CONvergence 2014 Wrap-Up

Briefly, I’m still giving away ebook copies of Lesson of the Fire pretty much anywhere, although that’s going to be ending by the end of this week (get them on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, etc.). If you’re fond of paper, we’re doing a giveaway on Goodreads until Tuesday night (6/8).

Beth and I attended CONvergence this past weekend and had a wonderful time as always. This year was less complicated than last because even though Beth had to work a half day on Thursday and I had to stay home until William’s grandparents came to pick him up, no one needed to work on Friday.

A Well-Oiled Machine

After last year’s QueueCON incident, the volunteer organizers went above and beyond to ensure that the badge pick-up process would be as painless as possible. The return of early badge pick-up on Wednesday helped take the pressure off Thursday’s. Those who were here in 2013 remember the four hour Line, and so about forty percent of the attendees took advantage of the early pick-up. With thirteen stations open the line moved very quickly, and it took me about 10 minutes to get the same distance it took me 50 minutes to get through last year.

Then I ran face-first into the only hiccup in the badge pick-up process that I know of. Some issue with the badge printers stalled the line for about 30-45 minutes. The volunteers did their best to make people comfortable while we waited for the technical issue to be resolved, offering water and bringing chairs for those who wanted them. Once the volunteers fixed the problem I was through the last bit of the line in about five minutes.

I watched Twitter comments about the badge pick-up process throughout the first day of con, and I saw nothing but praise for the short lines and shorter waits. As it turned out I was a bit of a fool for waiting around the night before, but man, I just didn’t know what the next day would bring or when I’d be able to get to the hotel. Kudos to the organizers and volunteers for making this process run so smoothly.

Space Crunch

We reached the reasonable limits of the Double Tree’s meeting space in 2012. In 2013 some events were moved to the then-Sofitel, the management of which wasn’t entirely convinced that CONvergence was a good fit for their space. The ancillary hotel changed hands this year, and while the new management apparently looks forward to accommodating our additional space needs, they’re currently in the process of remodeling all their meeting space. As a result, event space was even dearer than usual this year, and we felt it in what was missing.

The tabletop gaming track took a hit, with only a handful of panels available on the topic. Beth and I have always been very active on those panels, so this one cut to the quick. Instead of each of us being on 4-6 panels, she had only three, and I ended up on none. We completely understand that there was limited space for these panels. Hopefully they’ll be back next year so we can trade tales and tricks with other GMs and players – as well as helping the next generation of tabletop gamers get more out of the hobby.

Harmonic CONvergence got the axe as well, which made me sad. I won’t pretend I go to every concert – or even most concerts – but I typically attend three or four of them every year. It’s also unfortunate because my wife’s band (Beth Kinderman and the Player Characters) frequently plays HarmCon, and it has always been a great way for her to connect with new fans. The Eolian room party helped fill that void somewhat (and Beth was happy she had a chance to perform “Naming” in a room party based on the same source material as that song), but it just isn’t the same sort of performance space. We hope Harmonic CONvergence will return when more meeting space becomes available.

Finally, the cramped quarters and limited selection of the Dealers Room really shows how much it has outgrown its current container. I’d love to see more vendor space in the future. It’s probably only half the size of the dealers rooms of cons of comparable attendance.

Power Point Karaoke

Speaking of limited space, Beth and I managed to see the very popular Power Point Karaoke. It was absolutely worth spending half an hour waiting in line to make sure we got seats. We saw “Why You Won’t Live to See the End of A Song of Ice and Fire,” “How to Write a Script That Will Sell,” “A Eulogy for my Dog Trevor,” and a lesson in Defense Against the Dark Arts. It was one of the highlights of the con.

I have two minor comments, though. First, it could have benefited from the intervention of a couple Nerf Herders. We saw a few people skip the line by going in through the other door even though 50-75 people were patiently waiting for a seat. I’m not sure whether these folks meant to cut or even realized there was a line, but having someone to gently ask latecomers to join the line would have been nice. As well, the line had a gap for the stairs, and it would have been nice to have someone more official than me tell people that the back of the line is actually twenty or thirty feet down the hall and not immediately behind me. Second, this seems like an event that could benefit from an overflow room, broadcast on the CVG channel, or both. It wasn’t Vilification Tennis packed, but it ran out of space long before the panel started.

I Can Haz Social Media Team

My lack of assigned panels left me at loose ends. I’m no ubervolunteer, but it felt weird to have absolutely no commitments at CONvergence. About a week before con the CONvergence Social Media Team put out a call for roving reporters to live tweet some of the panels and other events. This seemed like a no-brainer to me.

For the last several years I’ve live tweeted pretty much everything I saw at con (@FourMoonsPress). This started when I two panels I really wanted to attend were in the same time slot. I made Sophie’s choice (as we all must), but while checking the con’s Twitter hashtag after the panel I discovered someone else had live tweeted the entirety of the panel I had missed. Maybe I hadn’t been able to ask the panelists any questions, but this was the next best thing to being in the room.

I soon learned that others were doing much the same. In fact, Twitter was a kind of enhanced reality overlaying the whole convention, allowing users to virtually attend many panels at once, to see costumes and witness odd events from the other side of the hotel, and to interact with fellow geeks without the cumbersome necessity of walking around parties looking lost. It only worked, however, because people were willing to spend time live tweeting instead of “living in the moment” by just enjoying the events without sharing them. If this was something I wanted to continue to exist at CONvergence it was kind of my karmic duty to live tweet in return.

