Conning for the First Time

My first convention experience was Star Wars Celebration II.  I was 14, maybe 15, years old and somehow managed to convince my dad to buy me tickets to Celebration II.  He agreed – but on the condition that we drive there from Massachusetts to Indianapolis.  All too easy; that deal did not require any further thought, though I did spend a long time in the car.

For a first con experience, I was completely spoiled.  This wasn’t a small crowd; I think it had something like 38,000 other Star Wars fans.  WOW.  After that, a convention has never lived up to it.  Sure, NYCC last year matched Celebration II in size, but it wasn’t all Star Wars fans.  The feeling of being surrounded by Star Wars 24/7 and seeing the amazing Star Wars cosplay was a dream come true.  So many wonderful experiences!  Maybe one day I will go into it in more depth…

One of my blog followers, Nathan, went to his first con a few weeks ago.  I was so excited for him that I asked if he wouldn’t mind if I sent him some questions to think about while he was attending and then possibly answer when he returned.  A year ago, Nathan seemed a bit skeptical about cons but since reading my many blog posts on the ones I have attended, he decided to give a local one a shot.  I am so happy that I may have directly or indirectly influenced him!

Nathan talks about his experience at CONstellation V (cool name) and you may just learn something new (Dr. McNinja).  Feel free to ask Nathan any questions you’d like in the comment area below.  I’m hoping that maybe this convinces other people to attend cons as well!  Why?  Because they’re interesting, you learn something, surround yourself with other geeks, possibly buy cool stuff, and just have fun!   By the way – in case you were wondering – I have never met Nathan.  He is just someone who has been following my blog ever since it started up (THANK YOU!) and has never left 🙂  He also wrote a guest post over a year ago reviewing the EU book Scoundrels.

Read on, Padawans…(hey that kind of rhymes)


Star Wars Anonymous: What drew you to this specific con?  (Was it a con full of actors/actresses, comic book authors, novel authors, technical, gaming, etc?)

Nathan G: Location, location, location.  CONstellation V took place in Lincoln, NE.  That’s about 70 miles from my hometown, and being from rural Nebraska you take your opportunities to unabashedly geek out when you can get them.  A couple other factors was that the Con was a cheap way to try out the world of Cons, $30 for the whole weekend, and I happened to be a fan of the short fiction of the two guest authors.


What were the highlights of it?

There were quite a few things about the weekend that I really enjoyed.  Definitely the author panels I attended were pretty interesting.  I was glad to meet Robert Reed who’s a Lincoln, NE science fiction author I really admire.  Also the Cosplay Contest was surprisingly awesome but more on that later.

What was something that you didn’t expect?

The friendly attitude of the Con was great.  Because it was such a small event, it was always easy to find staff or experienced Con-goers to point you in the right direction.  Also, the size gave the impression of a tight knit group.  It was easy to run into people several times over the course of the weekend.  In one situation, the presenter for a panel I attended never arrived.  After several check-ins and profuse apologies by con staff, everyone in the room was content to spend the hour chatting about past Con experiences and fandom in general.

Did anyone show up in cosplay?  What was your favorite outfit?  If you have a photo, please include it.

I did not expect to have nearly as much fun as I had at the Cosplay Contest.  Actually, I don’t think the organizers did either.  I attended the contest just to fill in some time between panels I hoped to attend, and it ended up being full of more laughs than any other single event of the weekend.

It started fairly blasé with cosplayers making their way to the front of the room, offering a few lines about their costume or character and walking off.  A few of them interacted with the MC in-character, but mostly it was just an amateur fashion show.  I didn’t know what to expect as far as quality of costume, but I thought most of them looked good, clearly some time and care had gone into a lot of the costumes.

Anyway, after the last costume, the MC said, “Well, we have to let the judges deliberate, so if anyone would like to talk more about their costume or process, feel free.”  Cue the crickets.

There was apparently no official plan to fill the time.  And this is when Dr. McNinja saves the day.  If you’re not familiar with The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, then leave this blog (sorry, Kiri!) and go check out as a favor to your future self!  Forget about your past selves, it’s too late for them anyway.  Okay, since that’s over I can proceed to tell you that the cosplaying Dr. McNinja stepped up to give us all a PSA about the dangers of Paul Bunyan’s Disease.  From there, the event turned into a Q & A with Dr. McNinja in character the whole time.

