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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 09:53pm on 20/11/2011 under ,
Tonight we got back from the 75th Philcon, the Philadelphia Science Fiction Convention, which was held (for logistical and financial reasons) at a hotel in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

We only went for Saturday and today, and we mostly did a lot of board gaming. This year, a sporting fan rented a suite instead of a normal room to create what was supposed to be a subsidiary gaming suite. Unfortunately, no official gaming area was ever set up by the con for reasons I don't know and can't understand, so her suite turned out to be the only gaming area for the entire con. It was crowded, but nice, and the fan who organized it laid in a supply of games (hers and her SO's, I assumed) as well as snacks, sodas and tea.

The dealer's room was, as usual, large and well-stocked with a variety of games, books, costumes and accessories, and odds and ends.

There was programming, and an art show, and I'm told that SJ Tucker was there as music GOH, but I never got around to seeing those things. There was also a Masquerade; judging by the pictures I saw displayed from it on Sunday morning, it was small but of good quality.

Unfortunately, I'm told that the hotel in Cherry Hill does not want the convention for next year, and the con comm is currently scrambling for an affordable place that is big enough and appropriately equipped to host it. Heaven only knows what will happen. It's a bad omen, though, for what (technically) was the con's Diamond Jubilee.

EDIT (11/30/2011): I've heard a rumor from a friend that the con comm is thinking of bringing Philcon to "Malvern" (probably Frazer, which has the same zip code, since there are no hotels within the borough limits). I can think of three possible hotels in the area, but at least one of those is unlikely to have sufficient function space to host an sf convention. We'll see what happens.
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 06:23pm on 21/11/2010 under
So [ profile] esrblog and I just got back from spending yesterday and the early part of today at Philcon, the Philadelphia-area annual science fiction convention which, for the past few years, has been held in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

We decided not to go for the entire weekend, partly to save on expenses (the damn hotel is $119 a night before taxes), but also because, for the past few years, the convention hasn't been much to write home about. Still, it is "our" annual convention, and [ profile] esrblog didn't want to give up on it quite yet.

The convention itself, when we got there, was a mixed bag. There were more parties than last year, though by no means an overabundance (about 6 on Saturday night in all) The panel list looked pretty much the same as ever, with some interesting titles ("Anime and the Revolving Door of Culture"), and the art show, always good, continued to be good. The Masquerade, though small (and without real stage lighting) was the best I've seen there in years, with a surprising number of rather good, historically-based costumes. The con suite put out for some more substantial snacks than last year (cheese, raw vegetables, sausage, hummus, bagels). The gaming area continued on, even though it's still stuck out in the hallway; the limited selection was at least more appropriate than last year's (it included Munchkin Cthulthu and Settlers of Catan). Some mutual friends of ours came over and we played several games (Power Grid, Puerto Rico, Ticket to Ride) with great enjoyment.

On the other hand, the convention is still hurting. Business was bad in the dealer's room, and one of the major dealers, Poison Pen Press (a purveyor of historical books, young adult fantasy/SF, and interesting miscellanea) was absent this year for that reason. The population continued stagnant--guesses were around 300-400.

The hotel isn't helping. The layout is too spread out and has the wrong mix of function space for the con. The location is good only for those who drive to the con. Unfortunately, to go to the local restaurants you need to drive on Route 70, a maddeningly confusing road--just getting back to the hotel from a few miles away takes considerable ingenuity--and the local food selection, though substantial in quantity, lacks quality choices. The hotel restaurant, meanwhile, is pretty awful (our $14 "breakfast buffet" this morning was ghastly) and their efforts to accommodate, with the exception of one game desk clerk, were missing in action. One fan I know was outraged when the hotel responded to his request for late checkout with a request for $75.

I had fun at Philcon. I saw some friends I hadn't seen in awhile, and they seemed to be having better lives than when I saw them last. As I hung out near the art show, one of the artists--a maker of chain mail and metal work, smiled at me and gave me a free knotted bracelet from string (he keeps them to give to "attractive females" he said). And there are signs that fen are trying to pump life back into the con--particularly the "Lobbycon" fan activities in the recessed lounge near the front desk. But the con is still in danger--of irrelevance, of pricing itself out of the market it still has, of being mown over by entropy.

