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Zer Netmouse
May 31st, 2006
09:26 am

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Balticon: Thank Yous!
Got back Monday afternoon from Balticon (where I assisted Neil Gaiman throughout the con) and I was really glad to be back to quiet and stillness and sleep and especially back to my Bill. I just wanted to take a minute now to give a shout out to everyone who was really nice to me and to Neil and helped make Balticon an enjoyable exausting three days, inasmuch as they could have given how tired and busy Neil and I were.

On the Balticon staff, I appreciated the efforts of Perrianne in the green room; the supportiveness of elaine_brennan even though we didn't run into each other much; the terrific Tech Crew in the Valley Ballroom, especially Joel Lord; the Ops fellows who helped with Neil's two autographing sessions- James Basinger, Mike, and Paul, if memory serves; Kristina, who I think was Lisa's guest liaison and was a delight to work with; a volunteer named Sue who drove Neil and Lisa and Peter to dinner Sunday despite the confusion. I really enjoyed meeting Gene and Rosemary's liaison Rebecca Bushong-Taylor and her daughter Jordan and husband Joe and hope to see them again sometime. I owe a special thanks to Joe for driving me to the airport on Monday. Thanks go to Neil's liaison, vandaluna, for bringing him Sushi on Friday, setting him up with a tea kettle and various snacks in his room, and getting him to and from the airport as well as taking other on-call sorts of requests and questions.

As for people who were not on staff but were a great help/delight, thank you to Jody and Paul from Minneapolis for taking Neil to get Food Saturday afternoon; to Grace Monk for helping me fetch Neil back from that lunch, for making sure *I* ate, for getting us to dinner Saturday and just generally for being good company; to jonsinger for transitory moments of delight for Neil and to him and and Lisa Peebles (lisajulie) for the lovely dinner company for me on Sunday; to my friend Jennifer Page (freitagkitty) for good hang-out downtime on Sunday and taking me to lunch (and to Bob Greenberger for taking Neil to lunch so I had that downtime); and especially to Seth Breidbart for helping from time to time in making sure things worked smoothly, for getting Neil some more pens, and to him and Sharon generally for being themselves, and around.

Huge thanks also to Art & Becky Henderson in the Dealer's room for loaning Neil a copy of Legends II so we could check it for corrections on the American Gods Novella that he wanted to re-apply in Fragile Things, which he was copyediting over the weekend.

Tom Schaad of Fast Forward TV was also very solicitous all weekend, and pleasant to work with, as was his crew. Hopefully Neil doesn't look so shattered and exausted on tape that Tom can't use the footage. I was really pleased to hang out with Lorraine a Malena and get to listen to Adam Stemple on guitar in the concert, and to meet Betsy. I also got to meet Kitty, who does the PA thing for Neil sometimes in L.A. and was running Lorraine and Malena's tour - I look forward to hanging out with her more if I get the chance again.

I was disappointed that I didn't spend more time with Gene and Rosemary Wolfe, who are two of my favorite people, but I enjoyed a nice conversation with Joe on the ride to the airport about what a romantic and loving couple they are. Peter S. Beagle was a true delight to meet. Soft-spoken and full of interesting stories, with a fondness for history that I share. I felt very lucky to get to talk with him a fair bit over the weekend, and I also felt lucky to go along as artist guest Lisa Snellings gave Neil a personal tour of her art show exhibit. Lisa dancing in a rat suite to start off her GoH presentation is something that will stay with me for a long time, and she was a pleasure to talk with also. I'd love to see her Kama Sutra Hands done huge on a wall, and the green brain with the reptile tail and the hands over its face is so cute somehow that I might have to get one...

Neil can never do everything he wants or that other people want him to at an event like this, especially since he had just flown 30 hours from Australia on Friday and was exausted with his internal clock all messed up by jet lag (as Neil describes it, he thinks the human soul only travels at 60 miles per hour, so during that period when you're out of it after traveling that far, that fast, you're just waiting for your soul to catch back up to you). In some ways I feel like he might have been luckier without me there to keep scheduling things for him to do and field requests, because he might have ended up doing fewer things... but really, I felt like I was able to be helpful if not always on the ball, and all the people mentioned above helped very much, as well as others I just haven't brought up - please don't be offended if you aren't mentioned by name. There were a lot of very nice people around, and it was a good weekend.

I wish Matt Fanny had made it, as I could have used his calm and helpfulness, and I wish I had been able to sleep later than 4 or 5 each morning. With those two things it would have been easier. Or also if I had simply rented a car. But in any case, I lived through it, Neil lived through it, and on the whole I'm glad I went.

