Welcome to Convergence 2014
A Brief Introduction For The First Time Con-Goer
or I am a Convergence, and so can you
By Baron Dave Romm
Updated for 2014 CE: This is an update of I Am A Convergence And So Can You, which I created in 2012 and updated in 2013. Mostly, what I've done is update the links and add a few bits. The advice, snark and jokes are largely the same.
Claimer: I'm Dave Romm, aka DavE or Baron Dave. I'm not on the Convergence Committee and have no direct relationship with the convention except as a member, panelist (but not this year) and, of course, as a volunteer in several capacities. I produced Shockwave Radio Theater, a science fiction program, for almost thirty years, and talked to many authors, actors, con runners and costumers, among others. I've been to all the Convergences, and to scores of other conventions of various sizes. I was Fan Guest of Honor at Minicon in 1990 and Marscon in 2004. Many people have asked about coming to Convergence: What should I see? What is there to do? Let me take you on a short guide, from a personal perspective.
Welcome to Convergence! There is no Neofan's Guide, as such, though the con provides a What is CONvergence page, but I've provided an introduction to new fans for other conventions so have the template for this Convergence overview. Everyone is amazingly friendly and will be happy to answer any questions you have. Just be prepared to get different answers from different people.
I'll note here that the Convergence itself likes to be spelled CONvergence, but I'm too 20th Century. The con's shorthand is CVG, good for texting or keeping things short. Unlike here.
What To Do At Convergence Part I: Planning and Arriving
- Plan your adventure. Convergence is a four day extravaganza, July 3-6, 2014, and the fun begins with the set up on Wednesday and continues after the con. You don't have to be at the con all four days. But if you're going for any length of time, remember to schedule meals, sleep, showers and downtime. Plan sightseeing or family visits around major programming you want to get to.
- What to bring. Check the weather and pack appropriate clothes. Keep in mind you'll be indoors most of the time. Don't forget any medication or vitamins. Bring your phone and camera. If you're coming for one of the Guests of Honor, bring something for them to sign. Take along contact info for people you want to meet up with, especially if you're sharing a room or getting a ride. Pack any costumes, buttons or plumage you want to wear. Bring your own water bottle, beer stein or other things you can use and/or show off. Most vendors will take credit cards for major purchases, but bring along some cash (especially small bills to use as tips in parties). Fill up your car with gas before arriving, so you don't have to do it on the way back.
- Arriving at the hotel. Get to the Hotel and rent a room. Okay, renting a room is optional but greatly encouraged (this is why they let us hold cons here). You should do this as far in advance as possible. If you're not sure, call. You may have to stay at one of the overflow hotels. And... remember where you parked.
- Go to Registration to get your badge and Program Book. Registration should be easy to find (it's on the first floor near the hotel registration desk) or look around for the signs or just ask anyone.
- Wear your badge at all times. This is not merely a security concern, but will help people know who you are, and you will know who they are. At least by badge name.
- Read the Program Book. The packet you get when you register will contain a great deal of information, such as the location of events and bios of the Guests of Honor. If you don't have anything else to get autographed, have people sign near one of their listings in the Program Book, and keep it as a collectable.
Your Registration packet has all sorts of useful things, amongst them: A pocket program (so you don't have to lug the entire Program Book around) and a filled-out form for you to register for next year.
What To Do At Convergence Part II: Things To Do
There is a lot of stuff going on at Convergence. More than is listed here, though I've tried to cover the major events. Look around! Ask questions!
- Plan your day around Programming. Use the web site or the pocket program and pick out the panels you want to go to. If there is more than one interesting thing going on at the same time, too bad. Everybody goes to a different con! Note that most of the panels are hour-long discussions in an hour-and-a-half slot. This means that panelists can go a few minutes over, if necessary, and that you have time to get to the next one. But watch the times: Not all events are so tessellated.
Program schedules are on the walls in several places on the first and second floor of the Doubletree (and maybe other places too). These are basically large versions of the pocket program, but come in staggeringly handy for figuring out what to see in between the events you specifically circled.
