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SFOTR Responses: Also known as Devinity’s descent into infamy

I think I was famous (or infamous) in the Newfoundland cosplay community for two days.

I wrote a piece for my cosplay blog on my personal experiences at Sci-Fi on the Rock this month.  I’m sure everyone in the local cosplay community has read it by now judging by the insane response I got. The SFOTR piece was my third story so I thought I had an idea of what response I’d get: none. Instead, I got 800 hits on my blog and quite a few comments. Some of those comments were angry, some were on my side and others were simply counter arguments. I even had a friend text me to remove all mention of them from the SFOTR piece because they have a booth at the con and figured that people wouldn’t want to buy items from them. I’m sure some have noticed how I made certain changes, like removing all the pictures except the one of just me.

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Is it any surprise I did not expect any response to the SFOTR piece?

I want to clarify some things and then I’ll respond to all the comments I got. I decided to write down all my experiences as a cosplayer and con goer for prosperity’s sake. I wanted to create discussions, share fun stories and practice my writing. I love to write. I decided to start with conventions because I started cosplaying at Anime North. The next piece was logically SFOTR and then Fan Expo (that piece is scheduled for May) and then New York Comic Con.

I want to write about all my experiences. I was not going to skip over SFOTR just because it wasn’t going to be a good news story. I really do dislike SFOTR. Some years I hate it more than others (2012, I’m looking at you) and sometimes I have fun because my friends are awesome.

I dislike SFOTR for a couple of reasons. One is simply that I have a preference for bigger cons. The other, major issue, I have with SFOTR is the location. The Holiday Inn is too small to properly host the number of people attending the con. It’s like being in a sardine can. SFOTR should have been hosted in a larger venue for a couple of years now. I realise that that may not be financially or even physically possible with the size of our city. That doesn’t change my opinion that the con is growing stagnant because of size constraints. As the con gets more popular, there will be more people interested in booking tables or hosting panels. But they can’t because the room won’t be there.

SFOTR has never made me angry though. The Homestuck crowd made me angry which is where most of the negativity of the piece stemmed from.

I want to address the title as well. “Sci-Fi on the Rock: Also known as Convention Hell” was a very deliberate choice. If anyone follows my actual facebook page then they knew that the SFOTR piece was not going to be a positive one. If anyone has ever asked my opinion on the con then they already knew everything about what was in the blog. Actually, they’ve heard worse. But I wanted to make sure my dislike was obvious. That way, if reading unkind things about SFOTR was upsetting to anyone, they would know not to read the story.

I forgot how the internet works.

I don’t apologise for anything. My blog is a personal experience blog. What I write is what I’ve been through or what I’ve felt. I stand by everything I said. I have that right. I paid for my con tickets just like everyone else. That gives me the right to express my opinion, the way people have the right to complain if they bought a faulty product from a store. It’s perfectly okay for me to hate SFOTR just as its fine that some people love it. It’s good that the local convention scene makes people happy. It just so happens that it doesn’t make me happy. That’s life.

Now, I’m going to respond to all your juicy comments.

First of all, I got a really long one from Steve Lake. Check out the original post to see that comment. I’m not going to copy it here because it’s just too long. Steve is the vice chair of the SFOTR committee. By reading his comment, a reader will get to see how an organizer responds to an opinion like mine. He’s 100% percent respectful and he addresses all my concerns. It’s important to read comments like his if you want to get multiple points of view so that you can form your own opinion. It’s also really nice to know that he’ll take the time to read some random blog on the internet. Does it change my opinion? No. But it does mean that everyone can be part of a discussion and share their views even if they don’t agree.

This next one came from SAJ on facebook. I’m going to copy all the facebook ones here so no one has to go looking for them.

