As many of you know, my home-town con is this coming week. CONvergence is a cross-media, cross-genre convention, over 5000 people strong. It has a place for nearly everyone. And thus, nearly everyone attends.
There’s a growing tide of awareness in fandom. In all the fandoms I am in or near, to be honest. There’s a growing awareness of sexual harassment, of harassment in general. Last year CONvergence ran a popular anti-harassment poster campaign, Costumes Are Not Consent. CONvergence also has a clear policy on harassment, which I copy in its entirety:
CONvergence is dedicated to providing a safe and comfortable convention experience for everyone. Harassment of any kind, including physical assault, battery, deliberate intimidation, stalking, or unwelcome physical attentions, will not be tolerated. If people tell you “no” or to leave them alone, your business with them is done.
Leave them alone. Do not follow them or attempt to disrupt their convention experience in any way. If you continue to attempt to have contact with those people, you may be removed from the premises.
CONvergence is not responsible for solving any interpersonal problems that may arise between individual members. In general, we can take no action to prevent a person from attending the convention unless that person has made a specific and credible threat toward the convention itself. If you feel that a threat exists against your person, we advise you to seek a restraining order against the individual in question and to involve the host hotel itself (security staff specifically) and the municipal police department in advance of the convention; otherwise, we recommend simply avoiding that individual.
If that individual stalks, harasses, or attempts to assault you at the convention itself, you may report that individual to a member of Operations (they will report it to the hotel’s security staff who will get the police involved if necessary) or you may report it to hotel security directly, and the appropriate action will be taken. Conversely, any attempt to have an innocent person removed from the convention by falsely accusing him or her of threats will be itself treated as an act of harassment and will be dealt with appropriately. The responsibility for settling interpersonal disputes lies solely with the individuals involved, and CONvergence will not tolerate being used as a leveraging point in such disputes.”
That’s the con policy.I know at lot of the Ops people at CONvergence. They are trained and briefed, and they take their duties very seriously.
There’s a thing, called the Backup Project, or the Backup Ribbon Project. It’s a way of signalling to strangers that the person wearing the pin, or the ribbon, or the t-shirt, is willing to get involved in a potential harassment situation if the person feeling harassed needs backup. There are a number of concerns with this project. Most obviously, a harassing creeper could wear said ribbon in order to gain access to targets. Secondarily, an overly-enthusiastic Backup could escalate a situation far beyond what anyone wanted.
There are problems, yes. But there’s something there, too. The idea that, too often, witnesses to problems walk on by, unwilling to intervene. That a label could make it easier to ask a stranger for a hand.
There are campaigns, publicized on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, of people planning to attend conventions with the stated goal of harassing other attendees. I have little ability to judge how serious these public campaigns are. On an important level, it doesn’t really matter if it’s mere online trolling or a serious threat to sexually assault others — people feel threatened. More than that, people are responding as though they feel targeted. Targeted at conventions, where they hope to be among their friends and family, where they hope to be among their tribe.
I am just as capable as the next person of seeing a slightly tense situation developing across the hall and walking away. I know, because I’ve done it. I’m not proud of this, and some of those instances stick in my memory, full of ‘what happened to her, later, I wonder?’
I am just as capable of brushing off or excusing an unwanted sexual remark or touch, particularly at a convention. I know, because I have done it. These days, I’m wondering — how many of those people who kissed my hand without asking, or sniffed my hair without permission, how many of them went on to find someone else with whom to escalate their practice?
This is what I look like, more or less:
I’m not in the business of interfering. I’m just not. But if you need a hand? If you want out of a conversation, or you want someone to help you flag down a Wandering Host? You have a too-friendly fan of your costume who keeps following you into the restroom? Whatever. If you want a buddy for five minutes, let me know. I’d be happy to help.
CONvergence, my local massive multi-fandom convention, is SOON. July 4-7, in Bloomington, MN.
I will be there on Thursday and Saturday only. Friday and Sunday I will be at work. On Thursday you can find me at:
Thursday, July 4
2:00pm Where Do I Start? Wherever You Want!
8:30pm How to Talk to the Naked Lady in the Elevator
10:00pm Queers Dig Time Lords
11:30pm Diversity in Steampunk
On Saturday I will be bringing my kids and hanging out, enjoying the con.
See you there!
1. I’m registered for Wiscon! And have a hotel room! This makes me excited for the con.
2. I’m planning on CONvergence this year. I won’t be at Heroes Con or C2E2, due to scheduling conflicts. I’m pondering trying to get to Geek Girl Con.
3. Comics today include Stumptown #5, and Young Avengers #1. I have already bought them on Comixology.
4. A lot of work-related projects are sitting in my email inbox today. Not quite sure when I will get to read these new comics.
My local Big Convention, CONvergence, is coming up very, very soon.
How did that happen?
