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ConCoction 2019

Conman43094674_2129135710636415_4864246115660201984_n52775109_279834182934958_4688500262975832064_nSlimer watched the sad clown join H.P. Lovecraft as he was chatting up Captian Marvel. Behind us, drunk furries chased each other. This is the sort of thing that can really only happen at ConCoction.

I got out of work later than last year but still had hopes that i could make the opening cermemoniesif I stepped on it. When I rushed into the Bertrem I saw to my dismay that the line for registration was almost out the door. A man worked the line with a bowl of choclates, handing out Dove mins to everyone.

“Long line triggered the candy bonus,” he explained.

53279010_2363503717027371_547781949997973504_nI got my badge too late to make the Opening ceremonies so I headed back to the car to pull on my Ghostbusters coveralls. I shrugged the proton pack on and tossed the gloves and goggles into the monkey head. I noticed that breathing was difficult due to the poor ventlation in the large mask and didn’t want to get into it until I’d gotten inside the building. Knightmage sotted me as I was wandering in and headed over to greet me and look over the costume.

“Tracy the Gorilla,” he said shaking his head. “Man, that’s obscure. Did you just see the monkey head and think Tracy?”

“It was in the back of my mind,” I admitted. “But a gorilla suit is also one of those things you should just HAVE in your closet – like a little black dress.”

Tracy of course was the third member of the original Ghostbusters from the 1975 TV show  starring Larry Storch (Who I met a year or so ago) and Forrest Tucker. When Filmation made thier Ghostbusters cartoon, they stated that the characters were the grandsons of Storch and Tucker, but that Tracy was the same gorilla. I wanted to mash it 53255429_2363503677027375_5639671816361345024_nup so I decided to up Tracy in a proton pack and coveralls from the ’84 movie (though I added a t-shirt with the filmation logo under it, one extra touch), integrating him into the  Columbia Ghostbusters as well. ‘Mage circled me to check out the pack as I pinted out the christmas lights and laundry detergant caps  that made up the prop. He laughed as I excused myself to head inside.

Living inside the Gorilla head was similar to wearing Mr. Freeze. I had to keep moving to keep circulation going in the mask otherwise air would get stagnant. I was right to make Concoction the premire for this suit though – it’s one of the few places that would really get the gag, and boy did they. I caught my buddy Jason as well as connecting with Nicole and spotting Annye and her husband Zeke on the other side ofthe hall. Wandering in to the art show I head Vanessa’s voice pipe up “I know who’s in that costume!”. It’s always good to be at Concoction. Much like Cinema Wasteland, it’s home. Even if there’s no familiar faces around, yo ucan talk to anyone. It’s one of those very few places where the words “Mind if I share your table?” dosen’t fill me with dread. I ate with strangers 53529161_2363501810360895_3847785166680358912_nseveral times in the con suite chatting abotu the day and the goings on. In the corner, a rack full of battered old sci-fi paperbacks was available to browse. That’s one of those things I love about Concoction – the books. That heavy literary focus helps it feel a lot like the Star Trek conventions of the 80’s. Roger Zelazney ut it best in Nine princes in Amber – “It makes me feel comfortable and secure to have walls of words, beautiful and wise, all around me. I always feel better when I can see that there is something to hold back the shadows.”

I had my own book with me, a copy of my battered old “Dreams ofthe Raven” by Carmen Carter, but honestly, I barely touched it. During lunch, my table mate and I listened to the energetic conversation going on next to us.

“See, Scooby Doo dosen’t ever interact with anyone else on the team.  That’s because he dosen’t actually talk – it’s just that Shaggy is high off his gord the entire time! And anyone who thinks Daphne and Fred are together is nuts. Fred is asexual – he’s totally oblivious. Daphane is one of those spoiled rich girls – she’s just there to play with him and break his heart. He looked like someone she could manipulate like that. But man, she HATES Shaggy…”

The volume occasionally elevated to near shouting. I looked over at my tablemate. Like mine, her eyes were wide in disbelief behind her tablet.

