Report from Penguicon

img_0034Last weekend was Penguicon 7.0, Michigan’s science fiction and open-source programming convention.  It’s a media mix that has worked amazingly well, and this is, IMHO, the best convention in the state.

img_00481I did get a rocky start when I arrived Saturday morning.  Once I registered I found I didn’t have a separate list of the panels I was on, and due to a printer’s error the print in the actual program book was really, REALLY tiny.  So tiny, in fact, I had to have someone else read through it to find my name.

Then, it turned out that the hotel got very strange about the con suite and food.  The compromise reached involved the hotel closing down their restaurant for the weekend and turning it into the con suite.  But they wouldn’t let the con use the kitchen.  So, instead of the nice sit-down breakfast I had been anticipating (I like a nice breakfast and this hotel put up a good one), it was a v. v. long line up with a paper plate for eggs cooked on a Foreman grill.  I have it on good authority they will not be returning to this hotel next year.

But after that, everything settled in and a good time was had.  The programming at Penguicon is HUGE.  Tons of guests, tons of panels and presentations and classes which for the most part run incredibly smoothly.  The first panel I went to was on Social Networking for the Author, which had a very knowledgeable panel and was only slightly delayed by the arrival of the Acme Delivery Yak (no, seriously).

img_0064_2The first panel I was on was Self-Publishing: How not to Get Totally Screwed.  This was a big panel.  It also had every single guest Sarah on it at once.  There was me (the Light Sarah), Sarah Hoyt (the Dark Sarah), Sarah Monette (the Leftmost Sarah) and Elizabeth Bear, who’s first name really is Sarah, so she was the Secret Sarah.  There were some guys and stuff on the panel too.

The room was really full and the discussion was very good.  My attitude about self-publishing has changed a great deal in the past couple of years (as you might guess from my participation in Book View Cafe), but I think a lot of people still see it as a way to get their masterpiece before the public without any Nasty Editors (TM) screwing it up, rather than the difficult small-business venture that it is.  So, I’ve gone from saying “don’t do this,” to “do this if you want, but be aware of exactly what it is your doing, what it is likely to do, and not do for you, and LOOK OUT FOR SCAMS!”

After that, I went to the bar to hang out and grab some hot food with friends, and then it was off to the next panel.  “So, You Want to Quit Your Day Job?”  I quit my day job in 1998, so I had expeirence with this one.  Again, every single Sarah was on the panel, making me wonder if they’d run some kind of algorithm while setting up the program.  Also well attended, and a good discussion, much said about the pros and cons, the lack of benefits, about the importance of maintaining good physical and mental health.

From there it was “The Universe in a Grain of Sand,” a world-building panel.  And again, it was filled with Sarahs.  I was beginning to suspect conspiracy by this time.  I love world-building.  It’s one of the really fun parts of the job.  It is vitally important, however, to follow through and consider consequences.  I’ve been on some of these that were all about where and how to put the space rocks, but this one was very much about creating cultures and magic systems.

Wow, this is getting long.  I will wrap up by saying if you want to see more pictures of the con, CL Anderson has posted some good ones.  More later.

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Report from Penguicon — 5 Comments

  1. I’m so glad to know this exists, if I have to relocate to Indiana or Michigan. Good promo, great fun — what else can we ask for? (Except maybe an editor there asking to see the WIP.)

  2. Could have used you last weekend to deliver a Klein bottle from Acme Klein Bottles. However, I borrowed one, so that was OK.

    The convention sounds like a kick.

    Vonda

  3. Your personal itinerary was with your packet containing your Panelist badge ribbon, welcome letter, identification tent sign, and other items to be given to you at Registration.

    We fought very hard to get our Consuite in the hotel restaurant. It was always impossible for us to use the kitchen, due to insurance and liability. There was one point at Penguicon 2008 when I misspoke and said we had the kitchen, but that was never actually the plan of my team.

    Among SF conventions, we were staggeringly lucky to be allowed to cook in the Consuite as much as we did this year. It was the best Consuite any convention in Michigan has had in living memory, the hotel was spectacular in what they were conceded to give us, we fought tooth and nail to get it, and it is unlikely any SF convention will ever achieve that level of success in the near future.

    What shocks me is the level of entitlement and unmanaged expectations on the part of a few.

    There was a Big Boy next to the hotel where you can get a nice sit-down breakfast. The Bob Evans across the street has an even better one. If you wanted that, it was a little bit odd that you went to Consuite. That’s not what a Consuite is. We have zero obligation to keep our attendees fed. Instead we created a socializing space with unusually awesome food randomly available to a subset of our attendees who happen to be there at the time. That’s what a Consuite is. As with any SF convention, all attendees are expected to eat at restaurants to feed themselves.

  4. My partner Stu ordered a book a while ago and it came with itsy bitsy teeny tiny print. The sender apologized and said something about downloading but seemed a tad surprised when Stu said “no you don’t SEND books with such errors, you send an apology until the book is REPRINTED CORRECTLY.

    And you don’t pay the doofuses who printed it wrong and you get them printed in readable type. What IS it with people who are willing to accept crap instead of saying “no, this is not what we ordered.”?

    This is why you set print deadlines for conventions *weeks* in advance. To provide the chance to the printer to correct such enormous errors.

    It is dismaying that there are fans (and writers) who (and I’m talking very specifically about a different con but I’ve worked on dozens) who believe the con suite is where you eat 3 meals a day. I mean I had money to feed people at the last one I chaired, but for people to come in and ask “when is lunch coming” and to make sandwiches and carry them out was awful to me. Esp. when we live in a very fine food city (Seattle). Yeah, many of us use the con suite because we’re on a tight budget, but the expectation that you are to be fed is dismaying. I’d rather have the hotel restaurant stay and the con suite go, but it’s true that over the years certain expectations have grown and then become the given truth. The joke in fandom is if you do it once, it’s tradition; twice and it’s sacred and holy tradition and has always been.