ConCarolinas 2019 is in the Books

Posted: June 6, 2019 in Conventions, Holidays, Life
Tags:

CC2019COVER

For those coming into the story late…

Stuff happened in 2018. It wasn’t particularly good stuff. It was noisy and it was occasionally ugly and nothing particularly good spun out of it. I didn’t discuss it in any great detail back when it was happening and I have no desire to dredge it all up here now. But the fallout from the not particularly good stuff that happened in 2018 is more than just a tad somewhat relevant to what and where the convention found itself this year. So, know that stuff happened, some somewhat not particularly good stuff, and it put into question more than a few matters about the convention’s immediate and long-range future. There was also apparently a lot more on the line going into con this year than I knew going into it, and it created a vastly different experience at this convention this year than I expected to have.

And now that you’re below the “Read More” line and into the actual blog, I’m not going to play around with even attempting to keep anyone in suspense. It was a hell of a lot better than many previous years I’ve attended ConCarolinas. 

Now, let me make something clear. It wasn’t just the usual convention stuff- guests, activities, panel topics & panel discussions, the film festival, dealer room finds, etc. – that most people attending a convention would first think of that made it better than many previous years. Oh, all of those were absolutely fantastic. However, there was a lot more happening this year that made it an amazing convention experience.

One thing that happened that may or may not have been linked to the not particularly good stuff that happened (and some wasn’t at all connected to it but rather last minute “life happens” moments) was a shortage of volunteers in some areas when the convention kicked off the weekend. This could have been bad and, despite the cool stuff that happened to fix it, there were likely more than a few above the suggested dosage of aspirins consumed by staff heads and con heads at the end of the first con day I’m sure. Thankfully, it was nowhere near being the problem it could have been and the ‘why’ behind it not being a bigger problem was an amazing thing to see.

There were people at this year’s con who have long loved the convention for what it’s been, love what it is now, and love what it can be. There were people who stepped in for the last-minute shortages- offering an hour here and there where needed –who had been volunteers in prior years, who were just longtime attendees, and even a few guests. People found out that the fan gathering that had been giving them so much joy over the years was in a transition year and needed a few extra bodies here and there and many people stepped up and did what they could do to make sure everyone still had a fun weekend with no prompting by anyone running the con. Everyone just wanted to make sure everyone else had the best weekend they could have.

Some of that was spur of the moment actions. A hotel dining room was cleared out and set up to be used for a Saturday night dance. It took a bit of work. I told a track head I’d help out at midnight when the dance ended and the dining room had to be made ready for use for breakfast the next day. With the number of people we knew would be helping out, I thought we’d be working on the room until at least 1:30 in the morning. I showed up five minutes late after texting the track head and letting him know something came up and I had to check on my kids. I walked into the dining room at 12:05 and the work was a little more than a third of the way done.

Not only were there more volunteers there than expected, but a small army of people who were at the dance said they’d help out when they saw the volunteers starting to get to work. With the guidance of some hotel staff telling everyone how the tables were to be set (table placement, chair placement, mat, glass, and silverware placement) the room was fully set and usable as a dining room by just after 12:20. There were a lot of moments over the convention weekend that went like that.

Could the convention have gotten by if no one had pitched in this weekend? Yeah. Would the headaches have been epic for the people who were working the con? Very much yeah. But they didn’t have to deal with that level of headaches. The ConCarolinas 2019 weekend was a shining example of what fandom can be when it’s being the best it can be. Everyone who was there wanted everyone else who was there to have a great time. More people than were sometimes needed were willing to step in to make sure everyone did and those who stepped in had a good time while doing that.

Seeing it happen as it happened really was a moment of watching an example of fandom at its best. What came out of it may be an even better thing. I think- just from my observations as it was happening and a discussion or two with others -that they’ll have a nice influx of new people for next year who will more than work for filling their ranks back up.

NOW, THE CONVENTION ITSELF

ConCarolinas isn’t just a convention; it’s also a film festival. Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to try to figure out what short films I wanted to see vs what panels I wanted to see this year. I had acted as a festival judge months before the big event and got to see all of the short films that were screening. That’s part of why I was hyping certain short films in various places before the con. The shorts that were screened at con ranged from pretty damned good to mind-blowingly awesome, and the ones I made a point to see on a larger screen were even more mind-blowingly awesome when seen that way and with a crowd.

