Events: Tales from the Floor of the NYAF

December 10th, 2007

Life on the floor of the Exhibitor’s Hall/Dealer’s Room is not like life anywhere else at a con. There’s a unique ebb and flow, not only of the attendees, but of the other exhibitors, staff, guests, and one’s own biorhythms. When you’re an exhibitor at an event, it feels like you’ve been there forever. Five minutes after you finish, it’s like it never happened. It’s all very surreal. ^_^ There’s a permanent impermanence of a show. Boxes explode into displays and sales items – shiny, colorful – then everything, including walls and floors, all get rolled up and packed away leaving nothing but some scraps to show that anything was ever there.

Imagine a desert. No water, food, life anywhere. Imagine one day, you drive into this desert and suddenly, a town is springing up. Buildings, businesses, schools – everything goes together almost instantly. And then people arrive. They attend classes at the school, buy food and drink from the restaurants suddenly in existence, clothes, toys, entertainment from the businesses, and then, two days later, it’s gone. Like “Burning Man” inside a big, black, glass box. With less fireworks. The desert returns, and only cellophane tumbleweeds cross your path.

I’ve been to and worked at renfaires, pagan encampments, anime cons, scifi cons, trade shows, and festivals all over the world and every time I am mesmerized by the magic of these temporary towns. It truly is magic. I love walking around as people set up and breakdown. The floor of an event is where a lot of deals are made and relationships are built. Of everything that happens at a con, it’s this part that I enjoy most. Meeting people, reconnecting with folks, developing ideas with peers.

The New York Anime Festival was not very big, especially as compared with New York Comic Con, but if you took all the non-manga/anime stuff out of NYCC, NYAF is basically what you have. I heard a rumored attendance of 8K and that seems in line with what I saw. (Although published reports later said 15K, which I can only believe if you counted every attendee day, dealers, guests, panelists, staff and Javits Center staff for all three days.) Reed definitely improved some key things since Comic Con – security was friendly, professionals were treated much better (at Comic Con, we were treated like criminals trying to sneak in) and in general, there was a much less overtly hostile atmosphere. Instead, the staff was pleasant and accommodating. Two things I would like to mention that needed some improvement. One, grouping like vendor with like is fine at, say, a Publisher’s Expo, but for folks who sell chotckes like key chains, it’s not so good. It doesn’t affect the artists or publishers so much (I don’t compete with Del Ray or Tokyopop, really) but for the figurine, manga, DVD and goods dealers, it’s a rotten setup. Most anime cons break those kinds of vendors up. Here they were all in one long row. Secondly, when the Exhibitor’s Hall closed, attendees were not swept out efficiently. They lingered for a long time, getting in the way of breaking down, and clustering on the floor where dollies and handcarts needed to get through. The event staff needs to get them out of the way faster and better. But those were really the only things I felt needed to be addressed. In every other way it was a vast improvement.

My good friends at Drama Queen were kind enough to let me have a piece of their table at which I sold some of our books. It was a better crowd than I thought it would be – and I have to give kudos to the DQ fans. They were not the squealing LFGs one expects. A few folks cross-bought Yaoi and Yuri and some who came for one at least looked at the other. A few folks simply said, “well, I’m more interested in whichever, but thanks.” It was all very pleasant and refreshing – a far cry from the days of “Ewww, Yuri.” Those days were up to about a year ago, so wow. DQ definitely drew a cut-above audience. And owner Tran and staffer Isabel are *fabulous.* If you’re interested in Yaoi, do give them a look. Their books are very well done and fun. I even read a few sitting there. I’ve reviewed their book Audition here, as well. It was pretty damn good.

It’s always lovely to see the regulars who visit when ALC has a table, and it was also nice to reconnect with a few folks I met recently at Yurisai. Kudos to them for being a cut-above, as well. When one young man walked up and shook my hand, said hello, said that Yurisai was his first con and that he loved it, and was now sharing this new love with a friend who had never been to a con, I thought, “This is the win.”  Yuri and Yaoi fans are definitely both maturing – we *can* all be human, if we just try. ^_^

Professionally, it’s always a blast to check up on folks you see at every con, chat with them about new projects and ideas, see where the industry is heading. Korean works are gearing up for being HUGE, I can tell you that. Next big thing? Yeah, I think so.