I’m sorry, but I have a hard time taking anything in this post seriously because you just come across like a petulant child who is complaining because she didn’t get her way. I’ve had the pleasure of attending SFotR every year since ’09 (save for last year because I was 9 months pregnant) and always find it an enjoyable event that is put together by a group of very hard working volunteers. Like you I have also attended other cons and events in other places and found them also enjoyable. I was at SFotR in 2012 as well, I remember the Homestruck crowd. They were a group of preteens and teenagers, they were a little irritating sure but only to the degree that most teens are. Talking over panelists is total bs and I would have just shushed them and gone on with my day.
Does SfotR have room to improve and grow, sure it does as anything does. The people who plan this event are not trained coordinators who get paid to organize every aspect of the convention down to a T like in some larger cities, they are regular people with jobs, lives and families that donate their time and effort to it who can only improve through trial and error.
You say it’s other people that ruin SFotR for you, but honestly it seems like you were looking to be annoyed by anything and everything.
If you aren’t into it that’s cool, you not going will clear up some space for some folks who are.
But mostly what I got from this post was “I’ve been to other cons so I am an authority on why this individual experience makes this event universally awful.”

Firstly, I’m sorry if there are people that can’t take the post seriously. My writing style probably isn’t for them. I’m glad that she enjoyed SFOTR though. Unfortunately, I think it does a disservice to say that the Homestuck cosplayers were just acting like teenagers. There are lots of teens that are respectful youth that know how to behave in public. I also didn’t meant to come across as some authority on cons. I do think it’s fair to compare my experiences at different conventions. How else am I suppose to decide which cons work for me? I will admit that I was probably very brash in the piece.

From MR on face book: I figure if you know so much, why don’t you volunteer to help organize? Or just stay home.

She made two excellent points. Volunteering is an excellent way to help make change. I have never volunteered at SFOTR, except for last year. It took about a month and a half to hear back from anyone and then there were some scheduling issues at my place of employment which meant that I couldn’t. But I think that anyone that has the time to volunteer and that wants to make an event better should do so. As for just staying home, that’s what I plan to do starting after this year. I made the decision last year that if SFOTR did not get a new location then I would no longer go. So this year I’m dropping in on Saturday to check out a few booths belonging to close friends and their panels. Then that’s the end of my attending SFOTR.

This one from MD is another committee response. We can’t expect everyone to like what we do, my fiancé says he’s spoiled because his first con was Otakon and it’s hard to go to something with that much money and space and then be satisfied with a small town con (and despite being in our capital city, that’s what it is). It would be silly to think that everyone who comes in the door is going to be a happy customer, but after all you’re not popular until someone hates you grin emoticon! As a long time committee member, all I can tell you is that we put a lot of work into it and we know there are some shortcomings and regular complaints people have (like space)…we’re not blind. Often, there’s logistical reasons behind the way something is and hopefully we can always improve, but in a small city and a population restricted to the island, there are certain limitations we will always have. For instance, a more experienced panel moderator would not have let someone ramble on and we are getting better at knowing who to give that job too, even have a guy coming in from Halifax to help this year. Would I call it the con from hell? Not myself (Dashcon anyone?) I’m sorry you’ve had those experiences, but even though it’s a long, busy, tiring weekend behind the scenes, I’m looking forward to it!

I don’t have anything to say to this except that the advantage of a small town means you get immediate feedback from organizers. Also, I had to look up Dashcon. I actually want to go to that. It sounds bad in the “this is a fascinating train wreck” way.

G.E said Totally get some of the problems you’ve had. The committee wants to move to a bigger space too, we assure you. But it’s hard to book somewhere when there are only three potential places to move into that can meet our needs. Also, I believe 2012 was the first year for divisions in the contest. Yes, it was messy. We also work to make it better each year. Try not to hold things against the Homestuck kids- they were 15. Grade ten. If you or your friend had asked them to be quiet or leave, they likely would have. They couple of them I know are nice kids, but they’re kids. Yeah, they don’t know all the rules yet. Instead of complaining three years later, why not find a committee member or volunteer at the time? We do try to address problems.