“This is the best panel of the weekend!”

Back in the actual programming, I sat in on Knightmage’s Cosplaying for Charity panel. Halfway he paused to shake his head laughing at me, sitting in the back.

“The gorllia just keeps…STARING at me!”

“I can fix that!” I exclaimed and brought down the Ecto Goggles, covering the unblinking gorilla eyes.

“That’s not better!”

As the evening wore on I wandered over to the comedy showcase. Concoction is the only other convention I know of besides Monster Bash that includes stand up comedy and I always dig it. Two of the comics were late so the host kept us entertained with cat videos on  the projector. About twenty minuets late, the set started. I whipped out my camera hoping to livestream the set (So I could save it later) but once t he material began to involve graphic depictions of The Simpsons knocking boots, I thought better of it. The show started to slow down with the second preformer.

“You know what? Let’s talk about some stuff that you guys are intrested in. What do you want to talk about?”

He pointed at me. I comically looked behind me, making sure he wasn;t refrecing another gorilla. and then pointed to myself in exaggerated motions.

“Me?”

“Sure!” What do you want to talk about? Bananas?”

“That’s a very hurful stereotype,” I deadpanned. The room lost it.

Before I snuck out later the host walked by me and clapped me on the shoulder, telling 53026379_2363503607027382_394056308740849664_nme I got the biggest laugh of the night.

After five hours in the monkey suit I’d had enough and shed the Ghostbuster look before returning to catch the Confused Greenies do improv games. I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay fo the Saturday night show so I wanted to make sure I got to this one. They started out with a skit about aliens arriving on earth during Carnivale, then went into Whoose line type comedy. Close to midnight, I decided wisdom was the better part of valor, and popped out early, skipping the barfleet party to brave the hour drive back home.

I was back around ten the next day, this time clad in my cumbersonme Slimer costume.I always seem to do themes at Concoction. It’s something that was coincidental at first but now has pretty much become intentional. As much as I like Tracy, I didn’t feel good about entering 53086134_2363502643694145_4909832550647595008_nhim in the costume contest. He’s mostly assembled. It’s a wierd assembly, but other than the proton pack, feet  and googles it’s all stuff I bought. Slimer on the other hand, is 100% made from scratch -and he’s not been out nearly as much as I’d like. Still, Slimer wasn’t the costume I was really looking foreward to. I couldn’t wait to see my friend Annye’s Iron Marvel. She’d crafted the Captian Marvel suit out of foam insted of leather and the result was nothing short of spectacular.

We were stked to discover that Guy Allen was set up again in the Annex and headed over there to get some professional photos done (I so rarely get that opprutunity).

I managed to catch some of Jim O’Rear’s panel on horror before stopping over at his table and getting my Dawn of the Dead poster signed. He asked me if I was a Romero fan. I nodded. O’Rear expanded on how Romero was such an influence on him.

“Man, I saw Night of the Living Dead, and it changed everything for me. I was like – this. I can get into this.”

O’Rear ended up at the table with Jason, Tina and me for lunch.

Saturday consisted of the Doctor Who panel,  the costume contests and picking up dragons for the kids. I made sure to grab a photo with Mogchelle who was dressed as Sabrina – my daughter Maddie is a huge Sabrina fan and just discovered the old mangas coming off the new TV show. I found her an old Archie with Sabrinia in it as well. Even the Cat got something. I found an adorable catnip Cthulu for Sparky. It was to my great reluctance that I had to cut out early, but Clue was screening at the Cedar Lee at 9:30 with a live shadow cast and I couldn’t miss it. But I’ll tell you this much; I’ll be back at Concoction next year!

 

 


Cleveland ConCoction 2018

Conmanconcoction.jpgI skipped out of work about 45 minuets early to catch the opening ceremonies.  I wondered if it would feel different this year at the new venue, but no, the set-up and delivery was just what I was used to. in fact, instead of feeling out of place in the new hotel, it instead felt like coming home.