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From:tammylc
Date:May 31st, 2006 03:17 pm (UTC)
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Inquiring minds want to know - how did you end up handling the whole autographing session issue, as discussed on SMOFS?
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From:netmouse
Date:May 31st, 2006 03:42 pm (UTC)
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At Neil's request, people simply lined up before each autograph session, and Ops capped the line when they had as many people they were going to take, which I believe accumulated only a short period before each signing started. Tickets were given to a few volunteers, who were allowed to get their things signed first so they could go back on shift, except for one volunteer who held the end of the line. Lines were capped at 125 people (plus the volunteers, which didn't seem like many). Each session still ran to two hours.

The Saturday session was slowed down by the fact that it was a combined session with Peter Beagle and a) it was held in a room with Peter and Neil positioned in such away that everyone had to go past them in a tight space and people couldn't form two lines, b) they originally started with the entire line out in the hall and outside, and moved people into the room in blocks of five, which just wasn't steady enough - Neil had them bring a large section of the line into the room; even though the line had to curl around the walls and made the room hot, it moved faster; c) one of the concom went up the line (I didn't know she was going to do this, and she hadn't spoken with Peter and Neil about it) and collected everyone who had things for both Peter and Neil to sign, and walked them to the front of the line. This understandably upset other people in line, slowed down the line for the first 20 people going through, and meant that Peter largely had nothing to do for the rest of the signing session. Except chat with me from time to time. :)
Said concom member had done this under the impression that it would free Peter up to leave once he was done signing the people she brought forward. I let her know that Peter would not, in fact, leave (I never talked to him about it, but as I expected, he stayed for the whole session), and on hearing this, one relieved person in the brought-forward group went back to stand with her friend in line. Quite a few people had Peter sign their program or their badge as they went through, or stopped to talk to him, so he wasn't completely bored, but it was still the wrong thing to do and I wish I'd had the presence of mind to make the snap decision to just say "No, we're not doing this." instead of "This is the wrong thing thing to do," which I did say, but which didn't stop it from happening. Not a lot of harm done, in the long run. Neil was late to dinner, but the fans stopped being angry once the line started moving, as far as I could tell.

It turns out the ticket lottery idea that I posted about to smofs was just an idea from someone who wasn't in charge of the signing (the posting I made significantly upset the chair and the person whose idea the lottery was, and I was asked not to post anything further there). The person who was in charge of the signing, the afore-mentioned concom member, planned to give out tickets at the information desk an hour before each signing began, first-come, first-served, with some reserved for volunteers. On Friday when he arrived Neil pointed out that his fans were complaining by email that this meant those lining up for tickets for his 4:30 Sunday signing would have to miss his 2-3:30 GoH Presentation. He also pointed out that having people line up and then sending them away and having them come back was uneccessary complexity and would in fact slow things down. So they changed it to just the lining up.
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From:watervole
Date:May 31st, 2006 05:41 pm (UTC)
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It's interesting reading your journal and trying to crystal ball gaze nearly two years ahead. Neil's kindly agreed to be one of the guests at orbital_2008 and I suspect his presence may shift the demographic a bit from the normal Eastercon. (There's been a British national convention held every Easter since before I was born and I'm not that young...) Autograph sessions are relatively rare at Eastercons and often don't happen at all. When they do happen, they tend not to have long queues. People often just ask writers informally at the bar. It's usually a pretty low-pressure event for writers in that regard.

If Neil pulls in members from outside the normal Eastercon community (and we're hoping that he will), then we may get pressure for longer autograph sessions. We'll have to think about that one. Long autograph queues are rather against our ethos; but on the other hand, we don't want people trying to grab him every passing moment because they want an autograph - that would be even more against our ethos...
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From:netmouse
Date:May 31st, 2006 08:14 pm (UTC)
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Hi Judith. Roughly how many people attend an Eastercon, normally? And how many do you expect to attend Orbital 2008? I think queues aren't a big concern as long as you have a location where people can queue up that can flow logically to the place where someone is signing, where the temperature will be comfortable, and where they won't disrupt the other traffic of the convention, and you limit the queue so that people won't stand there for hours and then find out that the author has run out of time to sign.

generally I would say that even a popular author like Neil doesn't bring in as many extra people as you might expect. You might check with the conchairs of other conventions to see if they've done a comparison on their numbers from before and after he's been there, but you're not going to be overwhelmed.

Also, Neil's fans in particular are very nice and understanding, so that are unlikley to be demanding about things like autograph sessions.

