The Thursday Blog: Ancient Furry Con

Five years ago I attended the first Ancient City Con in St. Augustine as a vendor. (Artist? Whatever, I went to sell books.) I had the first book of HOLE, Running with Broadswords, and out of around 150 attendees, I sold twelve books. I was over the moon. I felt like I had an actual commercially viable product people might actually be interested in if only I could get them to see it. It was a beginning.

The next year I also had book two, and I did even better. Ancient City Con 3, now at about 600 attendees, was the best year yet, selling out of all three books. It was a good con for me.

I missed year four due to some scheduling conflict or another… who knows what that was… but a friend of mine who is creating class guides for both 4e and the Pathfinder system had a table for this year and invited myself and Rox of Spaz House along for the ride. (Her official nom de plume. She is a blogger, artist, and podcast personality over at Need Coffee.) We were happy to go, and I ordered extra books for the trip. ACC5 had continued the annual growth trend, and was projected to have between 1,000 and 1,200 people showing up.

As we arrived the hall to the main convention room was choked with dancing costumed teenagers. They had Japanese synth-pop playing on the boom box, and were dressed as their favorite video game characters. They were all happy and bouncy, and it was a nice welcome to the show. Once we got inside, there was a bit of a mix-up about the vendor rates, and we were not given the passes that were supposed to accompany the table fee, and required to pay for additional badges to get in. (This got cleared up later in the day, but it was a rocky start.)

When we went to our table, we found it in the middle of a solidly packed row of  twenty or so tables with no space in between for egress. One end of the row was butted up against a wall, and we were instructed that we would need to walk all the way around the far end every time we wanted in or out. There was two or three feet in between the backs of the table and the other wall, which was stuffed full of other artists plying their wares. (Later we were told that the convention staff had decreed the arrangement fire-marshal approved because people could always get on their hands and knees and crawl under the table in the event of an emergency.)

Fortunately for us, we were at the wrong table.

Leaving the over-cramped artist tables for the roomier vendor tables on the opposite side of the room, we set up shop. There was plenty of room and we could exit from both sides of the table. To our left were a trio of women selling leather bras, bustiers, and skirts, feathered hats and boas, and some other smaller items we never got a good look at but which caused an inordinate amount of giggling every time one got sold. They weren’t talkative, but they were fun to watch, so we were happy to have them.

To our right were a pair of entrepreneurial young men selling Pocky, Panda cookies, and Ramuné soda at close to half what you typically see it going for. One of the pair worked at a (national) grocery store chain and developed a relationship with the distributor, and received all of his inventory at the store’s prices. He told me he was still clearing what any other seller was, and that he kept his price low because as a Pocky enthusiast, he resented they typical high prices. At the last show he had been to, another dealer had attempted to buy him out, and he had refused on the grounds that the attendees should have access to low-priced Pocky. He sold out the second day and left early. (Much to the other dealer’s relief.) He was serious about his cookie-sticks, but the pair of them were energetic and very upbeat. They sold like mad.

As for us… well… it was not so good. My buddy who invited us sold some dice, but no class guides. Rox sold a few art post cards, and I sold exactly one book. There were lots of people, and we talked to a bunch of them. Everyone was happy and friendly, but no one was buying anything. From us, anyway. Mulling it over afterwards, we realized that the one thing everyone was doing was wearing costumes. Smiling and laughing furries and video game characters were making the rounds of the dealers’ room like it was a racetrack, around, and around, and around. There were some gamers at the far end of the convention, but there were even fewer of them than there had been in past years, and they stayed in the little gamer’s area. With a start we realized that no game store at all had chosen to represent themselves at the convention. That spoke volumes.

What had begun as a nice little gaming con was now some sort of strange Japanese furry-pop event. Two different vendors could not keep stock of ten and fifteen dollar grab-bags of random Japanese plastic crap. Grab bags. Everyone was nice, but completely useless for what I had actually showed up for.

One thing I did get to try out that I will definitely keep is my quest giver hat. I printed out a big yellow exclamation point and stuck it to my hat and handed out little rolled up scrolls with quests on them to anyone who asked. It was fun, kept people coming back to my table, and got the word around of who I was. Successful completion was rewarded with chocolate “gold coins”. Only one kid tried to scam me…

Lena helped me make the quests, and one of her idea for a third level (the highest and most silly level) quest was to get a kiss on the cheek from a girl. The kid on the right (who arrived in a gang of kids with two girls his age) got it, and immediately fell apart. “I can’t do this quest. You gotta give me another one. How am I supposed to do this quest?” he yammered. Several times he left, only to come back more flustered. I asked one of his friends if he was gay, thinking I might let him off the hook, and his buddies said that he wasn’t, just afraid of girls and trying to act upset so that I’d fork over the candy. I watched him after that, and any time he thought we weren’t looking he was joking and laughing like any other kid.

