RICC 2018 and Harassment

Where do we draw the line between socially awkward and creepy? How bad does something have to get to be considered harassment?

When I think about my experiences at Rhode Island Comic Con last weekend, there is no point where I felt unsafe or feared for my physical presence, but there were several points where–had things gone any farther or had I been a less confident person–I would have felt unsafe.

The first thing you should know is that this year marks the first time I’ve moved out of my cosplay comfort zone. In years past, every day was a Kaylee day, wearing different coveralls (or her cupcake dress) for the majority of my weekend with other, smaller projects  (like Katniss from Hunger Games and Lydia Martin from Teen Wolf) on minor days or not at all. The constant barrage of “You know who you look so much like?” and “You know who you should cosplay?” made it so I stuck to Kaylee until April of last year. I love Kaylee but I want to have fun with other characters like the other costumes I love and want to wear. So I said to hell with it. My most ambitious show was Chicago Comic Con in August where I wore 4 different characters/costumes over 4 days.

One of these costumes is Zoya the Destroya, a character played by Alison Brie on the Netflix original G.L.O.W. She wears a metallic-red, one armed leotard, with a black fur ushanka, leather belt with the hammer and sickle, and black leather boots. I love this costume because of the way I get to experiment with  hair and makeup; these are more extensive than anything I’ve done before. I also love poses that encourage me to move beyond smiling and holding my parasol. Zoya shows more skin than any other cosplay I’ve done and, until Rhode Island Comic Con, I never felt like this was a problem. I still don’t feel like it’s a problem and I’m not gonna stop wearing a costume I feel comfortable in, but what the hell happened?Zoya at RICC 2018

I’ve been trying to rationalize why, at this small convention instead of bigger conventions I’ve been to, two men approached me and made me feel icky and gross. Was this convention different because I wasn’t walking with a friend/handler? Are people in New England just odd? I was able to safely get out of both situations but I felt trapped in the moment and I’m still not sure how to address what happened.

In the first instance while walking the show floor with a friend, a man repeatedly shouted for me to slow down despite the fact that I was not walking fast. When I did, he asked what character I was dressed as, then instructed my friend to take a full body picture of him with me where he wanted to put his arm around me but didn’t verbally ask. I responded,  “I’m not comfortable being touched” (When asked politely for Zoya pics, I actually don’t mind putting someone into a headlock for the photo!)

He handed my friend what looked like an ancient gameboy DS (though I am unfamiliar with handheld video game devices) and my friend did his best to step backwards into surging crowds to snap a pic. My friend and I attempted to leave after the first photo but the man accosted us for not getting a full body picture which we then refused, stating that it was too busy. The man aggressively apologized, saying “I’m sorry I yelled, I’m sorry that I was acting in a way you thought was rude, I just wanted a picture!”

He later found me talking with friends at a booth, got his full body picture, and then showed up to my panel about Comic Con-ing on a Budget where he asked if the costume contest at New York Comic Con was always on Sunday. It’s not, and that’s not even the convention we were currently attending. After the panel, I was chatting with a few folks from the audience who had relevant questions and the man interrupted to ask if his questions were good. I told him they were not.

But that’s the small scale problem dude. The second experience I had at Rhode Island Comic Con was far more insidious.

It started with me walking by myself around the Dunkin Donuts floor, about to head downstairs to check on the autograph lines when an older man with a camera asked me what was downstairs. Since I had walked the show floor in its entirety on Friday, I was pretty good at giving directions.
Me: “The bigger name celebrities and more vendors.”
He: “Where are the smaller name celebrities?”
Me: “Upstairs, near the Star Wars stuff.”
He: “Oh, do you do these often?”

This is where the conversation shifted from me politely offering directions to this man making me uncomfortable. “Yup.” I said, hoping to signal I was done with the conversation so I could get on with my day. But no, he continued.
He: “What are you dressed as?”
Me: “Zoya. From GLOW.”
He: “Loya??”
Me: “Zoya. With a Z.” I motioned with my hands.
He: “Oh Zoya! Do you mind if I get a picture?”

I didn’t mind a picture. I made a snap decision that I didn’t feel unsafe, I was proud of my hair, makeup and costume, and I didn’t mind this guy taking one picture. He held up his camera and took the shot. While he adjusted his camera settings, I took the opportunity to try to get pumpkin seed shell out of my teeth.
He: “Oh are you chewing gum? Will you blow a bubble for me?”
Me: “Nope, I have pumpkin seed in my teeth.”
He: “Oh.”

At this point he took a second picture and showed it to me. I didn’t care.

He: “Have you ever modeled?”
Me: “Not since I was a kid.”
He: “Are you interested in it?”
Me: “Nope I have a full time job.”
He: “I’ve actually shot some models, you know, BBW stuff, not that that’s you, or there’s anything wrong with being that.”

I now looked for any possible reason in the world to walk away from this man who made me step to the side for his picture and was now in the way of me leaving.
Me: “I have a full time job that I enjoy.” I was actively glaring.
He: “Did you see my hat?” He was wearing a beanie that said ‘Smile.’ I bared my teeth and left.

