N is for No

In the convention world, “no” is often an alien word. I am not referring to the No Pants Subway Ride 2013 even. I am talking about all types volunteers in fandom who have skills, and know that there is a vacancy in their organization. They want to serve because they do not see it being filled. That is time to step back, talk to those are close and will be affected by the decision, and know the limits of their time. How often does this happen? Not enough. I found my self here. I have seen others here countless times.

But, it is not only that individual’s fault. Those desperate to fill vacant positions can be guilty too. These managers, directors, department heads, con-chairs, or whatever the title is, need to assess these people and their commitments. Yes, they may have the skills, but if they lack the time, was that really a good fit?

Just think about things first. It is ok to say no.

M is for Mercedes Lackey

Meeting up with some technical difficulties, The A to Z Blog Challenge is back to its regularly scheduled posting….

I was going to do something else for “M,” but thought differently about it and I am saving that as a topic after the challenge is complete.

So, I am going to write about prolific author, Mercedes Lackey!

Larry Dixon and Mercedes Lackey Skyping away. Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/30169195@N00/4026681104/

Larry Dixon and Mercedes Lackey Skyping away. Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/30169195@N00/4026681104/

Discovery in a creepy Milwaukee bookstore

I had found this used bookstore just off of Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Milwaukee. They had the most interesting books, some of which probably sat on their shelves for ten or more years. My interest at that time was trying to understand some occult ideas, and I had this tendency to zero in on books that had “Magic” in the title. I was zipping by the Science Fiction & Fantasy section when this book, Magic’s Pawn, jumped out at me.

The story of a vain, young noble, Vanyel Ashkevron, sent off to his aunt’s home, and where he falls in love with her student, Tylendel. Their tie to one another breaks open Vanyel’s latent magical talents when Tylendel dies suddenly and quickly. Vanyel barely survives this ordeal and goes on to legendary feats for the sake of the country called Valdemar.

This series was so engrossing to me for a few reasons. For me, it was the mid-nineties and here were openly gay characters in a fantasy book, not one but three books actually. Second, finding love and purpose can change a person. And third, the story could have been about anyone- straight or LGBT- who is struggling through life.

Off to the races

Just a fraction of the books Mercedes (Misty) has written. Image from theaudiobookbay.com

Just a fraction of the books Mercedes (Misty) has written. Image from theaudiobookbay.com

I started on an obsession. I had to get my hands on anything she wrote, co-wrote, or touched. That was an interesting task considering all the different series she has in her bibliography. Her books are not all about LGBT characters, but Mercedes always makes for an interesting read. She starting publishing in 1987 with Arrows of the Queen. Her bulk of work is in the Valdemar world, but she also writes alternative histories about people with magical abilities, elves, bards, dragons, science fiction, and retold fairy tales. She has co-wrote with Piers Anthony, Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Anne McCaffrey, Dave Freer, Eric Flint, Rosemary Edgehill, and many others.

Mercedes has been writing now for over 25 years and has produced over 100 books alone. Go check her out and find something you like.

L is for L.A.R.P.ing

L.A.R.P.ing, not for the weak

Here we come, walkin' down the street. Image from http://www.larplist.com/Awards.php

Here we come, walkin’ down the street. Image from http://www.larplist.com/Awards.php

L.A.R.P. is the acronym for Live Action Role-Playing. It takes your regular role-play gaming and adds crafts, theater, and imaginary settings. This system gives the participants the chance to act out their character’s role in a small group or large scale production.

More than just swords and dragons

Often tied to Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) coming out of the 1970’s, L.A.R.P.’s are flexible in the scenarios and playing styles.  The fictionalized scenarios can range from Steampunk story lines, to Lord of the Rings, to a zombie apocalypses. The Society for Creative Anachronism is an international living history organization dedicated to recreating the Middle Ages, and can loosely be thought of as a L.A.R.P. organization.

Rules vary by the group or organization. Some groups have published their rules to be followed. Others just mandate the form of weapons and how they are to be used. While, yet others act under the tenant of portraying their character as appropriate to the scenario.

Play is refereed by game master(s) or arrangers that drive the scenario’s goals, and more mundanely book the venue, advertise the event, and manage the finances. Because they know the overall goal, the game masters manage the player characters acting out self-created roles or ones developed by the game masters.

