Con Report-Arisia 2016

18 Jan

Finished my first convention in…three years? Four? It went very well, except for the parts when it didn’t, such as when I totally swore at one of my childhood heroes.

Arisia is an established science fiction convention located in Boston. As far as organization, it’s easily the best one I’ve ever attended. The site was in a large high-end hotel, and as far as I can tell, the hotel belonged to the convention for four days. Every room and conference center on the first floors seemed to have something going for Arisia attendees. Management and organization was spectacular; they ran me through registration and I was set up in under an hour (a Very Big Deal for an Artists’ Alley participant), and there was always someone around to ask me if I needed anything.

I recognize that other people who have different experiences might have other opinions, but accessibility and security seemed excellent. I was located in a hallway below the escalators, but I had a lot of traffic from persons using wheelchairs and other mobility devices as the hallways were wide (approx 10′) and the elevators were about 50 feet away. Security wore bright yellow vests and was a highly visible presence.

arisia

Photo credit,  Twitter user Cecil Roth (@Cecillgnatius)

And holy shit, Arisia might be one of the most welcoming conventions I’ve ever attended. Keep in mind that I was chained to a table for 48 hours and wasn’t a direct participant in events, but everything seemed set up to reduce outsider stress. There were multiple gender-free spaces, and labels that you could print out and attach to your badge to help clarify speech with strangers. A very nice Trans woman said to me that Arisia is the only place where she feels at home, which is both wonderful and heartbreaking.

Now, on to the part of the story where your narrator, the Performing Monkey, embarrassed the everlovin’ crap out of herself.

I’m got serious social anxiety, but it’s the weird kind where I’m perfectly fine with other people when I’m on stage. After the curtains come down, though, I’m a wreck. Total basket case. I’ll spend hours second-guessing myself, and it never ends! I still feel shitty for things I did in the second grade.

(I’m mad at the Internet. It promised me this nice, peaceful career where I never needed to meet anyone, but noooooo, if I want to get my name out, I have to leave my room and talk to people and add to this cumulative stress-ball that I’ll be pushing around until I die. Thanks, Internet!)

katamari

My brain is a giant ball of regretful decisions and self-loathing.

Whatever. I look classy in a suit, so I dressed up like an Agent and set up my table and had a really good opening day. I met online friends in meat-space for the first time, met a lot of great folks who have been long-time fans of the comic, and talked myself up to a bunch of strangers.

One gentleman from the Dealer’s Room circled by several times and kept picking up Digital Divide. He’d put it down and wander away. Finally, on his fifth pass, he said, “This has over a hundred good reviews on Amazon, so I’m going to take a chance on it,” and purchased a copy. Reviews matter to authors for many reasons, but word-of-mouth encouragement for skeptical buyers is a big one, and it’s nice to see the outcomes of reviews in action.

I got to meet Lawrence M. Schoen, who is a Classy Fellow About to Make Waves. His book, Barsk, the Elephants’ Graveyard, comes out tomorrow and I’ve already preordered my copy.

After Artists’ Alley closed, I thought it had been a great day. I hadn’t said anything stupid, and had generally remembered how to sell myself to strangers.

Then I went to the bathroom and found that my fly had been open the entire time. This is how I roll (see: fig. 2, Katamari Damancy).

Anyhow. Nothing to do but jump into Day 2!

Again, Day 2 went great. Probably better than the previous day! I sang! I danced! I sold stuffed koalas and rationalized glowing clownfish! I checked my fly so many times that I’ve probably been reported to Security!

Lots of AGAHF readers were there. Lots. And here’s the thing-they were all smart. Like, scary-smart. Authors. Lawyers. Doctors. Engineers and mathematicians. One was doing medical research on the viral vectors of STDs; another was analyzing freakin’ quarks. Thank you all for saving us from ourselves and/or helping ourselves kill each other more humanely.

(One of my highlights of the convention came when two long-time readers brought their teenage daughter, who is also a long-time reader. They asked if she wanted a Speedy plush, and she said “No!” as she shook her head violently, panic in her eyes. This is honestly the only sensible reaction to having anything to do with that rat bastard.)

speedyplushshopfront

“Why does the koala look so angry?” they asked. “Well…” I’d say, and then they’d be sorry.

And I met a childhood hero!

