A Cosplay Primer for Parents

I tend to be a pretty involved parent when it comes to current trends, shows, music, and fads. So when my 9 year-old son came to me three years ago and asked to make a “Half-Life Costume”, I was surprised I had no idea what that was or how to do it.

A bit of research on the internet had me spiraling down the rabbit hole, into an entirely new world: The world of cosplay. Continue reading A Cosplay Primer for Parents

Finding My Tribe – Gaming Guilds

A gaming guild is a group of individuals who get together to play a game. My gaming guild is like my family. We play together, laugh together, and share in each other’s lives.

The guild I am a part of, Alea Iacta Est, is actually more than a guild. It’s an online community that grew out of a World of Warcraft guild. It started as a fan guild for The Instance Podcast and it now spans multiple online role playing games and game networks. If an online game exists, odds are there is an AIE guild active in it. I am only one of several thousand people who call themselves a member of Alea Iacta Est, but whenever I get to meet up with fellow guildies, it feels like I am meeting long-lost relatives. We know that we have at least one thing in common, if not more.

I’ve been able to meet other AIE guild members through several different events. Not only is AIE a large community, but we are very active as well. I’ve gone to several local meetups, not just where I currently live but also during my brief stint in the Bay Area. There’s a convention called Nerdtacular I’ve attended for the last three years that celebrates the Frogpants podcast network community, which The Instance Podcast is part of. So while it is not only AIE guildies that attend, they make up a large part. This year we took our four-month old, and so we had a little different experience than previous years. Continue reading Finding My Tribe – Gaming Guilds

PAX Australia 2015 (Part 1): The Geek Social Hub

If the “geek shall inherit the Earth” then PAX is where they divvy up the loot.

As an expo, it is a huge opportunity to try new games, find new talent, and “mingle with your people.” Trust me—I have plenty of new finds to +1 your geek status.

But as a social hub? It’s a whole other level.

Continue reading PAX Australia 2015 (Part 1): The Geek Social Hub

A Look At the Best Cosplay of MCM Manchester Comic Con

Error 404: Booth Not Found © Sophie Brown
Error 404: Booth Not Found © Sophie Brown

A few weeks ago, I was able to attend Manchester Comic Con for the fourth time. Since its inception in 2011, the con has continued to grow, expanding both in space and time, giving it hugely increased floorspace and a second day.

As one of the largest conventions in the north of England, the con attracts huge crowds and even with the extra space, the con floor remains packed out. I had debated bringing my five year old along this year for the first time, however after seeing the Saturday crowds I opted against it, choosing to introduce him to the convention world at a smaller local show instead.

The Victorian Steampunk Society Giving a Talk © Sophie Brown
The Victorian Steampunk Society Giving a Talk © Sophie Brown

This year’s Expo suffered many of the same minor issues as previous shows. However vast improvements have been made.

No on-the-door tickets were available on the Saturday which prevented people queueing for hours outside the venue in poor weather—an issue in previous years—in the hopes of getting inside.

This did, however, create one of the longest queues I have ever seen for general admission: one which stretched out of the venue, across the courtyard, over a street, and most of the way around the next block, at the time I arrived. Regardless of its length, the fact that the queue was composed only of those with pre-purchased tickets meant it moved quickly. Two friends who joined the end of the line at the time it stretched around the block reported it took only 45 minutes before they were inside.

Main Stage During the Arrow Panel © Sophie Brown
Main Stage During the Arrow Panel © Sophie Brown

One of my personal gripes with the show was the simple lack of activities. The main stage hosted only a few talks per day alongside the daily cosplay masquerade, and the only other scheduled events were Robots: Live battles.

This year The Victorian Steampunk Society were in attendance with their own events schedule, but even this addition was not enough to really fill two days. I spent some time testing out board games over at the Esdevium Games stand which filled several hours, but even then I found myself ready to leave by early afternoon on Sunday (having left early on Saturday too) because there were only so many times I could walk around the same merchandise stalls.

Trying out Bring Out Yer Dead at the Esdevium Stand © Sophie Brown
Trying out Bring Out Yer Dead at the Esdevium Stand © Sophie Brown

I love Manchester Expo, and having spoken to many regular con attendees, it is a favorite for a lot of the UK geek crowd. Despite its growing size, the con retains a friendly small-show atmosphere and has a great mix of stalls both selling merchandise and for artists over in the Comics Village. I’m already looking forward to bringing my son.

However, I do wish there was simply more to do than just walk around or meet up with friends. While guests are not everything, it is disheartening to see the same company’s London show attracting huge guest stars like Gillian Anderson, Felicia Day, John Noble, and members of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. cast, while Manchester gets Sylvester McCoy and two of the cast of Arrow.

When the highlight of the weekend’s main stage schedule is a world exclusive preview of an extra from the Robot Overlords Blu-ray—a film that (tragically, it’s actually pretty good) almost nobody went to see—it really suggests a need to try to reach a little higher. Reaching higher has been one of the things the show organizers have been great at. Every year, Manchester Comic Con has grown and improved. I hope it continues to do so. In the meantime enjoy a look at some of the amazing cosplay for this year’s show.

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Shopping for Cool Art

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Image by Moss Fête

Not spending money at a Con is very hard to do—so many cool things! But I do take business cards and look through them at home to shop online later. Here are some talented artists I saw at ConnectiCon this year:

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Image by Moss Fête

Moss Fête: This hat shop features exceptional felt creations. Just beautiful.

 

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Image by Matt Becker

Matt Becker has a variety of art, but I was intrigued by The Disciplines. All are women of various body types, ethnicities, and ages depicting the sciences. Very cool. This is “Biology.”

 

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Image by Skimlines

SkimLines: My son and I were very impressed with this young woman’s pottery. He loved her tea mugs, I loved her yarn bowls.

 

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Image by Mink Works

Mink Works: My son loved her fox print, and I loved her soup print (adorable anthropomorphic food…if you’re into that sort of thing, which I am). But these martini-glass-monsters made me squeak with delight.

Next time you’re at a Con, be sure to check out these and other talented artists in our geeky world!

Orlando Geeks Unite! It’s Time for MegaCon 2015

Welcome to MegaCon. \  Image Savanna Kiefer
Welcome to MegaCon. \ Image Savanna Kiefer

MegaCon will be taking over the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, on April 10th thru April 12th this year. Complete with celebs, a one-mile indoor walk benefiting the Hero Initiative, gaming, cosplay, and vendors to make you drool.

This year’s MegaCon is a little more special to me because I’ll be celebrating my 30th birthday (okay, so I’m celebrating a week early…so sue me) and I’m going to make it count. I have plans for a Stan Lee photo op, a picture and autograph from Michael Rooker, and hitting up some of my favorite artists and vendors for some presents to myself.

The celebrity line-up includes Stan Lee (Mr. Marvel himself), Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead), Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy/The Walking Dead), Robbie Amell and Danielle Panabaker (The Flash), Adam Baldwin and Alan Tudyk (Firefly), David Ramsey (Arrow), Karen Gillan (Doctor Who/Guardians of the Galaxy), and many more.

Also in attendance will be the cast of the Animaniacs—Rob Paulson (Yakko), Tress MacNeille (Dot), and Jess Harnell (Wakko)—which should make for a great “Voice Actors Gone Wild” panel.

In addition to the contests, gaming, and speed dating, MegaCon will also be hosting the first MegaWalk benefiting the Hero Initiative. For $40 you can participate in a one-mile walk lead by Superman legend, George Perez. The best part, other than the really cool medal and swag, is that the walk is indoors and goes right into the main convention hall.

A few of my favorite artists will also be there including, Larry E. Watts (Robyn Hood), The Art of Danny, Charles Thurston, and Ravenwolf Studios. I have pieces from each of these amazing artists and they are worth stopping by and dropping some change on.

Ravenwolf Studios \ Image: Ravenwolf Studios
Ravenwolf Studios \ Image: Ravenwolf Studios

When it comes to shopping the vendors, my favorites are The Crafty Dork, SuperHeroStuff.com, and Sons of Sandlar.

The Crafty Dork makes adorable amigurumi dolls based on anime, comics, and video games. Sons of Sandlar is the spot to stop at if you want super comfy real leather boots for cosplay or day-to-day wear. I tried them on at a Ren Faire a few weeks ago and fell in love with them.

The 4th Doctor. \ Image: Crafty Dork
The 4th Doctor. \ Image: Crafty Dork

SuperHeroStuff.com is the place to go for your apparel and other geeky accessories. MegaCon is their first convention where they will be selling their awesome Hero Boxes at the booth. You can order your box at the convention and they will ship it to you from the warehouse. For the ladies, they will have some great merchandise including a super cute Rocket Raccoon tank dress, complete with ears and a tail. Of course, you can expect some great Age of Ultron shirts to be on sale as well.

This dress is Rocket Racoon approved.  \Images: SuperHeroStuff.com
This dress is Rocket Raccoon approved. \ Images: SuperHeroStuff.com

Not all great booths have something to sell other than awesomeness, so make sure you hit up the 501st Legion, Rebel Legion, Droid Builders, and Mandalorian Mercs booths. Each group will have their own unique photo op set up and who knows? You may run into a wookiee or two.

If you have plans to be in Orlando from April 10th thru the 12th, make sure you stop by and check out the convention. Tickets start at $30.00 for a day or $75 for the weekend. Children 10 and under get in free with a paying adult. MegaCon is an all-ages convention and strollers are welcome.

Lessons Learned From SciFi and Comic Book Conventions

CosplayImageDaksterSullivan.jpg
Let’s cosplay! \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

I’ve been attending conventions in costume for five years now. I’ve had a lot of fun and I’ve also learned quite a few lessons.

Don’t wait till the night before to plan your costumes.
Some costumes take from a few months to a year to complete. Start planning your costumes way in advance so you have it all done in time with no stress the night before.

Focus on one build at a time. 
Focus on completing one costume before starting on another. If you start looking for next year’s ideas now, you won’t get this year’s build done. Give yourself time after the convention to think about what you want to do next year, and then do it.

Put your entire costume on at least a week before the convention.
Don’t try out a new costume at a convention without wearing it for a few hours first. This allows you to work out any kinks and make any adjustments.

Call your local comic book store and see if they will let you make an appearance in costume for a few hours to get a feel for everything. This will also help you get used to people looking at you and asking for pictures.

Practice makes for perfect pictures.
Every costume has its limits when it comes to mobility and posing. Try your poses out in front of a mirror or with someone taking your picture. This will allow you to become comfortable in the poses and be quick to strike one when a photographer asks for a photo.

Set a budget and bring cash.
Not all the vendors take credit cards because most conventions make them pay to use the internet in the vendor room. Take enough cash to cover what you must have and then use credit for the little things.

Be aware of your surroundings and who is pointing a camera at you.
While cosplaying as Aayla Secura at MegaCon in 2013, a fellow 501st Legion member was helping me to adjust the top half of my costume. In her words, “It looked like I had been punched in the chest.” Where she had her hand would have looked strange if you didn’t know I had a shirt on under where her hand was. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash go off and a photographer with his camera pointed in my direction. I’m not sure if I was the intended subject or not, but either way, I just allowed myself to be photographed in a compromising way. If you need to make costume adjustments, the best place to go is in the bathroom or behind a curtain of a booth. If neither of those are easily accessible, get a group of friends to surround you while you make the adjustment.

