Three Fall Conventions

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As part of my resolution to reconnect with my geeky pursuits, I made it out to three conventions this fall: The Edmonton Comic and Entertainment Expo, GeekGirlCon, and Pure Speculation.

The Edmonton Expo – Edmonton, Canada; September 28 & 29, 2013

EdmontonExpo2013I arrived at the new Northlands Expo Centre on a sunny autumn afternoon to find the entire convention packed with people. But not just any people—these were my kind of people. Fans donning their favourite movie t-shirts, and fantastic cosplay and making me regret not pulling a costume-making overnighter.

For only being in its second year, the size of Edmonton Expo was impressive, at 150,000 square feet, hosting over 100 vendors, 65 artists, and 16 media guests. As the sister show to CalgaryExpothe sixth largest comic-con in North America, Edmonton Expo expected 30,000 attendees, doubling its previous year’s attendance and reaching half of Calgary’s show. By the time I arrived at the show, tickets had sold out and many people were picking up tickets for the next day.

Visitors were not likely to be disappointed with media guest headliner Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown, along with the Delorean itself. Additional appearances included guests from Canada’s own supernatural crime drama Lost Girl, as well as Sons of Anarchy and The Walking Dead. While I’m not one to stand in line for a photo or autograph, I was impressed to see such a great lineup in my town.

What I was willing to line up for were the panel presentations. Being a digital comic reader, I was excited to hear Karl Kesel, in the panel Webcomics Know How, talk about his two-part series with Ron Randall titled, City of the Dead. The online comic uses the extended capabilities available in web viewing to show action and movement in the story. The project takes an impressive step forward in digital comics, and can be read for free at www.Thrillbent.com.

One of the other panels I attended was Beyond Tomorrow: Women in Science Fiction, which was my first gender-focused panel. The guests discussed the changing role of women in fan fiction, Felicia Day’s successful Geek and Sundry web channel, and gender bending in cosplay. The next day, I also caught Women Into Comics, a project by local comic enthusiast Stephanie Chan that highlights the variety and abundance of everyday woman who are into comics.

Joined by my friend, D, I spent the rest of the second day perusing the vendors that filled three massive halls. Having only ever been to the expo once, a few years ago when it was the much smaller Edmonton Collectible Toy and Comic Show, I was amazed at the number of vendors and the variety of wares. Limited to my (very flexible) resolution to stick to digital books and comics, I treated myself to only one comic—a Neolithic trade from Albertan publisher Red 5 Comics—and a fantastic print by Adrian Alfonso for my husband.

Overall, I was amazed at the sheer size of the Expo and the number of visitors for a city of barely over 800,000 people. While I personally prefer local and indie media, I can understand that a show of this magnitude naturally attracts a huge amount of commercial vendors, a detail that I am happy to overlook when well-balanced with relevant panels and interesting artists. Not only did this show make me want to attend again next year, but it also got D and I especially excited for…

GeekGirlCon – Seattle, WA; October 19 & 20, 2013

GeekGirlCon 2013, Seattle WA

D and I made plans over the summer to indulge our geek side by making a ladies’ trip to Seattle for GeekGirlCon ’13. Flying to Vancouver, Canada and then bussing across the border was rather easy, and gave us time to sleep after costume-making overnighters. Arriving the night before allowed us to settle in to our hotel and pick up our badges, before heading back to our hotel for last minute costume prep.

This was our first time cosplaying, and we both took on quite ambitious projects, with plans to make every detail as accurate as possible. I chose Black Widow, from Iron Man 2, determined to sew the entire suit myself. I hadn’t sewn much over the last ten years. D chose Nariko, from Heavenly Sword, resolving to make replicas of both swords. While both of our costumes turned out great, our biggest challenge was D’s bright, calf-length red wig. On the morning of the show, we spent about two hours trying to style the ridiculously long hair, missing the first morning altogether. Eventually, we just tied it all up into one long ponytail and went on our way. All the fuss was not for nothing, because in the end, D won first place in the Best Materials category.

D and I striking a pose after the costume contest.

D and I striking a pose after the costume contest.

