Convention Season Survival Tips

Convention season is upon us! Well, here in Australia it’s spread out over the year across the country as we only have a small handful of conventions that travel to each state every few months. Our scene is still growing but events have become bigger and better even in just these past few years. But in America it’s currently full-on convention and faire season across the warmer months leading into Autumn/Fall, with my own personal and sentimental favourite, DragonCon in Atlanta today.

(Are you going to DragonCon? If you are, email me pictures and make me very jealous. I’ve been wanting to get back there since my first and only visit in 2014.)

Since attending that awesome event, I’ve been a regular at many different conventions here in Australia, namely Supanova and Oz Comic Con and the huge PAX Australia convention and I’ve since discovered that enjoying your convention time means preparation and a little bit of forethought.

So on that note, here are my tips for happy convention-ing…

Lady Lisbeth Batterbee, Steampunk Alchemist and Explorer and River Song. (AKA, me and my mate, Tracy) at DragonCon 2014.

DO: Wear comfy shoes. Trust me. You will want lightweight shoes that you can wander around all day in. Depending on the size of the convention, you may end up covering many kilometres over a day walking back and forth to different areas. You’re going to want to be wearing comfortable shoes. A convention is neither the time or place to break in new shoes.

DO: Wear comfy clothes, and if it happens to be colder where you live during convention time, wear layers. It may be cold outside but convention halls have a habit of getting quite warm. Better to tie a jumper around your waist than be overly hot or cold.

DO: Pack light but make sure you take water and snacks. Buying food and drink is notoriously expensive at conventions and chances are you’ve already spent enough money on travel, accommodation and your tickets into the place. If you are on a budget, pack a few sandwiches and snacks. If that’s not an option, get out of the convention and go somewhere else (if you can) to eat. For instance, PAX Australia is held at the Melbourne Convention Centre, right near Crown Towers and the Southbank Promenade. Take a breather and head to one of the awesome eateries available. More often than not you will pay less for much better fare.

DO: Take a backpack on the days you intend to shop. Make sure it’s mostly empty. This is a weird one but I’ve found that taking a bag that you can sling over a shoulder and not actively have to hang onto is a life-saver, particularly when you are walking through an artist alley or ten and need to fondle all the pretty things and don’t have to worry about dropping carry bags or losing anything.

DO: Take enough money that you think you’ll need (whatever your budget happens to be) plus an extra $100. Trust me. You will find something long after all your money is gone that you just have to have…. Which leads me onto…

When you arrive, DO do a reconnaissance lap if you can. Take stock of where things are – toilets, food stalls, artist alley, main exhibitor areas. Try to hold back on the spending spree until you’ve seen everything or mostly everything that is available. Don’t go nuts and spend all your money at first couple of stalls – like I regularly do. Though if whatever you’re eyeing off is in limited supply, buy it straight away – nothing sucks worse than missing out on grabbing a treasured collectable. But having a look at everything first and making notes to return to certain vendors definitely helps you keep to a budget.

DO: Have a Con Buddy. Even if you’re going on your own, make sure there is someone who knows where you are. And if you’re meeting your Con Buddy, make sure you figure out a meeting spot well in advance because phone reception can suck.

DON’T: Try to be everywhere at once.  The trick to enjoying conventions is to make plans but be flexible. Panels run over time. Events may be cancelled.  Go with the flow. Make sure you know what’s on so that you can plan ahead to join a queue at a specific time or jump into another panel if you find yourself with some spare time.

NEVER: Save spots for your friends in a queue. Never ever do this. If your friends cannot be there on time, that is not the fault of the folks behind you who were. Let them join the back of the line. (And trust me, nothing pisses off tired con-goers more than queue jumpers. So just don’t.)

REMEMBER: If you are attending a convention that runs for more than two days, the all important 3-2-1 rule applies:

Three hours sleep (minimum) a night.
Two meals (minimum) a day.
One shower a day.

The idea of partying non-stop is always fun but you will need to rest eventually. You don’t want to be sleepy or hangry during a convention – or at least more sleepy and hangry than absolutely necessary. Coffee and protein bars only get you so far. It spoils your fun and spoils the fun of those around you. And shower. I cannot stress the importance of this. Convention Funk is a real thing. Many bodies in confined spaces makes for a cacophony of body odour. Don’t be that stinky person.