One film I hadn’t seen was a feature-length film being screened at the con. This would be the 2019 offering from Sick Chick Flicks, Blood of the Mummy. I made a point of having time for that on my schedule. It was more than worth it. It’s a nice slow burn mummy film that plays in the sandbox of the traditional setups you would expect but also adds a few curveballs and twists here and there. It’s played as straight horror, but it does here and there throw a few nice bits of humor in as well. Absolutely give it a look at the first opportunity you get.

To the ladies from Doctor Who: The Ginger Chronicles, I’m sorry I missed the screening of the new installment after excitedly telling you I was looking forward to it. I had an impromptu volunteering matter arise. But, for everyone else out there, don’t let something get in the way of you seeing it. It’s a very well-done Doctor Who fan project with multiple installments. You can see A Loud Hush here on YouTube and from there you just need to throw Doctor Who: The Ginger Chronicles into the YouTube search bar to find more. The production also has several social media sites, so they’re easy to find and keep up with.

Again, don’t be a me. If you have a chance to see their latest with an audience at a con, go see their latest with an audience at a con.

This year’s panels, author hours, and special events with guests were all great. Well, so I’m told where the ones I didn’t get to are concerned but can totally speak from personal experience on the ones I saw. The nice thing about the growth of ConCarolinas over the years is you face the greatest of horrible problems- or maybe that should be described as the most horrible of great problems to have.

From the first hour of con to the last, there was way too much fun stuff going on to not end up looking at the schedule and having to figure out which thing you absolutely have to see/do gets the ax because there are two or three such events happening at once. It was great looking at the schedule and having to decide which two (or more) things that looked really interesting and entertaining had to fall to the wayside when up against the one thing that looked the most interesting and entertaining.

Schedule.JPG

That’s not even the tip of the iceberg. Hmmm… They maybe do need a dedicated Horror Track added in there…

You can look at what was on the schedule HERE for a while longer. You can look at the ConCarolinas main site HERE.

ConCarolinas is a fan convention. It’s run by fans and everyone who signs up to work on something- behind the scenes volunteering, special events, track heads, panelists, etc. –are fans; even the ones now making a living as professionals. Everyone is trying to bring as much fun to it as they can, and more often than not they bring a lot of fun. Also, if you need to rest and decompress for a bit? Well, at least right now and at this location, they have ducks, geese, and a big freaking pond.

View

That’s another cool thing about the convention even if it is purely based on the current location. Not only is there a really great place to decompress when you need it, but all around that nice view you’ll find places to eat and places to grab knick-knacks you might suddenly find yourself in need of during con.

I had a great time at con this year and there are a lot of people I need to thank. The danger of thanking people is that you always forget someone as the list gets longer and longer. I’m going to cheat with a big chunk of names in the first round of thank yous. If you were at con this year and you’re on my Facebook Friends list, you already know I love the crap out of all you and am thankful you were there to enjoy the con with. I need to add in thanks to the not on my Facebook Friends list Chris Shrewsbury and Jett Dixon, heads of the Fandom & Geek Life Track for doing a great job with the track and allowing me to be a guest and panelist for the second year running.

I need to give a huge and special thanks to the following people.

Kat Milby

Michael Williams (The actor, not the author, so go find his films!)

Wes Smith

Jim Ryan

James Maxey

Sherman Burris

Rick Wise (Go find his band Splintered Reality now!)

Peter Prellwitz

These were the people who suffered my presence as my co-panelists at various points of the weekend. The fact that I was able to leave North Carolina without a ball gag permanently rammed down my throat is a testament to their patience. You were all fantastic people to have on panels and to be able to bat ideas back and forth with and to play off of in order to make our panel audiences occasionally have a good laugh as well as a good think.

Fortunately, everyone was good with the panels being recorded for use in podcasts. They will be getting heard as a part of a new project before the year is out.

That special thanks goes double or triple for the following people.

Micki Knop

Chris A. Jackson (Go find his books!)

