Tips for Having a Good Convention Experience

As summer winds down into the cool months of autumn, convention season is also slowing down. There are still some big events left to be sure, but the winter months are often considered a rest period. People will use this time to save some money, focus on school or work, and prepare for the next season of conventions; early year events typically have an outpouring of well-made and creative costumes. However, in this storm of preparing, we must remember that we’re attending these events with other human beings and their desire to have a good time is equally as valid as ours. In the meantime, here are some general tips that will help make sure that you, your friends, and strangers will have the best time possible.

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Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Fandom as Religion?

Harry Potter Jesus

(picture via nutsandreasons)

Many of you have probably heard old jokes about how some fandom is someone’s religion, or that it’s “bigger than Jesus”. But then I got to thinking: what are the big differences between participating in a fandom and being a member of a religion? Personally, I grew up during the rise of the Harry Potter fandom and hold a couple of degrees in theology. The biggest and most obvious difference between fandom and religion is that (most) religions demand that one believe in the divine. Fandoms, on the other hand, don’t even need to bother with such metaphysical questions of the universe (if they don’t want to). But other than God, just how much is being in a fandom like being a member of a religion?

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Why Otakon Gave Me Some Frowny Emotes: Unacknowledged Social Issues In Anime

This is how we party in Dorne.

This is how we party in Dorne.

On a rare break from work this past weekend, my excellent beard and I made the trip down to Baltimore, MD for Otakon: the second-largest anime convention in the US with over 32,000 attendees. While I was there having fun and sweating it out in my Oberyn Martell cosplay (gratuitously pictured), I intended to pop in on some feminist and/or diversity panels and happily report on the status of social progress in the geek community, but after reviewing the schedule for the weekend, I found virtually no programming that could fit into either of those categories. This would not have surprised me five or six years ago, but with other conventions and fan events putting marked effort into accepting and celebrating marginalized fans, it was surprising and slightly disheartening to realize that Otakon offered virtually nothing that I could consider relevant to this blog. Anime has many praiseworthy tropes, especially magical girls, as well as more than its fair share of problems with representation, but for whatever reason, neither positive nor negative commentary was brought to bear at Otakon.

Trigger warning for moe weirdness after the jump. Continue reading

Web Crush Wednesdays: Con or Bust

Web Cursh WednesdaysI am at my happiest at a convention—anime cons, comic cons; just give me a venue where I can be in costume and fraternize with nerds all weekend and I will be happy. However, I have it pretty good. I have enough of a disposable income to afford the costs of travel, hotel, registration, and cosplay. Plus, I’ve got the privilege bonus that no one questions my involvement in fandom based on my skin color.

Fans of color tend to be less well-represented at conventions, and that’s where the wonderful organization Con or Bust comes in.

Con or Bust is:

a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization whose mission is to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the production of and audience for speculative fiction. Con or Bust isn’t a scholarship and isn’t limited by geography, type of con-goer, or con; its goal is simply to help fans of color go to SFF cons and be their own awesome selves.

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Sexualized Saturdays: On Shipping Questions and Questionable Ships

nj con 2012How many of you here are in the Supernatural fandom? Yes, all of you? Then you probably know about NJWank2013: one of Supernatural‘s many chances to gank us all with angry feelings before the season finale. Let’s recap the events: At a Supernatural convention in New Jersey (“Salute to Supernatural 2013”), there was a panel with Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, otherwise known as Sam and Dean. The first questioner at this panel was a young lady who started her question with “I’ve loved seeing Dean’s character become more comfortable with himself this season. I’m bisexual and I’ve noticed some possible subtext…” She was immediately drowned out by a chorus of booo’s. While a bodyguard confronted her, Jensen said that he couldn’t hear the question, and that he planned to move on. “I meant no disrespect,” said the girl, and that was the end of that story.


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Project Runway Season 11: Steampunk for the Win

pr michelle 2There have been eleven seasons of Project Runway and two full seasons of Project Runway: All Stars. Usually the show turns out lots of pretty dresses and other things you might imagine on a high-end-ish (this is reality TV after all) runway. Sometimes they go a little funky or costumey or tacky, but rarely do they ever pick something truly outside of these norms for the win.

