What if somebody threw a great convention and hardly anybody came?
The longer version:
Silicon was both fun and depressing. I heard that there were around 500-600 attendees, but until the evening, they seemed to get swallowed up by the Doubletree, which is no longer right-sized for this convention. The convention had negotiated a reduced parking fee of $8.00 which didn't include in and out privileges. That was IMHO $8.00/day too much to pay to park my car.
[Disclaimer: I missed Friday. I was busy running errands and was too tired when the day was over to party. Most of what I caught was Saturday with some Sunday.]
It could have been that the economy played a large part. Most of the folks I came across were either unemployed, underemployed, had received notice that there was a pending layoff where they were working, or had taken a pay cut in the last year. It seemed more like the publicity was lacking. The folks in charge know there were problems with the web site, but there are other ways to publicize a convention. Heck, I've been involved with local press in one way or another since the late 1980s, so I know how to publicize something and what gets an assignment editor's attention. The lack of people milling around when I arrived and the small-sized dealer's room and art show were kind of depressing. Still, when times suck, folks like me come to the convention to network and, most of all, to get our minds off our current situation. In this, the convention succeeded marvelously.
The panels and science exhibits were excellent. The guests were excellent, especially the toastmaster, kproche, who could liven up a funeral. Getting to bring Lady was a plus, and she enjoyed the con, too, save for her "costume" as the "Killer Rabbit" from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" as part of the "Knights of the Log Table" team. She smiled on stage as I got to announce, "The teeth are real," then as soon as she got off the stage, she shook her body and "removed" her costume. Folks got photos, and I hope they get posted.
Lady and I spent most of the night at KJEve's Karaoke party. We missed the San Jose Westercon party, which I heard later was the only one with anything approaching food (if you call crackers and dip "food"). Lady and I eventually nibbled on the crackers (which hurt a bit for me to do, but we were both famished), which had made their way to the winning Ultra Fanzine Lounge. Most of the parties had pretty good wine, however. We also spent time in the Internet Lounge, which was staffed by really sharp and helpful folks. I was trying to do some tricky and oddball things, and I wound up putting them through their paces.
The highlight of the convention for me was that karaoke party. At one point a guy dressed as Captain Kirk from the original "Star Trek" was singing Prince's "When Doves Cry" when a small group of large, burly Klingon guys walked in behind him from the terrace and started giving him strange looks. The whole room was doubling over laughing while the Captain Kirk guy was totally oblivious to what was going on until one of them wrapped his arm around him. The Captain Kirk guy didn't miss a beat and kept going to the point where he had four Klingons dancing behind him at the end of the song. Folks were snapping photos; I think someone even caught some of it on a portable video camera. If it shows up on the net I'll point to it.
My only significant complaints were the lack of a filk track and the menu at the hotel's coffeeshop, which has gone way downhill. The "baby menu" they served this weekend sucked because it was too limited and too pricey at once. There was only one item on the menu I could eat, and that was the Popcorn Shrimp appetizer for a whopping $12. The "entrees" on the menu were all burgers or sandwiches, both of which are painful for me to eat. If I could have parsed it, the "obvious" item to have ordered would have been the burger with bacon and cheese. I don't know whose idea the limited menu was, but folks, you need to serve real food. Caesar salad with dead animal in it for $14 does not constitute "real food." If it involves my having to chomp through a piece of thick or hard bread, it's not "real food." If it is hard to chew or mostly involves parsing with my mouth and not with utensils, it's not "real food."
I missed Sunday's programming because I had already planned to go elsewhere, but I'd heard the Match Game SF rocked. Later that day I went to BASFA's 1000th meeting, which was fun.
To the folks who run Silicon: You have a great convention. You make money for really good causes. Now we just need to get the rest of the planet in on it.