- Opening Ceremonies (7pm Thursday, Main Stage) is a must, introducing you to the concom and Guests of Honor with a dash of literary wit and geek weirdness. See and be seen. Connect with other fans. For an added treat (and to avoid the crowd) get to the Mainstage an hour earlier for the Mark Time Radio Show. (Earlier Mark Time Radio shows are available at Great Northern Audio.)
- For many, the con centers around the Masquerade, (7-10:00pm Saturday, Main Stage) with numerous costume workshops and demonstrations around the events themselves.
- Make time to see the Art Show. Paintings, prints, sculpture and other visual treats are in store. Always varied and always interesting, you can spend a lot of time in the Art Show, or very little. But at least duck in.
And you can buy the art, or bid on it, both in the Art Show and the Art Auction (Saturday at 9pm, Atrium 4)
- Wander about the Science and Craft Room; aka Connie's Quantum Sandbox (very kid friendly). There is usually a schedule of activities posted.
- Reserve some cash to spend in the Dealers Room. Dealers will have everything from books to DVDs to jewelry to swords to clothing. And more. Buy something for your favorite author/actor/concom member to autograph! Create an instant hall costume! Get a new game to play with your family!
- The various Performances are fun (though not necessarily child-proof). Many are live performances, and some have audience participation. You can see fan-made videos, go to concerts, sing along to Dr. Horrible or play the theremin. Check the Program Book or signs nearby for schedules and last minute changes.
- If you're a Gamer, check the schedule. There are many formal events planned on the 22nd Floor and panel discussions (check the Programming Schedule), and many informal games pop up spontaneously. Or test out that new game you got in the Dealers Room!
- Autographing sessions are there for you to get your book/whatever signed; perhaps buy something at the table the guest brought just for the con. A personal meeting, however short, helps you get to know the participants better. They also to help you to meet fellow fans with similar tastes. If the line is long, don't dawdle, but if the table is clear feel free to talk to them, especially if you bought something or got an autograph. Some guests are here as publicity or just came for the money, but most are also at these kinds of cons because they like to hang out with fans. This is one of the big differences between Professional cons and Fan Run cons.
- Movies. Cinema Rex Movie Room will have different movies playing day and night. A nice space. The 2014 Midwest Sci-Fi Short Film Festival in Atrium 6, is in its sixth year of presenting local sf films. Theater Nippon Anime will be showing new and classic anime.
- One of the fun things to do is Volunteer. At the con, you can (and are encouraged to) become a badge checker or other simple (but responsible) positions. Even fairly young adults have fun. You get to meet lots of people, have access to the Volunteer's Den, get t-shirts and other swag, and get invited to the Volunteers Party after the con. Plus (and I can't say this enough), you are a member of the con, not an attendee. We are for you. You are for us.
- If you can't make it to one of the larger events, or if it's too crowded for you, watch on CVG-TV. CVG-TV has YouTube channels for year 'round viewing at home. Yes, Convergence is that good. And if you submit far enough in advance, you could be part of next year's channel!
What To Do At Convergence Part III: Eating and Meeting on the Fly
- The Consuite(s), on the second floor of The Garden Court (the poolside atrium), will have food and drink and a convivial atmosphere. We won't have meals, as such, but the consuite will frequently have soups and rice and other Real Food options, including a PB&J room. Feel free to graze on whatever is put out. Save your cup and flatware if you're going back. I keep a Sharpie on-hand to put my name on my cup or bottled water.
Other dining options: The restaurant has upgraded it's food services from 2012. The Crescent Kitchen, in the bar area, is pretty good and likely to have Convergence specials. The small coffee shop in the North tower is now the Daily Brew in the middle of the first floor. Within a short walking distance is a TGIFridays, a fancy French restaurant (in the former Sofitel, now a Sharaton) a Dairy Queen Grill (Mpls is corporate HQ for DQ, so they go all out), and several fast food places. A quick drive will get you to numerous eateries. Just speak "restaurants" into your smartphone, ask a local, or follow the trail of breadcrumbs.
COF2 E2 Coffee Shop. Get caffeinated with a wide variety of styles and flavors. Tea available too! Look for long lines of sleepy people following the colored tape on the floor to a desired beverage. Peak time lines can be daunting, so plan accordingly.
