Mysticon: The Con That Gave a Stuffed Animal an Award (A Convention Report)
This year was the return of Mysticon after 30 years dormant in Roanoke, VA. It happened this past February 25-27, 2011. This was the first year for this staff to be running a con themselves and it went off pretty well. They had experience working with cons, but this is the first year running it themselves. This was my first time as press for a con (well actually they made me a guest) and I was really excited. I brought an assistant to take pictures and bring his own opinion, since this is his first con outside our local anime con.
The hotel had a number of good sized rooms on the first floor which made it easy to get around and find things once you walked it once. The video rooms, con suite, and video game room were on the fifth floor though. They were all together up there, but you had to go up and down to get between them. On the fourth floor was an open gaming room which didn’t get used and was overtaken by one of the LARPs for their HQ at night. Overall a good use of what they had.
I can’t say too much about the con’s location; I spent my whole weekend at the con or at my hotel. I will say there were a number of different restaurants and stores in the area for anyone looking to get away from the con (I don’t know why you would though).
The hotel itself was quite nice with good rooms, restaurant, bar, and was easy to get around.
The guests of the con were all great. They were friendly; always willing to sign things or just chat about anything. Randy Asplund sold art in the dealers’ room, ran a number of panels on art, and was always around with his wife, Ann, to talk with. David Gerrold, author and Star Trek writer including creating the Tribbles, got sick while at the con so wasn’t around as much, but still made it to all his panels and signings. The other writers, artists, wrestlers, game creators, and other guests all had their own panels and events to share their knowledge and opinions on.
Mysticon had one of the best consuites I’ve seen in a while. It had plenty of room to sit and hang out. They kept food and drink available at all times, well at all reasonable times. Plus it the food itself was good to boot.
They had created a special cake for the con shaped like Captain Kirk’s chair with Tribbles on it. The Tribbles kept multiplying as the weekend went on. It had lights and sounds playing. The cake was part chocolate, part white, and part Tribble; meaning the Tribbles were edible.
There were four panel rooms down one hallway and the con had plenty of topics. They covered a number of subjects and were all pretty friendly. The rooms they used were really good for panel use, though temp seemed to be a problem. The main programming events room wasn’t much bigger than the panel rooms, though it worked out real well for the events they did have in there. The stage kind of sagged which was more fun than a hindrance.
There were musical performances from the Boogie Knights, a medieval inspired filk group, and Charles Cullen’s Theater of Doom, a rock performance theater group. They also had a writer’s workshop from Allen Wold, SCA introduction, a live podcast with Bethany Hale, and corset making workshop.
One of the most fun at the con was the Match Game with some of the guests as panelists. Based off the classic game show with more sci-fi/fantasy/nerdy questions, like “there were so many Tribbles they even covered the Captain’s _____.” The game got a little raunchy with some pretty risqué guesses going on; of course things would shift when a kid or two would wondering in and out of the room.
Late at night they ran a number of films made by guests of the con. My assistant and I wandered in late Friday night to one and sat through the whole thing. It was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen and this is coming from a guy who has run a panel called ‘Crack Anime.’ The director was so impressed that we sat through the whole thing he offered us parts as extras in his next film.
Though the events themselves were good, the execution of them didn’t always work out – things not starting on time or at all, panelist unsure of what the panel should be about, and even some events not happening (not always the con’s fault).
The art show had its own room with lots of pieces up. There were several paintings and drawings, along with sculptures and a set of three wall hangings. There were several nice pieces, including some of Randy Asplund’s medieval recreation work.
Costumes at the con were a tad light, but still a lot of cool ones. The Steampunk Family was decked out accordingly, several LARPS had their gear on, a few anime cosplayer wandered the hall, plus plenty of others.
The costume contest had only eleven entries, some of them groups. It went quick but still let the crowd have some fun. I’d say over half the entries were able to win; I don’t think anyone minded. The best in show winners were a trio of steampunk adventurers. There was a baby awarded as best prop and my stuff Mokona dressed as a Tribble winning best costume.
The drum circles were fun to have, but not well attended. I was there Saturday and I think people were either too tired, drunk, or parting else where to join in. It was still fun to get my chance at drumming a little, even if I wasn’t that good.
Table top gaming at the con mainly took place in the foyer on the first floor and saw plenty of action. People ran board games and RPGs throughout the weekend. Some of the gaming guests had some of their own games out to sample. They had Warhammer tournaments held over in the hotel’s restaurant giving them plenty of room.
The con had two LARPs that ran through out the weekend. The first one was a superhero LARP, or SHLARP, and was big. You saw players at just about every part of the con doing their thing, which could be confusing listening to them talk until you realized they were part of the SHLARP. The other one, Duality in Crimson by Strange Aeons, wasn’t as well attended as the other, due to it being a last minute addition. That didn’t stop them from having fun though.
The only problem with the LARPS may have been that they had such dedicated players going all night disturbing people who were trying to sleep. But think about that: the only problem was people having too much fun.
The con also had a video game room stocked by the con chair and all his systems and games. They had nearly every game system from Atari to X-Box 360. They didn’t have any tournaments set up, but instead just had constant free play. This worked out well, letting you check out all kinds of games, new school and old.
The con had two auctions, one for charity and then just a simple art auction. The charity auction took place Saturday night, was well attended and a lot of fun. The emcee, Rich Sigftit, had a lot of fun and kept the whole thing from being boring; though he may have been too funny for his own good and the whole thing may have went on a tad longer than needed. There were a number of items to auction off, a lot of books, action figures, DVDs, and bits of other things. I’d say something like 40% of the items wertr from Crystal Cottage, one of the dealers at the con, and we turned it into a game almost every time one of their pieces was up. The hot items for the auction were pieces from Strange Aeons Productions ongoing LARP. There were four items to up for auction; one guy bought three of them for a total of $150. The auction was able to raise over $700 for the charity Kids Need to Read.
The art auction on Sunday was less well attended; like less than 10. Even with just a few people there all the art they had brought in was able to find a good home for a fair price. I personally was able to get two pieces from Sarah Clemens’ Magnus & Loki series, about a cat and a dragon. All the pieces in the set were hotly bid on.
The vendors’ room had plenty of room for vendors and buyers to move around. It was nice to see the laid back kind of feeling to the room. There was a nice variety with used books sellers, games, swords, art, toys, DVDs, and more being sold by different vendors who were all happy to be a service. There was even a face painter in the room for kids and cosplayers.
They had tables set out in the hallways for the guests to set up and sell their stuff or just sign things. A number took advantage of this, but a lot didn’t because information about them did not get out soon enough to them.
A group of Girl Scouts were able to use one of the tables to sell their cookies to con goers though. Honestly, I don’t even know why they left with any left over.
Overall it was the con was very friendly, the kind where you could start up a conversation with a complete stranger and talk till you lose track of time. The con is good for those who like literary works or just want to learn more about sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal, and what have you books. That’s not to say they don’t cover other topics very well. I recommend it to anyone looking for a relaxing con to hang out at and dive into your fandom.
I do have to say that with all the little things wrong the con took complaints very well and even pointed out where they had failed themselves. This gives hope that they’ll fix these things for the future.