Finally, he came back to the table looking relieved, and said that he had asked a random (female) stranger and had gotten his kiss. It sounded implausible, but I had already decided that I was only there for fun, and calling kids liars didn’t seem like fun to me, so I’d just roll with it. I gave him his candy and he happily left. Almost immediately his friends descended on the table, asking if he had told me that he’d gotten the kiss. Of course they ratted him out, and told me that he had lied about the whole thing. Rox chased him down and kissed him, as did the other two girls in his gang when I bribed them with more chocolate. Soon after the kid walked by our table, (not stopping) and shot me an evil glare. His cheeks were still burning with his humiliation at having been kissed by not one, but three cute girls.

Poor thing. Next time that happens he’ll have to pay cash for it.

In the end, even though the show was a financial bust, we did have a pretty good time. I won’t be going back, but there is a place for conventions such as this, and I’m happy for the folks who went and enjoyed themselves. There’s another con in town called Rapier that sounds much more like my kinda people. Next year I’ll go there.

Wonder if I’ll see that kid…?

44 Responses to The Thursday Blog: Ancient Furry Con

  1. Huh. I suppose this is why we should always look at the attendee, guest list and event list stuff before signing up for anything. Furries….

  2. I find myself wondering if you mean the other con is more suited to you because rapier is a type of sword, or if it’s because it’s pronounced like rape-y-er.

  3. Sounded like a fun time. I know it’s terribly disappointing putting in all that time and effort to sell something, only to have people walk past and ignore you like you’re selling lepers. At a comic/web-comic convention, people would be going ape-shit over your books. At a furry-con (or whatever that was)… not so much. Sometimes a good convention can go to shit when freeloading teenagers (who should be at a playground) take over and run wild. I think a lot of it stems from the organizers having thier heads up thier butts (or counting thier money) instead of organizing things. I hope you have better luck with the next one!

  4. There is a large car boot sale in a city near me which I have been to as a vendor. I took a load of stuff with me and one time I went and made about £60-100. That was a good day.

    The next time I went I made about £10. Not so good. Same kind of stuff, same kind of location, different days, different results.

    About your comics, I don’t know how much people sell based on what it looks like, I would have thought that you would have to have a bit of a following? I don’t know. If that convention is turning into something other than a games one that would be a problem too. Are there any others that you could go to?

    Regarding the being kissed thing, it can be awkward. I am currently rehearsing for a play wherein I play an artist who is romantically involved with two women. I am not gay, but the thought of kissing both of them at different times in the play on stage is somewhat nerve wracking.

    I guess that if you invest a kiss with more romantic thoughts than just physical contact, so as an emotional connection, asking a random stranger for a peck can be quite a worry.

    On stage there is also a certain ‘performance anxiety’… Luckily it doesn’t go any further than a quick kiss.

    It doesn’t help that both of them are married in real life. Oh well, such is amateur dramatics.

    • 99% of the people I sell to have never heard of the comic before. They just like fantasy and like to laugh, and figure it’s a good mix. I just try to be friendly and crack a joke or two at the table, and wish them well if they move on. It’s a numbers game.

      As for the kiss, I have had to do that onstage as well. (Henry II in The Lion in Winter.) I just didn’t really think about it that way. It was just another line or stage direction to me. No power at all. I only kissed Eleanor, but I can’t see it making much difference. It only has the power you give it.

      • “It only has the power you give it.”

        That is kind of the point was trying to make. That kid obviously put a lot into it.

  5. Cute girls in ears and tails! Count me in!

    I’ve been in that kids shoes and looking back (with several years more experience), it was his perfect in. He could have walked up to any/every cute girl and asked for a kiss. All he would need to do is show them his quest log and point out your booth if they didn’t want to participate. It would be a great ice breaker line.

    • That’s what I thought! At that age I would have gotten a dozen kisses in a crowd that size! I thought about printing out another one just for me to carry around!

