Sunday, July 19, 2009

Report on Babel Con

To the Left: Cylons Versus Stargate SG1
I’m back from Babel Con, although I’m pretty tired and not back in normal blogging mode yet. We had a good time, though for reasons unclear to the staff, attendance was way down this year, from around 400 to some 140 in initial counts. They changed location, for one. And, of course, there is the economic downturn. They had a lot of great programming, but not as many celebrity guests. Who knows.

The panels I sat on were well attended, although not as much as last year. I sat on panels on pulp fiction, dreams and nightmares, and science versus the occult. I also did a reading, which had a whole six people at it. That was substantially better than another writer’s reading I attended on Saturday, which had two adults there, counting me, and a four year old and a six month old who spent most of the time interrupting and disrupting the writer’s attempts to read and interact with her audience.

I can’t really take much credit for the attendance, though. They had to change the time of the reading a couple of times and three of the people who came included the main con organizer, Andrew Myers, and two folks whose arms he probably twisted to get ‘em there. Two other folks were teenagers who hadn’t heard about the time change and thought they’d be showing movies in the room. Finally, though, there was Stephan, a bud of mine who I know actually likes my work.

Hey, though, I read a couple of my short stories and even the movie buffs appeared to be caught up in the tales. At least they didn’t leave once they found out it was me instead of movies on show, and both came up after and picked up some of the printed copies of stories that I usually take a long to readings to give out to folks. Being young, I’m sure they had no money. I sold just two books, one to Stephan and one to Andrew.

If you just figure the money I made from selling those two books, the con was a financial failure for me. But I didn’t really expect to make any money when I went. I don’t do much in the social arena in fandom so it’s good to see and interact with folks who like some of the same stuff I do. Plus, there’s quite a few folks that I see only once a year, at the con. We always talk about getting together more often but it doesn’t seem to happen.

And on Saturday at the opening ceremonies I was incredibly flattered and honored to be given the inaugural Bob May Award by the Babel Con organization. This is an award to be given each year to someone who has gone above and beyond the call of duty in helping the con. I certainly don’t think I deserved it but I sure do appreciate it.

For those of you who don’t know, Bob May’s main claim to fame in SF circles is that he played the robot in the TV series Lost in Space. Bob died just recently, but he had been a guest at Babel Con since its inception and was a very sweet and friendly fellow with lots of hilarious stories about Hollywood. I was really saddened not to have Bob’s smile and wit around this year. It’s an honor to have his award.

To the Right, Stephan and Eileen

To the Left, My Xavier Colleague, Dr. Gena Valentine, does psychoanalysis on Anakin Skywalker.



ivan said...


You knew he robot from Lost in Space?
Makes me head telescope up and and mock yell, "Danger, Danger Will Robinson!"
There are some who hold that Lost In Space was deeper than even Startrek.
I recall me and my kids vastly enjoing Lost in Space. It seemed less biblical. And that robot was a gas! Also the menopausal and cowardly Dr. Smith, whom I can sort of identify with, even to this day, as I seem now to have become cowardly and menopausal. :)

Barrie said...

I'm sorry it wasn't better attended, but it sounds as though you had a great time. Welcome home.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I doubt that any conference this year will be as well attended as in the past. But having fun is worth a lot.

laughingwolf said...

grats on the award, charles :)

sorry to hear of your pal's passing :(

a prob, you already know: changing venues without a lot of warning...

Greg said...

hey, congrats on that award! that's quite an honor.

Scott D. Parker said...

Thanks for the write-up. Any way you could give us non-attenders a rundown/synopsis of your panels?

Charles Gramlich said...

Ivan, I never watched Lost in Space that much, but the robot was the best part of the show for sure. Smith was definitely a good comic relief sort of bad guy on the series.

Barrie, yeah, weird how the attendance thing went. But they had great stuff. Maybe the word will spread.

Pattinase, you're probably right. A sad note.

Laughingwolf. The venue was also hard to find. I and a couple of other folks I know got lost first time around.

Greg, yes, it was very nice. I was shocked and thrilled.

