How to Prepare for Fandom Conventions After Quarantine

Staying home has been oddly, easy for the last month.

I’d like to thank my hermiting abilities and amazing tolerance for not seeing the outside world for long periods of time. Its as if a switch went off in the back of my head and now I’m planning virtual meetups, plotting bulk meal trips to the store, and rearranging my living room for crafts/re-adjusting to finding work from home, again.

I am trying my hardest not to live in sweatpants and gamer shirts.

Stay calm and keep a routine.

With all this new found time on my hands, I figured it was time for more useful tips about attending Fandom Conventions post-“Shelter-in-Place”.

Here are my thoughts while I finish my Reaper Letterman jacket.

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How health conscious should you be when in a crowd.

As you may have heard by now, conventions are already choosing to cancel for 2020 or pushing to later dates. Hoping that their host city won’t shut them down like in the case of SXSW and the City of Austin. Some are turning to the virtual version of their cons like Gary Con XII and using the hashtag ” Virtual Artist Alley” to help Artisans whose livelihood is now disrupted.

To be frank, we’re not out of the woods yet. So, keep taking care and taking precautions.

I am not a doctor, but what I am is overly cautious. Thank you retail jobs of the past.

Eventually, we will be returning to a new, normalish world of rubbing elbows with strangers. With a new hyper awareness of germs for a good while.

So, let’s revisit the “ 6 – 2 – 1 ” rule.

6 hours of sleep each day of con.

Eat 2 hearty meals each day of con.

And take at least 1 shower each day of con.

You should think about showering at least twice a day after walking the convention floor.

Any time you make it back to your hotel room, check those high friction areas. Splash some water on your face and touch up that deodorant. By taking these steps, you can lessen the odds of catching the dreaded “Con Crud” which is often the source of post-convention sickness.

That and people still attending with a head cold.

Plus a quick shower, a power nap and a good snack is a nice break before jumping back into the fray.

Continue to wash your hands.

While it may be a nice thought that the hotel staff or even volunteer convention staff will wipe down chairs, door knobs, microphones and table tops after use. You may still come in contact with a surface that was missed during these new cleaning efforts.

So, do yourself a favor and pick up the travel size versions of your favorite anti-bacterials.

Soap and water are still the strongest line of defense. You should already be an expert in hand washing since the Q days. You should be humming the entire opening song to Game of Thrones or Doctor Who to get through it. I believe in you!

Worried about dry hands? Use a light layer of vaseline (better yet, any of the vaseline lotion line) or deep moisturizing lotions after. Hit those cuticles with some shea body butter.

Do continue to carry some form of anti-bacterial.

Wipes, squeezy bottles, and disposable handkerchiefs. Their still useful for cleaning direct surfaces of objects touched often by others. I.E. water faucet handles, door knobs, elevator buttons, etc.

Before you touch it, protect yourself from it.

DO NOT go into a room or lobby or any public area spraying any form of cleaning product into the faces of others.

Its harrassment; it’s dangerous as that cleaning product becomes carcinogenic when in direct contact with eyes, nose, and mouth. And it is a fast way to be blacklisted from an event due to violent behavior.

Don’t think people won’t attempt to harm you for trying to help in this way. It will not end well, I assure you.

Wash your clothing/ keep dirty clothing in a separate bag in your suitcase.

While this is sort of a no-brainer, you’d be surprised to know not everyone has multiple outfits for a convention weekend.

Bacteria has a tendency to cling to fabric long after initial contact. As we learn more about this virus, it’s best to continue changing clothes before sitting down on a bed or couch. Bring a reusable bag to set worn clothing in after; wrap, tie and tuck away into the suitcase’s separate compartment.

For best practices when doing laundry during this pandemic, The New York Times does a great job covering this.

If your unable to bring fresh clothing options, pick up a detergent pod packet and clothesline for the weekend. Ask your roommates if they’re okay with handwashing garments in the hotel sink or tub. Because no one should be surprised by wet undergarments in the shower.

Cover your mouth if you must cough/sneeze.

Whether your sick or not, people will be jumpy for while around coughing.

Especially, sneezing.

Don’t have a tissue? Turn away and cough directly at the floor.