I received three other comments from people saying that the homestuck cosplayers were rude, as well as the fact that they weren’t listening to anyone. Dragonflybee told me that “They were loud and rude, and I personally spoke to a volunteer about them but nothing was done. I even tried shushing them myself in the lineup for the costume contest!” So no, those kids would not have listened to me if I had politely asked them to be quiet. I really, really think it’s unfair to fifteen year olds to justify bad behaviour based on their age. I think teenagers in general can be a little misbehaved at times but also that most of them try their best to respect others while having a good time. Dragonflybee did tell me that those kids seem better behaved now, which is great. The best I can say about them is maybe they were behind most other teens in the development of their maturity.

SB on facebook said, On your list you say more volunteers would be an improvement. I 100% agree! Problem with volunteers is they have to be the ones to come up and ask about volunteering… Sadly there isn’t always a rush of people wanting to work instead of do more fun things. BUT if you know anyone who wants to volunteer they should go talk to Kit Sora and see if she has work for them to do!

I found the committee to be really slow in responding to my volunteer submission. That may have been because I sent it too early in the season. I don’t know how SFOTR looks for volunteers other than a link on the website. Maybe SFOTR could advertise that they look for volunteers if they aren’t already. If there are some ads, please send them to me and I’ll link to them here. However, I do agree with SB. Volunteering doesn’t always sound like fun so it can be hard to get people.

If there is anyone reading that hasn’t thought about volunteering, you should consider it. At the very least, it’s something people can use to beef up their resumes. If anyone is interested in volunteering, you can use this email: volunteer@scifiontherock.com.

There are a few more comments on facebook that talk about the difficulty of getting volunteers and about how hard the committee works. Those comments readily admit that there are still lots of things about the con that could use work and efforts are being made to improve. I’ve also heard stories where committee members and volunteers failed to properly address an issue. In general, it seems that people are optimistic about the con and enjoy it. My actual blog received three comments from people acknowledging how bad the Homestuck cosplayers were. Then there was the comment from Steve Lake as well as one from AdriftKitty, who told me to be part of the solution instead of the problem.

In summary, I still think SFOTR is a bad con and I don’t see it improving much anytime soon. However, there are many other people who love and support the con. While I personally don’t recommend going to the whole con, I do think it’s good to check out one day just so people can form their own opinion. At the very least, the popularity of SFOTR allows for the growth of the geek community. It is because SFOTR is so popular that there’s room in the community for Avalon Expo, the new convention starting this August.

Also, here’s some general discussion questions:

1. Do you prefer a small, medium or large sized con?

2. What would you like to see at future conventions? I personally would like to see a speed dating session. I’ve seen it done at other cons. Maybe someday I’ll organise one with Avalon Expo.

3. What was your best con experience? What was your worse?

The upcoming schedule for my blogs are: Fan Expo 2011 & 2014 (May), NYCC 2012 &2013 (June), Steampunk Newfoundland (July).

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Sci-Fi on the Rock: Also known as Convention Hell

We are sitting in on a panel, trying to listen to the speaker. He’s taking questions but almost all of them come from one obnoxious guy. Half the questions he’s asking are slightly different versions of the same question. girlpuck is visibly annoyed. The guest is also getting a little frustrated with being asked the same question over and over again.

I lean over. “I’m wearing my steel toes. You want to throw one at him?”

“Yes.” girlpuck says.

This incident stands out because girlpuck is actually a very mild mannered person. She’s got strong opinions but the desire to hurl work boots at people is usually all me, all the time, no encouragement needed. But this guy was just so irritating.

I won’t go into what panel we were in or even what year it was. This is because it happened at Sci-Fi on the Rock, the local convention in St. John’s, Newfoundland. As such, the attendance isn’t at the big city level and someone could easily figure out who I was talking about. Every time I’ve run into him I’ve gotten the impression that he’s socially awkward so he’s probably not aware that he’s obnoxious. I’ve heard stories about obnoxious con goers and about cosplayers that have ruined entire fandoms for people. Amazingly, I have never experienced this at the two New York Comic Cons, the two Toronto Fan Expos or the one Anime North con I’ve visited. These are cons with thousands upon thousands of attendees every year. Of course there’s going to be an asshole involved somewhere. But I personally never saw anyone being a jerk at these cons.  Only at Sci-Fi on the Rock.

