Our most recent event, and our last event planned for 2016, was ValleyCon at the Baymont up near Fargo in Morehead. A week later I’m wanting a recap to sort of bullet out the fun things I want to remember, but also I want to save my writing energy for “real” writing. So here’s a list of the high points.
Our friend Ozgur K. Sahin lives in Minneapolis, so Thursday I left work early and drove up from Kansas City. Luna took a plane from Chicago in the afternoon and they went to an apparently legendary Dollar Tree which I’m sorry to have missed. Along with Paisley Park and the mall, my understanding is that it’s one of the many wonders of the greater Minneapolis area. We went to a Perkins and Luna and I shared a breakfast platter that for reasons of personal dignity I won’t get into specifics on. We crashed at Ozgur’s place and he was good enough to take the couch and let us sleep in his bed. I slept in my husband’s archaeology sleeping bag just in case I was allergic to his cat. I didn’t have any cat problems. Luna still sleep fights like a champ. Kidding. Kinda.
We got up earlier than any of us wanted to, but still not exactly early, and began running errands for room party supplies. We stopped at a convenience store near Ozgur’s place and got coffee, along with some aggressively mediocre ham and cheese sandwiches which none of us regretted eating despite unanimous acknowledgement that they were not good. After spending a long time picking up supplies, we crammed the last of the shit into our two cars and began the drive to Fargo. I volunteered to drive alone since I do long drives less often than Ozgur and figured he could use the company. During the drive I alternated between the audiobooks Oryx and Crake and Home.
We got to the hotel a little after the dealer hall opened and quickly got started resolving the first of a series of hotel miscommunications. Nobody cried. Minimal crazy eyes. The dealer hall closed at the time our party was supposed to begin, so we set things up and put in a couple hours there before getting busy with party prep.
Luna and I ended up with more space than expected for the TimeBangers table, so we took full advantage of this and used the extra room to lay out everything for our new gimmick: the prize wheel. In retrospect I feel like an ass for not taking a picture of the wheel at the time, but the gist of it is: we now have a prize wheel with 12 spaces on it and, barring unforeseen circumstances, it will travel with us to any event I’m driving to. Here’s what Valleycon 42 attendees could win:
- Merch: button
- Dicks, y’all
- Merch: stickers
- Sensuous eating
- Merch: magnet
- Custom “art”
- Win an extra spin
- Stupid photo booth
- $1 off TimeBangers book
- Candy from strangers
- Worthless garbage
- Free eBook
The wheel is brightly colored and has battery powered lights, so visually it’s quite attention grabbing. My personal favorites were custom art, stupid photo booth, and worthless garbage. There’s a certain delightful excitement in presenting someone with an unquestionably disappointing artifact yet having them act thrilled to receive such bounty. I think it’s the surprise-what-will-I-get angle. Next time I’m going to try to remember to take pictures of all the custom drawings and worthless garbage given away, because some of it was pretty funny. By the way, everybody was allowed to refuse and respin if they got something they weren’t very comfortable with. Such as, every man who spun dicks, y’all elected to chuckle at their luck and spin again.
Custom Artwork: I, a non-artist, chose from a list of ideas I’d made up before the convention. I sketched it out in sharpie on a drawing pad and signed it. Some of them: robot beautician; chicken sheriff; waffle-or-office-building? nobody know; drunk skeleton.
Worthless Garbage: We presented the “winner?” with a tote bag full of various and sundry stupid items. “Each iteration of worthless garbage is a unique experience defined by you and you alone. Reach into the bag without looking and let your heart guide you to an item.” Only one person refused their prize, and because we were in the American heartland, they politely did so by quietly abandoning it behind the prize wheel when we weren’t looking. Aw.
Stupid Photo Booth: The spinner chooses from an assortment of props: stupid glasses, wigs, hats, boas, and other things they could hold for the picture. We choose from the remaining props so the brave soul being photographed isn’t alone in their ordeal. We bribe a bystander with a spin on the prize wheel to take a picture of us as a group. We upload the pictures to a private online photo album so the victim/spinner can have it to treasure after the fact.
After a while we cut out of the dealer’s hall and began setting up our Pirate Bangers party room. We experienced some setbacks but plowed through and finally opened the sliding poolside door to an excited crowd. Inside the party, we had another wheel (Ozgur’s wheel), subtly distinct in that it was a wheel of dares rather than a wheel of prizes. We brought the photo booth to the party and kept things alive and exciting with an assortment of dares (eat a piece of hardtack!) (bring a stranger into the party!). But the real success was in our signature party drinks.
Piratey Planter’s Punch: Ozgur created a custom blend of tropical juices, coconut syrup, and more expensive run than I ever would have sprung for (and he was right to do it!!). It’s fucking tasty.
