CCC4: Convention Vampires

This latest foray into my “Creative Curmudgeon Commentary deals with convention vampires – though before hyperventilation and lowered neck-lined set in I’m not taking about LeStaat, Angel or Edward. The type of vampires I’m talking about today are fairly specialized and their appetites involve money and personal attention rather than hemoglobin. Explaining all of this is going to take some time so crack open a package of whatever “yellow bar” Little Debbie’s is flooding the market with until Twinkie manufacturing comes back on line and settle down for a lengthy explanation.

Science Fiction and Fantasy depends on visualization more than any other form of literature and because of that there is a healthy supply of art for sale, mostly through convention sales. Changes in generational tastes as well as a dramatic revolution in mediums available  for creating art has knocked the market a** over tea-kettle but for now let’s go with the assumption that there both a supply and demand for fannish-themed art and most of the sales go on through convention art shows. These conventions and the sales that occur at the conventions have been going on for over 50 years and there are well-developed practices and procedures that should help and protect both the buyer and seller.  Unfortunately the old adage proves true in that whenever you make an idiot-proof device the world just develops bigger idiots to deal with them. This is where the Convention Vampire comes into play.

Artists attending conventions are at emotional nadir when they first arrive at the convention hotel. There’s just too much to do – you have to unload the car, check into the room and set up in the art show pretty much all at the same time – and if you also have a dealer’s room table your work load is almost doubled. Like any effective and/or vicious predator the CV (Convention Vampire) strikes at this moment – when his prey is the weakest.

“I see that you selling the original cover painting for The Mutant Tom Squats to Conquer for K2750. (kronkites) While I personally have many pieces in my collection much larger (read “better”) that I got for much less, I am considering buying it”

If the CV has timed things right I would have already missed my first warning sign – when they either shorten my name to a familiar “Dave” or clip it to a terse ‘Deitrick”, both of which are normally conversation killers for me. Unless you know all three verses to the Kenai Central High School fight song you don’t know me well enough to use “Dave”; by the same token unless you have at least twelve jumps or tracted during the middle of winter in South Boston you haven’t earned the right to call me ‘Deitrick”… but as I said, sometimes the fatigue trips me up.

Unless I get a positive target lock and identification at this point the CV usually totally sucks up every minute of spare time during the convention. The verbal badminton is part of the game – when courting major buyers. I don’t think they really expect you to always laugh at their bad puns, ignore their burning-tire-and-Korean-mustard farts or act as though the bedazzling beauty of their two-bag girlfriend is enough to muddle your senses – but it doesn’t hurt to lean in that direction.

It also doesn’t hurt you to just be nice to people in general – but when someone prevents you from transacting any business at all for three days it burns your biscuits more than just a little. And that is what will happen if you don’t recognize the early warning signs like an unshaven 29 year old college junior sporting a White Plains Natural and asking his Mom for money for that last Reentry Sled Picard figure in the dealer’s room (the one with the GREEN LETTERING MOM!) right after telling you that his accountant will be contacting you about the wire transfer.

 You miss out on the trading card deal because he is trying to negotiate a lower price while talking on his ‘cell phone” with this accountant – the cell phone with the phrase “a real American hero” embossed on the back of plastic case.

The  book cover assignment  with ‘that editor in New York” never dissolves when the CV walks up and stands between the two of you and starts asking questions about archival quality of the paint you use.

Every spare minute you have at the convention is taken up with this convention vampire….until five o-clock Saturday night when the art show closes. At that point he shows his single true vampire-like ability: he vanishes.

Why does this happen? There are a couple of reasons. I am by nature a nice guy and it is hard for me to tell someone to (bleep) off. I am also hard-wired to help people and since most CVs are not successful in making the transition to real life I get sucked into wanting to help. I’m also fairly approachable; in addition to the “nice guy aspect” I am (as Robin Williams puts it) “nearly famous” In some circles I am quite notable but in most I am “that game cover guy that wears suspenders all the time” so I not as scary to approach as Michael Whelan or Larry Elmore.

I also have myself to blame as well. You see, even though I am pretty sure that the Convention Vampire is going to buy absolutely nothing, every once and a while someone fitting the profile will actually fork over the twenty-seven hundred and fifty kronkites for a painting…

… and I’d hate to have to explain to my beautiful Saxon princess why we’re going home from the con without that much money……

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