Shorecon '97

I was Author Guest of Honor at Shorecon in September 1997; a report (written within a week of the con) follows, uchanged:

Shorecon is called that because it originated on the Jersey Shore. It's drifted steadily inland because (a) it's cheaper that way, and (b) most of the people involved live in or around Philadelphia. It's now located in Cherry Hill, NJ, near the Garden State Park racetrack. This is a really fine location, as it's pretty readily accessible, and there are lovely hotels living off the racetrack business, and when the track's not running those hotels are very agreeable to anything that brings in business. The Hilton is really nice -- huge, ornate, and comfortable lobby, extensive function space, comfortable rooms.

Interestingly, Shorecon's not the only outfit to realize there's good function space to be had cheap there -- when I arrived at the hotel door on Friday, around 2:00 in the afternoon, the first thing I saw was a sign on the door to the function area pointing out that the bridge tournament was in the Riverside Pavilion next door. (It's attached to the hotel by a glass corridor.) Throughout the convention I'd catch occasional glimpses of people older, better dressed, and generally more conservative in appearance than your typical fans going about their business. The bridge players were less numerous than the fans, but I think they generated more business in the hotel restaurant and bar, and they clashed less with the decor in the lobby.

Cherry Hill is 160 miles from home, by the way -- too close to fly, not convenient to the train. I drove and got paid mileage by the convention at a generous rate. In fact, throughout, the concom treated me well.

Shorecon's primarily a gaming convention -- I hadn't realized just how primarily until I got there and discovered that the art show and dealers' room shared a single moderate-sized ballroom, all SF/fantasy/horror programming was in a single room, the only movies or video were the anime room, but there were no fewer than five gaming rooms of various sizes. The entire program for everything else fit on two sides of one sheet of paper, with nice wide margins; the gaming schedules were massive enough that there were separate programs for each day, each consisting of at least four pages of very small type.

Attendance was something around 800, I believe, but most of them were invisible if one stayed out of the gaming rooms. Attendance at panels ranged from audiences of three up to a dozen or so.

I have been at gaming conventions in the past, and I've gotta say that Shorecon's better run than most, and has a very pleasant atmosphere. I think much of this is because they deliberately set up the schedules with staggered games, so that most people were forced to emerge from the game rooms every so often. This gave them a chance to eat, sleep, recaffeinate themselves, and mingle with human beings, with a positive effect on mood and behavior.

They also had plenty of space and decent ventilation, which help a lot.

Having arrived early, I found myself at loose ends at first. I got myself settled in my room, learned the layout, looked around the con... and then had nothing to do for awhile. Gaming started Thursday, programming started Friday afternoon, but a lot of attendees, including most of the writers and non-gaming fans, didn't show up until after dinner on Friday -- often later than they'd planned; Darrell Schweitzer missed his first panel, having been stuck in traffic for an hour en route. (I noticed this because I was on the panel. As Author GoH I was on a lot of panels.)

I checked out the dealers' room (I called it a "huckster room" at one point and discovered that the person I was speaking to had never heard the word "huckster" before), and noticed (a) not all the dealers were there yet, (b) there was a pretty good assortment of stuff -- games, anime, costumes, weapons, etc. -- and (c) there were no books at all. This was clearly a bad sign for an author.

(Some of the empty tables later did sprout books, but all either used or gaming-related.)

On the other hand, the selection of anime was great, and despite attempts to resist I eventually wound up carting home four tapes of the stuff.

Actually, over the next two days I spent a lot of time in the dealers' room -- not buying stuff so much as just talking to the dealers, as that was one place I could always find people with shared interests. Chatted with a costumer about wedding attire, with the used-book dealer about novelizations and books in general, with a weapons dealer about swords and antique firearms, with anime dealers about anime, distribution, White Wolf, and so on.

Friday evening I had two panels -- the now-standard "Is horror dead?" panel, and "The Physics of Magic," which almost immediately went off into a general discussion of magic in fiction. They went fairly well.