For the last couple years I’ve sung  the praises of ConCoction and written book length articles on my experiences there. While the show hadn’t quite grown bigger than their excellent accommodations at the Hopkins Sheraton, they HAD outgrown their parking space almost immediately, finally prompting the move east to the Bertrem in Aurora (just 29063264_1858368214207593_1195693977594629769_noutside of Solon). It makes it an hour drive for me this year, but it’s a fine trade off to not have to face the possibility of $12 parking daily.

The show easily managed to fill out the new venue, splitting between two buildings. In the first, we had the artist and author allies, as well as two proramming rooms. A small outdoor walkway connects the buildings, leading to the sprawling game area along with a small conference nook, and larger media friendly room. The dealers room is over here too, a good move that assures everyone visits both sides of the show. Parties still pop up down the hall in the rooms, just follow the sounds of the music. The new venue feels right.  It feels like ConCoction has come home.

29026129_1904456009625023_4480503129712854612_nProgramming was as impressive as ever. I’ve heard for years about the Harp Twins from my friend Sean but never really sat down to listen to them. I snuck into the back of their first concert and discovered that I really needed more of this in my life and made a special effort to catch most of their second performance  the next day. I also made a special effort to see Pete Mako’s show – he’s changed his schtick from the Boogie Man to the Rock and roll Devil , but the music still felt like the fun acoustic rock I’ve really come to enjoy from him.

Psychology of Cosplay, how to survive a Zombie Apocalypse, Doctor Who, these are just a few of the panels I was able to attend when not strutting around in a Lego suit, getting into sword fights in the dealers room (I STILL WANT THOSE PHOTOS!) or hanging out with friends old and new. ConCoction is still one of the only shows I do more than one day of, and the programming is a big part of that. Equally important is the old-school sci-fi convention feel that they maintain. The show continues to grow every year and here at their new digs, I can see them expanding more than ever…and I plan on being right there to watch it happen!

 


ConCoction 2017

As the storm whipped the snow around the building outside, the Eternian man-at-arms made his way past the pool and into the gloomy cavernous lobby of the hotel – a small ghost floated by his shoulder and he found himself following the green Dalek down the hall. No one batted an eye. After all, this is ConCoction.

As it neared the piles of records and old videotapes guarded by a sign that simply read “free” the Dalek found itself stuck and unable to proceed. His companion asked “what’s wrong Skarino? ”

“Stuck!  Un-able to pro-ceeeeed!”

“What’s the matter?”, his companion queried.

“Carrrr-pet! Carrrrr-pet! ”

Dalek Skarino was given a friendly shove, freeing him from the snag and proceeded to make his way down the hall towards the opening ceremonies. Dalek Skarino is one of the hosts at ConCoction, usually found in the ConSuite (a lounge area with food, drink and books available to relax with) or hosting improv games like the Doctor Whose Line Is It Anyway? (which would occur the next day).  This year he was joined by Vladimir Snape, a Alan Rickman impersonator who has to be seen to be believed – it’s more than just the costume, it’s the intonation and attitude with which he holds himself. It’s dead on, and when he whips out his illuminated wand, you had better watch out!
During the opening ceremonies we were also introduced to musical guests like Tom Smith and the Blethering Humdingers, as well as cosplay guests Mogshelle, Super Kayse, and Nerd Girl – affectionately referred to as the Charlies Angels of cosplay. I was just happy to have finally gotten in early enough to catch the opening ceremonies and learn a little more about ConCoction!

ConCoction is an entirely fan run convention, it’s non-profit and very much done old school. I mentioned last year in my review that it reminds me a great deal of the Star Trek conventions that I used to attend as a kid… There’s a reason for that – the people here who work at this con and organize it are vetrans of that sort of show, it’s not a big corporation merely trying to cash in on fandom (like say, the Wizard World con that’s blowing into Cleveland this weekend…) This convention is done with the care and attitude of an old literary convention mixed in with some renaissance fair and Sci-Fi con style.

