Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Con*Cept 2010 Con Report

I'm back from Con*Cept and had a day to decompress. Needed it after over 8 hours traveling by bus. Ugh, next time I'm taking the train, for reasons that will become clearer below.

First, let me state that I had a blast at Con*Cept. It's important I say this, because there were a few things about the trip that annoyed/irritated me and I'm going to mention them. The things that annoyed me had absolutely nothing to do with the people running the con or the con itself or any of the guests, and I want that to be absolutely clear before I go any further.

Ok, so here's how it all began. Friday morning I'm up and raring to go, get to the downtown bus terminal and find out that what was supposed to be a $129.00 open return ticket is actually going to cost me $220. Thank you St. Catharines Transit employee who either gave me the wrong price by mistake or flat out lied to me. Too late to make the train which would have been about $15 cheaper and I really did not want to drive nearly 8 hours straight all by myself. Grrrrr....

Alright, no worries, just a little bump. I had to switch buses in Toronto and thankfully the driver of the first bus warned me that the one to Montreal leaves 5 minutes after we arrive in Toronto. So I grab my bag and rush over, only to find out it isn't one of the regular Coach Canada buses, it's a "Megabus", meaning no overhead for my backpack and I have to hunt and peck for a seat as I'm one of the last people on the bus and it's nearly full. Again, grrr....

Now, I'm no stranger to long car rides. All of the family vacation I went on while growing up involved me and my sister jammed in the back of a car, so I can amuse myself on a long trip. I'd just bought Virga: Cities of The Air, a trade paperback of the first two Virga novels by Karl Schroeder (review on the way later this week), so I had that to read on the trip, but seeing some people with laptops able to access the internet on the Megabus had me puzzled for a bit. The girl in the seat in front of me was updating her Facebook, far enough away that I couldn't read it so I wasn't snooping but close enough I could recognize the page. I figured she must have a Rogers or Bell stick, but I found out on the way home that the bus had wireless Internet when the driver announced that the Internet had been turned on, meaning if I had a laptop or iPad I could have been using that with wireless access the whole trip up. Something to consider for the next long bus or train ride, as while I really enjoyed the book there were times it would have been nice to have something else to look at/watch for awhile.

Alright, so I arrived in Montreal a little worn around the edges but not too tired. I get to the hotel and get my room key, fascinate the clerk with my umbrella that has a handle like a katana, and head to my room to drop my stuff off. Once in the room I find it a bit warm, but there are no controls that I can see for the temperature and the windows don't open. It looks like there's an air conditioner in the window, but I don't see a way to turn it on and, really, it's the fall. I'd much rather have the windows open and a nice breeze blowing through but that ain't gonna happen. Grrrrrrr....

So the traveling is over, I'm at the con, now what? Well, registration was quick and simple, opening ceremonies had cake (yeah cake!) and then off to some panels. Really, the day started to pick up from this point, though I did make the mistake of eating dinner in the hotel. Ugh, overpriced and lackluster, blah!

Still, I really did enjoy the first night. Con*Cept really does have a different vibe then AdAstra. I don't think I saw anyone in costume on Friday night, and there weren't that many in costume on Saturday or Sunday either. The Masquerade on Saturday only had six participants, including one very sexy Barbarella, as compared to the dozens of people I saw at AdAstra in some really elaborate costumes.

The real gems at Con*Cept were the panels. I think I attended just about every single one there was on writing, with panelists that included Marie Bilodeau, Erik Buchanan, Violette Malan, Karen Dales, Jo Walton, and the guest of honor, Tad Williams and his lovely wife, Deborah Beale. Really, there wasn't a single panel that I didn't come away from wishing that we'd had more time on the subject.

The highlight of the whole con had to be the Sunday morning brunch. Now, originally my plan had been to sit near Lar De Souza because I love the webcomic he draws and would love the chance to ask him about the process of creating it. Yeah, that plan got tossed out the window after seeing Tad Williams on a few panels. Now, I've never read one of Tad's books. I think I tried to start Memory, Sorrow and Thorn at one point but if I remember correctly I got the wrong book as it was a few books into the series and so much had happened in the previous books that would have been useful to know, yadda, yadda, yadda

So back on point, I sat near Tad and his wife Deborah at the brunch, and really the hotel could have served us cardboard and I wouldn't have noticed. Both of them were intelligent and engaging, with stories galore, but they also listened and had real conversations with the people around them rather then just talking and attempting to sell books. There were just really, really nice people, and so obviously still in love with and comfortable around each other after twenty years of marriage which is always nice to see and pleasant to be around. There was just so much positive energy around that table I couldn't leave, even though there was panel I wanted to get to.

The rest of Sunday was pretty low key and fun. I got to attend my first Dead Dog party and ended up going out to dinner with a bunch of people from the con, including Twitchy and a couple others involved in running the WTFur con (sorry, couldn't find a link for it).

Monday was another day spent traveling. I decided to forgo extending my stay as I hadn't a single decent night's sleep the whole time I was in that hotel room, even though I'd figured out how to turn the fan on the air conditioner on it still didn't make a difference. Plus the bed was too soft. And the rooms they had the panels in weren't really soundproofed well so noise leaked in from outside. Let's just say I hope next year is held in a different hotel.

So, would I go again next year? I dunno. At this point I plan to hit AdAstra for sure next year, and spend at least a day at AnimeNorth with a group I know putting on a sword demo. Other than that, I would really like to go to Polaris. I didn't go this year because of a special commitment that won't be in place next year, and in 2011 they'll have Adam Baldwin who played Jayne in Firefly, one of the coolest characters on one of my favorite shows.

To sum things up, for a freaking long blog post, con was great, hotel sucked, bus ride sucked, met and hung out with some great people. Totally worth it!

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