The Man Who Made It Happen
A Q&A with Willie Siros
Willie Siros still runs his Adventures in Crime & Space bookstore online at CrimeandSpace.com, but his storefront on Sixth Street closed last year. He's serving as co-chair of Bouchercon 2002 along with Karen Meschke, and sat down for a few minutes to discuss the convention.
Austin Chronicle: Tell me about the genesis.
Willie Siros: The convention was an effort to do with mysteries what is done with science fiction. The science fiction conventions are essentially parties. A weekend-long party to celebrate something we all enjoy, which is reading. But what's happened is that the mystery conventions got hijacked by the Sisters in Crime, the wannabe writers and the like who wanted to make it entirely a professional business thing where you go, do business, make deals with publicists, make deals with agents, meet editors. From my point of view, that stuff happens anyway. You don't need to say that that's what you're coming here to do. So those of us who do Bouchercons in the West tend to have that approach: that it's a weekend-long celebration. So it's one of those philosophical divide things: to maintain a good atmosphere for the business, but to really try to get people to hang. Because more business actually gets done when people are comfortable. So that's the approach, but there's of course resistance to that.
AC: But I'm sure that the people who express reservations about your programming still show up.
WS: Right. To a certain extent, there's a lot of big names, but there's also a lot of names that you don't see. And my feeling and impression tends to be that the older writers in a sense don't think that they need this. The Tony Hillermans or the Robert Parkers or Donald Westlake or Lawrence Block. They're not party guys. They're of a generation that this is a gig you do to promote yourself. You know, some of them would've come if I'd paid their transport and hotel bills. But I'm already doing that with the people who I want to be my featured speakers. And, so, while it'd be nice to have some of those people, they're busy, they've got what they're doing, but even when they do come to some of these, they tend to do their gig and leave. They fly in in the morning, they do their dog and pony show, and they leave.
AC: You've got a background in this stuff, but how did you get involved with Bouchercon 2002?
WS: Some of the people at the executive level ... Some of them called and said, "We'd really like to see a Bouchercon in Austin for 2002, do you think you can do that?" And I said, "Sure."
AC: And so you were made chair?
WS: Well, no, then it was up to us to find ... It was me and Karen Meschke. She was the chair of the World Science Fiction Convention in 1997, which was held in San Antonio. And we created a 501(c)(3) nonprofit called the Alamo Literary Arts Management Organization back then to be the underwriter, sponsor, legal protection, whatever. ... So ALAMO met and decided that Karen and I would be co-chairs of Bouchercon. So we still had to work out a bid, a proposal, a hotel, a date, everything, to take back up to the Bouchercon executive board, who are essentially the people who have done the last eight Bouchercons.
AC: What are you looking forward to most about this year's convention?
WS: It being over. No, I'm looking forward to some of the Brits. There're so many Brits coming, and some of them have never been to Texas before. ... I'm looking forward to people visiting me rather than me visiting them. And one of my goals is to sell enough books in the dealers' room to open up a new storefront. To build back up, in a different way.
AC: It looks like people will have plenty of time to buy books and get them signed, despite the jam-packed programming.
WS: Yeah, yeah. We have lots of signings, and we tried to schedule multiple signings with people. As you might have noticed, we tried to showcase a lot of our local regulars, all of the Austin writers and the like ... because why even do something like this if you're not going to showcase your local talent?