I have not been to a geeky con in three years. I used to be an avid con-goer for many years, first on my own with friends, then bringing my kids, performing my music, selling TeaPunk, speaking on panels with GeekMom, and then stopped due to health issues. It’s been a slow climb back to a new normal and I’ve been looking forward to attending a con with my adult son, one of my favorite con buddies. In choosing which one to dip my toe back in, I remembered Arisia.
Arisia is a fan-run, family-friendly, fantasy and science fiction convention on the Boston waterfront. I was there a couple of times before and always enjoyed myself. It’s big enough to have plenty to do but small enough that you never have to wait on lines or be lost in a crowd. My son and I made plans to go for the whole weekend, staying in the convention hotel. I did this so I could rest when I needed during the day, and wouldn’t have to drive or travel at night when my energy is especially low.
We arrived early enough to hang out for a few hours before anything began, and took the opportunity to swim in the pool and then rest in our comfy hotel room watching Firefly since my son has never seen the series before. The convention schedule was packed with a variety of activities for any possible interest like art, writing, literature, gaming, live theater, movies/TV, crafts, dance, fan meet-ups, parties, and lots more, with a fantasy or science fiction theme or a topic of interest to that community. We agonized over what we could do in just a couple of days. It was a good problem.
What We Did
We ended up focusing on art, games, and writing in different forms. My son attended a live model sketching class, which he really enjoyed.
The Artist Guest of Honor was Kristina Carroll, and we went to her talk becoming inspired. She attending art school, but her pull towards beauty and story was not appreciated. After graduation, she followed her passion and her career took off. She is a fantasy artist and all her work tells a story and is gorgeous. I especially liked her Minotaur piece that is contemplative and quite sad, finding the humanity in a legendary monster.
We walked around the Art Show and Dealers Room, which was filled with artists as well. We took lots of photos of our favorite pieces and voted “Justice,” a piece from the Tarot of Brass and Steam by Ed Matuskey, as our vote for People’s Choice. The character in it is so badass and has such a personality and story that we kept coming back to it.
I also purchased a “Loki Laufeyson” print by Daniela Wong-Chiulli that, with its simple touches, conveyed the complexity of his character.
I only attended one writer’s panel, “Where to Begin?,” which focused on both where the writing process begins, in general, and how to write the most compelling beginning to your story. The five authors all had a chance to share their thoughts and advice. I would have liked to attend a writer’s workshop or hear some of the authors read their works, but alas, not enough time in the day. There was enough time to hear a theremin, however, that strange early electronic instrument.
There were three gaming panels that we attended and all were well done. “GM-less Games” and “Cooperative Games” gave us a list of new games to try. I especially want to test out Fiasco. “Chainmail Bikinis” was a thoughtful and well-run panel about the misogyny in role-playing games past and present. Most of the panelists were optimistic, pointing out how much better things have gotten, from early D&D books featuring only a handful of women in their artwork and all in sexual poses and outfits to the latest edition showing more women in diverse roles and wearing armor that actually functions. Even game mechanics were gender stifling in the past, not to mention creature descriptions. There is still a ways to go with some gender stereotypes that won’t go away and a gaming culture that includes online harassment towards female gamers. But a lot has gone in the right direction and we hope it continues to—considering 40% of gamers are women, it should.
We also played a couple of games, though not nearly as many as I had hoped. We did not have a chance to sign up for a long RPG and the short one we found was out of player spots when we tried to join. So that was too bad. I tried Isle of Cats and can’t say I’ll be purchasing it, but Tetris with cats was certainly fun. My son was randomly asked to play Magic, and he happily joined in a round. How did they know he plays??? The game room is usually where I meet new people, and I missed not socializing as much as I remember doing at cons. However, while listening to one of the gaming panels, I had an idea for a new game. During lunch one day, I sketched out the idea and used sticky notes to make a prototype. It’s a storytelling party game called Everything Goes Right. Maybe I can convince some friends to try it out. 🙂
The other fun thing I did was wear my obscure fan t-shirt of the Riverbottom Nightmare Band. About four people (of similar age) broke into huge smiles, recognizing where it came from. 10 points if you know…
What We Didn’t Do
A lot. I brought my guitar and hoped to join in the music track, but that never happened. The song circles I was interested in always coincided with my rest time during the day or started after my bedtime. Chronic illness is not fun at a convention. As mentioned, we didn’t game as much because of my limited energy levels. There was a panel specifically for those with disabilities and chronic illnesses, but it started at 10 pm! Poor scheduling since those with issues may be worn out by then.
Arisia was a good start on the road to participating at cons again. My son is moving to Boston after graduation in the spring, and we decided to always spend a con weekend together each year to reconnect. Although we were very tame con-goers, Arisia certainly has plenty of raucous activities from sword fighting demos to all-night parties in your fandom of choice. Their family track was filled with lots of fun events for kids too. Arisia is not for those who want to meet their favorite stars, but as I don’t really care about that, it was perfect. I think I’m ready to attend more cons after this positive experience. I highly recommend Arisia.
Here are more pics of the artwork and my son chatting with the artists.