Did I feel that my life or person were in danger in either of these scenarios? No. In both situations, I attempted several times to verbally and non-verbally suggest my discomfort, but what do you do in a situation like this? It isn’t so bad that I felt the need to go to security, but it makes me second guess even speaking to people who ask directions on the show floor. With first guy, I didn’t feel like he had the capacity to understand the social connotations of harassing someone on the show floor, so my direct (if brusque) language was the best I could manage at the time. With the latter, a friendly gesture turned into me knowing this man was thinking about me in a sexual manner. I felt violated, and maybe I should have told him that what he was asking was incredibly inappropriate given the setting we were in. But I needed to get away. Do you go to security for something like this? Do you leave it alone and let men go on doing the same thing to other people? Do you make a scene to try to attract the attention of anyone nearby? I don’t have the answers, but I do have to rethink how I approach conventions on my own in the future.

FanExpo Boston 2018

FXB 2018 Jewel StaiteDespite living in or near Boston since 2012, I finally attended Boston Comic Con for the first time (recently purchased & renamed FanExpo Boston). This convention was previously held in the Hynes Convention Center, but has moved to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. The new location is fantastic! It’s accessible by public transportation and easy to drive to. Lawn on D is outside which (if the weather was nicer) makes it perfect for photoshoots and hanging out. Not to mention, there’s reliable and inexpensive food nearby and it’s connected to a hotel, which is perfect for out of town guests or afterparties. Plus, there’s also TONS of space within the center itself.

However, FanExpo Boston really, really left me wanting.

I reached out several months prior to the event about hosting panels but I received no response. Since Jewel Staite was a guest, my Firefly panel would have been perfect and I have a bunch of solid pop culture panels which have appeared at conventions as big as New York Comic Con.  Despite not presenting any panels, I decided to check it out since it’s close to home and a ton of my friends and Browncoats would be there.  

I spent Friday walking the floor in my Magic Wand Hermione cosplay and got a few chuckles before I left to teach a class at Good Vibrations Cambridge.Magic Wand HermioneOn Saturday and Sunday, I spent most of my time at the Boston Whovians table, except when I attended Jewel’s panel. There just wasn’t anything really interesting for me to check out… The minimal panel schedule went up barely a week in advance and there were only 1-2 panels per hour. While I don’t like having to choose between TOO many good programming options, having almost no programming is worse. It’s much harder to keep up energy and way easier to get bored when all you can do is walk the floor.

Another big issue was how  FanExpo Boston used the space. I can compare their use of space to Rhode Island Comic Con (one state away) and I found myself mentioning this to friends several times throughout the weekend. Both cons seem disorganized for releasing programming. Where RICC gets is super cramped in the Dunkin Donuts Convention Center & arena with big-name guests, FanExpo Boston had mostly mid to low tier guests and so much room that they did nothing with. In terms of programming, the only panel I attended was midday on Sunday and it was so far away that it was practically in the hotel next door. I saw several panel rooms completely unused and  empty, which frustrated me since I offered to host panels. Jewel Staite’s panel room was smaller than panel rooms I’ve been given at similar conventions and, while I’d like to think I’m a little bit famous, I’m not on the same level as the actual cast of Firefly. These things particularly frustrated me because a convention literally one state away needs so much more space and can’t have it, while the BCEC has so much space (and room to spread into the next door hotel if they needed!) going unused. It’s such a waste.

Besides the misuse of space, the show floor was confusing and poorly laid out. I spoke with several artists who expressed disappointment that there was nothing on the show floor to point to the Artists’ Alley. It was tucked in a corner that most people couldn’t make it to. I really dislike conventions that shove their artists in a corner because the Artists’ Alley is one of the coolest and most unique places on the con floor! When it’s tucked in the corner, attendees often spend all their money before even getting to it–if they even make it there at all. Artists’ Alley wasn’t the only place that went unlabeled; several official cosplay meet ups were listed in the program at the ‘Cosplay Photo Park’ but no one knew where that was. If you looked at a small hashtag on one banner, or apparently in the app (which I didn’t download because it kept crashing), you might have figured out that the ‘Cosplay Photo Park’ consisted of 4 background banners set up near the cosplay celebs booths. But most people didn’t figure that out and I was disappointed that the turnout for the Firefly cosplay meet up was low.

FXB 2018 Firefly Meet Up

I was also surprised, given all the space in the lobbies, that there weren’t droves of photographers doing photoshoots. I did meet with Nerd Caliber (which had a spot on the show floor & was making the best of it) to get some awesome shots with them, but I wanted an environment like Emerald City Comic Con, where you could walk out of the convention halls and get tons of great pics in the lobby or the surrounding parks.

