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.
Read the rest of this entry

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.

Read the rest of this entry

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.

Read the rest of this entry

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.)

Read the rest of this entry

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.

Read the rest of this entry

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.
Read the rest of this entry

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.

Read the rest of this entry

In episode 175 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester asks his motley crew of mis-fit panelists to discuss: Which conventions are you looking forward to this year?

Read the rest of this entry

The Con Panel: Its Uses and Limitations

A few weeks ago I attended Darkover Grand Council Meeting, a Science Fiction/Fantasy convention held in the Baltimore area. This was the con’s 35th year and it offered a bountiful variety of activities, from music to crafts to meditation sessions to a regency ball. Of course, the convention also had several tracks of programming that included many panel discussions on topics ranging from “Placing Your Story in the Here and Now” to “What Comes After Zombies.”  I spent most of the weekend attending panels, and I was struck by how different they were from the panels at what I consider to be my home convention, Readercon. This led me to spend some of my time thinking about the nature and utility of convention panels for fantastic literature.  As I listened, took notes, and let my mind drift amongst the ideas, good and bad, that the panels produced, I wondered what use the con panel has in our hyper-connected age, what a panel can offer an audience and what makes them fall short sometimes.

Read the rest of this entry