I personally hate it when anyone says anything bad about Newfoundland and Newfoundlanders. I love this province. But all my bad con experiences have happened in the province. That in itself is amazing. The other cons I’ve been too have always had literally thousands of more attendees, I’m often had to get to those cons by three hour plane ride, I’m living in a small hotel room with two (once three) other people and I’m always menstruating during big cons. So by every account, my worse con experiences should have been in Toronto or New York City.

Unfortunately, all my bad con experiences can be boiled down to the fact that Sci-Fi on the Rock is the worse con I’ve ever been too and its attendees are the worse behaved. And that’s what I want to discuss: my hatred for this con. I should point out that if you absolutely love SFOTR, you may not care for this particular blog entry.

SFOTR started in 2007. The first con was April 1st, according to Wikipedia. I don’t have the exact date written down anywhere. If you’ve been following along, then you know I attended what I consider to be my first con in 2010. This was Anime North, my dream con. Technically, SFOTR was my first con. I just wasn’t cosplaying. I did attend the first SFOTR. I was actually extremely excited for it. I was in my last year of high school, I was obsessed with fanfiction, and I dreamed of Anime North.

The first SFOTR was enjoyable. It was a tiny thing held at what was called the Mount Pearl Motel at the time. It took less than an hour to get through the whole thing. That made sense; it was the first con in the province. It was also an important con in my young geeky life because it told me that there was a geek community in the province. Newfie geekdom was primarily a hobby that you shared with similarly minded friends when I was growing up.

I am the fullmetal dork

I am the fullmetal dork

Unfortunately, that’s where most of the magic of SFOTR stayed. The next year the con was held at the Holiday Inn. It was a bigger venue and gave the con room to expand. I can’t even tell you if I went. I have neither photographic evidence I was there nor any memory of it. I also can’t tell you if I went to the con in 2010 or in 2011. I would have been in university for all of these cons and I know with certainty that I missed one because I was writing exams. The con actually does a very poor job of taking into consideration that university students might like to attend. April is the month of final exams for the winter semester and SFOTR has traditionally been held in April. I should add that I can’t say much about the 2013 con. I was literally there for an hour to test out my Romantically Apocalyptic Snippy cosplay. Then I left to eat supper and collect my luggage as I was flying out to England.

I did attend SFOTR 3 in 2009. I was quickly bored. That wasn’t the fault of the con, of course. It was only in its third year and it did not have the power to attract big name guests. It also had a small artist gallery and small vendor section. Like the first con, it was easy to do everything in less than an hour. I don’t remember many panels but that may have been because I wasn’t interested in going to any or because there weren’t many. Peter Mayhew, or Chewbacca, was there. I remember that clearly because the man is huge. He’s over seven feet tall.

And now we reach SFOTR 2012, also known as the worse con experience of my life. The girls and I were regularly cosplaying at this point.  That Saturday was okay. It wasn’t anything special. However, there were a lot of people in attendance. It was taking a little longer to see everything, which is fine. I have attended big cons after all. One can spend over half a con waiting in lines in NYC or Toronto. And those cons are still more fun than SFOTR. This was the first indication, however, that the Holiday Inn was very soon going to be too small a venue.

The high light of the 2012 con was the Steampunk Tea. A huge crowd of us were sat in the side room of East Side Mario’s and just talking. It would have been better but I believe it was the first one. It was certainly loud and I think there wasn’t enough direction given. Maybe it would have been a better event if the first half of the tea was given to discussing steampunk and then there rest of the time could have been spent in general discussion. Or maybe that room needed better sound absorption so that the general conversation didn’t deafen everyone.

Wait.

Where the Homestuck cosplayers there?

