Thursday, November 22, 2007

Anime NebrasKon 2007

For me the Midwest convention season ended with three really wonderful conventions. Each had its own flavor, each was the right size for its purpose, and each brought in enough funds that they will be back next year. The last of these was the anime convention held in the University of Nebraska’s Student Center: NebrasKon.

Anime is a sub-genre of science fiction that grew up in response to the vast emptiness of American animation in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Probably the best way to explain why Japanese animation found an immense audience waiting for it is to look at its competition in the early 1980’s; Super-Friends had reigned on American Saturday morning television for over a decade (1973-86). The discovery of anime (or Japanese Animation as we called it then) gave us the choice of the exploits of the Space Battleship Yamato or “Wonder Twin powers activate”. I have DVDs of the former, but not the later.

But it is not the movies, OVAs (Original Video Animation), or series that make an anime convention. You can buy those and watch them in the comfort of your living room. It is the fans that make up a really good convention. From the discussions of what is good or bad on DVD, or whether you should watch dubbed or subbed videos (DVDs make this argument pointless since they come with both versions), to the cosplay (costume play) that happens during the entire weekend. Yes, there is going to be a Masquerade or Cosplay Competition sometime on Saturday evening but you still see a good many costume characters throughout the convention.

Yet, anime conventions are still trying to find their pattern. They have a lot of rough edges yet that SF/F conventions have polished down over the years. The best example of this is the Cosplay or Costume Competitions they hold. Rules seem to vary and have not taken all participants into consideration yet. The two anime conventions I attended this year were both flawed from the perspective of the audience, especially those of us trying to take photos. The entrants also need to polish their presentations. But anime presenters have been at this for a mere two decades and I am comparing them to events that have been honed since 1939. I think SF/F fandom has a lot to offer Anime fandom.

I also think that Anime fandom has a lot to offer SF/F fandom. Anime conventions have a raw energy about them. It seemed that almost one-fourth of the NebrasKon goers were in some type of costume, and in character for that costume. Their dealers room was thriving and they have found a new avenue for the artists to meet their fans; the Artist Alley. Though I do miss the Art Show with its hanging images where I can crawl into a new and wondrous world created by talented imagers.

Traditional SF/F fandom is graying, getting too comfortable in those events that are finely polished, lacking the hunger to create new experiences. How often have you gone to the same panel? Can you name a SF/F convention that does NOT have one named, “Where do you get those crazy ideas?” If traditional SF/F conventions cannot find a way to re-integrate both gaming and anime fandom back into our makeup, we will die. It is often asked at the traditional conventions by the con goers, where are the younger fans? Well they have started their own conventions around the sub-genres that we did not give enough resources to. If you look at the attendance figures; gaming, anime, and media conventions are growing. These were all pieces of the traditional SF/F convention until we started snubbing them, despite the fact that we enjoyed them.

Can a convention be created that will bring experienced fans together with energetic fans? I think it can and The Omaha Science Fiction and Fantasy Festival (OSFest) is going to try. I hope we can really create a science fiction convention with something for everyone.

What do You want?

Monday, November 12, 2007

ICON has risen from its ashes!

ICON 32 was Nov. 2-4 this year back onto I-80. Held in Coralville Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, the convention has moved back to the Iowa City area where it began.

Everything said about how this convention went has to be viewed with the understanding that after ICON 31, ICON was dead. Around January of this year, a group of experienced convention runners, lead by Greg Parmentier and Steve Keith Tait, got a bid together and presented it to the Mindbridge Board of Directors (Mindbridge is the corporate entity that is responsible for ICON and other convention in the Iowa City area). After their proposal was accepted they had only 10 months to pull everything together.

The Marriott is a fine new hotel, even if I grumble at having to pay for parking. OSFES went in to do our first room party ever and found an easy connection for our electronics. I most hotels, if you are lucky, you can disconnect the RF cable coming into the television to hook in a video deck. The Marriott had a wall mounted selection of connector plug-ins that hooked into their large flat-screen TVs. So with a few bed-movings, some room decorations (with no tape being applied to the walls), and John Pershing’s home-brew; OSFES’ party went over quite well. “”That’s Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” (pause, wait for it) with Pia Zadora.”

The convention shared its space with a wedding and a couple of meetings that weekend. It was a bit odd to see a non-SF/F group getting into costumes for their event – and they weren’t square-dancers. Their activities were very spread out, their Toastmaster, Rusty Hevelin, had to use an electric scooter to get around.

Yes, they had some problems. A snafu with the Art Show rules caused a lot of artists to not send in art and made the Art Show very small and the Art Auction almost non-existent. Several panels were run by a single individual (at least the ones I got to), but their Moderators (is the main person still called a moderator if they are the only panelist?) kept the panels interesting and on topic. Finally their costume contest had at least as many entrees as Windycon a week later, along with belly-dancers and The Great Luke Ski as half-time entertainment.

ICON has risen from its Gallium ashes – next year join Tanya Huff, Rusty Hevelin, and a host of the usual suspects at ICON 33 on Halloween for another really cool weekend.