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Convention Attention: Life, The Universe, and ConFusion

This is my fifth (fourth? Fifth? I’m not sure, actually) year attending ConFusion. The con has hopped around a bit, but it’s always in a large hotel in the Detroit Metropolitan area. This year, it was at the Novi Sheraton, a large suburban hotel that’s surrounded by shopping and restaurants. Guests of honor and special guests this year included Alaya Dawn Johnson, Kentaro Toyama, Gordon Smith, Jessica Zerwas, Ann Leckie, Kelley Armstrong, and Cameron McClure.

The very long list of other attending authors and editors included Amal el-Mohtar, Ferrett Steinmetz, Wesley Chu, V.E. Schwab, Delilah Dawson, Robert Jackson Bennett, Susan Dennard, Jason Sanford, Max Gladstone, Stina Leicht, Mark Oshiro, Bradley P. Beaulieu Alex Kourvo, Greg Van Eekhout, Sunil Patel, Catherine Shaffer, Jim C. Hines, Andrea Phillips, Christian Klaver, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Lynne & Michael Damien Thomas, Tobias Buckell, Natalie Luhrs, John Scalzi, Tom Doyle, Kameron Hurley, Patrick Tomlinson, Megan E. O’Keefe, Brian McClellan, Cherie Priest, Sam Sykes, and about a hundred more.

As in previous years, ConFusion offered a plethora of literary themed panels, an autograph session, a masquerade, Saturday morning author D&D (this year they playtested a game by Howard Tayler, author of Schlock Mercenary), epic Saturday night parties, kid and teen friendly activities, and a welcoming atmosphere. It being the 42nd annual ConFusion, of course the theme was Hitchhiker’s Guide!

In the past, my goal at this particular convention has always been to attend a ton of panels, get some books autographed, and be intimidated by authors and super awesome cosplayers. None of that happened this year. My goal this year was to have fun and relax. To that end, I mentally promised myself a few things: that I’d actually eat real meals (at restaurants!) instead of subsisting on Consuite fare and a few granola bars; that hiding out in the hotel room was totally okay if I started to feel socially overwhelmed; that I was under no obligation to attend a million panels; and that since my panel responsibilities ended at 5pm on Saturday, Bar-con was a thing I was going to do.

Friday afternoon was all about finding everyone who had just tweeted “#ConFusionMI I am In You”, finding our way around the new hotel, finding the panel rooms, and me getting into my Sabetha Belacoros cosplay. My first panel Friday evening was “Reacting to Fiction in Public” with my co-panelists Susan Dennard, Amal el-Mohtar, Patrick Neilsen Hayden, and Greg van Eekhout. Good thing I was moderating this panel, as my co-panelists were about 100 times more qualified that I was to be speaking on this subject. Patrick Neilsen Hayden’s response to just about everything was “All of this stuff has been happening for decades. Only now, it’s a lot faster”.

First thing Saturday morning, I convinced a few random people to help me put my cosplay together. Their job was to blow up a few dozen purple balloons and tie them all over my torso. I spent the next few hours making children and adults smile with my Lumpy Space Princess cosplay. This is the most successful, most silly, and most fun cosplay I’ve ever done. Kids smiled, grown-ups greeted me with “oh my glob!”, and a good time was had by all. Next time I do this cosplay, it will involve a balloon frame that is much easier to get in and out of. Speaking of cosplay, the cosplays I saw were fantastic, but fewer than in previous years. As always, there was a lot of Doctor Who cosplay, including the 4th doctor, a TARDIS and K-9, a weeping angel, and child in old timey clothes and a gas mask who was going around saying “mommy, mommy” while giving people like me heart palpitations. There was quite a bit of Star Wars cosplay, a Marvin the Paranoid Android, and some Star Trek inspired outfits. Everything looked great, there just didn’t seem to be as much as in previous years.

photo credit: Jim C. Hines

Yours Truly as Lumpy Space Princess from Adventure Time. photo credit: Jim C. Hines

Weeping Angel Cosplay

Whatever you do, don’t blink!

Marvin the Paranoid Android

Marvin the Paranoid Android

Saturday afternoon I did the SFF Madlibs panel, a panel that was inspired by the Madlibs mind meld I did a while back. And the panel was a riotous success. Thanks to a number of missing nouns, adjectives and verbs, we destroyed all your favorite fandoms, including Aliens, Star Wars, Avatar the Last Airbender, Star Trek, The Princess Bride, Labyrinth, and more, and we made Mark Oshiro read them all. People probably heard us laughing all the way in the author autograph room (much thanks to fellow SFSignaler Shana Dubois for getting my books signed while I was madlibbing).

Later Saturday evening was Robert Jackson Bennett’s panel on succeeding at social media. He opened with a trash can full of cheap beer, and then spent 25 minutes telling everyone how to self promote themselves online. There was a powerpoint presentation. Let’s just say everyone was laughing so hard people pulled muscles, the tiny room was standing room only, and Bennett is a comedy genius.

One of my favorite panels of the weekend was Singularity for the Rest Of Us, with Wesley Chu, Jason Sanford, Tom Doyle, Andrea Phillips and Cameron McClure. It was a discussion of what the world will be like when we’ve all uploaded into the whatever, and left our meatbodies behind, and are you still “you” if you upload? I managed to derail the conversation with my question of doesn’t all this uploading (but only for some of us) sound a lot like The Rapture? And suddenly the panelists took the conversation into this wonderful direction of what will happen to religion after we’ve uploaded? What about rituals that require the keeping of time, or knowing the phase of or the moon, counting days, or eating certain foods at certain times? How do you know what time the sun sets if you live in a computer? Do food traditions matter if you no longer eat? I have no idea how the panelists jammed that much incredible talk into just 55 minutes.

Singularity for the rest of us. What will the uploaded, post-meatbody world be like?

Singularity for the rest of us. What will the uploaded, post-meatbody world be like?

As expected, I had a fantastic time at ConFusion. This is my home-con, it’s one of my favorite cons, and it’s the friendliest con I’ve ever been to. Whatever your fandom, whatever your connection to the SFF community, however you connect with the SFF community, ConFusion welcomes you.

How did I do with my goals, you ask? Instead of being intimidated by the talented authors and super creative cosplayers, I befriended all of them. And then I realized I’d always been friends with them, and that this was a tribe I’d always been part of. ConFusion isn’t just a con, it’s a family reunion.

About Andrea Johnson (99 Articles)
Andrea Johnson also blogs over at where she reviews science fiction and fantasy novels and talks about other nerdy stuff. She's also an interviewer at Apex Magazine. Her apartment looks like a library exploded, and that is how it should be.
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