That would explain the extreme volume in the room.

I fucking hate the Homestuck cosplayers.

I actually cannot tell you anything about Homestuck. It looks like it might be fun. But it has been ruined for me. The Homestuck cosplayers at SFOTF were simply the rudest, most inconsiderate people I have ever had the misfortune to be stuck in a room with. I have never been so angry at anyone that wasn’t the dreaded nightmare retail customer. I prefer the nightmare customer, actually. At least you get paid to deal with them. If anyone reading this was in that cosplay group, I hope you take a long look at yourselves. Just because you’re in a costume doesn’t mean that you throw manners out the window. You are still in public, with other people around you who want to be able to hear, participate and generally show respect to the humans around them.

I can’t even deal with those jerks.

The big, big issues with the Homestuck cosplayers happened that Sunday. There was an anime karaoke panel that girlpuck and I wanted to watch because we thought it would be hilarious. It was the sort of thing we thought we could snicker at when no one was around. Those Homstuckers talked over everything. They were even worse during the costume contest. I was lucky to be watching the contest- which was not a lucky thing at all- but girlpuck was in the contest with the Homestuckers. So she was stuck in another room with them.

That costume contest was wretched. First of all, it wasn’t even done right. I don’t know if it was the first year that SFOTR had brought in the costume contest but they did the worse job of it. Firstly, they ignored their own rules! SFOTR did not even have the difficulty of trying to come with their own rules. The rules were literally printed off of Fan Expo Canada’s website. All the volunteers registering people for the contest had to do was read the rules and explain them to people. Instead, they let people into any category. One of the girls who did well in the novice level had her costume made by a professional seamstress.  The contest was late starting as well. Something was happening to delay it. Yet no one explained to us why there was such a long lag. They also didn’t try to entertain the mass of humans in the audience. At the very least, the announcer for the event could have talked to us a little. I’m not even sure if the first contestant was introduced. Not that I would have been able to hear it over the general roar. I stayed long enough to watch girlpuck come out in her steampunk Rouge cosplay, as a good friend would, and then I took off.

I got a contestant to tell me their experience with that particular contest. What you’re about to read is their own account:

The basic organization was not terrible: fill in the form to enter and then show up at the specified time so that everyone could be put in a line for the actual show part. So far so good, but little did I know one of the biggest faults of this system had already taken its toll. No one seemed to know what category they should have entered, and there were a lot of people clearly entered in the wrong category… first time cosplayers in the journeyman category, or people with professionally made costumes entering the novice category. The nightmare had started.

Once we had been put into our line (a very simple process and completed in a reasonable amount of time) we were told to move into the back corridor to wait. This corridor was not a good spot to be. It was meant as a service corridor for the hotel, and as such had no air conditioning, no chairs, and no windows. It was boring and uncomfortable. Many people starting getting overheated quickly (costumes don’t tend to be light affairs) and there was no quick access to water or fresh air. Given this was the first time for that format of costume contest these were regrettable oversights, but the real problem was that no one made any effort to help solve them.

And then the worst part… the Homestuckers. If the things I had listed had been the only problems, I could have accepted it, and been mostly okay with how the whole thing turned out, but no, that crowd had to pretty much ruin it. A large group had decided to cosplay as the various Homestuck trolls. I am only passingly familiar with the comic, and only knew enough to recognize the source… but that is fairly irrelevant. Even what they were cosplaying in general is irrelevant. This group was rude, inconsiderate, immature, and more than that still. Once the costume contest started they continued to joke around and talk among themselves, but they had no concept of how loud they were. When organizers repeatedly told us to be quiet, they got louder, interrupting the process out in the main room. At one point the organizer literally yelled at the line to be quiet (at this point I was at the front and the yell was directed at me), but never did they listen, and never was the complaint ever addressed directly to them. I had been wary of the group the whole weekend (since they were loud, often being told by hotel staff that they were disrupting other guests, and that their behaviour was inappropriate), and to finish the con trapped in a small, hot corridor with them, really soured the experience.

