Convention Attention: Convention First-Timers Roundtable (Part 2)

Remember last month when this column hosted a roundtable of people who had recently attended their first convention? Well, I got so many responses that I had to split the roundtable into two parts. And what a variety of responses I got! A Blogger who had a blast at Eastercon, Stargate and Star Trek fans meeting actors and writers, a first adventure at BEA and more! Here’s what I asked everyone:

Q: Tell us a little about the first convention you attended. Why did you choose this one to be your very first con? Did it meet your expectations, and if not, what changes would you like to see at future events? is this a convention you’d attend again?

and here’s what they said:

Lisa McCurrach
I’m a (slightly fanatic) Glasgow-based reader and reviewer of pretty much anything fantasy or sci-fi related. Other loves include but are not limited to: tea, cake, various types of music, tea, cake, geeky T-shirts, long walks in scenic places (if I have good boots on), and tea. Preferably paired with cake.

The first convention I attended was the BSFA Eastercon, or Satellite 4 as it was known this year, in my home town of Glasgow. As you might guess, convenience was a big part of why I chose this one for my first time out! That said, I decided that if I was going to overrule my introvert side and attend a convention, I was going to do it properly, so I booked a couple of nights in the con hotel while I was at it. Because it’s nice to not have to worry about cleaning up after yourself sometimes (I jest).

So I say I overruled my introvert side, and for the most part, I did – but first-time anything can bring nerves along to play, and this was no exception. As a result I didn’t really make a strict plan for attending any of the events there, because me and schedules generally don’t get along (one of the easiest ways to make me nervous is to ask me to be on time for anything), but I still managed to do and see a lot of the things I’d wanted to, and being there solo meant this worked out pretty well. Though this approach will probably not do when I attend LonCon 3 later
this year. I’ll have to work on that…

Regardless, I really enjoyed myself at Eastercon! The relaxed approach worked for me, everyone I met was friendly and also relaxed, which obviously helped, and the panels and workshops I attended were both fun and very interesting. It was well organised, I only got lost a couple of times on day one, and thankfully there were no issues I could see with overcrowding, even though the convention was well attended. I met plenty of folks I wouldn’t mind having tea or a drink with again should the opportunity arise, which if I’m not mistaken is (or should be) largely the point of these things, no? All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better first time con experience.

Jim Arrowood
Jim Arrowood is a husband and dad as well as a lifelong Sci-Fi fan that lives in Kearney, Nebraska. He is a public school music teacher by day and appears as a host on The Dune Saga Podcast and The Babylon Project Podcast. He enjoys all science fiction, but especially space opera and is a lifelong Star Trek fan. When there is time, he also writes his blog, Jim’s Sci-Fi Blog. You can read more about his con experience and see many pictures at his blog post on OSFest 6.

I listen to several podcasts and read blogs that discuss Sci-Fi conventions all over the U.S., as well as in other countries. Almost everyone that talks about going to cons say they have an absolute blast and look forward to going every year. Feeling kind of left out, I performed a web search for conventions in Nebraska and found OSFest 6 in Omaha. I also learned that one of the guests of honor authors was to be none other than Keith R. A. DeCandido! Keith is one of my favorite Star Trek authors and I knew I had to get there to meet him. Little did I know what was in store for me as I registered and made hotel reservations at the Ramada Plaza.

OSFest is a fan-operated convention that takes place annually in Omaha. I would say that from what I have heard about other conventions, it is on the smaller side as cons go, but there is a lot to see and experience. All of science fiction is represented there; very strong on Star Trek, but also Star Wars, Dr. Who, Babylon 5, and especially the genre of Steampunk. Numerous people were moving around the venues dressed in their favorite genre apparel. There was an art auction room, a dealer’s room, numerous panels on anything one can imagine, and something I didn’t expect; the Con-Suite with free food! “Wow, this is heaven” is what I thought to myself as I walked around on the first day.

What I found most appealing though was how I was able to spend time with people who think the same way I do on Sci-Fi. Maybe we didn’t all have the same exact interest, but everyone was passionate about what they are into, and it made for a very friendly and welcoming atmosphere. I felt very much at home with people I didn’t know. Everyone was friendly and respectful of each other’s interests and I don’t recall hearing a negative remark from anyone. It was a weekend full of fun and fellowship.

Two highlights from the con that will always be with me is sitting down with Keith DeCandido for an interview for the SciFi Diner Podcast, a show that I often contribute to. At that time, Keith was promoting two of his works, Ragnarock and Roll and another “Project that could not be named, yet” that turned out to be his recently released Klingon Art of War. He graciously granted me a half an hour of his time (and let me tell you, they really kept him on the move) and he told me all about his projects. The other high point was a lengthy visit with Keith and another guest of honor author Gail Carriger, an author of Steampunk fiction. It was neat to listen to them talk shop about authoring and they also took an interest in me and what I do; I was on cloud nine.

