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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

CONvergence: The Write-Up, Part 2

Here's my sister at the North Star Roller Girl event
PANELS

I wanted to go to CONvergence 101, but that started too early for me. The earliest I could get there was 5:00 PM, so the first panel I went to was "How to Make a Living as a Creative Person". It was one of the most useful. I learned a lot about resources available to me, and how some people earn money. I even learned about a site where freelancers can go and bid on jobs. Not sure where it is, but I got to find it. If I'm going to jibber-jabber, I might as well get paid for it.

After I got some dinner at Subway, I went to the Opening Ceremonies, remembering how fun they were at NoBrandCon. Parts were good and parts were bad. Parts were meant for regular conventioneers and parts could be understood by all. There was a long sketch parodying ghost hunters involving some of the con staff. Funny, but went on for a while, and why ghost hunters? Then some miscellaneous things like remembering past guests who died, corrections to the schedule, and ending with a sketch involving the con mascot, Connie (a female android) that would have made more sense if I knew the CONvergence lore.

Most of the ceremonies were taken up by the "Mark Time" awards (for best spec fic audio theater). This took up half the hour, or at least it felt like it. I don't know why they couldn't do this before, especially because I doubt anyone knew what the winners were. But on the plus side, I did learn about some new audio I can listen to on the commute. I'm getting sick of EscapePod and PodCastle. The ratio of good stories to dull ones is getting to be one out of five and the narrators are nowhere near Steve Eley's readings. Whoops, off-topic.

That evening, the big feature was the Mad Scientist Smackdown. I had no idea what this was, but it seemed like the best thing on at that hour. Were people going to fight? Was it like a play? A debate? It turned out to be... like a panel, but way funnier. The concept was that you pit mad scientists against each other in a tournament, and the panel debates which one would win in a fight. The best part was the ridiculous pairings like Dr. Emmet Brown for Back to the Future vs. Dr. Horrible, Dr. House vs. Montgomery Scott, and Fu Manchu vs. Dr. Bunsen Honeydew (who won the tournament). It was a laugh riot, especially Joseph Scrimshaw and Brian Keene, who drank bourbon as the panel went on.

The next day was panel day. I went to "Free Software for Creative People", "Ask a Writer", "Beginning Game Mastering", "Hollywood Science Myths". The last before the evening was a debate between the "Storytelling Slam" and "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Convention" where people told funny convention stories. I decided on the funny convention stories, because the other was held in the Literary Lounge, which did not seem populated. Also, Twitter spoke a lot about something called "Powerpoint Karaoke", so maybe I should have gone to that.

I wanted to get into something called Vilification Tennis, which sounded interesting, but I knew nothing about. I had to find out later, because I couldn't get into it. I went to see the previous panel at the main stage (Joseph Scrimshaw's Sci-Fi Comedy of Doom) because they clear out the room to be fair to the people waiting in line. And boy there were people waiting in line. From the moment I walked out, the line stretched across half the hotel. Right away, I could see I wasn't getting in, so I was disappointed. I guess going to the previous panel was a mistake.

That's the one thing that needs to change about this convention. The halls were not that crowded, and I could get into every small panel I wanted. But the main stage was woefully too small for the space. It shared ballroom space right next to dealer's room, which was also too small. They need to expand the main stage into the full ballroom and move the dealer's room somewhere bigger. I mean, I was already missing the masqerade for a Twins game, so this was the biggest thing I would be able to see. But when half the people who want to attend can't get in, that makes me a sad panda.

FEATURES

I guess they're already bursting at the seams, because the convention not only took up the first and second floor, but also the 22nd floor. That's where the gaming and a few other things were.

Besides learning about writing, I wanted to do some gaming. One of the things I'm lacking around my house is the ability to do things with fellow geeks. My wife, as far as games, stays on the Scrabble/Monopoly side of things. I wanted to learn about D&D and RPGs so I could bring them home to my family and maybe play them with my wife. But unfortunately, it was not to be. I didn't recognize any of the games, and I didn't know how much experience you needed. None of them were marked "for beginners" or anything like that. I was hoping I could game and make some friends. It made me a sad panda.

Also on this floor was something called the Dorian Gray Memorial Literary Lounge, and since I'm a writer I went to check it out. It was eerily quiet, as people were... just reading. They had a nice collection of books in there, but a convention is not for reading, it's for playing. I didn't pay $60 to come here and read.

The art show had some neat stuff to see. I even put bids on a few things, including some stuffed toys for my daughters and a roller girl painting for my sister. Apparently, I didn't get them though since it's now two weeks later, and no one's contacted me.

During a lunch break, I stopped in the Nippon Room, where they show anime. It's a nice place, and they offered Japanese snacks available for consumption. And I realized how much snacks should stay within one's country. Pocky, yes that's fine. But just about anything else that comes from another country always turns out disgusting. On the plus side, I found Gun x Sword, which is the temporary title of one of my in-progress novels. I'd never seen it before, and tried avoiding to prevent idea contamination. It's actually pretty good, and it didn't look like any idea crossovers occurred.

Finally, let's talk about the dealer's room. Remarkably, I think the one at NoBrandCon was bigger, but this one had more stuff. The problem was that everything was crammed together. And here's what surprised me -- a lot of the tables were dedicated to Steampunk clothing. Hats, pocket watches, corsets, satchels, canteens, goggles, leather vests, things that look like potion bottles, top hats, and lots and lots of belts. Like I said before, if you're looking for the next big thing, steampunk is it.

I bought a little wooden bowl for my wife (for putting things in), and a stuffed tonberry and a stuffed cactuar for my daughters. Also bought two games: Family Fluxx and Lord of the Rings. I didn't know anything about Fluxx, but there were mentions of it throughout the con. And LotR was one of the top ranked co-op games, and I love co-op games. I'd much rather fight with my wife than against her. Wait, that came out wrong.

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