June 24th, 2007 09:13 EST
ApolloCon Science Fiction Convention: there was I
When SOP producer Judyth Piazza informed me of ApolloCon 2007, I eagerly welcomed the opportunity to attend June 23 at the Double Tree Hotel, on behalf of the SOP. As a science fiction fan, I enjoy going to sci-fi conventions-- if they are well done. I haven’t been to a con since the late ‘90s because Houston unfortunately hasn’t hosted a decent one since the mid-’90s. Or so I thought, only because I was ignorant about conventions like ApolloCon. Sure, I knew they existed, but I didn’t think much of them, because at first glance they seemed less interesting than the cons I was accustomed to. I mean, there were no guests from my favorite sci-fi TV shows, so how good could it really be? I found out.
ApolloCon was excellent, and slightly different from any con I’ve experienced. The SF cons I was familiar with mostly focused on TV and film incarnations of sci-fi, featuring guest speakers from TV and movies. ApolloCon, however, is a venue that mainly celebrates sci-fi books… with writers, artists, and sci-fi fans as guests.
The audience reflected this difference in medium, which I didn’t expect. One of the things that surprised me was that out of 450-ish people attending, nearly 50% were female. Typically, the percentage is in the range of 25 to 35-- or it was when last I was at a con almost 10 years ago. The idea and evidence that the female sci-fi audience has increased is auspicious, comforting and exciting.
Also particularly notable-- and somewhat troubling-- is that approximately 90% of attendees were over the age of 30; suggesting that young people today indeed do read less books, less often. Or maybe that the youth of today have a decreasing interest in sci-fi, or at least a lacking interest in sci-fi books. Such revelations starkly revealed how much I had drifted away from that scene, how out of touch I am with these people--- my people. It has been a few years since I’ve been directly involved with fandom, up close and personal. Not because I’ve lost interest, but because my interests have expanded to other things. But this con both apprised me of what I might be missing about the fandom, and reminded me how much I missed this world. Cons are a good place for geeks to gather, to extol and appreciate their culture and shared passion. And, for any stereotypists reading this, there was virtually no one in costume.
So what did I do while there?
The forum of ApolloCon consisted mainly of panel discussions with question/answer sessions, which were informal and intimate gatherings in small rooms. Rather than give speeches, the guests conducted discussions of sci-fi related topics. These panels were composed of such subject matter as…
What you should have read by now: The foundations of sci-fi-- a verbal presentation of the early history of sci-fi literature, noting various authors and books that influenced the genre.
Fairy tale ink: Revising and re-envisioning our folklores-- an examination of the elements and aspects in storytelling, and of mythology in our stories.
Which way do we go?: What’s the next big step Humanity should take?--consideration of technological and social evolutions as they apply to venturing into space.
Wearing your character on your sleeve-- commentary on the importance of clothing to create an image and define a fictional reality.
Zombies 101: Strategy, weapons and running real fast-- derived from a book entitled The Zombie Survival Guide, this was a humorous, tongue in cheek assessment of various methods of defending against Zombies, using zombie movies as source material.
Pay no attention to the pro behind the curtains: Editors-- writers and editors speak anecdotally on the behind the scenes process of publishing a book.
Fan guest of honor: A.T. Campbell interviewed by Martha Wells-- as the title indicates, an interview of Campbell about his experiences with organizing sci-fi cons.
I had a brief, but fun and fascinating, conversation with a charming author named Martha Wells, about her books and how archetypal tropes can be made original through unique interpretations. We apparently Know some of the same things about storytelling, because we finished each others sentences, which I thought was cool. The finale of the day for me was a comedic, sci-fi performance acted out by amateur con attendees in the style of 1930s radio programs. These are just the activities I chose.
Other panels, which I didn’t see, included 30 years of Star Wars and fandom, How Friendly Were Frodo and Sam?, Costuming 101, Current trends in book collecting, Writing 101, and author readings.
Per usual for cons, there was a dealer’s room with merchandise for sale, an art room and auction, autograph table, video theater, as well as a costume contest. Not to mention late night after parties, which I declined.
For some reason that eludes me, there were also gaming areas for role playing. While it is true that many in this demographic engage in various gaming, this is an activity that diverts people from participating in the con proper, and can be done else when-- whereas the con events were available this one day only. This con was well planned and organized, the volunteer staff were friendly and helpful, and the guests were interesting, informative and even occasionally entertaining. In addition, ApolloCon enabled me to help advertise Artemis Eternal, a short film being produced by a friend of mine.
If you are a sci-fi fan, and especially a fan of science fiction books, I recommend ApolloCon. Now that I’ve had a taste of it, I would definitely want to go again.