Take your allergy medication.

Purchase a pack of facial tissues, purchase a cloth mask (but make it functional, fashion) or buy disposable face mask to wear out.

If you are absolutely, dead set on making your own fabric face mask, please use the pattern for filter pockets. You will want to find HEPA grade air filters to cut your own little inserts. The pattern should cover from the middle bridge of your nose to midway beneath the chin and just past your cheeks. Try searching YouTube for “fabric face mask with filter pocket”, by now there a dozen experts.

My favorite so far has been Sew Can She’s tutorial.

Sure, you might feel silly for even wearing a mask at first. Just like you, there are many people already living with immunocompromised systems that still share the same air. So let’s normalize the wearing of face masks in fun colors and prints.

It’s not going away anytime soon.

Listen to your body.

If you feel a little off, take a moment to sit and listen to how your body is feeling.

Then go over these questions with yourself.

Did you eat enough this morning?

Are you thirsty?

How long did you sleep?

Are you warm to the touch?

Any shortness of breath?

Stop what you are doing and take your time to resolve the problem. Move away from busy areas, find a quiet space to catch your breath. Even if it’s just taking a few minutes to sit with some water. Your health is important. Don’t hurt yourself trying to do too much, too fast.

Limit your group activity at peak crowd hours.

The whole, social distancing thing in a convention environment might not work in this case.

My suggestion would be to stretch out your group activities throughout the day.

Choose a handful of events that are popular for your chosen con and narrow it down to a few must goes. Plan a meal to go out to with a small group of friends in between these events. Pace yourself in going into these crowded areas. Take the time to protect yourself and others by remembering to wash your hands.

In the end, we should continue these new habits throughout the day for the foreseeable future.

While it’s wonderful to see your friends and family having fun. Think about how your actions could impact their health in the present and in the future too. I’m sure we all would like to see each other again.


A Tale of Two Cons: Gamefest 2019

Fact: Some conventions host mini conventions to self promote months before the main event.

Fact: Very few conventions actually host mini conventions within themselves.

As a native to the Texas convention scene, I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing the rise and fall of “mini” conventions.

That’s a miniature, often one day, convention promoting a larger convention that happens later in the year.

San Japan’s MiniMini Con is the largest free one day convention in the San Antonio area. Hosted in the Wonderland of the Americas Mall.

In one day, attendees can see a performance by local idol groups, shop all the handmade vendors, participate in the cosplay contest and sit in on panels.

Then we have …or had? Project A-kon’s Mini A-kon and Micro A-kon. These were also a one day, free con hosted within various local libraries for a few years.

Similar to mini cons, the programming of larger conventions is broken down into what is called “tracks”.

Tracks are often used to share with attendees a specific niche experience. You can find these labeled as such in programming guide apps that tag events as “Sci-Fi Track” or “Comics Track” or “Anime Track” etc.

However, a mini Convention within an established Convention might become a new trend.

I volunteered for the first year convention doing just that within the same space as AnimeFest. GameFest in Dallas, Texas.

Gamefest Dallas is a convention dedicated to the industry of Tabletop Gaming and caters to fans of the industry.

Another interesting tidbit about this con was the badging process.

If you purchased a pass for Animefest, you also had free access to Gamefest and vice versa. Which is great if you wanted to test the waters of this first year con while still venturing throughout Animefest events.

Occupying only two floors of the Sheraton Dallas Hotel, (37th and 38th floors) Attendees had access to game rooms for Tabletop and Digital gaming discussions.

The 38th floor housed open gaming and rentable games library of varying play styles in exchange for leaving your badge while playing.

Just don’t forget it when returning the game!

The 37th floor had dedicated rooms for Tabletop RPGs hosted by local organizations for Pathfinder, Star Finder, and Adventure League DnD.

There was a room for Paint-n-Takes, a room for panels, a room for Wargaming, a room for Battletech gaming, another room for Open Gaming and a room for Live Action Roleplay (LARP) opened. Where you could find games for Werewolf and Vampire: The Masquerade enthusiasts.

There were plenty of tables for attendees to bring their own games to play all weekend.

I was volunteering under Programming and was assigned to the panel room(GP).

