Sunday, June 29, 2014

Con Report: ConTemporal, Thursday and Friday

There are so many elements to convention planning, and the weeks and days before build in intensity in so many ways. This year I served as director of the literary and writers’ tracks, finding and inviting guests to participate in writing workshops and discussion panels. Daughter helped with discovering many of the area’s local steampunk authors, and she is helping this weekend as my “Lit Minion”. 

Thursday has become “the new Friday”, as people arrive onsite at the convention location. Daughter and I spent the day preparing for the long weekend and finally made our way to the hotel. ConTemporal celebrates guests and staff with a Thursday night dinner, and it was wonderful to see so many familiar faces and still meet a few new friends. Daughter and I sat with the lovely couple of Valentine Wolfe, as well as Scotty Sunshine and one of the founders of the Traveling Revelers. And Members of Nerdvana, the Triangle’s only geek burlesque show, delighted us with a brief after-dinner show, sort of a “teaser” of their performances over the weekend. We finished the evening with a late night swim in the hotel’s indoor pool, newly converted to saline, and relaxing in the hot tub, with jets if no real heat.

Friday morning began with the hustle and bustle of transforming the hotel into “Port Raleigh”. Unlike general or broad-based cons, ConTemporal is an *experiential* steampunk convention, with a cast of characters role-playing a storyline that’s been developing for the past three years. It’s exciting to see the space transform from bare rooms into multi-room stage, and then staff wearing t-shirts and jeans disappear and reappear in character, sporting top hats, corsets, skirts, and lots and lots of beautiful fabrics and leather. Throw enough gears and blinking lights around, et voila, steampunk!

Don’t mistake me, I have great admiration for the cosplayers and makers who work incredibly hard and bring tremendous creativity to their costumes and inventions!

Last year, I stepped in the last few weeks before the convention to run registration. We were so fortunate to have two fabulous volunteers who agreed to return and run registration this year (and next). Daughter and I helped in the opening hours, before the first literary panels of the weekend. She hekped out in reg throughout the weekend, but they really didn't need much from me at all, which freed me to attend to the lit and eriters panels and workshops.

We opened with an excellent panel, “What is Dieselpunk”, since the theme of this year’s ConTemporal centers around the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair (and a crossover with the inter-galactic Worlds’ Fair). Misty Massey and Doctor Q rose to the challenge to discuss everything from Art Deco and pulp heroes to swing music and noir that embody dieselpunk.

At the same time, a mix of costuming and literary guests joined to create “Five Minute Backstories” for cosplayers who wanted to add depth to their characters.

A more serious panel discussion on “What can professional organizations off the writer” was led by Suzanne Warr, Mark Van Name, and JM Lee.

And my longtime friend, author and musician Danny Birt, was on hand in the “Meet the Guests” area of the Bizarre Bazaar (aka “dealers room”). I want to give a “shout out” to Danny, because later in the evening, there was a hustle-and-bustle to unexpectedly provide entertainment in one of the large ballrooms. Someone asked me if I could get in touch with Danny. “Hi Danny, I have a huge favor to ask you. Would you be willing to play in impromptu concert. Um…now?” “I…could do that…I’ll get my guitar and be there in a few minutes.” What a great guest, and a great guy!

Before the impromptu concert, however, we had another round of panels, including “Are writers workshops for you?”, with Chris Berman, Darcy Wold, and Clay & Susan Griffith.

JM Lee, Suzanne Warr were joined by one of the Gin Rebellion to discuss “The steampunking of American culture”. And Dave Lee, Braxton Ballew, and Win Strock talked about “Steampunk 101”. I enjoyed Dave’s pithy description of steampunk. “In the late 1800s, the whole world was changing, not just Victorian England, but Europe, India, China, America. You can take any character from any part of the world from that time, and ‘punk’ it—make it your own. Give it your own unique flavor, whatever that is.” And I’m pretty sure it was Braxton who added, “Just throw in a few gears and flashing lights…”—a la our dinner conversation from the night before. :)

I also enjoyed chatting late in the evening with the lovely and talented Wendy Mehndi, as she drew a beautiful henna design on my arm. I’ve received many compliments over the weekend, from congoers and regular folk alike.

With Daughter in attendance, I didn’t partake of the more “unsavory” entertainments designed to foster the 1930s Chicago flavor. I still managed to stay up way too late, talking with lots of friends—often the best part of any convention.

Leona Boyd, Baroque Favorites

Time writing
Far too long

June word count

No comments:

Post a Comment