Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Oh yeah... I went to Aggiecon, didn't I?

This year's Aggiecon was a surreal one for me--I had a strange sense of disconnect almost the entire weekend. A big reason for that, no doubt, is the university's decision to convert the on-campus hotel to office space, which meant that all the guests ended up shuttling back and forth between the convention and the off-campus hotel. Personally, I call B.S. on the university's contention that the hotel is empty more often than not. Unless things have changed significantly from my college days, the MSC Guest Rooms were difficult to book because they were in such demand. I suspect creative bookkeeping or hostile policy changes as the real culprit behind this decline. Awkward, to say the least, but a situation the convention has no control over. (Below left, Zane of Edge Books; below right, Rick Klaw)


Beyond that, however, the con itself had a dramatically different vibe going on. The current students have given themselves over almost entirely to a Dragoncon-style media approach, focusing on performance and anime. It didn't help that the Author Guest of Honor, Gene Wolfe, canceled a month before the con. They were unable to find an equivalent substitute on such short notice, so the literary/writing aspect of the weekend was marginalized even further. This was highlighted by my conversations with book dealers there, who said they were averaging $1,000 less in sales than in previous years. (Below left, Kasey Lansdale; below right, Richard Hatch)


It was very strange, but this is the first time I can remember walking through Aggiecon's huge dealers' room and not seeing anything I really, really wanted. The same goes for the art show, which suffered from the lack of an artist GoH because of a late-in-the-game cancellation (Ruth Thompson, I think, but don't quote me on that). So what guests did show up? Richard Hatch, for one. I don't have any problems with media guests, but the whole pay-for-play approach makes my skin crawl. A bunch of anime voice actors showed up as well, and GhoulTown, a genre-themed rock band, had high visibility throughout the con. (Bottom left, Alain Viesca; bottom right, Kim Kofmel)


Scheduling proved to be the most challenging aspect of the con. I have never, ever seen a convention where things were changed so often, and seemingly at random. At one point, I checked three different schedules for a particular panel--my personal one on the back of my con pass, the one posted on the door of the meeting room and one posted on the table itself where the panelists would sit--and each one said something different. Making things worse was the fact that the concom didn't set up a central update area to post schedule changes. If a panel's time and room were changed, you didn't find out until you went to the room originally scheduled and checked the door. One of my panels was canceled in favor of a stand-up comedy routine (I kid you not) and only later did I discover said panel had been hastily rescheduled in another location, at a different time. Ugh. (Bottom left, A.T. Campbell III; bottom right, GhoulTown)


Like most old farts at these things, the real reason I go is to catch up with all the old friends I see year after year. Sadly, a lot of familiar faces seem to have dropped off the guest list this time around. Bill and Judy Crider made it, though, as did Joe and Karen Lansdale. I got a chance to talk with Willie and Chuck Siros, Martha Wells and Troyce Wilson, and even Rhonda Eudaly made it to the con, even though she's not a regular. Saturday night I even made it over into Bryan for the Monkey House party, where I talked with Bill Page and Tom Knowles for a good long while. I was even introduced to Habanero Mead, a product from the Purple Possum Winery in nearby Navasota. "Interesting" is the only word that readily comes to mind. There's a slight heat in the aftertaste, and the habanero flavor is somewhat fruity. But I'm thinking the mead could've stood a little more in the way of tannins, to give it a little more depth of flavor. I've got them bookmarked, however, and plan on sampling their other flavors. (Bottom left, Bill Crider, Joe Lansdale, Karen Lansdale; bottom right, Willie Siros, Richard Hatch, Allan Porter)


I had the expected good time hanging out beside the hotel swimming pool talking with other folks late into the night, and was surprised to see Richard Hatch joining in the conversation Saturday night (In my experience, media guests rarely mingle with anyone). I introduced Lou Antonelli to Freebirds World Burrito for lunch on Saturday. I drove around B/CS for a while, gawking at all the construction and change that has overtaken the place since last year even. I had a good time, yes, but this was far from the best Aggiecon for me. I'm hoping things improve next year. (Bottom left, Rhonda Eudaly, her significant other, and a third guy I don't know; bottom right, Purple Possum Habanero Mead)


Now Playing: Slowakische Philharmonie Peer Gynt Suites I & II


  1. Ghoultown?! Ghoultown the band Ghoultown?


  2. I shared that feeling of disconnect. I think you're right about the guest rooms at the MSC. I remember having to book a year in advance to get a room for Aggiecons in the past.

  3. Thanks for the mention. I enjoy being "irregular". 8-) Yes, the Artist GOH was supposed to have been Ruth Thompson. I'm amused by the picture of Richard Hatch rubbing his nose... I hope they finally just move off campus...