Geeks come to the mainstream

Over the years, the media has picked up L.A.R.P. in television shows. However, we first heard news stories of how D&D was filled with occultism, satanism, and escapism. Over the years, these notions have been proven wrong. Now, we see L.A.R.P.s occasionally on the internet and television in a growing acceptance of geek culture. One of the best known geeky L.A.R.P.-minded personalities in my book is Felicia Day. She has her own internet show called The Guild, and plays a limited character, Charlie, on Supernatural.

Only Felicia Day can mix Star Trek and Middle Age L.A.R.P.ing. Image from http://io9.com/5978853/on-supernatural-felicia-day-makes-everything-ok

Only Felicia Day can mix Star Trek and Middle Age L.A.R.P.ing. Image from http://io9.com/5978853/on-supernatural-felicia-day-makes-everything-o

Ah, the awesomeness of Felicia Day… For more on beginning L.A.R.P.ing

F is for Furry

And then, there is Furry Fandom

Different levels of furry characters

Different levels of furry characters

When I planned my list for the A to Z blog, I thought that Furry would be good for “F,” but sitting here I am grasping at how to write about it without it being this huge long thing.

Here’s what I will do. I will start simply. The general definition for furry fandom is that it is a subculture interested in anthropomorphic animals according to Wikipedia. Right now you are scratching your head over the ten dollar word “anthropomorphic” (see I can spell it right twice!). Basically, it means an animal with human characteristics- intelligence, facial expressions, wearing clothes… And then, it breaks down into smaller subcultures.

Fursuiting

Here we have some college mascots- Bucky (yea!), Herky, Sparty, and Goldy.

Here we have some college mascots- Bucky (yea!), Herky, Sparty, and Goldy. Picture from http://talkingmascot.blogspot.com/http://talkingmascot.blogspot.com April 2011.

Three of these mascots are animal-based, and without the collegiate ties would be purely considered doing something called fursuiting. CSI episodes aside, some people are drawn to fursuiting as a way to interact with others in an anonymous way to get around their shyness. Others like to entertain. While yet another subculture uses suits for a not so PG13 use that I will not discuss in my mostly not adult blog.

Fursuiting takes form in different ways. The picture about shows a full suit. Partial suits are a combination of a head, arms, legs with human clothing. Others are happy with just ears and tail.

How did we get here though?

That same Wikipedia article credits Albedo Anthropomorphics by Steve Gallacci as the first Furry comic. However, being named in 1980 at a science convention, the anthropomorphics go all the way back to Mickey Mouse, and Felix the Cat when they were called “funny animals.”

Since then, people have continued to identify with cartoons, be it Bugs Bunny or the Thundercats. As the Wiccan/Witch movement gained momentum, people connected to the traits of their spirit animals. Others took it further believing they can transform or shape shift into an animal called therianthropy. This is becoming a common path in various role playing game systems.

It is a lifestyle

Furry fandom definitely has a cultural lifestyle.  Each year, numerous conventions are held all over North America and Europe. A few well-known conventions stateside  are:  Anthrocon (billed as the largest Furry convention in the world), RainFurrest, Further Confusion, and Midwest Fur Fest. In fact, I have mentioned this under “C,” that the Twin Cities will have their own convention in September of 2014 called Furry Migration (the site should be live any day now…). Previously, the conventions tended to focus solely on fursuiting & creating/building/accessorizing and graphic arts. Now, the trend is a focus on highlighting authors, publishers, games, videos, and gaming. Furry conventions are different from science fiction conventions in the way that the attendees interact with each other. They are families coming together again after visiting at the last convention. An interesting crossover does occur with Anime conventions, and cat girls. Well, more than just cat girls.

Who loves a parade? Fursuit parade at Midwest Fur Fest 2012

Fursuiting can be the ultimate crafting experience. Suits range in price from $500 to $10,000. Some folks like to build their own, while others go out and order them.

“Fursonas” are characters developed by Furry fans. Wikipedia attributes the development of these fursonas to role playing. That is correct, but I know others who have created them as an alter-ego. It is a place where mentally, they can relate better to themselves and others.

The development of the internet and Usenet is also has a hand in today’s Furry fandom. It is the belief of one of my friends that Furry fandom has such a strong gay representation because on Usenet you find alt.gay followed by alt.furry. This gave people an avenue to more freely talk about themselves and their feelings, wants and desires. I believe this is where the fursonas really started.

XXX

The television shows take the sex angle, and make it sensationalistic. As in any subculture, there is some aspects that not all people can relate to. CSI and other shows pick up on some random tidbit in the news, and they create a whole episode around it. Is all of Furry fandom like this? No, but it is something to keep mind.