Next year is Philcon's 75th anniversary. I hope it makes it. I hope I enjoy it.
Mood:: 'uncomfortable' uncomfortable
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 09:08pm on 23/11/2009 under ,
I spent this past weekend at Philcon, Philadelphia's annual science fiction convention which (for reasons I really don't feel like getting into right now), was held at a hotel in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

I had a pretty good time there. I did some gaming, saw a few friends, and there were more room parties than there had been last year (about 5 or 6, which gives you an idea how few parties there were last year). The con continues to have a good dealer's room, and a fairly big art show (though the quality of the art displayed seemed, to me, to be not quite as good as I'm used to seeing at Philcon). The Masquerade, like the Masquerades at most East Coast cons I've been to lately, was small, though the quality was, again, pretty good.

I'm not sure how many people attended the con, because the hotel is so large it wasn't easy to estimate attendance. However, I saw a fair number of teens and college age people hanging out, gaming, partying, and generally having fun--definitely a good thing.

Unfortunately, the gaming area was still the same drafty hallway they used last year, and the game bank was supplied by some gamer, or company, that is mostly interested in miniatures gaming. Not a lot of fun for the rest of us. (Fortunately, a large subset of the games we like best live in the trunk of my car, and we were constantly fetching games from the car to play.)

[ profile] esrblog was, for his part, frustrated that, through a series of mishaps, the convention once again failed to put him on the program and use his presence to draw new attendees. He succeeded in getting on two panels at the last minute, and they were quite good.

What depressed me a bit about Philcon is not that the con was terrible. It wasn't. But it was entirely too much like last year's Philcon. Even the annoying parts, the parts that various con comm members swore last year that they would do their best to change (like the bad location for gaming and the failure to pick up on [ profile] esrblog's willingness to do more programming items) were the same.

Having tried and true events at your con is great, but being stuck in a rut isn't. Especially when the con has shrunk so greatly in membership.

I like Philcon, and I want to see it survive. I still have hope that it will. But it hurts to see so much momentum dragging it back to bad old habits.
Mood:: 'thoughtful' thoughtful
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 08:56pm on 18/11/2007 under , ,
So we are back from Philcon, Philadelphia's regional science-fiction convention, which ran this weekend. I had a great time, but mostly because a lot of people I know whom I don't get to see very often were there to hang out and game with.

The convention itself, unfortunately, is in trouble. Attendance is lower than last year, lower than I've ever seen it. So is volunteering for the convention, which has resulted in short-handedness, and caused too many activities to shut down early, such as the game bank in the gaming room (which was locked away before midnight) and con suite (shut down at 2:00 a.m.)

I didn't make it to any of the panels, though the panel ideas I read descriptions about looked interesting enough. My friend [ profile] dedrell tried to arrange a few panels involving the two of us and other people, to talk about things like how legal issues would affect space exploration and other things, but those ideas (and other panel ideas) got dropped on the floor, apparently because whoever was supposed to be running programming didn't and the actual schedule was pulled together only 8 weeks before the convention. So no panels with me on them ran, and so far as I know [ profile] esrblog wasn't even asked to be on a panel, though he had been on panels for at least the past two or three Philcons now.

As I went to the Green Room to confirm that I was not on any panels (my attempts to do so before the con were met with conflicting information), I saw Catherine Asaro in line ahead of me. It turned out that the Green Room had her schedule, but did not have a badge for her. (Going back to registration, I got in line behind her, where the registration volunteers acknowledged they didn't have her badge either, and had to make her a new badge.) So the disorganization and staffing shortfalls were both in the planning and execution of programming. :-(

I won't go into detail about the small number of room parties or the limited food selection in the Con Suite. Those problems are all too typical of most East Coast cons I've been to recently--they aren't unique to Philcon.

The dealer's room and art show were good, as always, but seemed smaller than usual. The dealers themselves, however, were very unhappy because the reduction in attendance was really hurting their business.

