Yesterday I attended a sci-fi/fantasy gathering called VisionCon, held annually at a hotel near me. It’s a small con and meets in January because most of the larger ones get dates in the warmer months. This is not the first con I’ve been to, but only the second time I’ve attended this one.
The first thing you notice upon entering one of these things is a wall of sound. It’s almost palpable: a cacophony of excited voices, toy phasers beeping, laughter and bits of music floating here and there. People wander about, some dressed up, and others wearing what appear to be fairly normal outfits. Look closer and you’ll see Batman and Zim on their shirts, skulls, daggers and fantasy elements in their accessories and many, many tattoos. I was sorry it was January and I wore a long-sleeved sweater; next time, I’ll brave the cold and expose the beautiful Hogwarts crest tattoo that emblazons my upper left arm.
Then there are costumes. People dressed as Stormtroopers, Jawas, hobbits, animals, superheroes, villains and pirates. They stroll leisurely through the dealers’ room with their cronies, sometimes in character. In between film showings, I went to the vending machine for a bottle of water and a small person (boy or girl? I wasn’t able to tell) dressed in a gold bodysuit that covered it from head to toe stumbled in, ricocheted off the walls and tumbled to the floor. It flopped around for a minute and then got up and went back into the hallway, presumably to join its companions.
I’m not sure what this person was meant to be; I’m not a die-hard sci-fi fan, although it resembled something from the Star Trek: TNG episode “Transfigurations.” It says something about my geekiness that I simply glanced over, said “Hi,” and continued to plug coins into the machine as though nothing were happening. At a con like this, such things are not unusual.
A compelling reason for me to attend was the chance to speak with other writers. Last year they held several panels about publication, which were enlightening for a newbie like me. This year I caught a reading by Shane Moore, author of the Abyss Walker fantasy series. A ticket drawing at the reading produced my name from the fishbowl, and I won a copy of the first book in the series, autographed of course. Yay!
Brian Keene, a terrific horror writer I met last year, was there along with Wrath James White, whom I had not. They were great to hang and talk with, and they urged me to attend an event that has become a fixture at WorldCon but was new to VisionCon called the Gross-Out Contest. An adults-only venue, horror writers compete to see who can disgust the audience the most with extreme and highly imaginative tales of gore, grue, slime, puke, shit and sexual congress with these and other foul things. I made the mistake of telling Brian, Wrath and contest participant John Horner that I could not be grossed out. Much to my surprise, I was recruited from the audience and dragged up onstage to serve as one of the judges!
Each contestant was given points on performance, grossness of the subject matter and audience reaction. I wasn’t sickened (as a longtime horror fan, I’m inured to that stuff), but I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard. At the end of the readings, our markings were tallied up and the winner and four-time previous champion, Cullen Bunn, took his bows. I won’t tell you what his story was about. Truly, you had to be there. If they have this again next year and I’m around, I might be tempted to try it myself.
I shared a beer after the Gross-Out with the writers and was able to ask Brian some questions about movie rights, and hear a little industry gossip. The cons are a good networking opportunity for genre writers. If you can make it to them, the connections (and the fun) are worth it.
Check out some of these guys. That is, if you think you can take it!
The camaraderie at these conventions is just amazing. You couldn’t meet a nicer group of people than those who share your interests. Fellow Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, comic book and Harry Potter fans abound and it’s almost impossible to go to a con and not connect with someone. I met a really nice group from Kansas City who welcomed me for a brief pizza party in their hotel room, and I hope to keep in touch with them and even travel there at some point to hang with their Star Trek club. I’m looking forward to that and hoping that we might meet up at a future con, if I can ever make it to any of them.
People think geeks and nerds are unsociable; this couldn’t be further from the truth. We are the most friendly, welcoming, highly creative pack of weirdoes you’ll ever meet, and it’s because a shared passion for whatever we’re into spills over onto those around us. We’re happy to recruit you into our Star Trek club, to share Dr. Who episodes with you and induct you into the world of anime and Lovecraftian horror. Let us teach you magical spells from Harry Potter. Your inhibitions will soon melt away and you’ll be free to indulge your inner child and continue that game of make-believe that so charmed you when you were very young. We’ll never grow up, and we don’t want you to either.
You will be assimilated; resistance is futile. There is no escape. And when you return to your stuffy nine-to-five world and your coworkers ask you why you are smiling, be secure in the knowledge that there are other worlds than these.