It’s my second year at the show and I started to run into friends almost immediately, Jason and Tina ambushed me in the lobby and of course I had to stop to let my little Orko dual with Snape! the first event I made it to, ended up being Tom Smith’s performance. Smith is a fun humour songwriter. He pulls up with his guitar and begins to sing songs about fandom, about fairytales, anything really that comes to his mind…delivering it with his own twisted sense of humour. It’s exactly the sort of filk exhibition that ConCoction is full of. Indeed I spent a great deal of Friday night in musical performances.
Vlademir Snape was next. In addition to being a dead-on impersonator, he’s also a talented musician and the front man for a band called Platform One. He was solo here however, performing mostly cover songs in the sort of dark and haunting style you would naturally expect from Hogwart’s potion master. He interacts with his audience frequently, which really connects you to him. It’s delightful to watch him look devilishly at the girl in the front row and promise “we’ll do something upbeat this time!” just before launching into Nine Inch Nails’ “hurt”. I got some of that business myself, as I snuck into his second performance the next day in full Jor-El regalia, complete with Baby Superman. He kept glancing over, and trying not to laugh until finally breaking down and announcing “I’d just like to point out, I’m really enjoying the baby in the rocketship! “. I felt bad when Jason came to retrieve me out of the song said so that I could do his phantom make-up!

The Confused Greenies Patchwork Players were back this year of course… The improv troupe has been a part of ConCoction since its first convention in their set seems to expand a little bit every year. This time around in addition to doing improv games, they were also doing two plays – an hour each, semi improvisational with distinctly fan-based subject matter. Friday night was the tri-wizard tournament of 1594, followed Saturday night’s Beauty IS the Beast – a slightly more adult to take on the beloved classic, presented in a very farcical way. Triwizard was reasonably mild while Beast was evening programming. Of course, as the Greenies would warn before every act, “If your kids get the jokes, it’s YOUR fault, not ours!”

The Confused Greenies were joined by this years musical guests of honor the Blithering Hummdingers (How on earth did autocorrect get that name right anyhow????). This duo bills themselves as “Wizard Rock”; a folky sort of acoustic rock rooted in Harry Potter lore with smatterings of fan culture. This seems like a GREAT idea.

It really does.

It sounds like a perfect match.

I don’t know what it was. Perhaps it was the fact that they were following the excellent performance from Vlademir Snape or perhaps it was the really esoteric nature of some of thier songs…perhaps I just don’t get the humor but whatever it was, this just wasn’t my thing. While technically proficient and excellent musicians this act kind of left me cold. Still, the integration wit hteh improv troupe was pure genuis and a perfect idea. I think I enjoyed thier bits during the Triwizard tournament more than thier actual sets!

There was a serious Harry Potter influence this year. If you didn’t know that the convention’s theme this time around was supposed to be “Grimm Faerie Tales” it’d be easy to assume it was a Potter con. I headed upstiars to check out the tail end of the Harry Potter panel comparing and contrasting the books with the movies. It’s a shame I’d lost track of time because I really would have liked to have seen more of this one.

Down the hall was the art show. While an artist alley is commonplace at a Comic convention, it’s not seen nearly as often at a sci-fi/fantasy show like this, and even then it’s usually squished into a corner of the dealer’s room. At Concoction, the artists are given thier own space, and are free to display the work they want to highlight and focus on. It’s an interesting concept, in it’s own way acting as a secondary dealers room. Sleepy Robot, one of my favorites, was there with a bunch of new adorable bot’s I’d never seen before, and over at Nigel Sage’s booth, they made sure to show me the Stained glass Superman print. My Little Demon (a Pony parody) was set up as well, and I was 17191484_1850562725160383_4410486832439811261_nparticuarly enthralled by the darling “Squirty Pie” demon – an unholy mix of pony and octopus. I made sure to snag one of Travis Perkin’s ConCoction prints.

Dinner ended up being a bit of a challenge in the Man-At-Arms armor. I expected straws! The biggest problem was that face guard that keeps me from being able to see anything below my nose also acted as a barrier to getting a sandwich into my mouth, forcing me to twist my neck to the left if I wanted to bite or sip. And only the left…because Orko blocked me on the right.

