Four conventions in four weeks is a little excessive, even for me – however, you have to admit that every show I’ve been to lately has been a different kind: Zipcon was an Anime Convention – very focused on Japanese animation and manga. You might see a Spiderman or Deadpool there, but really it’s all about the cartoons. Great Lakes on the other hand was a comic con. They had a more straightforward focus on mainstream comics, with only a couple of media guests, and all of them comic related. The 80s theme made a great deal of fun as well. Horror Relm is strictly a horror convention, with a heavy media and film focus. To their credit they do in fact have a literary component, but it’s overshadowed by the media guests.
That leaves us with this weekend, my first time out to the Cleveland ConCoction. ConCoction is a sci-fi convention – there’s a few more elements in there, a little bit of anime and comics, but it’s far more about speculative fiction. There is a heavy literary influence here, with very few media guests and more authors doing panels then actors. There’s a lot of Star Wars here predictably, but there is also an enormous amount of Star Trek here as well, hearkening back a little bit to the old days of Star Trek conventions. Seriously, I have not seen this many Star Trek costumes in one place in probably 20 years? That was fun and refreshing to be around again. It made it the perfect place to debut my new Borg outfit (truthfully created with ConCotion at least partially in mind) and I spent Saturday going around attempting to add biological and technological distinctiveness to my own. Sadly, all I managed to assimilate was girl scout cookies.
Concoction has been around for three years now, and they been on my radar the entire time – my main barrier to entry has been the cost – concoction is a little bit more expensive than other shows its size and on top of that, their location is the Sheraton hotel at the Cleveland Hopkins airport – this is a problem because it means you are going to pay to park, and if the hotel lot fills up (which it did, long before I made it there) you’re going to pay a LOT to park. Just a Saturday ticket is $40 at the door, although if you register early enough you can get the entire weekend for about $45 or so, and if you can get into the hotel parking lot it’ll only cost a fiver for a place to put your car. But if you get stuck having to park at the airport lot, you’re dropping an extra $12. All that cost up front, with very few media guests has kept me away first few years, but when I won a admission last September during a costume contest, it definitely got me excited about coming and far more willing to brave the extra costs of going.
Yes, ConCoction costs more, but they try harder too. There is programming from early in the morning all the way up until midnight here, and that’s not even getting into after parties and stuff like that. There is a ConSuite on site as well, where are you can find food and beverage. I’ve seen Motor City Nightmares do a similar hospitality suite, but wit far less of a spread and you had to get a special VIP admission for it. At ConCoction, the Consuite is open to anyone attending the show. I had all of my meals there, and this is really a great thing… Not having to run away from the hotel to grab food, not having to strategically plan your meals. They kept me hydrated (kind of important in some of my costumes) and fed. They also held several the panels in this cozy dining room.
The panels at ConCoction are very interesting, not just the content but also in the way that they are run. A lot of them are far more of a forum than a strict panel – there is a lot of audience participation and conversation going on. As soon as I arrived, I ran into some friends who were on their way to a panel in the Consuite being hosted by Pete Mako (of Pete Mako in the Boogiemen, remember them from a few weeks ago?). I was still getting my bearings and found myself in the Consuite and noticed that they were there. I asked “I thought you guys were going to a panel!” Pete walked past me smiling and clapped my shoulder then said “This IS the panel!” The group, about have a dozen of them relaxed around a table and began discussing the topic of “Geek Dating”. It wasn’t the first time I’d see this, in fact later on I would sit down to a panel charmingly titled “Why You Are Here: Two Old Broads and Why They Ran (and stopped running) cons in Cleveland “. It was a discussion of behind-the-scenes at conventions, and what it was like to host the old Earth Cons back in the 80s. I like to consider myself a convention Veteran. I’ve been on the scene since I was a kid back in ’87, but these ladies were doing it back in the late 70s and started hosting their own show in’81… In fact Earth Con’s last show was held just before the first Star Trek Convention I ever went to! They discussed the difference between the Literary cons and media cons, something I’ve never even really been aware of – things were leaning a little bit more towards media and Star Trek conventions during my time. They reminisced about gathering diffrent groups together to gaming, sci-fi, comics and the how the cooperation from different groups help Make Earth Con a reality. The gamers would bring in Steve Jackson. The Comic people would bring in Stan Lee, while Earth Con would get someone like Anne McCaffrey or James Doohan. But then, the unity between the orginizations began to fragment, each wanting to hold their own conventions. It was fascinating to hear about how that cooperation transformed into competition.
