CONvergence 2010 in review

CONvergence 2010 in review

(Get your geek on: Ghostbusters visit last year's CON. Photo by Peter Verrant)

CONvergence is a difficult thing to explain to the uninitiated. It's a giant party celebrating sci-fi, fantasy, and anime  culture. It's also filled with sufficient inside jokery to choke a Hutt, and the event has its own feel and memes, distilled through 12 years in existence.  If a non-geek showed up and somehow got inside, they'd probably feel about as out-of-place as we geeks felt at 8th grade homecoming. It's a once-a-year weekend-long intellectual summit, gaming session, and kegger rolled into one.

This year's theme was "villains," and the organizing committee played it to the hilt, starting with the opening ceremonies, where CON's mascot, Connie, found herself replaced by Connie Mark 2, her evil successor, who declared that everyone present would have fun, or else. A series of skits drove the point home, as guards removed "dissenting" members of the opening ceremonies and other speakers reminded the CON-goers (in the personae of authorities of the new facist government) that enjoyment of the weekend's events was contingent on following a few simple rules, including: "Shower. Seriously. Because, damn."

The attendees' costumes mostly reflected the year's theme, with a posse of fully amazing Monarch, Dr. Girlfriend, Henchman 21, and Henchman 24 (of The Venture Bros.) get-ups, a couple of movie-grade Darth Vaders, and a handful of Klingons stalking around in high boots. Plenty of teenagers of both genders used the costumery fun to don the likenesses of their favorite scantily-clad anime characters. Corsets were in abundance and utilikilts quite common, second only to t-shirts declaring allegiance to one webcomic or another.

Panel discussions, the "book learnin'" section of CON, featured topics as diverse as those of a university coursebook, and speakers from all corners of geekdom, including Physics of Superheroes Professor Jim Kakalios and the Skepchicks, a group of feminist critical thinkers. I attended a panel of scientists (including U of M Morris professor PZ Meyers, whose anti-creationist blog Pharyngula is world-famous) as he discussed the hurdles facing evolutionists in their continuing war against Young Earth Creationism; being able to hear the thoughts of some of the front-line warriors of sensical thinking was a rare treat.

Because I'm a spoken-word critic, I made sure to hit up three of the spoken-word events on the program: A poetry slam, a story slam, and an appearance by the Rockstar Storytellers. The first was put on by national champions Soapboxing Poetry Slam, featuring poets from throughout the local scene performing poems, appropriately, on the theme of geekiness. The story slam was disappointing, plagued by sub-par performances and poor writing, but the Rockstars performance made up for it, hitting home with the target audience by telling tales seemingly tailor-made for CON -- especially a piece on the merits of thinking critically tag-teamed by Joseph Scrimshaw and phillip low.

Every night around 9 p.m., when most of the official events have wrapped up, the main courtyard of the Bloomington Sheraton filled up with more and more geeks, who had come for perhaps the most important aspect of CONvergence: socialization. Geeks bustled through the party rooms, striking up conversation, munching on snacks, and pouring themselves generous glasses of beer from the kegs provided. It's where many of CON's lasting friendships are formed, latching onto the commonalities between geeks through an alcoholic haze. In past years, the free booze and party atmosphere has attracted interlopers, non-geeks with no understanding of or respect for the celebration's culture, and it has been a downer. But this year a bump in security cut down significantly on the imposter contingent, and the party buzzed at a pleasantly intoxicated buzz.

It would be impossible to write a review of CON and not leave off hundreds of awesome events, people, jokes, and costumes worthy of mention. But it's safe to say that judging from my parts of CON, this was the best year yet. Time to make room reservations for the next.

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