Tag Archives: CONvergence

CONvergence 2017

I haven’t blogged about CONvergence in a couple of years, even though I’ve been attending consistently. It’s still held around July 4—it was July 6-9 this year—but I’ve been easily distracted from writing it up.

This year, I was able to stay in the main con hotel, and it made a world of difference. In 2015 and 2016, I stayed in overflow hotels. CONvergence has outgrown the hotel it started in, but moving to the Minneapolis Convention Center has more drawbacks than advantages. So the con is based at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Bloomington and most of the programming is held there. The Dealers Room, Artists Alley, and some panels are at the Sheraton Bloomington across the street. While the programming fits in two hotels, the attendees do not. The con runs 24 hours a day once it gets going and finding a parking space is a major challenge, so there’s lots of incentive to stay in a hotel instead of commuting from home. But thanks to an inconveniently-placed pair of highways and the general sprawl of the suburbs, most of the overflow hotels are an unwalkable distance away. Given the circumstances, they’re doing a fine job of managing the situation—they run free shuttles between all the overflow hotels and the parking lots—but it’s just not the same as staying close to the con itself.

This year, though, I made it back into the DoubleTree.  I didn’t have to take shelter in the Sensory Break Room, because if things got to be too much, I could retreat to my room. I didn’t have to obsess over how much stuff I was carrying because if my bag was too heavy, I could run upstairs and drop stuff off in my room. If I left something behind in my room that I needed, it was an easy trip upstairs to retrieve it. Note the theme here of “my room” and “nearby.”

By the way, as an indication of…well, something: I was on the 18th floor, overlooking the pool/cabana area on the 1st and 2nd floors where the parties are held. At night, I could hear the general roar of the parties in my room—through my closed windows, through the roof of the pool/cabana area, with approximately fourteen floors of open space between us. Whoa.

I didn’t see a dominant fandom in the costumes this year. I bet there would’ve been a lot more Wonder Woman outfits if the movie hadn’t opened so close to the con. I was surprised to see as many Sailor Moon outfits as I did (yay!). Each year, I see more costumes I don’t recognize, and I don’t know if that’s because they come from shows I’m not familiar with or if more people are coming up with original outfits. I continue to be That Person Who Freezes While Everyone Else Is Comfortable or Too Hot. I was almost laughing at how I’d be bundled up in a capelet or sweatshirt, while the people around me were fanning themselves. If there’s a fresh air vent, I have an instinct for sitting directly under it.

Panels and programming are what I focus on when I’m at a con. This year’s panels were pretty good, and I regret not going to more of them. I missed several of them because there were so many good panels that if I’d gone to all of them, I’d never have had time to visit the Dealers Room or the Art Show, I wouldn’t have had much time to spend with friends, nor would I have had any down time except first thing in the morning. (To be a morning person at a con is to be a rarity.) Still, I made it to several, including:

  • “It’s Been Written Before” spelled out for me the difference between a trope and a cliché.
  • “From Fan Fiction to Professional Writing” was one of those panels where I sat back, knitted, and listened to writers talking about their real-life experiences.
  • “Creating a Story with Tarot Cards” was a good idea in the wrong room: without a projector, even those of us in the front row couldn’t see what the panelists were doing. They tried to describe it, but I was relying on my knowledge of tarot to carry me through and I don’t know how enjoyable the panel was to those who don’t know much about tarot.
  • “Aro/Ace Relationships”: somewhat informative, but mostly a great feeling of camaraderie.
  • “Of a Certain Age” explored the dearth of older protagonists in fantasy and science fiction and left me wanting a longer, deeper discussion of the topic.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: 20th Anniversary Panel”: I will merely mutter, “What do you mean it’s been 20 years?” and focus on my knitting.

I was restrained in the Dealers Room. I was happy to see my favorite dealers and left some money with them in exchange for Nice Things. Having the Dealers Room in another hotel did cut down on my casual visits. With some items, it was “Do I want this badly enough to hike all the way over there to get it?” and usually the answer was “No.” Which is probably not what the dealers want to hear. Yet the old situation, with the dealers all crammed into a room too tiny for people to move in freely—or breathe—wasn’t much fun either. It’s hard to buy something when you have to struggle to get anywhere near it.

Membership badge with pronoun sticker.

Pronoun sticker!

