Yes. The rumors are true. I went to DashCon. In fact, out of the four cons I was an official media person at this spring (and the other two I wrote about after attending anyway), DashCon was one of the earliest confirmations I got, second only to Katie Mae of AndoCon asking if I wanted to cover the con a month or two before that.
I’m sure you’re all wondering what I went through. Was it really as much as a clustercuss as everyone said it was? Were dogs and cats living together in total chaos? Was I run through by an asexually produced Nash Grier?
Well, any reports of my death at the hands of a sexist Vine star and uncontrollable fangirls have been greatly exaggerated. As for the first question… yes and no.
Let me start by airing my various issues with the con first. I will admit, I do chalk a lot of this up to what I call “First Year Con Syndrome,” where people start conventions with the best of intent, but potentially bite off a little more than they can chew and have a series of problems that a lot of conventions do experience. There was a reason I was so surprised when Shatterdome Atlanta went as well as it did.
What did I take issue with?
There were a lot of communication issues: Communication is sort of a big thing at a con. It’s how attendees know what’s up at any given time. I really should have been worried when I never received an email about where to pick up my badge as a media attendee and ended up going back and forth across the hotel when I went to pick up. It wasn’t super encouraging when there were no printed schedules or program books available for guests and the QR code for the online schedule on the back of my roommate’s badge wasn’t scanning properly. That could have been an issue with my phone, but it was still frustrating when there could have been something printed out or uploaded and put on Guidebook or a similar app. Luckily, I was able to get a web app for Sched after some searching, but it was still pretty clunky. I also spent a day and a half being left on the hook about potential guest interviews since I was told that they were getting in final confirmations on Thursday before giving up and shrugging it off as a loss. Really, at the point I gave up on it, it really wasn’t worth bringing up to anyone anymore.
Signage was also a bit of a problem. The hotel had maps of both floors provided to find the rooms for panels just fine and the security and volunteer staff was more than helpful in that regard as well. It just got very confusing when I went to go to the Marvel meet up and there wasn’t a sign or a list available in the room of where exactly we were supposed to go.
Those can be common con issues, even for older conventions when they change venues. However, these did get really exacerbated on Friday night when the convention was nearly shut down.
I was in the Bandoms panel that started at 9 p.m. and we hadn’t even gotten 10 minutes in when we were told by a staff member to meet down in Schaumberg West because the hotel was threatening to shut the con down. That’s really when a lot of the confusion and miscommunication started. Initially, there were rumors floating around that if the con was unable to pay up the money, people who reserved on the room block were going to get kicked out. I spent about 20+ minutes worried that I was going to be stranded in Illinois since my bus wasn’t leaving until Monday night. Luckily, that was cleared up and the con was able to go on, but there was a lot of confusion about the amount of money needed, whether the admins were going to address the issues in the morning, and when the panels that were interrupted were being rescheduled to if at all. In fact, I totally missed that the Bandoms panel was indeed rescheduled until the next day when I found one of the panelists’ Tumblr. Which sucks a lot because I had been looking forward to that panel the most.
The Night Vale Walkout was disappointing on all fronts: This sort of ties back into the communication issue. We didn’t know that Night Vale had walked until around the time the reading was supposed to have ended. A bunch of us were sitting around too afraid to leave the room in case it started and lead to a lot of frustration and hangriness. Or I could just be talking to how hungry I was.
It is disappointing as a fan that something I was looking forward to boiled down to money, but reading the official statement is a series of misunderstandings and secondhand embarrassment for all parties involved in the situation. Really, if there’s anything anyone can learn from all of this, be it as a convention organizer, as a performer, or just making any sort of deal really, it is the hard lesson you only learn once: get it in writing and have phone numbers for direct contact.
The makeup of panels was kind of weird: This is probably just a personal disappointment on my part since I’m not really into Supernatural or Sherlock and I haven’t watched Doctor Who since the start of season 6, but I’m honestly surprised that there wasn’t anything specifically devoted to fandoms like Orange Is The New Black, The Hunger Games, or Elementary. I honestly thought they were bigger than that, but I could be mistaken. I also wish there was more emphasis on the social issues panels since the ones I went to, I really enjoyed, but more on that in a bit.
