Saturday, October 01, 2016

VCon Day 1 - Second Chances

They say "third time's the charm" but this year, the second time's the charm for me, at least when it comes to science fiction conventions.

A few weeks ago, I was in Ottawa taking care of my folks after my dad had knee surgery, and, by the time the old man had recovered enough to get around on his own again, it turned out that by coincidence I was there when the local con — Can-Con — was being held. It looked like they had a pretty good line-up of panelists/guests and when in Rome... or, Bytown, anyway. I set up a couple of interviews with some cool authors for episodes next season of Invaders From Planet 3, had plans to meet up with some friends, and was really looking forward to spending a Saturday seeing how the fans in Ottawa put on a con. Until the Friday night, that is, when I got bushwhacked by a kaiju-sized flu. Even if I'd been capable of dragging myself out the door (which I most certainly wasn't), I didn't want to show up sick and wind up being "patient zero" for con crud, so I had to bail on those plans.

Since I came home (on the infamous #AirIguana) — and finally kicked the bug — I've been looking forward to attending this year's VCon, and so far it's been a lot of fun.

I got off to a bit of a late start, wandering in around 4, but hey, it's Friday, the first day, and while there's programming, there's no real rush. Registration was slow as the volunteers were still figuring things out. One of the guys beside me in line got a little impatient, but I just shrugged and said that at a Worldcon, there'd be 200 people ahead of us in line (and probably more at some of the truly monster events like Comicon) and waiting in line is part of the con experience. Nothing to do but take it easy and watch the whirl of other con-goers going by, many in costume, all of them looking happy to be home. There are certainly worse ways to spend part of an afternoon. Besides, this year's registration package included a free book! What's better than getting a free book as a reward for waiting patiently? Nothing. Except maybe a free book and a unicorn. That would be cool.

Name tag finally in hand (or, clipped to my vest, anyway), I prowled around the hotel for a bit to get my bearings, and checked out the dealers' room. Not a bad gaggle of merchants in there this year, and I spent a fair bit of time browsing at the book dealers' tables and checking out the interesting finds the antiquarian dealer/replica jewellery maker had hauled in.

Up next was the Opening Ceremonies. This is one of those events that I feel a certain obligation to attend... it's the con's formal welcome to all of us attendees, the introduction of the guests of honour, and the occasional bit of info about what's in store. Lots of people skip it, but I figure that since the con organizers and the guests are putting it on, the least some of us can do is come out to listen to them. This year's opener was quite funny (especially when Neo-Opsis editor — and Editor Guest of Honour — Karl Johanson got up, donned a golden Star Trek command jersey, and belted out a 'Trek-themed cover of "I wanna go home"), at times touching, and, surprisingly, mercifully short. The perfect way to kick things off.

Then it was time to violate one of my prime rules of con attendance: never buy anything from the dealers' room on the first day. Because there are always exceptions. This time it was to hit one of the publishers' tables to snag a copy of this year's edition of the Tesseracts anthology (#19 — Superhero Universe — edited by Claude Lalumiere & Mark Shainblum) before it sold out. I'd have been pretty bummed if that one didn't make it home to my collection. Mission accomplished, I adjourned for supper...

...And made it back in time for the truly excellent "Minions" panel. Not "minions" in reference to the movie about the little yellow pill-looking guys from the Despicable Me franchise, but science fictional minions in general, like Otis, Doctor Watson, Darth Vader, or Beaker. Lots of great discussion from panelists Rick Sutcliffe, BJ Allan, Stephanie Johanson, Randy McCharles and Donna McMahon about what a minion actually is (versus a sidekick), what the different kinds of minions are, whether minions are exclusively evil or whether good guys can have them, and other henchman (henchperson?) related issues. Really good audience participation in this session too. It probably could have gone on another two hours, but it ended on time and on a high note.

Speaking of high notes, I can't talk about the Minions session without mentioning the man of the hour: the guy in the loud orange Star Wars cantina Hawaiian shirt! I had to get a picture of it, and he was proud to pose. This piece of nerd couture was truly magnificent! It's too early to say this was the best piece of attire of the con (Saturday, after all, is when the cosplayers come out in force), but at the very least, this cat was the best dressed today, hands-down! This IS the shirt we're looking for! In fact, when I came home, I immediately checked online to see if I could buy one. Sadly, the Disney store has sold out of it in the larger sizes. Depression over being denied an awesome aloha shirt is a path to the Dark Side. Must... construct... a red light sabre...

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