Chattacon 43: Dead Cons Tell No Tales – But I do!

—Note: Migrainus Interruptus kept me from finishing this yesterday, but things are better now… if much later than planned. I started this blog, but only got half-way through before I had to ditch the effort, so please excuse any seeming time-shift… carry on.—

Chattacon 43 is now dead.

Drive the last nail.

Throw the last shovelful of dirt.

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Chattacon 43 Convention Booklet
I know… Cheery sounding, right? Well, it matches[ed] my migraine hangover. But don’t worry, as the home brewed coffee tries to kick in and ‘fix’ the last remnants of the sinus/neck/head-ache that clobbered me starting Saturday eve and lingered through my ride southward home, my mood will slowly return to it’s mildly pessimistic and wholly sarcastic norm. In the mean time, I will regale you with a tale of terrible accommodations in a foreign land along with a terribly fun time with some really awesome people.
Chattacon was great. Remember that… set it aside, but keep it in mind as I bitch…um, I mean explain.

Friday, I arrived bright and early (1 PM), with zero traffic grievances along the way, at The Chattanoogan… then I drove all the way around it because my smart-ass phone (TM) wanted to just show me where it was, but not actually how to get into it… which you do around the back side, FYI. I was able to check in early (yeah) and ended up on the fifth floor (not so yeah, but elevator). Two trips had me ensconced in the room. I noticed  a slight odor from the bathroom, but figured it was just a lingering scent from previous guest that had yet to clear, because the cleaning crew had just recently left. I closed the door to let the vent system do its job, and thought no more about it. Next was put the vehicle in the parking garage, which took three floors of circling. I kept a careful eye out out for Parking Fairies, but thankfully they remained hidden. (I found it when I left today that it’s because they have two full time Leaf Blower Ogres that roam the garage during the day making lost of noise and blowing dirt around randomly to keep them under control.)

Next, to the registration counter…badges not ready yet for staff (I volunteered to help with gaming). So, then it was on to the meeting where the jovial game crew would be assigned their tasks. I walked in the direction where I though my map of the hotel had indicated things would be. Did I mention the front is not really the front, but the back is more the front for guests? This makes mental maps turn upside down in case you don’t think about it carefully. After a nice half-mile hike to the farthest reaches of the hotel I was fully convinced that someone had closed a corridor off and failed to put a detour sign.

I returned to the other wing of the building and, with a slight pant, asked the front desk just where the heck was the Ochs room (gaming room name for a former Chattanooga mayor or something… I knew that much… Mental map, you see). I was pointed in the opposite direction down a hallway that I had failed to notice the first time through (registration was set up on the opposite side of the REAR foyer).

After pondering the situation, mentally flipping my mental map like a lost person seeking north without a compass, I proceeded down said hall. Encountering others with badges and various nerdly attire convinced me that I was not, indeed, being punked… right up to the point I encountered the wholly unexpected T-junction in the hall that was no where in my mental map. I paused, mentally crumpled the mental map and discarded it as useless, then proceeded to enter cartographic mode in order to create a new one based on the new-found junction. I felt like Columbus charting the Indian Isles!

I headed off to the right while my Right Guard, having had enough of the long journey, decided to mutiny and go left. Had I listened to my armpits, I would have arrived sooner, but alas, my course was set. As the corridor curved, I passed the art show, and dealer’s room, and the con-suite. A hard left at an unexpected corner revealed a rest-room and the Amphitheater. I recognized this from the previously discarded mental map, which I immediately tried to un-wad in my brain once again, but by this point I was sailing on a cloudy sea at midnight with no compass.

I continued my leftward journey and found yet another con-suite… and then a third… and then an art show yet again. Just as I was about to use my emergency snack crackers to leave bread-crumbs for myself, I noticed the sign which read ‘Gaming – Miniatures’. Ah ha! Something new! I persevered and finally found ‘Gaming – RPG Room’… I was getting so close! At this point, I had somehow gone left at at least seven ninety-degree corners and had yet to return to my starting point. I come to believe that I was inside a gigantic conch-shell, when at last I found the ‘Gaming – Board Games’ room. At last Columbus had found the path to India!

 We met and hung out for a while discussing the do’s and don’t’s of proper game lending. I eventually decided I should go back to my room and bring down the pile of games I brought with me. Of course, I decided to go the opposite direction from which I had arrived, just prove to myself that the corridor was round. It was… I went around it twice before I found that stupid hallway leading back to elevators. I did solve the mystery of the repeating rooms in the process when I finally realized the art show and secondary con suite were in fact accessible from two sides of the Tardis… I mean hallway.