Don’t just hang out in the vendor room or at the panels.
Past years I’ve noticed that I don’t have as many pictures of my cosplay circling the internet as I had hoped. This was because I spent 99% of my time in the vendor room and not in the hallways where all the photographers hung out.

At all the conventions I’ve been to, you don’t have to pay to enter the convention center itself. You only need to pay if you’re going to a panel or into the vendor room. A lot of photographers would rather just spend their time walking the halls for cosplayers rather than in a crowded vendor room with limited lighting and space. After a photographer takes your picture, make sure to ask for a business card to find them later.

Do not be afraid to defend yourself or say no!
This is a big one. Last year, I was in my Robyn Hood (Zenescope) cosplay and a guy walked up and not only looked down my shirt the entire time he was talking to me, but also decided it was appropriate to play with my belly button ring, while asking if it was real. You’d think I’d have slapped the stupid look on his face, but instead I was too stunned to do anything. I looked at him as a “special kind of stupid” and moved on, while wondering how I should have handled that situation without overreacting.

If you are not sure you have the voice to tell someone to stop something, have friends that are not afraid to speak up and tell people to back off.

Go with a friend.
Having a friend nearby not only makes the convention that much more fun, but keeps you that much safer if something happens.

True story – I made the mistake of wandering a convention by myself in Aayla Secura and after four hours, my head was hurting so bad, it felt like Iron Man and the Hulk were going at it in my skull. It took me over 45-minutes to walk a 20-minute span of space to my hotel room because I was stopped so many times trying to escape. If I had listened to my friends at the 501st Legion booth and just stayed by them, I would have gotten out of pain much quicker and with less attention.

Have a “non-costumed” day
I love wearing my costumes, but they can get tiring while trying to enjoy the vendors room and going through the massive amount of comics on sale. I give myself one day of the convention to relax in regular clothes and scope out the sales and take pictures of other cosplayers. I usually make this the last day of the convention since most people wear their hardcore costumes on Saturday. I also have an “easy day” costume for Friday’s when I’m getting the layout of the land.

Hydrate the night before and the day of (and I don’t mean with alcohol or sugary drinks).  
Don’t think that just because you’re indoors that you don’t need to hydrate as often. Drink only water the day before you get dressed up and drink only water or the occasional sports drink the day of. This will keep you feeling great while looking awesome in your build.

Have fun and be safe!
Regardless if you bought your costume, are going in casuals, or worked for months to get that perfect look, have fun with it! Take pictures, talk to other convention-goers, and let your geek flag fly.

Remember! It doesn’t matter why you are at the convention or how you got there. The most important part is to have fun and be safe while doing it. Use your common sense when walking to and from your car or hotel and have a meet-up spot in case you get separated from your group. If you have kids with you, write your contact information on their wrist so they can show security if you get lost from them.

Do you have any advice for convention attendees? Let’s hear it in the comments!

One GeekMom’s Impression of Hello Kitty Con 2014

Hello Kitty Con. Image: Sanrio
Hello Kitty Con. Image: Sanrio

On Saturday, November 1st, I attended Hello Kitty Con 2014! I went in with high hopes and left with mixed feelings.

Had the con had about 50% less attendees, I would have raved about it. The way it worked out, at least for myself and my 4-year-old on a Saturday—usually the busiest day of a long weekend con—we basically left as soon as we got in the con. Here’s how our day rolled out.

I had heard from people attending on previous days that I should get there early. Like early. And while it could have been a good idea to show up two hours early to wait in line for the con to open at 10 am, it wasn’t an option considering we live a solid 2-hour drive away. Moreover, the con warned extensively about the lack of parking in the area so I had decided to park at the subway station in Universal City and ride to Little Tokyo via the Metro, which just added more time to our trip. In the end, despite leaving at 7:30 am, we didn’t arrive until 10 am. By then, the line to get into the con show floor wrapped around the city block.

Thankfully, I had done some smart planning. I had purchased tickets to a Hello Kitty bento box workshop for 11 am. The various workshops and panels were located in different buildings outside of the con, so I didn’t need to wait in line for those. I got my badge and waltzed right in to the Japanese American National Museum, where my workshop was held. We had some 40 minutes to kill before the class started, so I asked a museum employee what I could do while I waited. She pointed out that their new exhibit, Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty, was free for con attendees. Not only that, it was also crowd-free! My daughter and I walked around looking at the plethora of Hello Kitty items on display, deciding which we’d like to own. They had Hello Kitty household items, Hello Kitty fashion apparel, Hello Kitty-inspired art, the list goes on.

Finally, it was time for our bento box workshop. In retrospect, this was the highlight of our day and I wish I had signed us up for more workshops. My 4-year-old was a little impatient while the instructor, Nikki Gilbert of Sushi Girl, gave a demonstration on how to make a sushi roll, nigiri, and Hello Kitty-shaped rice balls, but she came around when came our turn to get our hands dirty.

All materials were included in the price of the tickets for the workshop (only $10/person), and we each got a Hello Kitty bento box container and all the food needed to make the creations we were being taught. My daughter really got excited when she realized we’d actually get to take our boxes with us in the end, and, in our case, perfectly timed for lunch. We walked out of the class with our boxes and were stopped no less than five times by people asking if we had been to the class and could they please see inside our boxes. We settled down to eat outside, on the steps in front of the museum, and again people were stopping to point and gawk at our Hello Kitty rice balls. I was wishing I had a better product to show off… But sticky rice is super tricky! In any case, it was super tasty.

After our lunch, I wanted to tackle the con itself. Thankfully the line looked much more manageable than it had on our arrival, but it still took us a good 30 minutes to get in. Once we did, I almost regretted it immediately. It was so packed. I was hoping to get a con t-shirt and my daughter really wanted a Hello Kitty toy so we headed to the con shop, just to find out the line was—wait for it—4 hours long. No joke. FOUR HOURS. For an opportunity to spend my money! No thanks.

We walked about the “super supermarket” instead, where partners were selling their own Hello Kitty-themed items. Sephora, Megablocks, etc. It seemed like a good alternative to waiting in line for the official con shop, but again it was packed and meh, my daughter was getting the gimmies and I was thinking I could buy the same stuff  (or similar) outside the con for much less money. I asked my daughter what she wanted to do and she wanted out; my own feelings weren’t too far off from hers at that point. So out we went, defeated.

At this point, had I been alone, I would have stuck around to attend some of the panels, but no chance of that happening with a tired 4-year-old who’s used up all of her patience while waiting in lines. I gave up on Hello Kitty Con and headed to Little Tokyo, where we shopped the Sanrio store (no lines!) and grabbed mochi balls before heading back home.

If Hello Kitty Con goes on to become an annual thing, I’d still be interested to attend again next year, but I’d plan my time differently. I’d attend more workshops and panels, and perhaps avoid the show floor all together—although I hope they’ll find a better way to manage the crowds and the merchandise by then.

I’d even say that the exhibit at the museum was better than the con’s own show floor, or at least from what I could see, so if you didn’t manage to grab tickets for the con then it’s not too late to check out the museum. The Hello Kitty exhibit is open until April 26th, 2015.

Tampa Bay Comic Con With Deadpool Labbit

Deadpool Labbit on the red carpet. \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
Deadpool Labbit on the red carpet. \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

Tampa Bay Comic Con in Florida, this past weekend was everything I could have hoped for and more. Deadpool Labbit agreed, and he took pictures with quite a few of the cosplayers while exploring the convention floor.

In comparison to other cons I’ve attended, this one had a very nice variety of vendors in attendance, including a nice balance of crafts, leather work, comic books, and fan areas.

I was amazed at how easy it was to navigate the vendor floor while walking around. The aisles were spaced out to allow everyone to walk through pretty easily and without bumping into each other too much.

In artist alley I found my friend, Charles Thurston, and discovered his latest book, Wedge on a Ledge: A New Christmas Tradition ($15). This book comes with a cut-out of the famous Star Wars rebel pilot, Wedge Antilles, and just like Elf on a Shelf, you sit him around the house to watch over everyone.

My favorite vendor at the event was leather maker Two Fairies and a Dwarf. The quality of their crafts was great, and I picked up a journal and holster set from them. They sell them as “spell books,” but I saw it as something I could use at press events to take notes in without having to dig through my bag for a notepad. The journal cost $15 and the holster was $15 so it wasn’t a bad deal considering you can refill it, and it has a slit to attach it to your belt loop.

One of the things I go to conventions for, though, are the comic book deals, and boy did I make out like a little Jawa bandit at this one. For about $40 I came out with four graphic novels that would have normally cost me around $80. The one downside is I didn’t walk away with anything I was actually looking for, but instead I came out with books that looked cool or had characters I had heard of and wanted to read more about.

I have only a few complaints about this con. My first and biggest complaint is the lack of space the 501st Legion/Rebel Legion/Mandalorian Mercs had to showcase their props and cosplay. At MegaCon we can easily fit everyone in one space, but at this convention, it was a tight fit for the three groups to co-exist together in a 10 x 10 booth space.

I’m also a little disappointed that the Power Rangers were not put in a location where the fans could find them easily. It looked like Steve Cardenas was put in a regular booth to man by himself. I didn’t see any of the other rangers or Superboy, Gerard Christopher.

Even with those few minor disappointments, I still had a great time and enjoyed every minute of the convention. I was surprised to see that it took my husband and me from convention open to convention close to walk the entire floor. There was so much to look at and explore, it was hard to pull ourselves away.

You can bet that I will be returning next year to see what Tampa Bay Comic Con does to top this year.

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Disclaimer: GeekMom received a press pass for this event.

Looking Back at London’s First Young Adult Literature Convention

YALC Logo © Book Trust/The Children's Laureate
YALC Logo © Book Trust/The Children’s Laureate

Last weekend saw the UK’s very first Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC) take place as part of the London Film and Comic Con at Earl’s Court. Fifty YA authors covering every imaginable genre attended the event and spoke on a range of subjects from sex to fanfiction, graphic novels to dystopias.

There couldn’t really have been a better time for this convention to take place. Young Adult lit (and its new, somewhat misunderstood sibling New Adult) is all over the news these past few weeks, most likely thanks in part to the release of The Fault in Our Stars. Slate Magazine found themselves recently slated (see what I did there?) for publishing a post that vehemently argued against adults reading YA novels, announcing that adults “should feel embarrassed” for doing so. In fact if you google the phrase “adults shouldn’t read YA” you will find discussions on that exact same subject gracing the pages of The Guardian, NPR, CNN, and The New York Times. The latter has even referred to the issue as “The Great Y.A. Debate of 2014.”

