Category Archives: Convention Attention

The who, what, where, when and how to of Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions.

Convention Attention: John Wenger on 35 Years of Attending Conventions

My friend John has been to a lot of conventions, and I mean a lot. I don’t want to make him feel old, but he attended his first convention the same year I was born. When he mentioned that he’d kept the program books from most if not all of the cons he’d attended, I knew I had to snag him for a Convention Attention interview! He even let me snap photos of a bunch of the program books. Just wait till you see the artwork on these, everything from book cover quality to copyright infringing fan art.

In a way, I’ve got John to thank for the existence of this monthly column. He’s the guy who talked me into going to my very first scifi convention a few years ago. I had a fantastic time, and couldn’t wait to go to another one, and then another one, and then another one.

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CONVENTION ATTENTION: Context27 in Columbus, Ohio

Context27 logoLast month I attended Context27, a small and cozy speculative fiction convention in Columbus, OH. Context is a writers convention, and this year’s guests of honor where Jonathan Maberry and Betsy Mitchell. Other guests included Laura Resnick, Jennifer Brozek, Maurice Broaddus, Jerry Gordon, Jason Sizemore, Daniel and Trista Robichaud, Lucy Snyder, Ferrett Steinmetz, Michael West and more. Along with panels and workshops, the convention also had a flash fiction contest, well-appointed dealer room, a live recording of the Funky Werepig podcast, a consuite, and of course, parties! This was also my first time on panels, but more on that later.

For a small additional fee, attendees could sign up for one of the many workshops, which included Writing for Young Adults, Crafting a Compelling Plot, Characterization Through Dialog,Anthology Editing, and Point of View, among many others. The panels were also primarily writer and publishing focused, and included topics such as Busting Writer’s Block, Hot New Writers, Classics You May Have Missed, Getting a Day Job in Publishing, The Care and Feeding of Beta Readers, Skewering the Tropes, The Art of the Short Story, Social Media for Authors and Readers, Homebrewing Science, Podcasting, Publishing Disasters, Tales from the Slushpile, The Future of Magazines and Periodicals, What is an MFA and Do I Want One,and about a bazillion more. I really have no idea how all this incredible programming was jammed into 48 hours.
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Convention Attention: NASFiC & DetCon1’s Committment to Diversity

I know the big news lately is the Hugo Awards (congrats to all the winners by the way!), and we all know it’s called Worldcon because it moves around the World. But what if you live in the US, and international travel isn’t an option for you? Don’t worry, we got you covered. When Worldcon is outside the United States, a lucky US city gets to hold NASFiC, our National Convention. In July of this year, NASFiC was held in Detroit Michigan, and some of the organizers were kind enough to chat me about what NASFiC is all about, their commitment towards diversity, and how to get involved in NASFiC and other conventions.

(Don’t live in the US? no problem. More and more countries have National Science Fiction Conventions that move from city to city within that country. Australia has NatCon, the UK has EasterCon, Finland has FinnCon, Poland has PolCon, New Zealand has their NatCon, Sweden has SweCon, and even though I’m sure I missed plenty, I bet you get the idea.)

The recent NASFiC that was held in Detroit was called DetCon1, and it boasted over 1400 attendees, with Guests of Honor Steven Barnes, Nnedi Okorafor, John Picacio, Helen Greiner, and the musicians Bill and Brenda Sutton, among others. The Golden Duck award for excellence in children’s speculative fiction was also presented at DetCon1 for Middle Grade and YA fiction. Wow, that’s a lot going on, isn’t it? Shall we get to the roundtable with Anne K. Gray (Diversity Facilitator), Tammy Coxen (Con Chair), Christine Humphrey (Volunteer Coordinator) and Anna O’Connell (Volunteer Co-Coordinator)? Yes, lets!

Andrea Johnson: DetCon1 was a NASFiC. What’s NASFiC, when does it occur, and how is the location decided?