Something else that comes hand in hand with hygiene is health. Con Crud (not to be confused with Con Funk) is a real thing too. It’s a cold that will inevitably get you either during or just after the event. If you are sick during an event, take some medication, drink lots of water, and cough and sneeze into your inner elbow and not your hands to avoid passing on germs when you touch things. Bring sanitizer to occasionally de-germ your digits.

REMEMBER: Cosplayers. Cosplayers are awesome people. They work hard, sometimes all year or many years, on one costume to look particularly awesome. Be nice to the cosplayers. This means that you ask to take pictures and you ask before you touch anything. More often than not, unless a cosplayer is trying to get somewhere, they will be happy to stop and pose for/with you for pictures and chat about their costumes. And use common sense, sometimes walking around in bulky costumes makes people hot and tired. They might need a break.

DEFINITELY REMEMBER: Another important rule is COSPLAY =\= CONSENT. Due to the nature of pop culture in general, many popular female characters in pop culture are scantily clad or wear revealing clothes. Lots of cosplayers will dress up as these female characters. Cat-calling, wolf-whistling, derogatory remarks, touching inappropriately, upskirting and sneaky dirty photos are NOT ON. Generally this isn’t an issue for male cosplayers but the same does apply to them too. Be nice, be polite and remember that cosplayers are human – not your property to be fondled or treated disrespectfully. If you wouldn’t do or say it to your mother, do not do or say it to a cosplayer.

And the most important thing: Remember to get your tickets early. Even better, if your event is ticketed by Eventbrite, the process is very easy.  Eventbrite is a great platform to set up events as they manage everything for you for a very small and reasonable fee and makes ticket purchasing very easy. I’ve bought tickets through them more than a few times.  You can register your event here.

(Post not sponsored. Just so y’know. Y’know?)

The Short-but-Epic Trip to USA for DragonCon 2014! (Part 4 – Day 1 of DragonCon 2014)

So Friday, the 29th of August (bloody hell that seems like a long time ago now) was the first official day of DragonCon 2014. I was all a-twitterpated and excited to get started on my first real con experience. However there was one minor problem…

I was fighting a losing battle against the dreaded Travel Lurgy. The cold which had remained hidden until the moment I sat my arse down in that first plane out of Melbourne, reared it’s ugly, snotty head in a proper manner. I had gone from a tickly throat and a bit of a cough to starting to feel claggy and unwell. Really unwell.

John was doing his best for me, as per usual – loading me up with medication we thought would help but what we thought might have just been a coughy thing turned out to be an actual cold thing. It wasn’t bad at that stage, I could deal with it. If it didn’t get any worse, I would be just fine with that.

When it came to costumes for the day, it was decided that Friday would be Firefly Day. Unfortunately, in my forgetful and somewhat panicky blondeness, I had left my costume neatly folded on top of my dresser – IN MELBOURNE. Not much help to me there, was it? I’d gotten dressed in civvies at that point, quite prepared to be the tagalong friend who carries everyone’s stuff (aka The Handler) and just enjoy the sights. Well, my mate Tracy wasn’t having any of that and in her preparedness, offered me a choice of Indian saris to wear so I could play Inara. Watching everyone else get dressed up made me maybe a tiny bit jealous (and foolish) over having no costume so I let Tracy wrap me up in a gorgeous black and gold number.

I’d like to note at this point that neither of us knew what the hell we were doing. Thanks to the Font of All Wisdom on Random Shit, aka Google, we managed to figure out how to put on a sari. So we wrapped and folded and wrapped and folded and pinned, pinned, pinned, and wrapped and folded some more until I looked like… well, me. In a sari. I was the blondest Inara you could imagine. I was also buggered if I needed to go to the toilet at any stage. There were pins everywhere. Absolutely everywhere. They connected the sari to my pants, my tank top, to itself. It was almost scary sitting down for fear of popping one and ending up with a pin ending up somewhere it ought not be.

So, I was Inara (chubby blonde version), then we had John who was Wash and Tracy and Grant who were Kayley and Jayne respectively. Naturally Kayley and Jayne have the biggest following in that show so Tracy and Grant got a load of attention. A couple people asked to take their pictures and then belatedly realised John and I were part of the group and called us in for a group shot when they recognised who we were playing.

Renlish.com - Firefly Friday
John, me, Tracy and Grant.

Yeah, we don’t fit the mold – but it’s still loads of fun.