This time, however, they did.

Michelle Lesniak Franklin from Portland, Oregon did her take on a steampunk collection. I personally liked her since the first episode of the season, where she described her ideal client as “a hip girl who can recite the entire periodic table of elements”. So sort of like me and a lot of the women who probably read this blog. I rooted for her all season (even when she was getting screwed over by the judges) and she finally came out on top a couple weeks ago! Yay!

In geekdom, there are a lot of different points of view when it comes to fashion and you see it at cons; our version of a catwalk so to speak. In general, you have your cosplayers, your more goth kids (who Saika calls “the people who fell into Hot Topic”), and your steampunk. If you follow more mainstream fashion, you know costumes, Hot Topic/goth gear, and steampunk are not exactly trending right now (or ever). So to have a popular reality TV show acknowledge someone who has more of a steampunk aesthetic is a big deal. It says that geekier fashions have a place outside conventions—that your leather jacket with 5,000 buckles is cool and not bizarre.

So congratulations, Michelle, and thank you for making the fashion world acknowledge that steampunk has its place there!

pr michelle

Con Etiquette (Connecticut, if you will)

Lady Bacula: After another excellent con and our hectic lives (hopefully) being a little less crazy, Lady Saika and I decided to bring you a lovely guide to Con Etiquette, a small state in New England with a lot of wealthy people and home to Yale University.

Lady Saika: We have a lot of cons under our belts, and we see people engaging in the same annoying behaviors time and time again. This kind of stuff can range from mildly annoying to con-ruining for the people around you. We’ve painstakingly considered the most obnoxious con behaviors we’ve encountered and made you a list of what to do and not do at a convention.

  • Do not ask for someone’s picture while they are eating or in the bathroom.
  • Do not stop walking in the middle of hallway or stairwell. Move over to the side.
  • Also, do not stop at the top or bottom of a stair case/escalator.
  • Do not ask for someone’s picture in any of the above locations.
  • Never say anything bad about other people and/or their costumes. People come to cons to get away from the judgmental jerks in real life. Cosplayers have varying degrees of money and time and skill to put into their costumes, and they wouldn’t be wearing it out if they weren’t proud of it. Don’t be a dick.
  • Shower so that you don’t smell like con. Believe us, it’s a smell that you would prefer not to smell. Because it is a smelly smell that smells smelly.
  • Ask before you take a picture. 99.999% of cosplayers want you to take their picture because it makes them feel like the work they put into their costume is validated. Ask first, and you’ll get a nice pose instead of a blurry and candid sniped picture.
  • Absolutely ask before you hug, touch, glomp, etc. Just because con-goers are fellow fans doesn’t mean that consent is irrelevant.
  • Do not complain about people in costumes that aren’t relevant to the con theme. I’m looking at you, people who complain about Homestucks. Everyone at the con paid the same registration price to be there, and it’s none of your biz what they dress up as once they’re inside.
  • Do be aware of your surroundings. Cons tend to be very crowded, and if your costume or prop is big and unwieldy, then make sure you remember that you’re occupying more space than usual. You can’t expect others to watch out for the long hem on your dress.
  • If you are cosplaying as a specific character (ex: Vegeta) who has a Funny Thing They Do (for Vegeta, responding “IT’S OVER 9000” when asked what the scouter says about his power level), expect to be asked about it. If you do not want to be asked about it, do not cosplay as that character. Nothing is worse than a grumpy con-goer.

Lady Bacula: We hope that some of these are rather self-explanatory. And in a perfect world, some of these wouldn’t even be an issue in the first place. However, our world is not perfect and so we need to put these guidelines on the internet.

Anyone have any other guidelines that we missed? Leave them in the comments!