Scott, I'll do that later this week. Good idea. They were mostly pretty freewheeling, which I enjoyed.

Clare2e said...

Sounds like fun, even if an unexpectedly close-knit scene. Glad your reading managed to captivate even the unintentional attendees! Cons will be tougher this year, I'm sure. I always wonder when they schedule roaming ones for places like Hawaii and Alaska, which has happened to Left Coast Crime and Bouchercon recently. Lots of people would like to go, but can't manage to swing it. On the upside, it makes for an enthusiastic and motivated crowd. The people that get there are ready for fun!

laughingwolf said...

hmm... sounds like tons of good ideers and no organization skills?

ivan said...

Laughing Wolf,

Well, you coud always read Terry Prachett. :)

X. Dell said...

Congratulations on your award. Mr. May would have been proud and pleased, I'm sure. (About to make a tired LiS joke, but now think better of it).

I would reckon that hese are tough times fro everyone, so things like Babel Con would suffer through lean imes. But the point here is simply to endure the bad times and wait for the good times. Who knows. Next year you might sell four books, maybe more.

I have to admit, a psychodynamic study of DV sounds really fascinating. You guys must have an awesome epartment at XU.

BernardL said...

I bet it was the location change.

j said...

I'm sorry the attendance was disappointing - it does seem likely that the economy was to blame. The annual educators conference in Mobile was cancelled this year due to finances.

Congratulations on the award! That is quite an honor.

Charles Gramlich said...

Clare2e, that happened at Babel Con too. The folks who did come were vocal and happy.

laughingwolf, well when all your work is done by volunteers there are times when something doesn't get planned just right. It's part of the charm of a con if you don't take things too seriously.

ivan, egads, don't wish that on him.

X. Dell, we defintely have the coolest department on campus. And we all get along wonderfully. Last year I think I sold four books so maybe next year it'll be five. Moving on up!

BernardL, I definitely think that was part of it, and the fact that directions weren't good on mapquest.

jennifer, we'll probably see more such cancellations. Things aren't improving very quickly.

Tyhitia Green said...

Glad you had a great time. More than likely the numbers will pick by next year. :-)

Randy Johnson said...

I'm sure the fun was there, for you as well as the other folks, both pros and fans.
It's been a few years since I attended one of these things, but I remember the exuberance from attending, seeing the GOHs, meeting several favorite authors and talking with them. The highlight for me way back then was meeting George Takei at one, Leonard Nimoy at another, and Roddenberry at a third.

Steve Malley said...

As a kid, I often enjoyed the sparse cons more than the crowded ones. As an adult (and local guest), I know what it's like to stand behind the table for hours on end, or to speak to nearly empty rooms.

Oddly, those are good memories too...

cs harris said...

I always find I come away from writers conferences with a happy buzz and an excitement to get back to writing. Congratulations on your award!

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

That's very cool!!!!! Although the conference attendance thing seems to be true everywhere. The romance writers had theirs in DC and a friend of mine who went said it was a drastic difference in attendance.

I've never been to a real conference and I would love to go. I'm glad you had a great time!

Mardikrewe said...


Thanks for posting my picture! I was the Cylon in front with the scabard. Although I think I upset several Con rep's with my loud sound system ..... we did have fun cutting up with the guy from BSG laying on the ground.

Not sure why attendance was down? The suit takes nearly 1 hour to put on and quite warm. There just wasn't enough people there. We just left early?

Barbara Martin said...

I watched Lost in Space faithfully, and adored the robot. Seemed the most sensible of all the characters.

Congrats on your award! That's certainly an honour.

jodi said...

Charles, I remember "Lost in Space"! That was such a part of our family t.v. viewing. Why do people bring their children to such event? Never got that.....Oh, and of cours, congrats to you!

Erik Donald France said...

A most excellent report. Couldn't have asked for a better one. The panels (and readings) sound really interesting, regardless of attendance.

the walking man said...

Days and attendance will get better. hopefully sooner than later. Good going on the award Charles.

Aniken on the couch???? ha ha ha ha I may have liked to hear that lecture.

Michelle's Spell said...