FXB 2018 Photo by Nerd CaliberGiven my extensive convention experience, I would put FanExpo Boston on a tier below a convention like Wizard World Chicago. It’s a convention in a larger city with a lot of interest in geek culture but lacked enticing programming and strong guests. It’s an ongoing issue when conventions release their programming late, because many attendees decide whether or not to attend based on available programming. Without knowing the schedule, an attendee won’t know if it’s even worth going. In the case of FanExpo Boston, I’d say not. I kind of want Altered Reality, the company that runs Rhode Island Comic Con, to get their hands on this convention because I think they would actually use all the space to their advantage, but I also know Altered Reality tends to cluster everything up.. I can’t yet say if I’ll go to FanExpo Boston next year, but I am really looking forward to the rest of the conventions I’m headed to this year!

Wizard World Chicago 2017

After missing its 2016 iteration, I was so happy to be back at Wizard World Chicago this year! Like all Chicago Comic Cons, this event took place at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL August 24th-27th.

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I attended with my sister, Little Dove Cosplay, who was showcasing a new Sansa dress on Friday & Saturday… but I am getting ahead of myself.

Since we were presenting two panels, we picked up our badges in the ‘Exhibitor/Vendor’ section in Hall B. In past years, we were able to pick these up from the VIP or other sections, but this year we waited longer in line.

On Thursday evening, we walked the con floor and established what we wanted to see before heading to the “Make a Nerdy Living” panel. This panel featured The Pumpkin Geek, Amanda Meyer, Emily Evans, Scott Larson, Onrie Kompon, and later Mogchelle showed up (who was overbooked and hustled from panel to panel with nary a moment’s rest!). Make A Nerdy Living PanelI was really impressed by what The Pumpkin Geek had to say; he was incredibly personable and gave good advice, like how reaching out over social media allowed him to save money traveling to different cons by staying on folks’ couches. Despite the panel being titled “Make a Nerdy Living” (emphasis mine), the majority of the panelists have a “day job” that pays the bills separately from their nerdy passion projects. This disappointed me because I still don’t know how to turn my passion into something that pays the bills. With six panelists, the conversation felt crowded and no one really got enough time to talk. Friday, my sister wore her X-Men: Days of Future Past Jean Grey cosplay, super comfy for a short day at the con, and I wore my coveralls.

On Friday, with an increased attendance, security had folks go through several metal detectors set up outside. Though some lines were dedicated to folks without bags, everyone filed through whichever line they could. My sister was dressed as Sansa in her black, season 6 dress (the one with all the feathers) and had her trusty direwolf purse with her (it’s name is Lady), and I wore my blue silk jacket and flip flops along with my coveralls for more of a pilot episode look. Once we got through security, I hosted my panel on ‘The Expanding Firefly ‘Verse,’ which is always shiny. This year, I incorporated new info on upcoming board games and some rumors about the fabled Firefly Online. AKF and Firefly Cosplayers WWCC17I met with a bunch of other Firefly cosplayers for pictures with them before going to Artist’s Alley. This year (unlike my last Wizard World Chicago in 2015), the Artists Alley had its own huge area between vendors. I think this was a nice set-up, though I didn’t care for the second floor of the convention center being only cars and a haunted house. Oh well, it meant me and my sister didn’t have to crowd on the escalator!

We closed our Friday night watching “Dungeons and Dragons Improv,” featuring a Bloodrager Dwarf named Buttsteak, a punny bard halfling named Matthew McConaughey whose signature tune was “Take On Me” by Aha, and a shapeshifting gnome by the name of Cuddles who could only turn into marbles. These three were on a quest to rid Detroit of the Unicorn plague, fight a Spiderman-o-taur (half bull, half spider-man), and get a lapdance from Striptease the Unicorn, but in the end it turned out they might have been part of the problem. We left the con with tears of laughter streaming down our faces.

On Saturday, we returned bright and early so I could catch a panel called “Intro to Podcasting.” Intro to Podcasting Panel WWCC17Despite several experts (David Vox Mullen, John ‘Bear’ Kolb, Patrick Newson, Paul Hinic, Nick Mataragas) clearly knowing what they were talking about, the panel was not very planned out. The panelists didn’t follow an outline and it was more of a Q&A than an introduction… and they kept pimping their new website which is a podcasting platform. Vox Mullen advocated paying for all of your own things (a website to host, etc.), and spoke most of the time, leaving very little time for Hinic and Mataragas to speak. I don’t think this panel was wasted time, but it definitely wasn’t what I was hoping for or expecting.

Saturday, I wore my screen accurate floral top with my coveralls, and we naturally went to see “One Season and a Movie: A Conversation with Summer Glau & Jewel Staite.” The panel started late, but it was refreshing to hear Lindi of PureFandom instruct everyone in the Q&A line for “No Personal Requests!” When asked where they would want their characters’ stories to go, Jewel answered that she wanted Kaylee and Simon to have lots of babies, and Summer offered River as babysitter. Jewel politely declined.

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Jewel’s favorite episode was “Out of Gas,” while Summer’s was “Objects in Space.” “I don’t know if you can recapture something in the same way,” Summer said, when asked about a Serenity 2 focused on River. “I really respect what the show was.” Finally, if Summer could change one thing about Firefly, she’d wear shoes and brush her hair more. Ha!

