The inherent asset and drawback of No Such Convention is that it is student run. This may mean that, one year, the right student has the right connections to net a guest who will draw crowds. The con has hosted relative luminaries such as cott McCloud, Sandeep Parikh, Jeph Jacques, and RK Milholland, the latter two who decided a few minutes into setting up their tables that this was not a real convention and they could ignore any suggestion that it should be treated as such.
If you do not have these connections, you end up with Thomm Quackenbush as your headliner.
However, the guests are there because the students care about them. While I assume most conventions start as passion projects, No Such Convention has the infrastructure to remain that way as long as it exists, class after class taking over the con and bringing with them excitement.
Still, passion waxes and wanes, as does experience and attendance.
Friday, nearly no one comes. I have no panels Friday or Sunday and only two on Saturday. Having seen vacant columns when the schedule was released, I offered to do additional panels if needed. I was politely rebuffed and took no offense. This is their baby and they may raise it as they wish.
The difficulty is that those who have had luck running the convention graduate and take with them their hard-won lessons. There ought to be a No Such Convention binder of biblical proportions, detailing every success and misstep. There are several No Such Convention websites, only one of which acknowledges this year's convention (or any convention in the last four years). The rest are artifacts whose passwords belong to the student who registered the domain.
A small, quiet con is a friend to few, least of all people trying to sell their wares. I have learned not to bring all my books to every event, since it would take a plague cured only by eating a copy of each to move all of them, but I still brought an optimistic ten each.
Even though I annually tell myself that I am not about to make a whole new panel next year, I always do. This year, I did because I grew tired of people asking me if the contents of my books in any way matched my talks, which they barely do. I tried to write an anthology of stories based on these true cases, but it was slow going and I depressed myself at how like a vulture I felt writing about Elisa Lam. Until this year, it did not occur to me that I have used enough peculiar history in my books that I could easily put those in a panel instead. My other was a general talk on lessons I have learned as an author, which I at first intended to simply wing, then wrote out a few notes, then did a little research, then made a few PowerPoint slides, then had five pages of notes, then have 53 slides. I told my audience that this was the nature of being a writer. Something you expect to be tiny will niggle at you until you go well beyond overboard.
Since the convention is slow and Amber focuses on doing as much schoolwork as she can manage, I wander the floors and chat with our neighbors, the webcomic luminary Emily Ree of Anarchy Dreamers and my spooky buddy Danielle Draik, whose art I requested to purchase well in advance. I learn not only that Emily is local, but that we have had interactions with the bait shop owner who has a Bigfoot habitation site in her backyard and a rock star turned children's librarian. Across from us are a Vassarite who asks too little for her lovely sketches and Matt Farley of Motern Media, whom I have interviewed in the past. Without much else to do, we hang out.
Sunday, I watch the rain patter off the skylight and guess I will sell nothing else, but I wouldn't think of packing up early. Some cons forbid this contractually, but No Such Convention is relaxed on this point. I have no expectations of making sales today, in part because, in the first hour, I only see ten people who are not vendors and only three of them are new, including a father half-jokingly kvetching about the anime his daughter, in full Attack on Titan regalia, forced him to watch in preparation.
My worry is that the convention may die off if it remains slow. The vendors still seem willing, though I do not know how much of a profit this can turn for anyone. For the creatives, we do this from hope. Maybe we will sell enough or to the right people to help our careers, or merely justify the choices we have made that brought us to this point. The people who come here to stand behind a table for twenty-four hours for the opportunity to speak with a few dozen people, most of whom will buy nothing, are doing it because they are dedicated. Most are not considered guest enough that they are paid to be here, as I am.
Yet, I would not consider skipping this convention. I have said in the past that this is the weekend where I feel coolest because I feel I am being acknowledged for how I want the world to see me. There are odd blips throughout the year, but they do not pay. It is hard to feel quite as accomplished if the convention isn't packed.
Emily and Danielle mention how this is at least a con where all the vendors are friendly with one another. Emily has encountered vendor groups where they intentionally try to deceive and undercut one another because the money of con-goers is a zero-sum game; the more similar vendors are at a given event, the less money each is likely to get.
Kest posted an update on the nature of being an artist, which I reposted with the single sentence summary "Support the art you want to see." These people are daring themselves and creating personal works. They need to be encouraged however it is possible. My giving them money in exchange is a small thing, but I am glad to do it if it means more of this work will be in the world. What I love about conventions like this is how grateful the creatives are when I buy thing from them. I am not doing it from charity - their work is worth owning - but they all get this surprised, shy grin as they cannot believe, despite their talent, that someone wants what they created. We get so beaten down by the process of waiting for recognition and it is sunshiny to show us that little bit of love. When one of them asks to buy one of my books, I must restrain myself from just giving it to them because I am so overjoyed with the idea that I might be read.
When I am packing up, I near bashfully suggest to Danielle and Emily that we see one another more than once a year. Danielle says she would love to dish about UFOs and will at least see me at the Pine Bush UFO Fair, so something came out of NSCon this year.
Soon in Xenology: Meaning. Anxiety.