About four years ago, I attended ConCarolinas for the first time. It was my first real convention experience – I met the Mandalorian Mercs and the 501st, placed “Most Original” in the costume contest (my first costume contest, I was so nervous I couldn’t stop bouncing on the balls of my feet) and met many of the people I consider good friends today.
This year, I attended ConCarolinas as a guest, and I reflected on how far I’ve come in the convention scene. After about 30 seconds of introspection, I decided that was enough, and got on with the con. Because who has time to stand around gazing thoughtfully off into the distance when ConCarolinas awaits?
Thursday Night/Friday Morning (Con Prep)
4am photoshopping and costume wrangling and printing and oh god why did I leave all this to the last minute I regret my decision making. I crash for a couple hours, wake up, try to pack things, and lack the presence of mind to pack things like shorts and toothpaste. Nevertheless, eventually I hit the road with a vendor friend, and without a map or gps but with a great deal of overconfidence we take off for Charlotte.
We drive past the convention hotel
Friday Afternoon, a few minutes later
Vendor friend does not have any booth help. I am charged with the dubious pleasure of helping him set up and organize.
Fridays at conventions are usually a bit slow, although ours is a combination of frantic unpacking and sitting around waiting for traffic in the dealers’ room to pick up. I actually have a little half table out in the hallway this year, so I set up my table and camp out, hoping to sell some prints. Roughly half the convention comes up with the exceedingly witty “Hey Chainmail Chick, where’s your chainmail?” Yeah, I’d like to see you people set up a 10x10 booth in a metal bikini.
I have no Friday panels, so I thoroughly intend to run around and cause havoc after hours. SpaceJesus, Padawan Clayton, and a few friends come out to eat. The nice little Mexican restaurant is half filled with normal people eating dinner with their family on a Friday night, and half filled with steampunk couples and leather-clad dragons.
After dinner, we crashed the panel SpaceJesus was moderating, “How to Write a Sex Scene”. If they have the same panel next year with the same guests, I will totally attend again, because it might as well have been called “The Panel of Thinly Veiled Sexual Innuendos And Also Some Useful Writing Advice.” Angela and I sat against the wall and snickered every time they said “hard”. (there were way better double entendres but you really just had to be there!)
Unfortunately, this is about where my steam ran out, and I went back to the room and crashed. My posse did way better than me and stayed out talking and having pillow fights and gaming (although to be fair, they didn’t have a 10am Saturday panel)
OH BALLS 10AM PANEL. I wake up sick and manage to only be slightly late to my panel and successfully did not puke on any of the panelists. “Budget Costuming” had Brian Holloway, Mandalore the Uniter, Kirsten of the Bibbering Humdingers, cutie actor Michael R. Williams, and myself, basically explaining how to do costuming on the cheaps. While my initial suggestions would include “wear practically nothing” and “make it out of duct tape”, it was actually a very informative panel with a lot of good tips.
Useful Tips for Those Who Slept In Like I Wish I Could Have
- Invest in good tools, it’s better to have the right tool you need that will last you for a while than the wrong tool or a cheap tool than needs replacing. (Air brushes, hammers, dremels…)
- With good costuming, you either have to sink in a lot of time or a lot of money. Be patient. Wait for good deals on things you need. Scour ebay, etsy, craigslist, etc.
- A good paint job will get you far. With the right materials, you can make plastic look like weathered metal and turn a water gun into a steampunk ray gun or a
- Join costuming groups, make friends, and ask around! With so many veteran costumers, there’s always someone who’s willing to help you out or give advice on products and techniques. And even newbie costumers might discover a good resource or trick that everyone else hasn’t heard of.
Lots of sitting around at my table – my younger but taller sister Alyssa was supposed to be there, but family matters kidnapped her from me. I learned a couple things while sitting at my table, namely that I hate sitting at tables. I wanted to be out and about and enjoying the con! I harassed some of the Mandos into coming over to my table so I could leer at them and got some priceless footage out of it :D
Also, SpaceJesus continued our feud by putting a bounty on my head – basically you pay the Mercs a fee, give them a description, and they hunt down your friends and stick them in a cage. But it’s all for charity! Which means that they can’t leave the cage without seeming like an uncharitable douchebag. Ha HA!
The Mandos arrested me first. Now, last year, I was wearing Organic Armor, which is designed for actors and dancers and is super lightweight and flexible. I made a daring and roguish escape and eluded capture for a good fifteen minutes or so. This year, I was wearing gold scale mail all over, and was about as stealthy as a tapdancer wearing jingle bells. Emma and Cord cornered me and brought me in. Curses!
Daphne fed me French fries through the cage bars and smuggled me a sword, which I used to harass my guards. Eventually I attained freedom again, and promptly put a counter bounty on SpaceJesus. It took the Mercs a while to find him, and he hoped to evade them because he was in a panel, but he underestimated the galaxy’s fiercest bounty hunters! One of the Mercs came in and sat next to him for the entire panel just so he could arrest SpaceJesus when the panel got out. Ah, sweet vengeance.