I was riveted, so were a couple of the tweeners hanging out – a couple of junior high girls who were fascinated by the idea, and so excited about the convention experience that all they wanted to do was just find more shows to go to, and more time to spend at these events.
I sat back, trying to decide if thier giggling, gasping hyperactivity was annoying or inspiring.
The thing is, I was that age once. I remember… I remember what this felt like, I remember what it was like to break into the world of fandom, and I can’t help but smile – seeing it happen all over again, it really does makes me happy.
It really set the tone for a lot of the comedy show cases that we saw over this weekend There were two different improv troupes going on, and that made up a great deal of the sketch comedy happening, but also, later in the evening there was a group of stand-ups who came out to perform. This was really fun to see, with the subject matter tailored to fit the convention – sci-fi and fantasy genre jokes. Monster Bash is the only other show that immediately comes to mind that I know that has stand up as part of its routine. It’s a great late night filler and I had a lot of fun with it.
One of the highlights of Saturday for me was “Looking for Love in Alderaan Places”. It’s still improv, but with an outline. They know where they are going, and what the story is, but still keep in off the cuff. It has the feel and style of a classical farce – if it were written by George Lucas.
I managed to hit the “State of the Star Trek panel “with Larry Nemecek. Larry is an American Star Trek author, actor, editor, archivist, consultant, interviewer and producer. He has portrayed Dr. McCoy in the Star Trek Continues web series episodes “Pilgrim of Eternity” and “Lolani.” and has been around the franchise for a good long time – the buzz of course, is not so much Star Trek beyond, but the new Star Trek series that CBS all access is producing There is a certain degree of trepidation and pessimism that comes along with any of it, and he reminded us of that same kind of feeling back in the days of Star Trek : The Next Generation. You know what, I remember those days and I remember that negativity, but I don’t remember if that was me or not. I’d like to think that it wasn’t, I’m pretty sure I was excited just because there is new Star Trek been produced in my lifetime and that was unthinkable.
One of my favorite slides he showed was this bullseye from the writers room, basically all the possible responses you could expect from a pitch – and everyone was always aiming for the center.
There is something surreal about the fact that I attended this panel dressed as a Borg. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the room who found that funny, several pictures of the back of my head appeared online later on in the evening…
Litarary panels are fun, and really come from a different place than I’m used to. You get a diffrent kind of discussion, usually with far better referances and sources to back up opinions and ideas. “Growing up sci-fi” emphasised a lot of the isolation that you kind of felt as a sci-fi fan in the pre-Internet days. I’d kind of forgotten, and perhaps it wasn’t really true in my time, how sci-fi used to have a sort of “renegade “or “rebellious “reputation to it. I’m Pre-Internet as well, and I empathize with the writer who mentioned she didn’t know what it would’ve been like, how she would’ve handled it if she hadn’t had access to the online community when she was growing up as a sci-fi fan. It’s a fascinating perspective. I was blessed to have found friends in both school and Church who shared my passions and gave me an outlet for them. Equally fascinating was the writer who described reading the Star Trek novels long before they were ever able to see an episode of the TV series. This is fundamentally my story on how I experienced Captain Video and I totally get what you’re saying. I love seeing that idea overlayed on another series.
The comic book collecting panel, hosted by Ed Gosney, was little bit more familiar territory, though still very much more a discussion then a lecture. people talked about characters and earth that they loved. One of the Writers from the previous panel was there discussing how there are a number of comics in his collection where it was the art, the imagery itself rather than the story that captivated him. To the point where he eventually scanned those images into his computer, so he’d have the art without having to carry around the baggage of the books themselves. We talked about great finds, and the one that got away… One of the attendees told a story about a day out garaged saleing. He was with his mother but only had about three dollars to his name at the moment. In the back of this person’s garage he saw boxes, and boxes of comics. Longboxes full of rare stuff, seminal stories, important comics. The owner told him he could have the whole lot for $50. His mother of course, wasn’t loaning him the money no way no-how, so he grabbed a handfull of choice issues and ran out to the flea market. On the way there he called one of his buddies to let him know about the stash that was at this grudge sale – “if I don’t get out there, you need to “. He managed to raise the necessary $50 on those special issus he had snagged, and arrived back at the garage sale just in time to see his buddy loading that collection into his truck. Still from then on, every con that friend put on, he had his admission comped and a $15 credit at his booth.
I’m going on and on about the programming. I know. While I usually say that programming is the lifeblood of a con, it’s really true here. The vendors area is divided into three sections, an artist room, an authors alley and a proper dealers room. All three are about the size of my living room. Maybe a touch bigger. This is not Wizard World where you walk into a room the size of an airplane hanger packed full of vendors and scalper selling the latest things that Hot Topic has sold out of. The dealers here are artists and craftsmen, gamers and cosplayers.