The atmosphere at GeekGirlCon was completely different from the Edmonton Expo a few weeks earlier. The show prides itself in being “by geeky women for geeky women…no ‘geek cred’ required.” Walking into the conference, there is no judgement, whether you’re in or out of costume, old or young, male or female, straight or queer; everyone is welcome as the fan that they are. We were pleased to see full families, gay and lesbian couples, and middle-aged adults among the visitors. People of all races and skin colours, as well as all body types and sizes, celebrated fandom together. Seeing the diversity at GeekGirlCon was one of the most joyful things I’ve encountered this year.

I could have spent the entire two days racing between all the fascinating panels. The convention was not afraid to address sensitive issues like race, gender, and body size in geek media, but balanced such intense topics with other quirky, fun panels like NerdlesqueHome Geek Home,and Rule 63 Costuming: The Whys and Hows of Genderbending. Every panel I went to brought to light some fantastic points of view, and made me stunningly aware of the unbalanced representation in geekdom.

Breaking stereotypes and promoting exclusivity are primary goals of GeekGirlCon, and this was apparent in in the costume contest. The Best Individual category was awarded to a creative Gears of War Kitty suit, marrying full tactical armour with a Hello Kitty paint job. Many of the wonderful costumes can be seen on the GeekGirlCon Flickr page.

The convention closed with a rousing Ladies of the 80’s Sing Along, ending the song and dance with my penultimate karaoke song, Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart. A final live performance of Nothing to Prove by The Doubleclicks sent us all on our way feeling more secure in our geekdom and ever more part of the community. The entire weekend was an incredibly affirming experience, thanks to seeing so many women together celebrating their love for all things geeky. It is definitely a con that I will be visiting again, and one I would highly recommend to anyone. Tickets for GeekGirlCon 2014 are already available online for the weekend of October 11 & 12, 2014. Hope to see you there!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4Rjy5yW1gQ&w=560&h=315]

Pure Speculation – Edmonton, Canada; November 15-17, 2013

Pure Speculation

Pure Spec began in 2005 as a speculative fiction convention, but branched out into geek and fan culture in 2008, including science fiction, gaming, comics, and fantasy. This year’s theme, 20,000 Leagues Under the Spec, celebrated Steampunk fandom with extravagant costumes. Having never dabbled in the genre, I thoroughly enjoyed this show as an introduction to the enormous world of Steampunk.

Almost Three: my Steampunk themed pin made from random bits of materials and a glue gun.

Almost Three: My Steampunk themed pin made from random bits of materials and a glue gun.

I started the con by stopping at the Build Your Own Steampunk Accessory tables, where I was given a small bag of random metal parts that seemed like leftover jewelry-making clippings that I’d usually throw out. With nothing more than a hot glue gun, I was surprised with the level of creativity the participants had. I finished craft time with an impressive, clock-styled pin–aptly named Almost Three–and a new addiction.

Panels were nicely varied at the show, and I was delighted to catch Fake Geek Girl with Suzette Chan, Liana K, and Brandon Schatz. All three panelists had great perspectives, based on their unique experiences. I was particularly impressed with how Schatz, the manager of local comic store Wizard’s Comics, described how he makes recommendations for girls and women based on their other interests rather than the typical My Little Pony and Fables assumptions.

The other panel I particularly enjoyed was Women and Gaming with Liana K and Amber Scott who respectively play video games and tabletop games. Their mutual admittance of becoming so engrossed in gaming affirmed my own insecurities:

The discussion progressed to how we, as women, can get game-makers to change gender stereotypes and disparities in games:

Even though Pure Spec has branched out to include a variety of fandoms, it predominantly focused on speculative fiction. This was reflected in the single room that housed its 25 vendors was filled with mostly books. For a small, local show Pure Spec celebrates a strong contingent of Edmontonians who love their own corner of geekdom.

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About Author

On a daily basis, Sharon wishes she was scuba diving with turtles in the tropics. Instead, she spends most of her reality on dry land north of the 49th wearing legwarmers, feeding her compost worms, and correcting poorly kerned text. She one day hopes to live off the grid–except for her internet connection.

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