JJ Dunaway

Jenna Hamrick

These were the moderators and co-panelists I had on two panels that could have very easily been train wrecks. The panels were Dumas or Dumbass and Reaching New Audiences. Both panels were focused on things that can be contentious discussion topics in fandom. Both panels went extremely well. Chris Jackson was ferociously passionate about some of his positions in Dumas or Dumbass- with some of those positions differing from mine in degree or totality -but he was absolutely fantastic to work with on the panel and kept all of his interactions on the topic respectful and intelligent. Micki Knop was a great moderator for the panel and made sure no one got out of line while adding the perfect bits to keep the discussion moving and occasionally going into areas where you really had to think about your answer and position.

The same can be said of Jenna Hamrick and JJ Dunaway as co-panelists and moderator. That really was a panel that could have gone into flames and there were certainly any number of subjects where Jenna Hamrick and I were not going to see things from the same POV just because our backgrounds and experiences are very different. Thankfully, all disagreements were given with the understanding that the other person wasn’t wrong, we just saw different things in different ways. For as much as I disagreed with Jenna on a couple of points that came up, neither of us were trying to change the other persons mind or say that what certain things caused someone to feel were invalid. It was purely an exchange of differing POVs.

That feeling was especially true from my seat as, as I jokingly said about myself during the panel, I was the token straight white male approaching his fifties in the room, let alone on the panel. While I certainly felt free to disagree that some things could only be ‘X’ or be seen or interpreted as ‘X’ by audiences, I in no way wanted it to come across that I was saying her interpretations were wrong for her or the way things made her feel when they happened were invalid. Hopefully, even as things were moving quickly in the discussion, that came through clearly early on during the discussion.

Unfortunately, I didn’t record those two panels. On some level, I wanted everyone to feel like they could speak freely. More importantly, I went into them thinking they might not be panels the con would ultimately want floating around out there. I thought this in part because there were some discussions about canceling the first of these two panels and there had been word of an issue with another panel (later shown to be overblown) the night before the second of the two panels. I’m now really annoyed that I didn’t record them because, whether we were disagreeing or agreeing on various points and interpretations of matters, everyone was polite, intelligent, and gracious even as they were noticeably passionate. They would have been great examples of how good fandom can be when it approaches even potentially problematic topics the right way.

I also want to thank the people running the convention for even having some of the panels they allowed along those lines for this year. After the events of the last 16 months, they would have had every right to have been as gun shy as hell about such topics. Unfortunately, these topics have the potential to be landmines. However, they’re also important topics with the changing landscapes in fandom. If you can get people who are willing to have a respectful exchange of ideas in front of an audience who is willing to also be respectful during the exchanges, it can be a good thing.

BUT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING HERE

ConCarolinas has always been a fun con for the family and me to go to. There have been a few hiccups here and there, but we’ve typically always largely enjoyed the weekends we’ve spent there. This year, that was even more true minus the hiccups part.

If you’ve never been to ConCarolinas, check them out and seriously think about going next year. It’s a fan convention you’ll have a good time with. It’s also a great convention to check out if you’re looking to start a career as a creator of fandom related materials. When you check out their offerings, you’ll see a lot of panels and workshops led by people doing just that talking about the how to and best ways. Plus, again, lots of fun stuff and cool indie films projects to see.

If you’ve gone in the past but haven’t been back in a while, check them out and think about going again next year. As I said way up above, this was something of a transition year. There are some things changing at ConCarolinas and they’re not at all bad changes. In fact, they all look like changes that will help make the con a better convention in the coming years.

ConCarolinas is a fun convention experience at a great location. If it’s a con you can get to, it’s well worth the trip.

Oh, also, check out RavenCon while you’re at it. I really need to do a full writeup on them as well. I didn’t this year because I was unsure about the status of various matters around the con, but thanks to some just breaking announcements it appears that RavenCon may be returning to Richmond after spending more than a few years with Williamsburg as its home. So, more on them later.

Jerry Chandler is a lifelong geek who, while enjoying most everything fandom has to offer, finds himself most at home in the horror, dark fantasy, and science fiction genres. He has in the past contributed to websites like Needless Things, Nerdy Minds MagazineGruesome Magazine, and others while occasionally remembering to put up the odd musings on his own blog. He’s been a guest on several podcasts from the ESO Network, on Decades of Horror, and on the Nerdy Laser. He is also a regular co-host on The Assignment: Horror Podcast as well as the primary writer for its affiliated blog.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s