As a badge checker to the only panel room, I had a front row seat to listen into discussions of Game Designers, Podcasters, and other game related topics.

Foxtrot Games Co-founder and lead developer, Randy Hoyt discussed their company’s beginnings and present line of games.

They are known for their most popular game, Lanterns: The Harvest Festival. Which was now available in card game form. As seen on Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop via Geeky and Sundry.

We were treated to a preview announcement of their latest game, The Search for Planet X. A game where Players are astronauts competing to discover this mystery planet first.

The Kickstarter launches for The Search for Planet X this October.

Attendees asked Randy what Foxtrot Games’ advice for how best to prepare for a Kickstarter (Pros and Cons) and what sort of vetting process was used when choosing to take on new games.

As true to their company mantra, “Foxtrot Games is committed to providing engaging, interpersonal experiences through beautiful, approachable tabletop games.”

I especially enjoyed the process for breaking down visual novel games by Pixels and Pins.

If you’re unfamiliar with what a Visual Novel game is. It is an interactive game genre, which originated in Japan, that features text-based stories with pictures and sound.

Think of it as a choose your own adventure book with multiple endings. A narrative game that’s a mixed media book.

Most commonly played on mobile or handheld games. Popular VNs currently out now are The Arcana, Love Nikki, Backstage and Doki Doki Literature Club to name a few.

Ashe Thurman, a one woman company who also had a hand in developing a Visual Novel Story Engine called Ren’Py.

During her panel, she broke down the stages of creating a Visual Novel.

How to graph the rising action, climax, and falling action of storytelling. As well as explaining the branching narrative planning stages for player choices when designing a story.

Including how and when to source artwork (Sprites) for the game and the importance of finding voices for a project. Or leaving out voices and source an independent composer for a project.

Lead Programmer of Ren’Py, Tom (twitter: @RenpyTom) explained his reasoning for creating a program engine for Visual Novel developers as a tool to streamline GUI (graphical user interface) coding in games. The success of the engine being implemented in over 200 games (and counting) since its release was impressive.

There was even an announcement for a new addition to the Ren’Py program that could revolutionize the Visual Novel market. Check out their Lemma Soft Forums to find out.

I learned so much about the process of creating a game from concept to marketing to gaining traction with an audience.

I even sat in on a couple panels discussing how Podcasting for DnD (Dungeons and Dragons) has changed with the rise in Streaming programs for the game.

Now, as far as first year conventions go, Gamefest was a successful run of a mini convention.

It maintained space for events, held a panel with industry guests and fan made panels of the industry, and offered samplings of some broader activities.

Here’s what I hope for Gamefest to add in going forward.

A dedicated demo space for upcoming developers to showcase new work to the public. Rather than having a booth in the AnimeFest Dealers Hall.

Invite more local Streaming Celebrities to host events and cover additional panel rooms producing fan run topics.

There was some streaming of the panels done on Twitch, but not all events were captured for Gamefest.

Maybe have a ticketed BYOC ( Bring Your Own Computer) area.

And finally, a dash of late night programming for those dedicated to the long hour campaigns.

Did you attend Gamefest in Dallas? What did you think of their first year?

Leave it in the comments below.


Ideas for Eco-Friendly Cosplay

So, what about Cosplay isn’t green already?

It’s a hobby that literally teaches people to become MacGyver’s with hot glue. A hobby that encourages using tin foil crumpled and pressed into foam with an iron to make faux leather.

And don’t even get me started on how many coupon ninja tricks you can do to achieve 50% off an entire fabric hoarding purchase.

If you’ve been in the hobby for a while, surely you already know to never use the expensive stuff when the dupe in Walmart is just as good. However…

Cosplay can always be a little more friendly to the environment and your wallet.

Going Greener for Cosplay and your wallet.
Going Greener for Cosplay and Your Wallet.

The most obvious solution use what you already have.

Closet cosplays, especially for the sewing challenged are a great starting point. Shoutout to the Supernatural, the Once Upon a Time, and Myth Buster Look-A-Likes. Street clothes are probably the most comfortable you will ever be at a con.

And just like the “wear this item, X amount of ways” challenge, seek out that one clothing piece that’s extra versatile.