Parties will frequently serve specialized alcoholic beverages or have interesting munchies. Almost any party will have some sort of edibles. Come in, enjoy the party, and partake. Some of the drinks/food/etc are expensive to make, so encourage them by putting a buck or so in the tip jar. Parties are run by individuals and groups, not Convergence itself, so you can help everyone out by hanging onto your cup or plate as you party hop. Many parties will have a sticker for your badge; this is optional. Some people like to collect stickers or ribbons, others like to keep their badges clean. Up to you.
- Staying healthy can be tricky when you're being whelmed by 6,000 of your closest friends over an intense weekend with so much to do that personal hygiene gets overlooked. Take showers. Wash your hands frequently. Get enough sleep. Wear clean clothes. Keep your nose wet (on the inside). Avoid the post-con crud as much as possible: Take vitamin pills, eat real food now and again. (More on this in a minute.) Remember to bring (and take) your meds or allergy pills. Don't overdo the alcohol or sugar. Take showers. Get enough sleep. (Yes, I repeated these last two. They're important.)
Stay Hydrated This means you. In 2012 the outside heat and the mass of Convention members made it critical to drinking water (or other non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated liquids). The hotel has water fountains near the restrooms, there's water in the back of most programming rooms and CVG sells nifty water bottles for your geek hydration (at the Merchandise table near the Dealers Room). Hail hydrate!
- Stay healthy after the con Let me expand a bit on post-con crud. This is a catch-all name for the various maladies that are often suffered by con members in the days after the event. Sometimes the symptoms are similar, as if a virus was shared by thoursands of people in close quarters (ya' think?), and sometimes it's just sort of an emotional letdown when returing to quotidian routine.
During con I repeat: Wash your hands. Take vitamins/eat healty. Get rest. Take showers. Don't overdo the booze, sugar or late nights. Pushing your limits can be fun, but don't fall of the edge.
At the end of con Wind down. A lot of con crudness is emotional letdown from a very intense long weekend. On Sunday (or whenever you leave), take it easy. Say goodbyes, but don't be in a hurry. Help with tear down and clean up (more volunteer hours!). The trip back should be more relaxing than the trip here. Be sure to register for next year, and take care of any Lost and Found issues at the Bridge. Check out from the hotel should be easy but you might have to deal with the hotel staff; allow time. Feel free to talk to con people on line with you, recognizing that they're tired too.
After con When you get home, don't just plop into bed, wake up the next morning and continue on with your mundane (but essential) life. Write a conreport, or at least talk about the con in social media. Go through your pictures and post the best ones. Write your new friends. The con is over, you can relax, take a deep breath, but you don't have to let go. Remember the good times. Tell your work friends about your con (as much as is acceptable in your workplace). Stretch your legs, keep hydrated and catch up on sleep.
- Meeting people. Generally, people are friendly and happy to talk to a new person. Approach with a smile or a question. As always, be polite and respectful, and realize that many are very busy and can't spend more than a few minutes on a conversation. Here are a few hints. Remember that everyone is a little different and you can catch good people in bad moods. With that said:
People in costume love to talk about their costume. Compliment the ones you think are great! This can be a "that's great!" in passing, or a longer conversation when they're not getting ready for the Masquerade or somesuch.
People in hall costumes also love to talk about their costume. Often, hall costumes are less formal (that is, more comfortable) than many Masquerade costumes, and are well suited to conversation (not necessarily about the costume). Some are in character, or at least willing to talk about the character/movie that the costume comes from.
People wearing nifty t-shirts, buttons, corsets, jewelry or other ornamentation are (usually) happy to talk about their plumage. Depending on the circumstances, you are encourage to give a quick thumbs up as you pass by in the hall or gush in the appropriate setting.
Authors, artists, actors and other guests and/or people you want to gush over are there to be gushed over. But not 24/7. Hey, they need to get some sleep too, and you can catch anyone at a bad moment. In general, CVG Guests are most approachable at their autographings or during set meeting times. Right after their presentation or panel is a good time to say hello... usually. Don't take too much of anyone's time, but feel free to compliment a specific piece of work or simply introduce yourself and smile, "I'm so happy to see in person." See above re: Autographing Sessions.
People hosting parties are there to be break the ice. Feel free to ask about the theme of the party, who else is involved, and so on.