The con continues to emphasize diversity and openness. Each meeting room had space marked out on the floor for people in wheelchairs to use. Sign language interpretation was available. There were several panels with diversity-related themes, enough that some ended up scheduled at the same time and I had to choose (sob!). Like last year, there were pronoun stickers available for people to stick on their badges, both preprinted ones and blank ones for people who use less common pronouns. Panel moderators were encouraged to call on people without using gendered terms: “You in the back in the purple shirt” rather than “The woman in the back in the purple shirt.” The Sensory Break Room has finally been placed in a semi-quiet part of the hotel (total silence is probably impossible). I didn’t go to the parties, but I passed the party rooms frequently on my way to Consuite and was impressed that there was a sign outside each room that listed what partygoers might want to know before entering: alcohol? strobe lights? loud noise? gluten-free snacks? kid-friendly? And as in past years, there were designated safe spaces for people to go if they were being harassed.

Next year will be the 20th anniversary. I haven’t registered yet—no rush: the rates don’t go up until January. I’m curious to see how they’ll commemorate it. Ten years ago, the con went from three days to four. They’re definitely not going to five days, so what else might they try?

CONvergence 2014

Another 4th of July weekend, another CONvergence. Not that the 4th of July was completely overlooked. I had a room on the 19th floor of the hotel this year, which allowed me to watch the fireworks displays of at least 6 different cities and suburbs in peace, quiet, and air conditioning.

I haven’t seen final registration figures for this year yet, but let’s assume it was over 7,000 people. Despite the fact that there probably were at least another thousand people there above last year’s total, somehow it all worked better logistically. The major registration backup that was last year’s defining moment was eradicated this year. I took a chance and showed up late in the afternoon instead of first thing in the morning, and it worked out: 2 minutes to check in at the hotel, 5 minutes to pick up my con registration…and 20 minutes waiting in line for an elevator to get to my room. (That last bit was not entirely unexpected after 16+ years of attending conventions at this hotel.)

The official theme of this year’s con was A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. I hereby dub “diversity” as an unofficial theme. It’s not like diversity suddenly popped up out of nowhere—the con has been actively pursuing it for years now—but it seemed to have really established itself in the programming this year. I saw panels for getting beyond the gender binary in SF/F, Asperger Syndrome, dissecting “aliens vs. white guys,” disabled people in fiction, asexuality, and coming out as atheist. Plus, of course, the “standard” panels on urban fantasy, dystopias, this year’s crops of SF/F movies and TV shows, writing, parenting, crafting, and so on. Coolness.

I always expect to take photos and fail to do so, but this year, I had a decent cell phone camera, so I figured I really would take photos. And I did…just not of the con. I took photos of the generic hotel painting in my room and of the equally generic flowers used in every public and commercial planting around here:Generic painting in a hotel room.DQyellowlilies

I got pictures of Sunday morning’s storm: Storm seen from a hotel room window. CONvergence2014storm2

But basically only one photo was con-centered, and it’s pretty much indistinguishable from con photos from any year:

CONvergence panel.

I think this was Saturday’s “The Hobbit: That Wasn’t in the Book!” panel, but I’m not going to swear to that.

I give up.

Guess what? Read half a library’s worth of writing books and suddenly people aren’t saying all that much that’s new at the writing panels. I still went to several of them, though. There’s a world of difference between the neat and clinical stuff in the books and writing as actual human beings practice it, and I like listening to what writers have to say on the matter. (Plus, it’s great knitting time. I got the better part of two sleeves knitted this weekend as well as another inch or so on the Pink Thing.)

I talked to one person that I knew once during the entire con, but I kept catching glimpses of someone I hadn’t seen in 30 years throughout the weekend. I bet there’s some sort of science of how you run into people at huge events that explains this.

And at the absolutely trivial level, I admire how this year’s purple badge goes so nicely with my purple lanyard and the generally pink/purple shades of my wardrobe. Coordination is everything.CONvergence 2014 adult badge.

CONvergence 2013

I’m back from CONvergence, the largest of our local science fiction/fantasy conventions. I haven’t heard official attendance records for this year, but on Friday, the con was saying they’d handed out 5,085 badges, and no doubt there were at-the-door registrations through the weekend. Rumors fly. One person heard from a con volunteer that attendance had topped 6,000; someone else heard it had passed 7,000. After a certain point, it was simply an endless mass of humanity.