The space felt too big for as small as the con was: This is not really too much of the con’s fault since they were expecting about 3,000 to 5,000 people, but the space felt so huge and empty that it sometimes felt hard to really get into a con family mode that they wanted to strive for.
The lack of proper sound systems was noticeable: There were small microphones in the bigger rooms and Time Crash and the DJ for DashProm were properly amplified, but a lot of other panelists were not. Again, it was kind of expected for a first year con, but for a con based so heavy in media, it was frustrating not to have proper sound. This was especially true for the “karaoke” that should have really been advertised as a fandom sing along.
Still, despite all of this, I still actually had a pretty awesome time at the con! Why, you ask?
The people attending this con were amazing: I swear, you could not throw a rock at this convention without hitting someone who was smart and interesting to talk to. (Though no actual rocks were thrown at the con.) I don’t know how many times I had awesome conversations with strangers about fandom and other stuff throughout the con, including one about Zoisite’s gender identity on Sailor Moon. I think the panelists were aware of this and allowed a lot of conversation and interactivity to happen during their panels. Which was awesome because these ended up being the most interactive and thought provoking panels I’ve been to in a while and at least the ones I went to never devolved into whitesplaining! Not to mention there was really some awesome and on point cosplay at this con. Good job everyone!
The social issues panels were really well run: This ties back into the people attending this con being amazing. I went to a few panels that were related to various social issues such as dealing with anxiety, sexuality in genre TV and gender in marketing. While some of the panelists on the more fandom oriented panels may have seemed inexperienced, these panelists knew what they were doing and what they were talking about. Plus, there was this radical idea of panels about queer issues being run by… *gasp* people on the queer spectrum. I think it went off rather well since those panels could feed from a whole host of experience.
Really, my panelist superstar for the weekend was Mark Oshiro aka markdoesstuff. I kept ending up at a bunch of his panels throughout the weekend and I kind of love the guy now. He was super smart and knowledgeable about fandom and social issues, had an impressive collection of mind-boggling fan fiction as well as stories from his days of being a moderator at Buzznet (which just made me want to tell him “I am SO sorry”), and definitely was not a white girl as the internet made him out to be. After hearing about the now sort of infamous Homoerotic Subtext panel from him and bisexual-books, I kind of wish I had been there because I love talking about the things show creators do to queer fans that make it frustrating to watch.
At no point did I feel unsafe: I found it weird that people were asking me if I was okay while I was at the con, as if it had become some sort of riot where I was in danger. Then again, I wasn’t online to see what exactly people were saying about the convention. Still, I just want to emphasize this: along with 221B Con and Shatterdome Atlanta, this is probably the safest I’ve felt at any of the conventions I’ve been to this year so far. Security and volunteers were easy to spot and most everyone I dealt with at this con were extremely well behaved. There was no one making inappropriate comments or making me feel singled out about my Blue costume when I went to wear it for a photoshoot. Some people even helped me get bobby pins for it when I couldn’t find mine. No one invaded my personal space to touch my leg hair or kiss my hand or anything like that. The people at this convention were enthusiastic and excitable, but in no way made me feel at ill ease.
The artist’s alley was super talented: I’m not certain where the rumors of the artist’s alley being a ghost town came from because I walked out of this con with a fat stack of business cards, a few small print cards, an Opal button, five new Carol Danvers sketches for my book (which Kelly Sue Deconnick reblogged because this is my life now), and the convention exclusive version of Lumberjanes #4 two weeks before San Diego Comic Con. Plus, all the artists I spoke to were super nice and lovely. I even got to geek out about Lumberjanes with Noelle Stevenson! How awesome is that?! (Side note: No, I didn’t know that Noelle had walked from the convention until after the con was over. I just assumed that she left on Sunday to catch a flight or something. Don’t ask me about this.)