All-in-all, my first con experience was outstanding and I will be attending OSFest 7 this coming August.

I do have advice for anyone planning to attend their first con: 1. Stay hydrated! On Saturday afternoon, I was feeling quite unwell and realized that I was so busy that I hadn’t had anything to drink for quite some time. 2. Wear comfortable footgear! You will most likely be doing a lot of walking.

Tara Slagle
Tara Slagle is a student at Pace University, working toward her Master of Science Degree in Publishing. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She currently resides in New York City, where she works as a marketing intern for St. Martin’s Press and as an intern for Literary Agent Linda Epstein. She enjoys reading fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, contemporary fiction, and YA.

The first convention I attended was Book Expo America (BEA) in May 2014.

Growing up in a suburb of Raleigh, North Carolina, I didn’t have access to a lot of big conventions, so it wasn’t until I moved to New York City last fall that I even had the option of going to one. Thanks to the wonderful professors and staff in the M.S. in Publishing program at Pace University, I was lucky enough to be able to attend BEA. Additionally, I purchased a ticket to attend BookCon (formerly Power Readers Day), which allows non-industry professionals to attend for one day.

BEA was really exciting for me, as both a student of publishing and a book lover. There were panels taking place throughout the day where members of the industry discussed topics ranging from digital rights acquisitions to exciting new books coming out in the fall. These panels allowed newcomers, such as myself, and old hats alike to learn about the continual changes taking place within the industry. Aside from the panels, publishers from around the country and the world had booths set up where they showcased their titles, gave away free Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) of upcoming books, had author signings, and provided a place for professionals to mingle or meet and discuss potential collaborations.

BookCon was a little different. The publishers still had booths set up where similar activities took place, and there were still panels. However, the panels were very much geared toward the interests of the general community of readers, and the topics were really focused on celebrity authors and various genres as opposed to information about publishing. BookCon had some fun panels, and I enjoyed the ones I was able to attend. I have to say, though, that BookCon did let me down a little in comparison to BEA due to the chaotic atmosphere and overwhelming amount of people all vying to attend the same big events. Despite this, there were endless things to do and see at BEA and BookCon, and I really enjoyed getting to be a part of this huge gathering of book lovers.

I definitely plan on attending both BEA and BookCon again. As someone hoping to work in the publishing industry, BEA is a great event for networking, learning, and seeing what other companies are doing. Both of these events also provide fun ways to celebrate books, so you can count me in for next year.

Kylie Beatty
My name is Kylie and I’m 16 years old. I enjoy reading, music, and coincidentally, sci fi!

The First, and only convention (so far) I’ve attended is Stargate Chicago. My parents are completely in love with all things SciFi and I grew up watching Stargate SG1, Stargate Atlantis, Stargate Universe as well as all the movies. It was a way that we could all spend time together and enjoy some “family time”, and I grew an attachment to the storyline and all of the characters. I came having no idea what to expect, and the second I touched down in Chicago I knew that I would never forget the next few days that would follow. The Westin O’Hare, hotel that the Con was hosted at, was beautiful. I was one of the only teenagers there, everyone else I saw was either significantly older or significantly younger than me, so I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy myself, but I learned that age doesn’t matter much because we were all there for the same reason. The convention made me feel as if I was a part of something, and it felt amazing. That week was one of the best of my entire life and the memories will last forever, I would jump at the chance to attend another!

Nathan Glaesemann
Nathan Glaesemann is, among other things, a science fiction fan, wannabe writer, and shepherd from rural Nebraska. You can call him half-witted and a sheep herder, but don’t you dare call him scruffy-looking.

The decision to make CONstellation V held this past April in Lincoln, NE my first Science Fiction Convention came after months of ruminating on the idea. I was finally persuaded by the encouragement and positive con experiences of Kiri from the Star Wars Anonymous blog, a more in-depth description of my first con experience is posted on her blog here: http://starwarsanon.wordpress.com/2014/05/12/conning-for-the-first-time/

When I decided to attend CONstellation V, it seemed the stars had indeed aligned. The convention was relatively close to home, was reasonably priced for a weekend’s worth of activities, and the two guest authors, Robert Reed and Carrie Vaughn, were both writers I had admired. So, I signed on for a weekend of geeky madness, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

It’s difficult to say whether or not CONstellation met my expectations, because my expectations and reality were worlds apart. I knew that the convention would be a much smaller affair than any I’d seen covered by various media, but I was unprepared by just how loosely organized and intimate the settings would be. Author panels were relaxed and often resembled friendly discussions between a writer and fans. The couple of topical panels that I attended were even more like a classroom discussion. The panelist would lead with audience participation strongly encouraged.