      • “You see, I’m on this important quest, given to me by a wise old wizard, to save the world, and all I need is a kiss from a fair maiden…”
        “You see, I’ve been cursed by a horrible old hag, and only a kiss can make me better.”
        “Yes, this ‘kiss a fair maiden’ quest scroll is totally not a forgery! Honest!”

        Dammit, why did my bard never think of that?! 😆 (Probably because he never needed to chase after the ladies.)

    • Perhaps he was a late bloomer and he and his male friends were still in the “Eeww, girls are icky!” and “You kissed a girl, dude! You’re no longer allowed in the boys club tree house!” phase.

  6. Great story.

    Been ages since I have been to any type of convention. If I ever see a story teller quest giver I will be sure to stop by.

    On another note… vaguely relevant Kevin/Lena are you two still into MMO’s? I think I might start playing Star Wars The Old Republic when it comes out. I love KOTOR and really enjoy the games Bioware produce. This will be the first game I ever subscribed too so should be interesting.

    • We left WoW a few months ago, but I’m playing Order and Chaos now on my iPad. (Basically a WoW clone, but even easier for the casual player such as myself.) I’ve been looking at Old Republic, but I don’t think they intend to bring it to the Mac, which kind of deals me out. No game is worth having to play it on a PC. (For me. Your milage may vary.)

        • Yeah, I’ve used Bootcamp before, as well as the other one… whatever that was called. Basically it just came down to it not being worth it to me to try and operate in a Windows environment. I know it doesn’t bother some people, but I always end up feeling stupid every time I try to do anything in Windows, while the Mac feels more like an extension of me. I feel a little curmudgeonly just saying it, but it’s simply not worth the frustration.

          • I tend to agree; I think that Unix is simpler and easier and I wouldn’t inflict that on anybody without fair warning and preparation.
            Windows isn’t ready for ordinary people to use it, they haven’t even made it out of alpha testing on that one yet. Every time a new “version” comes out half the things in the UI have changed and a fat chunk of everything that used to work was broken for no apparent reason….

              • I’m a Unix guy myself; if I tried to answer that question my answer would be slanted, insulting, tinged with references to history many years past and might be inaccurate in a few important details which are different from the more numerous ones that people who followed that question from their side would get wrong. It wouldn’t be fair of me to present one side without the other being around to take the abuse and whine about it.

                • It would be nice if computer games were side by side written for MAC/Linux/Windows. The trick with any windows operating system is to disable %99 of the crap Microsoft “thinks” people want to do, and just have it boot to Login>Click Game Icon>Play.

                  Most of the frustrations people have with Windows is predominantly Hardware related which can make a Windows system seem complex and difficult.

                  I really like Macs for media purposes, the movie maker is fantastic. Linux/Unix is a hassle to just want to play games on, for servers and Work it is a powerful tool.

  7. Fibbing about completing the quest causes Cute Girl Agro to ensure you retroactively met the quest requirements eh?

        • You would think, no? Still, most of the boys I knew at that age acted the same way. I just found porn and masturbation a little earlier than most, so I had already figured out that girls had uses beyond pigtail-pulling and screaming on the playground.

  8. I don’t know if I’d want to go to a japanese furry con. I’d definitely want to go to a gamer con though. That sounds like a blast. Last one I went to was EmeraldCon in Seattle. That was a good time. Comics and such, but the folks from The Guild were there, and that was great! Got to meet Max Brooks, the author of World War Z, too. Awesome. And several webcomic writers and artists. If you had been there Kevin I guarantee you’d have sold at least one book. To me.

    • LOL, thanks, Tim. (Though I will be perfectly happy if everyone wants to buy books here on the site!) Ancient City Con was a lot of fun, but it was the sort of fun you only need to have once. Gaming cons are pretty great, we are in agreement there. I’ve been to… we’ll just say many… throughout the years, and I always have a blast.

  9. Feel free to bribe cute girls to kiss me anytime. =)

    Oh, and glad you had a good time – yeah, that too.

  10. To bad you didn’t get a windfall, but it seems you enjoyed yourselves and that is not a bad thing.

      • Well when going to a Con, it’s best to go there to have fun…If the trip pays for itself, that would be a bonus…just bad luck that this wasn’t really a Gamer-con but had been invaded by the Furries…

        • Apparently the weeaboos as well, unless I’m misinterpreting the description of J-pop, cosplay and pocky in Kevin’s account.

      • “I think I’d have rather made no money and had a good time than the reverse”

        Truly spoken like a guy who’s never gone hungry.
        explains a fair bit american