Nick Lake & Anthony McGowan discuss adults reading YA books © Sophie Brown
Nick Lake & Anthony McGowan discuss adults reading YA books © Sophie Brown

The subject of adults reading YA was given a panel of its own on the Sunday afternoon. Given the audience, which I noticed consisted almost entirely of adults, and the panel which clearly had a vested interest in getting people to read, there really wasn’t much debate to be had. Most of the audience raised their hand when asked if they themselves read YA and the panel mostly agreed that people should simply read what they want to. Author Anthony McGowan had a slightly different viewpoint, arguing that he would have more respect for someone who had read broadly over someone who had read Twilight 15 times. Some of the others argued him down.

“What you’ve read doesn’t get put on your headstone. Read the books you want to read,” Meg Rosoff countered. There was however a general consensus that if YA became “for everyone” then a belief that adult books are too hard might become prevalent.

While all of the panels were deeply interesting and raised good questions, I found those on dystopian fiction, horror, and sex some of the most enjoyable. The panel on dystopia kicked off the weekend with Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman joining in the discussion of why the subject is so appealing to so many of us. One key point that was raised was the power of the individual or very small group to affect global change in dystopian fiction. This is a trope we see repeated in many dystopian stories: The Hunger Games, panelist Sarah Crossan’s Breathe series, and even back to John Christopher’s series The Tripods which began in the 1960s. It is a reassuring trope in some ways because it suggests that all of us are capable of making a difference in a bad situation and this is probably why it has remained so popular, especially with teens who can often feel powerless and at the mercy of others. Another point that was raised is that dystopia is far from being popular only in YA. Malorie Blackman admitted that after reading Dante’s Divine Comedy she found Inferno (set in Hell) the most interesting part, and it was mentioned how many more stories are set in Hell as opposed to Heaven. Utopias, the panelists agreed, are boring.

James Dawson, Cat Clarke, Non Pratt & Beth Reekles talk sex in YA © Sophie Brown
James Dawson, Cat Clarke, Non Pratt & Beth Reekles talk sex in YA © Sophie Brown

The “Sex in YA” panel, chaired by the newly crowned Queen of Teen James Dawson, touched on the reasons why authors might choose to include “sexy times” in their books. The general consensus came down to the simple fact that this is a subject which teenagers are deeply interested in. Teens, it was agreed, will be finding out about sex from somewhere and the authors all wanted to include accurate information on the subject in their books. It was also pointed out that of all the “bad” things our children might be doing in their teen years—drugs, abusing alcohol, shoplifting etc—sex was the only one which we would want them to have and enjoy as adults, and that keeping knowledge of the subject hidden away and taboo may have a detrimental effect on their later experiences.

The “Heroes of Horror” panel also discussed taboos within YA novels with the panel discussed what they felt the limits were on what they could include in their own pages. Charlie Higson, author of The Enemy series which features a plague that turns everyone over the age of 14 into (effectively) zombies, commented that in order to get a feel for what was allowable in YA horror he read some of fellow panelist Darren Shan’s books, only to discover that almost anything goes. Shan added that the only time he had fallen foul of his editors was during a particularly gruesome scene where a young protagonist discovers the bodies of his family torn apart by demons. The body of the mother was on the ceiling, but by switching places and putting the father up there instead, the scene was allowed through! It was also discovered during the panel that at least half the audience have thought about and devised a plan in case of zombie apocalypse.

There were, of course, issues with the convention; for something of such a grand scale in its inaugural year, there simply had to be. One major concern had less to do with the YALC organization and more to do with the venue layout of the London Film and Comic Con (LFCC) as a whole. The stage for the YALC was small, open to the room with no walls or curtains surrounding it, and positioned right next door to the main photo shoot area which was hosting, amongst others, the Generalissimo Stan Lee. The lack of walls meant that sound travelled in from the rest of the room (including the nearby and very loud anime stage) while the sound from the speakers positioned right at the front escaped before reaching those sat toward the back. This made it difficult to hear the authors speak, even for someone with generally good hearing. The positioning of the stage also meant that the seats were often taken by friends of those waiting in the photo shoot queue. Although talks were ticketed, I attended nine over the weekend and no one ever checked my tickets. It was difficult to concentrate on the talks while many people sat in the back half of the seating area were talking on their phones or to each other. I arrived a few minutes late to a talk on Sunday and on taking a seat, had a lady next to me whisper “I don’t know what this lot are waffling on about but it’s nice just to find a seat!”

Rainbow Rowell discusses being a fan © Sophie Brown
Rainbow Rowell discusses being a fan © Sophie Brown

Another concern came from the signings area. Unlike the other guests at LFCC who were charging between £15 and £45 for an autograph, all the authors participating in the YALC were signing their books for free. Naturally this caused enormous queues, especially for the most popular authors such as Derek Landy (author of Skulduggery Pleasant) and Rainbow Rowell (author of Eleanor & Park, and Fangirl). The queues were badly organized with lines snaking around the compact area and blocking off access to other authors and sales areas. I joined a queue and was informed that the signing session would soon be over and thus I might not be seen, something I was aware of before joining. However I found it slightly bothersome that many people in front of me were carrying stacks of books to be signed, something I had witnessed in most of the author’s queues. As it turned out I was seen and had my single copy signed, however if I had not been then I would have found it more than a little unfair that someone further up had obtained six or seven signed books when someone at the back couldn’t get one. Perhaps the implementation of a signing limit would make for a fairer system and shorter queues, with anyone wishing to have large stacks signed being required to rejoin at the back?

My final problem was with the makeup of some of the panels themselves. The “Heroes of Horror” panel although chaired by a woman (Rosie Fletcher, Acting Editor of Total Film) featured only male authors, subtly reinforcing the idea that this is a male dominated sphere. Conversely the panel on female heroes was exclusively female despite many wonderful female characters having been written by men. The “Sex in YA” panel is another that could have really used some more diversity. The panel was chaired by openly-gay James Dawson but was otherwise entirely female; for such an important topic it would have been great to see a more varied panel comprised of different genders and orientations.

Malorie Blackman, Charlie Higson, Andrew Lane, Patrick Ness, Macus Sedgewick & Steve Cole discuss writing famous characters © Sophie Brown
Malorie Blackman, Charlie Higson, Andrew Lane, Patrick Ness, Macus Sedgewick & Steve Cole discuss writing famous characters © Sophie Brown

Malorie Blackman herself also noted a problem during the panel on “Reimagining Famous Characters”. This panel featured authors who had taken on famous characters such as The Doctor, James Bond, and Sherlock Holmes to write new material for them. Malorie noted how out of the six authors on stage, five were white men. Indeed four out of the six panelists were some of those asked to write in last year’s BBC collection of eleven short Doctor Who stories, with each Doctor so far receiving a new tale written by a different popular author. Out of those eleven stories, only two were written by women and only one by a person of color—Malorie taking spots in both of those minorities. Clearly the organizers of the panel were limited regarding their choices considering how few female and POC authors appear to write in this field, but seeing the panel in front of my eyes really brought it home how little representation there really is amongst those authors writing popular culture figures.

Despite the teething troubles, I really enjoyed every moment of this very first YALC and I hope it can continue for many more years. I do believe it needs to move to a separate venue, even if it remains a part of a larger convention, because the space restraints and sound issues were a constant problem but even these weren’t enough to dampen spirits. Over the weekend I saw parents, librarians, booksellers, and teachers attending panels and workshops. A grant had been provided allowing a number of high school students to attend and meet authors, and I saw countless teens queuing up to have their books signed. This convention really seems to have inspired people to talk about YA lit and to think about both the positives and negatives that currently exist within it. I can’t think of a better result.

GeekMom received entry to this event for review purposes.

Gearing Up For ConnectiCon

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Meeting up with friends at CTCon! Image by Rebecca Angel.

I have attended ConnectiCon for almost 10 years. First, I went as a musical performer, then on my own, then with my teenage nephew, then with my daughter, then with both of my kids, and finally with my kids and their friends along for the ride. I just keep inviting people because it’s really fun!

Each year, we meet up with many of the same people who I only see once a year at ConnectiCon. We all have our favorite things to do, but always meet up for some group activities as well. I had waited until my kids were teenagers to take them, so I wouldn’t just be babysitting at my favorite con.

Is ConnectiCon right for you—or you and your family? First, see if you would like a big con or a little one.

Then, here’s a rundown about this particular con.

Want to be part of the action? My daughter was in their Artists’ Alley for a couple of years. I wrote about her experience there, plus all of the other interesting things we got into: The first year selling tea art and the second selling photographs and taking commissions.

We have a very busy summer. However, we are looking forward to a weekend away from reality, where we see old friends, dance, dress up, laugh, play games, find something new to obsess about, and have a good time with the whole family.

Celebrate Hello Kitty’s 40th Anniversary at the First Hello Kitty Con

Hello Kitty Con. Image: Sanrio
Hello Kitty Con. Image: Sanrio.

Just in time for Hello Kitty’s 40th anniversary, meet the first-ever Hello Kitty convention! Those of us in or near Los Angeles will rejoice to break the mundanity of endless sunshine and traffic jams with the Hello Kitty Con in October, while those away will shake their fists in jealousy as an overload of cuteness rains down over the great City of Angels.

So what happens at a Hello Kitty Con? Well no one could tell you from experience, but the website shows signs of a promising event. There will be speakers, panels, and lots of opportunities for HK shopping, of course. There will also be workshops teaching a variety of crafts, HK collections on display, an arcade, and, of all the things in the world, a HK tattoo shop. I’m not even kidding. There will be a whole team of honest-to-goodness tattoo artists ready to tag the real fans. I sense a regrettable decision in my future.

Hello Kitty Con 2014 will take place at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) from October 30 through November 2, 2014. While you’re in the area, you might want to also swing by Comikaze Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Whether it was happenstance, good planning, or poor planning, both of these cons will occur on the same weekend, just two and a half miles from each other—or as Google Maps puts it, “8 min without traffic.” Without traffic, ha! Good one, Google.

I have my tickets already purchased. Hope to see you there!

SXSW Bound — Refresh With GeekMom and Cottonelle!

SXSW2014

The Refresh Lounge at SXSW! via the Cottonelle Facebook Page

I’m am beside myself with excitement to be heading off to SXSW on Monday, and I hope to see some of our amazing readers there! This year we’re partnering with Cottonelle, and I’ll be easy to find at their rad Refresh Lounge. What’a a Refresh Lounge? Glad you asked! It’s a place for you to come, kick up your heels, and refresh from the sometimes sweaty and icky unpleasantries of convention life. Let’s be honest. We could all use a little glamor pampering after mulling about in a daze throughout the convention.

Here’s more from the SXSW blog:

The Cottonelle Refresh Lounge, located in the Iron Works Lower Lot (511 East Cesar Chavez), is the one-stop shop for SXSW registrants to refresh, relax, and recharge during the conference.

Stopping by the lounge on your way to your next party? Join in the conversation with Cottonelle by “talking bums” to earn refreshing services, such as chair massages and hair and makeup touch-ups to keep you feeling clean and fresh throughout your day!

The Cottonelle Refresh Lounge will also feature changing stalls to quickly swap outfits, shoe shine stations, device chargers, storage lockers, and a refreshment bar with a 5-7pm happy hour daily!