The TimeBanger: Luna created a “spicy, sexy, sweet and fizzy” cocktail which featured a combination of cinnamon whiskey, ginger beer, grenadine and sparkling pink moscato. Yep. It sounds fucking weird but it’s actually pretty good.
Both drinks were a huge hit. At one point a man who had possibly overdosed on PCP showed up and started misbehaving but we managed to get rid of him. The party raged on until the early hours of the morning, at which point we kicked everybody out and snagged a couple hours of sleep.
The sleep was…not enough. Ozgur gently shook me awake before he left to head to the dealer’s hall and Luna and I put on some face masks she’d picked up expressly for mornings like this and sat disconsolately side by side on the bed as we tried without success to wake up a little. But all we wanted to do was weep. I think this terrifying selfie captures our existential angst pretty well.
After I took this picture we looked at it and laughed for about 3 minutes without stopping, then looked at it again and kept laughing until I began to cough. My moisturizing anti-puffiness mask dislodged and fell off, so it was time to get ready.
The three of us were hosting a panel at 1:00 and we’d gotten a slow enough start that by noon when we finally made it to the dealer’s hall, we decided we really needed to do something about food. I ran out to an Arbys about a mile away, but due to some insane roadwork/traffic it took an hour to get there and back. By the end I felt like I truly understood the @Nihilist_Arbys Twitter account. I dashed into the conference room with our food and we decided to have a super-caj panel because we needed salt too badly to wait. Although, Ozgur played it classy and did not eat during the panel. Because he’s a fucking professional.
After the panel we headed back to the dealer’s hall and the main notable event before our party was that a kid came by and enthusiastically told me all about a virtual reality demo that another table in the hall was hosting. I was like “KID YOU DON’T KNOW HOW FUCKING LONG I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS SHIT, LIKE 2 TIMES YOUR ENTIRE LIFE IS HOW LONG.” *
* I didn’t actually say fuck or shit to an 11 year old. Those parts were in my head.
Other notable things:
- Another vendor came over and expressed her irritation at me for having explained to a customer at our table that the reason I am so informed on the career of Yakov Smirnov was that at my work “old people love Branson and they talk about it a lot.” According to this lady, not all old people like Branson, she for example did not like Branson. I apologized reflexively and she left and spent the rest of the convention glaring at me from behind her table, because as it turned out she didn’t want to have a dialogue with me about Silver Dollar City, she just wanted me to feel bad for my cavalier Branson generalizations. Which, OK fine.
- Later her booth buddy came over and apologetically (passive aggressively) requested that I stop “screaming” because she had a seizure from a migraine that day and just needed quiet and I was the “loudest” person in the room. It’s true I am a loud person, but we were in a convention dealer’s hall with a lot of other people, so I think the real reason she came over and said that to me was because of the Branson kerfuffle. Even knowing this, I felt kind of dejected by it and made an effort to be quieter. Later her service animal came over to our booth alone and at first I thought it seemed cute, but then I noticed it had tumors all over its tail and that its eyes were glazed over with mucus film. I immediately stopped petting it and whispered, “I hate you.” This might sound cruel, but I don’t think the animal knew English and also its owner had hurt my feelings pretty badly earlier.
- The man who had lurked at the party the night before and repeatedly expressed his appreciation for feet came to our booth and bought the book. He requested that when I inscribed the book to him, I reference feet. I was uncomfortable with the whole thing, but he was a customer and I didn’t want to make him feel rejected, plus I’m from the Midwest and that just adds an additional layer of discomfort anytime I’m evaluating whether to show disapproval toward another person.
After the dealer hall we had three whole hours until the party and we used that time to do a booze run and hit up a Chinese buffet to top off our salt levels. I ate too many shrimps and had to forego soft serve ice cream, which I regret but the whole thing was unavoidable. This ugly clown was in in the entryway to the restaurant.
Night two of the party was even more fun despite how tired we were. We tended bar and worked the room. I had a couple of strange run-ins with the man who liked feet, and began actively avoiding him after he complimented my feet and asked if he could touch them. There’s quite a bit more that happened related to this guy, but after the convention I decided that next year I would work up the guts to tell him in a non-jerky way that I did not enjoy his attention and that it made me uncomfortable. While I don’t want anybody, especially somebody who was good enough to take a chance on our book, to feel rejected by us—I kind of think he might have bought the book mainly because he was interested in me/us feeling obliged to give him positive attention.
We closed down the party around six and Luna was about to pass out so Ozgur and I let her go to bed with earplugs in while we tore down the party. We were in that adrenaline place where it’s easier just to power through and finish everything than it is to go to sleep for an hour only to get up again and have to do a bunch of shit. We cleaned up and loaded up the party stuff into the cars and then fell into bed for a couple of hours. Ozgur got up and went to the dealer’s hall and later Luna and I got up and left the hotel room under duress. We were supposed to have a late checkout, but some wires evidently got crossed so after three knocks and somebody hassling us through the door outside, we threw our remaining shit in bags and left the room.