The theme for this year’s con was “British Invasion,” but I think “Year of the Line” would’ve worked as well. The masterpiece was the line for people to pick up their badges. With a new system in place this year, and the con starting on the 4th of July for the first time since it went to 4 days, there was, ah, more of a line than in previous years. Registration was located in one of the hotel’s restaurants. At its peak, this line wound through the restaurant, stretched down the hall for half the length of the hotel, turned a corner, was condensed into a small back-and-forth area in the hotel’s plaza area, doubled back and went back down the length of the plaza area, jumped to the second floor, went back down half the length of the hotel to an area roughly over the restaurant, and zigzagged back and forth again to fill the available space. I hear it took people 3½ to 4½ hours to work their way through the entire thing.* There was an Expedited line for people with disabilities, volunteers, guests of honor, and so on; even that could take half an hour to pass through. While that was the most memorable line, there were others: lines for the elevators, lines for food in ConSuite, lines for drinks in CoF2E2, lines for popular events, lines, lines, lines!

Random shot from the con, including people standing in a line.

Random shot from the con, including people standing in a line.

Again this year, I don’t have a lot of photos. I’m best at taking pictures of things that patiently wait for me to get everything set up for the photo, like my knitting projects. People are more of a challenge. For instance, several times over the weekend, I saw people wearing fantastic Weeping Angel costumes. When I first saw them, I was talking to my friend on one floor and they were down in the plaza area. To catch up with them, I would have had to abandon my friend (rude) and dash down to the first floor, and it was too crowded to dash anywhere. Several hours later, I saw two of the Angels posing for photos only a few feet away from me. But I’d been in the elevator line for a while at that point and had just made it to the front of the line. I couldn’t bring myself to drop out and start all over again. The next day, I saw one at ConSuite, but at that point, she was in line for food. Repeat this for almost everything of photographic interest. Gah.

The delay in getting my badge meant that I didn’t get to any panels I was interested in on Thursday. I made a fresh start on Friday, knitting my way through “Young Adult Books That Are Too Good to Miss” and “Heroines in Young Adult Literature” and coming away with lists of more books to track down (which I desperately need, of course, because I never have anything to read). I don’t have a particular interest in YA literature, but year after year there are great YA panels at this con and I enjoy them even when I haven’t read anything the panelists are discussing. As one of the small percentage who can be up and functional by 9:30 AM, I made it to Saturday’s “Fiber Arts in Fandom” panel to see my fellow knitters/crocheters/embroiderers/crafters-of-crafts-I-cannot-identify.** It’s been years since I’ve seen Emma Bull (author) at a con, and I didn’t expect to see her at this one, but now I have a nice membership card for “The Madame Defarge Literary Criticism and Fiber Arts Society.”*** She was in the next panel as well, “E-Readers: Better Than Paper or Not?” (verdict: for some things, yes, for others, no—pretty much what I’d figured out on my own). Punctuate all this with time-out periods in the hotel room (peace and quiet!), runs on ConSuite, meals, visits to the Dealers Room and Art Auction, and occasionally, sleep.

Other random notes:

  • The con continues to take safety seriously. We saw several “safe spaces” where people could go if they were being harassed, where there were other people around who could summon help. Yay!
  • The elevators didn’t break down this year. Wow.
  • No one fandom ruled costuming. I thought there was a slight predominance of Star Trek uniforms, probably because of the recent release of Star Trek: Into Darkness, but it wasn’t as overwhelming as, say, Jedi outfits the year Phantom Menace came out.
  • I have finally seen Vilification Tennis. I am amazed that I stayed awake for it, but that may have something to do with the fact that I was standing in ConSuite for the whole thing. Or because I fell asleep while watching the Masquerade earlier that evening, and was refreshed by the time VT started. Or because managing to doze off during VT would be quite an accomplishment in its own right, and probably dangerous as well.

—–

*We stood in line for about 5 minutes before my friend suggested we go have an early dinner and try again afterwards. At that point, although the end of the line was still on the second floor, the line was noticeably shorter and it only took us 1½ hours to get our badges.

**Overheard behind me: “I have found my people!”

***After I got the card, I learned this really is a group on Ravelry. So now I have a membership to go with the card.