Sunday, August 23, 2015

Getting Conned South of the Border - Sasquan Day 5

So, this is the end.

...of Sasquan, I mean. Not the universe or anything really important, like chocolate production, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this silly little post, and I wouldn't be writing it. I'd probably be clutching my last Crispy Crunch bar and weeping unconsollably in a corner or something. But anyway...

Today marked the end of Sasquan (though there are probably more than a few people still stumbling around at Dead Dog parties celebrating their achievement and trying to avoid thinking about all the cleanup that will need to be done tomorrow), as well as the end of the mostly clear air (the wildfire haze returned today with brutal determination). Despite most of a day's worth of programming, the convention centre halls were quieter and easier to navigate, and the hotel lobbies were not. There was that gently aching muscles sense filling the air that always comes on the last day of a con or after reorganizing one's bookshelves, and while some attendees were as eager as ever, many of us were just kind of going through the motions... getting in one last session or a final buy in the dealers' room just to say we'd got our money's worth out of a full con membership by attending every single day, even on a day when (no offence to the organizers or panelists, because this is true at many cons) there isn't much of a draw. It's the kind of day where you'd rather be starting the drive home, or sitting at home and inspecting your haul of con treasures, or sleeping in late and enjoying a slow brunch somewhere in the host city that doesn't rip off the tourists with inflated prices and small portions. But you show up to what's left of the con anyway. For a while anyway. And we did.

It was probably a little after 11 when we rolled in. My wife had nothing on her schedule, and while I'd scheduled a couple of panels on principle, nothing really mattered. We ambled in to the dealers' room to see if there were any previously unseen treasures or last-minute deals to be had, and there weren't. Not really. I went back to the used book stall that'd had the collection of Winston sci-fi novels for kids to see if the owner was prepared to be flexible on his pricing of Wollheim's The Secret of Saturn's Rings. When I pulled it off the shelf and asked what the price was, he automatically flipped to an inside page and pointed at the $100 marked there. A hundred bucks (American!) was greedy at the top of the week, and it was still greedy today (I bought The Secret of the Martian Moons a couple of months ago in reasonable condition for around $30 Canadian, so I'm not coming out of left field here). Preparing to haggle, I asked the guy if he would be able to knock the price down at all, and he said he could do $90. Still waaaaaaaaay too much. For 90, he'd have to give me 'Saturn's Rings AND Poul Anderson's Vault of the Ages (which he'd valued at $95), and I could see he wasn't going to do that. I pointed out that I could get Winston books a lot cheaper back home, to which he politely replied "Then you can." I can tell a pleasant "fuck off" when I hear one, and also that he had no intention of negotiating, and, it's his business, so that's his right. So I said "Okay." and walked away, and joined my wife in the artists' area where she was buying a pendant. Later, shortly after 2 o'clock, when there was less than an hour until the dealers' room closed for good, and many dealers were already packing up, my wife and I were back in the merch hall on our way back to the hotel, and I saw that particular used book dealer standing in the aisle, and decided to give him one last try. I asked if he'd consider selling 'Saturn's Rings for $50, but he said he couldn't. Fair enough. His business, his right. One thing he didn't seem to grasp though: in 5 days of Worldcon, one of the biggest gatherings of sci-fi book-loving nerds around, he hadn't sold that book. In fact, at a quick glance, it didn't appear that he had sold any of the Winston books (or at least not more than a couple). That would indicate pretty clearly that his prices are way out of whack with what the market's prepared to pay. That's the point where a dealer in collectibles has to decide whether to re-assess his prices and have the opportunity to make a sale and take some more cash home, or whether to stick to his overvaluation, go to the effort of packing up the unsold goods, pay for the gas to drive said unsold goods back to his store or storage locker or basement, and then have said unsold goods remain unsold for potentially several years as the market continues to refuse to pay his unrealistic price. You may claim that other dealers have books like these listed for high prices, but have they sold? Have they sold when other dealers are offering them for less? And again: 5 days of hundreds (if not thousands) of geeks passing by his stall didn't result in a sale at the $100 he wanted. Not great for business. So I walked away for the last time, spent a fraction of that money at a publisher's table that was having a sale on translated Japanese science fiction (I bought Mitsuse's 10 Billion Days & 100 Billion Nights and Sakurazaka's All You Need Is Kill), and the dealer ended up taking his unsold stock back to... wherever.

After the first failed attempt to buy the book, and not being particularly interested in any of the panels at the time, we headed out for brunch (appropriately enough, in keeping with the week's sf theme, to a little diner called "The Satellite"). Back to the con afterwards, and while my wife took in a kaffee klatsch featuring a linguist, I went to The Great Debate. TGD was a fake political debate, where those of us in the audience were decribed as a council of oligarchs of the Empire of Inlandia, gathered to select an archon from among the panelists to lead us to wealth and conquering glory. On the panel, Brandon Sanderson took on the persona of The Great Ruler, an exiled immortal space despot come to Earth to restart his career (played in deliciously over-the-top style — think Emperor Cartagia in Babylon 5 mixed with Skeletor in the Masters of the Universe live action movie); Patricia Briggs was an immortal werewolf demanding worshipers — and food; and James C Glass was, well, a sex-obsessed starlet wanting to turn the world into a love-in commune. After much debate, derision, and promises of destruction, along with an audience Q&A, the assemblage of oligarchs voted in favour of the werewolf (proably because the Great Ruler promised to eliminate half of us right off the bat, and, for my part, because he vowed to make war upon Canadia and turn our hockey players into his toothless janissaries). Lots of fun, and I'll give all of the panelists credit for their performances.

When that was done, we were done. Sure, there was another hour of programming before the Closing Ceremonies, but none of those panels interested us, and neither did the Closing remarks. Better to go back to the hotel, relax in the pool for a while (now pleasantly empty with so many con attendees gone or holding on with grim determination to see the thing through to its ultimate end at the Closing Ceremonies), inspect our haul of merchandise, and talk about the week's entertainment and plans for tomorrow's drive home. So we did. We finished the day with supper with some friends, and packed.

While Sasquan has generally been fun, I'm eager for home.

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