However, I failed to return all three of our room keycards as an act of minor rebellion.
I didn’t put on any makeup or do anything with my hair or anything that morning. I was too tired. Luna ran out to Wendy’s with one of our new con buddies and came back with coffee and chicken nuggets, which were just about the most perfect thing they could have come up with. Some of our new buddies came by the booth and hung out, we did some photo booth stuff, and then I decided I’d better go do the virtual reality thing.
The demo I did was a horror scenario wherein a witch stabs you and kills a guy and you’re tied to a chair in a gross bloody kitchen. For people who know about such things, it apparently has something to do with Resident Evil. Later I was told that some people cried when the witch stabs them, so apparently the group watching me was entertained when I laughed with delight instead. At the end of the demo the witch came up behind me and I twisted around trying to see her and suddenly my head was separated from my body! The demo ended then and I excitedly asked the guys running the booth if the witch had been hanging from the ceiling with my head…and how had she removed it? Knife? or just pulled it off? It turned out I’d caused some kind of glitch that made it appear that my head had detached from my body in the gain.
I don’t mean to brag but, when I was done there was a small crowd watching and the booth guys told me I was the most entertaining person who had demoed with them all weekend and encouraged me to get a twitch account if I did end up picking up the PS4 VR system.
Uh, compliment accepted.
I don’t really know much about video gaming and it’s never been a particular interest in mine past a certain point with some of the Final Fantasy games. I really want a PS4 VR bundle. However, it’s expensive and I’m a very impulsive person so I have decided to set some money aside for a few months and see if I still want it as badly next year sometime. I’m just not very good about making time to play games, so I think I should probably play some more demos and other stuff before I decide. To illustrate, the last two games that I spent any real time playing were Little Big Planet (because adorbs) and Dragon Age Origins (because sex scene research) (just kidding).
Let’s see, what else? We were surprised to learn that we came in second on the room party competition, which was pretty great considering we were all n00bs and all we had to offer was our heart and soul and love, and the wheel of dares, and two unique signature cocktails, and an idiotic photo booth, and gaming stories that weren’t boring, and a strange combination of yelling and quiet conversation that somehow still worked, and an exclusive reading of a sex scene from TimeBangers, and eye patches.
After the convention we headed over to Panera and had some proper food and a wonderful heart to heart in which Ozgur, Luna and I all supported each other emotionally and affirmed our friendship and mutual positive regard before the drive back to Minneapolis. A storm blew through and we waited out the rains before we got on the road.
By a total coincidence, we stopped in Sauk Centre on the way back because we’d WhatsApped ahead to Ozgur that he should look for a place where we could stop for a bathroom break. A few minutes later I had Luna message him to see if he could find someplace with either cocoa or cider because my throat was sore from all the talking the last few days. He messaged back to meet him at the Palmer House, which was a little ways into the town of Sauk Centre. I forgot to ask for my cocoa to go and when I came back from the bathroom it was sitting there on the bar. So we decided to sit for a few and then get back on the road.
There was a young couple named Meg and Seng at the bar and we ended up chatting with them. Turns out they were from Fargo and were on a paranormal tour of the northern heartland for his birthday. She’s a purveyor of fine handmade bowties and other adorable items on Etsy, and he’s the host of the Whispers in the Night podcast. We each ended up giving them a free copy of our books, and they and the owner regaled us with some fun creepy stories about encounters they’d had. After that I was scared to go to the bathroom and pee by myself and I shamefacedly asked Luna to go with me. Nobody made me feel silly for this so I felt very affirmed and loved. We all swapped contact info and were generally thrilled by the fun coincidence. Hopefully we’ll run into them later at a convention!
On the rest of the way back to Minneapolis we all Whatsapp voice chatted so Ozgur and I could stay awake as we drove. We discussed two particular projects we’re hoping to work on next year after the next book. Not to be cagey about it, but they’re both in the earliest stages so we’re not ready to discuss just yet.
We slept hard for a few hours at Ozgur’s place and then he took us to a special favorite place of his: Cafe Latte, where we had some almost indescribable scones and then a lunch spread platter where they give you ice cream scoops of different spreads (chicken spinach) (olive poblano) (salmon) and then mini loaves of bread sliced into little pieces. Then you eat cheese like a monster with a vicious grudge against bread.
We all said a reluctant goodbye and then I took Luna to the airport and got back on the road to head back to Kansas City.
I saw a “bowhunter” car sticker that I thought said “boyhunter” and laughed a lot and then I took a short nap at a rest stop.