And by the way, if you go out looking for more information, watch out for the hate sites. The first one I saw threw me for a bit. I am a female, and a Furry- some sites will say that I cannot possibly be both. Yet, this is voice people hear in the media, on the internet, and talk among friends. Furs just want to be respected, left mostly alone, and not be seen as deviants.

 

C is not for CONvergence

Yes, the blog is called ‘CON’undrum’s Rhapsody, but it isn’t CONvergence

For those who know me well, they would expect me to write about CONvergence. I, instead, wanted to write more generally about conventions. More specifically, I want to write about fan-run conventions. Geeks that live here in the Minneapolis/St. Paul (Twin Cities) area have a number of conventions to go to without having to leave the metropolitan area. They range from Science Fiction/Fantasy, Anime, Gaming, Horror, Culture, to Relax-A-Cons.

Blood, Sweat and Tears

All the conventions that I name in this post are staffed by volunteers. No one is paid to spend anywhere an average of 12 to 18 months organizing a weekend convention. Some conventions even have their staff pay for their membership/ticket and hotel rooms. What is even crazier, is that some of the staff crossover into other conventions. These people like to refer to their time spent as a hobby. I have been one of those folks, and I would not trade my experiences for anything.

Here is a run down of some of the local conventions by genre.

Science Fiction/Fantasy

CVGBritCONvergence Held each year on or around the Fourth of July weekend in Bloomington, Mn at the DoubleTree Hotel. 2012’s convention had an attendance of over 5,600 spanning four days. Memberships are purchased and give access to panels, demonstrations, movies, anime, coffee shop, ConSuite (food stuffs), dances, performances, parties, and more.

Diversicon  A convention built on diversity in culture, fan groups, and media. Diversicon is held the first weekend in August at the Best Western at Bandana Square. The convention is known for its unfettered approach to guests as they come from all walks of life.

Snarky275x277MarsCon A yearly three-day convention in March last held at the Crowne Plaza in Bloomington, Mn in 2013. They have just announce their move to the DoubleTree Hotel in Bloomington. A smaller convention with loads of fun. The venue lets attendees have more access to the Guests of Honor who come from more of a media background.

MiniCon Currently held on Easter weekend, MiniCon can boast that it is the longest running Science Fiction convention in Minnesota. The first year it was held? 1968! It also sets up at the DoubleTree Hotel in Bloomington, Mn. MiniCon is considered by some to be the progenitor for other conventions here in the metro area. It focused on all areas of Science Fiction for many years, then narrowed its focus to authors and more literary themes. The last convention had many attractions to appeal to a wide interest with movies, music, and gaming.

Anime

adlogoAnime Detour I am not going to get into to it here because the “A is for” post was all about this convention.

animefusion_logoAnime Fusion Started in part by some Anime Detour folks and others to have a fall convention that features old and new school Anime. They had their first convention in October of 2012 and had over 900 people in attendance. The convention returns this year at the Ramada Mall of America October 18th-20th.

Gaming

Con of the North One of the longest running fan-run gaming conventions in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Gaming activities include: role playing, collectible card games, war games, board games, miniature games, computer games, and many more games. This is a low key type of convention with some light programming with some costume events and auctions. Con of the North will return February 14th-16th, 2014 at the Holiday In St Paul East.

Horror

Arcana A theme continues here as Arcana is Minnesota’s longest running Horror convention. While this is year 42(!) for the convention, it has been held at the Best Western at Bandana Square for 21 years. Aimed at a mellow crowd, it is a convention geared to the “dark fantastic”  of H. P. Lovecraft, Bram Stoker, and others.

Culture

First, I want to define what I mean by a Culture convention. To me, it is a convention that focuses on aspects within a culture. Now, if that makes sense, let’s continue!

britcon_logoBritCon A brand new convention that will be held May 24th-26th (Memorial Day weekend) at the DoubleTree Park Place in St. Louis Park (yes, the metro area does have more than one DoubleTree). It “is the only three day event of its kind dedicated to celebrate BRITISH Science-Fiction, Fantasy & Folklore in Movies, Media & Literature,” as it is posted on their website. It looks to be brilliant!

FMlogoFurry Migration This is another new convention that is currently organizing. They have a hotel contract to have a convention September 12th-14th, 2014 at the Ramada Mall of America. Yes, this is way out, but this is what it takes to get it done right. The convention focuses on not only graphic artists and fursuiters, but also authors and  publishers with programming including Furry themed videos, games, and lifestyles. I am looking forward to seeing how this organization develops.

