By the fans. For the fans.
Being a person with a great interest in science fiction, it should come as no surprise that I look forward all year to Calgary’s longest running science fiction, fantasy, and horror convention. Con-Version has been around for over a quarter of a century, and each year the convention has become bigger and better.
October 15 through 17, 2010, Con-Version 26 was held at the Quality Inn in northeast Calgary. The venue made for an interesting change of pace from what many come to expect at any convention. By holding the convention within the hotel, the ambience seemed significantly more comfortable and intimate than a convention center or arena. The layout of the convention was slightly confusing at first (different events were held in different rooms on different floors), but everything was easily accessed without any frustrating lineups or other delays.
What really made Con-Version 26 a success was the team of organizers who worked tirelessly throughout the year in planning and preparing for the show. Derek France, a head organizer of Con-Version 26, seemed as excited about the show as the fans that steadily flowed through the doors.
“We’re all volunteers,” Derek stated in reference to the team of organizers behind the show, “Con-Version is a convention put on by the fans for the fans.” Rose Tanchyk, also an organizer, proved she was a big fan of science fiction and fantasy by coming to the convention in costume. Rose was dressed as Xena: Warrior Princess and shared that she had several other costumes at home, such as a Klingon costume of which she was very proud. Once I had the opportunity to see pictures of Rose in the Klingon costume, I can say that she has every reason to be proud.
The events at Con-Version 26 were many, and there truly was something for everyone. A costume contest held on Saturday afternoon brought several costumed guests on to the stage. Many of the costumes were nothing short of amazing, such as an Iron Man (mark 1) costume and Bob from the television series Reboot. Even a gentleman dressed as Futurama’s Zap Brannigan made a hilarious appearance on the stage. Kudos to all the competitors in the costume contest, as the time and attention they put into their costumes was well received and appreciated by me and the rest of the audience.
Several panel discussions occurred over the weekend which provided a variety of topics, such as the portrayal of women in Doctor Who and a panel about steampunk. Perhaps the most notable panel event in my experience at the show was one that taught and discussed how to survive in the event of a zombie outbreak. The instructors covered issues such as proper social behaviours in the event of zombie attack (i.e. whether to leave a person behind in order to ensure one’s own safety), which weapons are effective and which are too cumbersome (i.e. katana blades are actually a bad idea to keep handy while avoiding raiding zombies) and how to case a room or other area for possible escape routes (windows are our friends). The instructors maintained an air of seriousness to the point that I often wondered if they were serious about zombie survival or just playing the part for the sake of the audience.
In addition to the obligatory panels and costume contest, there was also a game room that was open and available to guests non-stop throughout the two and a half days that Con-Version 26 was operating. The game room had at least two occupied tables at any time that I stopped by. The guests played board games such as Dungeons and Dragons, of which I regretfully admit I have no experience or knowledge in. However, the players all seemed to be enjoying themselves and at some points drew in onlookers who stood behind the players to watch.
A movie room was available throughout the entire convention as well, and the projector was playing a different movie at every drop-in I made. There was always someone in the room to kick back and enjoy a show, and it was a great idea to include a room for guests to relax in the convention.
The biggest draw to the show was undoubtedly the celebrity guests. Con-Version 26 brought a stunning collection of stars from Star Trek, including John DeLancie, Robert Picardo, Chase Masterson, Ethan Phillips, and Marina Sirtis. The guests arrived late Friday evening and treated us to a brief but enjoyable Q&A. The following two days, all guests provided autographs and photo opportunities for fans (for a small fee). All the guests seemed very personable and kind and took the time to speak with the fans, which made the experience of Con-Version 26 all the more enjoyable. Other guests, such as The 404s, a terrific comedy troupe that has been a welcomed guest at The Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo for several years, and the band Heroincredible, were on hand to provide entertainment.
If I were to pick my favourite event during Con-Version 26, it would be the slave auction. A clever way to earn money for charity, the slave auction was a simple and effective event. Volunteers agreed to donate an hour of their time as “slaves” to bidders (such as retrieving drinks, holding bags, amusing their high bidder with stories, etc). The auction was rather informal, with MC Mark (member of The 404s) acting as auctioneer. Bidders in the audience would simply shout out their bids until a high bidder was declared. Bids ranged from $20 to $200 and about $1250 was raised for charity during the auction. Celebrity guests Chase Masterson and John DeLancie also donated their time for the auction (though neither were present during the auction itself) and brought in $125 and $110 respectively. Oh, and good ol’ Zap Brannigan received a high bid of $30. All in all, the slave auction was a very enjoyable time for slaves and bidders alike, and a favourite of mine as I’m a sucker for a good cause.
The only downside to Con-Version 26 was the fact that it had to end. Conventions for such entertainment genres as science fiction, fantasy and horror (not to mention comic books, television, and movies) are far and few between in Calgary, and so having to say goodbye for a year can be difficult. However, all the fans that supported Con-Version 26 are undoubtedly impatiently waiting for Con-Version 27. Not many details have been released as of yet, but I can share that Virginia Hey (of Farscape fame) has already been secured as a guest for 2011 which is very exciting! If you are interested in attending Con-Version 27, tickets for the entire event are already available at a cost of $50 for the first two-hundred guests. After that point, three-day passes will cost $60. So be sure to get your passes soon! Visit www.con-version.org for details about what happened during Con-Version 26 as well as details about upcoming Con-Version 27.