Yeah, I know. Descriptions about the perils of cosplay at dinnertime don’t really make for the best description of a convention! But it’s my experience after all…

I tried to make better use of the Consuite this year, socilizing more (and boy is that ever a challenge in of itself for an introvert like me…but then again, that’s one of the fringe benefits of con culture…. common ground)and hanging out with people there rather than just using it as a pit stop to eat or drink.

I caught one of my friends from Pop! The Comic Culture Club just outside the entrance and we loitered in the hallway chatting about the best eras for Superman and Batman, deconstruction vs a heroic purity and why DC just can’t figure out what to do with Superman. He expressed outrage that I was going with the Russel Crowe Jor-El instead of a full on 60’s version in a green tunic and gold headband. You know, there are some life choices I never expected to be questioned about…..

It was his second year here as well – I’d hear that several times over the course of the weekend. It seems like a lot of people really discovered ConCoction last year, and it’s definitely the kind of event that draws you back.

I grabbed a quick Martini at the Barfleet party. Since thier logo features a martini glass I figured it was a safe bet, however the apprentice bartender expressed some doubt. Never fear, their veteran barkeep managed to whip one up, shaken-not-stirred complete with onion juice for flavor! Still, Friday night the party was slow so I headed back out to see what else was going on. I was game for the variety show. The burlesque performance was just finishing up and I was just in time to hear Pete Mako pound his acoustic guitar. I genuinely enjoy Pete, and I’ve aught his act both here and at ZipCon. He was followed by the fanboy based stand up of Dan Brown. I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating; I love that stuff like Stand-up and improve comedy are a part of this con. It’s such a rare thing to see at an event like this and it’s always a good time.

I realized that at 11:00 I’d better head home. Sleep is always in short supply during a con weekend, but I knew that by the time I got home, I’d be turning around and coming back in less than seven hours. It was cold in the void outside the hotel walls. Wind whipped the snow around my car. I turned on the headlights and plunged into lightspeed.

I pulled back into the Sheraton about ten minuets after eight the following morning. The Consuite wouldn’t be open until nine and there wasn’t really any programming going on (other than the gaming demonstrations downstairs – and sadly, I’m not much of a gamer anymore). Still, when I left on Friday night, I notice three or four parking spots had opened up and i wanted to arrive early enough in the hopes that they’d still be vacant. There were eight or so spaces free in the morning. Parking is still the single biggest issue I face with ConCoction. It was a key factor in keeping me away for the first two years and I know I’m not the only one. At 8:30, there were still a couple spots open, but it would be tough to find them. Parking was full before 8:45. I overheard grumbling about the situation all weekend from at least half a dozen sources. It was so pervasive it even made it into some of the comedy entertainment. That Sheraton lot fills up WAY to quickly and to be stuck paying four times the Sheraton rate for an airport lot invariably leaves a bad taste in peoples mouths. This is an issue ConCoction HAS to find a way to address.

I ran inside and paid the con rate for the local lot (three dollars, compared to $12-$15 at the airport lots), then checked out the records and tapes (seemingly untouched from the previous day). I discovered some Kenny Loggins and a few soundtracks for my collection as well as some Lawrence Welk and Andy Williams for my parents. From the VHS stack I selected only the ones with nothing written on the label. We’ll play some VCR Russian roulette with these later as we go through that stack and find out what’s on them! About quarter till nine I stacked up my armor and lugged it just inside the doors (it was too cold to dress outside like I usually would), suited up and went off to find breakfast for me and baby Kal-El.

In the Consuite I was greeted at the counter with a hearty “You’re back!”. Across the room, the lady sipping coffee at a table added “His front too!”.

ConCoction is pun central. I expected nothing less.

After signing up for the costume contest I made my way down to “Introduction to Cosplay : What do I do with this stuff?”. It was a charming panel about how to get started, finding cloths and items at thrift stores. I love these kind of panels, because they always give me ideas and I was fascinated to see some of the props that had been created out of items I never would have dreamed of using! The host asked me how long I’d been creating armor (“Um….well…when did Iron Man 3 come out?”) and what that progression was like. It was fun to share a little in this context.

