I’m no stranger to conventions. I’ve attended Anime Festival Wichita a couple times. I watched Anime Nebrascon go from small little convention being held in a community college to massive convention occupying an entire hotel in the span of four years. I attended Planet Comicon last year to watch Kevin Smith and… Uh… The other guy (not Jason Muse), record Fat Man on Batman. I attended a horror film convention a few years ago, and met the guy who’s distribution company holds the rights to the Puppetmaster series.
In all those conventions, I’ve seen all the usual attractions. I’ve seen the cosplayers posing for photos. I’ve seen the guys show off their remote control R2D2s, and in more recent years, remote controlled BB8s. I have an autograph book that, while not exactly filled from cover to cover, has some names you might recognize if you like American voice actors, and obscure film stars. I even contributed suggestions for an anime themed improv group’s “suggestions in a hat” game once or twice.
In other words, I’m not a stranger to this sort of thing.
However, I’ve never been to ConQuesT before. Not until this past weekend, anyway.
I went with a couple friends, not entirely sure what to expect. Right out the gate, they had to help everybody’s favorite professional blind guy find the RIGHT convention, because apparently, the hotel hosting ConQuesT was ALSO hosting a tattoo convention on the other side of the building. And if you’re wondering at all, yes, there actually was a surprising amount of overlap between the conventions.
Honestly, as far as atmosphere went… It was pretty quiet. I did see some folks in costume, but compared to the madness of your average comic book, anime, horror film, and whatever convention, things were pretty tame.
In large part, this is because ConQuesT is more dedicated to scifi and fantasy literature than anything else. Book people are definitely as proud, but maybe not quite as loud as some of the other fandoms out there. Also, with a lot of books not having pictures or film/TV adaptations, cosplayers most likely have to use their imagination. At absolute most, I saw someone with a very intricate raptor costume, and someone… I wanted to say the polar bear from The Golden Compass, but that was mostly because one of my friends described them as big, white, and furry, and polar bears are the first thing that come to mind when I hear that description. It would’ve been hilarious if that polar bear was drinking a Coke. Just sayin’.
Of course, the main event of any convention is the panels. Unlike a lot of your usual panels, though, there aren’t a whole lot of Q&A with guests. Rather, the guests usually have a lecture prepared, or the staff had an event planned out featuring them that might or might not have been a good idea in practice.
And of course, in my attempts to become a better shameless publicity whore, I handed out cards to everybody who’d take them. And left what I wasn’t able to hand off on some table in the lobby for guests to pick up. Or for housekeeping to throw away. The important thing is I got rid of them.
I attended Steven Barnes’ panel on Afrofuturism: a subgenre of scifi and fantasy focused primarily on black individuals and their rolls in society and culture. I have to say, I wasn’t expecting it to be such a powerful presentation. Even if there was a mix up over whether his room got the whiteboard or not. Once we actually got in to the nitty gritty, this was the kind of lecture that, at the end, left me nigh speechless. I suddenly felt a little bad about having never read any of his books prior to attending.
I got to meet him afterward… And found I had nothing to say. I ended up shaking his hand, handing him my business card… Then, three days later, I realized I just pointed the man who’s a driving force in afrofuturism fiction to MY work. MY work includes The Gael Saga. Within Gael’s rogues gallery is CharKendrick Parks: AKA, Spook. Spook… Well… Let’s just say Spook is probably not going to win me any awards in political correctness any time soon. No, I didn’t exactly hand the character a bucket of KFC and tell him to go play basketball while he and his homies listen to Gucci Gang or anything horrible like that. However, if you’ve read The Hood and the Heroine, and read the chapters Spook narrates… Yeah, the rules of political correctness dictate I’m probably going to hell. And I only made it worse by possibly directing a guy trying to make a positive name for Black America without using hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter in that direction. Shit. Oh well, wouldn’t be the first time I accidentally burned a bridge.
Another panel at ConQuesT I absolutely adored was “Author Speed Dating”. The premise is simple: there’s eight authors, and eight readers. Each reader pairs off with an author, and the author tries to sell you their book. This, right here, is an awesome idea on paper, and it did not disappoint in practice.
True, some authors were better at selling me on their fiction than others. Sean Demory and Van Plexico were definitely my favorites, advertising such works as Polukaville, and The Sentinal trilogies respectively.
There was another author I met who’s book intrigued me, who’s condition intrigued me MORE, and… Unfortunately, I forgot her name. I’m SORRY! I just remembered offering to shake her hand, and she explained she had a nerve condition that resulted in tremendous pain if someone touched her. Even wearing clothing apparently hurt. I can’t remember her name, and I can’t remember the name of her condition, and after pulling up a tab that had all the ConQuesT guests, I’m unfortunately not recalling anything. Although I’M DEFINITELY positive it wasn’t Dora Furlong. I think Furlong wrote the Monster Keeper series, as well as the Olympus Talent Agency series. Both of which sound fascinating as well.
I did go to other panels… But if I’m being honest, those ended up being a bit more meh than I was expecting. They weren’t bad by any means… But I wasn’t really feeling them at the end of the day, either, you know?
I only hung out for Saturday’s festivities due to only having enough money for one day, friends wanting to get together on Sunday, and Monday being my day to sleep in, get some writing done, then forgetting I’m a Baha’i for a split second and getting piss drunk stupid while watching The Stanley Cup with family.
SEMI RELATED NOTE: GO VEGAS! FUCK THE CAPS!
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at ConQuesT. Maybe next year, I can actually register as a guest. It’d be fun to try the author speed dating on the author’s side. Maybe sharpen up my sellsman skills in my quest to become a better publicity whore.