I like Philcon, and it hurts to see my local convention, which was once the jewel of the East Coast con scene (with dozens of activities and over 4,000 people) struggling for attendees. Part of me feels that I'm part of the problem because I didn't volunteer either, but on the other hand I would be happy to do panels! I sure have at other cons! So I'm not completely sure what I can do to help turn things around.
Mood:: 'contemplative' contemplative
location: home
Music:: computer game sounds from our ancient IBook
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 03:29pm on 18/11/2007 under ,
And I'll write more about it when I get home. I'm typing this from an Internet room in the con hotel while [ profile] esrblog plays a board game I don't care for.

Now, one last trip to the Con Suite!
Music:: computer keys a-clacking
location: Philadelphia, PA
Mood:: 'content' content
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 11:29pm on 25/11/2006 under
Last week at this time, I was at Philcon, the Philadelphia area's annual science fiction convention, which was held at the Sheraton Philadelphia City Center Hotel (formerly the Wyndham Franklin Plaza) on 17th and Race Streets in downtown Philly.

I had a good time at the convention, largely because I could scarcely turn around without seeing an old friend, and I even ran into a friend I hadn't seen for 15 years! But another factor in my enjoyment was that Philcon has a tradition of having a good gaming area, complete with a large stock of games for the con goers to use. The selection was good this year (though the gaming suites were small, and the noise level grew insane when the room was full). One game [ profile] esrblog and I learned this year was "Are you a Werewolf?" which is a party game for eight to 25 people. I won't go into the mechanics of the game, except to say that several people would be chosen to be werewolves while the rest would be villagers. The object of the game for the villagers is to figure out who the werewolves were and kill them, while the object for the werewolves is to survive, preferably until they finally outnumber the villagers. I was one of the werewolves, and about half the villagers were taken out before [ profile] esrblog figured out what was up and fingered me. Later, one of the experienced players said that I had done very well for my first game. I was pleased.

The dealer's room was, as it always is, of a good size (though I think it was smaller than last year's) with a lot of books, games, videos, and other interesting things to buy. The art show was equally good, but definitely smaller than usual. There was a Lojban suite, which featured classes and other Lojban-related activities, open all weekend, and manned by several Lojbanists including [ profile] matt_arnold.

Also as usual, I did not make it to any of the panels, except for one [ profile] esrblog was on and Charles Stross's guest of honor speech. From the five minutes of each that I caught, both were first-rate. I was sorry not to get to spend more time with Stross; he seems to be a witty and interesting person. I even missed the room where panels were simultaneously broadcast on the Internet through a virtual reality set-up. *That* would have been something to see. Darn it. I didn't make it to the Masquerade, but most of the contestants were wandering the halls in costume anyway, and from what I saw the costumes were excellent in quality, even if there weren't many of them.

The only real negative was the room parties, of which there were only about 6 throughout the weekend. The con suite wasn't a good substitute; it offered a limited selection of sodas and hot beverages, pretzels, cheese, and chips--and very little else. It was also on the 21st Floor, which was a Quiet Floor. The view of the City from the con suite was great, however. :-)

We stayed late on Sunday, partly because Sunday was the day of the Philadelphia Marathon and the Hotel was on the marathon route (which would have made driving out early difficult to impossible to accomplish). After a final rousing game of Settlers of Catan (which I won!) [ profile] esrblog and I went out with [ profile] zsero for an excellent kosher Middle Eastern dinner, after which [ profile] esrblog and I stopped at a nearby Starbucks for hot beverages and reading before wending our way home.

It was a good Philcon, with the virtues I've come to expect of a Philcon (good game room, dealer's room and art show; great guests) and the usual deficits (limited party scene). But I saw young fen as well as old fogies, and others in between, and the mix of people and the level of activities gives me hope for the future of the convention.
Mood:: 'hopeful' hopeful
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posted by [personal profile] cathyr19355 at 09:47pm on 11/12/2005 under , , ,
Eric and I just returned from a fun, but tiring, weekend at Philcon only to walk into an ice-cold house.

We didn't leave the furnace off, no sirree. Nor did I forget to pay the energy bill. No, our furnace has stopped working. The pilot lights (we have gas heat) are on, the electricity is on, but the furnace just blows cold air. Service has been called.

I will eventually write about Philcon, but it's too cold for much typing right now (it's in the 40s in here). Naturally, we're exhausted from the con, and I have work tomorrow. Arrgh.
Mood:: 'cold, tired and angry' cold, tired and angry
Music:: None