Captain’s Log: Chattacon 41

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Even as the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo continues to undergo major changes to its campus, it was home to Chattanooga’s oldest Science Fiction/Fantasy convention, Chattacon, this past weekend.

Future conventions at this venue will be much more tightly placed than they have been. Already, hotel building 2 has been converted to apartments; the shops that filled the space from building 2 to The Gardens restaurant in the main stationhouse building have been closed, gutted, and repurposed as entertainment venues; and plans are in place to move Track 29, a music venue which has housed robot battles and the con hospitality suite for Chattacons past, from the old ice rink building at the back of the campus into the space in the convention center currently used for the Centennial Theater.

Meanwhile, Chattacon 41 proved one of the best yet.

A few years ago, I would have told you that Chattacon was a dying convention. It only offered programming on Saturday, and that was rather sparsely scheduled. There was little to do other than visit old friends, shop the dealer’s room, and party (either in the con suite or at the room parties). While there is nothing wrong with that, it didn’t exactly attract the huge crowds a vendor or struggling new author would hope for.

THAT has definitely changed for the better. I thought last year was great; programming every day of the con. This year was even better. It also marked the first year I’ve participated as a panelist in the programming at Chattacon, something I’ve been doing for a few years now at ConNooga and Libertycon.

I also loved the dealer room set-up this year. Author’s Alley was nearly centrally placed and was the first room-bisecting row directly across from the entrance. I found that much nicer than being placed against the farthest wall from the entrance. Face it, people are going to make a point to visit the vendor tables, but only those specifically looking for artist or authors will wade through all that traffic to get to our tables. It helps us out so much to have us as the first line of exposure before getting to the pretties, clothes, gaming gear, and collectibles. After all, what is a sci-fi/fantasy convention without those of us who CREATE the stories that make up that world?

For me, personally, this convention was a success. I sold two copies of Blood Curse and one copy of Demon Bayou. I also had one confirmed online sale of Blood Curse at one of my panels. (Not someone saying they would look me up online later; this woman looked for the book in the conference room and downloaded it to her Kindle app!)

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I also sold the necklace mentioned in my last post here. Sara Neathery, of Starboard Sky Industries, spotted me wearing the duplicate I already owned in the con suite Saturday night. I told her I had the same necklace for sale at my table, and she made me promise not to sell it to anyone else. It proved to be my only Sunday sale. (Some of you might recognize Sara’s husband, James Neathery, as one of the contestants on the Game Show Network’s Steampunk’d season 1. Both Sara and James are very accomplished and talented artists.

Now for a confession: Saturday night marked not my first time to watch Rocky Horror Picture Show, but the first time to experience the audience participation (sans any projectiles or the virgin auction I’ve heard about). Before, I’d only seen it on video. I’d never taken the opportunity to go to a theater showing. I must say, the audience participation improved the movie greatly.

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Sunday saw some unexpected entertainment in the dealer room. One of the vendors was playing part of the RHPS soundtrack (along with some disco music). A couple of other vendors gave a very enthusiastic performance of the Time Warp dance. Given her skill with one segment, I’d say one of them must’ve played Columbia in a live performance at some point.

Besides programming, shopping, parties, robot battles, and movie participation, Chattacon also featured performances by: Doc Osborn and his Balloons of Doom (husband of one of my favorite authors, Stephanie Osborn); Moon Haven Studio‘s Luminous Web, and Orion Dancers-Sisters of Seduction belly dancing; the Molly Maguires, Chattanooga’s premier Irish band; and the Chattanooga Fire Cabaret dancers and fire eaters.

Writing was not the only subject of the programming, either. Movies, Star Wars as a culture, costuming, make-it-and-take-it workshops, Steampunk, adult toys, and gaming of both the table top and computer variety received equal time and attention.

Now, don’t you wish you’d made the trek (yes, there were a smattering of Trekkies present despite Chattanooga having a predominantly Star Wars-centric sci-fi community) to Chattacon?

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