As usual I always do a review of any convention I go to. Also like other times I’m late doing it, this year though I had a good reason, all the controversy surrounding it made me think long and hard of what should (and should not) be in here. As this weekend is another convention, Atlanti-Con (wish I could be there but sadly not this year).
So I’m not going to point any fingers at specific people. I think there’s been enough said on social media (both good and bad) and as I’ve not heard the whole story, it’s best to leave it be. I will, however, talk about my experience as a vendor, things I heard guest and participants say and what I think should happen with Avalon Expo in the future.
One of the best parts of a convention for me has always been the costumes. I’m not much for dressing up myself (haven’t done it years and don’t plan to at a con) I love to look at all the amazing costumes. This year was no exception, the costumes get better every year. I’m always careful to ask permission before I take anyone’s picture, as it’s just good etiquette and you get much better pics as well.
I enjoyed meeting Rene Auberjonois (Odo from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), got to talk with him twice and got two pictures. Again I’m refraining from commenting on what he said on Twitter (and he voice discontent to me in person as well), as I don’t want to hash it out with people. I also was happy to be part of an author’s panel on writing (with a moderator) and to give my usual talk on writing and publishing. As a vegetarian I’m always wary about conventions and finding food but with an excellent sandwich table there, I was in good shape (and could later bring my own water once Mile One relaxed the rule on it.)
The volunteers do an amazing job, this year in particular they were really put to the test as Jeff was not available on Sunday of the convention (again I’m not going into details, I just don’t think it matters anymore). Mile One staff also did a good job with food service and being accommodating to the first sci-fi/fantasy con ever held there (I’ll get to what they did beforehand). I made money on my table (not a lot but some), got to hang out with “con-friends”, reconnected with people I hadn’t seen in years and as always had some interesting talks with complete strangers. I only attended one Q&A (Rene’s), which brings me to the issues I had with the con.
Time to talk about the negatives. First off for those who don’t know Mile One almost cancelled the whole convention just days before it happened! Very unprofessional and strange of them, obviously it went ahead but the fact that this e-mail confirmation was needed from every vendor before a certain time was concerning. Speaking of I think that Mile One is not a good venue for a convention (at least of this type). Also when I first showed up on Thursday night to set up there was no floor plan and the tables/chairs were not all in place.
In Mile One the only room to have a panel in was the locker room (strange indeed but better than upstairs in a hallway, which was the first choice). When a guest did a Q&A it was down on the dealer floor, people constantly walked past (so they could get to the dealer area and back) and the echoing in the room was so bad I maybe caught half of what Rene said. Mile One tacked on extra fees to attendance, making the price get up around $30 a day (too high for a con of this size). Most of the time the dealer floor seemed almost empty and that’s never a good sign.
I think Avalon Expo should have been at a hotel this year, someplace smaller they could fill. I head several attendees complain about the high price of admission, they also said they were not provided with a floor map or schedule. One of the guests (if you read the article in The Telegram you know who) told me he was concerned about not seeing the organizer (this was on Sunday) and being reimbursed for his expenses. To my knowledge the guests were paid but obviously something must have gone wrong for this to have happened in the first place.
So did I still enjoy Avalon Expo 3? Yes of course I did but I felt it could have been a lot better (for various reasons, as stated above some just regarding the location). Would I be a vendor at Avalon Expo 4? I’m not sure, normally that would be an automatic yes but with everything that happened this year I would have to give it a lot of serious thought. I wouldn’t go back if it was at Mile One, for all the above reasons. To be honest I think the reputation of Avalon Expo has been so damaged by all the negative media attention that this should (unfortunately) be the last one. I hope this post doesn’t ruffle any feathers, I know everyone makes mistakes. The problem is when you are involved with a public event any mistakes made, sadly, then become very public. I know planing a con is hard and things can go wrong, I just hope that those involved learn from the experience and hopefully come out stronger.
Life goes on, I love conventions and I look forward to the next one. Of course that will be Sci-fi on the Rock but there is already talk of a new one (NL Horror Con). This con showed me the geek community here in NL is close knit and (usually) very supportive of each other. It was certainly the most controversial convention I’ve ever been involved in and I’m well aware that several things that happened over the con were a result of just bad luck and circumstances outside of the committee’s control. Here’s hoping future cons go a lot smoother and I’ll do my best to come along for the ride.