Monthly Archives: September 2012

Convention Survival Guide, Post #1 – The Convention Survival Guide

Where to start? Over the decades I have learned a great deal about conventions and how to survive them without being overly tired or sick afterwards. There is also a very unique and specific social structure within conventions that you don’t find in the outside world. This is the first of more than 20 posts that will be devoted specifically to surviving conventions intact. I will cover such diverse subjects as why some conventions give away glycerin soap with dice in them to dealing with or being security, from what the hell was I drinking last night to making fun of the mundanes.

Science fiction conventions are the largest nonreligious special-interest group in America. Part of the reason for that is because they are so accepting and inclusive. The existence of the related conventions such as comic book, horror, fantasy, anime, etc., is actually a side effect of the science fiction convention. Science fiction fans still consider these other conventions as part of their general format. Honestly that’s entirely fair. Not only were science fiction conventions first, but they went out of their way to cater to these various special interests even when they didn’t have a very large fan base of their own. Individual SMOF’s and RMOF’s work hard for no pay to make conventions work and to provide programming for a variety of genres. If you don’t know what SMOF’s and RMOF’s are you are not alone but if you ask around will probably find some answers. Just assume that there wouldn’t be any conventions without these guys.

The very first convention was WorldCon. It started in New York City in 1939 and travels from city to city all over the world to this day. The only reason to go to any other convention during WorldCon is because WorldCon is too far away and you can’t afford to go. I have heard people make excuses for going to other conventions during WorldCon, but as I said before there really are only two reasons not to go to WorldCon if you are an actual fan.

Yeah, you can argue if you want, but even that is only because you feel you have to justify your position. I don’t have to justify my statement and if you don’t understand why I say what I do then you’re just not as much of a fan as I am and that’s okay. In fact, you don’t have to agree with anything I say. That is part of the freedom that is fandom.

So, you may be wondering why you should even read my posts if you don’t have to agree with them. Okay that’s fair. The answer is simple: if you want to maximize your enjoyment of conventions without losing your job, girlfriend or boyfriend, mind, or health, then this blog will save you wear and tear and decades of time. You might even get to hear or read about people being kidnapped and taken across state lines to Ren fairs or the story of the great lobster liberation or at least a little information about the Knights of the purple tower. Certainly fandom has changed a lot over the years. Before there was Second Life there was Second Skin. No, I’m not actually planning to explain that, but I might.

By the way, the very first WorldCon or Nycon had 200 attendees and the very first Hugo award was a stolen hood ornament from a car in the parking lot. Forrest J Ackerman wore the first costume at that convention and that is why there is costumeing today. Back when I ran my own science fiction magazine called Planetary Previews, they were among the things that went into Forrey’s collection.

No discussions of cons would be complete without stories of alcohol and both practical and impractical jokes. No, you are not allowed to throw them off a hotel balcony, no matter how deserving they may be. It is perhaps sad that I have had to say those words in real life on numerous occasions, and unfortunately, sometimes it sounded like a good idea even to me.

So, starting with the next installment we will be discussing how to pick which con to go to.

Copyright 2012 Julian Thomas Reid III


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In many ways the death of John Wallace Hill was the proverbial brick that broke the dromedary’s back. It was very hard for me over the past few years watching this kid give up on life. It’s not that he didn’t want to live, at least on a conscious level, but it was very clear that on another level he was dead set on dying.

He was very stubborn, but otherwise showed no sign of discipline or willpower. I suppose that I should not take it personally that I could not get him to follow the rules of or practice or even come to a regular class of kung fu because even his lifelong love of the samurai arts could not get him to follow the rules of or practice either.

I remember the first time I met John. It was at the first M.O.C. martial arts panel. I had been hounding Roland about wanting to do a martial arts panel for several years. Martial arts figure into a lot of science fiction literature, movies, and television shows. I even pointed out to him that there were lots of martial artists who went to science fiction conventions and that he himself was a tae kwon do practitioner. Eventually Roland decided to let me do a martial arts panel and it was the first one at any science fiction convention. When I told him that I would look for other people to be on the panel he said that he had been talking to a number of people about my idea and he would just pass the word on for them to come be on my panel.

The next year M.O.C. had the first science fiction martial arts panel in history. I showed up in a full Sam with green sash, to indicate that I was Taoist, before the panel was to start. I was the first one in the room and I sat down in the audience in the front row center. Eventually some fans started filing in and then some of my panelists arrived. There was John, a lesbian woman who taught self-defense for women based on some Korean art, and a couple of others. The room filled up and they dithered for a few minutes waiting for me to show up. The other people on the panel sat there and looked lost until John decided to take charge. He stood up and announced that he thought they should get going instead of just waiting for the organizer of the panel. After introducing himself and giving a ranking in Japanese, which he claimed spuriously was one rank below the highest possible rank in his art, he had everyone else introduce themselves and they all gave a standard belt ranking. Belt ranking started with judo in Japan. Its originator was the originator of judo himself, Jigoro Kano, in the 1800s and it has become standard practice throughout Japan.

I continued to sit in the audience while they gave a brief introduction to each of their arts and then proceeded immediately to a question-and-answer period because they had no idea what else to do. Every time they started to get stuck I would ask an insightful and leading question. After fielding a few questions about kung fu John decided that I belonged up there on the stage with the rest of them and asked me to come up there and introduce myself. I then mounted the stage, turned and faced the audience and introduced myself and explained that I was in fact the organizer of this panel, whereupon John said, “I might’ve known. That’s just like the Shaolin!”

After that I led the discussion and gave the panelists topics and had them demonstrate a few simple moves. After the panel was over, I led a small group of interested audience members and John to an empty room where I continued to answer questions and teach a few techniques. That was more than 20 years ago. (I did not say that that was more than 20 years ago; Dragon NaturallySpeaking just up and typed it. I was going to say that was 18 or 19 years ago but I can’t explain why it typed that.)

The two things that stood out about John as he towered over me that first day were his leadership ability and his sense of humor. In the end his sense of humor was gone and that was how I knew that he would soon be gone as well.

Certainly this was not the last in a long line of stressful events that I’ve been dealing with nor was it by many years the first but it was the one which made me realize that if I didn’t get a break I was going to.

Copyright September 2012 Julian Thomas Reid III

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