I’ll be hanging out, snapping pictures, and likely giving out GeekMom goodies, too! You can follow along on Twitter both @NataniaBarron and @GeekMomBlog. Getting into the Refresh Lounge is easy—just use #letstalkbums, and you’ll have instant access. If massages, easy outfit changes, makeup touch-ups, and getting really clean and fresh sounds like an oasis amidst the storm of SXSW (and who are you that that doesn’t?) come on by!

Another reason we love working with Cottonelle? Yeah, it’s conversations like these below. Sometimes it seems like talk bums all day long in our house—especially with my two kids (and my daughter in the midst of potty training… ugh). If you’re like me, you could really use a laugh.

This post is brought to you by Cottonelle. 

Interview: Running a Kid’s Track at a Geek Convention

©2013 John O'Halloran johno@tyedye.org
Kids talking with real life astronaut, Cady Coleman. (Photo: John O’Halloran)

When I went to the World Science Fiction Convention (aka WorldCon, aka LonestarCon3, aka LSC3) over the Labor Day weekend this year, I was very impressed by their services for children. From the bonded, licensed day care that I used for my two-year-old to the impressively creative “Rangernauts” track that an 11-year-old of an acquaintance of mine enjoyed, I wanted to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes. I tracked down the organizers, James Bacon and Alissa McKersie, and they graciously agreed to an interview.

Geek Mom: Hello! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us. Could you briefly introduce yourselves, and maybe talk a little bit about how you first found your way to WorldCon?

Alissa McKersie: My name is Alissa McKersie and my first Worldcon was Denvention in 2008.  My husband at the time attended regularly and thought I would enjoy it.  And boy, did I!!!  I was told I fit in better than a fish to water!  It was a couple of years before I could attend again, however.  I was finally able to go to Renovation in 2011, and this is where it all changed!

James Bacon: I’m James Bacon, Irish Science Fiction fan living in London. I went with local fan friends by ferry and train to Glasgow ’95.  It was a great con, but I couldn’t get to another until 2004. I ended up helping the Children’s Programme there run by Inger Myers and Persis Thorndike.

GM: Once you made your way to WorldCon, how did you come to be involved in the kid’s track of programming?

AM: While looking through the program book of Renovation, I remember coming across a program item that I was really excited about called “Doctor Who Lego Build”.  Keep in mind, I was unfamiliar with Worldcons, and I had NO IDEA they even had separate programming for children.  On another note, I did quite a bit of volunteering. I helped out back stage for opening ceremonies!  That was quite fun! So, when I found out that this Lego Build was for kids, I thought that I’d just volunteer for it! Gosh, I work with kids everyday (I’d been teaching martial arts for 13 years), so let’s go have fun!  And, I did!  James Bacon was running the Kids’ Program at Renovation, so this was when we met.  I remember him coming to me the very next morning and asking me to join the team for the next year at Chicon 7.  Thus, ChiKidz was created.

JB: I’d been running unusual conventions, Aliens Stole my Handbag, Damn Fine Con, and They Came and Shaved us, which were ‘Fun Cons‘ aimed at adult friends in fandom who wanted an eclectic weekend. The organizers of the 2005 Worldcon, Vince Docherty and Colin Harris, asked myself and Stefan Lancaster to run the children’s program. This terrified most sane thinking parents in fandom. We ran Young Adult Fun Activities (YAFA). It was fun!  Iain Banks, George R. R. Martin, and Robin Hobb all participated!  We chopped up a car and even played with liquid nitrogen! There was a program item entitled ‘Where will the Future of Fandom Come From’—to everyone’s surprise, except the panelists’, we invaded from the back door bearing water pistols!  It was very rewarding.

After YAFA we ran Chaos Space Pirates in 2006, gave Aussicon ideas in 2010, and ran Reno Kids 2011, ChiKidz 2012 and Rangernauts this year. I think being able to run the program of a moving event like Worldcon consistently and consecutively is really helpful.  It allowed a build-up of team and resources.

GM: What would you say is vital for making a successful kid’s track program?

AM: Willingness to have fun, be a bit goofy and enthusiastic yourself, and be genuine about what you’re doing. Kids know who’s real with them, and they see right through people who aren’t genuine.  There’s also a lot to say for being organised and prepared.  We (James and I) come days early to prep ahead of time.  We have a great team each year that we are so grateful for that we couldn’t be successful without!  Everyone works so hard to paint, build, and even test… just to make sure things can be played with (and even broken, LOL) right away!  But, that is the BEST part!  The KIDS are what matter!  THAT is what is vital for making a successful Kids’ Program.

JB: Real support. Financial support really helps. The Worldcons make funds and world class participants available while giving us a great location and space. Kids’ Program is not a 2nd class stream, in actual fact to most Worldcon Chairs it is one of the most important. It’s a 5,000 person event and we are looking after 200 children, but it is still a cherished part of the convention.

©2013 John O'Halloran johno@tyedye.org
A stack of duct tape as tall as herself! (Photo: John O’Halloran)

A good Team is vital. A big one, it is exhausting. Planning, as Alissa says, everything must be ready. You cannot fail children, or run out of duct tape.

Listen. We did ‘Make Lightsabers’ nine years ago. The kids loved it. It never gets old. The best items we did this year were based on ideas, or successes and the feedback from children themselves.

If it seems or sounds dangerous, that is great, especially if there is a danger, but obviously the risk is managed.

Be flexible with the kids, while maintaining discipline and order. They are individuals, so everything is not for everyone, but a ‘Give it 10 minutes and see how it goes’ or ‘would you like to help me’ can carry children into something they subsequently enjoy. Be very relaxed, it is meant to be fun.

Would ‘YOU’ enjoy it? If Alissa or myself would genuinely enjoy an item, there is a good chance it will work. So, in a way we vicariously live through these kids, which is better than thinking like an adult and imposing what you think they might like.

GM: What worked particularly well at LSC3? What would you have done differently?

AM: Again, the team of people that supported our program was great. We had some returning staff members and some excellent new volunteers this year.  I think part of the difficulty we always have is that people don’t know that a separate program for kids is available.

JB: The Lead Pouring [with the artist Guest of Honor] was very successful, the warning that the molten metal will remove flesh from the bone got everyone’s attention. Frankenstuffies continues to be hugely popular, and the plush toy massacre was fun. The rockets propelled by pressurized air and water was good, too.

The best item was no doubt Astronaut Cady Coleman, accompanied by Scientist Tracy Thumm and Engineer Heather Paul: a full NASA team. They were fantastic and looked at the Lego Space Station and Ships the children made. We also had Corry L. Lee, a experimental particle physicist, and Lt Kate Zurmehly (US Army) for that item, and that made it quite the line-up. An amazing group of role models, and having them engaging with the kids was fabulous.

RN Frankenstuffie 4
Proud owner of a Frankenstuffie. (Photo: Alissa McKersie)

GM: OK, I have to ask: Frankenstuffies?

AM: Absolutely! What we do is we take stuffed animals and dismember them…yes, we cut them up! We actually try NOT to do this while the kids are around. Last year, a friend of mine and I did this at home in Phoenix because we had the time and the transport to Chicago…this year, we did it in the room, the day before the con started. If you ask our Team (Gaye will tell you especially), we had some traumatic events that day! So, for the activity, the kids can grab whatever pieces they want and stitch together their own Frankenstuffie! And we use embroidery floss, so it’s more visible, like Frankenstein! What they come up with is unbelievable! Some kids are very traditional, and some kids are so imaginative! The variety is so cool to see!

GM: What sort of feedback do you get from the parents and the kids?

AM: I am still getting emails from parents from Renovation that wish they could be coming each year! Every year that we are running a Kids’ Program, I hear from parents and kids alike “then we WILL be there,” or something to that effect.  Several parents have said to me that they enjoy the programming for the kids, so they volunteer for more activities (which is always nice, as we need more parent volunteers!) But the BEST feedback for me are the big hugs I get at the end of the convention from the kids that say, “this was the best part of my convention”!

JB: A lot of it is instantaneous. It is rather incredible. From mannerly thank yous to requests for hugs, one can see the happiness. Parents are always just grateful, and many are supportive and get involved. I have to be honest and say we had nothing but great feedback this year. But that is because we have a massive team, and the unseen people, like the Chair, Randy Shepherd, getting the NASA team; or the facilities team, Helen Montgomery and Joyce Lloyd, making sure we have un-damageable aluminum tables; it all makes it work, and the resulting positivity is really amazing.

GM: Do you have any final words of wisdom for those who might be thinking of tackling this sort of thing at their own conventions?

AM: Remember, Worldcon is a five day on-going event, so it’s a bit of an anomaly.  James and I spend the entire year working on it in various capacities.  I don’t know that another convention is going to be that intense.  However, that being said… I think we both have a blast at Worldcon, regardless of the intensity!  So, bring scifi (or whatever your convention is about) to kids, be genuine and enthusiastic about it, and like I said in the very beginning… be willing to have FUN!!

JB: Have a good team. We had Mary Miller, Scott Hipp and Gaye Ludwig, Joy Bragg-Staudt, Corry L. Lee, James Shields, Lia O., Linda Welzelburger all helping us, and we recruited some teenagers who turned up, and they were superb, too.

Yeah, have fun. Each evening I ensured I enjoyed the vast social scene, partied, danced. or attended amazing ceremonies, and that breaks up the continuous assault of children! Don’t worry too much about things, like girls love slot cars and train sets and boys like to make scrap books and dragon wings, make the stuff available and let them play where they like.

©2013 John O'Halloran johno@tyedye.org
The 2013 Rangernauts team with NASA astronaut Cady Coleman. (Photo: John O’Halloran)

Convention Recap: Buck 2013

Buck 2013 © Buck
Buck 2013 © Buck

Buck is the largest My Little Pony convention in Europe. This year, only the second for the event, it attracted around 1,000 bronies to Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall for a weekend-long celebration. Having never attended any brony events before, I was unsure of what to expect from the weekend. I ended up having a truly brilliant time.

The Summer Sun Celebration © Sophie Brown
The Summer Sun Celebration © Sophie Brown

Buck kicked off on the Friday night with the Summer Sun Celebration; a separate ticketed event at the large Manchester Central venue across the street. Taking place in one enormous room, the evening had the feel of a music festival tent. A succession of brony musicians took to the stage playing a mixture of Pony music (music from the show usually remixed and played in the artists’ own style) and their own original works. Convention special guest Michelle Creber (the voice of Apple Bloom) came on stage briefly to perform with AcousticBrony and the party continued right on until 1 A.M. While I have to admit that most of the music was not to my taste, the atmosphere in the room was incredible. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves dancing, talking, and showing off their costumes.

The convention proper began late Saturday morning at the Bridgewater Hall with an opening ceremony that introduced event staff and covered the convention rules. The vendors’ floor was already heaving as people came away with limited edition prints, custom made plushies, and more. Build-A-Bear had a stall on which they were selling the new Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle plushies, and many pony-artists were present offering commissions. The convention quieted down a little over lunchtime as many guests left to watch the Manchester Pride Parade which was passing only a block away. By the time of the mid afternoon charity auction in aid of Cardiac Risk in The Young, everyone was back and ready to spend some serious cash. A one-of-a-kind plush sold for £600 ($930) and nearly every item made amounts well into the three-figure range. The afternoon continued with a Q&A panel of brony community voice actors in the main auditorium while group karaoke, stand-up comedy, game demos, and more carried on around the building.