In this same vein was the makeup panel with Cosplay guest Super Kayce. I was curious to see what her techniques were  as her Bizzaro Supergirl gave normal Supergirl a black eye (Actually pretty much the behavior you’d expect from Bizzaro actually). Super Kayce kept running into problems though.

“You have such a small face!” She protested, correcting the size of the bruise with the sweep of a brush. “How 17308763_1468477419863343_1049149228081279977_nhave I never noticed you have SUCH a small face?”

I caught Cassandra Fear’s panel next. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this. Fear’s Confection is a candy maker that is constantly popping up at stops around the con circuit. I usually see a plate of thier Star Wars themed candy at Carol and John’s Christmas party or superhero and sci-fi themes at NEO comicon, ect. As a result,  I’m familiar with the name. Less so with the face. It was interesting to hear about her background, and the challenges of figuring out how to create unique candies such as Groundhogs for Groundhog day, or trying to figure out the logistics of making a chocolate Lament Configuration box.  I also finally heard the whole story behind her “Trump Dump” candies, filling in a couple of details the news stories tended to gloss over (in particular the way she was misled about food vendors for the RNC in Cleveland). It was interesting and seems a lot less mean spirited than the previous impression I had gotten, and that’s nice, because Cassandra has been nothing but sweet and charming every time I’ve encountered her.

I managed to catch a teensy bit of the Tangent-Bound network’s Podcast panel. I’m an avid fan of podcasts and occasionally fight back the temptation to start one myself. I’m fairly certain I’m better off as a listener than a creator in this instance, but listening to them, it’s nice to feel like I could if I really wanted to.

Pre-Judging for the costume contest was almost here. You know what that means? It means it’s time to bring out the rocket.

For about half of the day I’d been carrying around baby Kal-El in a basket full of blue red and yellow blankets, however earlier in the week I’d decided on a whim to build a full rocket for him, complete with blinking lights and a compartment the doll would fit into so I could “Launch” the escape pod. The Styrofoam wings had held just fine on the car ride out and I managed to not break anything as I retrieved it from the car. As I waited in the hall for my turn, I set the rocket on a chair. As my name was called, I adjusted my grip and twisted the spaceship in exactly the wrong way.

There was a sicking snap as the left wing brushed against the back of the chair and popped off.

You have GOT to be kidding me.

Even if I’d remembered to bring a glue gun (I forgot it in my hast to get to the hotel early) there was no time. I rotated the ship and prayed it would look like it was SUPPOSED to only have two fins.

Prejudging at ConConction is always a fairly painless process. It’s nice because you get to talk a bit about your theory and method, and actually explain what goes into things leaving you free to actually concentrate on the audience during the masquerade rather than the judges. I saw the lady warrior from League of Legends and her husband who I’d been hanging out with back in the Consuite parading in to pre-judging right after me. I wished them luck and headed out to find Jason, a friend who wanted my help with his Phantom of the opera makeup.

After grossifying Jason and grabbing a proper lunch with Supergirl, Doctor Strange and a couple of other folks I just met I headed over to Pete Mako’s “Psychology of Cosplay” panel. Pete’s a part of this world, Convention, fandom, anime and cosplay. But he also has an education in psychology and brings a whole new perspective to the hobby. He described a study he’d been a part of and broke down demographics as they related to the cosplay community. There was a lot there that was exactly as I expected, things like who it appeals to and how people got into it. There were a lot of elements that were completely counter-intuitive to what I had imagined. I may have learned more at this panel than any other event of the entire con.

We all piled out of the panel and straight into the lineup for the masquerade, and in a way, it was a bit of a relief to finally be done with it. I summoned up all the chutzpah I possessed and recited Marlon Brando’s monologue from Superman ’79 as I lowered Baby Kal-El into the rocket on stage and prepared the ship for launch.

