Ah, spring. Baseball, fickle weather, beautiful flowers, allergies…and conventions! Washington has outdone itself over the past month with some gorgeous weather. It almost seemed a shame to spend the weekend ensconced indoors, but there were people to see, money to spend, and Cards Against Humanity cards to collect from some of my favorite authors and artists as well as a few new-to-me ones. Here’s a rambling recap of our debut attendance of Emerald City ComiCon.
A bit of summary before I get to the recap, for those unfamiliar with fandom conventions in general and ECCC in particular:
A convention such as I’m discussing is defined by the Google as “an organized meeting of enthusiasts for a television program, movie, or literary genre.” Cons can run anywhere from a single day event to an extended weekend (perhaps more – while I’ve never attended a week-long convention, I won’t say one doesn’t exist) and are generally held in either convention centers or hotel conference rooms or a mix of both. Some focus on a particular fandom – such as Star Wars or Star Trek – while others widen their scope to a particular genre – such as anime (all the anime cons…omg), comic books, or horror. Still others, like DragonCon, just welcome the fans of ALL THE THINGS to come nerd out across two blocks of downtown Atlanta.
Emerald City ComiCon is primarily a comic book convention.Sure, it has other guests, panels, and activities, but its main focus remains on comics. It’s a longer convention, running from Thursday through Sunday, with local businesses providing goodies and events in the days leading up to the con. It’s also a rather large convention. I don’t have the numbers for 2016 yet, but 2015 attendance was estimated at around 80,000, and it was only Friday-Sunday. Oddly enough, though it was only in the convention center with some spill-over into the Sheraton, it didn’t seem as crowded as Atlanta’s DragonCon which is spread over five hotels and a convention center.
Con goers are also as varied as the cons themselves. There are the awesome cosplayers, the dealer’s room/artists’ alley junkies, the people who go for the panels (I tend to do a lot of that), the gamers, the actor fangirls/fanboys, and the people watchers (yup, me again).
For those unfamiliar with cons, a brief description of some of those things:
- Autographs – an area of long lines and long waits so folks can take your money to scribble an indecipherable squiggle onto your beloved whatsit to prove you’ve actually gotten to see your favorite whoever. Been there. Done that. got the squiggle on my whatsit.
- Photo Ops – an area of longer lines and even longer waits so folks can take even more of your money so you can spend 5 seconds with your favorite whoever getting a picture made to brag to your friends #whatdidhesmelllike (yes that’s an inside joke from the con)
- Dealer Room/Artists’ Alley – a huge area designed to take your rent money, your car, and your first born so you can pay to check another piece of luggage on the way home to carry all your goodies. The Dealer Room is like a nerd/geek version of Wal-Mart where you can buy ALL THE THINGS and even get some of them signed! Booths sell costume (complete or just components), books/comics, original art, jewelry, food, toys, t-shirts…pretty much anything that will attract the attendees will be sold. Artists’ Alley usually consists of artists both local and/or famous selling original works generally in keeping with the con’s theme.
- Gaming – board games, card games, video games, RPGs…you name it, most cons will have something for everyone. ECCC even had an escape room which I wish we’d gone through but there wasn’t enough time.
- Panels – One hour (usually) “classes” hosted by a con guest(s) or fan(s).
- Actors may discuss their latest project, talk about behind the scenes stuff, or just do a stand-up routine. Generally followed by a Q&A session. I didn’t attend any actor panels this year but John Barrowman gives a great one, just FYI, and George Takei loves hearing the sound of his own voice lol
- Authors may discuss the their newest works, the differences between the craft and business of writing, give out advice, read deleted scenes from some of their works and why it was cut, or do goofy gameshows that make you realize they’re all, essentially, 12 years old. Depending on the type of panel, they also generally offer a Q&A and can be a bit more approachable than the more famous actors.
- Artists pretty much provide the same types of panels – discussing the craft, industry, and current/upcoming projects – along with a Q&A session afterwards. I haven’t attended any artists’ panels so can’t really comment on more than a general feel based on a description of the panels as listed in the guide.
- Other panels might include true science (comparing science fiction with science fact, discussing the scientific truths/fallacies of things in scifi stories, etc), cosplay (how to cosplay on a budget, gender bending a character, how to make props, etc), gaming (usually run by industry officials to discuss new games, how to create your own game, etc), and anything anyone could think of that someone else might be interested in learning about.
As this was my first year at ECCC, I spent a lot of time people watching, way too much money and time in the dealers’ room, and the rest in author panels. I met some amazing new-to-me authors, got a list of books I need to try out, and fell in love all over again with my favorites.
