the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘conventions’ Category

A few summers ago,  my husband and I went to an Anime Con in Chicago. It was a blast.  And holy cow, the cosplay!  The costume contest was the highlight of the weekend for a lot of attendees, and people waited inline for hours to get into the contest.  I had a great time enjoying a Chicago summer afternoon and photographing people who were in line.  The costumes were beautiful and very elaborate. There was everything from Disney princesses to Anime characters to steampunk interpretations of characters to mechas to Star Wars, to Gothic Lolita and American Superhero outfits, there was everything.   The wigs, the props, the dresses, the spandex,  just WOW. it was glorious, and it was intimidating.  Nothing I could make with my skill set would ever come close to any of these outfits.   The generic anime schoolgirl cosplay I was wearing was a button up shirt and a necklace (it’s the middle of the tie) I owned, and about $20 worth of stuff from Goodwill. Maybe there was a reason no one was complimenting my outfit.   Who the hell did I think I was, I wasn’t even wearing a styled wig!  Maybe successful cosplay just isn’t for me.

well, I FELT cute.

well, I FELT cute.

More than once, I’ve described myself as a “bad cosplayer”, because I am intimidated by the very elaborate costumes. I don’t have the sewing skills to make a beautiful dress, I don’t know how to style a wig, i don’t know how to shape boiled leather or make something approximating armor.  I don’t have the patience for any of that stuff. All those “easy” projects that require something to be done outdoors because of poisonous fumes are a challenge for us apartment dwellers who don’t have a garage or back porch.  Could I learn how to sew? Certainly.  But I am also very impatient and not all that interested in developing a lot of costuming skill sets (did you not see my blog post earlier this month about having zero free time?).   First and foremost, cosplay should be FUN.  And to me, FUN means easy.  FUN means as little stress as possible.  FUN means using the skills I have, such as papercraft and glue, iron-on interfacing, and hand sewing.  FUN means fun, not stress.

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back to the confusion

ConFusion is a science fiction/fantasy convention held in Detroit every January. This year’s special guests include Karen Lord, Ted Chiang, Joe Abercrombie, and Steven Erickson.  Something I love about ConFusion is the huge variety of science, writing and literary panels: everything from building languages for your fantasy world, to optimistic far future science fiction, to romance in fantasy and scifi,  to writing good fight scenes, to demos for swordplay, to cosplay photography, to building colonies on Mars, to fun with liquid nitrogen, to remote control Daleks, to well, you get the picture. It’s one of those Cons where there are ten activities every day you want to go to, and three of them are happening at the same time, and in the end, exhausted, you end up at the bar having a drink with some author or other.  Learn more about ConFusion at their website, and at their Facebook page.


Five panels I am guaranteed to be at, because I’m a panelist. Here’s my panel schedule:


Saturday 6pm: What Should I Read Next?
Suggestions of what to read next, based on what you just read and loved

Saturday 7pm: Writers as Fans, Fans as Critics, Critics as Writers and Fans
Reviews are not for authors, they’re for fans. But many authors are engaged, critical fans. How can authors engage with fans without creating a chilling effect on criticism?

Saturday 9pm: Is Paradox Really So Bad?
So there you are, back in 2015, and you almost run right into yourself! But really, who cares? Is the universe really going to end? Or will you just walk away saying “Well, that was the most screwed up thing I’m going to see today?” How bad would time travel paradox be, really?

Sunday 12pm: Book Reviewing 101
Starting and running your book review blog, how to get ARCs, and more.

Sunday 2pm: Wait, There’s More to Comics than Superheroes?
Superheroes remain popular comic book characters — but comics can be any subject matter or genre. What are your favorite comics with unusual themes and characters?


wow, that’s gonna be a busy Saturday evening!   and an exciting Sunday!

the unscheduled event I’m planning to be at is  Saturday 10pm: the bar. Someone save me a seat.


Will you be at Confusion? Let me know, so we can try to meet up!

Are you on a panel with me?  Tweet me or comment below, and we can chat a little ahead of time. I’m looking forward to meeting you!

2014-11-22 15.24.41-2

My first Comic Con!


Tickets were quite affordable, Nichelle Nichols was a special guest, the drive was only 45 minutes, and a few of my friends were already planning on going.  Heading up to Grand Rapids Michigan on Nov 22nd for the Grand Rapids ComicCon was a no brainer.  I’d never been to an actual ComicCon before, so I had no idea what to expect.  According to their website, the media guests (including Nichelle Nichols, Alaina Huffman, Justin Kohn, Chad Rood, Peter Shinkoda and Maile Flanagan) would be doing presentations on the main stage, and would have autograph areas. There would be a costume contest, a gaming room, a violin concert, there would be food stands everywhere, there would be a huge dealer room, there would be a car show, the famous Star Wars 501st group, a few Tardis models, a huge Lego display, and of course tons of comics and superhero artwork.  Designed to be a very family friendly event, strollers were welcome, and there was a family quiet room for a quiet space for nursing mothers and/or overexcited kids who needed a break.


massive Lego Town

massive Lego Town

there was a train! two trains!

there was a train! two trains!

