Convention Report: Fan Expo 2012

Usually Mondays on this blog are devoted to books, sometimes movies. But in my head, the theme is “Media Mondays”, so today I’m going to write about something media-related that hasn’t been featured on this blog before.

You Must Be Over 18

Photo by Louise K. (link at bottom of post)

I’m talking about a con — a science fiction/fantasy convention.

First, a brief primer on cons. There are two main types. The first is literature-oriented, focusing on books and book-related discussions. Guests tend to be authors and editors. The second is all about visual media — movies, TV, comics, anime/manga, gaming. Guests tend to be TV stars and comic book artists. This is the kind of con where people dress up in costume (cosplay). It’s much larger than the first kind.

I’ve been to both kinds over the years. The con I’m writing about today is of the second type — Fan Expo, an annual convention held in Toronto.

This weekend was my second time at Fan Expo, after a hiatus of many years from the second type of con. It had also been a few years since my first Fan Expo experience, and the con has grown a lot since then — ticket lineups were 40 minutes long on Sunday morning, and the dealers’ room floor was packed. I also heard reports that they ran out of tickets on Saturday. I was only at the con on Sunday, but I didn’t feel like I got a second-rate experience.

The first panel I attended was a Q&A with John Barrowman of Torchwood and Doctor Who fame. As an interviewee, he was a superb performer — charismatic, funny, raunchy, a great storyteller, and if the personality he showed at the con was to be believed, as much larger-than-life as his character, Captain Jack Harkness. He also had a way of answering warmed-over questions as if they were new; his answers felt earnest, fresh, sometimes passionate. While he couldn’t be called humble by any stretch, he seemed genuinely to appreciate and show gratitude for the support of his fans. I wholeheartedly recommend going to see him if you get the chance.

Unfortunately, the other panel I attended suffered a bit in comparison. It’s hard to top a panel like that! The topic was steampunk writing, presented by a trio of authors who, while possessing good chemistry and plenty of interesting ideas, would have benefited from a moderator. Too much of the panel ended up being about the authors’ own books or about definitions of steampunk. I did take away the name of a new-to-me blog, Steampunk Scholar, which sounds excellent.

Weeping Angel

Photo by Louise K. (link at bottom of post)

Beyond the panels, the main attraction of a con like this is the dealers’ floor. This one was absolutely packed — I saw plenty of Eleventh Doctors, Avengers, other superheroes and supervillains, and the occasional Firefly and Star Wars character. The best cosplay, though, was a very creepy Weeping Angel (from Doctor Who).

The dealers themselves were selling mostly comics and gaming merchandise, and a wide selection of geeky T-shirts. I gravitated towards the steampunk jewellery and clothing, leather-bound notebooks, and medieval weaponry. While I was tempted by some of the clever T-shirts, I ended up with a steampunk hairpiece and a ring of skeleton keys from AtticRaiders.

Overall, an enjoyable con.

Edit: My con companion was steampunk artist Louise K. For her version of our con experience, click here.

Have you been to a con? What’s your favourite part of the experience? Any good stories to share?

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5 responses to “Convention Report: Fan Expo 2012

  1. My kids are into the con thing. Between me, my husband, and a friend’s husband, we’ve taken them to RustyCon, the Emerald City Comicon, and SakuraCon (anime stuff). A couple weeks ago my husband took them to LiveFree, a My Little Pony con for Bronies and Pegasisters. Yeah, just try and top that geek-cred. ;)

  2. I think you win there, Liv! ;) Which con is your favourite?

  3. I’ve been going since 1976, though I stopped for about 10 years — I was in a fandom, and the fans got waaaayyyy too crazy. I started going this year again. I had previously gone to a writing conference every year, but the organization went bankrupt and appears to have folded. So I realized I needed other options, and I looked at cons again. I’ve been trying to do them on the cheap — so local cons: Marscon (VA), Ravencon (VA), and ConTemporaral (NC). Got two more coming up, both in MD, and am debating between Marscon, Farpoint, and Mysticon for the first of next year (Marscon hotel is cheap but 4 hours away; Farpoint hotel is the most expensive but only 50 miles away; and Mysticon is more expensive but 4 hours away).

  4. Linda, tough decisions! Which con is your favourite? I’ve only gone to very local cons so far (aided by the fact that I live in a big city, Toronto) but in a few years I hope to be looking around for those within travelling distance…

  5. I really liked ConTemporal. That was a fledgling con — their first one was last year. Most of the cons have been workshops, and that’s about it. CT had a high tea, sword fighting, sword swallowing, rapelling, knife throwing, writing workshops, a fantastic costume show (made possible by all the great cosplay), a mad scientists doing experiments, and a display of steampunk inventions.

    Looking at GeekGirls possibly for next year. According to a friend who went, they haven’t quite gotten their act together for the writing side, so there are opportunities for panels.

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