Hi Everyone, I’m Andrea Johnson, and welcome to the first of a series of monthly columns on the who, what, where, when and how to of Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions. I hope to shed some light on why you should attend a Con, what you can expect when you get there, different types of programming Cons offer (including programming and activities for your kids), how best to research a Con you’re interested in attending, and why these events are so important to our community. As information becomes available, I’ll post information about upcoming Conventions and other events of interest.

My hope is that this series of columns will convince members of our community who have never attended a con to give one a try.

Yes, yes, I know. WorldCon is The Big One, the one everyone is talking about. Among other things, that’s the one with the SF Signal meet up! Even so, there are plenty of smaller regional Cons you should take a look at.

And speaking of smaller regional Cons, here are a few that are coming up:

I’ll be at ConText,  if you are there and you see me, come and say Hello!

Until quite recently I too was a Convention Virgin.

My first convention was ConFusion, in January 2012, outside Detroit Michigan. It feels like it was just yesterday. I’d heard it was a very friendly Con, perfect for people like me who had never been to one before. And they were right.

I had an immensely positive experience at ConFusion, which turned me into a fan of attending cons. Author readings, discussion panels, books, boardgaming, anime, cosplay, steampunk everything, a pirate themed party, some of the friendliest and nicest people I’ve ever met, and all the coffee I could drink. Where else but a science fiction and fantasy convention can all that geekery and genre love be crammed into one place? Did I mention the copious quantities of coffee?

It all began when we arrived into a huge hotel lobby, where Joe Abercrombie and Patrick Rothfuss and a ton of other people were socializing. There was a room that just showed Anime all weekend, a room that was just board gaming, a dealer room selling everything from jewelry to books to corsets to zombie survival gear, a Con Suite with a never-ending supply of soda, beer, pizza and other sundries, and half a dozen rooms set up for panels and readings and autograph sessions.

Where to start? At the registration desk, of course!

First things first, get my badge and program booklet. Among other things, a con badge is your entry ticket into every panel and event. It lets con goers identify each other as Someone Who Is Supposed To Be Here, which means you should always be wearing it. The plastic sleeve also made a great pocket for business cards and a little bit of cash. The program booklet lets you know when and where everything (panels, author readings, costume contest, artist demonstrations, mass autograph sessions, planned parties, etc) is happening, and helps you plan your weekend. If the Con has posted a PDF of the schedule on their website ahead of time, this is helpful as well.

Con Staff and Volunteers will most likely be wearing different colored badges, or special t-shirts so you can easily identify them. Have a question? Need to know where the bathrooms or the stairs are? Have any kind of concern or issue or anything? Need to report something? You have an entire army of people who work for the Con, and therefore, work for you. These are the people who have worked tirelessly for the last year to make sure everyone attending this event has a good time.  Even if you don’t have a question the staff, it never hurts to thank them for all their hard work.

Next time we’ll talk about different types of programming offered at Conventions.

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