After that panel ended, we headed down to Game Of Thrones Trivia, though sadly we didn’t participate (or win). It was a nice way to get excited about the season finale and hear speculations on how it would end. Tess was again wearing her black Sansa dress, and a lot of folks really loved it. After that, we went to the Creative Stage which was at the back of Artists’ Alley near a food station. I really like how this Creative Stage was set up and I think C2E2 could learn a thing or two from Wizard World. Not only was there more than one microphone, there was also an A/V set up to show a powerpoint! This was the first time I presented my panel “Getting Started With Etsy” and I was really glad to have Laura of Rebel Among the Stars Studios alongside to help me. We both have very different ways we use Etsy; they do it full time for a living, whereas I do it to fund going to conventions. We got some excellent questions and I can’t wait to see new Etsy stores that I hope were inspired by our info!

Sunday was a much more relaxed day since we were quite tired! We love that 5 Hour Energy has a booth at cons, because drinking those made us able to get through our last day! On Sunday, I wore my Elizabeth Swann cosplay and met up with friends (Sparrow Style Entertainment & Gormassmuss) who were both cosplaying Jack Sparrow! Elizabeth & 2 Jacks WWCC17Since I was walking around with my sister as Sansa Stark, a lot of people thought I was a Game of Thrones character too. Whoops! I may have to start cosplaying Margaery again! My sister had opted for her pink King’s Landing Sansa dress, which she loves to wear because it makes her feel like a princess.

Overall, I had a really great time at Wizard World Chicago. I was excited to present both old and new panels, while spending time at a convention with my sister

My next convention is New York Comic Con, October 5-8th. Stay tuned for a panel announcement soon!

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Browncoats: The Musical

Zoe is pregnant, Mal relives his glory days, Kaylee and Simon want to take the next step in their relationship and Jayne… wants to become a preacher? Sounds like it could be the long desired second season of Firefly but it’s actually Browncoats: The Musical!

Browncoats Playbill

Produced by Tea Time for Mad Girls, this one-night-only event brought our favorite characters back to life in an immersive theatrical production at the Gemini Scorpio Loft in Brooklyn, NY. Complete with themed drinks and cookies (the latter provided by Simple Sweets by Melissa), the event was a mighty fine shindig!

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Part of the stage set up at Gemini Scorpio Loft

This production took place about 9 months after the events of Serenity, with Zoe preparing to give birth and the crew figuring out what that meant for them in the aftermath of the political climate surrounding the events on Miranda. The musical disregarded the canonical comic Serenity ‘Verse, and instead choose to feature Mal preoccupied with re-joining the war effort. This means different things for each of the members of the crew: though Mal thought he could count on Jayne and Zoe, Jayne wants to follow in Shepherd Book’s footsteps and Zoe wants to be with her baby, even if she isn’t sure how to be a mother yet. Mal wants Kaylee and Inara safe and planetside, and doesn’t really care much where Simon ends up as long as River is expertly piloting the ship (what with her psychic-ness, and all). Simon won’t leave River and Kaylee doesn’t want to leave Simon and, despite Mal’s wishes, Inara wants to fight.

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From left to right: Paul White as Simon, Dava White as Kaylee, Francesca Negron as Mal, Ann Patricia as Zoe, Jen Wu as Inara, Kati Kane as Jayne

It takes the near-death of every crew member and the surprise visit of a beyond-the-grave Wash to get everyone’s head in the right place and keep them together on Serenity where they belong.

Though the set was fairly minimal with small details here and there, it worked as a representation of Serenity where actors ran between stage areas as they would do on the ship herself. However, all the running coupled with a full audience crowding a 2nd floor loft meant the venue was very warm. What’s more, the stages were not set up in such a way that the audience could see all the action. I learned later that the actors had only been to the space for the first time earlier that day. Given that, I was especially impressed with their set-up.

Browncoats: The Musical is a brand new production and that showed. Certain characters were written incredibly well, while others were portrayed superbly. I was disappointed to hear the word “damn” so many times when there’s an in-Verse alternative (gorram!). More complex characters like River and Inara had weaker writing, and unfortunately the actors’ interpretations did not feel like the characters I love.

Inara (Jen Wu) and Mal (Francesca Negron) lacked any real chemistry.

Mal and Inara lacked chemistry, and Jayne felt a bit sassier than I was used to. However, Jayne’s acting choices were some of the strongest, especially because the actor committed to said choices. Kaylee’s writing and performance were spot-on, while Simon fumbling between his sister and the mechanic he loves brought me right back to the TV show. Zoe brought the whole production together, though I was disappointed that she was played by a white actress. At times, the singing was weak, but I do want to note the heartbreaking performance of ‘’Lullaby’’ by a back-from-the-dead Wash, which brought tears to many eyes.

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Laurel Detkin as a heartbreaking Wash

This musical weakness is understandable, since this is a brand new production with little to no budget featuring volunteer performers rather than professional actors. Like most shiny Browncoat productions, the musical was more a labor of love than of cashie-cashie moneys.

Because the singing was rough at times, it did not do justice to some of the more well-written songs, for example, Kaylee’s love song to Serenity. I did like River’s interpretive dance though!      

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At times, the writing for Aleks Kovacevic as River felt too “on-the-nose.”