Hey Charles,

Congratulations on the award! And it sounds like fun. I think attendance is down at all writer functions right now because of the economy. Here's to riding out the storm!

Charles Gramlich said...

Demon Hunter, probably. I wonder how it’ll impact their planning.

Randy Johnson, yes, it’s pretty much the only way I’ve ever met any famous or semi-famous folks. And they’re almost always so approachable at cons. It is fun.

Steve Malley, yeah, as a fan, you can get one on one time with guests that is very nice at the more sparsely attended cons.

Candy, thanks. Yes, they do amp up the energy.

Ello, if RWA was down then it must be the economy. Wow, I guess I didn’t realize it would have that much impact. You should definitely go to one.

Mardikrewe, thanks for visiting. I can imagine that suit would not be that pleasant to wear. I thought the guy on the ground was doing a Stargate SG1 riff, but that’s probably because someone standing close to me said it was. But everyone recognized the cylons. Pretty cool.

Barbara Martin, thanks. And I agree, the robot was the fittest to survive.

jodi, kids have a great time at cons with the laser fights and other things, but sitting still for a reading is usually not their strong point. And thanks.

Erik, I’ll post some more about the panels eventually. But with the smaller number of attendees we had some very nice discussions.

the walking man, a lot of the focus on Aniken on the couch was on the losses the character had suffered. It was pretty interesting.

Michelle, thanks. You’re probably right about the economy issue. Sad to think about. Writers and artists get such little support anyway.

Sidney said...

Sounds like a good conference and some good panels.

Heff said...

Isn't EVERYTHING down due to the economy ? Lack of Celebs probably didn't help either,

Lauren said...

Sounds like it was a nice conference despite the down attendance. The panels you attended sound like they were interesting, or at least the titles do :).

Cloudia said...

Nothing worse than carrying home unsold books - exhilirating to have EVERYONE at a large reading want a signed one......

A privlege either way, eh?

Aloha Charles

Comfort Spiral

Charles Gramlich said...

Sidney, I still remember seeing you at a few cons.

Heff, maybe I can get them to invite you and Donna next year for celebs!

Lauren, we had some really good discussion in the panels for sure.

Cloudia, yes, the most folks I've ever had at a signing was about 15.

Anonymous said...

"I’m pretty tired and not back in normal blogging mode yet" - What is this "normalcy" you speak of?


Sarai said...

Awesome! That's so cool you got to go! I love the stargate picture at the top LOL favorite show.
Sounds like you had a good time. Sorry the reading didn't go better.

Charles Gramlich said...

Wil, you make a good point. After all, I have visited your blog! ;)

Sarai, thanks. It was certainly fun. I'm just glad I had six people at the reading.

SQT said...

You know, I haven't seen any mention of Babel Con on the net this year. I know in the past it was publicized a lot more. I'd guess that the economic downturn has affected the advertising budget. Combine that with people who aren't traveling as much and saving their vacation money for family vacation-- then you have lousy attendance.

Donnetta said...

Sounds like you still had a good time. I've been to some neat conferences and also to some real bombs. They can go either way. Congratulations on the award. Hope you and Lana are having a good summer. D

Charles Gramlich said...

SQT, I bet part of it is getting fewer folks coming from any distance. They said they advertized about the same but who knows. I know I got notification of stuff somewhat late so maybe that happened to others.

Donnetta Lee, thankee. Yes, for the most part our summer has been grand.

Chris Benjamin said...

Sounds like a great event despite the lower attendance this year. This kind of thing is so out of my little world, but it's fascinating to read a writer's perspective on it. Writing conferences are something I both dread and look forward to once I get a couple of books out.

Charles Gramlich said...

Benjibopper. I'm not a great socializer so I do often dread going to confernces, but I typically have a lot of fun once I'm there.

Lana Gramlich said...

I wish I had felt well enough to accompany you. I would have cheered very loudly when you got your award. :)

Travis Cody said...

Well, at least you had a good time. Too bad about attendance though.

Charles Gramlich said...

Lana, you are sweet.

Travis, it was fun, and our panels weren't badly attended.