Wednesday, June 27, 2012

ConReport: ConTemporal 2012

Can I just start out saying – North Carolina is really distinguishing itself this year with conventions! Not only do we have our longstanding faves –WTHCon, StellarCon, ConCarolinas, HeroesConMACE, CarolinaRenaissance Faire – but we are coming up with a whole new crop of first year conventions (illogicon, ConTemporal, Festival of Legends) and quite a few fantastic one day events. It's so cool to be a part of this thriving community! And ConTemporal really brought their A-game to this past weekend; it was a spectacular show. As I wasn’t vending, I can’t say whether or not it was a profitable show for folks (I know some people made out like bandits), but the atmosphere of the convention was wonderful.

Thursday night was mostly just checking into the hotel and chilling, as well as the guest dinner. It was a nice way to start the convention, sitting down and talking with people. Also cheesecake. Conventions, if you’re ever wondering how to win the love of your guests, food is definitely not a bad way to go about it. Two of my roommates and I sat down at a random table and soon befriended/traumatized the two guys who sat with us, an artist named Ruben and Wookie, one of the security guys. 

Friday morning we got our schedules. I decided to hold off on the bikini’ing until the Nerdiquette panel, so I spent the afternoon roaming around in total disguise.

"total disguise" of course meaning "wearing clothes." Photo by Chris Burnside
It’s amazing how many convention goers do not panic when they think a total stranger has just run up and tackle-hugged them.

My first panel was a body paint panel with my friend Mary. Unfortunately for us, the girl who was supposed to be heading the panel was also on the cast, and so she had to attend opening ceremonies, leaving us to improvise our way through the panel. But between Mary and I, we spend almost as much time in paint as we do in our natural colors, so we were able to give a pretty thorough review of our different approaches and techniques. Mary uses Ben Nye and brushes, while I prefer alcohol based paint such as Kustom Kolor and an airbrush! Just goes to show you there’s not one right way to go about doing your costume J

*Disclaimer – which is to say, there are plenty of right ways. And also a lot of wrong ways. Do your research!

Nerdiquette was next up – for those not familiar with it, some friends and I started a small group called Nerdiquette 101, dedicated to promoting social skills on the con scene. We discuss everything from personal space to approaching strangers to getting out of awkward situations, and we also did an offshoot panel Saturday night about Geek Dating (how to meet geeks! How to flirt with them! How to maintain your relationship with your prize catch!)

Since Jennie Breeden was at the con, it wouldn’t be complete without a kilt blowing! A kilt blowing, for those not in the know, is when kilts are made to flutter and fly up (but hopefully not *too* far up, lest it become an X-rated event) through the strategic use of a leaf blower. Many daring gentlemen (and one HELLA BALLSY LADY) volunteered to be blown, and we audience members were appropriately appreciative of everyone’s efforts – especially when poor Jennie got the tables turned on her by the emcee!

I am starting to think panels at or after 10pm don’t do so well. (unless they’re dating or adult themed)  Friday night, we had “What Judges Want”, a panel about how to dominate a costume contest, which was attended by almost nobody who actually entered the contest (alas) and then after that, “Costuming for every body type”, about how to plan a costume to your best advantage (which was slightly better attended but not really). 

Costuming is tricky to begin with, and the more extreme your proportions are (super skinny, super curvy, very tall, or quite short), the more you have to finagle to make a costume look right for you. The wrong cut dress on me, for example, makes me look rather boxy and stumpy, because I’m so short and busty. Our recommendations included: tailoring, shapewear, making your own version of a costume (like Steampunk Slave Leia, for example), and not giving and damn and making an awesome costume and having a great time regardless.

I think there was a dance or something going on Friday night, but after my panels, I was about ready for sleep. And by sleep, I mean staying up to use our room’s wifi connection to get my gaming fix for the weekend. *like a nerd!*

And suddenly Saturday! Matt and Cord arrived Saturday morning and dragged me and Kelly out to the parking lot to help them armor up. Which, given that it was roughly the temperature of the surface of the sun, was a terrible idea (neither black leather or metal are particularly cooling). Once we got them suited up and rehydrated, and I played around with my new found green hair sufficiently, we went exploring around the con floor. We saw the renowned Penny Dreadful Productions, promoting their new post apocalyptic project, Remnant, as well as the Imperial Anti-Piracy Squadron, who were a little hindered in their efforts by the fact that one of the children at the con took it upon himself to warn all potential pirates about the Squadron.