The “Would I Lie to You?” panel, based on a British game show, was as hilarious as you might imagine. Moderated by Jason Hough, two teams of three authors each had to read one of two cards which contained a sentence either true or a lie while members of the other team had to guess which it was. I really felt sorry for Myke Cole. He was so certain he’d ace the game and a few just threw him totally for a loop. Robin Hobb had the best “how I met my future spouse” story EVER. JL Murray asked everyone #whatdidhesmelllike? And who knew Kevin Hearne used to be a singing waiter?!
Another interesting and informative panel was “Deleted Scenes” with Kevin Hearne, Peter V. Brett, and Robin Hobb, moderated by Tricia Narwani. In it, the authors read all (or part) of a scene cut from one of their published novels and discussed why it needed to be cut as well as how or if they agonized over it. Even our most favorite scenes may need to go if they don’t further the narrative. Hit the road old dude. Kill your darlings. Murder all the pretty, pretty peacocks.
“The Business of Writing Romance” focused not on the art of writing, but the boring yet essential to know business side. Anna Alexander and Danielle Monsch discussed the highlights of what’s needed to publish your book, be it through self-publishing, small press, or the Big 5. They touched on the red flags to look for in a publisher as well as how to decide which path is right for you. This panel really didn’t contain much information I wasn’t already aware of, but it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the business end. It was also the only panel I attended that had a small press to self-published author in it though others were hybrid authors.
Overall, ECCC was worth the money. We only live an hour’s bus ride from the convention center but stayed in a hotel just for ease/comfort. We had a lovely room at the Sheraton Seattle and they didn’t jack the prices up nearly as much as the Atlanta DragonCon hotels. Good job! Waits for restaurants in the area, even the hotel’s, wasn’t as bad as we expected with the greatest wait time a mere 25 minutes. The con floor was crowded but not too bad. The dealers’ room/artists’ alley was much worse on Saturday than on Friday afternoon when I spent too much money at Badali Jewelry buying Iron Druid, Dresden Files, and ElfQuest pendants.
Most fun, though, was getting favorite and new-to-me authors and artists to create questions and answers on blank cards for the game Cards Against Humanity. I got some amazing ones I can’t wait to show off.
Again, I didn’t get as many pictures as I’d hoped, but the ones I did get, I’ll post up on Facebook. It was a blast and we’re already looking forward to next year!
ETA: I totally forgot the Dark Humor thing! How could I forget the Dark Humor thing?
Wow, all those words and I forgot the big “Authors Against Humanity – Dark Humor in Lit” panel kerfuffle on Saturday that resulted in an epic pair of tweets by Richard Kadrey. The panel was about writers placing humor in otherwise dark-themed stories, things you laugh at and then immediately think “I’m going to hell for this” while still chuckling. The panel itself was an interesting one. The authors, for the most part, were new to me. I’d heard of a few of them, mainly Kadrey, but hadn’t read any of them.
When they got to the audience Q&A session, the first question really changed the tone. Have you ever been in a room where everyone is having a grand time and then suddenly someone does something awkward or offensive and every person there does a mental or physical step away from that person? Yeah, that happened.
The guy asked whether or not the panelists had ever put a joke or humorous situation in their books that they later looked back on and cringed/regretted. It was actually a great question…until he decided to elaborate. What followed was a long and rambling complaint about overweight people cosplaying slim characters – he used Sailor Moon as his example – and how it used to be socially acceptable and even funny to mock and criticize these folks for daring to cosplay outside their body types. When asked who thought these kinds of jokes were funny, he replied with “everyone.” The authors tried to point out that the cosplayers never found it funny, but this guy was determined to stick to his guns.
Finally, they each took turns pointing out to the guy just how shitty his concept of humor was with either Randy Henderson or Robert Brockway stressing that if one MUST create humor at someone else’s expense, then you ALWAYS “punch up.” Mainly, you go after those higher than you on the power food chain, never those even or below. Thus a C-list celebrity can punch up and mock an A-lister but never punch down and target the poor schmuck who works the lights. But the overall attitude was simply don’t punch at all, but create your humor elsewhere.
The guy stepped away from the mic and LEFT the panel. We were then treated to the joys of a lovely story by an embalmer/mortician who simply entranced the panelists. I think they want her to join the panel next time lol
The resulting tweets concerning the kerfuffle are pasted below because…hell yeah! I now ❤ Richard Kadrey