The Lego/Robotics area was my favorite section of the convention. Designed to be an area attractive to children and adults, much of the space was given over to a car show of famous Batmobiles. The rest of the space included a massive Lego city (complete with trains!), a robotics area that had a singing tesla coil, a TARDIS, the actual shield Captain America used in the movie, an animatronic dinosaur, a guy in a massive transformer suit, a beautiful art gallery, representatives of the 501st, and a few local fandom and science clubs.  This was where all the fun was!  I was all about the Legos and the Transformer guy.  I got to watch him climb into the suit, and once he got the helmet on you couldn’t tell if there was a person in there or if it was remote control. He scared the poop out of a lady who didn’t realize there was a guy in there!


This is a terrible photo, but this is a "singing" tesla coil.  I heard it do "Here Comes Halloween" and the Imperial March from Star Wars

This is a terrible photo, but this is the “singing” tesla coil. I heard it do “Here Comes Halloween” and the Imperial March from Star Wars


There's a guy in there!

There’s a guy in there!

Most of the media guests were TV stars, and since I don’t watch much network TV, I wasn’t familiar with most of them. But everyone knows who Nichelle Nichols is!  On Saturday afternoon she took to the main stage along with a local media celebrity who guided the conversation and took questions from the audience. I always knew Nichelle Nichols was incredible, I just didn’t realize how incredible. She talked of her childhood, of growing up in a community outside Chicago that was founded by her grandfather for the purpose of being welcoming to mixed-race families, she talked about her early love for singing andperforming on stage, and she proved that she’s still got an amazing vocal range She told a beautiful and touching story about being star struck meeting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  and learning he was a fan of her work on Star Trek.   When asked about that famous kiss between her and William Shatner, she said a kiss between a black person and a white person wasn’t anything usual to her, as she’d seen her grandparents kiss each other all the time.  When asked if there were any unexpected consequences of the famous midriff baring “Mirror Mirror” costume, she said they got so much fanmail about it that her costume was changed to show off her belly button.  When asked what the defining moment of her career was, she said it was when she got involved with NASA to help recruit women and minorities for the space shuttle program.  She recruited Sally Ride. During the Q&A time she was incredibly gracious with fans who were invited to line up at the microphone and ask questions until we ran out of time.


Nichelle Nichols is 100% pure amazing.

Nichelle Nichols is 100% pure amazing.

My day at ComicCon was not without its frustrations, but they were all worth it to be in the same room with Nichelle Nichols.

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Over the weekend of Sept 27/28 Elizabeth Campbell and I attended Context 27 in Columbus Oh.  Maybe you’ve seen some of my teaser photos? Every convention has a personality, and Context’s personality is “mellow and inviting”. This is my second year attending Context, and two years in a row it’s been the most welcoming convention I’ve attended. I recognized a lot of people from last year, so it felt like a reunion with plenty of hugs in hallways and Omgosh Hi!’s.


But it isn’t easy to walk into a hotel full of strangers. To help break the ice, Elizabeth had the genius idea of picking up a pack of “Hello my name is” stickers and a pack of markers. For people we knew well, we gave them obnoxious or non sequitur name tags. For example, I quickly had stickers that said “Sober Andrea” and “I don’t know how to use my phone”, and “on vacation”. For people we didn’t know, I’d ask them what they’d like on their name tag.  Context was the perfect amount of people for this kind of game, more than a few hundred people and I don’t think it would have worked. Next year, we should pick up half a dozen packs and give them to different people, so by the end of the weekend everyone gets at least one sticker.

By Saturday night I was covered in stickers.

By Saturday night I was covered in stickers.


The programming at Context is designed for writers. There are workshops you can sign up for, readings, panels, games, and the famous Friday Night Flash Fiction Contest, along with the requisite dealer room, consuite and nighttime parties.  What was I, a non-writer, doing at a writers convention you ask? Well, I had such a fantastic time last year that I had to go back… and would you believe that writers like book reviewers?  This was also a big first for me: being on panels.  Would anyone show up for my panels? Would my co-panelists be cool? What if I was a crappy moderator? quick answers are yes, yes, and I did fine.

First time moderating a panel? Might as well do it while cosplaying Sabetha Belacoros.

First time moderating a panel? Might as well do it while cosplaying Sabetha Belacoros.

