I'm home from Chambanacon. The tired is dripping to the floor from my smoking, charred carcass, but I'll try to get a report out here.
Friday could have started out better. A cascade of little annoyances, too trivial for me to really remember much less talk about, added up to my not being ready to leave the house until a couple of hours later than I'd meant to. I came into the hotel, and found the lobby of the Historic Lincoln Hotel with its old European feel inviting. I checked in at the desk without incident (slightly bemused that they actually handed me an old-fashioned key rather than a key card), grabbed a luggage cart, and was surprised to encounter tcgtrf arriving at the hotel. He'd told me that because the con was so late in getting the word out, he'd made plans to spend the weekend with family. He kindly stayed with my cart for long enough for me to park my car legally, and then I found my way to my room. I'd been in the restaurant and banquet facilities a time or two when the hotel was Jumer's, but I'd never been in the sleeping rooms. The corridors were neat, with rough plaster walls and interesting furniture accents, and the old world theme continued with the furnishings in the room. The room was quite small -- in more modern hotels, a one-bed room that isn't big enough to actually hold two beds doesn't meet the default expectations. I don't actually see any reason for a single room to be any bigger, but I suspect that people who are minded to complain make this a complaining point, which probably is part of why it's hard for the hotel to get business.
From my room I found my way down to convention registration and then the art show, where I put the art that I hadn't sold at Windycon in the show, not expecting to sell anything. By the time I got through the process of filling out bid sheets and arranging my stuff on panels, it was already 5:00, the time when I'd intended to be at Papa Del's, but that was based on the notion I'd gotten in my head that there was going to be an ice cream social in the con suite at 7:00. No such event actually appeared on the program, so I chilled out a bit and did a wee bit of looking for other people interested in pizza, but I gave up when I realized that I was getting pretty hungry, and birder2, mihai_lado, and I headed off. Pop's was pretty packed, but we eventually got a table, and once we got our pizza ordered, it wasn't much more than an hour before it was actually delivered (which is to say, not much slower than they would be if they weren't busy -- real deep dish pizza takes a long time to cook, and Papa Del's is notorious for slow service). The conversation was enjoyable, and the pizza was delicious.
After returning to the con, I thought to head down to the filk room early and warm up, only to find that Juanita and filkart were already filking. I got set up and sang some things, few of which I recall. I do recall introducing "Merlin" by saying that I thought that bedlamhouse does the best version of the song in filk, but since he wasn't there, you were stuck with me. Of course, he walked in halfway through the song. I can also recall that I did cadhla's "Chambray" and didn't notice any tomatoes aimed at my head. I think we broke up around 1; it was a good filk.
Saturday, I got up around 10, had some breakfast in the room, and got to most of the panel with Lucy Synk, which was more just a conversation than a panel. I remember that the importance of learning traditional analog techniques as a foundation for creating digital art that doesn't suck was discussed, and commenting how it's the same way with music. And we talked about ebooks and on-demand publishing and whether these might be ways that non-blockbuster authors might be able to get their work out to the public and get some money for it. Personally, I think that if an ebook reader that is *really* as easy to read as an actual paper book becomes available, and ebooks are available for it at a price that doesn't scream ripoff with most of the money from the sale going to the author and people (such as the editor and publisher (the person, not the company) who actually materially help the author to produce a good book, it will produce a sea change in the book business as dramatic as the iPod phenomenon. It scares me, because while the technology should make the world better for both writers and readers, I fear that it will actually be mishandled by corporations who charge so much for legal ebook sales that most users become comfortable with pirated copies, and the authors I want to read (who are very marginal players in the corporate publishing world anyway) will end up not being able to make a living at it.
