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October 3, 2011

V-Con 36 Recap

A number of alien beings and fantastical creatures invaded the Lower Mainland last weekend. I walked among them. This is my story.

The sign that awaited us at the door (click all photos to enlarge)
V-Con is Vancouver's annual Science Fiction and Fantasy (henceforth called SF) convention, having been run since 1971 (yes, 40 years, but it was called something else its first four years). I've been to it once, but I didn't have a smartphone at the time, one that I could access the Net with and take pictures. I also wasn't the same kind of person as I am now.

This year's author guest of honour was Larry Niven. I greatly respect his work, though Hard Science Fiction is not my forte, so I'm not as big on his work as others were.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter or are Facebook friends already know some of this, but I thought I'd give you a run-down of how my weekend was.

To put it briefly, it was fantastic.

In addition to being a wonderful weekend because I was surrounded by fellow SF geeks like me, it was also the first step in my personal development plan. I was determined that, in addition to just enjoying the atmosphere, I would also interact with people. Chat with them. Share common experiences. Things that I've always been a bit fearful of.

That happened in spades, and don't worry. I won't go on about that.

The first thing you'll notice at any SF convention, and probably any media-related convention anywhere (Star Trek, Gaming, etc), is the costumes. There were some great ones at this convention, very creative people with a lot of time and effort put into making their costumes as authentic as possible.

Hell, we even had the Ghostbusters in town!

Who you gonna call?
You can tell they were the real ones, too.

We're ready to believe you.
The doors opened at Noon on Friday, but the Opening Ceremonies weren't until 5:00 pm and there was nothing scheduled until then. I didn't realize that until Thursday, and had already asked for the entire day off. I headed to Richmond (it was being held at the Sheraton Hotel in Richmond, a great-looking venue where the staff is very helpful) and got there in time for the Noon check-in. I then had an entire afternoon to kill, so I headed to the Game Room. Some of the players had already started, and they're very welcoming of spectators.

I also went to the vendor room, which had already opened. Another mainstay of any convention is that there are a lot of vendors there, selling their wares. I stumbled upon a guy who was selling a bunch of steampunk-inspired crafts, as well as laser-etched woodwork.

Due to trademark, these can't be called "Yo-Yos," but that's what they are
The vendor was a guy named Professor Whovianart (a guy after my own heart, being a Dr. Who fan and all), and it was the first of many interesting costumes that I saw there.

Nice hair!!!
Then, the inevitable happened. It's impossible to keep evil down for good. Yes, the bad guys showed up.

Where are those Death Star plans?
It was amazing how many Star Wars characters there were there, and I don't know if they were all part of the 501st Legion (a Star Wars costuming group with a rather large membership. Check out the web site for some really cool photos), though I think they all were. The armor is quite elaborate, and the Jedi robes of some of the other ones look very cool too.

One way I occupied my time on Friday afternoon was being interviewed! There were signs posted all over the place about a documentary shooting footage at the convention, and by attending the convention, you were giving permission to be filmed as the camera went around the hotel. They were also doing interviews, and we could contact them if we wanted to be. After a bit of deliberation, and thinking about how I was trying to break out of my shell, I emailed Mary Higgins, who was doing the documentary. I found Mary and her husband Paul in the vendor room, and we had a long chat about web video series and whether I watched them or not (that's what the documentary is about). We then ended up doing the interview right then in there.

I did feel sorry for their cameraman, though.

I don't envy you at all, Sir.
That looked like a heavy rig he was carrying, but he held up throughout the three days!

The documentary will be out next year, on the web. Mary said she would tell me when it was up, and maybe I'll post a link here (after I determine whether I want you to see it or not).

Another cool thing about conventions are the panels of authors and experts on a variety of topics. Not all of them are writers, but many of them are, and they share their writing insights and advice with eager fans. When I came to V-Con four years ago, I went to a large number of panels, because I thought that's what you did at conventions: attend panels. Plus, I wasn't really that sociable of a person back then. This year, I didn't go to as many, but there were still a lot of really cool ones.

One of the ones I went to on Friday night was called "First Page Idol," where people would bring the first page of their work and the panel would read it and give suggestions on it. Sadly, since the schedule was posted so late (I didn't choose my panels until Friday morning), only one person had a page ready. Thus, it became "First Line" Idol, after a discussion among the panelists on what editors are looking for at the beginning of works submitted to them. We then had to come up with a first line and be brave enough to say it out loud and get a reaction from the panel.

The First Page Idol panel, (l-r: Marcie Tentchoff, Phoebe Kitanidis, Brian Hades, Ian Alexander Martin, Stephanie Johanson)
Since I was challenging myself to speak up at this convention, I came up with one that I thought might be pretty good. "Sometimes being a god made for a long day, especially on Thursdays." This garnered a "I'd keep reading!" response from Marcie, which made my night. Now I have to come up with a story to use that line. Challenge!