It was probably easier because the quantity of people to serve was smaller, but this consuite was fantastic. Snacks, soda, coffee, more snacks, breakfast, dinner, sandwiches, dessert. Sushi even showed up a few times. The dealer room was small but well curated. No items were repeated, so no one was completing with anyone else, which was nice. There were shiny new books from the big publishers, more shiny new books from small presses, steampunk jewelry and accessories, used books, Star Wars items, and more. Two of my favorite small presses, Apex and Alliteration Ink were right near the front, so I barely made my way to the back of the room. I’m sure there was a lot back there I never saw.


Autograph sessions were done in a unique way. Instead of having one large mass autograph session, two or three authors at a time would spend a scheduled hour in the dealer room, answering questions and chatting and autographing books.  I had some books I wanted signed, and never managed to be in the dealer room at the right time, so luckily I was able to catch up with people later.  Personally, I think I prefer the larger mass autograph sessions.


With the majority of the programming being on Saturday, Elizabeth and I spent most of Friday browsing Columbus area bookstores, schmoozing with friends in the dealer room, and hanging out in the bar. Much pumpkin beer was had. Then we went to some panels!


Ready to hear more than you ever wanted to know about all the panels I jammed into one weekend?

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Last weekend I was at Context in Columbus OH.  This small-ish SF/F convention is so casual and fun that it felt like a relaxicon.  Columbus is also a fantastic city to visit, with bookstores on nearly every corner, beautiful college campuses, historic neighborhoods, and a highway system that actually makes sense. While you are being so very patient to hear about my adventures, here are some photos to whet your appetite.


Warning: large photo files ahead.

Is that a panelist packet? why yes, yes it is!

Is that a panelist packet? why yes, yes it is!

pumpkin beer in a pumpkin glass.

pumpkin beer in a pumpkin glass.

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The weekend of Sept 26th-28th I’ll be in Columbus OH, attending Context27.  Context27 is a small-ish, very casual convention aimed towards speculative fiction writers and anyone involved or wanting to get involved in writing. Their programming offers workshops, panels, informal discussion, and of course, evening parties and schmoozing.  This year’s guests of honor are Jonathan Mayberry and Betsy Mitchell.  Other guests and panelists include Lucy Snyder, Laura Resnick, Gary Braunbeck, Matt Betts, Maurice Broaddus, Carrie Cuinn, Jason Sizemore, Steven Zimmer, Sarah Hans, Janet Harriett, Tim Waggoner, Michael West, Gery Deer, Geoffrey Girard, Jennifer Brozek, and more!

Oh, and I’m a panelist*   this year too!

Here’s my panel schedule:

Saturday 10am – Being a Woman in Publishing

Saturday 5pm – Hot New Writers

Sunday 1pm – Getting Your Book Reviewed/ Being a Good Reviewer



Columbus has a huge  craft beer scene, so when I’m not at the convention hotel, I’ll be chilling with Elizabeth Campbell at a bar somewhere. If memory serves, there is a place nearby called “Pies and Pints”, which is crafty beer and fantastic pizza.


also, did you know? Robert Jackson Bennett’s amazing City of Stairs is released today.  If you haven’t already decided to buy this book, go read my review.


* this is my first time being a panelist. I am excited/scared shitless. Constructive advice/criticism is welcome, but please be gentle. i talk a good talk, but i is a sensitive mouse.

So I recently posted about a bazillion photos (part 1, part 2, part 3. that’s almost a bazillion, right?) from Anime Midwest. Yes, the people watching and cosplay was the highlight of the weekend, but I did things other than sit in the lobby and photograph people!  The convention had tons of programming, there were panels about cosplay, about specific shows and fandoms, Q&As with famous voice actors, concerts, there was so, so much to see and do.   Hubby and I went to a few panels together, but there were so many good panels that were all occurring at the same time, that it was mostly “You go to this one, I’ll go to this other one, we’ll compare notes later”.


Here’s a recap of what we saw and did:




The first  panel we went to was called Dialects of Kansai. The woman who hosted the panel studied and lived in Japan, and was doing a series of panels over the weekend about Life in Japan. Students who study Japanese learn the “standard” Kyoto dialect, but Osaka uses a much older dialect and language patterns and casual slang that goes about about 1,000 years.   I didn’t understand most of the Japanese she used, but it was a really cool panel. She also did the Kimono panel I went to later Friday evening.


I caught the last 20 minutes of the Q&A with voice actress Caitlin Glass, who anime fans know as the voice of Winry Rockbell, Haruhi of Ouran High School Host Club, Evergreen of Fairy Tail, Petra of Attack on Titan, among many other roles. She is such the perfect nerd!  She said that as a child she loved the movie The Little Mermaid so much that she’d walk around imitating Ariel’s voice.  She studied classical theater in College, and took the “never close any doors” advice to heart, later auditioning with Funimation in her home town in Texas.  It was a huge crowd, and she was great about answering everyone’s questions and having a lot of fun.

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FTC Stuff

some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.