The production needs to work out some kinks if they hope to perform it again, but I was thoroughly impressed by much of what was provided and performed in this show. Plus I’ve had “Here’s to the Browncoat Cause” stuck in my head goin’ on a few weeks now… I hope to see more done with Tea Time for Mad Girls’ Browncoats: The Musical!

My First C2E2

Last weekend at McCormick Place in Chicago, I had the pleasure of attending the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2). It was an awesome way to round out my trip to the midwest which involved two conventions, Wizard World St. Louis and C2E2. The two conventions were very different but both were excellent experiences!

The disorganized coat check on our way in the 1st day
The disorganized coat check on our way in the 1st day

C2E2 is run by ReedPop, the same folks who run Emerald City Comic Con (a con I hope to attend soon!) and New York Comic Con. The latter two are four day events but C2E2 is only three days: Friday through Sunday. Since this con is local to my family home, my sister & I took public transport into downtown Chicago and met up with our friend in time to catch one of the C2E2 shuttles to the actual convention center. I really like the shuttle service, because it saves me a bunch of money that would be used on parking, but more on that later.    

Friday was our lazy(ish) day. I cosplayed Elizabeth Swann, my friend cosplayed Flint (from Black Sails), and my sister debuted her Jean Grey cosplay from X-Men Apocalypse. As soon as we got to the con, we had to go through a very frustrating bag check, especially since my sister and I only had very small purses– anything that would have fit in them reasonably would have fit in our pockets! Our friend, on the other hand, brought a real sword, which we have taken to several other conventions since it is not sharp.  While it would be very easy to peace-tie so that the blade isn’t accessible, security confiscated it and told us there was no coat check so they would hold it in security check. We later checked the program and found out there was a coat check but at least we ended up having the sword babysat for free all day! In the future, we know not to bring live steel to C2E2, since it wasn’t worth the hassle.

Wil Wheaton panel C2E2Once inside, we headed upstairs to the opening panel on the mainstage, featuring Wil Wheaton. I recently started watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and friends who have met Mr. Wheaton have told me how nice he is. Though I’m not familiar with his recent work, he has an amazing panel presence (coming from folks who consistently run panels at conventions!), turning awkward questions into excellent anecdotes. After the panel, we walked the extensive show floor and artists’ alley. The show floor for C2E2 is smaller than NYCC and it seemed a touch smaller than Wizard World Chicago, which surprised me.

geek career panel c2e2We finished up Friday at the panel “Professional Geek: How to Turn Your Passion into A Career.” I hoped for a panel that would talk about monetizing your passion. Instead this panel featured folks who were in the right place at the right time. Their advice amounted to “do internships” and “work hard and sometimes for free,” which are both things I do not support. At times, passion-projects can mean you work for free but artists deserve to be paid for their work.This panel’s advice only contributed to the idea that if you love something, you should not make any money from it. Disgruntled, we left the panel early, picked up the sword, and headed home for the night.

On Saturday, I wore my Kaylee coveralls with the blue silk jacket & parasol,c2e2 blue jacket my friend wore Luffy (One Piece), and my sister wore her pink Sansa dress (Game of Thrones). Since the Sansa costume is so delicate and hair so intricate, we drove to the convention. The cheapest lot was $15, but that amounted to roughly the same price as public transport for the three of us. It also meant we spent a lot less time getting to the con, could bring food with us, and could get home much earlier. Luffy got several compliments on their pants and mentioned I had made them, which I did not realize at all until I looked more closely at them. Hah! The first panel we attended focused  on gender identity in comics and we were happily surprised by the diversity in the panel as well as their recommendations. Since we had walked the floor on Friday, we spent a bunch of time going between the XP stations. I first experienced these at NYCC; you register your badge and then head to prize towers to tap your badge. You can win prizes within the towers as well as autographs, tickets to secret panels, digital webcomics, and more! C2E2 limits your badge to only tapping in once per day per tower, but they also had a scavenger hunt between several additional towers. We each won a small prize and, though not what we had really wanted, it was still fun! At the end of the night, we headed back to the car, munched on leftover takeout, and then went home and to bed.

20170423_165608Sunday, my friend was not feeling well and stayed home. My sister wore her purple Sansa dress and I wore my screen accurate pink Kaylee shirt. We took public transport and, since it was the last day, we decided to do one more thorough walk of the convention floor. At 1:30, we settled in at the Cosplay Center (which amounted to several round tables with chairs, and a long rectangular table with only ONE mic to present from, off to the side of the show floor) for our panel “Cosplay & Consent.” I moderated the panel, which featured Tess, Raggedy Amy, and Rebel Among the Stars as panelists. We talked about our experiences cosplaying, particularly as they applied to situations of questionable consent. We gave advice for photographers & con-goers on how they could ask for consent & get their pictures okayed by cosplayers, as well as what cosplayers could do to make sure their consent was respected. Though a different style panel than I am used to, I enjoyed sharing our information with the C2E2 crowd.

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My sister and I finished walking through the convention, made final purchases, took a few last minute pictures before we headed out. Despite a few small things, C2E2 was a really well run convention and we all had a great time. I hope to be invited back again in the future!pink shirt c2e2

My next event is Browncoat: The Musical in NYC and my next potential convention is Wizard World Philly, June 1-4 (or check my up to date convention list here!)

Meet Me in St Louis! Wizard World St Louis 2017

About two and a half weeks ago, I received an email acceptance of three  panels for Wizard World St. Louis Comic Con! Despite the short notice, I was able to rearrange my schedule for an earlier flight into Chicago so I could rent a car and drive down to St. Louis. I got into Chicago very early Thursday morning (after recording my new Cargo Crate Unboxing video very late on Wednesday night), took a nap, then re-packed my suitcase for the trip on Friday. My co-panelist stayed at my house that night so we could put the final touches on our panels for the weekend. Friday was another early day of catching public transit to the Midway airport then taking a shuttle to the car rental place.  omw to ww stl 17

When we got to the rental place, we found out that unless we had a return ticket for the day we returned the car, we needed to have a credit card with $100 on it. Neither of us had this and neither of us knew we’d need this. Our original plan of getting to St. Louis in a leisurely fashion with ample time to drop off our things, shower, eat, and change into cosplays turned into driving as fast as we could just so we could try to make it to our panel on time.

Somehow, we made it both to St. Louis and into the convention center at 3:52pm (our panel started at 4) to grab our wristbands and then could. Not. Find. Our. Panel. Room. We knew it was room 151 but were directed first through a hallway that was locked, then outside to re-enter through doors that were locked. We finally cut through the exhibitors’ hall and found the room…with a much smaller audience than we anticipated. It turns out that attendees weren’t able to find out room either (unsurprising, due to volunteers giving us differing information). After brief technical issues, we connected the computer and had an awesome time presenting “What Not to Ask at a Celebrity Q&A.” After the panel, we meandered the show floor, then headed to a comedy panel presented by Aaron Rabe as Cpt. Jack Sparrow. Rabe’s comedic rapport with his audience was great but the audience volunteers were a bit lackluster. We left the con before it closed for the day so we could order pizza and work on tomorrow’s panels.

Saturday, we slept in before heading to the convention for the Caleb McLaughlin of Stranger Things panel. He was totally adorable but, despite the moderator saying something to the effect of “Don’t ask him questions about season 2, don’t ask him personal questions, etc.” she didn’t do a great job of buffering these questions when they were asked. We then walked the floor a bit more before getting sandwiches at a nearby shop. Compared to other conventions I attend, Wizard World St. Louis Comic Con is on the small side. I estimate that it’s the size of Totalcon, Templecon, or Wizard World Madison, which are the smallest cons I’ve been to. The limited number of vendors at WW St. Louis meant we didn’t feel like spending the whole day inside the convention center. Instead, we opted to leave after our second panel, “Comic Con on a Budget.ww stl 17 comic con on a budgetWe stopped for groceries on our way back, dining on snack foods and wine as we finished up the next day’s  panel.

Sunday, we went to the con first thing in the morning so we we were able to get a parking spot in the less expensive garage right next to the convention center. I woke up early to contour my face in hopes of evoking more Keira Knightley and less Jewel Staite. I think I did a pretty good job for my first try. Rather than wearing my beloved Kaylee cosplay, I elected to wear the Elizabeth Swann outfit that I made last fall. It worked perfectly with our pirate panel that day. The panelists before us ran late, which was frustrating as we needed all the time we could get for “Historical Accuracy & Trivia in Pirate Media (Black Sails & PotC).”brethren goals At previous Wizard World events, a Wizard World representative comes into the room at 20 till the end, to give a 5 minute warning before ending panels at 15 till. This was not the case at this event where I sat at the back of our panel room, waiting for the folks in front of us to wrap up. Unfortunately, many of the clips we wanted to show did not work, but we still had an awesome and informative panel. It’s one of my favorite panels to present, especially because I learn something new every year! After that, we finished at the con, packed up, and got going on our long trip back to Chicago.

Overall, Wizard World St. Louis was a pretty different convention than what I am used to. Its smaller scale meant it was a more intimate show and, had we been interested, we could have met some of the cool celebrities more easily there than at other events. Most conventions stage celebrities in their own section with curtains and lines for meeting them. At Wizard World St. Louis, the celebs were easily approachable in the center of the exhibitors’ floor. St. Louis also had multiple stages, mostly notable a large main stage behind registration where the costume contest and the Rocky Horror Picture Show occurred. Inside the exhibitors’ hall, there were three smaller stages: the Entertainment Stage at the front,  where we saw the kids costume contest and an acapella group perform; the Creative Stage in the back, where artists and cosplayers spoke & presented; and the Kids Stage which had magic & puppetry. Down the hall, the panel rooms were hidden away and quite hard to find. We agreed that the convention hall seemed much too big for the convention itself. We thought a nearby hotel would be better off housing this convention, given its current size.

All things said and done, it was an enjoyable convention experience. It was definitely more relaxed than other conventions I’ve done, but there are benefits to going to smaller cons. My next convention is the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo (C2E2), and it will be interesting to compare the differences between the two!