The excellent box art to this 1988 game
Saturday had a couple more panels, including a very valuable one on critique groups and whether they are helpful. I also spent a lot of time in the Gaming Room, including finishing up a game of Merchant of Venus for somebody who had to go to a panel. And I won! This took me past a panel I had planned to attend, but I was having fun, and I was also getting to know a couple of really cool guys, long-time gamers who welcomed me as a new player and were very talkative. I had met them the night before, chatting with them for about 30 minutes before it was time to head home. It was nice to have made a bit of a connection.

These guys were quite interesting, and I was talking more to one of them on Sunday, and I'm now going to be invited to their next gaming session. That's going to be really cool, I think, and it's opened some other doors for me as well. There are Gaming groups all over Vancouver that I might try out, a lot of them having been represented at V-Con.

The main event of Saturday, though, was the Masquerade, a contest where a bunch of the people who had made costumes entered to win prizes. I couldn't take any pictures there, because my iPhone wouldn't do them justice from that distance. However, I did get a couple of pictures of contestants before the show.

I had met her on Friday and while I knew she looked familiar, didn't realize who she was until after I took this picture.
And then there was this lovely couple.

They spent most of Saturday in the Gaming Room, until the Masquerade
After the Masquerade, there was a Dance/Party where I had a great time. While I didn't dance at all, I did chat with a few people (including a very long chat with one of the authors, something I would never have done four years ago), as well as admiring the courage of those who were dancing.

Actually, it got a bit surreal.

I'm just burning, doing the Death Star dance
It was a great time, though. The music was awesome (how can you not love a song called "Eat Your Brains" by Jonathan Caulton?)

(A must-listen song, you will laugh)

There were some great panels on Sunday, though I was very disappointed at the cancellation of the Podcasting panel. That's the one I was greatly looking forward to. Still, there were panels on creating your own world for your fiction, the immortal "Are Video Games Art?" question, and creating good fight scenes for your story.

However, the highlight of the day was the Turkey Readings. Basically, the four panelists take a passage from some of the worst SF books of yesteryear. They request volunteers to come up and act out the scene as it's being read. When the pain gets too much, audience members can bid to stop the reading. However, you can also bid higher to have it continue. The bidding escalates until finally people relent and let the reading come to a merciful conclusion. All money goes to charity.

Red Sonja and some kind of manifestation
We all about died laughing, as many of the passages were horribly bad. Not just the writing, though. The people who got up there and acted had a lot of guts, and were wonderfully silly about the whole thing.

I can't end this recap without talking about the Hospitality Suite. It's all run by convention volunteers, and there were two rooms: a room with pop and snacks, and a room with alcohol. You couldn't leave the room with your food and drink, but why would you want to? Some of my best conversations of the weekend came sitting in the alcohol room, chatting with other convention attendees. I got to know a couple of them, and had a great time talking with them. I would often go up there when there was nothing else really going on, and there was always somebody up there. It's run by donations, so while you don't *have* to pay anything, it's good if you do. I did my fair share.

Sadly, I didn't get any pictures up there. I should have. Friday night, there were a lot of incredibly drunk people up there, but not in a bad way. The laughter was infectious, and there was no belligerence. It was just people having a lot of fun.

That's what this convention was about. Fun. Meeting new people. Exploring your shared love of all things SF. That's the common bond we all had. Young and old, There were kids there, and there were people in their 70s (not counting Niven himself, who was writing back in the 60s and still is going strong today). People from all walks of life.

All sharing a singular passion, and sharing it with each other.

Ok, maybe not sharing it with the Marshmallow Man)
Many thanks to the committee members and all the volunteers who made it such a great time.

If you want to explore what it was this year, to give you an idea, here's this year's web site. We'd love to have you come to Vancouver for next year's convention and see the sights as well as have a lot of fun.

And look me up! Because I'm definitely going back.


  1. MANIFESTATION SAYS HI! XD (VCON linked here on Facebook!)

    "Acting" (note the scare quotes XD ) at the Turkey Reading was one of the most fun I've had at a panel EVAR. But I had fun at every point at VCON. I'm so totally going back too!

  2. Er, on Twitter, sorry. (It's all a blur anyway XD )

  3. You did a remarkable manifestation job! You two were hilarious.

    Thanks for checking in!! And for the laughs. Hope to see you next year (also, there's a typo in the link to your web site, but I did manage to find you anyway :P)

  4. Umm...the typo's in the first comment, not the second. Second one works!

  5. I'm definitely planning on returning to VCON! This year was my first, and I had a GREAT time! \o/

  6. I'm very glad to hear that. It was a great party, with a lot of interesting people.

    Look forward to seeing you there next year.

  7. yaay, a photo of my hair... and well the rest of me, and my sister too.

    professor whovianart.

  8. Professor! Thank you for checking in.

    Of course, the hair is the most important part. :)

    Hope to see you there again this year.


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