Michelle Creber & The Living Tombstone onstage at The Lunar Eclipse © Sophie Brown
Michelle Creber & The Living Tombstone onstage at The Lunar Eclipse © Sophie Brown

The Saturday evening event was The Lunar Eclipse; a three hour long music event with three separate stages. The event was designed to feel like Thursday nights in the French city of Nimes over summer when the city becomes a musical melting pot. Each stage ran music simultaneously and guests were encouraged to move between rooms as they pleased taking in the different acts as well as settling down in the open lobby spaces to play games, write, draw, or talk.

The Main Stage featured sets from Laserpon3, Eilemonty, Michelle Creber, and AcousticBrony. Michelle performed songs from her Timeless album along with her parents, themselves musicians and involved in My Little Pony; she also invited several guests to the stage including The Living Tombstone who was himself playing the Electronic Stage. The third stage was the Mixed Stage with a whole variety of acts. If you’re interested in hearing some of the music from the evening, check out the playlist over on the GeekMom YouTube channel.

Game Developers Q&A Panel © Sophie Brown
Game Developers Q&A Panel © Sophie Brown

Oddly for a convention, Sunday was the biggest day of events by far. The main auditorium played host to seven Q&A panels from fanfiction writers to game developers, musicians to artists. Each panel was interesting, funny, and often surprised us – I for one certainly didn’t expect to see Darth Vader battle Princess Celestia onstage during the morning’s Radio & Networking Panel.

Out in the main concourse area, a number of competitions ran throughout the day including cupcake decorating, flash fiction, and artwork challenges and a pub quiz about the show. A number of smaller events were dotted across the venue from a play session of Ponyfinder (a pony-themed spin-off of classic paper RPG game Pathfinder) with the game’s designers, a Super Smash Bros. Brawl tournament, autograph signings, and art demonstrations.

The demonstration of Buck: Legacy, a Munchkin style D&D/pony card game, was so popular that only around one third of those queueing outside the room managed to attend, but the game’s designer spent his entire weekend demonstrating the game at his table in the vendor’s area to much apparent success judging by the number of people playing the game across the venue as time went on.

The biggest event of the convention was the Sunday afternoon Q&A panel with voice actress Michelle Creber and show writer Cindy Morrow (Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, The Powerpuff Girls). The panel was also attended via a video link by writer Amy Keating-Rogers (Johnny Bravo, The Powerpuff Girls) and head writer Meghan McCarthy (Equestria Girls, Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends). As always when technology is involved in something like this, it wasn’t smooth sailing but the link maintained itself for most of the 90-minute panel and Meghan dropped several hints about the show’s upcoming fourth season which had the crowd cheering with excitement.

Waiting for the Friendship is Magic panel to begin © Sophie Brown
Waiting for the Friendship is Magic panel to begin © Sophie Brown

After the panel, for those not attending the final Q&A of the day, there was just enough time for a little last minute shopping, dancing outside with fellow bronies, and collecting of commissioned works—I had ended up getting two myself—before the closing ceremony began.

As everyone gathered in the main auditorium, a group of attendees began building a tower of plushies. Soon the whole room was watching on the video screen and chanting “one more plush! One more plush!”—the screams and cheers as a final small toy topped the tower was deafening.

During the closing ceremony the winners of all the weekend’s competitions were announced from cosplay to cupcakes. The staff announced the total raised by the previous day’s auction—later improved by the addition of the silent auction items—to a whopping £8,025 ($12,462). Thanks were given to the team behind the convention before a final sing-a-long of Winter Wrap-Up (see if you can spot a dancing Doctor) closed the convention for another year.

Cosplayers at Buck © Sophie Brown
Cosplayers at Buck © Sophie Brown

Buck 2013 was by far one of the most enjoyable conventions I have ever attended. From opening to close there was always something happening, but you also felt free to wander at your leisure and simply enjoy being there. The number of different accents I heard over the weekend was incredible: attendees had traveled from all over Europe, the USA, and Canada to be there. The venue was a perfect choice as it was small enough to feel intimate and friendly, but never once felt crowded. The cosplayers were incredible and so friendly that I’m now planning my own. In the lobby areas there were constantly people drawing, writing, playing games, and chatting—the sheer creativity and relaxing atmosphere was a joy to be a part of.

Of course, there were some things that could be improved. Timing was a slight issue, especially on the Saturday with some events starting late, meaning they were cut short. Music played in the lobby and thanks to people freely wandering in and out of the main auditorium, it would often carry into panels. The final issue I noticed was with the acoustics of the venue which are spectacular and carry sound so well the panelists hardly needed microphones. Of course, this worked inversely and so when staff members had whispered conversations at the back of the room I could hear every word, even at the expense of mic’d-up panelists.

However, all of these were minor issues that did not detract from the overall experience. I’m already looking forward to going back next year. Coming from someone who only considers themselves a casual viewer of the show and is not even slightly involved in the brony community, I don’t think there’s higher praise.

Entry to Buck 2013 was provided free of charge by the organisers.

WorldCon Has Lots of Kid Friendly Options

Photo: John Davis, courtesy of LSC3, (c) 2013
Photo: John Davis, courtesy of LSC3, (c) 2013

The World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) is just around the corner! The phenomenal photo above shows Texas artist Vincent Villafranca in the process of casting the bronze sculptures that will grace the Hugo awards this year. Anyone who can make it to San Antonio for Labor Day weekend will see the final design that Vincent is working on, along with costumes, filk songs (sf/f flavored folk songs), films, and vendors selling books and t-shirts and all sorts of fantastic things. There will be plenty of panels by and for people who love science fiction literature, too.

But what about the little ones?

I started attending WorldCon in 2002, long before my little geekling arrived on the scene. I’ll admit, I didn’t spend much time thinking about the kid’s track back then. However, now that he’s almost two and ready for his first WorldCon, I was thrilled to discover just how kid friendly this con will be.

For very small children, the Con committee has arranged for a bonded, licensed organization to provide day care in the associated hotel. KiddieCorp will be available for childcare on Thursday (Aug. 29) afternoon, all day Friday through Monday, and also Saturday and Sunday nights so that parents can go to the premiere evening events, the Masquerade (Saturday) and the Hugo Awards Ceremony (Sunday). KiddieCorp takes children younger than 12 for $10/hour, and if you sign your geekling up for a child membership, you get 6 hours of day care for free. You will probably need to sign up in advance if you are interested in this option, as space will be limited. You can sign up now through the website.

For kids who are older/more independent/more interested in science fiction and fantasy, there’s also a whole track of programming just for them. The Rangernauts program is aimed at kids 6-12. It features many different kinds of hands-on arts and crafts and science projects that kids can get involved in. Some activities require a parent to be present, while others allow you to drop your child off for brief periods of time.

In addition to these on-site options, San Antonio has plenty of things for kids to explore. The convention center and hotels are located on the justly famous San Antonio River Walk. There’s a lovely playground at Hemisfair park within easy walking distance of the convention center (already approved of by my son in a scouting trip earlier this year). The San Antonio Zoo and the San Antonio Children’s Museum are nearby as well.

WorldCon is one of those conventions that moves around each year, and next year it will be in London. I have a sneaky suspicion that it will be fairly family friendly in 2014 as well, since the same James Bacon who is head of San Antonio’s Children’s track will be the Programming chair for London. I hope that you’ll be able to make it to one or both of these fine conventions, secure in the knowledge that there are plenty of options to the younger set enjoy the con as well.

Full disclosure: I am on the staff of both the San Antonio (2013) and London (2014) WorldCons. For San Antonio I am organizing the Academic track of programming, and for London I am co-head of the Literary track of programming.

ConnectiCon: Gamin’ and Art

Image By Lilianna Angel
Image By Lilianna Angel

ConnectiCon is such a visual treat. As Corrina mentioned in her post, the cosplay is fantastic, usually homemade, and enough to keep you entertained if you just sit and watch the crowd. I kept my giggles in check on the elevators in the hotel because they were always filled with random cosplayers having banal conversations.

Zombie: Have you tried any of the hotel restaurants?
Power Ranger: Not yet.
Wonder Woman: The one near the front desk is pretty good.
Zombie: Thanks.

Image By Rebecca Angel (permission given for photo)
Image By Rebecca Angel (permission given for photo)

Here is a family from The Legend of Korra.

But there’s so much to do! I’ve written about this con in the past, but this year I did something I’ve always wanted to do: play a long RPG. In previous years, I did performances and panels, which made it hard to commit to anything that took up a huge chunk of the day. But this time, I was there to help my daughter at artist alley, make sure my son was busy, and enjoy myself. Part of the fun was getting to talk with some of the guests. I kept exclaiming in delight while reading Jim Cummings’s bio. I had no idea he was the voice of so many characters! And a delight in person. I did not have a chance to see Marina Sirtis, but several friends did and filled me in with how cool she is.

I played Caravan on Friday and after four hours the group was in a walled, rat plague infested desert city surrounded by a tribe of gnolls, and huddled in a ziggurat where we just found a giant spider. Of course I had to go back on Saturday and figure out how to get out of that mess! Lots o’ fun.

TeaPunk. Image By Rebecca Angel
Guy McNorm by Purple Lantern Studios

I spent time with my daughter selling her art and eye swirls, chatting with our neighbors: False Mind, Purple Lantern, and Grinning Narwhal. Rayna of Purple Lantern did a great commission of my current RPG character from a home game: Guy McNorm of the Clan McMahan.

I also met up with friends I only see at this convention, juggled, danced, danced, and danced some more (with glow sticks!) A nod to the first DJ of Friday night who really kicked off the party. ‘Til next year!

The Convention T-shirt Makeover

Image: Kevin Bennett
Image: Kevin Bennett

It’s the dilemma of every convention attending lightweight. You arrive five minutes after the rush, and all that’s left in the free T-shirt zone are the XXXL shirts. You want the memento but don’t really need a tent. I used to wear T-shirts all the time, to sleep in, to hike in, to just hang out in but now I very rarely do. I don’t find them especially flattering to this strange post baby body I have been left with. But through sentimentality and just plain awesomeness there are some T-shirts that Goodwill just is not getting! Continue reading The Convention T-shirt Makeover

Vulcan Events — Away Mission Orlando 2012: Mission Complete

I met Tom Paris!! Whoohoo!!  Image: Tye Bourdony
I met Tom Paris!! Whoohoo!! (I’m the one on the far right in the white and blue armor) Image: Tye Bourdony

Vulcan Events — Away Mission Orlando 2012 was another great time spent with friends and spreading the good word of the dark and light sides of the force. Avery Brooks was the headliner for the event and while I’m a fan of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, my excitement was in getting to meet Robert Duncan McNeill (Tom Paris, Star Trek: Voyager) and getting a picture of Dirk Benedict (Starbuck, Battlestar Galactica) for my mom.

The convention spanned three days in October at the Hilton at Downtown Disney in Orlando, Florida. My husband and I split up “Brandon watch” duty so we could each troop a day. He suited up as Jango Fett on Saturday and I armored up in my animated clone trooper on Sunday.