Games were delivered, badges picked up, and soon I had time to kill before Opening Ceremonies.

I placed some of my bookmarks for eConscience Beta on the freebie tables.

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Front

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Back

Then I swung by and perused the Art Show where I was able to harass some old friends. There were some great pieces in there, but well outside my price range. Next was the first panel I wanted to attend. It was going to be ‘Publicity for Newbies’ which would teach me how to Pulicitize stuffs! Unfortunately, influenza (or recovery from such) held several guests back from attending (to whom I am grateful for sparing the rest of us) which meant the schedule had to change last-minute. The result was basically an almost empty room that turned into a random conversation between four people and the fill-in panelist for thirty minutes, which was quite pleasant, as I got to know some new people that way.

At the Opening Ceremonies, attendance was low. I got there a bit early and was entertained by a ten year old girl (the con chair’s daughter) sitting up front with two of the GoH’s, Todd McCaffrey & Peter David. This same girl was given the task of introductions, and some subtle lessons in humility. Note: No matter what you have accomplished, a ten year old is not easily impressed! With a round of detailed introductions and speeches, the con was declared officially open!

I was to host a game of Castle Panic at 10PM, so I decided it might be a good idea to find some dinner. This was the beginning of my hotel disgruntlement. You see, it had been revealed when I arrived that there would be not ‘hot food’ at the con suite because The Chattanoogan did not want the competition with their in-house restaurants. I had been expecting to subsist on that source, but now I had to ‘scrounge’. Of course, as luck would have it, Friday night was ‘All you can eat seafood buffet’ at the Main Street Grille. I’m sure many would appreciate that, but I, being allergic to seafood, was not please in the slightest. I was even more displeased when I learned that it that the ALL in ‘All You Can Eat’ had a double meaning… there was NOTHING ELSE BEING SERVED. So, I spent the next hour trying to find an outside source of food that would not charge me an arm and a leg to deliver. Finally, I ended up waiting almost an hour for a pizza to be delivered. I planned to use that for my meal the following lunch as well.

I managed to scarf down three pieces before my slotted time for hosting the game rolled around. I set up and then waited until some unsuspecting victims arrived. We spent the next hour and a half getting our castle torn down around our ears. We almost had the Orcs, Goblins and Trolls defeated, but managed to wrest defeat from the jaws of victory with a really bad last pull of the cards. Alas, defeat!

But the night was still young. I manned the gaming desk and sat bored for an hour, occasionally rattling my chains to draw attention to my book that I had stowed away on the corner in hopes of a sale. My sequestration did not last long, however, as I was soon rescued with more conversation with friends, old and new. This lasted up until the clock struck two, then I excused myself to my boudoir in preparation to turn into a pumpkin for the night.

Now, my ire at the hotel in general was still only in the range of ‘slight’ at this point. When I reached my room, it went back up a notch when I discovered the bathroom had retained the odor I previously mentioned. Just out of morbid curiosity, I checked to make sure someone had not dropped  deuce in the tank of the toilet out of some morbid spite, but that was not the source. It was not something I could point toward, complain, and get a resolution of quickly, so I let it slide. It wasn’t ‘horrible’, just slightly off-putting. I didn’t want to have to change rooms. I wanted to sleep. So, I closed off the bathroom and let it slide. I never found source the entire weekend, nor did it go away.

The next morning, bright and early at 10 AM, I awoke to enjoy my first mug of coffee. I always bring my own pot because ‘no coffee’ is ‘no good’. I always manage to forget something too, which in this case was filters. I used three tissues carefully arranged to make up the deficit, though, so hurray for Engineerity! It was really a good thing I had that coffee to warm me up, too, because when I turned the shower on to it’s fullest ‘hot’ setting what I got was lukewarm water at very low pressure. This was my last straw as far as patience went with The Chattanoogan. It had been added the ‘shithole country’ list.

With that poor beginning to the day completed, I managed to warm up with my second mug of coffee and proceeded to my first panel of the day. ‘Playing in Someone Else’s Sandbox‘ conducted by Peter David.

