Minneapolis singer-songwriter and novice geek Jeremy Messersmith experiences four geektacular days of sci-fi extravangaza CONvergence – and lives to tell about it. Here’s his recap of this year’s festivities, penned exclusively for l’étoile.
In what is quickly turning into a summer tradition, I spent my 4th of July weekend hanging out with geeks at CONvergence, a yearly sci-fi convention at the Hilton Doubletree in Bloomington. Billed as a “Four Day Celebration of Science Fiction and Fantasy,” it features hundreds of panels, events, shows, screenings and readings.
The dense schedule and throngs of costumed people can be overwhelming, but if my past CONvergence experience taught me anything, it’s to relax and go with the flow. I skipped a few more panels than usual (sorry “Ancient Aliens”!) and spent more time chatting with friends at the hotel bar and the new outdoor smoking lounge. During one lively debate over beer, I realized my table was populated by comedians, authors, illustrators, and screenwriters, all voicing opinions regarding Star Trek. Who is the best-written female character? Why does Star Trek: Enterprise suck? And how can Star Trek: Voyager replace so many crashed runabouts? CONvergence overflows with weird, creative, and obsessive types who eagerly talk about new emerging subcultures (bronies,* anybody?) or trade euphemisms about the male version of a “camel toe.” Note: Men, make sure your “moose knuckle” is not showing when you leave your house. Embarrassing.
Much has remained unchanged from my first review of the convention for l’étoile a few years ago – the same hotel, the same party rooms, and sure enough, there’s always that one dude dressed as William Riker. So what made CONvergence different this year?
For one, the theme for this year was “Wonder Women,” so accordingly, most of the panels and events celebrated women in fantasy and science fiction. Women are historically underrepresented in geekdom, but for the first time at CONvergence, all the guests of honor were women. Panels like “Evolution and the Female Orgasm,” “The Heroine’s Journey in Fiction” and “Women in Star Trek” populated the schedule. With women being around 50 percent of attendees, the programmers created this year’s event to be more female friendly. For instance, signs plastered around the hotel read “Costumes Do Not Mean Consent,” reminding some of the more socially regressive geeks to keep their hands to themselves.
Of course at any event like this, there is always room for improvement. During a panel on climate change, one woman stood up and asked, “Why isn’t this a zero waste event?” For my part, I’d love a few more food options to compliment the “all you can eat” rice, soup and peanut butter jelly sandwiches.
Ultimately, CONvergence is a con planned, made, and run by fans. Of the 5,000 or so attendees, nearly 500 of them volunteer to be badge checkers, ASL interpreters, or baristas. I even joined a panel entitled “Comedy in Music” that featured local comic veterans like Tim Wick, Courtney McLean and Joseph Scrimshaw. I also volunteered a few of my hours to lounge in a chair, poke fun of the Joker, become friends with Harry Potter and, oh yeah, check badges. In contrast to the slick corporate spectacle that is Comic-Con, CONvergence stands out as a special kind of homegrown geek shindig which reflects of our local nerd scene. Since the fans run the show, it’s the fans that keep CONvergence progressive. And that’s what’s needed to keep CON running for years to come.
*According to Urban Dictionary, “bronies” are “teenage to young-adult, mostly male, fans of the animated cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
More CONvergence 2012:
Click HERE for photos from CONvergence 2012 by Clement Shimizu exclusively for l’étoile.
Click HERE for Niles Schwartz’ recap of CONvergence 2012 for the Niles Notes.
Click HERE for Anthony Enright’s column for the Rogue Epicurean on five overlooked sci-fi novels by female authors.