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.
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?