 There was lots of cool stuff in the dealer room, everything from jewelry to books to steampunk comics/graphic novels to (of course) chainmail to leatherwork! I got to chat with Kaja and Cheyenne of Girl Genius, and they complimented my Zeetha/Skifander inspired get up. *fangirl squee moment*

nothing builds friendships like chainmail! Photo by Chris Burnside

We also stopped by Brute Force Studios to check out Thomas’ AMAZING leatherwork. I have to admit, as a novice leatherworker, I am *dreadfully* jealous of his laser cutter. He was happy to show off all of his neat goodies, including a steampunk gauntlet with working Bluetooth compatible keyboard:

And…the very arm that Nathan Fillion wore on the steampunk episode of Castle!

I don't care that it's way too big for me, I feel like a  pretty steampunk princess!

Also Nathan’s hat.

If this expression doesn't scream crazed fangirl...

As part of our wandering around, we tracked down photographer Paul Cory and did some impromptu shooting with him. While Matt was getting his pictures done, Cord and I had a little photoshoot of our own…
the little known musical side of bounty hunters
We spent a lot of time talking to different craftspeople and costumers, and I definitely came home with a ton of ideas that I want to try out. One of the really neat things about the con was that they had dedicated staff members in costume as specific characters created for the convention, as well as people whose job it was to build set pieces and decorate the hotel walls. The end result was a very immersive environment that really did make you feel like you’d temporarily stepped into a different world. James Christopher Hill's designs featured prominently on several walls

 and the fabulous machinery and costumes of HattonCrossSteampunk caught everyone's attention! 

At 4pm, Angela and I had a panel about cosplay modeling, which went pretty well. We covered differences in body language and posing between men and women, how to fool the camera into flattering you, and what to do/not to do at a photoshoot (both for models and photographers)

Later that evening was the costume contest, and I have to say, it was one of the most difficult ones I’ve judged yet. There were so many high quality costumes, and such excellent craftsmanship! One of the things I love about steampunk is how it encourages people to incorporate a wide variety of talents (wood work, metal work, electronics, leather work) in their costumes, whereas in other genres, you’re a bit more limited in what you can use. 

John Strangeway, or Steampunk Boba Fett as many people know him, was our delightful MC, and he kept the audience from rebelling suitably entertained while the judges frantically deliberated.

one of these things is not like the others! clue: it's GIANT and RED.
After the costume contest, we sprinted away to get food, only to have to immediately sprint back for my 10pm panel on Geek Dating. I sat on the panel and shoveled food into my mouth like a maniac, and yet, somehow, people still listened to my advice. The panel was slightly derailed by two pretty boys kissing

...uh...what was I typing about?
But we mostly stayed on track and talked about the hurdles of navigating the dating pool as a single, the challenges of resolving issues once you were in a relationship, and the benefits of improving your communication overall. We also discussed general issues of self esteem, and how they relate to your dateability. Really, 50 minutes was not enough time to talk about everything, and I'd love to see this turn into a two part panel.

Saturday night was also room party night! There were several good ones to choose from (and some yummy cider and brownies, thanks illogicon!) so we ended up migrating a lot, and finally just found a little lobby area to hang out and talk. We also met Blaise, an ENORMOUS purebred Alaskan Malamute – they look like super sized huskies, very intelligent – and he won all of us over by being the sweetest and most cuddle friendly dog. All us girls went nuts over him and I kind of want one now. (Yes, animal lovers, I know they are a lot of work! I have no plans of getting a dog until I’m really really really certain I’ll be able to care for it properly)

Despite our best intentions to be reasonably responsible, we all went to bed around 4ish, and when I crawled out of bed around 10:30am on Sunday, I was deeply repentant. We packed up and loaded the cars, then went to do our round of goodbyes (which, as everyone knows, takes several hours). I fully intended to corset up for the last day but was overcome with a tremendous case of not giving two sh*ts about how sleek my waist looked and took it off so I could hug people better.

Overall, the programming needed a bit of fine tuning (such as my friend’s conflict that I mentioned earlier) but the staff was tremendously helpful and friendly, and thanks to the combined efforts of the Green Room and the consuite, I did not starve to death over the weekend. Congratulations to all the staff and volunteers for their hard work and a job well done! I can't wait to see what ConTemporal does next year!

(Unless they do zombies. F*ck zombies.)

1 comment:

  1. Love this new blog. How do I follow you officially?