Then I looked at the roof and decided I better not let the escape pod blast off inside the hotel. Someone was bound to lose their deposit.

After over ten hours in the armor I  was finally able to shuck it off and eat a meal without the suit constricting my movement! You never know how much a luxury full range of motion is untill you try to bring an apple up to your lips and can’t quite reach without something ripping….

When I entered the Consuite, I spied Andy Hopp with a fist full of cards, playing a game of Dementalism with Dr strange and another companion. The cards spread across the table in a 6 x 6 grid with additional rows in front of each player… As I previously mentioned, I’m not particularly good at games but I’ve always been a fan of Andy’s art work which keeps coming 17308860_1468477103196708_9144397976912187959_nacross my path in the form of books and posts and of course the OddMall advertisements– Andy is the one who runs that event. I loaded up a plate and sat down. As Andy was explaining to me that the most flatulent player gets to take the first turn, the woman across the table from him flipped the card and declared that he must finish the round with his eyes shut until the next turn. When Andy was once again able to see, he noted the card That Doctor Strange flipped and informed all of us at the table that there was a house rule stating every time this card was played everyone had to eat a pickle. He got up and ran over to the bar, returning with a bowl full of dill slices which he proceeded to pass around.

Way back at the top of the article, I mentioned Doctor Whose Line is it Anyway? It’s 17264260_1468477186530033_6600793639397737791_nexactly what you think it is. Improv games with a fandom twist. It’s also quickly becoming my favorite part of this show. Dalek Skarino introduced the event;

“We;come to Doctor Who’s Line is it Anyway! Where the points don’t matter and the loser is EX-TERM-IN-ATED!”

“And the winner is EX-TER-MI-NATED…”

“…gently.”

By the time it was  finished it was late enough for the barfleet party to have started up again, and we made our way around the corner, back into the hallway where the music was already pulsing. As I stood in line for a drink my lip curled in slight disdain as the opening beats of Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines flooded the air. The scowl turned 17308811_1468477093196709_7071554643056951811_ninto a grin when I realized the DJ was actually playing Weird Al Yankovic’s Word Crimes instead. I found myself a piece of wall to hold up back where someone had set up at selfie station – the only place in the barfleet party where photographs were allowed.

“So what’s your story, “Andy asked me

“I don’t really have one,” I replied.

“Nonsense,” Andy retorted. “Everyone has a story! Start with your birth!”
“Well now,” I considered. “That’s a tough one, since I don’t know anybody who’s actually there…”

“Not even yourself? ”

“Can anyone REALLY know themselves?”

These are the kind of conversations you’re going to hear at the place like ConCoction, and nobody is even drunk yet…

I peered down at my glass as a large man in a kilt joined us and asked what I was drinking. I pondered it  for a moment.

17203057_1850562581827064_1805468780791048993_n“it’s…. It’s blue.”

“They had red back there to ”

“We should try the red next,” I nodded. Andy decided to mix the two and make something purple while Doctor Strange decided to go with a sensible, normal drink.

Under the swirling lights and the Bon Jovi dance remix, The Phantom of the Opera swished past the man in the kilt, and I waved hello, greeting him before he vanished with his wife and a photographer into the depths of the party.

ConCoction is unique as conventions go… It’s still young, but it feels like a mature convention – one that’s been around long enough to know how to run things smoothly and cater to its audience. As you can see, it’s such a unique experience that I have to  write a blog post the size of a book just to convey the gist of my weekend there. It’s one of those shows like wasteland that’s an experience, a reunion, and a party – and one I think I’m always going to look forward to returning to.


ConCoction 2016

ConmanConcoctionFour 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.

BorgConcoction 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 sheratonits  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 1468755_1135510343160054_4953599633679730211_nmidnight 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.

10564994_1135510339826721_3087686439105258383_nThe 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.

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There are several comedy shows going on at ConCoction, and I was dead 1924260_1134584266585995_8867013992410242920_nset on making sure I hit “doctor whose line is it anyway? ”

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 only10402849_10100447131970896_75788821195389550_n 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.

