Con Game

It was on the second day of the Motorcity Comic Con that I realized that that show marked twenty years of doing conventions and indeed twenty years of doing the MCC.

Crazy, I know!

A lot has changed in those twenty years in that con, cons in general, and in me. SO this is sort of my further adventures and most recent thoughts. I am not going to dissect this show because it’s a well put together show and any issues I have are either minor or just come with doing these bigger All Encompassing shows and over the twenty years I have done their shows they have been consistently good with the rare hiccup. I mean, you can’t get upset if you don’t think people are coming by your table if 30K people came to the show. I mean, you can only do so much. But, having helped to put on a show for three years and having done shows for twenty, I do have my opinions on some things.

Every Show Is Different

For me, I have done comic shows, art shows, horror shows, and random shows in between and if there is one thing that is certain it’s that every show is different. Each one is run by different folks, for different reasons, and with different goals and it serves you well to know what the show is about before you do it. Know what to expect lets you plan accordingly, stock accordingly, and to have your expectations in check. The two biggest shows I have ever had was this past comic convention and the close runner up being a weekend long art festival. If you were to ask me I would say I would have done better at the horror shows but so far, that hasn’t been the case. Usually a lot of comic con folks don’t care much for books but I think the one I just did has reached so many people that more open minded folks are turning up, which is pretty great. It’s best to know what you’re getting into though so checking what the other vendors have, who the guests are, and how the show is being promoted will really help you get a feel for what to expect. There are always surprises but some surprises you can control.

Friendliness Counts

Speaking as someone who does, has done, and has gone to cons no one likes a pushy merch bully. No one. Sure, you may be able to bully someone into buying your gear but do they really want it? And do you need the sale so badly that you want to become a carny barker? Really? I may not always sell when folks come check my stuff out but at least I know I didn’t pressure them and accepted that sometimes you just don’t have what someone is looking for and that’s how it works out sometimes. I’d rather someone leave curious about me and my books and with my name on their lips and the knowledge that I was polite and friendly than to badger someone and give them a poor impression of my work and myself. I have seen that time and again and it drives me batty. I have worked shows and have been stuck next to the loud mouthed barkers and it drove me up the wall. Sure, they got sales, but mostly it was to people familiar with their work…and people who just don’t have the ability to say ‘no’. Again, I’d rather not bully for sales. Just how I am. It’s disappointing to get someone that’s interested but won’t pull the trigger but welcome to the fun of putting your work out there for the world. Welcome to retail.

I Hate Convention Economics

This is just a personal aside and not meant to reflect any one con or all cons, just something I see and dislike. I am tired of conventions that load their shows with SO many guests that it increases their costs SO much that all other costs go up dramatically. I love going to shows with a lot of guests, I do, but not when it costs me money to park, a load of loot to get in, then a lot of money for autographs. It’s crazy. There is only SO much money to go around. As a vendor you have to factor in the cost to DO the show into what you have to make and then it makes the show that much more stressful. If you don’t make your initial investment back then you feel like you didn’t work hard enough.

I get that costs rise. Believe me, with the small-ish show we put on here in Flint I get how much things cost, can cost, and will cost, but there are ways to push back against that and dumping the expenses on fans and vendors just seems like a lousy way to do it.

The economics of a con, to me, is pretty simple –

It has to be inexpensive enough for you to be able to put it on, pay your bills, and have money for the next year.

It has to be affordable enough to DO the show that vendors can make their money back and hopefully a profit. Look, if you don’t set the table for vendors to at least have a chance to re-coup their money then they won’t come back and will not speak well of your show and that can be death to what you are doing.

Fans have to feel as if they can afford to not just come to the show but can get some things as well. The show is about them. They want to spend money. Let them. If the guests and vendors do well, even if you don’t do AS well, then it means you can do another show. Sure, you need to make enough to keep doing shows but if you make it so no one does well but you then no one will come back.

One thing you can never forget if you do shows – it isn’t about you. Ever.

 

GUESTS

I hate that autograph fees go up and down from show to show based on the show.

I hate that we are on the verge of pricing cons into oblivion. ESPECIALLY since so many celebs doing shows act as if doing a con is beneath them. Trust me – I am sure it pays more to do terrible film that embarrasses you but is it really that shameful to spend a couple days meeting fans of your work?

THOUGH…in saying that I will also say that the cattle call shows don’t really do much for actors past their prime. It really is sad when you see well like character or background actors at huge shows and NO ONE is going to see them, speak to them, or even acknowledge them. I cannot imagine how embarrassing that must be for them. Sure, they are being paid to be there but dang, no one likes to be ignored and when you are among a lot of your peers and you are ignored it has to hurt even worse. Me – I’d lower my prices and up my fun. Have fun, make sure the fans have fun, and if you are affordable enough – like ten bucks an autograph – then even the casual person is willing to pop for that signature and photo op. (Though as I write that I have to wonder if the reps decide on the prices for shows and keep them to that, hmm…)

Nothing makes a con more memorable than a celebrity that you really like and admire opening themselves up to you, having fun, and being kind. And nothing ruins a show faster than a rude, bored, or indifferent guest. It’s one of those things that can make or break an experience. I don’t get why guests would do a show they don’t want to do or will have no fun in doing but people don’t always make sense.