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Convention Attention: Anime Midwest

Earlier this month, my husband and I attended Anime Midwest, in Chicago. As the name implies, the majority of guests, panels, and activities had a connection to Japanese anime shows and movies, Japanese culture, and Japanese fashion. Special guests included voice actors Caitlin Glass, Sonny Strait, Greg Ayres, Alexis Tipton, and Johnny Yong Bosch, the famous Japanese fashion brand Baby the Stars Shine Bright, and a number of independent fashion designers. There were also steampunk and comedy based musical guests, gaming experts on hand, webcomic artists and authors, and Japanese weaponry experts. If I listed all the panelists and other guests, you’d still be reading this column three hours from now
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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:

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Convention Attention: How Was Your First Time?

One of the reasons I enjoy writing this column is that I hope someone who is reading it, who has never been to a convention before will decide to go to one, be it a fan run scifi and fantasy convention, a writers conference, a large scale trade show (like BEA), a ComicCon, or any other kind of genre and/or fandom convention.

Everyone has to start somewhere, and with that in mind I e-mailed a few friends and put a call out on twitter to get in touch with people who had attended their first convention within the last year.

Here’s the questions I asked:

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 the first batch of responses!

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Convention Attention: The What and Where of Genre Awards

There’s been a lot of news lately — the Hugo ballot was announced, and the British Science Fiction Awards were presented at Eastercon! Awards season is upon us, which means it’s the perfect time to talk about other big genre awards, and which Conventions you can attend to watch the awards ceremonies. It’s one thing to see “Hugo Award Winner”, or “Philip K Dick Award Winner” on the front cover of the book you’re reading, but how awesome is it to actually watch that award be presented? Pretty darn awesome, that’s what.

In lieu of giving you paragraphs upon paragraphs of details of each and every award and convention, I have boiled this down to the basics: What is the award? At what Convention is it presented? Who has won it recently? I put in as many links as I could so you can learn more about the different awards and conventions at your leisure. For even more information about past winners, check out this meticulously curated awards database at the World without End Blog or Locus Onlin’s Science Fiction Awards Database.

In no particular order:

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Convention Attention: Are Conventions Really That Important?

This month’s Convention Attention column is an open discussion thread. Your responses will help shape what I talk about in upcoming months.

Here are your discussion questions:

  1. Is attending conventions* important?
  2. Why or why not?
  3. Who should attend them?

Sound off in the comments!

* By “convention”, I mean any regional, national, or international Convention, be it fan-organized or media sponsored (like a ComiCon), be it big or small, be it writing-focused, specific fandom-focused, or general. I’m not picky.

Convention Attention: Con or Bust

I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately on the importance of “Convention culture”, of how wonderful it is to have face-to-face conversations with fans, authors, editors, and people you’ve only interacted with on twitter or over e-mail.  I even started writing this month’s column on that topic. Something that always comes up in this type of conversation is that going to conventions isn’t cheap, but we make it happen anyway, because it’s important to us.  Through no planning on my part, these conversations tended to occur with people who are like me: they have enough disposable income to attend conventions, and they are Caucasian. It may be politically incorrect to say so, but the conventions I have been to have been pretty pale skinned.

Finances shouldn’t be a barrier. Being a minority at a convention shouldn’t be a barrier. If you are a fan, and convention culture is important to you, nothing should be a barrier. So instead of smugly talking about how great it is for me to be able to travel all over the place and attend Conventions and how I blend right in, I instead have for you an interview with Kate Nepveu, the organizer of Con or Bust, the organization that removes such barriers.  People, this is important.
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Convention Attention: Legendary Confusion Report

Patrick Tomlinson, Cherie Priest, Cindy Spencer Pape, and Seleste deLaney at a panel
Patrick Tomlinson, Cherie Priest, Cindy Spencer Pape, and Seleste deLaney at a panel

I recently returned from Legendary Confusion, a fan run Convention in Dearborn, Michigan.  A multi-faceted convention, programming included author readings, science panels, events for kids and teens, weaponry demos, anime viewing, filking, masquerade, role playing and board gaming, a massive autograph session, and more panels on speculative fiction that you can shake a stick at.  As expected, there were more panels than I could get to,  covering everything from trends in urban fantasy, to researching vs making it up, to using (or avoiding) bad language, to how to build a Dalek, to hybrid publishing, to working with agents, to editing your manuscript, to astronomy and biology in science fiction, to Doctor Who discussions, to getting the period clothing  correct, to…well, you get the idea.