Doug Jones is a gem of a human being: I’m pretty much preaching to the con going choir here, but Doug Jones is such a sweetheart. I went to his Q&A after getting food on Saturday and it really did ease the sting of the Night Vale walk-off. He’s super sweet and funny and honestly does give some of the best hugs I’ve ever experienced. If you ever go to a con and Doug Jones is there, please take the time to go say hello. You won’t be disappointed!
Time Crash and the Tea Party were a lot of fun: I’ll admit, I totally invoked Media privilege on these. The concert and the tea party were separate ticketed events, but I still got in. I’ll admit, I kind of used the tea party as an excuse for food, but it ended up being super fun watching the raffle go down and Cara McGee’s Sam Wilson tea is really great. I also may have taken a bunch of samples home. The Allison Argent blend ground up and mixed in with white chocolate chip cookies is REALLY good, by the way.
As for Time Crash, despite not having watched Doctor Who in about two years, I did not feel lost watching the Doctor Who-themed band perform. They were high energy all the way and lead singer Ronen Kohn has an astounding voice that especially complimented the more haunting and tragic songs, but still delivered the jokes of some of the songs perfectly well. Probably the most fun part of the show was when ze ran off stage after the band started their cover of ‘Carry On My Wayward Son’ and came back dressed as Dean Winchester and proceeded to impersonate him without missing a beat. Ze spent the rest of the show dressed as him, but kept hir’s fez on in an impromptu tribute to the tumblr phenomenon known as SuperWho (the Lock was absent for the evening). Between the band’s energy, sense of humor, harmonies, and the GuiTARDIS, I hope Time Crash becomes more of a staple in conventions to come. I promise I’ll come back to dance and take more pictures while crawling around the stage.
Plus, they do a really great cover of ‘500 Miles (I’m Gonna Be).’
I got in that bounce house with Avengers cosplayers and I have no shame about it: What it says on the bullet point. Granted, I had a hard time standing up in it because I wore my completely synthetic galaxy tights and that caused me to slip, but I still had a good time. Did not spend time in that infamous ball pit though. (Yeah, sorry for the misleading title, everyone. Couldn’t think of anything better.)
I should state that this was at the Marvel meetup that included a backflipping Natasha cosplayer, an awesome Punk!Bucky, and a Natasha and Steve that could both play violin. Seriously, the people at this con were astounding.
I got recognized at DashProm: Okay, I’m mostly just telling this story because it was funny and one of the best things to happen to me since I started going to cons as a media attendee. After the whole threat of the con shutting down, I decided to skip all the interesting panels that were happening at 11 on Friday and decided to go dance at DashProm. I took my veil fans with me and got the impressed stares not unlike the time I spun fire at Play On Con. Suddenly, the BBC Sherlock!Mary Morstan cosplayer that was featured in my 221B Con write up came running up to me, gleefully shouting “Nerdophiles! Nerdophiles!” and gave me a big hug. She then followed that up with, “I don’t remember your real name!”
In the year I’ve been writing for Nerdophiles, that is the first time I’ve been recognized/remembered because of my work on the site. It was pretty awesome, to say the least.
Honestly, the best way I can really describe what this con is comparing it to the often spoken of Ice Town from Parks and Recreation. There were a lot of good intentions from rather inexperienced people, but their inexperience lead to a lot of organizational problems and mistakes that will change their lives for better or worse and make them the butt of jokes and potentially some hatred for an unspecified amount of time. As great as the people attending the convention were and how much fun I did have despite the problems, those problems are still impossible to ignore. I can only hope that like Ben Wyatt, the DashCon Admins do follow up on their promises of learning from their mistakes, whether it be for this convention or any convention they are involved in after that. It is a process and something of an uphill battle that I’ve seen many a con organizer go through, but they’re also going to have to be aware that they are now under the world’s biggest internet microscope about how they run their convention.
I sent a series of questions to the DashCon admins about the various rumors and issues that were floating around the con, but I have not heard back yet. For now, the official statement on the DashCon website addresses several of the questions I had for them. You can also view more pictures I took of the convention on our Facebook album.