Don’t Forget!

Bring change. Small bills. Lots of it. And keep it safe.

And bring signage. Clean, clear, and easy to read.

And bring personality. You don’t want TOO much going on at your table but you want enough to show your personality and your work’s personality. This is your store so treat it that way.

Have fun! If you aren’t having fun then why do it? And if you look miserable then no one will buy from you, just a fact.

Look at people. You’re there to work, so work.

Make friends! The people around you are usually pretty good folks that are in a similar boat as you. You are with each other for the duration of the show – get to know them.

Be clean. For the love of Pete, clean up after yourself. Seriously.  

Look Out For Each Other

I never noticed, consciously noticed, how many straight up creepers are at cons until the last few years and it’s chilling. I think it’s fair to say that anyone – man or woman – who dresses in a revealing f
ashion is OK with being seen in that state. I think that’s fair to say. For SOME reason people at cons – again, men and women – take that when someone dresses in a costume, or is scantily clad, that they must really, truly want to be touched, fondled, and peeped at by strangers. Not quite sure where that thought comes from other than a broken view of people and a twisted way of looking at the world. I feel for the people that just went to a show to have fun, to dress up in an outfit, and to let their freak flags fly among peers only to have people make lewd comments, try to get grabby, or snap creepy pictures when they aren’t looking. Heck, I am still dumbfounded by the crazy things people just say to you at shows. Me, I just get the random insults to my art – which are infrequent, thankfully – so I cannot fathom what it’s like to be told you look like someone’s favorite porn star – which a vendor I know told me she has been told by a fellow vendor time and again.

What. The. Crap?

Aren’t we all supposed to be safe together?

Not really.

At our first show we had a vendor who approached someone with the con in an elevator and propositioned them. This vendor was at the show with their wife. People are nuts. Absolutely nuts. The person who was propositioned came to me, told me, and I contacted the vendor to clear things up and they apologized…and disappeared. Never to be heard from again. But still…

We’re nuts, right?

It’s as if folks want to live down to the stereotype people hold of them.

But we gotta look out for one another and make sure we’re all safe. If we can’t take care of our ‘own’ then what the heck good are we?

Give A Damn

One last thing that I admire when it happens and hate when it doesn’t is when the con promoters, creators, and show runners are actively involved in the show. When they care about it and the folks who are part of it. Most focus their attention on the guests, and I get that because that’s where the money is and those are the ‘stars’. Some will even take into account the fans who are coming to support the show and will do their best to make sure they are happy. This year the MCC did just that and addressed what had been a huge issue in 2013 and made it much, much, much less of an issue. That shows they care. Very few shows indeed get so involved that they check on the vendors. Usually it’s a Green Room that may or may not have much to offer and that’s about it. To me if you wanna have not just a successful show but a great show you have to spin all three plates and keep all three factions happy.

Guests came here because they trusted you’d take care of them so you need to take care of them. It shouldn’t take a contractual obligation to do that.

Fans should always be in your mind when you build and populate your show. These are the folks that will drive you crazy with what they THINK you should do but who you need to take into consideration as far as what you really NEED to do. If the fans don’t like your show then why are you doing it in the first place?

Finally, and not lastly, come the vendors. Again, if they love your show they will tell everyone they meet and thus promote it more than you ever could. If they hate it they’ll make sure the circuit knows it. Treat them well, feed them well, and give a darn when they give you feedback. They are the spine of your show.

                I cannot believe it’s been twenty years. I can’t. It’s crazy. I started doing shows with the ‘zine my friends and I did and I have done shows since. They are fun, frustrating, scary, and some of the best experiences I have ever had. I have made so many friends over the years and have seen some crazy, hilarious, and strange things. It’s funny because I have done shows long enough that I don’t take as much pleasure in just GOING to shows anymore. It isn’t nearly as much fun. I have had some crummy experiences at shows but many were because of my expectations, though some were due to the show runners. What matters was that, for me, I have kept at it. You learn a lot about yourself, your product, and how to sell and promote your product by doing shows and that sort of experience is more valuable than words can hope to capture.

My next scheduled show is in August. Wish me luck!

…c…

www.meepsheep.com

The Death Of Politeness.

I have a problem.

A sickness some may call it.