Even though I wasn’t suited up on Saturday, I still had fun watching my son (who set up his own booth this year) while also attending to the 501st and Rebel Legion joint booth. Part of the fun was walking around the small but humble convention and the other fun part was seeing everyone’s reactions to us being there. More than a few Star Trek fans came up and inquired how they could join up and become part of the Empire or Rebel Alliance, and we were more than happy to help them.

Dirk Benedict and my bucket  Image: Dakster Sullivan
Dirk Benedict and my bucket Image: Dakster Sullivan

This convention had the usual assortment of panels, photo opportunities, vendors and celebrities. The vendors and celebrities were in one room this year and it was a nice change.

My favorite celebrity in attendance was Robert Duncan McNeill. I was too tight on cash to get my picture taken with him, or his autograph, but that problem was solved on Sunday when I was in costume with a few other troopers and he asked to take a picture with us.

Another highlight of the weekend was meeting a high school crush of my mother’s, Dirk Benedict. Since he was under contract with Froggy Photos and not allowed to take a picture with me, I compromised and asked him to hold my bucket for my mom. At least that way she knew I was there and not making the whole thing up. As soon as I broke my own rule and removed my bucket in front of him, he was taken back at the fact that I’m a woman (most people are) and took a great picture for my mom.

She was super excited to get the picture and Dirk was equally excited to hear the reaction she sent me back in a text.

My armor was giving me a hard time that day so I only managed to stay suited up for around four hours. At the end of the day I accomplished what I set out to do: neet Robert Duncan McNeill and get a picture of Dirk Benedict.

If you are ever in Orlando while Away Mission Orlando is going on, stop on by. For dedicated Star Trek fans, this is a must see event. Don’t worry about bringing the kids. This convention is family friendly.

“In exchange for my time and efforts in reporting my opinion within this blog, I received a free weekend pass to the event. Even though I receive this benefit, I always give an opinion that is 100% mine.” 

Star Wars Celebration VI — Mission Complete

Time for some Wookie love! / Image: Wookie Workshop
Time for some Wookiee love! / Image: Wookiee Workshop

Last week, I had the privilege of attending Star Wars Celebration VI, in Orlando, Florida. Star Wars fans came from all over the world to see the sites and experience all that the convention had to offer. As a parent, GeekMom reporter, and 501st Legion member/Kid Bash Coordinator, my Celebration VI experience was a little different from that of most convention attendees.

Me and Dave Filoni, Director of the Clone Wars the Animated Series  Image: April Izzo
Me and Dave Filoni, Director of the Clone Wars the Animated Series Image: April Izzo

As a parent, I was able to see the convention the way many people get to see it as well as through the eyes of my child.

As a GeekMom reporter, I was given access to some really cool events that I would not have had the privilege of attending otherwise.

As the Kid Bash Coordinator for the 501st Legion, I got to experience a little bit of the stress that that the event coordinators have to go through to make some of the events happen (thankfully, my stress was nowhere near what theirs was).

For at least one day, I decided to just be a normal convention attendee (well, normal with a media badge anyway) and walked the convention floor.

Walking through the main convention floor, I saw a ton of stuff including Rancho Obi-WanRoxy the Rancor, the As You Wish Project, and some amazing artwork on artist alley. Some of my personal highlights were meeting the ThinkGeek team and getting a hug from my favorite wookiees. I also purchased my first piece of convention artwork from DC Comics artist, Mark McKenna.

Me and Commander Bly (CC-8499)/ Image: AJ Lugo
Me and Commander Bly (CC-8499) in the 501st Legion Room/ Image: AJ Lugo

For the toy collector, there were plenty of things to choose from. For the most part, I saw a lot of action figures.  Because many of the toys were older than me and several of the vendors were not child friendly, I had to forgo looking at a lot of them. This really bugged me at first, but after I realized that what they had didn’t really interest me, I decided my money was best spent elsewhere (like say…the DK Publishing booth).

Of course, no Celebration experience would be complete without the 501st Legion. Our room at Celebration V was nothing to sneeze at, but at Celebration VI, we raised the bar! With costumes on display by some of the best costumers in the Florida Garrison, as well as some very unique picture locations, the members of the Florida Garrison showed everyone at CVI exactly how we roll. There was much more going on in there than I have room to write here, so stay tuned for my CVI: 501st Legion Experience post.

After my son was out of school, I had to slip into parent mode. Once he arrived at the convention, he had his own set of priorities.

First and foremost, he really enjoyed Lego’s setup. The cartoon shorts they showed above their booth were enough to keep him occupied for quite a while. Another one of his favorite spots was the pool of Legos on the convention floor. This was a very popular place with the kids and the carpet was nice and soft for the parents to sit down and relax a little.

Having my son with me gave me some insight into taking children to conventions. I realized that just because a convention is geared towards the family, that doesn’t necessarily mean the whole convention is for the family. Family friendly areas were set up throughout the convention, but things like panels and vendors were more for those without young children.

Friday and Saturday I was in full GeekMom reporter mode.

Temuera Morrison and Brian Sullivan / Image: Dakster Sullivan
Celebrities were at every corner. Here is my husbands favorite CVI moment: Himself with Temuera Morrison / Image: Dakster Sullivan

My connections with GeekMom got me invited to a couple of really neat events. Due to my anxiety being a little out of control on Saturday, I had to bow out of one of them. It was one of those days where I was grateful for my husband and my legion brothers and sisters, who had my back the entire time that I needed them. I did manage to make it to one of the special events, but I can’t discuss here because I signed a waiver saying that I wouldn’t. Once they give me the all clear to discuss it, though, you will be the first to hear about it.

Friday was also the big day for the 50s1t Legion Imperial Bash and the Kid Bash.

As the Kid Bash coordinator, I was in charge of the “babysitting room” for the largest party in the galaxy, the Imperial Bash. I’ve only been in the legion for a little over a year and taking on a responsibility like this was pretty big. My part involved researching and contracting a sitting service, communicating with the parents for sign up, payment, and, of course, getting the kids some swag of their own to go home with. There were days I wondered what I was thinking at the time I volunteered for this position and looking back at it now, I’m happy I did it. It was a learning experience to say the least and it gave me the right to say I helped with the Imperial Bash (even if it was such a small role).

Brandon enjoying some Blue Milk with his new friends  Image: Dakster Sullivan
The sets were amazing. Here’s Brandon enjoying some Blue Milk with his new friends of the Belgian Garrison. Image: Dakster Sullivan

Of everything I experienced, I have two favorites. The first is getting hug from my favorite wookiees. After having panic attacks all morning, it made me feel really good. The other was getting the chance to have a one on one conversation with Dave Filoni, and him handing me one of his Wolf Pack buttons. Those are memories I plan on framing up in my office one day.

Overall, I would have to say that my Celebration VI experience was okay. I had some great experiences and I took some really nice pictures to remember it by. I’m hoping that Celebration VII will be in Orlando in 2014, so I can have another run at it. I didn’t get to do as much as I had planned, but I still some experiences I wouldn’t change for anything.

Star Wars Celebration VI for Newbies

Image: Copyright Lucas Films
Image: Copyright Lucas Films

Orlando, Florida is this year’s host for the biggest Star Wars party in the galaxy, Star Wars Celebration. From August 23rd through the 26th, the Rebellion and the Empire will be taking over and showcasing the best they have to offer. From costumes to celebrities to collectables (oh my!), this is a must-see event for every Star Wars fan in the universe. The Florida Garrison has been gearing up for this event for over a year now and we are ready and raring to go. If you are coming to the convention or just thinking about it, here are a few tips to get you ready.

Pre-Convention Checklist
How much are the tickets and how can I purchase them?
You can purchase tickets online, through a retailer or at the convention. If you pre-order your tickets, an adult single day ticket for Thursday, Friday and Sunday is $55 and Saturday is $60. A child ticket is $27 per day. If you plan on being at the con for all four days, look at getting a four day pass. Adults are $135 and Children are $57. Pre-ordered tickets can be picked up at Will Call at the convention center.

To purchase tickets when you get to the convention, just follow the signs or ask a volunteer where you can purchase tickets. Be aware that all ticket prices go up at the door.

What hotels are closest to the convention center? 
The convention center sits on International Drive and there are a ton of resorts to pick from. Check out Star Wars Celebration’s website for all the information you need to find and book a hotel close to the convention.

Traveling to the Convention
What is the best way to bring my costume to the Celebration VI?
For starters, if you are flying into Orlando and you can afford to ship your costume to your hotel ahead of time, DO IT! I’ve heard this is the easiest and most hassle free way to get your costume to the hotel. Just make sure you let the hotel know you are expecting boxes (and ask if they charge to hold it till you arrive). Regardless if you’re flying or shipping your costume, one member suggests you pack it like you are going to drop it off a cliff (you never know what it will experience behind the scenes). Try to avoid taping it up, just in case a TSA employee has to unwrap it.

Some other packing tips include:

  • Keep in mind that Bubble wrap is great stuff, but it also sticks to some paints.
  • To save space, try wrapping your gear in your clothes.
  • Place pictures of your costume inside your container. If a TSA worker has to open it up, this will help them know what they’re looking at.
  • Place a note with your costume stating Star Wars Convention Costume.
  • Make sure you check up on the latest TSA guidelines for locking up your gear.

Also, don’t forget to pack your common sense before you leave home!

Continue reading Star Wars Celebration VI for Newbies

Name the GeekMom Pony!

Introducing the GeekMom Pony! / Image: Dakster Sullivan
Introducing the GeekMom Pony! / Image: Dakster Sullivan

This past June, I was inspired to find my inner child and rediscover my love of My Little Pony. I learned that people have been making custom ponies for years now, and it got me thinking about making one of my own. At first, I thought about making an Aayla Secura pony (that turned out to be harder than I thought). Then I had another idea… why should I make a pony for myself, when I have an entire group of great women who would love to share her with me?

I set out to bring to life a little pony for our team to share. Her mission will be simple…to share our love of everything geeky with the world. Traveling from writer to writer, her stories will be something fun we can all enjoy writing and reading about. From conventions to theme parks, there’s nothing that this little pony won’t do.

So without further ado, I’d like to introduce you all to the newest member of the GeekMom team. Except there’s one problem — she doesn’t have a name!

Now, it’s up to you! We need to name the GeekMom pony. Between now and Monday, August 13th at noon, leave a comment with what you think we should name her. On Monday, we will select five names by random and then vote on them behind the scenes. The winning name will be announced on Wednesday, August 15th.

The person who suggests the winning name will receive a GeekMom T-shirt.

So what are you waiting for? Lets name that GeekMom pony!!

Star Wars Week: The Imperial Bash At Celebration VI

This August, Star Wars Celebration VI will be held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. One of the evening convention highlights of the event is the Imperial Bash hosted by the 501st Legion. The 501st Legion has opened this “not to be missed event” up to the general public! With Star Wars celebrities, HUGE giveaways and exclusive swag items, you are sure to have a blast!

