the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘conventions

This weekend, I attended my first fully virtual SFF convention, Flights of Foundry.  In fact, at the moment that I started drafting this blog post,  panels were still happening!



Fresh from the experience, I can say without a doubt- if you have the opportunity to attend and online convention, DO IT.   Flights of Foundry had a suggested donation, but you could register for free.  I did a donation for my registration, and for how much enjoyment I got out of my experience (and no travel expenses!), I plan to send them another donation to show my gratitude.


Are there some negatives to a virtual convention? yes, but in my opinion the positives far outweigh the negatives.    Keep in mind I have no idea what technological things were happening behind the scenes,  what I do know is that the volunteers kept the Go To Meeting feeds and Zoom feeds running smoothly,  and there were Discord channels for chats and asking questions in panels (I didn’t register for discord, so I can’t really speak to that).


The panels and presentations were done through Go To Meeting, and audience members could hop in an out as they chose,  and the readings, workshops, and other smaller events were done through Zoom. (If you’ve not used those platforms before:  GoToMeeting means the audience can see the speakers but the speakers can’t usually see the audience, and in Zoom everyone has the opportunity to see everyone else, if you have 9 people it looks like The Brady Bunch grid.)


The vast majority of panels had sound and video,  but that didn’t mean I was shackled to my desk while I was listening to a panel.  The experience felt like watching a live twitch stream,  or listening to a live radio show.  I was listening on a wireless headset,  so I could wear my headset and walk away from my desk.


Here are some  more positives, and this list is long!

– Didn’t have to pay for a hotel room,  didn’t have to put shoes on, didn’t have to wait for a table at a restaurant at dinnertime, didn’t have to drive anywhere or worry about flights or worry about traveling/bad weather. all the stresses and costs of travel were gone.  I literally attended in my pajamas. (and at this point, haven’t we all forgotten how to wear shoes?)

– Registering and getting into the live feeds was super easy.  This convention must have had some tech wizards working behind the scenes!

– Panelists seemed more relaxed, since they also didn’t have to rush around a hotel looking for their next panel room.

– if I’d thought to use two devices, i technically could have listened to two panels at the same time!

– I could fidget to my hearts content because no one could see me.  Those chairs in the panel rooms at hotels? my legs are short, those things are hell for me, I’d rather stand or sit on the floor (and have, on occasion). I was listening to the panels on a wireless headset, so I could walk around the living room, go to the kitchen for snacks, do some light excersize. I could even *whisper* leave a panel that wasn’t what I expected, without being disruptive,  or hop into a currently going panel, without being disruptive.

– not only could I hop in and out and fidget without distracting others, I didn’t have the distractions of an in-person convention. No loud panel rooms next door, no squeaky panel room doors opening and closing constantly, no disruptive audience members.

– I saw that many panels were recorded so people can watch them later. I didn’t register for this service, but I saw that some panels had closed captioning for the hearing impaired!


the few negatives were:

– no people watching.  I just had to be OK with the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to people watch or compliment people on their outfits.  I do love me some people watching.

– no socializing, no parties, no “omg how are you!”‘s in the hallways, no random encounters, no thanking people after a panel for doing such a great panel or a wonderful reading, no autograph session. Had I registered for the discord chat rooms, i could have had a more social experience. But also? no awkward social encounters either!

– there was something about a Dealers Room, but I didn’t explore this.


I “registered” for a ton of panels ahead of time, which meant those showed up as super convenient links in my email that morning.  But like every con I’ve ever attended, I made last minute decisions about what panels I would go to, and ended up skipping some that I expected to attend.  I did love getting those links on Saturday and Sunday,  they were really convenient!

For those of you who enjoy After Con Reports,  here’s some very brief comments on some of the panels I attended.

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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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Confusion ProgramA few weekends ago I was at Confusion, a fan run scifi convention in Detroit Michigan. This is my fourth year attending Confusion, and every year there are more “hey, great to see you!”’s, more hugs, more great conversations, more random meetings with people I was hoping to run into (but didn’t know what they looked like until now), and more happy surprises.  Long story short is that Confusion is a fan-freaking-tastic convention, and if you live within driving distance of Detroit, you should consider going.


this year’s Confusion was a whole new con for me, for two reasons:


I was on panels


People knew who I was


We arrived after dinner on Friday, just in time for Opening Ceremonies.  That event leads into the Dessert Reception, where you can get pastries and cookies and such and mingle with the special guests. I was hoping to introduce myself to Karen Lord, because I’d recently interviewed her at SFSignal. I caught up with her as she was finishing a conversation with someone else, and introduced myself. And she knew who I was! We had a very nice chat and I may have nearly passed out.

Karen Lord reading from The Best of All Possible Worlds

Karen Lord reading from The Best of All Possible Worlds

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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!

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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In the last two posts, I mostly showed photos of Japanese manga, anime, live action tv, and video games.  There were plenty of people cosplaying western comic book, movie, and video game characters as well!  see?


Raven, Robin and Starfire from Teen Titans!

Raven, Robin and Starfire from Teen Titans!


Merida from Brave.

Merida from Brave.


Even Doctor Who and the Daleks made and appearance!  I was able to catch up with one of the Elevens (I saw at least 3 of them) as he battled a Dalek-head. This guy, oh man did he have the physical mannerisms down!  Acting the part takes the cosplay to a whole new level!  (and yes, there was a number ten, but I couldn’t get close enough to get a photo)

it's The Doctor!

it’s The Doctor!


Too fun to watch!

Too fun to watch!

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Just joining us? You’ll want to read this post first.

Oh, and if i have misidentified characters, let me know in the comments so I can fix the  captions. Google image search only gets you so far….

Jumping right back into cosplay photos:

The Fairy Tail Meet-Up

The Fairy Tail Meet-Up

Natsu from Fairy Tail

Natsu from Fairy Tail


Kirito from Sword Art Online

Kirito from Sword Art Online

Sword Art Online was another very popular show to cosplay, there were a ton of Kiritos and Asunas running around. Running Around, very hard to photograph.

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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.