You see, I call women ‘ma’am’ and men ‘sir’ when I deal with them. Now, this is even if they are family or friends. It’s meant as a sign of respect and it’s a bit of formality that I like. It’s also POLITE! I worked retail for a good many years and then have worked in an office and ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ just seem appropriate. I am casual enough in the way I speak as it is and throw around curse words like they are going out of style (and who knows, they may one of these days!) so I try to keep things clean on here, and to keep things a little more polite and formal and in the average conversation.

Continue reading “The Death Of Politeness.”

There Were Three – a story

This is a story I kinda fever-wrote. There may be mistakes, you need to figure out that there are two speakers, and it’s weird. Have fun.

THERE WERE THREE

There were three, you know.

Three what?

Siblings. Children. Three.

Oh, um, OK, so uh, you have kids?

No, not me. No. In the darkness there were three. The three came from the death of a universe and these were the remnants of those worlds. Three.

Um, OK, cool. Whatever.

Do you believe in God?

What the…why…

I see a cross around your neck so I trust it’s safe to assume you are a Christian.

Yeah, so what?

What nothing. Nothing. That was one of the three, your God. That was one.

Look lady, this is getting to be a bit much, if you’ll excuse me.

…The Adversary was another of the three. The Adversary was nothing more nor less than the black to the other’s white, the opposite. Some might call what was between the Adversary and your God sibling rivalry but it was more, so much more, and so much deeper. It wasn’t hate but it was close. It was close. And it had nothing to do with you. You were pawns in a game. Puppets in a play. It was about power and dominance and your God was much cleverer in how to use humans, how to influence them, and how to seduce them. The Adversary has gotten more clever over time but alas, it was already cast as an adversary, as a devil, and that’s a very hard stone to move off one’s chest.

Ma’am, ma’am, madam I have heard enough of this. I, why, why did you grab me. Let me go. Ow, ow that hurts, let me go, dammit!

Oh, but you see, while your God and the Adversary were fighting over us the third was making much broader plans. Much larger plans. Much darker plans.

Listen you bitch, I have had enough of you fuckin’ fairy tale – let-me-GO!

Oh, but you haven’t heard the best part. The best part is the third has finally turned its attention on you and your kind. It is finally ready to deal with humanity. Since the first life in the universe felt Life’s first breath the third has been involved. It left the humans to be fought over by your God and the Adversary but now, now it is time to deal with you. God has left the Tabernacle. The Devil has abandoned damnation. There is no one left to save you. They fled, fled when they saw what the third had made itself in all these many, many mega-annums. I cannot even tell you where the others fled, though there is no hiding, no for the third is the universe now. It IS creation and destruction. It is EVERYTHING. You might think of it as an infection because it has already seeped into your dreams. Do you dream of the ocean? A dream of being alone in the middle of an ocean, just barely treading water, and your arms growing weary. And the sky is black, so black, but from that blackness form strange stars and planets, worlds you have never seen but somehow now. And on each world there is life, and all of that life radiates one thing – hatred. Hatred of Mankind. Their hate is a weight on you and you sick under the water. You scream and your lungs fill with water but the water is not salty no, but is thick and full of things that feel like worms that force themselves down your throat. When you wake there is a shadow over your heart and it feels as if all joy has left the world. And you know…it has. Oh, it has. Something you cannot imagine has turned its attentions on your kind, something that has tired of its siblings toying with you. Things you cannot fathom know your names and they are coming. They are coming here and there is nothing you can do to stop them.

Uh…how did you know…ow, ow, ow, stop it, please, stop it that hurts, let me go…

Shhh, still your tongue, boy. Save your breath. It’ll be easier if you don’t fight. Now then, I wonder what I shall eat first, your tongue…or your eyes.

 c

www.meepsheep.com

Preaching to the Choir

With the recent death of GWAR lead singer Dave Brockie it occurred to me that we’re losing our appreciation of The Other Side. We’re losing our ability to see past ourselves and to imagine a bigger world.

I followed Brockie’s ODERUS (his GWAR character’s name) Twitter feed and it was all but guaranteed to offend at least once daily. More times than not he was muck-raking and playing a bit of Devil’s Advocate as he posted his own views mixed with more outrageous statements that were the equivalent of his Id being let out of its cage for a bit. Since his death I have started to realize that the American people have very little interest in spirited discourse or listening to the views of people they don’t agree with. Now, this isn’t a new thing, and I know I am TERRIBLY guilty of this but it doesn’t make it any less true.

Look no further than something that happened over the weekend. A young man who plays football was drafted in the NFL draft and when he found out he was drafted he kissed his significant other. Seen it a million times. Totally reasonable and appropriate. Oh, wait, he’s gay and his sig other was another man.

LORD A’MERCY!

Naturally people were upset, and naturally the old dog of ‘I shouldn’t have to watch that’ gets brought out to be shown to the people. Yes, it’s always better to be outraged and offended than to look beyond what you feel. We are in a Me First world and by god if I am offended then the rest of the world needs to know it and respect it.