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Convention Attention: Let’s talk Cosplay

Just your average Saturday afternoon at a mall in California.
Just your average Saturday afternoon at a mall in California.
Cosplay is a lot more than just dressing up. Let’s start with a basic overview of what Cosplay is, where you’ll find it, some history, and some links for those of you who want more information.

Simply put, “cosplay” is dressing up as an identifiable character or object from fandom. It’s a way to promote a character or fandom you like, or even a character that would just be fun to dress up as. Cosplayers are most often found at ComicCons, Anime conventions, and  media specific conventions. You’ll even occasionally find cosplayers dressed up and wandering around town just for the heck of it,  or at cosplay events at comic shops.

Convention attendees have been dressing up, or “cosplaying” since the beginning of the idea of conventions, when it was simply called “dressed up”, or “masquerade”.  Rob Hansen’s extensive online science fiction history archive features articles that include photos (warning, some may be NSFW) of masquerade and cosplay at Conventions going back to 1939. The only thing that’s changed over the years is the type of camera used to take the pictures.

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Convention Attention: Money Matters

My first year attending conventions, I attended only one. The next year, three. For 2014, there are at least four or five I’d like to attend. I’ve started registering, booking hotel rooms, and requesting time off from work. And then it hit me: My new hobby of going to Conventions? No way around it — this new hobby ain’t cheap.

There’s plenty of planning that goes into attending a convention (Whose autograph line will you go to first? Are you going to get up early on Sunday morning to see the stage fighting demo? Which Doctor Who t-shirt and which Firefly t-shirt will you wear? What time are you going to leave and how long will it take to get there?), but taking some time to think about your budget will give you peace of mind and help the weekend be a little easier on your bank account.

The easy part is that budgeting for a convention weekend isn’t any different from budgeting and planning for any other weekend getaway. You’ve got to figure out how you’re getting there, where you’re staying, where you’re eating, and how much money you have for shopping. And just like any weekend vacation, there are plenty of ways to plan ahead and save some money. Everyone’s situation will of course be different, but the following tips have worked for me, so maybe a few of them will help you out. (If you are a seasoned traveler and have other tips, please share them in the comments.)

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Convention Attention: Bring The Kids!

You and your family are making plans for the weekend.  What should you do? Camping? Tye-dying in the garage?  Indoor Waterpark? Cider Mill followed by pumpkin carving? Playground followed by a movie?

Why not take the whole family to a Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention?

Many Conventions have entire programming tracks designed just for kids and teens.  To learn more, I interviewed Larc Bogdan and Lisa Ragsdale, who oversee and organize the youth programming for ConFusion (January 17-19 in Dearborn, MI), and volunteer for youth programming at other conventions as well.  If you’ve ever worried that your children wouldn’t have anything to do at a Con, allow Lisa and Larc to put your worries to rest.

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Convention Attention: All About Panels

Michael deLuca, Alastair Reynolds, Howard Andrew Jones, Brian McClellan, Saladin Ahmed at Immortal ConFusion
(Click to embiggen.)

In my opinion, one of the best ways you can spend your time at a Convention is by attending panels. You can hear your favorite authors and other industry professionals talk on a subject you’re interested in, hear authors and industry professionals you’ve never heard of talk on a topic you’re interested in, hear scientists discuss how to get to Mars and other scientific endeavors and discoveries, hear media professionals talk about movies and comics and tv shows…the options truly are endless. Panels aren’t just the panelists talking at each other, and they aren’t just a Q&A session. This is an unscripted conversation between people who are passionate about the panel topic, are experts in it, or have shown interest in being part of this conversation. Panels are just one part of the Convention’s programming schedule, but you’ll find that it’s easy to fill your day with panels, panels, and more panels.
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Convention Attention: First Timers

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.

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