Of course the convention’s small size and loose organization did have its drawbacks. There was little to see at the Exhibition Hall, and there weren’t a lot of choices in programming. And then there was the time a panelist never even showed up. Still, it was this “non-panel” that gave me the opportunity to sit back and just talk about the convention, comics, movies, and books with some cool new friends. And it was the idea that I couldn’t find anything “better” going on that I attended the Cosplay Contest, where I enjoyed the most laughs of any single event of the weekend.

So despite the hiccups (and perhaps because of them), I had a blast at the convention. It was a great chance to connect with other fans in my area, to discuss some really geeky things with people who are equally passionate and informed, and even meet a hero or two. If I’d change anything about the CONstellation it would be just to do a better job of vetting there panelists beforehand. I’d hate to see them change up the format too much, because the small, intimate setting really provided the best opportunities to make some unexpectedly awesome memories. I’m already planning to be surprised by next year’s CONstellation.

Joanne Reid
I’m a happily married to a gamer, a Mum of 3 beautiful kids age 4-15 yrs old and currently a SAHM (Stay at home Mum/Mom) from Toronto, Canada. I’m the last of 5 kids myself and growing up with the older 3 brothers & an older sister there were always comic books, SciFi, art/creativity & music around! It was always a part of my life & husband’s as well, now we happily share it with are family. Much of our time together is SciFi related. I’m a huge fan of Farscape & Stargate SG-1/Stargate Atlantis/Stargate Universe.

My first Con was Stargate Chicago August 2013. I’ve wanted to go a Con for at least 7 or 8 years but marriage & kids didn’t allow for it until then lol! My plan was originally to get to a Con for my much beloved Farscape, but my kids were too young during those years. Then after falling for Stargate SG-1 late into the series I wanted to go to a Stargate Con. Again the timing was never right. Finally, last year I was able to just do it. The timing worked out for Stargate Chicago 2013 and it became tour first Con. It was on a tight budget, but I was just thrilled to be able to go to a Con after all these years of wanting, wishing, hoping. I turned it into our first ever Mother-daughter vacation with my then 15 yr old. Actually it was my first vacation in over 20 years and I’m so glad it was with such a fun event. It was great to find one that we’d both enjoy too.

My daughter was worried about every one being older & not fitting in, but much to her surprise as well as mine, she in no time had met people and as having so much fun! I got to know a few attendees via Twitter & Facebook groups prior and planned to meet during the weekend. We had an adventure getting there by bus from Toronto, and arrived late and missed some first days events, but quickly met so many awesome people who made up for it. It was awesome to be surrounded by great people whom we shared a common love & interest with. In a few short hours, my daughter let her guard down and was pillow fighting with attendees in the ballroom, followed by crowd surfing & karaoke! We met people of all ages & stages from all over the world and even a few other Canadians! We were amazed at how friendly the other attendees were and even local people we met just around the corner from the hotel were friendly, kind, helpful and so outgoing.

The weekend was so busy with events we had time for nothing else. We got to hear the actors talk about their memories of the show & cast member’s etc., as well as the other shows/movies etc they’ve done. We were able to meet several of our fave actors/actresses for Autographs & Photo Ops. They were all so amazing, gracious and such fun to talk to & meet. My daughter was actually brought to tears at meeting Christopher Judge, the main event for her during the Con. For me, it was finally getting to meet my favourite actor Ben Browder from Farscape & Stargate SG-1. I got to attend the event Breakfast with Ben Browder, and meet him, as well as attending an Autograph & Photo Op later in the day with him. Total dream come true for me and then some! We got to meet Amanda Tapping, who was happy to see us as she has lived in Toronto. We had our pictures taken by David Hewlett. We had Photo Ops with Joe Flanigan & Christopher Judge. I even put my stage fright a side and entered the Costume Contest for my first attempt at some Cosplay. We had an absolutely amazing time and it was a great experience both individually and together. It was above our expectations in every way. We would definitely attend again and will be. We can’t wait to go back August 2014 for Stargate Chicago-The Final Journey for our second Con! Working around the clock on a Costume Contest entry as well as Cosplay costumes and very much looking forward to meeting up with friends we made last year and some new ones too.

4 thoughts on “Convention Attention: Convention First-Timers Roundtable (Part 2)”

  1. I knew I was forgetting something with this – no bio links! Dur. But anyway – awesome of Andrea to invite me in on this. :D

  2. Two Nebraskans on this roundtable and not one mention of the Cornhuskers or Runza? Oops, I guess I rectified that… ;)

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