12814777_10208473897623319_2422085043494285847_nI 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 12814683_10208473900423389_8572060921254002335_nback 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 942299_10208473899943377_6591667192631257574_nthat 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 1557519_1134584003252688_4520742300568146200_nas 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.

12799270_1134584123252676_3852451897015572495_nThe 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.

12821477_10208888702279257_8522430331028457468_n“A borg is walking away with a signed copy of my book ‘Prometheus Stumbles’. There’s something you don’t see every day….”

1918241_1134584379919317_8384069525695507069_n10401215_1692907380925919_1112321460170093922_nI’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 12814043_1692907334259257_7187117035295895702_nare 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.

1914248_1134584469919308_6566962078602034097_nThere 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.

1934177_1134584076586014_2004702050444750437_nIn addition to the cosplayers, there were a couple other concoction groups set up there as well as the Federation booth and the band.

Oh yes. The band.

10488369_1134580496586372_3858482629432149360_nFive 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 12832488_1134583703252718_5751622523088986578_noriginal 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.

Five Year Mission did two sets on Saturday, one full electric set as well as a smaller acoustic set – “storytellers” style, where they laid 12809655_10100264656957521_6018051804594040867_nout the idea behind each song they played.

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.

943827_10205463303814341_1761433482646886302_nCosplay 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 10533812_1134580626586359_444356057891803547_na 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. 1930802_10205399581619124_4712447231621981179_nThe 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.

1921957_10205463301334279_2095796481302015485_n“And you WILL be assimilated! Resistance is useless!”
“Oh, I’m not resisting…”
“You COULD resist a little you know….”

10628478_1134581023252986_6515379055405091959_nThe 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.

It’s pretty well known that I’m not a Star Wars fanatic (casual fan at best) so Dak wasn’t a big deal for me, but I was really interested in 1384339_1134584226585999_679050314139320533_nmeeting Santiago Cirilo.

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 5839_10208889933430035_4749321152107822448_nWanted. 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.

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Cleveland ConCoction this weekend!

I’m heading out to Cleveland ConCoction at the Cleveland Sheraton Airport Hotel this weekend! Sinestro on Friday, and premiering my new Borg suit on Saturday. You WILL be assimilated.

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This weekend’s cons

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gamnesThis weekend happening in Cleveland is the Cleveland CONcoction!

If you’re a gamer, this is seriously the place to be. They’ll be celebrating sci-fi and steampunk this year, with the chance to win a lot of the same games you’ll be playing!

There’s panels, author guests, the Wonderland Ball, the masquerade, costume contest, gameplay, live performances (you really need to check shadow-websiteHeader_444x185out Too The Egress) and tons more going on. This is the only con of it’s type in Cleveland and it’s exactly the kind of con I like, packed with tons of events and programming.

Hours:

Friday, March 13:  12pm – 11pm
Saturday, March 14:  9am – 11pm
Sunday, March 15:  9am – 3pm

That said, I’m already booked this weekend a little further west, and will be heading to Indiana Comicon.

I’m going mostly to meet Denny O’Neil – seriously, DENNY O’NEIL! The guiding hand of the Batman titles in the 90’s! The writer of the 70’s Shadow series! The author of countless editorial “From The Den” colums!

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Stop looking at me like that. I’m excited.

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MikeGrell_408Mike Zeck and Mike Grell are going to be there as well!

I could actually care less about the media guests at this one (although I and going to get princess autographs for my girls- I admit it). The guest list here is really looking impressive – John Beatty, Art Thibert, Bob McLeod, Whilce Porticelo, Jae Lee, I have a stack of stuff a mile high I’m bringing, just as soon as I break out my Shadow costume….

So wherever you’re headed, be safe, if you see me in Indiana tap me on the shoulder and say hi. If you’re heading to Cleveland, say hello to the POP! members or the Z.E.R.O.S. (Zombie Eradication & Rescue Operations Squad) and give them my best! And we’ll be back with new Violent Blue on Monday!

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