New ‘Shortpacked’ Arc Hits Close to Home

I’ve been noticing a trend not only on my Tumblr dash, but in the general consensus of the net and its denizens on what the hot topic issue to discuss this season is: sexism! But when is it not sexism, honestly? At least this time there’s a figurehead for our discussions: Tony Harris. Harris, a comic author that has worked for both Marvel and DC, recently has come out saying a whole slew of offensive things that boil down to “hey girls, you can’t actually like nerdy things because you’re a Fake-y McFakerson and I’m on to you and your tricky lying skank ways.”

Okay, it was better thought out than that (barely), but it brings up a point that we’ve already brought up here once, and will probably do so again: is it possible to be a fake nerd or geek?

More importantly though, does it even matter?  Let’s, for the sake of argument, say that yes, there are fake nerds and geeks that want in this super special club of fandoms and feels and whatever else there is. Who’s going to care or notice? For one, if they’re attending cons, they’re essentially giving money to support other nerds and geeks. If they’re watching shows, they’re adding viewership ratings that may help keep the show on the air. Literally, the only problem I can see with this is that the lack of knowledge they may have on your fandom of choice may be slightly annoying. If that’s the case, either teach them and help them understand—who knows, you may make a nerd/geek of them yet!—or ignore them and go on your way. It’s. Not. That. Hard.

But, I’ve completely veered from what I wanted to bring to light for today. This morning, I checked out the webcomic Shortpacked (which we’ve already praised for one of author David Willis’s previous strips) and was completely sick to my stomach, but in a good way, I’m hoping. It seems as though in his latest arc he’s going to tackle this new, unapologetically geeky girl generation through the eyes of Lucy, the newest addition to the Shortpacked line-up and also an unapologetically geeky chick, and her being harassed by someone that looks freakishly like Mr. Harris. Although it’s only on its first page, it’s already uncomfortably hitting close to home. I’m interested to see where he takes it, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hope it ended in a cosmic dick punch.

Theatre Thursdays: A Very Potter Threequel

The third (and seemingly final) installment of the Potter musicals by Team StarkidA Very Potter 3D: A Very Potter Senior Year, made its debut at Leaky Con 2012 earlier this month and while video of the actual performance has not yet been released, there is some behind-the-scenes stuff available:

I just found this video because BroadwayWorld posted it (because though I love Harry Potter, I’m not too involved in the fandom and had no idea this was happening) I just realized I wasn’t even subscribed to Starkid’s YouTube channel, but don’t worry, I’ve rectified that. Since I’m behind the news on this one I’ve been scrambling to learn more about the project.

According to Leaky Con’s website, the performance was a staged reading rather than a full production which typically means few or no sets/costumes/light design/etc. However, they were clear that the team was putting as much effort as possible into the reading to make it as much of a production as possible. I don’t know if there are plans to fully stage the sequel and film it as Starkid has done in the past, but one of Leaky Con’s articles forbade filming so as not to spoil the show for everyone who couldn’t see it yet which implies to me that if there aren’t plans to fully stage it there is at least a likelihood of the reading being released on video.

I really hope that the show gets a full staging though. I love the first two musicals and having the third written but not staged would feel incomplete to me, though I understand the cast and crew have come a long way and have more demands on their time than they used to. Darren’s (Harry) career is really taking off and I noticed Joey (Ron) in a featured role on a Disney Channel show so he’s definitely pursuing and landing work outside of this troupe.  I’m sure the other participants are also working or have other commitments which take precedence over this project.

Still, I’m confident that, if it can be worked out, this team will do all they can to get the show out to the fans. I would especially love to see the progression made across the years in production values, as Holy Musical B@man was not only a great musical but a fantastic presentation as well from costume/set/lighting design to orchestrations and sound equipment. It would just be wonderful to see the team’s continued improvements at work in a Potter show.

Since I’m kinda out of the loop, I’d love it if someone with deeper knowledge can help me out. Is there a plan to stage this musical? Will it be re-worked from the reading or was that more-or-less the finished product (in terms of script and cast)? If you attended Leaky Con and got to see it, did the team give any insight into the future of the piece?

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide! I hope to learn more about this production as information becomes more available.