So you want to find out the latest gossip about the next “Star Trek” spin-off television series. You need to debate the overlapping qualities between science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres. You’d like to match trivia about the making of the Harry Potter film series. You’re excited about showing off the new Zorro costume you designed and hand-stitched. You can’t wait to “do the time warp again.” It sounds like you’re ready for a sci-fi convention.
You can choose from a large variety of science fiction conventions (either general sci-fi or catering to specific genre such as horror or anime). Nearly every weekend, there’s a convention going on somewhere in the country. The bigger ones offer gaming rooms, panel discussions, special guests, lectures, movie screenings, dances, singing, trivia contests, role playing games, interactive events, Q&A, dealer rooms, auctions, and a con suite (a hospitality room in the hotel or convention center with mingling and munchies). Just check your favorite search engine for “science fiction convention listings” or “sci-fi conventions” to find out some of the available options that suit your schedule and interests.
I’ve attended many conventions in recent years including large events such as Worldcon, Necronomicon, and Megacon. Whether it’s a one-day event or a three-day celebration, here are a few helpful suggestions for newbies attending their first sci-fi convention.
1) Besides the usual items, you might want to pack a costume or two. Some conventions have multiple costumed events (e.g., interactive “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” masquerade party, themed dances). Some attendees dress in one costume for the entire event (Darth Vader, for instance); others dress in different costumes for different events; and some choose to observe rather than participate in costume contests and events. Check the conference schedule for costumed events that interest you and then pack all the accessories (except the weapons) to make the outfit complete. Don’t be too disappointed when someone shows up with a better costume than you!
2) For the packrats out there, bring a tote bag, backpack, purse, or hip bag for carrying essentials like the program guide, camera, notepad, snacks, and freebies (given out at panel discussions or taken from the freebie table at most cons).
3) Wear a watch. Generally events are included on the schedule, but many overlap or run concurrently. Events are scheduled well into the night, so you’ll always need to know what time it is so you won’t miss anything you just have to see. Keep the program guide in a convenient place as you’ll be consulting it often.
4) Bring extra cash, checks, and a credit card for the dealer’s room. Try to support the on-site vendors. The dealers offer unusual sci-fi merchandise and rent the space to be there. Other vendors who rent tables near and around the con area are often panelists and speakers selling their books, magazines, and other merchandise. These vendors typically don’t get paid for attending the convention and offering their expertise during the sessions. Support them as well.
5) If you have a product or service of interest to sci-fi fans, bring your own give-away items (postcards, bookmarks, flyers, magnets, booklets, etc.) for the freebie table.
6) Upon registering at the convention, you’ll be issued a badge. Wear it the entire time you’re there. Even in costume, bring it with you. It’s your security clearance and free admission to everything.
7) If you’re planning on attending the convention simply for the gaming room, you can ignore suggestions 1-5. All you’ll need is a comfortable chair and an extremely large caffeinated drink until you emerge bleary-eyed, days later at the end of the event.
8) Most importantly at any sci-fi convention, bring a sense of humor. Most of these conventions are run by fans and attended by fans. And don’t forget that “fan” is just a few letters short of “fanatic.”