This year, the mighty Jabba has taken over and has issued this decree:

His Excellency, the illustrious Jabba the Hutt, requests your presence to honor The 501st Legion and invites you to attend the Imperial Bash: Party At The Palace, Friday August 24th. His loyal servants will be opening the palace doors at 9pm.

Open to all of Jabba’s loyal subjects who are the ages of 18 and up, it’s said to be the biggest party in the galaxy. Everyone in attendance will also receive exclusive swag including, but not limited to (1) pack of exclusive 501st legion trading cards with each pack containing a rare bonus card.

Tickets into the palace are $26 each. A 3% processing free is added to the price of each ticket and $.50 handling fee is added to each order.

So, what are you waiting for? Tickets are limited and 90% of them are already sold.

The Official Doctor Who Convention – Part One

The Millennium Centre Cardiff during the Convention © Sophie Brown
The Millennium Centre Cardiff during the Convention © Sophie Brown

Last weekend saw the first-ever Official Doctor Who Convention at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff, Wales. The Centre is famous among Whovians not only as the fictional headquarters for Torchwood 3, the Cardiff branch of the organization tasked with protecting the Earth from aliens (the headquarters are beneath the plaza in front of the Centre), but also as the real world filming location for multiple episodes of the show. The Millennium Centre has so far served as the hospital in season two’s “New Earth” and the Two Streams quarantine facility from season six’s “The Girl Who Waited” along with a brief spot in “The Sound of Drums,” so it seemed the perfect location for this enormous gathering of fans; and gather they did. Over the course of the day (the convention actually stretched over the full weekend with Sunday’s events mirroring Saturdays so fans need only attend one day) I heard of people traveling from all over the UK, Europe, North America, Canada and even as far as Australia to attend. The event lasted from 9 am to 6 pm and was so cram packed full of things to do that I barely found time to eat. This post will focus on the three panel sessions in the main theater, with a follow-up post focusing on the smaller events.

Rory in the Two Streams Facility shot in the Millennium Centre © BBC
Rory in the Two Streams Facility shot in the Millennium Centre © BBC

The attending fans were split into two groups, Oods and Silurians, who attended the events in different set orders. My first event was the “Creators and Directors” panel hosted by Gary Russell. This panel focused on the production of a single episode, appropriately enough “The Girl Who Waited,” and featured input from its Writer Tom MacRae, Producer Marcus Wilson, Millennium Effects Director Neill Gorton and Robert Allsop — the man responsible for creating the Hand Bots. Together they explained the challenges they faced during the production of the episode and the ways in which they solved these. Some of the original ideas for the episode were explained. The Time Glass was the initial concept that sparked the story; however, it was originally going to be used for looking into a prison. In this case series six already had a prison episode, and so the story was re-worked to change the location to a quarantine facility. Tom explained that he was aware that Rory was rarely at the center of the story and so he wrote the episode to be a “good meaty story” for Arthur Darvil whom he already knew. He also explained how he dislikes “spaceships for the sake of spaceships” and prefers to write stories about humanity — “loss, ageing, all those things you see in a gritty realistic drama,” but to tell those stories “in a completely different, impossible way.” “All the impossible stuff,” he says of writing Doctor Who, “is about talking about real things;” the show is a “heartfelt drama about relationships and people and humanity, but told through the prism of science fiction.”

A Hand Bot joins the Crew on Stage © Sophie Brown
A Hand Bot joins the Crew on Stage © Sophie Brown

We learned that the episode was scripted to minimize the use of Matt himself as it was filmed back to back with “Closing Time” — a very Doctor heavy, Amy/Rory light story. The use of CG effects in the production was also discussed; whilst CG is often equated with “big” scenes — battles, sweeping alien landscapes — it is often actually used in small parts such as the images in the Time Glass and the sparks in the final fight scene. Tom explained that his personal brief for the Hand Bots was to come up with something that “would finally get made into a toy.” That hasn’t happened yet, although a Hand Bot will be included in series three of the collectable figures by Character Building. However, towards the end of the panel, a full scale Hand Bot was brought onto the stage to allow the audience to see the episode’s main baddie in the flesh, so to speak. Neill discussed the difficulties in aging Karen Gillan by 37 years so she could play “old Amy,” including discussing some of the prosthetics and makeup techniques used. The casting team had initially considered casting another actress until Karen specifically requested to play the part herself.  Finally, one of the most fascinating anecdotes was related to one of the final scenes where “old” Amy’s hand is seen through the glass door panel from the inside of the TARDIS, creating one of the most heartbreaking moments of the season. Tom hadn’t realized you could see through the glass until he was on set; he checked with the production office as to whether the glass was see-through in canon and discovered it was (you can see out but not in) which prompted him to add in that specific moment.

A Hall-full of Whovians © Sophie Brown
A Hall-full of Whovians © Sophie Brown

My next event was the “Meet the Stars” panel, which was naturally attracting the most excitement from the crowd before it even began. Matt, Karen and Arthur all appeared onstage along with series head writer Stephen Moffat and executive producer Caroline Skinner. This is the first time any of them had appeared at a convention outside of last year’s San Diego Comic Con and it was immediately obvious that these are people who genuinely love the show they work on, Stephen describing himself as a “Doctor Who geek” who still reads articles in the papers to see what is about to happen on the show before remembering that he already knows. Together they talked about working together, their experiences filming the show and what they had been up to lately. On being asked where he gets his ideas, Stephen explained that to him it was about trying to reproduce the “way it used to make [him] feel” when he was a kid, rather than focusing on the details of the show he remembered. Matt also added in that the show is “not bound by space, by time, by genre, by logic” which allows them to “reinvent the wheel” every time; a lot of the show’s excitement comes from the stakes being so high he points out later, “it’s life and death every ten pages and as an actor, it’s literally — the world is going to end.” Karen revealed that the actors have a lot of say in the character’s wardrobe: “I think it’s really important to have an input into what you wear because that makes you feel like the character” she said, before adding that she likes the new direction Amy’s wardrobe is taking in season seven. This wasn’t the only revelation about the forthcoming series during the session; we learned that the day before had seen Karen and Arthur spending most of the day suspended upside down on set, much to the amusement of both Matt and Stephen. “When I was upside down, I did see [Stephen] just walk in and start giggling,” Arthur pointrf out, “that’s what Stephen does,” added Matts, “I get idle threats of ‘I can make you naked…’”

Matt Smith hands out Jammy Dodgers to Fans © Sophie Brown
Matt Smith hands out Jammy Dodgers to Fans © Sophie Brown

The second half of the session was given over to audience questions, and there were a lot, as most of the audience seemed to have their hands in the air. Karen was asked about her move to London from her small hometown of Inverness, “I was quite young when I did it so I had blind optimism on my side” she said; when asked if it was scary, “in retrospect, it was scarier.” A popular subject throughout the panels was the Doctor’s love life, especially his relationship with River Song. When an audience member asked if we could expect any more romantic scenes in the future, Matt piped up with his own thoughts on Eleven’s apparent confusion when anyone kisses him, “I just think he finds it ridiculous. What are you doing? Why are your lips touching mine? That’s silly!” The final question of the session came from a young member of the audience who asked Matt how you make a Sonic Screwdriver. Matt went on to surprise everyone by explaining the entire process before ending the session by leaping off the stage to offer a plate of jammy dodgers to those in the front rows. I’ll leave it to Matt’s excellent description to share:

“Well it’s basically essentially an amalgamation of TARDIS energy and the Doctor’s wizardry of mind. So what he does is he finds a load of different parts and he feeds them all into the TARDIS which atomizes them, very cleverly, and then after it atomizes them it spits them up through a tube which comes out right to the top of the TARDIS, bops out, bops back down, goes through a little paint job process where it goes psssshht then it whizzes out the TARDIS and there you have a Sonic Screwdriver.”

My third and final panel session was Doctor Who Uncut. Whereas the first had focused on the production of a single episode, this session covered the production of an entire season, from initial casting — naturally a hot topic given last week’s announcement of new companion Jenna Louise Coleman — to the order in which episodes are aired. Hosted by Barnaby Edwards, the man who has sat inside the Daleks since 2005, the panel included Stephen Moffat, Caroline Skinner, Casting Director Andy Pryor, Production Designer Michael Pickford, “Rebel Flesh/The Almost People” Director Julian Simpson and Director of Photography Stephan Pehrsson who explained the endless meetings, read-throughs and decision making that goes into bringing the show to the screen. Stephen explained that after he has pitched an overall season concept, he then begins assigning the individual scripts to the writers he believes will suit them best, sometimes offering multiple episode concepts to the same writer until he sees their eyes light up. Stephen revealed that when he writes a scene he really wants to see on TV, he comes up with ways to make it integral to the plot to avoid it being cut. There is even something he has written into the new season that he is worried about: “This morning I was thinking how can I make it more relevant to the end of the episode so they’ll actually do it,” he admitted.

This session also featured one of the biggest surprises of the weekend: the first teaser trailer for season seven which will air later this year was premiered, promoting gasps of shock and delight from the crowd.

Stephen, as usual, refused to elaborate much on what we could expect from this year’s episodes. However, we did learn that the Daleks would be returning. The Weeping Angels would also be appearing in the Pond’s final episode, which will involve a trip to New York — prompting immediate speculation online around a certain infamous statue. Stephen did rule out a crossover between Doctor Who and his other popular franchise Sherlock, I have a horrible feeling that it’s a lot more fun in your imagination than it could ever be in reality” he says. One of the last questions asked was where Stephen thought the show would be in fifty year’s time, when it celebrates its 100th anniversary. “On television,” Stephen answered simply. With the way the franchise has been growing over the past seven years, it’s not so hard to imagine that he may well be right.

Entry to the convention was provided free of charge for this review. Come back next week to read about some of the other events that were taking place.


Megacon 2012

Wow! Megacon was amazing this year. We arrived on Friday and like most conventions it was relatively slow for a while. We were able to comfortably walk the vendors and artist tables. There was an endless supply of vendors selling everything from costumes to used toys.

Photo taken by Zach Winnermark, 501st Legion
Photo taken by Zach Winnermark

With over 50 troopers in attendance the 501st legion had a very strong presence this year. The booth showcased some of the finest helmets in the legion as well as some of the various costumes worn by members. Backdrops and weaponry were also on display, all built by fellow members of the FLG.

Along with a booth showcasing some of the best the Florida Garrison has to offer, we also hosted Shoot a Storm Trooper. For $1 anyone could shoot a 501st legion trooper with a Vulcan Nerf gun. For $5 we handed them the Rambo of all nerf guns.  By the end of the weekend we raised $1,500 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society. The kids and adults had a blast and some even came back for 2nds, 3rds, and 4th rounds.

I also got the chance to meet two guys from Ghost Hunters International. My husband was totally star struck and almost didn’t talk to them. He finally got up the nerve to talk to them and learned a few things. Later, while in our costumes, we went back and got our pictures taken with them. They even asked if they could take a picture with our buckets (helmets) on.

My husband enjoyed going to the Ghost Hunters International and Star Trek Voyager panels. The rooms were large enough to hold the crowds and the timeframe was just long enough to keep me from looking at my watch. Personally I preferred the DC Comics panel (talk about feeling like a fish out of water). The DC panel was my first panel at Megacon and it was pretty interesting.