I had some lunch and got to sit down in the con suite with Lucy and asked her some questions about the physical presentation of art work. She gave me some suggestions which, if I can actually put them into practice, ought to work well for me. Here are some things I can recall she told me: Real sales (for a gallery or the equivalent) need to be properly matted and framed. To mat the picture, tape top two corners of the picture to the mat with a bit of tape, and then glue the mat to the backing. Elmer's glue is OK, but be sure to use little enough that the glue does not actually touch the picture, only the mat and the back. Keep the mats standard size so the buyer doesn't have to spend a lot getting them framed. Hobby Lobby is a good place to look for supplies; she says the Champaign Hobby Lobby still exists. There's also something called, IIRC, Michael's, on Neil or Prospect. A website called clearbags.com is a good source for bags to protect matted pieces (for print shop sales).
At 2:00, tcgtrf did a reading. I'd read most of the pieces before, but he did a good job reading them, and I enjoyed the reading. Unfortunately, this wasn't planned in time to be a program item, and the audience was mostly his household.
Then at 3:00 we had the annual installment of the Never Ending Filk Panel. Nothing amazing came out of the discussions this year. We grieved again at the passing of David Alway, and lamented how the convention schedule is full. I'm a little fuzzy on what was said in this discussion, and what was said in later smoffing sessions. We grumbled about the poor timing of Conflikt, but bedlamhouse is particularly convinced that there isn't any good place in the schedule for another filkcon. I think that people who really want to throw new conventions are just going to have to accept that they will be stepping on some toes at any time; they just need to be clever about figuring out whose toes they can step on without dooming themselves. One suggestion that came out that I really like is to have a filkcon on Labor Day weekend if the Worldcon is in early August. Since I'm about done with the bullshit politics that are keeping Worldcons from being scheduled where I can go to them, I'm in favor of doing something more with the huge gap in the con schedule. We did talk, at the filk panel, about the importance of voicing our support for the concom and others. I went down to the huckster's room, and made a point of buying a book that I knew I was going to buy but had thought to get at GaFilk from Glen Cook, to support him coming and dealing at Chambanacon. But I'm not willing to go so far as to buy something I don't want just to support Chambanacon dealers, and I didn't find anything else in the room that I thought I needed to spend money on. This and some conversation filled time until the banquet.
I've been going to the banquet for years because the con has traditionally needed to have a banquet to keep the hotel happy and had trouble selling banquet tickets. The food this year was quite good; regular Thanksgiving food, but all tasty, and the roast beef, though well done (which means overcooked in my book), was actually good, without that gamey taste that I often find in overcooked beef. The speeches were short, and PJ Beese was fairly funny with her top 10 list of observations about moving. (After living her whole life in Chicago, she's just moved to rural Missouri in the last couple of weeks.)
The Saturday filking was good. Moonwulf had stopped in for a couple of hours to pick up some recording stuff from billroper, and sang some songs for us. We had a pretty good filk from maybe 9 to midnight, and then we somehow stopped filking and spent the next couple of hours smoffing and bitching about cons, until it became late enough to pack up and go to bed, so I packed up and then spent another hour standing around smoffing and bitching about cons. Then, once I went to bed at 3 or so, my brain revved up to redline and tried to burn out the bearings on the hamster wheel; I was tired but too wired to sleep for a couple of hours, and when I woke up in the morning I was not ready to get up. But since I needed to get checked out of the con, I got up anyway. I took the guitars to the car and then got my art out of the show. After all my whining and bitching about not selling anything at Windycon, I sold 3 pieces at Chambanacon, so maybe there is still a little life in the con market for my art. Selling at cons is never going to be economically significant, but I hope I can use it to inspire me to move up to the next level, getting my presentation a little more professional.
I spent another few hours hanging around and chatting with the people who hadn't left. It would be nice to head back for the dead dog, but by the time I actually fix some dinner and eat it, I think I'll pretty much need to fall into bed.
Next year's con is still a lot of question marks, but we do intend to have a Chambanacon, and it will be Thanksgiving weekend, so do plan on saving the weekend. We hope we can have it at the Lincoln again -- everyone I heard offering an opinion thought it was great. The con was fun, but we need to bring a few more people in to make it financially viable.