And thus began my first foray into cosplay and conventions.

The first panel of the day was this guy:

Renlish.com - Patrick Stewart
His thinking face, maybe? I dunno.

That’s THE Sir Patrick Stewart there, folks. Sorry for the fuzziness. My camera couldn’t quite handle the lighting situation but… I was in the same room as one of my favourite classic actors. I was a little bit in awe. (Actually, a lot in awe. And it wouldn’t be the first time that’d happen too.) He is such a great speaker. So engaging and witty and absolutely adorable. Of course he was peppered with the usual questions about X-Men and Star Trek and it was great listening to him tell his stories. The hour-long panel went by so quickly.

Speaking of panels – there is one common thing that links them all.

THE QUEUING.

God in Heaven. I’ve never experienced anything like that before. Lines for panels went around the block and double-backed on themselves to head back around the other way. Queues snaked up the middle of buildings for several floors. People were milling everywhere.

Lining up to get into Sir Pat’s (we’re totally on casual name basis now) panel was an exercise in patience and sheer force of will. We had lucked out when we arrived and joined the line when it was just a few hundred strong. From where we stood, we watched what seemed like thousands walk past us to find the end of the line and it was like that for a good hour. I won’t mention the incident where one of the volunteers tried to get the small group of us in our area to move off because we weren’t standing in the right spot – even though we’d been told to stay there. Pigs would fly if we were going to join the end of the line at that point, not with the several hundreds/thousands who had tacked themselves on in all the time we’d been waiting. Needless to say, we scared the poor lass who, to be honest, was only doing what she was told as well. But she came through and made arrangements for us to stay where we were.

Oy. So, lesson learned. Turn up at least 90 minutes early to have a better chance of securing a place in the queue.

With that panel done, our next appointment was in another hotel to see a Firefly panel. This was pretty much the whole reason we dressed up.

We saw this guy:

Renlish.com - Adam Baldwin
A terrible picture of Adam Baldwin and panel moderator.

Adam Baldwin of Jayne Cobb, Firefly fame.

He’s a funny bugger too. He really took over that panel. Sadly Ron Glass (who was Shepherd Book in the show) was a late-comer to the panel, having been “caught in traffic” (I can imagine) and much quieter than Adam, though he had his moments as well. Grant was totally geeking out at this point. Adam is his hero from that particular show.

There was an amusing moment before the panel started where an Indian couple actually asked if I was in costume or not. Tracy confirmed that I was and they were impressed at the good job we’d done. We laughed and said there were pins everywhere and there would have been no chance of me putting it on by myself, to which they replied that Idian women grow up dressing in saris and still need the help of many hands and many pins to make it work. We felt rather proud of ourselves after that.

The last event of the day before we were totally wrecked and needed to eat was the Doctor Horrible Sing-a-long. John is a massive fan of Dr Horrible. I’d only ever seen a couple of episodes as they were being posted up online years ago. It was fun seeing the whole thing together in that environment.

The Short-but-Epic Trip to USA for DragonCon 2014! (Part 3 – A Large Coke)

Thursday was the first official day in Atlanta and first task of the day was to grab our passes for the convention.  This was a relatively painless process of lining up, presenting our blue passes and exchanging them for the bit of plastic that would provide safe passage through all the hotels during the con.  Without those passes on (at all times), you were seriously rooted if you wanted to get anywhere.

Then we headed out to the Georgia Aquarium for a bit of a sight-see, however, upon getting there we discovered that the cost of a couple tickets (PLUS TAX!) was insanely expensive.  $40+ per ticket was just a little much for everyone involved and we were reluctant to spend that much.  Fortunately we were planning on going to the party being held at the aquarium on Saturday evening.  Not only would we be there in the evening but the aquarium would be open to the party goers for the bargain price of $30 even.  With that in mind, we turned towards the Coke Museum.

For my readers who are not familiar with Coca-Cola history, Coke was born in Atlanta and as a result, there’s a big-assed museum with all sorts of Coke-themed paraphernalia housed within.

