A couple of years ago, I was introduced to a part of my life that I didn’t know I was missing until I found it: Convergence. Convergence is an annual science-fiction convention that takes place in Bloomington, Minn., on the first weekend in July. This year marked the 16th anniversary of the volunteer-run convention. This past weekend, I celebrated my third year attending this outstanding sci-fi convention “at Con,” as they say.
The first year I attended was 2012. My friend Joseph Scrimshaw (a former Wits collaborator) was doing a live taping of his Obsessed podcast that I had to catch live; it was my first experience with standing room only convention rooms wowza!
After the podcast was taped, we grabbed lunch, where I met some incredible people: a gent who has written multiple Dr. Who episodes and teaches cricket to Americans at Con each year; an illustrator whose work you’ve no doubt seen on Apples to Apples or Munchkin games; a well-known author who wrote the movie Sinister; and I became closer with a blogging, bee-keeping, bird-watching forest ranger and her independent-filmmaker hubby, and with a beloved local musician and his hip, fashionista wife:
I was so overwhelmed with the sheer amount of costumes and parties that I didn’t really get to see everything. There’s a room that serves toast with nearly any conceivable topping: Sardines? Cap’n Crunch and Tabasco Sauce? Yep, they’ve got it! If you’re thirsty, let the Skepchicks make you an out-of-this-world beverage that has Tang in it and glows in the dark! I certainly walked away thinking, “Wow, those nerds know how to throw a party!”
I’m regularly asked by friends who describe themselves as “non-geeky” exactly what Convergence is all about.
Convergence is like Lollapalooza for nerds! From the sci-fi movie screenings in Cinema Rex to the crafting workshops and the multi-platform gaming that takes place on every floor to the dance parties and room parties in the cabanna rooms, there’s simply something fun for anyone who is even a little geeky.
The first thing that you’ll notice are the costumes. Some are purchased, some handmade, and many are for original characters created by the person wearing the costume. Admittedly, there’s a great deal of Dr. Who awesomeness going on, but there are plenty of vendors who have some geeky wares you can purchase, if you are lacking in that department (and apparently I was lacking in the geeky t-shirt department).
It’s educational, there are helpful panels and workshops for people that want to get into the business or hone the skills they already have!
It’s an incredible socialization exercise, people who would normally lead more of a wallflower life seem more willing to step out of their comfort zones when it comes to talking about the things they are truly passionate about, whether it be mages in D&D or their favorite Star Trek Captain. I was amazed at the number of people I spoke to who had taken part in five, ten and even FIFTEEN panels over the weekend. Everyone is treated with respect and their views are heard.
It’s welcoming to families. Last year, my family had been binge-watching Dr. Who episodes in preparation for the “British Invasion” theme of convergence 2013. We took our (then 11-year-old) daughter, as she has attended the MCBA Spring and Fall Cons each year at the fairgrounds. And even at such a young age, she is becoming a true cosplayer short for “costumed role-playing” first dressing up in costumes we purchased and now, building her own. And we were pleased that there was a nice Klingon girl she knew from school that she could spend some tween time with. There are so many things you can do with your children, such as dances, workshops, panels and movie screenings, too! It’s also worth noting there are several “Safe rooms” where you can seek shelter if you’re feeling harassed or scared.
And fandom! There’s a chance to meet your favorite sci-fi celebrity actor or author. You can attend their panels, their signings or maybe just find yourself standing next to one outside. Twice this weekend, I unintentionally bumped into Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi on Star Trek: The Next Generation and the voice of Demona on Gargoyles).
The networking opportunities are limitless. If you need a classical theremin player, I can hook you up with a friend of mine. Maybe you’re looking for a freelance sci-fi writer? I know a few of them, too. Are there any local cartoonists? Oh yes, there are! The feeling of community throughout the Con was one I revel in.
Oh, hey, there’s an art show, too! And ribbon-collecting could be called an art in itself!
It’s also like summer camp for grown-ups. Over the past couple of years I’ve made friends with some fascinating people that I only get to see at Convergence, because they live hundreds of miles away. This year, I learned that my Con friend, Caroline, who lives near London, has the same avocado allergy that I do! But much like summer camp, it all comes to an end (for the year) on Sunday. But not until after the closing ceremonies!
I stayed around long enough to see the “House Of Toast” being completely dismantled. Once I got home, I wished I’d gotten the recipe for the Skepchick’s edible bubble beverages!
Convergence keeps growing each year, and more than 6,000 people from all over the world attended our local Con. All of it would not be possible if not for the multitudes of volunteers, from the nerf-herders to the board of directors, these nerds know how to do EVERYTHING!
More photos from Convergence (all photos by Barb Abney)
Find additional photos posted on Barb Abney’s Facebook page.