In the words of the website:
“CONvergence is an annual convention for fans of Science Fiction and Fantasy in all media, held each July at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Bloomington. We are a 4-day event with more than 5,000 attendees, and the premiere event of our kind in the upper mid-west.
2012′s convention theme is Wonder Women, a four-day celebration of the female creators and characters of science fiction, and you can expect that theme to run through many of the panels, parties and costumes to be found at CONvergence this year.”
That doesn’t quite convey the, the sheer scope of the convention, really.
There are larger conventions, certainly. No question. And there are conventions with more specialized depth, again, without question. But CONvergence does something of which I heartily approve. CONvergence tries, very hard, to include everyone.
There is a movie room, full of couches and dim light and popcorn. Movies play something around twenty hours a day for four days. There is an anime room, with chairs and dim light and imported snacks. Anime plays for something around twenty hours a day for four days. There is a LAN gaming room that runs until everyone’s eyeballs are bleeding. There is tabletop and CCG and other gaming. There is a masquerade costume contest. There is live music in at least two venues. There is DJ’d music in at least two venues. There is a pool and hot tub. There is an art show. There is a science crafts room. There is a dealer’s room. There is programming on movies, comics, tv, books, culture, and science the runs from morning until long after the watershed. There are radio dramas. Live comedy. Free coffee drinks and tea for about eighteen hours a day for four days. A consuite that feeds thousands of people every day for four days. And there are parties.
The party circuit at CONvergence is an unholy beast of a thing. All the parties face a two-story open-air space containing the pool and an open courtyard. All the parties — what are there, forty of them? — run from about nine o’clock at night until about three in the morning, more or less. Because of the courtyard, they are really one gigantic open-air party, six hours a night. The noise is deafening. The alcohol does not stop flowing. The snacks are superb and the eye-candy is unparalleled.
Because the convention is four days, because it runs twenty-four hours for four days — with minor lapses in the action between four and eight a.m. — there is something for everyone. You can go to the programming, and have a quiet night in. You can sleep until two p.m., have a fortifying dinner, and party until three a.m.. You can spend all your time — and money — in the art show and the dealer’s room. You can stand in lines and get things signed by authors, artists, and tv folk. You can spend an afternoon in the science lab making crafts after a morning of all-ages anime. You can spend four days catching up with friends you never see elsewhere, loitering in the hot tub and sipping free espresso.
Your mileage may truly vary.
Now, because CONvergence does all of these things, there are going to be other conventions that do some of these things much better. That’s as may be. Go to Dragon*Con if you like, go to San Diego, go to Anime Iowa, go to WorldCon. That’s fine, that’s ducky. I’m not saying CONvergence is any of those things. But what it is, is it’s a pan-geek party of mind-blowing proportions. If you have a niche, you will find your ilk at CONvergence. Somewhere. Just be patient and look around.
You will, of course, have to put up with everyone else doing their things too, at the same time. CONvergence is not scent-free, it’s not peanut-free, there is unscheduled nudity and surprise libertarianism. It is loud, ye gods and little fishes, it is punishingly loud courtyardside at midnight on Friday. You will be pushed. You will be poked by someone’s wings or bat’leth. Drunk people will be drunk at, near, and around you. Your views, however right you are, will be provoked or ignored. You will get sticky and people will be late. Especially to meet for dinner. If you require more control of your surroundings, CONvergence is perhaps not quite the thing for you.
I will say, it’s not the thing for me as a steady diet. I like people to be on time, I don’t like sticky, and surprise libertarianism and I are not the best of friends. But for four days a year I purely love this convention. It is inclusive as all-get-out. I and mine are welcome here under a sort of leave-well-enough-alone banner that appeals to me.
I’m going to be on an alarming number of panels this year. I have said for many years that I don’t care for the panels at CONvergence, that they are not my cup of tea. I decided to put up and volunteer instead of whingeing. But, as I said, there is so much going on at the con I am not worried about missing things. Whatever fun is happening, there will be more in a minute, just around the corner.
Hope to see some of you there!
1. Last night I got home from circus, put the kids to bed, made a snack, watched my gaming group play Dominion, and then … cooked lunches for the week.
I did not have a plan. I did not have a recipe. I chopped the garlic and the onions, put them in the pan, then opened the refrigerator and figured out what I needed to use before it went bad. Fifteen minutes later I was putting cumin-chili-lemon tofu with rainbow vegetables into the fridge.
I think I can no longer say I don’t cook.
2. I am still very very happy about this cover for X-Men Legacy #260.1, from this week.
Rachel. Raaaaaaaaaachel. That is totally my girl there. In the red. With the face tattoos and the leather and yep. My girl, there.
3. My convention schedule for the coming year is solidifying. I will be at:
C2E2, April 13-15, in Chicago, IL.