Don't Harsh the Squee A brief word about etiquette. We're here to have fun and enjoy ourselves among like-minded people. Do wear a smile. Do compliment people. Do talk to strangers who are otherwise unoccupied. Be a person who others would like to talk to when you're otherwise unoccupied. Enjoy yourself, and help others enjoy themselves. Don't be a jerk. CVG has specific and well-enforced policies on harassment, weapons, pets, smoking and a host of other concerns. Costumes are not consent. Everyone's friendly, and you can help make Convergence a positive event for all.
- Parties are an integral element in The Convergence Experience. Over and above the main Consuite rooms, individuals or groups throw parties. And you're invited. Here is a list of Convergence Room Parties. Most start at 6pm or later, and most will go until midnight or later. Individual parties are not directly under the control of Convergence, and so will have their own start and stop times and ask for ID to serve alcohol.
Most parties have a theme. If previous Convergences are an indication, there will be toast, Hobbits, Klingons, costumes, bellydancing, anime and more. Other conventions and groups hold parties to encourage you to come to their event(s). SF fans are known as heavy partyers, but that means staying up late. Heavy drinking seems to be on the rise, alas, but those who indulge too much are in the minority and are policed by their friends or Ops. It's loads of fun simply going down to the poolside atrium to look at all the draped signage. Find a party you like and stay for a while. Or party hop. Some parties have stickers; it's optional whether you want to place one on your badge, but they can be a reminder, well after the con, of the fun you had.
Not all parties are around the poolside atrium. There will be parties on the fourth floor and scattered throughout the Doubletree and probably the overflow hotels as well. Not all of these are listed, or even announced. Party hopping hint I: In the evening when the elevators are crowded, start at the top (of either tower) and walk down a flight, check out the parties on that floor (if any) and go down another flight. Party hopping hint II: Many people in costume or those you wind up talking to have a vague plan for the evening or have been to previous Convergences. Feel free to ask about their favorite parties, and why they like them.
What To Do At Convergence Part IV: Families and Young Kids
Convergence is a kid-friendly environment, but we don't baby-sit and you're expected to wrangle your own charges. Parents should keep the very young close by, but young adults have safe options. Here are a few suggestions, many repeated from above:
- Science and Craft Room aka Connie's Quantum Sandbox. Exhibits and hands-on interactive events for the young and those who remember being young. Use the diy tag in the Programming schedule.
- Art Show. Not everything in the Art Show is G-rated, so scout ahead, but there are plenty of nifty pieces for kids to gawk at.
- Gaming. Some kids (and continuing kids) spend most (or all) of their time playing games. There are a lot of games going on at Convergence, plus special events in the Garden Court (the poolside atrium).
- Programming varies as to expected audience age. A parent or guardian should read the description. The Programming web listings have tags to find similar-themed events. If a panel doesn't suit your needs, feel free to leave (discreetly).
- The Teen Room lets geezers like me poke their head in, and it looks like fun.
- Remember, everyone, even kids, are not attendees of the convention, you are members of the con. You are encouraged and expected to go to panels and talk to people. Compliment a really nice costume, or thank a panelist for a perceptive comment. Teens can Volunteer for badge checking shifts: They can earn rewards!
- The Bridge aka Operations, is where to report lost and found (including children) or report misbehavior. Also where you can leave compliments for a particularly great volunteer or convention effort!
- 20130703-4 Convergence Wednesday and Thursday
- 20130705-07 Convergence Friday, Saturday and Sunday
- 20120704-5 Convergence (Sun) Wed-Thurs
- 20120706-7 Convergence Friday and early Saturday
- 20120707-08 Convergence Saturday (cont) and Sunday
What To Do At Convergence Part V: Reliving the convention
You can relive Convergences over and over. Well, parts of them. The con itself records Opening and Closing Ceremonies and the Masquerade, and often offers the video for sale. Now available: Videos on YouTube from the Convergence Masquerades 2004-2012. Check out the Convergence table near the Dealers Room. Audio recordings of the Mark Time Radio Show are available (see above).
Convergence Lore has its own page, with CVG terminilogy (See Glossary, below) plus an explanation of Connie and other mascots.
Many people take pictures and post them online. I don't see a comprehensive listing anymore, so I'm just going to list mine from 2012 & 2013.
