly go through checking your ticket like on a passenger train so if you miss your stop it’s really your problem. Sitting up in that Greyhound bus I slept better than I usually do in a bed. When I woke up my first thought was, “oh God, where the hell am I? This bus goes to Florida.” The view out the window was nondescript highway with trees along the side of the road which could be almost anywhere in the Southeast except certain areas of Florida and South Georgia. Needless to say I was in a bit of panic. My heart was racing but my anxiety was in the lead when the bus driver announced, “Next stop Marietta, next stop Marietta.”

My relief was immense and the amount of adrenaline pumping through my system was enough to keep me awake long enough to get off the bus in downtown Atlanta at the station that is now a gigantic square crater and has been for more than a decade now. I could have walked two blocks and gotten on MARTA, then taken the train and then a bus home.

Now it’s a little known fact that no matter where you’re going, the other side of town, or two blocks away MARTA almost universally takes an hour. I was uncertain that I could stay awake and going directly home was only about 2 1/2 miles, so I decided to walk because it would be faster. At the time Atlanta and a city in Texas were competing for murder capital of the US and my route took me directly through Techwood Homes, the worst ghetto in Atlanta. White people did not go into Techwood Homes and the police never went alone.

I had the Bill Bixby/My Favorite Martian haircut popular among American businessman since at least the 1950s, was wearing an Oxford cloth shirt, blue jeans, and hiking boots. I had a hard sided 1950s style suitcase and a five o’clock shadow because my beard grew very slowly at that point and I had not shaved in a week. I was very tired so I fell into horse stance and started walking. There was no traffic through Techwood Homes, so I automatically walked down the middle of the street scanning under cars, around bushes, and rooftops, no sign of any emotion on my face because I was way too tired to have one.

It was like something out of an old West movie. People cleared the streets ahead of me. They went inside and locked their doors and drew the curtains. As I walk down the street I could see people peeking out of their windows at me from behind the curtains or blinds.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized that everyone thought that I was a hit man come to kill someone.

When I got home, I fell into bed and slept for 24 hours, got up, went to the bathroom, ate a sandwich, drank a glass of milk, and went back to bed for another 24 hours. The next day I went back to work, having missed a full week’s worth of both work and pay.

Strangely, that makes paying for admission your third concern, but don’t just plan for this year; most conventions will give you a discount if you preregister for next year at the end of the convention. In fact it can be much cheaper. Usually it is. If you can’t afford to preregister for next year at the convention, it is still somewhat cheaper after you get home and usually for the next six months or so. If you still can’t afford to pay for admission you can usually work the convention. If the convention makes the staff pay to be there then you should not work for them and no one should go to them because you are being used and taking advantage of.

Other ways to get into a convention without paying include, for example, working for a vendor, being invited as a guest, or working for the hotel. If you enjoy conventions then you really should pay for admission if at all possible. If you don’t support the people who are supporting and entertaining you then they will go away and only a self-centered brat would be just as happy if a convention they like goes away so long as they don’t have to pay.

The fourth concern is food and drinks. Any convention worth its salt will of course have a con suite. At the very least this means sodas, chips, and snack cakes. I personally championed the movement to get conventions to offer real food by throwing room parties with an electric wok and preparing food to order. I made stir fry and washed out the wok for people with food allergies, vegetables and meat (or tofu which I will not touch for health reasons) being about ideal for people staying up long hours. As I prepared food I told people how easy and sensible it would be for the con suite provide real food and within two years most of the conventions in the Southeast were offering real food in the con suite that was crappy, cost more money, was unbalanced, and did not take into account people’s food allergies. Room parties started supplying vegetable trays and trays of meat with cheese all jumbled together at about the same time. As I am allergic to red meat neither one of these actually supplies me with reasonable food options but I feel that I have improved the situation for the majority.

Anime conventions do not have con suites or room parties as a general rule. The majority of attendees are teenagers and the crowd is overall less intellectual than at other conventions. Anime fans do not care whether or not they are being taken advantage of and generally go home for dinner. While most Anime conventions are being started by and run by Anime fans, some are just there to cash in on the popular movement. I am hoping that Anime fans will start having more respect for themselves and their preferred genre.

Darwin Rowland started the movement of representing Anime at conventions and is, to the best of my knowledge, single-handedly responsible for the movement that eventually led to there being Anime conventions. Most people never knew this and he is largely forgotten in fandom. He was driven away from cons by a small number of lame jerks but before that he spent a decade working as staff for every convention in the Southeast. Fandom owes this man a debt of gratitude.

So let’s assume that the convention you’re going to is not going to have food you can eat or at least not sufficient food for good nutrition. You should take drinks and food with you. Going to the grocery store is much cheaper than eating out. I usually take a cooler and foods that do not have to be refrigerated. Meats, cheeses, or even peanut butter and bread provide for high-protein sandwiches. Canned or shelf food and drinks provide for the rest of the things I need. I always carry milk and vegetables. A Styrofoam cooler costs about $5-$10 dollars and hotels have ice machines. I always like to budget to go out to eat once or twice when I’m at a convention.

I realize that most con goers don’t eat as healthfully at home as I do at a convention but I really wish they would. I’m tired of watching my friends die unnecessarily.

Your next expense is the dealer’s room. You should budget for at least twice as much as you intend to spend. The dealers need to make a living and the money they pay for tables helps support the convention. Many people will wait till the last day to buy something in the hopes that the dealers will mark down the price so they won’t have to carry it home. There are two problems with this: number one: it might sell before the last day and you won’t get it, and number two: most dealers are just going to pack up and go to another convention so they don’t mark the prices down.

I have on occasion decided that I would buy something at the next convention only to never see another one over the next 30 years. What this basically boils down to is you see the thing you must have, well you should probably go ahead and buy it.

So there you have the basic considerations for budgeting your convention-going experience for maximum pleasure. Whether you choose to hitchhike and sleep behind the lobby furniture, or fly into your luxury suite and eat at the finest restaurants in town, I hope you have a safe and fun con-going experience.

Tune in next week when we’ll discuss con-sluts, mundanes and more.

Copyright © 2012 Julian Thomas Reid III


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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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