Remember the gentleman from the Dealer’s Room who bought a copy of Digital Divide? Well, apparently he read and enjoyed it, as he was recommending it to his customers. A woman wearing a vintage-style Elfquest shirt came to my table and purchased a copy. I started talking about Elfquest, about how amazing an influence it was on me when I was growing up, what a fantastic storyline…

Which is when she stepped to the side so I could read the nametag of the fellow behind her. Richard Pini. Co-creator of Elfquest.

To which I responded, “Oh, what a pleasure to meet you,” like any sensible adult in a semi-professional business setting would do.

Hahaha, no. I shouted, “OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE!” instead.

(He laughed and said it was one of better parts of the convention. Apparently this wasn’t the first time he had been sworn at by a stranger in public. I hereby propose that all creators must wear a headband with their name and an icon of their most recognizable creation at all times in public settings; I’ll take to wearing a glowing clownfish for the team if it makes this happen.)

Anyhow.

To sum up: Arisia, good! Boston, cold. Brain status was okay, but must get around to mastering the ability to dress myself and not swear like a drunken sailor.

I’ll try to get back there next year.

11 Responses to “Con Report-Arisia 2016”

  1. Richard Pini January 18, 2016 at 8:48 pm #

    You dissemble. Being cussed at wasn’t one of the better parts of the convention. It was the best part of the convention. Made me, how the kids say, laugh out loud. And everyone to whom I’ve told the story agrees, it was no doubt worth all the life experience points you racked up. Just finished “Rise Up Swearing” and chortled greatly those times I didn’t feel like dope-slapping at least one of the characters – which to me is a sign of good, engaging writing. Thank you again for your generous gift of books, and be sure to check your infrequently-checked PO box for a parcel that you won’t need your steganography decoder ring to read. Cheers!

    • KBSpangler January 21, 2016 at 2:38 pm #

      Thank you for being so incredibly gracious when a complete stranger F-bombs you and waves her arms like a madwoman!

  2. Will aka "scifantasy" January 18, 2016 at 11:28 pm #

    ‘Twas a truly awesome time.

  3. antisocialbutterflie January 19, 2016 at 3:46 am #

    Yay! I’m glad you had a good time. I knew you’d kill it (or at least cuss it out really good).

  4. Walter Milliken January 20, 2016 at 5:35 am #

    It was great to meet you (and have our wallets lightened appropriately). It’s probably a good thing we weren’t there during your encounter with Richard Pini, or my wife would have been striving to out-fangirl you….

    Arisia is a very good con; we’ve been going there for nearly as long as it’s been running (I think we started with the second one, back in the early 90s). Handling accessibility and gender has been an evolving thing; I think the support for gender-neutral restrooms started last year or maybe the year before — they were certainly better advertised this year, They’ve had the pronoun ribbons for 2-3 years now, I think. They’ve been trying to support accessibility for rather longer, but I couldn’t say how long or how well it works for those who need it.

    The Arisia community is pretty diverse, except racially — something I hadn’t really noticed until I listened to the Race and Identity Issues in SF panel last year.

    • KBSpangler January 21, 2016 at 2:36 pm #

      I had a great time meeting you and your family, and Arisia was incredibly good to me. They like to rotate their artists, but I’ll try and get in next year again.

  5. Michael Poore January 21, 2016 at 12:39 pm #

    Scary news that you have truly inspired our government to new heights/lows.
    http://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2015-01-19

    • KBSpangler January 21, 2016 at 2:29 pm #

      Years ago, someone came up to me at a convention and said that the government was working on the exact technology that I had in the comic. I thought he was trolling me, or a conspiracy theorist. Now…

      Awesome find, thanks for showing it to me!

    • Walter Milliken January 22, 2016 at 4:19 am #

      DARPA’s been interested in neural interface tech for years; a good deal of that relates to developing prosthetics for wounded soldiers. I’m sure they’re interested in neural control interfaces as well, especially for aircraft, but I expect that would be non-invasive stuff, for reasons both political and practical. Looks like the DARPA program office involved is the one that does the advanced med-tech stuff. Clarice’s arm would be right in their sweet spot.

  6. My Word January 25, 2016 at 1:25 pm #

    Well,. sounds like you had fun at any rate. And made some good sales and got some excellent word of mouth. 😉

  7. Steve January 25, 2016 at 4:45 pm #

    That is superbly awesome, K.B. ! Glad you had a good time! 🙂

    Will keep on posting those reviews! Good to hear that helps from the author. 🙂

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