Back from Diplocon 14
College conventions tend to be a very mixed bag and certainly smaller scale than most other types of shows. Sometime after I graduated from SUNY-Binghamton there was a con and by then I was working at Starlog or had just started at DC and was invited back as a guest. Deb and I went, had a swell time, and hoped it would turn into something wonderful. Instead, as students graduated, the infrastructure never gelled and the con faded away.
On Long Island, the students at SUNY-Stony Brook launched I-Con and had the benefit of being during an off-season while being close to NYC, allowing a wide variety of professionals to attend. The early shows were limited to the Jacob Javits Lecture Halls, a single building but within a few years it grew. And grew. Before it exploded to a 5000 person extravaganza, it was small and intimate and fans could easily chat up Julie Schwartz, Harlan Ellison, and others. It has recently hit a rough bump and is skipping its second year in a row but I hope it comes back.
This weekend, I attended my first college show in years. Franklin and Marshall College nestled in Lancaster, PA. It’s a small, attractive campus and they’ve been running Diplocon for something like eight years. Apparently it was growing steadily until last year when it crashed so this is a rebuilding year for them. It’s predominantly an anime and gaming con but apparently are trying to branch out.
One of the organizers is related to my former Star Trek editor David Stern. When he couldn’t come down to be a speaker, he suggested me, a mere 90 minutes from the college. I was all too happy to help out and branch out a bit.
The con was limited to one building on campus, one floor with a smattering of dealer tables: a local gaming retailer, fan artisans, and an artist. And me. Upstairs a variety of rooms were set aside for videos and gaming. The only programming, beyond tournaments, was my talk on Saturday afternoon and a masquerade contest Saturday night.
Friday evening was quiet and I got to know the vendors, a very friendly bunch. We mostly called it a night around 10 and they went off to party while I went to the hotel to crash.
Saturday, people drifted in around 10 and although they were hoping for more people from the community to come by, it was smaller than expected. Those who came were having a wonderful time. I sat at my table, lesson planning or chatting with those who drifted by. Most thought they were disturbing me, somewhat surprised when I replied, “But I’m here for you.” One asked, “Are the Robert Greenberger who wrote Doomsday World?” I laughed at that one. I had a long talk with a history buff and another with a first year math teacher. Everyone was friendly, intrigued by my background.
The campus bookstore ordered a bunch of my books and set up a table to sell them and a few moved.
All along, I asked what they wanted me to speak about and when the time came, more than a handful stopped gaming or chatting to come hear me hold forth on a variety of topics, notably my time at DC and Marvel. It was a fine hour and those who came enjoyed it.
If I had gone to the show and only sat chatting, it was a bit of a bust. We take the time to come to shows to promote ourselves and our works, meeting fans and hoping to make new ones. Given the small attendance, it was far from cost effective. On the other hand, I got plenty of school work done freeing me to tend to housework today so it’s overall a win-win. I hope the con continues to grow since it’s a nice addition to the campus and the town.