Friday, October 02, 2009

Conning Again - VCon 34 Day 1

It hasn't even been 2 months and I'm stumbling around a science fiction convention again... a pilgrimage to WorldCon/Anticipation this summer in Montreal, now my annual jaunt across town to VCon here on the Wet Coast. Does attending two in one year propel me into a whole other level of geekery? Perhaps the question is moot: a geek's a geek.

In my last post, I was complaining about the ongoing absence of the con program on the VCon site. During a brief period a couple of days ago when I managed to get my thrice-damned PC at home to get online (Windows is, in fact, the spawn of the devil) I noticed that they'd gotten around to putting a draft up. Sure, its incompleteness was such that you could have piloted a star destroyer through the holes, but I appreciated the effort of at least having something there.

At any rate, the con got under way this afternoon and I was able to get there in fairly short order after work. As venues go, the Marriot Pinnacle downtown isn't anything to write home about (so why am I writing about it in this blog?), but it's an adequate hotel and a hell of a lot better (both as a facility and in terms of the neighbourhood) than last year's joint in Surrey. I didn't get a chance to pre-register this year, but I lucked into a pre-registered rate at the desk because a couple of people weren't able to make it and had to have the con sell their memberships for them.

Something that struck me right off the bat about this year's con is that the schedule looks smaller. I don't have the programs from any of the previous year's cons, but it seems like there are fewer sessions per hour. A cursory glance also left me feeling that a lot of the session topics aren't that interesting. One of the things I have to give VCon credit for in the past is that the schedules had enough of a variety of interesting topics that for any given hour I was frequently having to choose between two sessions that had potential. This year, not so much. In fact, there are a lot of hours (too many) with sessions I couldn't care less about. Looks like I'll have plenty of time to head out for meals, take reading breaks, surf the net on my phone, or whatever. And that's unfortunate. I'd like to be in the position again of having so many interesting choices that there wasn't time enough for everything.

The dealers' room had a lot of the usual suspects - the costume dealers, game shops and book publishers that come out every year. But there were a couple of new merchants, including a guy with a stand guaranteed to pull in every steampunk fan in the building: lots of boxes of old Victorian and Edwardian era cogs and other machine parts - perfect to use in assembling your own steampunk gizmos. And for the non-do-it-yourselfers, he had a few sets of goggles for sale, and what steampunk afficianado doesn't want the latest in leather and brass adventure eyeware? In addition he had a few antiques that would have fit in at any weekend flea market. I had my eye on an old travel typewriter, but with two cons this year plus vacation plans, my budget just can't hack it. He was also hawking some Dr. Who-inspired wood carvings.

The art room was another usual suspects scene. This included more proof to back up my theory that there's some law of the universe at work that dictates every SF con art room must have at least three paintings of cats or lions/tigers/other oversized felines - sometimes with wings - submitted by female artists. Don't get me wrong, I like cats too - we have one that thinks he's the boss of the house - but just once I'd like to go to a con art room that doesn't have paintings of cats - winged or not.

At this point I dropped into the Monster Craze session about mid way through. It was basically a description of monsters from old movies and TV - how the costumes were made, who some of the actors inside the costumes were, stories behind the production, etc. Nothing wrong with that if you're a media monster history buff, but not something I want to sit through a half hour of. I left to get some supper and went from a gathering of geeks to a pub full of downtown big business powerbrokers and wannabes. Ate quickly and got back to my nerdy world.

Got back in time to catch the last few minutes of the presentation by artist guest of honour Miles Teves. Art sessions aren't usually my thing, but I'm glad I was able to see some of his stuff. Very cool concept art for some films, including a version of Medusa he created for the updated Clash of the Titans (currently in production, though there's no indication if they went with his design) and a take on the Lady of the Lake for a planned remake of Excalibur.

From there it was on to the opening ceremonies. I'll give the organizers credit: it was short and sweet. They had an hour but only used about 10 or 15 minutes - a welcome to everyone and the intros for the guests of honour. No need for anything else. Loved it.

I finished the day at the Preparing for the Upcoming Zombie Apocalypse session. Normally zombies aren't subject matter I enjoy, but this panel was so tongue-in-cheek and over-the-top I couldn't resist. The timing of this session couldn't have been more perfect either: the CBC site had an article today about the University of Florida cutting a zombie outbreak scenario from its disaster plan exercises (I'd actually heard previously that law enforcement and other agencies have been known from time to time to incorporate paranormal elements into exercises to test member ability to adapt). Getting back to the session, there were lots of fun solutions to zombie problems, like preying on their tendency to congregate at shopping malls and other large stores by luring them into Ikea outlets where they won't be able to find their way out. Comics guest of honour Lar DeSouza had the best take on how to meet the menace if it just wasn't going to be possible to go away: go to the liquor store, get some bottles of Jack Daniels, head on over to the comic store and wait for the end. Aside from a few moments where everyone was wishing an inebriated over-enthusiastic fanboy would shut up, this was a really fun session. In fact I'd go as far as saying this session alone was probably worth the price of registration at the con.

Must sleep now. Not getting up for any early sessions, but it's been a long day of work and con attendance. The challenge for tomorrow is to figure out what, of the small selection of sessions available, is worth going to.
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