Next up was the “Sci Fi Whose Line Is It Anyway?” panel. Now, a quick bit of info, I love that show more than anything, so when I saw the panel on the list, I begged and pleaded to get on it. And glad I did, because it was one of the most fun panels I’ve ever done! We had three authors, including Harry Turtledove, and one of the guys from the Geek Comedy Tour, who more or less carried the show with his awesome improv skills. We played “Interrogation”, where we found out that author Edward McKeown stole William Shatner’s hair, I got to choose from three bachelors in “Let’s make a date” and passed over Kirk and Batman in favor of Mario. (unfortunately, when he came to pick me up, I was in another castle). There was an infomercial selling holodecks with complimentary commemorative Princess Diana plates, and ended with a round of superheroes, where the Hatless Avenger was called upon to prevent a mass of tiny poodles from slamming into the earth and bringing about an adorable apocalypse. He was aided by Captain Thinks His Feet Are Hands And His Hands Are Feet, Miss I Whip My Hair Back and Forth, The Man Who Writes His Way Out of Things, and Only Wears a Bikini Girl. (Guess which one I was)
Next was a quick stop by the fabled con suite, which was run by Caterer X and his talented team of minions this year. I grabbed a bowl of tasty jambalaya (just the thing for the perpetually cold blooded like myself!) and a roast beef sandwich au jus. The only downside to our feast was that the con had forbidden any food to leave the room because…well, I wasn’t super clear on why, because all I saw food-wise from the hotel was the bar, but there was some sort of competing issue. Which meant that everyone who stopped by the con suite had to jam into one tiny room and eat as quickly as they could so there was more room for the next people to come in.
Later on, I judged the costume contest, aided by Podcasting Rich, my friends Angela and Kelly, and Conor McCullagh. It was a fun contest, with some cute skits – I cannot emphasize how much better costume contests are when you have a witty skit. Otherwise it’s just a bunch of people strolling across the stage with a few awkward pauses. On the flip side, the painful skits are painful…
After the costume contest, I had a panel on fetish costuming. Honestly, I could think of at least half a dozen people better qualified to speak on that panel, because fetish costuming (to me) is very glam and accessorized and on a good day I can sort of manage to put regular amounts of eyeliner on and maybe match my socks. However, it ended up becoming a hodgepodge of stories about cons and personal experiences, and I was the only person on the panel who’s ever had to match their pasties to their see through bikini, so I felt much better about being there!
The fetish costuming panel ran from 10pm-12am, which meant I missed Geek Comedy Tour’s 10pm show (NERTS, I WANTED TO SEE THAT), but we ended the panel a little early on account of the fact that it was drinking o’clock and everyone wanted to hit up the room parties.
Room parties continued to be great! I think we spent most of our time in ConTemporal’s party, but we had a blast at the Deep South Con/Lunar Party (who always has these AMAZING chocolate covered peanut butter balls) and Illogicon’s delicious brownie party. Sadly, Professor Schrodington was not in attendance at Illigicon’s party, but we hung out with several of the artists (in my experience, artists are great partiers) and discovered that one of the Mando Mercs has uber self-styling anime hair.
I think the 11am panel was even harder to get up for than the 10am panel! Just means the parties were fun ;)
The 11am panel was called “Should I Quit My Day Job”, and it was basically about making that leap from hobbyist/part timer to making your passion your full time career. Since the panel had six writers, it was geared a bit more towards people trying to finish that first or second novel and make it big so they can stop working the 9-5 they mildly despise.
Let me sum up the panel for you: Should you quit your day job? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
In a nutshell, unless you have hit it big, and can pay your insurance, mortgage, car payments, bills, etc with your earnings, you’re better off keeping the 9-5 for the benefits and trucking along with the novel as a side job. Many published authors (in fact, almost all of the ones on the panel) have to keep a regular job (or have a spouse who does) because the average yearly earnings for an author who is doing well are somewhere around a low starting salary for an entry level 9-5 job.
Dreams crushed yet? Good, goooood. (Mine were squished a bit, but I’m not completely banking on being a writer.)
12pm panel was a quick sketch contest, which was actually moderated by someone else, so I drew my panther with my typical stick figure elegance and scooted out of there.
This con report is getting a bit long, so suffice to say that it went by too fast and I’m already looking forward to next year! Pics can be seen here.
Things I Heard Were Good But Did Not Get To Experience Personally:
- The gaming. The good folks of MACE hosted much of the gaming, with help from S.C.A.R.A.B, and everyone must have done a good job because one of my friends was out every night till 4am playing games.
- The guests. John Billingsley and Bonita Friedericy were apparently incredibly funny and supremely down to earth and friendly. Always good to have fun media guests!
- Geek Comedy Tour! Nuff said.
- Ghost Trek, Charlotte’s home brewed horror/supernatural/comedy series based around a paranormal reality show.
Things That Might Need a Bit of Work:
- The art room/back hallway is the least trafficked (and coldest!) area of the con, which is frustrating for guests and artists trying to sell their stuff. Other than that, I got nothing!
Edit: OH OH! Randy Richards made this awesome video of the con: