by Rob Callahan
Convention season in the Twin Cities is a long one, with many and varied experiences awaiting you. Your choices range from smaller and more intimate gatherings like Diversicon or Arcana to mammoth events like Anime Detour and CONvergence, which rep out as nothing shy of sugar- and booze-fueled fansplosions, respectively. There are all sizes of cons between these, though. While they all generally aim to indulge your fannish sensibilities, some are more specialized than others. Minicon, for example, devotes a large part of its programming to literature. Marscon has a healthy comedy and music track. Others focus on science, comics, gaming, westerns and probably anything else you could think of. In short, if you’re into it there’s probably a con for it, and the first of those kicks off on Friday at the Crowne Plaza Hotel & Suites in Bloomington.
If you’re going to Marscon, or any con for that matter, there are a few things you need to know before you walk in the door and don your badge. These are things that may never come up, but if they do you’ll thank me for the sagely advice I’m about to bestow:
Costumes Do Not Equal Consent
First thing first: You’re going to see attractive men and women running around in leather bikinis and loincloths. Let’s get that right out of the way. When that happens, how you respond can mean the difference between a jolly old time had by all and your being dragged out in cuffs while some violated 17-year-old cries thick mascara streaks down the front of her Jack Sparrow cross-play ensemble.
You are probably allowed to glance when they walk by. Have a brief look. That’s fine. They know that’s coming. After all, no one develops the body for that costume by accident and no one wears that costume to keep a low profile. Still, you’re going to be tempted to stare, and staring is going too far. Don’t oggle the She Hulk. Don’t follow Beastmaster all over the hotel, wolf whistling. If you’re talking to a hot Yuffie or Zardoz1, notice the location of their eyes. That’s where they want you looking. Do not approach strangers and try to say something sexy and witty because, let’s face it, what you say will be neither.
A good general rule to follow is this: If you have to ask whether or not your behavior could be interpreted as harassment, it is in fact harassment.
And, for God’s sake people, do not touch. Simply being a hot Femtrooper is not an invitation for you to get grabby with those gross, groping mits of yours. And if you make that mistake, chances are some big ass Klingon is gonna have words with you. If you’re lucky, only words.
Better to Remain Silent and Be Thought a Fool
You are a knowledgeable, enthusiastic and excitable individual. Maybe you’re the foremost Buffy expert in the city. Perhaps your Doctor Who fanfic is Hugo contender material. It’s even possible that you are the world’s greatest Homestuck fan. We get that. That’s why we’re in the audience and you’re on this panel. You know more than anyone else about whatever this panel is about, and that’s pretty cool. Enlighten us, instruct us, lead us down new and deep channels of thought about Season 6B, even belittle us a little if you have to. Just don’t bore us.
Because, sooner or later during that panel, someone in the crowd will say something that reminds you of just how awesome this one episode of Farscape was. Then you’re going to recap all of Season 4 Episode 20. You know, the one that starts out with Scorpius being tortured by the Scarrans, and then Minister Ahkna tells him to tell her all he knows about wormholes, and if he does, even the smallest secret, she’ll leave him at peace for an arn? And then Scorpius is all like, “Torture me some more, baby. I’ve been searching for a female like you my whole life,” and then… [significant amount of text removed by editors]2 …and the bomb’s about to blow and WOW WHAT A CLIFFHANGER!!!3
Panels last about an hour. There are typically several panelists. There are also questions from the audience. If you spend 45 minutes reciting the same script that everyone else in the room also knows by heart, you’ve just ruined the panel. In fact, if you spend two minutes doing that, things are getting off track. Keep your answers short and to the point so that everyone else has time to do the same. If you must get together with other fans and reenact Holy Grail line-for-line, scene-for-scene, do it later over drinks in the Monty Python party room, where many a drunk Python fan may gladly join in. Which brings us to our next topic…
Beware of Romulans Bearing Ale
There are party rooms, most of which are themed. You’ll find them full of friendly people who’ve put a great deal of passion and personal finances into making these rooms a place where you can comfortably enjoy a beverage while calmly discussing the appropriate term for your particular brand of fandom.4 Most of them will hand you a free drink if you can legally consume it. If you finish that one, they’ll probably get you a second. In fact, you could theoretically drink your weight in free booze over the weekend5 because sipping goblets of Klingon blood wine or glasses of Romulan ale has become a pretty standard part of the adult con experience.
However, just like when you’re at a bar, you have to stop some time. All of us aspire to be friendly, charming and pleasantly tipsy when there’s a drink in our hands. There’s little that’s more relaxing than talking to that charismatic Xena cosplayer you met earlier. Now that you’ve drunk enough to relax around her, but not so much that you forget where her eyes are, things are going swimmingly. Unfortunately, there’s very little overlap between the states of having drank just enough to be cool and being too drunk to know you should stop, and you don’t want to be that guy. So, if you’re coming off as The Most Interesting Man in the World, you’ve found that sweet spot and your next drink should probably be a glass of water. Pace yourself. If you end up acting like Homer Simpson on Guatemalan insanity peppers, you’ve had too much and you need to call it a night. Unless that’s just your costume.
Everybody Hates a Tourist
If you don’t know why there was a brief argument in Deep Space 9, Season 5 Episode 6, over how many ships have been called “Enterprise” you can probably still call yourself a Trekkie. If you don’t know how many there were, you should do some homework first. If you just showed up pretending to like Star Trek because that hot “nerdy” cashier at Urban Outfitters mentioned Yoda once in a conversation, and you followed her here hoping to make some headway, turn around and go home now. It’s alright to know a little less about Star Trek than everyone else6 but all-out poseurs don’t belong at con.
Also, try to be conscious of the labels you self-apply. If you’re charismatic, attractive and generally get along in life without much hassle, don’t call yourself a “nerd”. You might be one. You might have every right to the term, but you’re bandying it about in an environment full of people who’ve winced at the sound of it their entire lives. If you show up looking like a prom queen and those guys hear you bragging about how “geeky” or “nerdy” you are, you’re unleashing an unstoppable geek hydra of scorn and indignation that no amount of Hercules cosplayers will be able to LARP into submission.
1. Wait. Scratch that. No matter how fit and toned he is, no one is attractive in a Zardoz costume.
2. We had to edit over 16,000 words out of this section because Rob Callahan can’t heed his own advice about Farscape.
3. He went on to pen a sizable novella about Episode 21. We cut that too.
4. Whether you’re a Whovian, a Wholigan, a Whosier or a TARDISexual. That sort of thing.
5. This is not theoretically possible, actually.
6. It really is alright. Some people may act like it’s not. Some may even ridicule you over it, but those are the guys who ruin panels and probably stare too long at your chest. Screw those guys. Go find someone nice, secure and friendly instead. They’ll gladly explain the Season 5 Episode 6 thing and they’ll be glad you asked.