Neil does get asked to give autographs informally, and that's fine except when he ought to be going someplace else, especially if he needs to go eat or something. He is very nice and he does tend to sign anything that's put in front of him, so you do need to have someone with him who can r\e\s\c\u\e\ extract him from such a situation.

If you have not already read my notes on Neil-handling, I will modestly recommend it, and I would also point out that there was recently a substantial discussion thread on autographing sessions (and Neil in particular) on the SMOFs discussion list.
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From:watervole
Date:May 31st, 2006 09:18 pm (UTC)
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Eastercons are normally 6-700 people. We're already getting numbers a bit above the norm (we passed 300 last week), so I'd expect us to come in around 8-900. That's not just Neil, it's partly good publicity and partly the fact that we've taken the event back to London after a decade or so in other parts of the country.

I think I'd expect Neil to add around 50 people, though that's pure guesswork on my part. The fact that we're a four day event rather than a single day will probably eliminate people who just want a souvenir and an autograph.

Not being overwhelmed is good, as that's not the kind of event we want to run. Eastercons are odd animals, very eclectic with all sorts of activities that have become tradition. (If you do it twice in fandom, it's a tradition and sacrosanct foreverafter...) That's why Neil is such an ideal guest for us because several different aspects of fandom are met in a single person. Plus, he's a Brit and knows the Eastercons anyway.

LOL, I know exactly what you mean about needing to diplomatically 'rescue' guests. I've had to do it once or twice at media cons where the pressure on guests tends to be a bit greater.

I read your note on Neil-handling last week - that's what drew me to read your LJ. They were very informative. I've particularly noted the wheat allergy.
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From:agingaglaea
Date:May 31st, 2006 03:25 pm (UTC)

he was lucky to have you there!!

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Anne, lovely and talented as Mr. Gaiman may be, he'd have been soooo lost without you this weekend. You really amaze me -- more every time I see you! Which I am hoping to do again before too much time goes by. I would love to see you at a Con where you aren't working every second of the day. :-) Thanks for letting me hang out with you. love, grace
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From:metalfatigue0
Date:May 31st, 2006 03:56 pm (UTC)
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So I take it you have now become a free-lance Neil Wrangler, and other cons are bringing you in just for that purpose?
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From:netmouse
Date:June 10th, 2006 03:33 pm (UTC)
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So I take it you have now become a free-lance Neil Wrangler, and other cons are bringing you in just for that purpose?

I pretty much became that right after Neil came to Penguicon... I really only attended Mythcon because I had offered consultation on how to handle Neil and then their liaison quit due to having a baby on the way and they pulled me onboard. It turned out to be a really nice little convention full of good people and I was glad I went. It was also easy to attend and to liaise Neil at since it was here in Ann Arbor.

With regard to Balticon, Lorraine forwarded a question from Neil's Liaison to me and I responded to both and mentioned that I had been thinking about attending. Vandaluna and Lorraine both responded with enthusiastic encouragement and Nora (the conchair) offered to make me staff and find me space to stay in the hotel even though it was sold out.

It would be nice to be "brought in" to the extent of having my travel or hotel costs covered, but in the meantime I really enjoy helping out, even if doing so in a strange place is stressfull.

Lessons for next time include that I should get names and contact info for the other GoH Liaisons, and green room staff and Ops head, and at least one local volunteer with a car who isn't any of those people. This was the first time I tried starting without all that and it really would have been better with -- by the *end* of the weekend I had all the info I needed, and then I came home... :)
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From:jvowles
Date:May 31st, 2006 04:00 pm (UTC)
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If you're even in Baltimore with Neil again, I will personally offer to take him to a proper sushi place. I don't know if you wound up at the conveyor-belt place in Towson or not -- or if you did, whether it was as good as I've been led to believe -- but there are a few truly fantastic places in Baltimore proper that wouldn't be too far out of the way, and it might be a nice change of pace for Neil to have a few moments in Baltimore.

I also greatly enjoyed chatting with you during our few brief encounters this weekend, and my sister is thrilled with the photo of Neil and her stuffed panda. (That panda gets around!) I'll post the photo soon.
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From:sfrose
Date:May 31st, 2006 05:37 pm (UTC)
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When I saw that one of the signing sessions was going to be combined with Peter Beagle, I knew that that would complicate things. What I've seen before, people who had both would just wait until they got to the front, and then get both signed at that time (with more chat time with the other guest.) The other guest would realize that they were in for the duration (as you said Peter expected to be.) But there is another trick that works. A gopher goes down the line to the next person who has items for both. The person is sent up front to the other guest and then returns to their place in line and the gopher finds the next person. That way no one is upset about being pushed back in line and it enables the other guest to leave earlier if the session gets extended without disappointing anyone.