Photo taken by Dakster Sullivan
Ghost Hunters International / Photo taken by Dakster Sullivan

The highlights of my weekend were getting to meet Dan Didio (Co-Publisher of DC Comics) and Tony Bedard (DC Comics artist and writer). It was fun talking “newbie” comic shop with both of them.

My son Brandon (6 years old) had a blast while Shooting the Storm Trooper but other than that he wasn’t really interested in his surroundings. We managed to find a toy from the “Cut the Rope” game and an Angry Bird he didn’t already have that made his day. By 3pm on Sunday my son and I were ready to head home. My husband admitted that he could stay forever, but realized it was time to head back to reality.

All in all we had a blast. The costumes were amazing all three days. My favorite costumes were Iron Man and the Gundam. I’m still on cloud nine about getting my New 52 Justice League signed by Tony Bedard and getting my picture taken with Dan Didio. It was a great weekend and can’t wait to go again next year.

 

Megacon 2012 – Let the Countdown begin

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…MEGACON TIME! To me, it’s one of the highlights of my trooping season. Geeks from around the country come to Orlando for 3 days of happy geeking out. You can see anything and everything at Megacon and I look forward to it every year.

Last year the 501st legion appeared in full force. We helped raise over $1,000 for the Red Cross with our Shoot a Stormtrooper activity and this year we plan on doing it again for Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. This year we are joined again by the Rebel Legion, Southern R2 Builders Group, and Costumer’s with a Cause. Stan Lee is also scheduled to be back again this year for autographs and a panel to talk about his career and Marvel Comics.

If you come in costume, be prepared to be flashed…by cameras that is. Last year it took me about an hour just to walk into the con because I was stopped every 10 feet (I think at one point I had a short line). A silly Megacon tradition is the carrying of free hug signs. Look for them as I am sure some fan boy or fan girl will be wearing one. As with most cons, if you plan on attending, buy your tickets online ahead of time and get there at least one hour early. This will give you plenty of time to get your tickets and see some of the amazing costumes before heading into the panels or the exhibitor hall.

I’ll be incognito each day so I’ll see you there…even if you don’t see me. 😉

Almost Time for Dragon*Con!

Me at Dragon*Con 2008 when I was 8 months pregnant

If you listened to the latest GeekMom podcast, you will have heard that I’m very excited for Dragon*Con. There is less than two weeks left until the con, so my mind is focused on getting ready for the most fun weekend of the year for me.

Because I’m a mom of a toddler, my Dragon*Con experience is a little different than most. My husband and I stay off site at a relative’s house, who watch our daughter while my husband and I are at the con.

We take MARTA, which is the train and bus system in Atlanta, because it is so easy as there is a stop right outside of the con. This does mean that we can’t do a lot of late night stuff because the train stops running at 1 am, but staying off site makes Dragon*Con very affordable for us.

Dragon*Con is one of the biggest conventions in the US. I think only San Diego Comic Con is bigger. But this is my 5th year attending, so I’m pretty well versed on how to get the most out of my Dragon*Con experience. There are some things that are just happening this year that I’m excited for.

On Friday night, there is going to be a Masked Ball in honor of the fact that this is the 25th year of Dragon*Con. Then on Sunday is the wrap party for Browncoats: Redemption, which is a fan film based in the Firefly universe. I’m pretty excited for both of these events.

Who else is going to Dragon*Con?

 

MCM Expo Hits Manchester

Cosplayers Outside MCM Expo Manchester
Cosplayers Outside MCM Expo Manchester

This weekend saw the first ever MCM Expo held at the Manchester Central convention centre in Manchester, England. The organisers have been running expos across the country for several years but this was the first time the event has ventured into the north of England, filling a surprising void in the sci-fi and fantasy events calendar for the region. Enormous crowds showed up for the show, seemingly far more than the organisers anticipated, causing some organisational flaws to be sadly drawn to the fore, marring what was otherwise a great day out.

Early entry tickets allowed those willing to pay a little extra access from 9.30am however general admission was to be from 11am. I have seen several negative comments from parents regarding the early access tickets. One of the main points made in the advertising for this expo was that children aged 10 and under would be admitted free. However this only applied to general entry tickets, meaning those who were already paying out extra for early entry were forced to pay again for their children at the same price as adults. For a family of four, this could mean the difference between the event costing £10 ($16) for arrival at 11am, to its costing £32 ($53) for arrival a mere 90 minutes earlier – a significant price difference to a family who may well be budgeting carefully given the current financial climate. Naturally no one had to buy these early access tickets but dedicated collectors would certainly be interested in order to get to the stalls before the big crowds and this would be extremely off putting for those wanting to make a family day out of the event.

The Entry Queue
The Entry Queue

By 11am, the queue for entry was stretching well out of the centre and around the building. The vast majority of attendees were buying their tickets on the door and so a bottleneck had formed due to only four ticket booths being open and only one of these accepting card payments – even those with pre-bought tickets were unnecessarily forced into this line. Once through the ticket booths, attendees were herded into a very long line that was winding around the vast area of the convention centre that had been left empty (the expo was crammed into a small space at one end of the hall).  The staff was sending everyone into this queue even though those with pre-bought tickets should have been granted immediate access, as they were not checking tickets. We found ourselves stuck in this non-moving queue for around 45 minutes, until well after the event was supposed to have opened for general admission, and were never given any explanation for the hold up. When my friend and I left the building to get lunch in the city centre at 1.30pm, we were shocked to see that people were still queuing all the way out of the building and across the plaza outside, now two and a half hours after opening.

Inside the main expo room, more organisational flaws were apparent. Popular stalls had been placed right by the only entrance to the room causing huge difficulties to traffic flow and the event had been squeezed into such a small floor space that simply moving around the room was often impossible. Considering the difficulties I faced moving around as an able bodied adult, I felt for anyone attending the event with a disability and have seen several comments regarding the problems faced by wheelchair users from attendees on Twitter. Several celebrities were attending to sign autographs including Warwick Davis and Kenny Baker, but their tables had been placed in the centre of the room on narrow walkways opposite stalls and no handlers were present to organise the lines, causing large obstructions to form. Finally, a small stage area had been erected in one corner but the tiny number of seats was not nearly large enough when any of the special guests took to the stage so many people were simply standing in the walkways to watch. Eventually some staff began making people who were not in the designated area keep moving but this often seemed rather ineffectual.

Some of the Stalls at MCM Expo
Some of the Stalls at MCM Expo

Despite this seemingly inexhaustible list of negatives, MCM Expo Manchester was for me, and the majority of attendees who have since tweeted, a very enjoyable day. The exhibitors were all friendly and happy to spend time discussing their merchandise, helping us to hunt through vast binders of trading cards, giving out contact details if you were searching for an item they did not have with them and advising on getting the best prices. Many comic artists were present drawing on-the-spot sketches for attendees and signing their prints and comics and the celebrities were all full of smiles, they seemed genuinely happy to be there with their fans. Everywhere I looked I saw people in costumes, often posing for photographs wherever they could find a space to stand, everybody smiling, laughing and happy as they made my Dana Scully cosplay (and my companion’s Kate Beckett) look like we had barely put in any effort at all. I came away with my bags heavier and my purse lighter, my only regret being that I missed out on celebrity talks up on the stage due to the lack of a published schedule – well, that and not being able to justify the £50 ($82) asking price for a signed Nathan Fillion Firefly trading card!

Anjili Mohindra Talks to Her Fans
Anjili Mohindra Talks to Her Fans

One of the most popular celebrity guests was Anjili Mohindra, star of Doctor Who spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures. Whenever I passed her table, a line was snaking away from it, often comprised of many children with their parents. I found myself near the stage as she came out to answer questions from fans and saw a large crowd of children sat listening and asking questions. Also popular was the “Robot Wars” arena where attendees could bring along their own robots to put them to the test, battling against one another. Less popular by far from what I saw were the tables featuring sports stars; for some reason, the expo had been coupled with a Sports Memorabilia show and a number of local sporting stars from the Manchester United and Manchester City football teams were signing autographs. The tables for this were packed into a quiet corner and had been completely vacated by halfway through the show, I’m not sure there’s much crossover between cosplayers, comic fans and football fans.

There is already talk of next year’s expo and judging by the crowds this weekend, it cannot fail to be a success. The organisers need to take time to listen to the comments made by this year’s attendees, learn from their mistakes and make next year’s show that much better. A few simple changes such as using more of the available space to spread stalls out, adding many more seats to the theatre area and placing signing tables out of the way of main thoroughfares would make all the difference to the feel of the event and make it more appealing to guests, especially those who may struggle with moving through thick crowds such as those in wheelchairs or pushing young children in strollers. There are relatively few of these conventions, especially in the north of England, and if lessons are learned from this weekend, MCM Expo Manchester could well be on many people’s “must-do”.

A ticket to this event was provided free of charge by the organisers.

Juggling Being A Mom While Keeping Your Own Identity

Image: Mandy Horetski

Being a mom is hard, but sometimes retaining your identity as a person can be harder.

As soon as I found out I was going to have a baby, I wanted to be the best mom I could be. But I also wanted to retain who I was as a person.

I’ve been a geek all my life, and I really wanted to retain that part of me after I became a mom. I’ve managed to do so, but I never realized how hard it was going to be.

My days are now mostly focused on my toddler, and I find that I watch more  cartoons than sci-fi shows (though I am currently trying to watch my way through Battlestar Galactica). Some days I struggle to remember that I’m a Mandy person and not just a Mandy Mom.

Yesterday, I got to go to a local con without my toddler and then I got to go to a going away party without my toddler, and it was awesome! It’s really something I haven’t done a long time and it reminded me that I really do need breaks away from my child.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mom. But it was really nice to get out of the house and not have to worry what mischief my daughter is getting into, or worrying about leaving because she’s tired.

What do you do to get a break from your kids?

Fanaticon 2011

Fanaticon is a local, free comic books, science-fiction, fantasy, pop culture convention that takes place in Asheville, NC on May 21, 2011. This is the 2nd year for this one day convention.

I moved to Asheville back in 2005 with my husband (then-fiance) and we immediately fell in love with the area. One of the great things about Asheville is that it is only a 2 hour drive to Charlotte and only a 3 hour drive to Atlanta.

I’ve loved going to cons since my anime con days up when I lived in Michigan. I love wearing costumes, going to panels, hanging out with other geeks and occasionally meeting famous people.

I was excited to be able to be close enough to attend Dragon*Con, but it does take up time and travel to get there, because it’s 3 hours away. So, last year when it was announced that Asheville was going to get their own con and it was going to be free, I was very excited.

The first Fanaticon was very well attended and it was so well organized for a first year convention. It was a great time last year so I’m looking forward to attending again this  year.

One of the things I’m looking forward to most this year is they have added a kid’s fun zone area with arts and crafts, among other activities. I know that my daughter will have a lot of fun with it.

Beyond that, it is great to connect with local geeks and of course, dress up in a fun costume! I’m really looking forward to attending this year.

Fanaticon 2 takes place on Saturday, May 21 in downtown Asheville from 10 am to 5 pm.