Baron Dave's Public Facebook photo galleries:
I have a bunch of videos from Convergence 2012 and earlier, plus several others that might be of interest to fans at Baron Dave's YouTube Page
My Convergence 2012 report in Chris Garcia's Hugo Award-winning fanzine, Drink Tank 335 has photos and such.
What To Do At Convergence Part VI: Glossary
Here is a quick and incomplete glossary, so you know what the heck we're talking about and so you can sound like a seasoned pro at your first con! This is in addition to the official Terminology.
- The Japanese abbreviation of "animation". You can think of them as the Japanese answer to the US Saturday morning cartoons, but they have a much wider spectrum of animation styles and many of them have adult themes and violence. (Vs. manga, which are Japanese comics, though some anime is based on manga.) Convergence (and/or various members) will be presenting lots of anime and the con has anime programming
- The Bridge or Ops
- The Bridge, like the bridge of the USS Enterprise, is Operations central during the con. Go here to ask any questions, to peace-bond a realistic-looking weapon, for Lost & Found, to Register after Registration has closed, to compliment the convention or anyone on the concom, and so on. Wandering Hosts and other Operations staff are dispatched from here. The Bridge is located in Verandas 2 & 4 (overlooking the Poolside Atrium across from the Consuite). You can contact them by from a hotel phone by dialing "0" and asking for the Bridge, or dialing x7215 directly. The Bridge is open continuously during the con.
- Short for convention, used (by us) to mean science fiction convention. There are many cons in the Twin Cities area and around the country (and around the world). They're all different, aiming for different interests and at different sizes. If you like Convergence, or like a part of it, check out other cons.
- The convention committee. Convergence is run by Convergence Events, which then set up the Convergence concom structure involving hundreds of department heads, sub-heads and volunteers. They're experienced, competent and have a keen sense of humor. You'll like them... us. None of us get paid; we're in it for the egoboo.
- The Hospitality Suite (or set of rooms) where con members can get a soft drink and munchies or just hang out. Staffed, as always, by volunteers. You will need a membership badge to get in.
- A science fiction fanatic or aficionado. How rabid/geeky you are may vary wildly, but people coming to cons have some appreciation for the genre. We appreciate SF for its speculative nature, the interplay of ideas and freedom to express our inner geek.
- Plural of Fan, used interchangeably with fans. A bit rare nowadays, I'm including it here because I think it sounds cool.
- Femfan or Fem fanne or fanne
- Female fan. More than a little obsolete, thank Ghu, but shows the roots of fandom stretching back to the male-dominated sf fandom of the 20s and 30s whose reputation survives today when people poke fun at Trekkies and such.
- Filk music is a variant on folk with an extremely wide definition that not everyone agrees on. You will likely find many musicians, both professional and amateur, singing all sorts of strange songs. They sing on the Main Stage during the day or in room parties late at night. Some give performances, others encourage you to sing along. Some filkers, such as those in the MN-StF room, will have songbooks so you can sing along. The Karaoke room(s) also have the lyrics. If you play the guitar or some other portable musical instrument, bring it to the circle and join the fun! The song(s) don't have to be funny or parodies or stfnal or original, though we encourage some combination of all four. Like many words in fandom, filk started out as a typo and we were amused enough to keep the term for our use. added 6/14 See also definitions and discussion in the .pdf file of Does Gender Influence Attitudes toward Copyright in the Filk Community published in The Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law from American University's Washington College of Law and discussed in Fandom Academia: Gender Influences Filk Far Less Than You'd Think.
- Playing games. Gaming can be informal (such as the card games or board games that crop up in the Consuite or just about anywhere) or formal, such as in the Convergence Gaming Suite (on the 22nd floor). More formal gaming might involve LAN (networked computers, with participants playing each other) or long campaigns that might take days. Many games are for the young adult, but some are more grizzled. Some gaming can be played with no previous experience whatsoever, and some need players with a great deal of experience. Ask, and the person in charge (GM or Gamesmaster) will tell you. Some games use miniatures or other meticulously crafted game pieces, while some just need a fold-out board and some dice. Some people play in the costume of the gaming scenario. Feel free to watch for a while, but be discreet and don't gawk.