ENDED: AKF + Entertainment Earth Firefly Slippers Giveaway!

I am pairing up with Entertainment Earth to give one of my fans a shiny pair of Firefly slippers! Entertainment Earth was lovely enough to send me a pair to review, which F*ckYeahFirefly helped me out with. Read the review below, and then enter to win your own pair! 

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Inara the cat has a fondness for the slippers

When Entertainment Earth says “oversized,” they MEAN “oversized”! These cozy slippers are roughly 21 inches long from tail to nose. Your foot slips nicely into the top of the ship down to the cargo bay. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the sole of the slipper is nice and cushioned! Before I put the slippers on, I didn’t even see the full inch of padding on the bottom of the ship. The plush outer feels like a hug for my feet, with just the right amount of tightness around the middle of my foot so that I don’t live in fear of it falling off. Serenity is keeping my toes nice and cozy. My very picky feet are quite happy with the interior design of the slipper.

The structure of the ship-slipper is pretty much what you would expect: the middle holds your foot, the nose and cockpit extend from the tops of your toes, and from roughly the middle of your feet to the back of your ankle run the engine pods. They stick out of the side of the slippers, so they are the most difficult part of the ship to maneuver with your feet, but after a few steps, you get used to it. They bounce charmingly along with your steps and as long as you watch to make sure you don’t knock into anything breakable (which you should be doing regardless of misbehaving slippers), you’ll be fine.

15354074_10209226077463372_853139025_oThe bottoms of the sole features no-slip rubber grippy dots, which help in maneuvering the oversized slippers, and the rest of the fabric has great detail of our beloved Serenity printed on it. It’s a different design than the Serenity Plushie you might see over at ThinkGeek or Quantum Mechanix: for one thing, the cockpit window is merged and the shuttles printed onto the sides rather than being their own separate things. The print is symmetrical right and left, which means either slipper can go on either foot and you don’t need to worry about remembering which one is which. The fabric itself is a lighter color, too, which means you can see much of the line work better. As you may or may not know, the ship has two designs: one from the show Firefly and one from the Big Damn Movie Serenity. The slippers incorporate elements of both designs – the line work is the structure of the ship from Firefly and the logo that Inara painted in the Big Damn Movie is present on the neck of the ship.

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Kaylee the cat is a little confused about her ship bein’ all small and miniature-ized

The stabilizer (the achilles heel of most Serenity products) is a separate piece of stiff fabric ingeniously sewn on so it can’t catch anything or rip itself off. It is printed with a pattern that fits with the rest of the ship, but is clearly a separate piece in much the same way the engine pods are. When I saw the promotional images online, I have to say I was worried about the stabilizer, but the idea of sewing it on is so simply genius that seeing it in person makes me smack my forehead and say, “now why didn’t I think of that?”

Overall, these slippers are cozy, nerdy, and fun to walk around in. They are one-size-fits-most and large enough to cuddle if that’s your style. I certainly plan to wear mine at every sleepover from now on.

This giveaway has ended.

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To Rhode-ly Go: RICC 2016

AKF in front of RICC backdrop
AKF at RICC 2016

Another year, another Rhode Island Comic Con, the convention which wraps up all of my conventions for the year. This year, it was much less of a hectic travel for me (though I did drive about 3hrs from Albany to the Rhode Island on Thursday evening) compared to last year. Having attended RICC consistently since 2013 (the con’s 2nd year in existence), I have seen changes made for better and for worse.

I have made myself more available as a speaker at conventions this year. I realized last year that I know enough to talk authoritatively about Firefly and other aspects of geekdom, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to apply for a panel. I loved presenting and I want to keep hosting panels forever. At RICC, I debuted a new panel I am really proud of: ‘What Not To Ask at a Celebrity Q&A.’ This panel needs some refinement (but so did my Firefly panel when I first did that back at Chicago Comic Con 2016), but I hope to bring it to more cons in 2017. I also ran ‘The Expanding Firefly ‘Verse’ with Laurel of FuckYeahFirefly.com who happens to be one of my best friends. We streamed the event on Facebook live and it’s on my facebook page.

Though our Firefly panel went really well, we did struggle because we weren’t give a projector. My panels always feature slideshows for visual aid (especially in the Firefly panel, since it’s much easier to show pictures of Firefly merch rather than bringing all the merch with me– I would have been really out of luck if this weren’t a local convention!) AND help those who are hard of hearing or visual learners instead of auditory learners. Plus, I include links to everything to help folks find the merch I promote, which are basically impossible to see without a larger projection than just my laptop screen. Prior to RICC, I had only presented at Wizard World conventions but, for all of the conventions I have submitted to, I am guaranteed a projector for my A/V needs. I hope in the future, RICC can make that happen for panelists or clarify that audio-visual tools are limited so panelists like me can make other plans.

