Sunday, January 22, 2017

ChattaCon 42: Cons, the Universe, and Everything



This weekend I attended ChattaCon, which is a nice little science fiction/fantasy convention here in Chattanooga, Tennessee that celebrated its 42nd anniversary this year.  This makes it one of the oldest conventions in the southeastern United States.  This was my third ChattaCon (my first was just several months after I moved here).

As I've discussed before, even with the plethora of online fandom communities, it's still worthwhile to get together in person.  Especially given the uncertain times of our new President here in the US, it was nice to be among my people for a weekend (although I did take a break to attend the Chattanooga Women's March on Saturday).

Here's some of what I did:


  • After I got a comment on my post about ChattaCon last year from "Orange Mike" Lowrey, I said I would make a point to introduce myself in 2017.  I did.  We had a nice chat about the importance of being in the tribe of fandom.  If you go to a lot of cons, you may have seen Orange Mike around, dressed in orange from head to toe.  He's hard to miss!
  • I went to a few panels with Guest of Honor, Mike Resnick, on the history of science fiction.  They were educational!  One presentation consisted of "baby photos" of many famous science fiction authors and editors in their earlier years (from Hugo Gernsback to Arthur C. Clarke, Ursula LeGuin to Frank Herbert, Octavia Butler to Robert Heinlein, and many, many more).
  • I saw some of the robot battles, which is always one of my favorite ChattaCon events.
  • I continue to love ChattaCon's Con Suite, especially the beer!  Other cons have much to learn from the free flowing beer of ChattaCon.
  • The Chattanooga Fire Cabaret was back this year, fiery and entertaining as always.
  • The Masquerade was a good time.  I especially enjoyed the Star Wars/Big Lebowski mash up costume, Dude Skywalker.
  • I was sad to learn about the passing of Larry Smith, from whom I bought a lot of books at ChattaCon and various cons in the area in the last couple years.  I can't claim I knew him beyond a few pleasantries, but the Dealers' Room felt empty without him and his books.
  • I went to some panels.  There was a fun one on retrofuturism.  There was a two-part series on "This Geek Life," the first of which focused mostly on life as part of the community of SFF cons.  The second panel focused on the mainstreaming of geek culture and how long time fans feel about it.  Toward the end I raised my hand and made an inelegant point that while I'm all for inclusivity, sometimes there's a bit of resentment that these kids today don't have to suffer for their fandom the way many of us older fans did.  The panel and the audience made some great points in response (e.g., it's good that people don't have to suffer as much today, some fans do still suffer from family and other fans, etc.).  I'm afraid I may have inadvertently come across as a jerkish, geekier-than-thou type.  So, if anyone who was there happens to read this, let me explain that I'm fully on board with inclusion of new fans and new fandoms.  I would never tell people they're not real fans or advocate for their exclusion.  At most the resentment I mentioned is about 1% of what I'm feeling about the issue at any given time.  The response to my blundering comment really helped me think about it to see that maybe this (very slight) resentment is something I can work through.  If anybody who was there is reading this, thank you!

I've always had a good time at ChattaCon.  I didn't talk to as many people as I probably should have, partly due to my own in-person awkwardness and partly due the fact that ChattaCon is so small and close-knit that being a newcomer sometimes feels like stumbling into someone else's family reunion.  Nonetheless, I still feel at home just existing for a time among my nerdish people.  Maybe I'll see about volunteering or serving on a panel next year. 

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