Rather than bore you with talking about it, here’s a collection of my favourite pictures from the day.  It was actually more interesting than I thought it was going to be.  There was some very, very cool retro stuff to be found…

Renlish.com - Coke Museum
Wise words.
Renlish.com - Coke Museum
A collection of Coca-Cola signage spanning decades.
Renlish.com - Coke Museum
Toothy purple frogman in a hat that looks like a boob… I didn’t ask. I didn’t want to know.
Renlish.com - Coke Museum
The original Cola!
Renlish.com - Coke Museum
Pretty colours!
Renlish.com - Coke Museum
Vintage Cola!
Renlish.com - Coke Museum
Fast cars and even faster women. Maybe.
Renlish.com - Coke Museum
I don’t know, I just thought the sign was funny.
Renlish.com - Coke Museum
Possibly the fabled Machine That Goes PING!? No? Oh well.
Renlish.com - Coke Museum
Contemporary Cola.
Renlish.com - Coke Museum
I fell in love with these bottles, the one made from computer boards in particular. They were huge!
Renlish.com - Coke Museum
Ah, the room where you could taste all the flavours of all the Coca-Cola softdrinks of the world… Whatever you do, do NOT drink the Beverley. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.

So yes. Coca-Cola Land was certainly an adventure. Funniest moment of the day was awarded to my friend Grant who declared (as he fairly buzzed from a massive sugar overload), “I’ve only tried 87 of the 60 flavours!”

The Short-but-Epic Trip to USA for DragonCon 2014! (Part 2 – Hello Atlanta!)

After a very comfortable night asleep in a bed that I could actually lay down in (plane seats are not comfy and not made for sleeping) I awoke to something warm and furry vibrating against my hand. I would have thought that my friend John was up to things nefarious and kinky but our relationship is not like that at all. Then I remembered… he has cats.

Three of them, to be precise, and one of them had decided she liked me enough to wake me up in the morning and demand cuddles.

Renlish.com - Jeanne
The beautiful face of Jeanne. (Photo stolen from John.)

Ugh. Impossibly cute. I thought I would miss my two spewkitties at home, and I did, but these kitten cuddles went a long way to starting my day off with a smile.

So after a shower and a repacking all my stuffs, John and I collected the rental car, our other two friends; Tracy and Grant, and then headed out on our four hour trip across a couple of states from North Carolina to Georgia.

And what can you really say about a four hour drive apart from it was long and boring with a few moments of humour interspersed throughout…

That became our theme song for the trip.

Anyway, by early evening we finally made it into Atlanta and the Peachtree area where DragonCon was taking place.

The Atlanta Marriott Marquis, where we were staying, is also one of the five hotels that hosts DragonCon and all of it’s visitors. And it was huge. Really huge.  BIGLY huge.

Renlish.com - Atlanta Marriott Marquis
Looking up into the belly of the beast!

I thought I had been in some big hotels before but the Marriott was something else entirely. It just seemed to keep going. And the hive was already buzzing.

While John was checking us in, I made a quiet remark that the hotel was fairly busy. My friends just looked at me and smiled in that kindly, “You poor, naive thing, you” way.

It was only Wednesday evening, the Con didn’t officially start until Friday…

Renlish.com - Atlanta, Georgia
Goodnight, Atlanta. See you in the morning!

The Short-but-Epic Trip to USA for DragonCon 2014! (Part 1 – LAX SUCKS!)

I’m back!

Actually, I’ve been back a week already but I’ve needed all that time to simply get over the delayed jetlag that has claimed my soul upon my return to be able to even think straight about what I did last week, let alone write about it.

So.

The USA.

It’s fun. Different, but fun. There’s lots of similarities between Us and Them (Us being Aussies and Them being Amurrikans) but on the whole, they a nice – if interesting and slightly strange – bunch.

My trip started with an early morning run to the airport. I was stressed. I’d never had a flight with so many stop-overs before and I could think of nothing else but horror scenarios with my connections. Usually when I’d booked my own flights, I made sure there was no more than one connection to make or I was flying direct. However, that’s simply not possible when one is flying into North Carolina. And after all the horror stories I’d heard about the big and awful LAX, I was in panic mode.

Unfortunately the Manbeast had to get to work so couldn’t stay to keep me company (and calm me down) so after a quick hug and “love you” we went our separate ways.

As I checked in, the guy at the desk seemed to sense my unease (and by “sense” and “unease” I mean was he was watching me pretty much fall apart in front of him) and talked me through the whole damned thing as well gave me a little map of LAX and described exactly where I would need to go to meet my connections. That settled me somewhat. I had a good three hours between flights at LAX. I would have enough time to get lost and find my way at least once…

AND THEN THE FLIGHT WAS DELAYED BY AN HOUR AND A HALF.