A lot of great folks stopped by the DQ booth. Some of the folks I owe thanks and hugs to are: May Young, freelance designer extraordinaire, who was a champ all weekend, translator Mari Morimoto (who was NYAF’s chief translator and they kept her hopping,) blogger Casey Brienza (aka Kethylia), Tran and Isabel from DQ, Tara, (wishing you the best of luck!) and blogger Brigid Alverson of mangablog. I also had a moment with Milton Griepp of ICv2, Protoculture Addict’s Claude Pelltier and PW’s Calvin Reid, just in case you think I didn’t talk to any men all weekend. LOL

On the industry side of the board it was my genuine pleasure to catch up with John and Masumi O’Donnell from CPM/Be Beautiful. They were all smiles and high energy and rarin’ to go, which thrilled me no end. The troubles they faced last year are yesterday’s news and they are looking forward to a bright future. We wish them the best of luck.

The folks at Media Blasters remain wonderful. I’m sitting here drinking chai brought over to our table by Johnathan and thinking of him happily. They’ve got a lot of irons in the fire, as always. And I also had a chance to talk to some folks from Tokyopop, which I always enjoy. The editor of the upcoming Kannazuki no Miko release and I had a nice chat about that. I was able to explain Kaishaku and their interest in a short list of fetishes. lol We also talked about Okazaki Mari and her never-really Yuri art, and Sakurazawa Erica, and josei in general. Now that I have an in, we’ll see what rumors news I’ll get first. ;-)

And of course, there were a bunch of cons and dealers that I get lots of love from and give the same to. :-) Looks like Anime Boston will be going onto the Yuricon schedule this year and I got to chat with a bunch of the AnimeNEXT folks as always. Love them. A special shout out of Yuri lovin’ to Bill from Anime Castle and Su from Sci-Fi Continuum. Buy stuff from them, because they are two of the coolest folks ever. And Amber and James from Ultimate Anime, too. ^_^  (The goal here is to butter them up until they send me to the Maiden’s Garden event next year to shop for Yuri doujinshi for them. lol)

It was a tremendous surprise and pleasure to meet Grace Hume, one of the contributing artists to Yuri Monogatari 5. I had no idea she was going to be there, and it was a complete thrill to add her to the list of Yuri Monogatari artists that I have met in person. Grace is the creator of “Emmeline’s Cruise,” one of the two stories in the collection that dealt with an older lesbian character. She even got to sign an autograph. :-D (D’oh! *I* forgot to get her autograph…what a nitwit I am….) Now we’re both stoked about her contributing to the next volume. ^_^

I don’t tend to go to industry panels, favoring the face to face method of “what’s the cool news?” of info gathering. :-) So here’s just a couple of quicky things you’re not getting from ANN yet because it’s all on the QT and so I will be secretive and vague – it’s more fun that way, anyway. ^_^

1) There’s a distant rumour that someone is looking into licensing a title of interest to Yuri fans. I won’t give anything away but, ahem, we may get those Jun and Nene dolls after all….

2) Keep your ears open for a new, very exciting event that will be coming up for 2009. I can’t tell you anything specific, but I can tell you that there has NEVER been anything like it in anime/manga events. (This is me smiling and nodding knowingly.) There’s a lot of enthusiam about it in the industry. You’ll be seeing info about it soon…? ^_^

3) And this so prelim it’s a thought exercise rather than rumor, but who knows how the world will spin, right? How would you all feel about a Mist manga collection in English? Who knows – it could happen. :-)

Well, that’s it from the floor of NYAF. Next event, Comiket, where I will support the Japanese economy by throwing money at it. ^_^

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6 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

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  3. Senbei says:

    I wish I had been able to make it out but just didn’t have the money this time. And of course, as these things go, you always manage to meet someone awesome for whom I get incredibly jealous: this time it’s Milton Griepp of ICv2. I only have 1 issue (thanks to YALSA) to my name but I believe it be the best periodical I’ve got my hands on in years. No lame adds. No paying for crap poster-art. No trying to placate the lowest common denominator AND it specializes in previewing rather than reviewing multiple publishers. The only problem? It’s a hundred bucks a year (until I get my own Youth department) and only quarterly at that. Gah. I’ll just stalk their site for the next event I guess.

  4. This is me slapping my forehead. Did you people not notice that I didn’t use the title? Did you think that was accidental?

    Dear readers – get a clue. Please.

  5. oh and hey, senbei – there’s a website – ICv2.com. It’s a pretty good industry site. Check it out.

  6. chilipop says:

    Thanks for the con overview, now I wish I had the time to roadtrip it down there, lol. Unfortunately it’s exam time for me, and going across the border’s probably very busy this time of year. But you totally made me sad that I missed all that fun.

    Also, all the ‘rumours’ sound awesome, [well, I tried to decode them and what came out of my imagination is awesome anyway].

    Sounds like you had a blast.

    Don’t suppose you do Canadian events, do you?

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