Convention alien mascot Greg 8 and Dr. Who’s Tardis greeted attendees of Con•Gregrate 2, held July 10th through July 12th, 2015, at the renovated Radisson Hotel on South Main Street in High Point, NC. This is the convention’s second year, and it has moved to the location of the defunct Stellarcon, which it replaced.
This year’s special guests included Writer Guest of Honor Michael Stackpole and Writer Guest of Honor Timothy Zahn, who have both written novels in the Star Wars universe as well as many other works; Fan Guest of Honor Albin Johnson, who created the 501st Legion, a worldwide Internet-based group for Star Wars costumers; Special Artist Guest Scott Rorie, a Marvel approved and Lucasfilm approved artist as well as the free-lance artist who created the program cover; and Special Musical Guests Valentine Wolfe, the Victorian Chamber Music Duo of Sarah and Braxton.
On Friday, many convention attendees wore Hawaiian shirts because the first day of the convention each year has been designated Hawaiian Shirt Friday in a unique memorial to honor contributors to the world of science fiction and fantasy whom we have lost. Honored by the colorful shirts this year were Harve Bennett, Eugie Foster, Fred Grimm, Edward Herman, Bob Hoskins, John Jones, Louis Jourdan, Tanith Lee, Alene Martel, Ann Melrose, Leonard Nimoy, Terry Pratchett, Dick Smith, Rod Taylor, Nigel Terry, Grace Lee Whitney, Robin Williams, and Christopher Lee.
Other special events at the convention included E Komo Mei (Opening Ceremonies), the costume contest, the charity auction, the dealers’ room, Authors’ Alley, fan group tables, author readings and signings, the Writers’ Roundtable, HollyWeird Squares, the Baen Traveling Road Show, gaming, the Con Suite (for drinks and snacks), and the presenting of the Cornerstone Award and the Manly Wellman Award.
The convention offered workshops in a variety of areas: the 105th Squad Makers Workshop; Portfolio Review (for artists) Creating the Well-Dressed Puppet; the Leather Working Workshop; the Special Effects Makeup Workshop; the Photography 101 Workshop; and a number of writing workshops — the Science in Fiction Workshop; Allen Wold’s Regionally Famous Workshop; Beyond the First Draft; the Plotting Workshop; World Building with Steven Long; and Live Action Slush Pile.
Music fans could listen to concerts by Valentine Wolfe, Hawthorne and Holly, and White Plectrum, and could participate in (or just listen to) Open Filk.
Programs for children included S.H.I.E.L.D. Double Agent Initiative, STEM for Kids, Milk and Magic with Flabbergast the Wizard, Filk and Cookies with Gray Rinehart, and Music by Mark with Mark MacDicken. In addition, the ConGregate Kids Craft Center, which was open during most convention hours, provided a quiet place for parents to take their children to relax with crafts and coloring.
Convention goers could attend a number of expert talk panels and audience participation panels. Here’s a sampling of topics and panels:
- Anime: Cyberpunk in Anime
- Anniversaries: 30 Years of the Space Shuttle; 50 Years of Dune
- The Arts: Music and Art in Science Fiction and Fantasy
- Costuming: Costuming vs. Cosplay; Unique Costuming Materials
- Fandom: The Care and Feeding of Fan Groups
- Gaming: Adapting Books, TV, and Movies to Roleplaying Games
- Horror: What Horror Should We Be Reading?
- Publishing: Successful Self-Publishing: Tricks and Traps; We’ve Got You Covered; Ask an Editor
- Podcasting: Talk to Us: Interviews by Podcast; Coming to You Live! Recording Live Podcasts; Promoting Your Podcast
- Miscellaneous: Kickstarting Things; Improving Cultural Diversity in SF; Privilege: The Prince and the Pauper
- Science: Medicine of the Future; Build a Better Space Habitat; Ask a Mad Scientist; Nuclear Follies and Oddities; Back to the Future
- Science Fiction: Dystopian/Disaster Stories; Weapons in SF; Them’s Fighting Words — Writing Combat in Science Fiction
- Steampunk: Absinthe and Airships
- Writing: Finding the Story; Copyright and the Author; The Evolving Role of Authors; Death of Characters: Story Progression or Authorial Sadism?; The Location Next Door; Series, Serial, or Cereal?; Writing the Other; Tail End in Seat
- Women: The Women of Warp; Dr. Who Through a Woman’s Eyes; Women in Science and Tech
The convention layout was good; it was easy to get from place to place. Some of the convention rooms were too cool — it’s always a good idea to bring a sweater to a convention — but that’s better than too hot. The hotel restaurant provided reasonably priced buffet meals (as well as a menu for those who wished to order) so that attendees could could eat in a short time and get on to other activities, and the hotel’s invariably friendly, pleasant, and helpful staff impressed me.
While three days of convention-going are exhausting, they are also rewarding, inspiring, and enjoyable. I’m looking forward to attending Con•Gregate 3 next year. Hope to see you there!