It was the last thing I needed. My anxiety took over sometime during the flight and I had a cry because I am a big baby.

Renlish.com - Up and Away!
Calm. What my flights should have been like – but weren’t. (Photo from RGBSTOCK).

When we arrived in LAX (that horrible, HORRIBLE airport!) nearly 15 hours later, I was ushered into the express line into immigration and, after a lengthy conversation with a typically surly customs officer regarding internet friendships and how cool they are, I was officially let into the country!

Of course that triumph was short-lived. I had to run-run-run, collect my luggage, transfer it and then make it to the next gate to make my connection all within an hour. No small feat in such a big airport. Thankfully, I made it with about ten minutes to spare – though not without an x-ray scan AND a pat-down by a lovely TSA officer. Yeah, wearing my most comfy but metal-studded t-shirt for the trip? Not the brightest idea I’d ever had.

I will say here and now that whilst I know that people who work at airports are usually the grumpy sort because they’re dealing with Average Joe (and Decidedly-Below-Average Joe) en masse on a daily basis, the folks in American airports take grumpiness to a whole new level. I don’t ask for much but I don’t suffer fools or rudeness gladly, so when I ask for help I expect a civil reply. The grunts and glares and “this is shit you should know, lady” attitude I got were disheartening and infuriating. Anyway.

Fortunately the last connection I had to make in Detroit was much easier and, after a total of 27 hours traversing the globe – but still managing to arrive the evening of the same day and only seeing about seven hours of daylight (talk about a mind fuck) – I was in North Carolina.

And it was deliciously warm! I hadn’t noticed when I first hit fresh air on the continent. I was rushing so much in LA that the warmer temperature didn’t really even register for much of it until I realised that I was feeling a little warm in my cardigan while I was jogging to my terminal. I looked at the sky and thought “Oh, that’s right, it’s Summer here.”

The Weekly Bindi – Week 12… and corsets… and OMGI’MGOINGTOAMURRIKA!

Renlish.com - The Weekly Bindi
“I’m cuter than that kitten you’re watching on Youtube, right mum? RIGHT MUM?!”

I actually can’t remember what video I was watching, but I was cackling away and then all of a sudden I felt the SCRAMBLE-THUD of Bindi on the bed. She started on my hip and slowly worked her way up my back until she was within petting reach and purring happily into my ear as I obliged her.

And then of course I flipped the webcam on and took a couple of shots. She didn’t mind so much. It’s cold now and I was the warmest spot in the house.

Anyway… last weekend I went to OzComicCon at the Melbourne Exhibition Buildings in Carlton in search of all things geeky and nerdy and, joy of joys, I found it! I have become somewhat obsessed with cosplay after my first experience playing at SupaNova a couple months ago and I’m now part of Facebook cosplay group where some local talent show off their amazing work and works in progress for up-coming conventions.

Sadly I didn’t get any pictures at OzComicCon because I was simply unprepared for the amount of people there and the crush inside the exhibition hall but the bro in-law and I are planning a visit to Armageddon to take pictures of the awesome cosplayers that show up there. And I know there will be many!

The other reason I went to OzCC was to go looking for bits to add to my steampunk costume.

Because…

Renlish.com - DragonCon
DragonCon. ATLANTA, GEORGIA, USofA, BABY!!!!

I am going to DragonCon!

I’m going to AMURRIKA!

Yes, due to the extreme kindness and generosity of a dear, dear friend, I have found myself America-bound for one of the biggest conventions in that country.

AND I AM STOKED.

Because I don’t really have the body to be comfortable cosplaying most of the characters that I like, I am sticking with what makes me look good and feel good and to that end, I’m joining the American steampunk ranks and revisiting my steampunk costume. Steampunk is huge over in the States so I’m hoping to see some amazing stuff at DragonCon.

As my original corset is looking somewhat sad at the moment, I decided to go corset hunting at OzCC with one of my mates and my mother and, at Wonderland Corsets, found the most glorious corset I think I have ever seen and when the helpful shop lady strapped me into it, it looked like it was made to fit me. I had a perfect hour-glass, my boobs looked awesome and my back-cleavage all but vanished. I bought it immediately. Who wouldn’t?

Renlish.com - Corset of Wonderment
Steel-boned gorgeousness.

I cannot wait to wear this baby out with my new, pimped-out costume.