(Or How I found the SFF.Net Suite and Enjoyed the Con.)

The short description of my experience at NASFIC was *Busy*!   I believe this was the ideal size of convention for me. Big enough for lots of variety and small enough that it all fit in one hotel. Also, I thought it was an extremely friendly convention. With only minor exceptions, everyone I met was cheerful, friendly and easy to talk to. And not just the fans. If you neglect the Marriott's concierge desk, all of the hotel staff was wonderfully pleasant and helpful.  


I arrived at noon, checked in to my hotel room, and then immediately went to registration to get my badge and program. The convention setup was in progress so I next wandered into the art show and spent a few hours helping them out. I hadn't realized that many of the artists didn't actually attend the convention but simply shipped their work to be displayed and sold by the con. As it turned out I ended up hanging paintings and setting up table displays for some of these artists. After a few problems with supports for the pegboard panels in the displays, a few of us got drafted to reinforce the ties holding them up. This was a long job made more difficult by the fact that we had to work around the artists who were already hanging their work.

There had been much discussion on newsgroups at about who would be attending the convention and I was anxious to connect with some of them. I kept looking for any signs of SFF.Net people without success, probably because most were not arriving until Thursday. Since I had been awake since the PDT equivalent of 2:30am, I made an early night of it on.


In the morning I went to the volunteer desk and got myself signed up to help in the Staff Lounge and at Registration. My stint at the staff lounge was rather short because they were overstocked with volunteers so I went off in search of some other place that needed warm bodies. Registration was just opening up but I was a little reluctant because of the problems I had encountered working registration at other cons. This time I found that I actually enjoyed working at this registration desk. They had a system, with laptops and small label printers at every station. This really made the process easy and kept the lines short. There were very few of the problems I'd seen from both sides of the desk at other conventions. It also made it possible to talk a bit with everyone who came in while their badge was printing. This turned out to be a good way get to know people. About noon I finished my stint at Registration and went looking for the SFF.Net Suite. I was bothered that no one I asked seemed to know anything about it. I drew blanks at the information desk, the staff lounge, and convention office. While wandering around I stopped to chat with a lady who had a digital camera exactly like mine. At the time I didn't know she was one of the people I was looking for. This is a problem when meeting people you know only online.

After attending a couple of panels in the afternoon I resumed my search for the SFF suite. Finally I spotted a button with the SFF.Net logo and got my courage up to ask. "There's a whole group of people in the bar. Come on along," was the friendly answer. There I met author Melisa Michaels, her husband and daughter and Zette, the lady I met earlier with the Sony Mavica. Soon we adjourned to the 4th floor suite where I was introduced to about 10 more people including Tom Powers and authors Tippi N. Blevins and Vera Nazaran. Everyone there treated me like a long lost relative and I had more fun than I had ever expected. Dinner that night was a masterpiece of zaniness and I doubt the Olive Garden will forget our group for a while. If they do, there were enough cameras present to jog their memory.


I did another couple of hours at registration and attended a few more panels. I stopped by the suite and got drafted into carrying up supplies for the party that night. We attracted a bit of attention bringing all that stuff up the elevator. To be ready for the party, I decided to have dinner early and take a nap in preparation. If the previous night had been any indication I was going to be up late. I can't manage without sleep as well as I did when I was younger.

According to everyone I talked to afterward, the SFF.Net party was one of the best of the night. The daily newszine rated it as the winner for Friday night on the basis of the great food. Of course, any party serving Wombat Balls™; (Thanks Tippi) can't fail. An added touch was the celebration of Vera's US citizenship, complete with a cake, flags and patriotic music. (The Stars and Stripes Forever) Congratulations Vera!


This was my morning to work at the Information Desk and it turned out to be another pleasant experience. I think I learned more about the con by trying to answer all the questions than I would have if I'd spent the day just attending panels and wandering the hucksters or art show rooms. The most popular question for Saturday morning was "Where is the Gallifrey fan table?" (Right across from Registration.) I received my 15 seconds of fame on Saturday by being mentioned in the daily newszine as one of the info desk workers.

In spite of the fact that I ended up washing dishes and lugging groceries again, the SFF.Net party on Saturday night was even better than Friday's. The food was great (though the Wombat Balls were all gone) and the most interesting people showed up.

Someone brought in a telepresence rig and set it up on the suite balcony. Party goers could sit in the suite wearing a VR headset and feel like they were outside. The field of view would move as you turned your head and it was even possible to look back through the window and see yourself. Eerie! Since this is something I am very interested in, I was glad to have a chance to try it out. The equipment was simple but effective and provided a nice demonstration of this neat technology.


I attended what, in my opinion, was the best panel discussion of the entire con. It was "The Care and Feeding of the Creative Process" with Stephen Barnes, Emma Bull, Rebecca Moesta, Katie Waitman, Lisa Goldstein and Javier Grillo-Maxuach. The panelists had useful and interesting things to say and they all offered practical suggestions on how to encourage your own creativity. I wish someone had been taping this discussion because I would love to have a recording. I came away with a list of related books to look for next time I have some spare reading time (fat chance!)

That evening we had a mini SFF.Net dead dog party in the hotel lobby and later I attended the UK in 2005 party. They were serving some really excellent beer (Red Nectar?) and had a lot of good conversations in progress. They got my $8.00 as a presupporter for the 2005 Worldcon in either Glasgow or Brighton. (Heck, the beer I drank would have cost more than that down in the lobby bar!)


The trip home started out easy but on the final leg, my flight was canceled for mechanical problems with the airplane. I had to scramble to find alternative transportation. (Not easy when the destination is Cedar Rapids, Iowa!) Finally arrived home near midnight.

It's now about a week post-con and I've mostly recovered from jet lag, sleep depravation, over-eating, and other excesses. I have to say NASFiC was possibly my best convention experience yet. Can't wait for Chicon in 2000.

Follow this link to see a few of my pictures from the convention.

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Tom Hise