Wiscon 36, May 25-28th, in Madison, WI.
CONvergence 2012, July 5-8, in Bloomington, MN.
I hope to be at Worldcon, aka Chicon 7, August 31-September 4, and I have pre-registered for it. But I don’t have the time off from work yet. The others are assured!
1. Re-entry from the kids having summer camps last week, back to having normal routines, this is going about as well as you’d expect. J tells me that both children appear to have forgotten all math-related skills in a week. I’m not looking forward to my school-teaching days this week.
I hold my breath, leaving M at summer camps. He loves them, but situations where he has to negotiate interactions with his peers are awfully tricky. Unpredictable. Liable to end in punching. Yet the past week seemed to go okay.
2. We’re cleaning the basement. Slowly, painfully, clearing things out of the playroom that don’t get used or that the kids have outgrown. We pawned off an ancient and decrepit hide-a-bed couch. Getting it out of the basement resulted in only superficial injuries, yay.
3. There was a fatality crash this weekend. Not my immediate area of control. It’s fascinating, watching the consensus narrative be constructed. The pilot had been in a crash eight years ago, in which he was flying and his wife and two daughters were killed, leaving him and his son alive. This crash the pilot killed himself and his second wife, leaving the same son, now sixteen years old, critically injured. The narrative we are constructing here at work is that the pilot was at fault both times, killing his family twice. I do not know if that is true; the local news where he died is saying that the previous crash was attributed to pilot error, but I haven’t seen the NTSB report. I asked our Quality Assurance guys, and they haven’t seen the NTSB report from last time, either. We don’t know. Eyewitness reports from the field at this current crash seem to indicate the pilot was doing things in a non-standard and hazardous way.
It is easy to blame the dead guy. It’s easy to say he’s killed his family twice. That narrative fosters the belief that the accident was preventable, and that if WE were the pilot, WE would not have done whatever he did, and WE would have kept our families alive. It’s so easy to be afraid of the unknown and uncontrollable, and so easy to say that it must have been his fault. I know I’m not immune to this sort of thinking. I want to believe that the hazards of the world can be mastered by me, if I am vigilant and responsible and work hard and do the right thing.
Fatality accident statistics beg to differ.
4. I started watching the British tv series Misfits on Hulu. Teenage criminal offenders accidentally get superpowers. It’s a … It’s a weird little show. Dark, gritty, not funny or light-hearted. I really am enjoying it.
5. Work is still busy.
6. CONvergence! I’m going to be at CONvergence this coming weekend, Thursday through Sunday! Thursday and Saturday I will be there with my kids, doing family things. This happens to include running the party circuit Saturday night, collecting snacks and free junk from semi-drunk cabana parties. My kids love doing that way more than I do. Friday and Sunday I will be at the con doing Sigrid-things, like being on panels. Hope to see a number of you there!
CONvergence is so different with kids.
I started going to CONvergence before it was CONvergence, back when it was Minicon. Before the great fannish controversy of the 1990s here in the upper Midwest. I was twenty-one years old at my first Minicon, and it was the first convention of any sort I’d ever attended.
Back In the Day, I would get a hotel room with a bunch of other people, drink a lot of alcohol in the evenings, stay up ’til three in the morning, sleep in until noon. The first big change was when I stopped staying at the hotel. Commuting meant I didn’t drink nearly as much, and then it meant I didn’t imbibe at all. My job was another big change. I can never be sure if I’ll get the weekend off or not, or what time of day I’ll be at the con. So I can’t and don’t make plans.
The biggest change, though, is kids. I do a lot less sitting around talking with my friends at CONvergence. I do a lot more walking around, taking in the sights. I spend more time perambulating the party circuit with my kids than I ever did on my own. My conversations with my friends are brief, punctuated by moving on the the next thing.
Yet I still like CONvergence. I love the energy, the insistence on welcoming as much of fandom as possible. Fandom, all of it, all of them. Anime, movie, LARP, horror, paranormal romance, steampunk, goth, cyberpunk, tv, book, literary, comic book, filk, cosplay, science, tech head — everyone is welcome. The convention is huge, sprawling. I saw Catwoman helping the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man get his costume on. I saw Iron Man talking to people cosplaying The Guild. I saw a demon chatting with Poison Ivy in front of a steampunk backdrop with airships and telescopes. My kids love it.
My daughter, K, was too sick to go to the convention this year, which was a sad thing for her. But I took M. He wore his home-made Space Ranger costume on Saturday, consisting of white pants, a white t-shirt, an Iron Man arc reactor, steampunk goggles, a wooden sword, and a “ray gun” from an amusement park. I have a cosplayer on my hands. Two of them, actually.
Lastly, congratulations to next year’s CONvergence Guest of Honor, Lynne M. Thomas! I expect I’ll likely attend some of the GoH panels next year.