Hey, gang! I want to tell you all about my weekend at LepreCon, but first I need to apologize: I won’t be able to attend CONvergence (Minnesota) in July. I’m bummed, sad and otherwise pissed that this cannot be made to happen, but with the bills for ultrasounds and multiple unexpected surgeries and that whole “fiscal responsibility” thing, I just can’t mutilate my budget in such a way that Minnesota and I can coexist. You’ll have to have a blast without me. (Or come see me at Phoenix Comic Con.)
With that bit of suck out of the way…let’s talk about the con I went to.
So, for those who don’t know, LepreCon is a small local sf/f con here in Mesa, AZ that specializes in sci-fi lit and art. It’s been going on for years and remains a small, intimate place for creators to meet and talk with one another and their audience (or audience in potentia). The same people who run CopperCon (the one I went to last fall) are the masterminds behind LepreCon so I saw a lot of the same guests and attendees. Like many cons this size, LepreCon & CopperCon are volunteer-run shows. As you’ll find with most volunteer events…well, there are snafus. And LepreCon was not without its own gremlins.
First was registration. What we were told: the pre-reg information didn’t get sent to the people making badges. So badges were being made with a label-maker and lamination machine ON THE SPOT. Even for guests/participants. Our pre-reg information was no where, so we had to fill out forms (again) and wait. I’m glad I got there more than an hour before my first panel, but I was lucky. There were other guests/participants who still didn’t have their badges or guest packages the next day. Short story: registration was a bit of a cluster. The volunteers were working hard, but they could have saved themselves a lot of trouble with a sharpie, ya dig?
Also, there were a few panels where guests didn’t know they were supposed to be there. Schedules were missing panels or those panels were not in the rooms the schedule said they would be. ON THAT NOTE: I apologize to those on and at the Crowdfunding panel Saturday. I didn’t know I was supposed to be there and missed it as I was grabbing a very late lunch at 6pm.
And lastly, there was one particular staff member (sadly, I never got his name to tell the proper people) who I saw duck into several panels just to play games on his phone. Loudly. Seriously? I get that at the moment you are either on a much needed break in your day of work (or you’re trying to cover being lazy/say you can’t do work because look, you’re invested in this panel)…but if you’re going to play games on your phone DON’T FUCKING DO IT WHILE OTHER PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO HAVE A CONVERSATION! (Or you know, work. While it’s fun and everything, doing panels at cons is part of my profession.) I called the dude out on it and he snapped at me. Then turned down his phone and stayed there for the rest of the panel, clearly still playing games, being a void in the audience (which itself is annoying and disrespectful.)
Okay…so that’s all the bad stuff.
The dealer’s room was small and intimate, but well-stocked with awesomeness. I discovered many new vendors and artists who are phenomenally talented. (And also that I need to get new business cards because wow, the design on mine is ubiquitous.) The con was focusing on Steampunk aesthetics, so a lot of the vendors were selling goggles, spectacular jewelry with Victorian flair, and corsets. Even though the dealers’ room was small, it was nice to be able to stand and talk with the artists/authors for a while and get to know them. Hell, it was nice to not have to yell to be heard above the din of a pressing crowd.
The size of the con also had an impact on the panels. At panels at larger cons like Phoenix Comic Con, the audience is spread out, the panels have a set moderator and the participants have to watch their time to make sure everyone on the panel gets to add their own input. This smaller con made panels more intimate. Since we had an average of 10 people in the audience (at most) and 3 – 5 panelists, we could turn those events into large, guided conversations. Very few panels had a set moderator, but instead had a “designated adult”. And since a lot of the same faces popped up in those audiences, I felt like I was able to get to know people and tailor my answers to their questions. Likewise, since I was on multiple panels with some of the same authors, we were able to carry on some discussions that crossed across multiple panels. There were a few panels where the audience was small, so we kinda took the topic, tossed it and just talked about what they wanted to in terms of writing, publishing etc.
It was nice to reconnect with some people who I met at CopperCon and share panels with them. Also, I met so many authors that I hope to see more of and get to know. I’m really looking forward to seeing them again at Phoenix ComicCon next month.
It’s something I love about conventions in general: that summer camp feeling of getting together with like-minded people and playing for a weekend. Come Sunday afternoon, when the booths are tearing down their banners and the business cards are flying, there’s the same lag and sadness that soon we’ll return to “the real world” where our geekdoms are either hobbies or have to take a backseat to “responsibility”. For that weekend at a con, though, we get to revel in our shared passions.
Thanks for having me, LepreCon. Looking forward to seeing you all at Comic Con and perhaps CopperCon in the fall (maybe? please?)
And again, I’m so sorry that I won’t be at CONvergence. I was really looking forward to meeting some of you in Minnesota this summer.
Jamie Wyman is a pyromaniac who drinks too much chai. She enjoys writing, circus history, tattoos and has an unholy love of Tom Hiddleston. She also thinks you're pretty awesome.