It was pretty fantastic.  We learned about his many doctorate degrees, his time spent at the University of Batman, his tutelage under the clone of Benjamin Franklin, and of course the many, many species of dinosaurs Dr. McNinja has had to punch over the course of his adventures.  Eventually, the other cosplayers warmed to the attention and we were able to have a Q & A with several of fandom’s most beloved characters.  That is until the coup de gras…  A question for Pink Batman (yes, there was a Batman, and he was pink).  He was asked, “Excuse me, Pink Batman, but could you tell us where your pink parents are today?”  “TOO SOON!” cried out Dr. McNinja, and the two ninja-scientist-heroes consoled each other until the judges interrupted to complete the actual contest we came to see.

As for the contest itself, I was fairly impressed by the quality of cosplay.  There was a couple dressed as Deadpool and Harley Quinn that I believe were the Best Team.  There was Princess Jasmine who won in the Best Sewing category.  The Youth Division winner was Lego Darth Maul, and he was just about the cutest little Sith Lord you’ve ever seen.  Halo’s Master Chief was the Overall Winner in a cool costume with multiple layers and a light-up helmet.


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Did you buy anything at the Con?  If so, what did you buy and why did you buy it?

Even though the merchandise was limited, I did manage to buy a few things:  some art prints for my siblings, bead sprites from Galaga and a stormtrooper, and my obsession with used books continues.


Was there anything you were disappointed by? 

Mostly the Exhibitor Hall was disappointing.  I think this is one area where bigger is definitely better.  There were fewer than a dozen vendors and maybe four tables from other Cons or groups.  Also, I found their lack of stormtroopers disturbing.  Literally, not one stormtrooper, but there was a Mandalorian so that was cool.

(Editors note: they had a Mandalorian group/cosplay but no stormtroopers?  I definitely sense a disturbance in the Force…  Maybe the 501st doesn’t have a big presence in Nebraska.)

Did you learn anything new?

Probably the two things that stick out to me most as lessons learned from CONstellation would have to come from the author panels.  Robert Reed talked about a conversation that he had with a young writer who didn’t like a story he had just sold.  Mr. Reed told us that he didn’t like anything he’d written in his first 10 years.  That maybe a paragraph here or there stands out, but as you hone your craft, you have to let go of those stories you were so passionate about as a younger writer.

Carrie Vaughn made an interesting point in her panel about Voice.  She said that Voice is one of the most important elements to show that a writer knows what she is doing.  Ms. Vaughn explained that story, plot, and character can all be there, but if the Voice is inconsistent or doesn’t match the tone, your ability to engage the whole story suffers.

Did you prefer the exhibitor hall or the panels (if this applies)?

Panels easily.  The exhibitor hall just didn’t have a lot to offer.

Would you go to another con in the future?

Yes!  I was pretty sad to see the weekend end.  I’ve already started thinking about ways I can get involved next year, or at other Cons.

How would you rate your first Con experience from 1-10 (10 being the greatest, 1 being the worst) and explain?

This question I debated most throughout the weekend.  I think early on my expectations for CONstellation V were set too high, and I would have given the Con a low score.  However, as I settled into the event and began to really take part, I was having a blast.  That’s not to say the event was without legitimate disappointments, a lack of exhibitors and a panelist no-show, but it was all outweighed by the three F’s of friendliness, fun, and awesome fandom.  For my first Con experience, CONstellation V gets a solid 8.5.


Thanks, Nathan, for sharing your experience!  Please keep me updated on any cons you go too; I love hearing about cons in different parts of the USA.


One thought on “Conning for the First Time

  1. Hey, I just realized I’m in electronic print! Has it really been over a week since I got your email and last checked in here? Time flies when you’re having fun and stuff. Anyway, thanks for being encouraging about going to my first con. I really did have a blast. In fact, I recently got an update that the first public planning meeting for CONstellation VI is next week, hmm… 🙂

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