When Balticon was downtown Seth and I found a really excellent Sushi restaurant on N. Charles St. We were disappointed that we didn't have time to return there this trip.

It was good seeing you, sorry that we didn't have much time to chat.
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From:jvowles
Date:May 31st, 2006 06:35 pm (UTC)
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There are a few of them, but my favorite got shut down for employing illegal immigrants! :(
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From:lisajulie
Date:May 31st, 2006 06:44 pm (UTC)

Sunday Dinner

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We vastly enjoyed dinner on Sunday with you, indeed if you are anywhere vaguely in this region, do let us know! There's a bunch of good food places on this coast and we're perfectly happy to travel. The food was decent, but the company was better.
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From:netmouse
Date:June 10th, 2006 03:23 pm (UTC)

Re: Sunday Dinner

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We vastly enjoyed dinner on Sunday with you, indeed if you are anywhere vaguely in this region, do let us know!

Thanks, I will! And if you're in the Ann Arbor area, let me know. And if you haven't considered it yet, do think about coming to ConFusion in January. We run a nice little con if I may say so myself.
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From:xdaemon
Date:May 31st, 2006 08:05 pm (UTC)
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On behalf of the entire tech crew... *bows*

It's not common (in my experience) that the tech crew gets more recognition or thanks than the MC at the Masquerade. Balticon this year has been an unusual thing.

It was a pleasure to work with you again. Until next time, whenever that may be...
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From:stardustgirl
Date:May 31st, 2006 08:10 pm (UTC)
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as Neil describes it, he thinks the human soul only travels at 60 miles per hour, so during that period when you're out of it after traveling that far, that fast, you're just waiting for your soul to catch back up to you

I like that theory. It may explain why I've always preferred earth-based travel to flying, and experiencing the journey, feeling the distance I've traveled, without that disjointed gap of being at point A and then suddenly, disorientingly, being at Point B, with no transition inbetween.

I really wish I could've made it to BaltiCon. I'm hoping the determination to get out of debt was the right move rather than travel to restore sanity. Maybe sanity is overrated ;-)

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From:yellojkt
Date:May 31st, 2006 08:17 pm (UTC)
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I had dinner Saturday night at Jesse Wong's Asian Bistro (as did a lot of people at the con) and when I walked out, Neil was there talking on his cell phone. Did you end up eating at JW, or someplace else? Just curious.
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From:netmouse
Date:May 31st, 2006 08:20 pm (UTC)
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Yes, Saturday night the con took the GoHs out to dinner at Jesse Wong's. If you walked out around 7 or so, Neil was just getting there.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:June 1st, 2006 12:38 am (UTC)
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Yeah, I wish I'd made it, too! :(

Oh, well.... maybe next time. How..HOW can I be making making > 35,000
a year and still be living paycheck to paycheck???!!!


(oh, yeah..mumblemumble*creditcards*..mumblemumble*studentloans*...darn it)
Clearly, I am not talented at fiscal affairs.

Hope to see you guys before next January!

-Matt F.

From:(Anonymous)
Date:June 8th, 2006 04:14 am (UTC)

LaM loves you

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Thank you for all your efforts at Balticon. You are a whirlwind of organizational perfection...not to mention being beautiful. Keep in touch and let us know if you want any LaM merch!
Lots of Love
Malena
From:(Anonymous)
Date:June 10th, 2006 06:46 am (UTC)

what next?

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I was at Balticon and even though we didn't actually get to meet, I could see and really appreciated the efforts you did to make everything run as smoothly as possible. Which are the next cons or events you plan to be at?

Lilian
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From:netmouse
Date:June 10th, 2006 03:21 pm (UTC)

Re: what next?

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Thanks for the note of appreciation. I will next be at The Locus awards weekend in Seattle next weekend (including the science fiction hall of fame induction ceremony), and then after than I actually have nothing planned until ConFusion in January of 2007. I keep thinking about Worldcon, but it seems unlikely. Then I'll likely be at Penguicon in April.

Also, there will likely be a Midwest Construction to be held in Chicago this fall. That's a conrunning convention - a convention about how to do this stuff. I hope to attend either that or Smofcon this year, or possibly both.
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From:inker_alpha
Date:June 21st, 2006 02:31 pm (UTC)
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I for one, was very excited to see Neil do an interview with internet horror host Count Gore de Vol. Good fun.
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