The same goes for wigs that are not permanently fixed to one look. Brush out or gently wash out all that holding spray; re-heat, re-style, and re-use.

Angelic Daze Cosplay gives advice on upcycling old cosplays.
Angelic Daze Cosplay via Instagram has a wonderful walkthrough for recycling old cosplays.

WARNING: Removing foam core that is sewn in/glued into wigs can damage and might not be worth repurposing. So, do deconstruct with care.

You could even salvage fabrics from that costume you wore only a handful of times and make a new costume piece.

So, what about the thrift shops?

Now, don’t assume all thrift stores are the same. Dark, dirty, and missing a door or window. There’s more out other than just Goodwill. With a little research, you’d be surprised at how many great finds make it into Consignments such as Plato’s Closet or even Buffalo Exchange.

Find the nearest garment district and become a regular of their overstock flea markets. Train your eye to see the base for any costume piece that’s easy to add or subtract features to suit your needs. It’s a skill that will take time to practice and will save you dollars over time. Modifying see-through raincoats for cosplay does come in handy for most Blade Runner cosplay needs.

Coming up, an excellent example of using an entire bed set for Critical Role cosplay. Top sheet, mattress sheet, and a couple pillow cases later…

Thrifted fabrics made into Beauregard , Critical Role
My Beauregard cosplay made from Thrifted bedsheets.

Can’t find a resale store?

Host a Cosplay Swap Meet.

I guarantee you that someone local is dying to get rid of a few costumes. They’ve recently outgrown cosplays, have some well loved cosplays, or fell out of love mid-crafting.

Find a public space for an event (might have to charge a small entry fee to pay for the rental) or a nice park that’s easy to access from most major highways. Grab a few blankets, some sharpies for price tags, suggests dates in your local Cos Community, settle on a date and bring all the trades to the yard.

For less stress, establish guidelines for how to conduct trades.

Traditionally, Swap Meets are straight “trade for trade” with no money involved. However, if money does become involved do make it clear that the use of third party payment programs like Venmo, Paypal, Facebook Pay, and others will require consent of both parties agreeing to the trade and a grace period of “X amount of days” for payment to clear. No returns unless mutually agreed upon that the trade was not for equal value or satisfactory to said parties discretion.

If possible, have participants share preview pictures of costumes and props their wishing to swap. That way everyone has an idea of what to bring.

And let’s not forget the number one way to save.

Commission, locally.

I can hear those eyeballs rolling, but I say again, hear me out.

When learning to craft props or even full on outfits for cosplay there will always be a waste cost to both time and supplies.

Instead of recasting those gems for the 10th time, why not order a 3D print of one from a local crafter that’s perfected it?

Force Captian Pin from Shinka Studios Cosplay
Force Captain pin (She-Ra) by Shinka Studios Cosplay that I purchased from the Prop Maker Coalition at RTX, Austin – 2019.

Instead of ripping seams only to damage that very expensive fabric to remake a bodice for the umpteenth time, why not take your measurements to a Cosplay Seamstress/ Tailor. Freeing up your time to work on other things.

I know, there’s nothing like the satisfaction of wearing a cosplay that you crafted with your own two hands. But it’s okay to hand off those pieces we’re not so great at to someone who is crazy talented at making.

Its okay! Buy that prop kit and download that pattern!

Don’t feel discouraged if you can’t always keep it green when crafting for cosplays.

If you can find an alternative to anything at a fraction of the cost, it’s going to help you in the long run. But, don’t ever skimp on quality for quantity. Do the research; Use the coupons.

Supporting each other in the cosplay community not only lowers emissions with umpteenth trips back to Lowes/JoAnn Fabrics/Michaels/ that one place in the sketchy part of town; It saves you many nights of re-sewing, and frustration over pattern instructions.

I have no doubt that as a community of Makers, Crafters and frugal shoppers that going with a cleaner alternative is beneficial in the long run. So, let’s continue to work together in sharing knowledge and resources for the next generation to continue the cosplay tradition.

Denmark in Morning Featured

5 Surprisingly Geeky Places Hidden in Copenhagen

While on vacation to visit my younger sister, I managed to track down 5 surprisingly geeky places hidden in Copenhagen.