- Guest of Honor. Pronounced gee oh aitch or sometimes go. These are the featured speakers and guests of the convention. We are honoring their contribution to science fiction. Or else we think they're cool to party with. Preferably both.
- Science Fiction
- Ha! I'm not going to go there.
A full glossary is beyond the purview of this document (which is a fancy way of saying that I don't want to do all the typing) and you're likely to encounter other bits of fannish argot throughout the con. For larger glossaries, incomplete and possibly contradictory, visit Don Saker's Fanspeak Glossary, Glossary of Major Filk Terms and Words, Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Fanspeak Glossary and others. Google is your friend. If a word zips by you don't recognize, ask the person using it. We're all friendly here, even the Klingons.
Special Glossary Section for Convergence 2014. A non-canonical set of definitions.
- Urban Fantasy
- Goodreads defines Urban Fantasy as "a subset of contemporary fantasy, consisting of novels and stories with supernatural and/or magical elements set in contemporary, real-world, urban settings--as opposed to 'traditional' fantasy set in imaginary locations." Urban Fantasy books include Convergence GoH Emma Bull's War For The Oaks (which takes place in and around the Twin Cities) and Megan Lindholm's Wizard of the Pigeons (set in Seattle).
This seems fairly reasonable, but incomplete. So I offer further genre subsets.
- Suburban fantasy
- A subset of post-industrial fantasy in real world settings just outside major populated areas, often involving commuters. Suburban Fantasy books include Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time, James Thurber's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" (which takes place in and around Waterbury, Connecticut) and tv's Grimm (where much of the action takes place in a trailer park).
- Exurban fantasy
- A subset of post-industrial fantasy in or near real world settings but placed well outside major populated areas. Examples include Washington Irving's "Rip Van Winkle" and Magic By The Lake, part of Edward Eager's Half Magic series. Much of the Harry Potter series can be considered Exurban Fantasy, and even the fictitious places in Edgar Allan Poe and HP Lovecraft tales are somewhere near familiar locales.
- Urbane fantasy
- Works with a major fantasy element featuring witty, droll or even decadent characters and situations. Examples include Thorne Smith novels, notably Topper, John Updike's The Witches of Eastwick and the works of James Branch Cabell.
- Vaginal Urbane Fantasy
- A real thing, a sub-genre of romance novels, examples of which I leave up to the reader.
- Pope Urban Fantasy
- While no works of fiction are attributed to any of the seven Popes Urban, there remains elements of fantasy. As the Wikipedia entry on Pope Urban I says, "As no contemporary accounts of Urban's pontificate exist there have been many legends and acts attributed to him which are fictitious or difficult to ascertain the factual nature of. The legendary Acts of St. Cecilia and the Liber Pontificalis both contain information on Urban, although of doubtable accuracy."
What To Do At Convergence Part VII: I Am A Convergence And So Can You
Finally, there are, for me, two things that make science fiction conventions feel like Home: Sensawonda and Egoboo.
Sensawonda, is the sense of wonder one gets at living in the future or getting caught up in the swirl of imagination. Gosh wow boy oh boy is the traditional cry, though hardly used by whippersnappers these days. Hey, this is fun! No one plays with ideas more than sf fans. People who you've never met become instant family. We are connected by possibilities.
And we only do it for fun. Egoboo, a boost to the ego, is the fannish currency. No one is getting paid, though some of the guests might get a speakers fee. All the committee and all the people on panels and all the people running the Art Show and all the people running the Science & Craft Room and so on and so forth... all are doing it for the love of the genre and to give and get recognition. Sure, Dealers are there for a profit and Artists are often there to sell their work. But the money isn't great, and the main reason anyone shows up is to have a good time. Encourage people! Applaud at performances. Thank Guests of Honor or panel members if you see them in the halls. Talk to people at parties. Let the Bridge know if a volunteer has done a particularly good job. Congratulate the people putting together the Program Book. Gush over a clever costume. Admire the signs. Thank people for running a party. Compliment a writer on their book or say nice things to a musician who's CD you play a lot.
See you there!
Baron Dave Romm is a real baron of a fake country. He produced Shockwave Radio Theater, for nearly thirty years. He likes being weird at science fiction conventions, and encourages others to be so. This means you.