January 31st, 2010

reading

SF/F Conventions and Me

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AggieCon 41 will start next Friday, February 5, at the College Station Hilton in College Station, TX. I'm special guest, and the other guests are listed here.

Unless my professional and financial situation changes, this will probably be my last SF/F convention for a while. This is kind of fitting, since I was a member of the student committee that ran AggieCon back in the 80s, and I worked on AggieCons 14, 15, and 16, and was chairman of AggieCon 17.

My first official job at AggieCon 14 was helping about ten other women (including one who was blind) and one guy transport a large number of art flats across campus to the Memorial Student Center. These were big heavy wooden panels about ten feet long and six feet high, that were needed to display the art for the art show. We had to carry them out of the building where they were stored, load them into a pickup that was barely bigger than they were, unload them at the MSC at the hotel entrance (since they were too big for the freight elevator and couldn't go in through the loading dock) and carry them up a flight of stairs to the art room, one by one. (It was the kind of thing that was fun when you're eighteen.)

But it actually wasn't my first SF/F convention; that was ArmadilloCon in Austin. I think it was probably ArmadilloCon 4 in 1982. I was in high school and read about it in Starlog Magazine (which had extensive listings of SF/F fan events at that time) and talked my parents into taking me and a friend down to Austin to go to it. (That was a pretty major undertaking and I'm still sort of astonished that I managed to do it.)

ArmadilloCon 4 was a tiny convention (at that time AggieCon was much larger than ArmadilloCon; AggieCon had up to 2000 attendees for its night movie program, and 600-700 attending the actual convention), but even a small convention was magical.

This was way way before online bookstores and ebay and the web, so a convention dealer's room was the only place to get movie and TV collectibles and hard to find books, the art show the only place to see original SF/F art, the panels the only place to see and talk to real writers and get books signed. I was a huge Star Wars and Indiana Jones fan, and I still remember the thrill of being able to find photo books from Japan full of stills I'd never been able to get copies of before. We saw George Alec Effinger, and watched The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T. (In fact we sat behind George Alec Effinger at The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T.) It was an awesome fun experience, and turned me into an SF/F fan for life. It made SF/F fandom and conventions an important part of my life.