One of my friends from Superstars, Raphyel Jordan, asked me if I was going to Pensacon this year. I had been thinking about it, since it’s less than two hundred miles west of me on I-10. I looked it up, saw that there had been ten thousand people there last year, and decided, why not? I could scout out the con and see if it was a place I wanted to try to do panels at. So I bought a ticket, reserved a hotel room, and bought a couple of photo ops with two of my favorite Babylon 5 stars.
I have only been to three real cons. Dragon Con, three times, going on four this year. I did my first panel there last year. Liberty Con, two times, going on three this year, and another con I did panels at last year, with more coming this year. And Tallahassee’s small time con, Altcon, which I have also attended three years, participating in one panel the second time. Pensacon looked like something between small and intimate Liberty and huge, boisterous Dragon. And I would get to see my friends Kevin J. Anderson, Ramon Terrell and Quincy Allen, as well as Raphyel.
I started off to Pensacola on Thursday, getting there in a little over three hours and checking into my hotel, the Sole’. From there I went to the Crowne Plaza to pick up my weekend pass. Now Pensacola is not the easiest place to get around in. It has some weird intersections and lots of one way streets. I drove a large rectangle of almost two miles to get to the hotel, but when I plugged in the address to get back to my hotel, found that it was only two blocks away. That solved the parking problem. I have picked up a pass in minutes at Liberty, and stood in a long line at Dragon, so I thought I would know what to expect. It took almost three hours to get my pass, and I found out when I got near to the front that they had been stuck with only one working computer. Not good.
I had my first fan moment while standing in line, when a fan who is friends on Facebook approached and asked if he could get a picture with me. His wife used the cell phone while we stood together, and people all around me stared and several asked friends if they knew who I was. Cool, huh. I was able to hand out some cards and talk to some people, and hopefully picked up some new fans.
Friday was the first day of the con, so I walked the two blocks to the Pensacola Bay Center, across the street from the Crowne. When getting my tickets, I had assumed that the Bay Center would actually be on Escambia Bay. Guess what? It isn’t. It’s actually a ice hockey arena, imagine that, in Florida, that the con books as the central venue, along with a couple of historic theaters nearby. There was a huge line waiting, and no one seemed to know if people who already had passes had to wait. Luckily, several minutes into the line, a young lady came along asking if anyone already had their passes, and those of us fortunate enough to have them followed her to another line waiting to get in the building. Another long line that wasn’t moving. Finally, after what seemed like forever, it did move, and I went through the ignominy of having my walking stick peace bonded with a yellow tie. At least there were some cool costumes to look at.
The first view of the vendor floor was impressive, as can be seen by the picture. There were lots of seats up the sides for people who were tired of being on their feet. I became one of those soon into the con. There were no nearby restaurants, so if you wanted to eat, you were pretty much restricted to what they served in the Center, mostly hotdogs, hamburgers, pretzels and candy. The vendor floor itself was full of really cool stuff. Books, comics, weapons, costuming items. It was much larger than Liberty, though not near the massiveness of Dragon. There was never really a line waiting to get on the floor, and though there were a lot of people down there, it never got to the point of the Mart at Dragon were you could barely move.
Wordfire had their booth there, so I went over and bought some books from people I know so I could get their autographs. Normally I buy eBooks, but I love to collect the physical books of people I can get autographs from. I bought some other items, but most of what I purchased were books. I also hit the Neal Adams table and bought some comic art for the famous artist to autograph. Now for people who don’t know Neal Adams, he started out penciling the X-Men or Marvel back when I was a kid. The art in that magazine improved considerably, Neal made a name for himself, and he jumped ship to DC. After wandering and buying on the vendor floor, I tried to figure out what to do.
There were a lot of things scheduled, but not really all that much of interest to authors. There were lots of games and RPG tournaments, costuming workshops, etc. But nothing like Dragon, or even Liberty, when it came to panels. There were five panel rooms in the Bay Center, and most times only two, and sometimes just one, were in use. Most of the events seemed to be playing variations of Pathfinder, DnD or something else. If I want to play Pathfinder, I’ll play it with friends in Tally. It really doesn’t make much sense to travel however far most of these people came to play role playing games, but if they’re into it, whatever. At Dragon and Liberty it’s often a choice of which of the three or more events (or thirty for Dragon) you want to attend. At Pensacon it was often one panel, then another a couple of hours later, then through for the day. That was my experience that first day, when I attended a Star Trek Anniversary panel at 3:00, and a Selfpublishing Webcomics panel at 4:00, and that was it for Friday. I could see that this was more of a gaming and comic con than the others I have attended. They did have some big name guests, Bruce Boxleitner and Claudia Christian from B5; Denise Crosby and Michael Dorn from Star Trek; Kevin and, NYT Bestseller Troy Denning for the authors; Neal Adams for the artists. But it definitely wasn’t a lit friendly con. There were some very cool costumes, and a few lame ones, just like at Dragon, which made sense since cosplay seemed to be a major part of this con.
I left the con at 6:0, got something to eat, and got on my laptop to get in a couple of thousand words. And that was it for the first day of Pensacon.