Even more surprising, I didn’t have to be fluent in Danish to get around most places. However, it certainly helps to know some basic sentences when traveling anywhere.

Navigating RTX, Austin

It is becoming an increasingly rare habit that I travel with a group these days.

Let me tell ya, solo travel is great and all. But, sometimes you want to share a special moment with at least one other person. Rooster Teeth Expo would be the first con that I introduce my partner to conventions and boy, did I pick the best con to do so.

First timers to a con are so precious.

Navigating RTX, Austin
Attending RTX for the first time and bringing a first time con goer was exciting!

Their excited because everyone around them is excited about the same thing. Right before the first line of the day drains them of said enthusiasm.

On a whim, I decide to try a new con this year. The Stars and planets aligning, mi amor happened to have some left over vacation time. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure if introducing him to the world of cons through RTX would be a good idea. I’d fallen off the Rooster Teeth scene since the early days of Red v. Blue. Circa season 5, if you will. Besides the occasional binge watch of Always Open and FunHaus episodes. (Yes, I am that kind of fan.) I was in the dark, but still revving to go.

To ease him into what Rooster Teeth was about, I started watching some their latest shows out there. Camp Camp, Off Topic, and RWBY. And that’s when I fell in love with Gen:Lock.

Cosplayers Left to Right: Iambokun ( Julian), Galaxy Queen Photography (Cammie)

The futuristic, mecha infused battles for the human race was enough to suck me in for a whole week of binge. A few times, I found myself rewatching episodes because I really needed to understand what was up with Julian and his new family. My boyfriend was relieved the cartoons were in english therefore no subtitles. (He’s gone numb from my Anime marathoning in the background while I work from home.)

Badges were bought, hotel booked a few blocks away but still close enough to hit up all of Austin’s downtown hotspots. Downloading the app was interesting, but essential to keep track of line status, the exhibit hall times, and events we wanted to attend simply because it sounded cool.

Picking 25 events to go to , but only going to 5 was still a win.

Everything is fine: Running a Community Panel.

We were together all weekend, wandering up and down the convention halls for panels while nursing our coffees was grand. I made it a priority to have him pick where we would go next. For every panel I wanted, I had him pick two more. That way, depending on the time of day or what building we still happened to be in, there was no shortage of things to go to. In the end, it was less stress and more time to spend with each other.

Yes, I’m sappy sometimes.

As a veteran con crawler, I had learned that while it would be great to do all the things. You just can’t; Taking care of yourself and visiting with those were able to go for the weekend is the highlight of any trip.

The five panels we did manage to attend were to learn more about the RTX community. The “Everything is Fine: Running a Community” talked in depth about aspects of running a community. How to get involved as a fan, how to set up events and catch up on the latest news. Like a brand new forum rolling out some time this year.

It was interesting to hear what the staff wish people knew. That every question is read and it does matter how you present yourself as a member of community. Being kind to one another and following through on requests for changes.

We also attended the “Cosplayers vs. Photographers” panel which went over the unspoken rules of getting together for a photo shoot. I especially loved how the panel was a broad range of skill levels from both sides of the camera. As a former, seasonal portrait photographer, it was nice to see that setting expectations from the beginning was reasonable. I came away with a ton of notes and a found new discord to join for next years Cosplans.

But, my absolute must go to panels were the “The Dungeon Drunks” and “FunHaus” live shows.

DD picked up a one-shot campaign of the gang trying to collect marshmallows from a Confectioners. The single humanoid ant chef turned out to be three giant ants in a chief coat. I still loved you, Ant-thany.

Dungeon Drunks Live!, Our heroes discovering D’Antonie in the Marshmallow Mission.

FunHaus pulled all the stops with the usual celebrity introductions to raunchy bits. We were even treated to a sneak preview of their latest video. Unfortunately, I can’t tease anything from that panel. So….Definitely attend sometime if you can!

We had a day of venturing outside the con which gave us a break from the bustling crowd.

The view from our hotel window.

As a first timer to the Austin area, I had to show him a few favorite spots. Con weekends can get so crammed with activities. It’s nice to take a breather with choosing a place to dine while exploring a small part of the city.

