Monday, April 2, 2018

AwesomeCon Roundup

First, the good:

Overall, the science programming was an improvement on previous years. One panel made me think that literary convention science track leads should consider trying to get more engineers to come and give presentations. We tend to focus on scientists, not the people doing the nuts and bolts work.

Signage was also better. As I wasn't here last year, I don't know about then, but in the previous years I did make it to the con it was hard to find panel rooms. As a result, panel attendance looked up even though overall attendance seemed to be down, at least at the panels I went to.

It was nice to see NASA Aeronautics having a booth, too (we forget about the first A). I heard good things about the kids' programming and activities.

Lots of pint-sized cosplayers, too. Less Wakanda than I was hoping for, but there was an adorable little Shuri being shepherded around by a fantastic Killmonger. Special kudos to the guy cosplaying Deadpool cosplaying Bob Ross. (Deadpool cosplaying another character is a known trope, but I've never seen anyone...that's like breaking the sixteenth wall or something).

Which brings me to...the bad.

1. It was very unfortunate that the mental health and disability in Doctor Who panel was canceled. Perhaps it can be tried again.

2. I get that there are rules to make VIP tickets special. However, forcing somebody in a bulky and vision-concealing costume to go down three narrow escalators is a safety issue. No, they weren't disabled. But it was a hazard to them and others. If somebody needs the elevator, they should get the elevator regardless of the reason for which they need it.

And the big one.

Security

Security was, to put not too fine a point on it, ridiculous.

It's pretty ridiculous to start with to put full DC building security short of metal detectors on a comic convention. But that is what convention center security is now requiring. They've always been twitchy, but this year it crossed all bounds of reasonableness.

Let's list the problems:

1. No costume, no bag check. Costume, bag check. You are never that predictable. Minimal scouting would have made it clear that the way to smuggle in a weapon or a bomb was nothing more than to be wearing street clothes. They were wanding occasional people too. Always and only cosplayers.

2. "All props must be weapon checked and tagged." They tagged Harry Potter wands. They tagged my sonic screwdriver (and it was a moderate pain to get the twist tie off again). They tagged an old fluorescent light tube being used as some kind of weapon prop. What did I not see tags on? Anything gun-shaped. Probably because people were hiding their props to keep them from Bright Orange Blaze Tags that ruin your photos. Nothing, however, was being peacebonded, which meant the tags were completely useless. All they did was ruin people's photos and give them an excuse to hassle cosplayers. Meanwhile, I literally saw somebody in the dealer room with a working bow with metal-tipped arrows. They got it in through the vendor entrance.

I also got hassled by security because "we saw you already today". Well, excuse me if I'm not paying convention prices for a drink.

So, basically, twitchy, overly-strict, ineffective and sending a vibe of "We don't want these costumes any more." