“What I did on my summer vacation”, or Four-plus days and nights at GenCon by Terry O’Brien.
First of all, GenCon is a four day gaming convention hosted by TSR, who are the people that publish the Dungeons and Dragons games. In the beginning GenCon was held in Lake Geneva (hence the name), the home of TSR, but it has expanded and moved several twice, and is now at MECCA in downtown Milwaukee. This was the 23rd year for GenCon, and my 13th.
GenCon is the major roleplaying games convention in the world, with a a very large amount of games-related programming, a sizable dealers room, a very small video room, an art show and auction, and lots of different types of games played, both scheduled and unscheduled, and even a few parties in the evenings this year. Unfortunately, other than that, there are very few of the things that SF conventions normally have: a con suite, filks, GOH speeches, et cetera. There is also a frenetic atmosphere to the convention; so many games to play, and so little time to do it in. The day is scheduled such that there are four 4-hour blocks during the day, and officially scheduled games are during any of these blocks. (Officially scheduled games are listed in the preregistration book and have TSR supported/provided prizes.) Unofficial games can also be scheduled; several notice boards are available to advertise a game, and several tables are available for unscheduled (“pick-up”) games.
There have been several improvements at GenCon over the past few years, and it may rival some SF conventions in the future. One of the things added was a professional art show and auction a couple of years ago; now they re drawing several professional and semi-professional artists. Rowena Morrill, Michael Whelan, and Mike Grell have been Artist GOHs since this trend started. This year, because of the art show, I got to meet fellow GEnie-ite Liz Danforth face to face, as well as Ruth Thompson, an up-and-coming artist whose work I have been steadily collecting. Liz has been doing art mainly for game companies, but it is every bit as good as other, better known SF artists. Ruth’s art is excellent; she has real talent, especially considering that she has only started selling her artwork at art shows within the past two years.
Other GEnie people I met there included Dave Arneson, Mike Stackpole, Paul Hume, and Steve Peterson; unfortunately I didn’t get to see the Author GOH Robin Bailey. It seemed that TSR got full use of their Author GOH, and considering both of our busy schedules, it was not surprising that we never met face-to-face. Other APA folk there included Spike Y. Jones, “Doc” Cross, and Rex Joyner.
It is our custom (I usually attend with one or two local gaming friends, this year being Kim Metzger and Rex Joyner) to drive up to Milwaukee Wednesday so we can stand in line and collect our registration packets that afternoon and afterwards explore “The Bookstores of Cthulhu”. That’s my name for two bookstores about a half-mile from MECCA. These bookstores are packed to the (very tall) ceilings with paperbacks, hardcovers, records, cassettes, CDs, magazines; you name it, they’ve got it, all arranged in a way that would bring delight to any Discordian. Unfortunately, that means a long and dusty search for anyone else if you are looking for something in particular. The SF section is fairly large (and tall), but I did manage to find the SFBC edition of Judith Tarr’s “The Hound and the Falcon” trilogy, which I have since read and enjoyed. After talking to a native friend, I have found another such bookstore on the other side of the hotel, which I am planning to raid next year. Other than that, there’s very little else happening until the convention begins the following morning.