Lady Devinity Cosplay

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

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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

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

  1. Hi there,

    I’d like to respond to your post, and forgive me but I might be a little long winded.

    First I’d like to apologize for your experience with that group of cosplayers, I agree it is disrespectful during a panel for a group to continually talk despite the panel host. As one of the organizing committee, it’s something I’d love to be made aware of at the time so that it can be addressed, and I’ll also be making sure that the hosts know they can ask rowdy people to leave their panels.

    Second, I want to say that we do take into account the MUN exam schedule and have a copy of it handy from year to year when planning for the next Sci-Fi On The Rock. We try to plan for starting either on the last day of, or just after exams finish so that university students have a chance to enjoy some if not all of the festival before leaving town after the term ends.

    Last year, we took a gamble on May, knowing that a lot of the student population would most likely not be in town.

    The other factors that go into picking a date for Sci-Fi On The Rock are, other events in the city taking place around the same time, other, larger events taking place across the country (ie. Anime North) as a bigger draw for actors to attend, and finally, the availability of a suitable location for our event to take place in.

    That last one, finding a suitable location, is a challenge. Few places in St. John’s have the right amount of space for a vendors room, meeting rooms for panels, hotel space for guests, nearby restaurants and ample parking for the right cost.

    The Holiday Inn and Sci-Fi On The Rock have had a wonderful relationship these past 8 years because they have all of that in the one package.

    That being said, yes, we know that Sci-Fi On The Rock is outgrowing the space and the committee do the same search every year, looking for the same factors that are needed versus costs. Bear in mind, the festival is a Fan run, Not For Profit event. We don’t have massive corporate sponsorships to support us and every member of the committee is a volunteer giving their time freely to organize this event. Sci-Fi On The Rock is supported by its attendees and any money made pays for that event or gets invested in the following year.

    We have found that late April/early May work best, and with the additions of the Newfoundland Gaming Expo (Sandbox Gaming’s event), the first Avalon Expo and Atlanti-CON, we’re positioned in a good place as the first event of the year in the province.

    Now, as for the costume contest, I won’t lie, last year I was totally amazed by it. I was blown away at how popular it was for entrant numbers and for the audience that wanted to get into the room to watch the contest unfold. Will I say it was perfect? No. Will I try to say it went off without a hitch? No. There were issues and it’s a learning experience every year and though there were hiccoughs, we do have some great, knowledgeable and experienced people working to improve things for Sci-Fi 9’s costume contest.

    Now for your checklist.

    1. A bigger venue. The Holiday Inn is too small.

    Sci-Fi On The Rock 9 will be at the Holiday Inn, I outlined above what factors into getting a location and rest assured the hunt is on for Sci-Fi On The Rock’s 10th year in 2016

    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.

    We have an army of about 50 volunteers helping out for the weekend as well as 37 committee members working to make sure things go as smoothly as possible. If you see anything that needs immediate attention, find a Yellow Shirted Committee member and even myself as I’m running around. At 6ft, 300lbs wearing a yellow shirt and a Doctor Who scarf, I’m hard to miss. Trust me, we want to know about issues as close to when they happen so that we can deal with those situations as quickly as possible.

    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.

    We’ve got a team who have been and will be doing weapons checks and they will be on the lookout for any potential safety risks. Our attendees safety is a top priority

    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.

    We spend a year organizing the event and hope to do the best job possible. At the end of every Sci-Fi On The Rock, I put out a survey asking for what was liked and how we can improve the festival. We factor it all in planning year to year. With regard to the special guests, we actually had suggestions from past guests and requests from attendees to move the guests upstairs for signing autographs as they felt the downstairs vendors room was too cramped. We’re working to make the best use we can of the available space.

    5. Etiquette lessons.

    I may not know every fork in a formal place setting, but I don’t think I do too shabby 🙂

    Steve Lake
    Vice-Chair
    Sci-Fi On The Rock
    steve@scifiontherock.com

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I had no idea what Homestuck was (had to google it), but I knew exactly which group you were talking about before I even checked. They really were totally horrible, loud, immature little assholes. And I was only there for 2 hours that year! Also, anyone who will not shut up during a panel OR those who hog the guest and won’t let anyone else ask a question are some of the worst people who go to these things. Have some respect for the other people around you for f sakes. SFOTR may want to tell volunteers to kick those out who won’t stfu or to gently/comedically tell those who hog guests to give someone else a chance.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember those cosplayers that year… I don’t remember them being disruptive in panels (I don’t think I was in the same ones, usually I hang out in the halls and booths) but they were loitering, sitting down and blocking the hallway and one of the exits. Don’t get me wrong, people need to sit, but just not there, and please move when people need to go by… Or sit somewhere else when you’re repeatedly an obstruction. :S

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m going to put this out there:

    Did you ever stop and think that the reason you are witnessing more rude people here is due in part to how small this con is? I have heard (and witnessed) horror stories from several of the bigger cons that rival anything you pointed out as occurring at SFotR. There are rude fans at every single convention I have ever heard of and they are dealt with at the time AS LONG AS SOMEBODY TELLS SOMEBODY IN CHARGE. Did you ever once do that when you experienced the rude behaviour? I have a feeling that you did nothing at all other than cringe or bad comments under your breath to your friend.

    I strongly suggest that if you have complaints about SFotR that you come forward in a more constructive manner. Make suggestions on their FB page, contact one of the committee members (they honestly are not that hard to contact), or get involved in volunteering. This blog post comes across as whining about things not going your way when you attend this con, and judging it against the larger cons is absurd. Do you know about their own growing pains from when they first started? Probably not. I can tell you that they likely aren’t much different than what has been going on here, but they grew faster due to not being quite so difficult for people to get to.

    Be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Don’t just assume that there is not a lot of work or planning going into this con – you do not see what the volunteers or committee members do because you are clearly focused on the other con attendees and what is on offer or display. Like so many people out there you are not aware of what goes on behind the scenes.

    I would like to thank Steve Lake for adding his two cents on this, and in a much politer response than I would have used when I first read this blog post.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hey! So I read through your blog, and I know you’re getting a lot of negative feedback for it. I’m here to say that I actually agree with you. I was at that con with the homestuck or homestruck children. Unfortunately I also had to whiteness the tea event and be stuck beside a few as they tried to pour 50 packets of sugar in to one coffee cup to drink. 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! That was another horror. We were all pretty dehydrated an overheated.

    Sadly, they were there again last year and I did my best to avoid them. Thankfully they seemed to mature a ‘little’ since then so they weren’t intolerable.

    Now, I am saying this as someone who has never been to a con outside of newfoundland. I love Sci Fi On the Rock despite the flaws. It’s a time of year when I can go and be geeky for a weekend and dress up and have fun! We cannot do anything about rude people. They will always exist. I find that with each year new problems will arise for any convention. As a Newfoundlander and a geeky gal, I will go to this convention this year. And next year. I hope with growth the con will find another venue, but for now it’s the best con I can afford to go to 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: SFOTR Responses: Also known as Devinity’s descent into infamy | Lady Devinity Cosplay

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