Relax-A-Con

Earlier, I mentioned that some people staff multiple conventions. This category of convention is for those amazing souls who put on the previously listed conventions and never get any downtime.

omegamanOmegaCon Held in Siren, Wi, this convention does not hold to being in the metro area.  However, with the large amount Twin City folk that go, I think that Siren is annexed temporarily to the metro for that weekend. Speaking of weekends, OmegaCon is generally the first weekend of November, but with its popularity, a Spring weekend has been added (April 26th-28th, 2013). It is a chance to relax with old and new friends over food, drink, games, movies, and vintage Saturday morning cartoons.

SuperCon Known as the “Great Geek Living Room,” SuperCon originated as a geeky escape from the Twin Cities in 1992 when the Super Bowl came to town. The weekend remains the same over its 20 year history while the host city has changed. Currently, folks head out to Hastings, Mn and the Country Inn. The agenda is to keep the convention as simple as possible with a ConSuite, and light programming. The idea is to socialize, whether through games or the Stitch hunt in the pool/hot tub.

But what about…?

I will not say that this is a final list. The conventions I listed here are ones that I am familiar with and have exposure to. Also, there are several for-profit conventions here in the Twin Cites, but I am not mentioning them.

A is for Anime Detour

adlogo

Since is it April, I thought a good start to the A to Z challenge would be Anime Detour (AD). It is the little Anime convention that could. In 2004, attendance came in at just over 1,200 people at the Minneapolis Airport Marriott. This was after two years of planning by the parent organization, Anime Twin Cities. The general attendance expectation of the staff was to see 400-600 attendees for their first year, ha! The following years have had  a cap on the attendance to help keep the growth in check, so the convention can continue to meet high expectations and be one of the premiere anime conventions in the Midwest.

 

They just keep coming back

Anime Detour has two Guests of Honor who return each and every since the beginning.

Carrie Savage‘s body of work spans almost two decades and covers a wide swath of TV series, video games, and movies. She not only is a voice actor, but has the talents of directing and writing in her arsenal.

Image from an interview at http://www.rightstuf.com/rssite/animeToday/individual/?ForumThreadName=FT0000000566&ReturnTo=Summaries

Kyle Herbert has an even longer anime resume as a voice actor starting in 1986 with Dragonball Z. Kyle started as a radio DJ in high school working his way up to Radio Disney, but he wanted more opportunities. So, he picked up and left Dallas for Los Angeles.

He won an SPJA award at Anime Expo in 2009 for the best English Voice Actor with his role as Kamina in Gurren Lagann. Not to be tied to just voice acting in anime, movies, and video games, Kyle has a weekly podcast. The BigBaldBroadcast airs weekly where Kyle is the co-founder and host with Otherworld Steve. (Image from an interview at http://www.rightstuf.com.)

Chris and Tadao

Chris and Tadao

Other guests who have become mainstays at Anime Detour are: Chris & Greg Ayres, Clarine Harp, Robert & Shannon Townsend (Studio O.N.Y.), Kris “Phade” McCormic, and Tadao Tomomatsu. The variety of guests cover more than just voice acting. Chris Ayres brings mock combat to cosplay around the US., while his brother, Greg, brings his mad DJ skills to dances everywhere. Clarine produces DVDs, Robert & Shannon illustrates comics, Kris collects A.M.V.s, and Tadao, is well Tadao.

 

So, this convention, it happens this month?

Why yes, in fact it does. It starts Friday, April 19th and goes until Sunday, April 21st. Anime Detour has the usual anime convention fare – video rooms, cosplay, artist alley, panels, dances, dealer’s room,and photoshoots.

redcrossdetourOne thing that sets AD apart from some of the other anime conventions out there is the sense of community. Just weeks before the 2011 Anime Detour, Japan was ravaged by one of the worst earthquakes in recorded history.  In three days, a convention with the average age of just over 18 years old raised $36,243.84 between charity auctions and collection boxes placed around the convention. Their reason for doing this? If it wasn’t for Japan, there would not be a convention called Anime Detour.

I will be there this year serving rice overnight. I hope to see you there, it is a fun time. However, as I mentioned at the beginning of the post, there is an attendance cap. If you are not already registered, find someone who cannot go and switch the membership to yourself. Otherwise, make sure you register early for next year.