Rodney M Bliss

That’s A Fight You Are Never Going To Win

Mr Card, we’re out of time.

So, anyone who needs to go to another panel, please go. I won’t be offended.

Mr Card, we need this room for another panel.

Okay, I think it was at this point he became offended.

If you’ve been reading my blog the last couple of days, you know that I’m at the Life, The Universe And Everything (LTUE) conference and Orson Scott Card is the Guest of Honor. Well, he would be if he ever arrived. Before we wrap the conversation I quoted above which happened on Saturday, let me take you back to Friday. As you know, coming to the Con, I had to decide if I was going to go all fanboy on OSC (How Not To Be A Fanboy. . .I Hope!) But, the east coast snow prevented him being there on Thursday. So the Con was actually Life, The Universe And Not Exactly Everything Thursday. But, there was a chance he might arrive Friday.

There is also a chance I might hit the Powerball numbers.

More snow. More delays. However, one panel had Scott (I’m still not his friend, but everyone who WAS his friend was referring to him that way.) Anyway, Scott and Michael Collins were doing a panel on Religion in Fiction. The decision was made to Skype with Scott.

As the “A” half of the A/V crew, I needed to set up the room so that:

1) Scott could hear the other panelist
2) We could hear him
3) The room could hear everything

We spent 45 minutes running speakers and cables and microphones. And it worked PERFECTLY. The crowd could see Scott on a big TV

and my speakers filled the room with sound nicely.

I wondered if during the sound check I might get to meet him.

Mr. Card we need you to say a few words to test the sound levels.

Oh please, call me Scott.

No such luck. His wife performed the sound check. But, we were informed that he had a flight out Friday afternoon from North Carolina and he would for sure be there on Saturday. That was convenient since I was still helping out with the audio on Saturday.

Friday night my son gave me his copy of Ender’s Game to get signed.

I put it in my bag with my copy of Maps In the Mirror.

And wondered again if I would be able to control the inner fanboy.

The keynote was at 10:00 Saturday morning in the biggest room in the convention center. Surprisingly, they didn’t need me to do the audio. They were using the built in conference room mic and speakers. I actually arrived late and wandered into the back.

Yeah, that’s him WAAAAAYYYYY down there. Here he’ll look a little closer, but more blurry.

Part of the challenge of running a convention is making the guests feel like everything just WORKS, smoothly, efficiently without any fuss. But, to make it work, there are tons of people in the background running like mad. At LTUE those people were called “gophers.”

I was an A/V gopher, in fact I was THE A/V gopher.

Since I was supplying my own equipment (about $1200 worth of speakers, wireless microphones and mixer board) I wasn’t given gopher tasks. In fact, other gophers were occasionally assigned to me to help me carry gear.

But, a normal gopher had to make sure water was in a room for the speaker. Then, 15 minutes before the end of a panel, they had to do a headcount. Then 5 minutes before the end they had to warn the speakers. Then at the end, they had to tell the speakers they were done. And the gophers were mostly high school kids who’s parents helped setup the Con.

So, some high school kid or slightly older told Orson Scott Card that it was time for him to stop talking.

I don’t blame the kids. They were doing what they were told to do. But, there was a whole lot wrong with telling Scott that he should stop. Eventually as he started to run into the next hour, someone with a little more clout showed up and again told him to stop.

The reason they wanted him to shut up was that the room he was in had another panel scheduled for after the keynote. The Con scheduled 10 minutes between sessions. For example, on Saturday afternoon I had 10 minutes to set up speakers and mics for a Skype call, to Britain this time. We took 16 minutes, but it was a marked improvement from the 45 minutes the prior day to Skype Scott in.

And that was the problem that the gophers didn’t get. This was a three day conference and the Guest of Honor had missed the first two days. People paid to see Scott Card. He was a big part of the reason people were there. And instead of three days to perhaps run into him or sit in on one of his panels, or get a book signed, or just say “I was in the room with him”, people were pretty much stuck with his keynote address.

Scott tried to be accommodating. Twice he turned to the audience and said,

Really, if you need to go, just go. The other panels really need people to attend them.

But, Mr Card we really need this room for another panel.

Okay, I’ll just stop then.


The last line was delivered by 800 people. “Paying customers” is what we call them in business. I remember thinking,

PRO TIP: Don’t pick a fight with your keynote speaker in front of 800 people who’ve paid to hear him speak. That’s a fight you are never going to win.

I was just the A/V guy. Well, just the “A” guy, so no one was asking my opinion on anything outside of sound setup. But, I knew enough to know that no one was going to get Scott off that stage until he had finished saying what he came to say. As organizers you can raise a stink about it and risk alienating your audience and your guest of honor and potentially souring future attendees and future guests of honor, OR you can say, “He’s the keynote and he missed the first two days. He can speak for as long as he wants!”

He finished up about 20 minutes late. . .and received a standing ovation.

I had one more shot at fanboy-dom. Scott was giving an “invitation only” panel at the end of the day. My gopher badge would have let me in the room with Scott and 50 other people.

Ultimately, I decided I wasn’t going to force it. I did have to laugh at the name of his final panel. Here’s a picture of the schedule.

A Thousand Idea In An Hour – (Preregistration required)
(2 hours)

Kind of summed up my quest to meet Orson Scott Card.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (
LinkedIn (
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

Exit mobile version