Day 1 was a brunch excursion to Paper Boy, a mobile diner that was nestled just a 10 minute walk from our hotel. Of course, in the heat of the day it was a bit more challenging to walk and talk about our plans. The poached egg on sweet caramelized potatoes, listed as Texas hash, was still worth it.

Paper Boy, Texas Hash

Day 2 was a lunch date at a Mexican restaurant. Austin is well known for its taco joints, but for a full plate of home style dishes, you have to do some digging. Lovely dish by Fruta Feliz with a live Mariachi band.

Fruita Feliz, Lunch Special.

That same night, we ventured to Backspace for some brick oven pizza and a draft of house beer. The ambient lighting was just enough to make our eyes adjust from the outside.

On the final day, we made the “Sunday Deals” shopping worth it.

RTX Austin, Row 400.

Sundays are the best for shopping in the Exhibit hall. If the treasures you are after don’t have the words “Limited” or “Exclusive” attached.

Come to think of it, missing out on the Cosplay Photo shoots was replaced with browsing the wares of sellers and watching demos.

I had the chance to play a round of Swapette Showdown, a magical girl puzzler by some spunky indie developers.

Swapette Showdown, RTX Austin.

There was also, Shot One was top down battle demo that was fun to watch.

If you are skilled in the market haggling( Mot low balling, HAGGLE), sometimes the last item in a vendors possession can go for less. My other favorite thing to do is collect all the free giveaways, like the giant mouse pads and water bottle via AT&T Fiber booths.

We were very lucky to take advantage of the 50% off for the Rooster Teeth store. However, many of the popular items were already gone. Save for a few figures, tees from different shows, and very very few pins.

RTX Store, picked down to the bones during the last day; 50% off remaining and buy 1 get 1 half off!

Spending time together was still worth the weekend of RTX.

We went in with very little planning; Aside from where we would crash, eating out and sightseeing. The entire weekend was played by ear and lead by stomaches.

I was impressed by the community of RTX. Many polite and helpful souls amongst attendees. Not too large a crowd, but just enough to feel whisked away into a private nerdvana with the occasional eCelebrity in the crowd.

My love and I officially decided that we’ll be making RTX our anniversary con in the near future.

My better half and myself. Pre-Dungeon Drunks Panel at RTX, 2019.

Forms of Love In Between Stations

This month’s manga was an oldie, but goodie find at the Dallas location, Anime Pop shop. Written by celebrated women’s author, Asumiko Nakamura, sprinkling her magic again with Maiden Railways. A collection of seven short stories.

Maiden Railways was originally released in 2009, translated in 2011 and re-distributed in 2019. I was introduced to the title by shopkeeper recommendation as a great introduction to Shojo manga.

Nakamura is more known for her Yaoi genre work, Classmates, which was later adapted into an Anime series. The follow up sequel Graduates was equally well received.

Getting back to Maiden Railways, each story shares the pitfalls of love between two people and finding a way to reconnect again.

Relationships at every stage of life are portrayed in a way that anyone can relate on some level.

The young tweens waiting at the station for a boy that might not arrive.

The older couple that’s forgotten how to be attentive to others wants and needs from a partner.

Lose of a relationship and finding another, Nakamura does a wonderful job recreating these fictional worlds happening in and around the romance car.

I was especially loving the old school vibe of the art direction. Bringing me back to the early days of Peach Girl and Marmalade Boy.

It still fascinates me to see how Japanese culture protrays relationships compared to my western upbringing. For example, the first tale that centers on a affair in action.

While western writers would have a tendency to make the cheating spouse a villain before the act, Nakamura’s character blames himself for not being the man his wife deserved.

Ultimately, Maiden Railways is a collection of romantic entanglements gone wrong. Finishing out with classic shojo resolutions with some surprising revelations.

While none of the stories are particularly groundbreaking, I do appreciate the care taken to tell them in a way that’s palatable for new readers. For a book that was released in the mid 2000s, the stories still hold up well in today’s world.

An even sweeter treat about this book is the author’s note about the railway that inspired her to write this.

Maiden Railways is a wonderful short read for your next train ride to the nearest happy place.

Do you have any recommendations for my next review? Let me know in the comments below.