If you had told me in 1988, as an 18-year-old Stony Brook freshman sitting in Javits 100, that I would be sitting in the same lecture hall at age 42 watching something called Cosplay Burlesque, I probably would have laughed at you. Or punched you in the face if I believed you were serious.
But here we are in 2012, and that sad event has come to pass. I’m not proud, but neither am I especially ashamed. It was just one of many things I witnessed at I-Con 31, the Northeast’s largest Science Fiction and Fantasy convention held annually on the SUNY Stony Brook college campus.
I’ve been going to I-Con for a number of years now, and while this con wasn’t the best, it certainly wasn’t the worst. In fact, it led to my greatest book find ever. I’ve written a separate article about that, which you can read in the Latest Editions section of the site, so I won’t go into it again here.
But con proper had its own highs and lows. So let’s take them a day at a time.
Friday Night: It’s All About the Audio, People!
I began my first night at a panel hosted by Big Finish Audio, an outfit best known for producing Dr. Who radio plays for the BBC. Along with Big Finish producer/director Jason Haigh-Ellery, the panel featured Sara Douglas–most widely known as the rogue Kryptonian Ursa in Superman II–and Daphne Ashbrook, who played one of the Doctor’s companions in a TV movie. Both appear in the Big Finish audio productions, and it was interesting to hear how they approach their craft when doing audio work as opposed to stage or screen acting.
I love radio and well-produced audio in general, and I’m jealous that folks across the pond get to regularly experience new radio drama on a regular basis. And I know I can stream this stuff online or buy disks, but that really can’t compare to the experience of actually turning on the radio and tuning into a broadcast. Call me old fashioned.
From there I went to the aforementioned Cosplay Burlesque, which I’ve been curious about since it debuted at the con last year. Just to clarify, this is a strip show that features men and women dressed up as characters from their favorite SF&F television and anime shows. So featured acts included a Buffy the Vampire Slayer, some kind of Pokemon thing and so on. It’s weird and it’s kind of creepy; but in the end it’s folks taking their clothes off, so the room was packed.
Of Cosplay Burlesque I can say only this: I was transfixed, but not in a good way. Kind of like a train wreck. My curiosity satisfied and then some, I had no problems punching out and hour early to go see Rekha Sharma.
Rekha Sharma played Tory Foster on Battlestar Galactica, one of the final five cylons, and I was looking forward to chatting with her. But it wasn’t meant to be. Oh, she showed up. But she had laryngitis and couldn’t say a word. Instead, she took questions and typed answers that an assistant would then read.
It was a surreal exercise in patience and pantomime, as the lecture hall was enveloped in a somewhat awkward silence that never went away. But kudos to Rekha for insisting that the panel go on and finding a way to make it work. In the end, she provided sweet, funny and some surprisingly deep answers to fan questions.
By this time it was late and I ambled over to WUSB to check out the Destinies Mystery Guest Show, which featured Nana Visitor of Star Trek DS9 as the mystery guest and proved to be one of the best I-Con shows Howard has ever done. You can listen to it here.
Saturday: Arts and Sciences (Not Necessarily in that Order)
I usually spend most of my Saturdays in science and literature panels, and this year was no exception. I started the day listening to world-renowned Physicist Helio Takai talk about his latest experiments at the Large Hadron Collider to discover the elusive Higgs Boson particle. I followed that up with “A Brief History of Time,” an overview of the ways humanity has measured time. Interesting stuff.
From there I let my fanboy flag fly at the Star Trek DS9 Mega Panel, which featured Nana Visitor (Kira), J.G. Hertzler (Martok), Casey Biggs (Damar) and Daphne Ashbrook (season 2 episode guest spot). I was especially excited to attend this panel because Deep Space Nine is my favorite Trek spinoff, and in all my years of con-going, I’ve never seen any of the cast members speak.
Nana, J.G. and Casey didn’t disappoint. They all played major roles on the show, and it was evident that they’re all extremely grateful to have been a part of it and are proud of the body of work they left behind. Their panel was definitely the high point of the entire con.
Another pleasant surprise awaited with Author Guest of Honor David Weber. I don’t know Weber, I’ve never read any of his books and I’m not even a particular fan of his genre, which is Military SF. But after skipping the events with Joe Lansdale last year—and subsequently discovering that he’s extremely entertaining and one hell of a fun speaker—I now make it point to attend at least one panel with the author guest of honor.
And while Weber was no Lansdale, it was interesting nonetheless to hear him talk about his work and his writing process and philosophy—so much so that I followed him to a panel on Military SF that I never would have gone to otherwise. And why do we go to these cons in the first place if not to expand our horizons? Thanks, Mr. Weber.
I decided to end my day on that high note. There was still plenty of con left to attend, but I just wasn’t feeling it.
Sunday: Thrilling Victory, Crushing Defeat
I kicked off Sunday by doing one of my favorite things: talking time travel! “Does Time Travel Allow for Free Will” was the question the panel posed, and it’s always fun to debate this stuff. It eventually turned into a discussion of our favorite time travel books and films, so big score!
From there I went to the dealers room and got the second-greatest book in my library.
And, high on this acquisition, I listened to some science-y types talk about the current state of nanotechnology, as well as emerging 3D printing technology that can produce human organs. I am SO gonna live forever!
I wound Sunday down with another tradition instituted last year: trivia.
Sundays have always been kind of mushy con days for me, mainly spent going through the motions and waiting for things to end. So last year I changed it up and went to a bunch of trivia contests. Not only were they fun, but I won two of them, including prizes!
This time around I hit one called “You Don’t Know Literature,” which was clearly wrong, as indicated by the amount of lollipops and tootsie rolls I wracked up for right answers.
From there I returned to the scene of last year’s biggest triumph: “SCIENCE: Trivia!” Basically it’s a fun, freeform two-hour marathon of general science questions from all fields. My decade of writing DeFlip Side sure came in handy last time around, since I had dabbled in many of the topics they quizzed us about. I wound up in the top three and ultimately came in second, nabbing a Best Buy gift card.
Alas! I didn’t pull off a repeat performance this time around. In fact, the guy who beat me last year won again this year, as did two others beside! I didn’t even place. Ignoble defeat, how thy stingeth me! So I did what anyone with an ounce of self-respect would do in that circumstance: I gathered up my literature lollipops and slunk home. I’ll get ‘em all next year!
And there you have them, the highs, the lows and the weirds of my I-Con 31 odyssey. Fellow con-goers, please feel free to relate your own experiences in the comments section below. Until next year…