One slightly odd feature of Shorecon is that the Green Room and staff lounge and various other functions were combined into a single room on the fourth floor, the Den. This was also where the con fed anyone it had agreed to feed -- trays of frozen pasta were provided, along with a microwave to render the stuff edible. There were also other supplies -- coffee, soda, hot dogs (sometimes), etc. Donuts and cereal were available for breakfast. Cookies and chips between meals. Etc. I spent a good bit of time hanging out there, too.

There were some snags with the set-up, in my opinion. In order to save a little money, the soda in the Den was all cheap store brands, and I found it undrinkable except for a lemon-lime thing called Dart. Dart's pretty good, but I got very tired of it and desperate for real Coke after awhile.

And the pasta... well, it was cheap and nourishing and pretty good, but all of it except the macaroni and cheese involved tomato sauce, which I'm allergic to. This severely limited my menu choices.

When I left on Sunday there were still huge quantities of soda and munchies unconsumed. I think they'd have done better to get real Coke and the like, but less of it.

Oh, well. I get cranky when I don't get the stuff I like. And if I really cared I could've cruised down the road for dinner, but I didn't, I filled up on mac and cheese and munchies. And Dart.

Anyway, Friday was not a success as far as I was concerned; the non-gamers hadn't arrived yet. I found myself wondering what I was doing there. I watched "Super Atragon, Part 1" in the anime room, did my panels to minuscule audiences, and went to bed.

Saturday I woke up feeling crummy -- headache, fatigue, etc. Muddled through the morning. Decided that part of the problem was insufficient real food, and went to lunch at the hotel restaurant -- except they didn't start serving lunch until noon (they had a breakfast buffet that didn't interest me), and it must've taken awhile to get the grill hot or something, as it took half an hour to get a burger. During that half-hour I felt worse and worse, just wanting to curl up and go to sleep. Or maybe die.

Burger came, and I realized I didn't want to eat it. Or anything else, except maybe aspirin. Ate some anyway, but so little that the waitress felt guilty and gave me a 25% discount on the check. (Good burger, by the way.)

(Huge burger, too. Ten ounces of chopped steak.)

Went back to my room, took all the aspirin I'd brought with me, lay down for five minutes... but I had a panel at 1:00 and my GoH speech at 2:00, so I couldn't stay there. Started the panel feeling lousy.

By the time I finished the panel and started my talk, though -- which was about predicting the future, relying heavily on The Book of Predictions, a 1980 book that's now a fascinating historical document -- I was aware I wasn't feeling bad any more. By the end of the talk I was actually feeling good -- probably just rebound, but whatever it was, I felt fine and was much more cheerful.

From then on the convention went well, and I had a fine time. Talked to Michael Swanwick, Roberta Rogow, Grant Carrington, Bud Sparhawk, Darrell Schweitzer, assorted other people. Darrell interviewed me for SF Chronicle.

The con chairs took me to dinner -- just at the hotel, where I got another of those burgers and this time actually ate it -- which was fun. We mostly talked about beer -- the hotel only had two local microbrews on hand, but we tried those, and decided that Flying Fish is pretty good, and Philadelphia Lager isn't.

There was a dessert reception for the guests in the Den that evening, with cake and cookies; that was fun, too.

I finished up my programming obligations with an 11:00 p.m. horror panel on gore vs. subtlety, where I got to spout my usual harangue about cyclical trends in horror.

Sunday I had no obligations, and decided to head home early to surprise Julie, but wound up chatting with various people until 2:00 before actually getting out the door. Julie was still surprised; she hadn't expected me until evening, and I was home by 5:00.


For those who somehow stumbled in here by accident -- hi! I'm Lawrence Watt-Evans. I'm the author of more than four dozen novels and well over a hundred short stories, as well as innumerable articles, comic scripts, poems, and other miscellany. This is my personal website, the Misenchanted Page; the name is a reference to my bestselling novel The Misenchanted Sword.


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