The idea behind the roving reporters was to have someone designated to live tweet a panel during all (or nearly all) the time slots when they were taking place. This allows volunteers who are tied down with other responsibilities to attend panels in virtual that they might otherwise have missed. It allows folks who are torn between two panels to occasionally avoid the painful choice of which to attend. And it allows obsessive CONvergence Twitter users like me to be everywhere at once even when we’re sipping a smoothie in Connie’s Space Lounge or taking a break in our hotel room.

It was therefore my duty to volunteer as a roving reporter. I was gonna live tweet every panel I attended anyway, so I might as well share a bit of the official work load (and maybe get volunteer hours for it, too). I live tweeted other panels in my unofficial capacity, as well. Only in the case of the Welcome to Night Vale panel did I accidentally end up live tweeting an event that was already being officially live tweeted by another roving reporter (I forgot to check that slot in the schedule for overlap). Oops. I didn’t mean to create a redundant live tweet stream. I’ll be more careful next year.

Interstate Observers

Some representatives from East Coast convention Arisia came to CONvergence this year to see how the volunteers here run things. Arisia is apparently of smaller size but comparable history to CONvergence and faces many of the same obstacles the organizers in the Twin Cities have had to overcome. One of these visitors is one of Beth’s old online friends, so I had a chance to talk to him at length about his experiences with and observations about CONvergence. His enthusiasm reminded me about many of the things we take for granted about CONvergence.

For example, he finds the breadth and depth of our cosplay impressive. We get everything from popular superheroes, Star Wars characters, and other pop culture sci-fi and fantasy icons to more obscure characters from sci-fi shows that were cancelled years ago and weren’t really all that popular even when they were on the air. We even see stuff that arguably isn’t a fandom at all (at least not one aimed at adults), like crossplayed Rainbow Brite and Strawberry Shortcake, to say nothing of Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus. “I’ve seen really fabulous costumes at comic cons, but they’re always the same 25 characters from the current hit movies.”

At CONvergence, even when they choose characters who are popular, our cosplayers do different things with them. He commented, “I’ve seen seven Wolverines, and it is as if they all got together before con and compared notes so they would all be playing a different Wolverine.” You had yellow-and-black comic Wolverine, movie Wolverine, disco Wolverine, arrowed Wolverine, and so forth.

I guess I never thought about it that hard, but I can see his point. The Doctor Who costumes provide an abundance of other example. Not only can you see just about every Doctor, the TARDIS, the Daleks, and maybe the occasional Cyberman, you’ll see crossplay, TARDIS as Victorian dress, and Pink Dalek. All ages get involved, too. I’ve seen no small number of infant 10th or 11th Doctors sleeping in their strollers looking adorable.

CONvergence is such a celebration of variety. You can come dressed as the latest Disney princess (or evil queen), and people will ooo and ahh. You can come dressed as an obscure trio of anime characters, and people who get the reference will squee loudly and beg to take your picture. Whether you’re a novice gluing horns to your wig or a master decked out in a camera-ready Predator costume while perfectly mimicking its gestures, people will want to take your picture and will appreciate the work you put into your costume.

It’s completely awesome.

He also had lots of nice things to say about the room parties, because who wouldn’t?

In Summary

CONvergence 2014 was a great time, and I’m looking forward to 2015. Not only am I certain it will be every bit as awesome as CONvergence always is, its theme (dystopian literature) is near and dear to my dark humor-loving heart. I just might have to break down and run a PARANOIA game. We’ll see.

Thanks to all the volunteers who make this con happen. Thank you to all the awesome attendees who make it fun. I’ll see you all next year!

Twitter Links

In addition to my live tweeting, I posted several links to various blog posts I’ve written over the years that I thought were relevant to a particular CONvergence panel – or that I just thought my fellow geeks would find entertaining. In case you missed some you can find a list of them here:

The Jar Jar Binks Hatchet Job: Star Wars as propaganda histories of the New Republic

Days of CONvergence Past – My CONvergence 2012 Wrap-Up

Days of CONvergence Past – My CONvergence 2013 Wrap-Up

Some thoughts about Kickstarters that don’t deliver

Light Reading, Heavy Reading: The Evolution of Fantasy

This Are Serious Genre – Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror, and Literary Criticism

Another of the Hero’s Hundred Thousand Faces – N. K. Nemisin vs. R. Scott Bakker

That SFWA Thing and Male Privilege

The Lure of Fantasy – World-Building and Genre-Crossing

A Father’s Day Treat

The Cavern of Keys – On Writing for Money

Fifty Years of Doctor Who

From Myths to Post-Modern Fantasy

It’s Been a Quiet Week in Night Vale, My Home Town

A Codex of Complaints about Jim Butcher’s Furies of Calderon

The Bechdel Test and the High Fantasy Writer – Why It Matters

Racing Rabbits – Thoughts on An Unexpected Journey

Playing with The Hobbit – A Desolation of Smaug Review

Food and the Fantasy Novel – Dissection of a Trope

More Locke Lamora, More Lies – A Republic of Thieves Review

The Crap Sack World Trope in Fantasy

Death, Pragmatism, and Torchwood

Family Feud of Thrones

David Copperfield and the Role of Women in Society

“Dump Your Boyfriend and Get with Me” Isn’t a Compliment

Of Glass Birds and Poetry

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