Peter David

When I arrived at the room, I found said Sir, sitting grumpily outside the door waiting for someone to let him into the room. Hotel staff were soon badgered to do their job (strike seven… or was it eight?) and the doors were opened five minutes past starting time. Once inside, it was just myself and Mr. David, who was a bit surprised that the attendance was so low for a Guest of Honor panel. I explained that there had been copious amounts of alcohol consumed the night before into the wee hours of the morning by many con-goers, so many of them were probably still stumbling around finding breakfast and hangover meds. It did allow me the opportunity to mention my own book, of which I showed him a copy. I gave him a bookmark as well, but I have no idea if he kept it. Yes, that’s right, I showed off my SINGLE SELF-PUBLISHED novel to Peter David, prolific author of over 100! So… what’cha gon’ do about it! :p

Others finally showed up, and soon we were regaled with tales of pitfalls and head-butting, many quite humorous, that had happened to him in course of his writing career. I knew he had written for Star Trek (I have 31 of the damned books). I did not realize he had also written episodes of Babylon 5, many movie novelizations, and a huge number of comics. I’m not a comics guy, so please forgive what must seem unforgivable ignorance on the subject. Taking in the tidbits, as an aspiring author, I have an admiration for his ability to bite his creative tongue and do the work. The take-away secret that I acquired with regards to playing in someone else’s sandbox was ‘don’t get too attached because the work, world and characters don’t belong to you.’

An hour break before the next panel of interest let me head up to the room to scrounge my left-over pizza. Strike nine was the front desk informing me that not a single microwave was available to use to heat it. Of course, they could bring me one to my room (and charge me a fee), but it would take time… if they even had one left. It was at that point that I resolved that never again will I attend a convention without sammich makings. Lunch would have to wait for another hour and a half unless I wanted to miss the next panel, at which point I would have to spend another twelve dollars minimum in the bar downstairs for a burger. Not to mention the fact that most of a $15 pizza was going to be wasted. My stingy wallet was groaning in despair at this point.

The next panel was about ‘How Much Science Should A Science Fiction Writer Know.Stephanie Osborne was one of the ‘out sick’ panelists, but Mark Wandrey, Rob Howell & Christopher Woods ran with the theme. Ultimately, two conclusions were reached. One, you should have just enough science to satisfy your audience, but not so much that it becomes info-dumpy (unless you are David Weber, in which case rules do not apply to you). Two, Mark Wandrey likes mechs. 🙂 I’m going to have to add his Four Horsemen series to my ‘to read’ list now, I think.

Finally, the rumblings of my stomach forced me to override the grumblings of my wallet and I decided to head to the Foundry for a burger. The con had provided us with tickets to potentially win a free 2 night stay with entries earned by patronizing the hotel food establishments. For that reason, I ignored a friend’s advice to go across the street. The friend tagged along, and after seating ourselves, getting our own menus, we eventually got to place an order fifteen minutes later. The poor waitress was the only one working the place at 2 PM, although she did get some help about thirty minutes after that. This new person we flagged down and asked if we were going to be served our food. She went to check and found that they had apparently given it to someone else. ??? There were only seven people in the whole place. I informed her that I had to be elsewhere at 3 PM so they needed to bring me mine in a to-go box. I did eventually get the food, which was good, but I was going to be late for the one panel I did not want to miss. I was wondering about my Karma at this point, but my friend reminded me that I should really consider the Karma good because I did end up getting the meal for free. I’m still not sure about that.

On a positive note, I did make my panel before the book signing began. It was the Peter David Meet & Greet. I had to drag my box of books out of its hidden cubby in the game-room, stuff them in my bag, and hustle through to the back of the panel room, but I still made it. More tales of daring-David-do ensued. I learned some fannish lore (apparently well known in Comicon circles) regarding Teddy Bears and Babylon 5’s J. Michael Straczynski. I also learned some inside scuttlebutt about Star Trek movers and shakers. It was highly entertaining, and Mr. David is quite the casual name dropper. I was a bit impressed, but then again, I’m not a 10 year old. Anyway, below is a picture of the books I got signed. It’s not all I own (15 out of 31), but I would not have had time to get them all signed anyway.

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After that, the convention was a series of games interspersed with bouts of a sinus/neck-pain induced headache. I did manage to shake it off to play host for Five Tribes: The Djinns of Naquala with some new friends. I had to call it quits early though, and decided to see if the shower in my room was hotter at one in the morning… nope. Strike fourteen?

Sunday was the wrap-up with game & prize give-away and the Closing Ceremonies. Attendance was anemic on that one. I delivered my complaints. They were heard, but most likely ignored. Many excuses were given for why things would probably not change next year. I nodded, smiled, and wrote it off as a lost cause.

Summary: Chattacon is disorganized but fun. I would go again if they changed hotels and found a way to make the con suite have hot food. I have a bad feeling they are going to crash and burn as a con if they don’t up their game, though. Which is a shame, because the people are fun and friendly.

 

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