Other than that A/V snafu, the room sizes were about perfect for my anticipated audience size  and receiving vendor badges made it so much easier to get through security faster (which was a big help, when I was almost late to my Saturday panel because the parking was so terrible). However, more folks would have shown up to my panels if we were scheduled a little better and if the schedule was clearer. RICC is the only convention I know of that does not make the  schedule available in the program books you receive at the convention. These program books should absolutely have the schedule in them. The only place to find the programming schedule was on RICC’s website (which is kind of an eyesore and takes forever to load), the very glitchy mobile app, or posters throughout the con that only mentioned events for that day. There was no place with a map that listed exactly what events were where. Instead, RICC had maps on poster boards in random places that had the layout and numbers but didn’t list which vendors correlated with which numbers or where to find the celebrity meet-and-greets.

Like last year, RICC took place both in the convention center and in the adjacent Dunkin Donuts stadium (“The Dunk”). Most of the vendors and some of the “smaller” celebs were in the main hall at the convention center. I say “smaller” in quotation marks because they considered Brent Spiner (Data in Star Trek TNG) and Summer Glau (River Tam in Firefly and Serenity) – among others! – “smaller” celebrities. These are practically household names for nerds like me! The main hall also featured artists alley, and the entirety was laid out in columns instead of rows, so navigating was incredibly difficult.

RICC Traffic
This was really low traffic, comparatively.

Like last year, other celebrities were in the stadium, though these folks (and their lines) were on the actual rink rather than being in the circle surrounding it (the opposite of last year). One of the vendors in the ring around the rink said that sales had been really good in this area, which surprised me because that area was a pain to get to for convention attendees. Though there is a sky bridge that connects the Dunk to the convention center, it was going ONE WAY, from the Dunk to the convention center. If you wanted to see a celeb or vendor in the Dunk, you had to go outside the convention center to walk to the Dunk. While I walked the main hall floor a whole bunch of times, I only ventured over to the Dunk twice over the whole weekend due to the one-way sky bridge. It makes more sense to me to lay that out the opposite way, and push traffic into the Dunk to make the convention center less busy, which is an issue for RICC every year.

Another issue was photo-ops. Laurel was really excited to get a professional photo with Summer Glau, who has rarely offered them in the past, but was hugely disappointed by what she ended up with, and the work she had to do to get it. Though RICC claimed to offer  photo-op sales online (which could be purchased in advance), Laurel couldn’t find one for Summer so she had to buy it at the con. At the convention, staffers almost wouldn’t let her buy a photo-op because they claimed to have capped all photo-op sales by Saturday morning. At RICC (like most cons) photo-ops and autographs are cash only. Because Laurel didn’t have  any cash on hand Friday, she figured she could get cash first thing in the morning to pay for a photo-op since RICC offered both Saturday and Sunday photo-ops with Summer. Eventually, staff let her purchase one but the result was awful. When the time for the picture came, the lighting was horrible, the photographer framed the picture poorly, and it even came out blurry. When Laurel asked to re-take the photo, they said the best they could do was re-print the same picture in portrait rather than landscape. She decided to cut her losses and roll with the crappy photo she received. Suffice to say, I recommend against purchasing “professional” photo-ops at RICC.

FYF and Summer Glau

The “vendor” vs. “artist alley” organization made very little sense since a lot of the vendors in the Dunk seemed like they would fit really nicely into an Artists’ Alley section. A friend commented that she was disappointed there wasn’t more focus on the artists. We had gone to NYCC together and loved everything in ‘The Block,’ which includes a lot more grunge-y art work and where I spent most of my money on enamel pins. We also noted that bigger cons like NYCC feature panels about diversity and RICC hasn’t caught onto that yet. At NYCC,  I didn’t feel the need to attend many of the feminist/POC/queer panels since we’d seen them in the past, but we both agreed that it’s definitely something that should be present at every convention, RICC included.

Yet again, I don’t understand why RICC splits the celebs and vendors up. The celebrities should all be in one building with the vendors/artists’ alley in another. Every other convention does it that way, rather than arbitrarily splitting up the celebrities. One person argued that putting vendors in one building and celebs in another would result in attendees who were just interested in meeting celebs never visiting the vendor hall, but I really don’t think that’s an issue. If those con-goers want to see a panel, they’ll be in the con hall. If they want to buy a photo to get signed, they’ll be in the con hall. Plus, if they are spending $50-$75 PLUS the price of a photo-op or autograph, they’re likely to walk the con hall just to get their money’s worth. And if they don’t want to see the vendors, that’s their prerogative, as a paying convention attendee.

All that being said, I don’t imagine RICC will go anywhere else anytime soon. The convention center is the largest in RI. Though it screws up traffic in the area for those three days, it’s good to see so much seating & eating available in the vicinity. Being next to the mall is great when you need a break and don’t want to spend $4 on a bottle of water in the convention center. This convention also seemed a lot less busy than last year’s RICC and I think it may have had to do with cancellations from some of the bigger name guests (like Billie Piper). I think it’s a good idea for RICC to feature only 1 or 2 bigger name guests, because it makes the traffic much less horrible and allows the con to focus its energy on spotlighting those special guests. I intend to attend RICC again in 2017 and I hope it continues to grow and change into the con that I believe it can be.

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