So unfortunately, my mood was not what it had been by the time the judges were making their decisions, and then the awards were given out. Because of the various mistakes in categories, much of it felt unfair. A store-bought costume placed highly as did a professional costume entered in the novice category. I don’t recall exactly what happened in the journeyman category, other than the people in that category should have been novice, and basically placed by default because of that mistake. And then the whole thing was topped off by a group picture, where the Homestuckers climbed on top of each other and ended up kicking me and also nearly tore my skirt with all the leaping about on a too-small stage and large group of people.

So I don’t put much blame on the organizers for the experience; there were plenty of things that went wrong that they could have done better, but like I said, it was the first year for that format so they probably could improve it given a couple years to work out the kinks. But the Homestuck crowd were just awful. Because of them, the organizers basically didn’t have a chance. They were so completely unacceptable it was truly upsetting. This has led to me not wishing to participate in the costume contest since, although I do believe that it has been slowly improving.

The Homestuck cosplayers should have been asked to leave. To quote Mr. Spock, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

Actually, I’m amazed at how many people talk through panels that have speakers. I attended last year’s con (which was in May so MUN students could actually, you know, go to it) and saw the same kind of disrespect that year too. I attended Swarley Pilgrim’s youtube panel.  And it was a really funny panel. However, there was this one group constantly talking through it. I remember that girlpuck and I both wondered if the Homstuck cosplayers were there. The issue with this talkative group was that Tyler was talking at the same time. They weren’t even doing a good job of lowering their voices. It was distracting. Also, they continued to talk through the Q&A session. They apparently had no concern for the people that wanted to share their ideas or learn something.

Please, please, don’t talk during a presentation! Yes, you can make comments to your friends. But do it quietly and discretely. I don’t go to panels to hear you talk over the host. Amazingly, you don’t see that same disrespect at large cons. People in the audience with be talking in any panel but they do so in a lower tone of voice and they aren’t having whole conversations. They are making comments to their friends about what they just heard.

I hate to say this because I think Newfoundland is the best place in the world, but so many people attending our local con are rude. I really want to attend AtlantiCon someday just to see if the crowd out in Corner Brook are better behaved.

I will be attending SFOTR this year and I plan to do a quick journal entry about it.  To close, here’s a list of things I want to see from SFOTR if I am to continue to go in the future.

  1. A bigger venue. The Holiday Inn is too small.
  2. More security/volunteers. This is mostly just for crowd control but it’s also so they can see what’s happening when rude cosplayers are around. The hotel staff should not have to deal with con guests as they already have their own jobs to do.
  3. Weapons check, in case it’s not already being done. I know there wasn’t one in 2012. I’m not concerned about cosplayers bringing anything dangerous to the con but it is a normal practice at many other cons. It’s just a safety thing.
  4. More organization. The con just isn’t well thought out. Last year, the special guests were signing in the vendors’ room, the most crowded room in the con. In other years, the guests were down in the artist gallery. It’s not as crowded and that’s important. The bigger the star power of the guest then the more of a lineup they’ll have. It’s important that people can line up safely without impeding the flow of traffic too much.
  5. Etiquette lessons.

Okay, I don’t expect etiquette lessons. But what was supposed to be a general rant about why I don’t like SFOTR turned into a serious complaint about some of our local cosplayers. Cosplay is supposed to be fun for everyone and thus it needs to promote respect. What I’ve been throught and what girlpuck hasn’t experienced is nowhere near as bad as what happens to girls who get sexually harassed because they wore an accurate yet skimpy costume. It’s not as bad as kids who are bullied because they don’t have the skill or money to buy high quality costumes. I’ve never experienced body shaming. Yet when cosplayers talk over guests and hosts, when they ignore rules and the comfort of others, they ruin conventions. They hurt people’s feelings and suck all enjoyment out of a venture. It’s okay to be a little rambunctious but there’s a time and place. Remember, we’re all in this together.

~Devinity