You’ll find jewelry and puppets and dice and leather here. I saw custom fan neckties and mopey robots and strange flowers (I bought the girls wooden roses). It’s interesting stuff, more like the sort of thing you’d see at a Renaissance fair, not so much like what you may be used to seeing at a comic con. You can pretty much get through the dealers room in ten to fifteen minuets, so honestly, that better not be what you’re coming for.
There are a few more tables upstairs along the mezzanine. It’s a stunning view and a really cool space. It’s also out of the way and easy to neglect. The cosplayers are up there, and I made sure to get into a quick scuffle with Knightmage’s Darth Maul as we overlooked the balcony.
Oh yes. The band.
Five Year Mission is the collaboration of five Star Trek fans who endeavor to write and record a song for each of the episodes of the original Star Trek series from the 1960s. One of my friends is certain the bass player is going to drop dead after each show and have to be replaced because of the red shirt. It’s a remarkably good band with clever songs and good hooks. The band switches up instruments after almost every song which makes for an interesting dynamic – we get to hear just about every sing at one point and the songs honestly do get stuck in your head.
They weren’t the only musical act though. As I mentioned earlier, Pete Mako was here as well to do his set (which they scheduled during the costume contest! Come on! What’s up with that???). I caught his act at ZipCon and was really excited that he was going to be playing ConCoction. Pete was around all weekend helping out with bits here and there.
Cosplay is interesting at ConCotion. You don’t have the throngs of cosplayers swarming all around the joint like you do at an Anime convention, but a you have way more than the few dribs and drabs that filter into a Horror con. It’s a fascinating mix as well. There are a few superheros around, I saw a ninja Deadpool to die for. But there’s also fantasy, anime characters, steampunk folks, monsters and film characters.
There’s more puppets walking around than you’d expect.
It’s this fantastic variety that makes cosplay at ConCoction really something to see. There’s some innovation in a lot of these outfits I couldn;t have begun to imagine and I was always delighted to discover what new character was right around each corner.
They run the costume contest a little diffrently here. You sign up in the 10:00 hour, and are assigned a slot for pre-judging (mine was 1:45-2:00). You then sit down with the judges and talk out you costume. What it is, what it’s made of, how you did it, anything you really want to say. The masquerade is around 6. This is the stage show, MCed by Moxie Magnus, the chief cosmetologist on the USS Enterprise under Captain under James T Kirk, and the comedy (drag) queen of outer space. I had fun bantering with Moxie pointing out that my designation was 7 of 5 – none of the other Borg want to hang out with me and then sent me to ConCoction alone to assimilate the show.
The winner of the contest was this beautifully made Kaylee from Firefly, and I love this. It shows just how well they understand it. This wasn’t the flashiest costume, it’s not the trendiest. But it’s the most impressive because of the massive amount of work here. This dress is handmade, she did it all and it’s perfect. I’ve seen commissioned ones before and this is dead-on, a masterpiece of stitching. A great, well-earned win.
Santiago has been on hit TV Shows and Films on TNT, Lifetime, Investigation Discovery, Oxygen, USA Network, Fox, and of course on AMC as Julio in Season 4 of The Walking Dead.He’s the first person from the Walking Dead in fact, that I’ve met or gotten an autograph on that poster of mine in person from.
Santiago is a native of Lorain, which is a neighboring suburb to my own Elyria. We discussed the Lorain Palace and growing up in the area. The thing on his resume that I was honestly the most fascinated by was how he had done episodes of America’s Most Wanted. You never think about where they get the actors for the reenactments on those shows and I was surprised at how straightforward it is, casting calls the agent and an audition. For some reason I always imagined those shows casting differently. I only caught the tail end of his panel, but Santiago was around for after parties as well, in his Superman leather jacket and shirts. You can see he’s a fan at heart and fits well into this show.
After 11, the barfleet party happens. Drinks and dancing and socializing. The dance floor there is a smaller more intimate setting that the No Strings Attached Ball that happens around 8 in one of the main programming rooms, but still pumping the music with lights in the air and drinks in hand.
Honestly, there’s far more going on at ConCoction than I can cover. There’s always a couple things happening at the same time and I didn’t even begin to hit them all. I barely spent any time in the game room. There were always things going especially for kids in one room. There were music acts that I just couldn’t catch. I’m already registered for next year and if you can stash away a few extra pennies it’s definitely worth checking out.