Only…no.

I won’t say America has become because any tendencies we have were there, they’re just out more now. And the thing is this, we don’t want to listen, to see, to learn about alternative views, lifestyles, religions, or ways of seeing the world but we sure as heck wanna make sure that no one treads on how we live. We want to be loud, rude and to wave whatever flag we have handy and make sure that EVERYONE knows where we stand but we have no interest in seeing how others feel about it.

It’s crazy.

We’re crazy.

And it makes me miss Brockie all the more.

I may not have agreed with everything he said but at least he had the guts to stand up and SAY something and not to just stamp his feet and complain when others say things. He at least took a stand on things. And oh, sure, people take stands, but they’re the weakest stands possible. On one hand you will hear how America is a ‘Christian Nation’ and then on the other how Christians are being persecuted. BWHA?  We are becoming a nation that refuses to let the world spin unless we Will it to. None of this is to say that there are not a lot of people with open minds and open hearts who want to be a part of the bigger world but there is a spreading stain of resistance that  sounds SO much like the whining of a petulant child.

I don’t WANNA believe in evolution.

I don’t WANNA believe in climate change.

I don’t WANNA know that people of the same sex show their love physically.

I don’t WANNA hear that other sexes and races and nationalities may not feel as if America is always fair.

I don’t WANNA!

On and on.
And it isn’t just Christians, or any one group. Heck, I get tired of atheists crying about a world full or religion as if it’s a new thing. What I WISH is that we could all just focus on what we enjoy and stop worrying about everyone else. I WISH we could learn to listen to one another and to find more common ground.

Here’s the deal – have your opinions. Live your life. Do your thing. But understand that the world gives very little of a damn about you and what you do and how you do it. The world evolves, and you can take that however you want but the fact remains that the world moves forward every day, with or without us and many times to spite us. And you can hold whatever you feel true as True as long as you live but you sure as heck butter understand that a day may come when you have to not just face that the world doesn’t see things the same way you do but that it may well come to your door knocking to call you out for those Truths.

Life is not safe.

Life is not sane.

Life is a river and all we can do is hold on to one another and try to guide ourselves to gentler waters when we see them.

We are a nation obsessed with fame, with controversy, with sex and scandal but won’t deal with the issues beneath those things. We are in love with the veneer and not the heart. We are raising a generation of kids that want fame at almost any cost, never realizing that the kind of fame the average person can get is fleeting but stains for years. There is a reason self portraits became selfies. It became less about the portrait of the person, less about the moment of OH MY GOSH THIS IS HAPPENING and more about the LOOK AT ME AND WHAT I AM DOING! Less about the beauty of the moment and more about the beauty of us in every moment.

We are so focused on what makes us happy, and sad, and upset that we are starting to forget that there are other people feeling the same things at the same time and that sometimes the things that make us happy make them miserable.

But what makes an opinion different than righteous indignation?

An opinion is a stance you take and pronounce and stand by. Righteous indignation is all about your feelings being hurt or you being upset. An opinion is a flag flown high, even if it’s a flag that’s more holes that material, and righteous indignation is the kicking of dirt and the stamping of feet. So few will say something and stand by it. We rush to social media at every turn to shout our notions to the world then so often have to back track when we realize that we may have been a little TOO candid. We have our governor’s off and our spines out and we’re ready to shout to that world that we probably, maybe feel this way.

Here’s the bottom line – the world is spinning away from us as we navel gaze and take our selfies. Every time we shout to the rooftops about how upset we are without hearing another side, without seeing a bigger world we are losing the future.

Yeah, as they say – everyone has an opinion.

Few have the conviction of that opinion and fewer still have the wisdom to realize that just because they have that opinion it doesn’t make them right.

We pick small fights, little wars, tiny disputes to obsess over – someone disrespecting us, something a celebrity does, something we see online – so we don’t have to face the large issues we don’t feel we can change – poverty, war, violence, crime. We distract ourselves with the smaller battles to make ourselves feel good.

Yet…we don’t.

We aren’t happy.

And because we aren’t happy we blame the world. We blame the Them, and the They, and the Those and never the Us because we run our show. We row this boat. And we either get over it or get on.

I miss Dave Brockie because in a world of people crying over their petty offenses he had the guts to look at a bigger world and to take a stand in it. It means nothing to say you’re upset about this or that and then move on to the next offense of the week. It’s a world of difference to talk, to listen, to debate, and to hear what others think.

We used to live in a world of opinions that made us think and challenged how we saw things. Now we’re just in a society that loves to stare in the mirror and pout because no one is paying attention to us and what WE want.

I ain’t right, but sometimes, sometimes Iain’t that wrong either.

–          C

      www.meepsheep.com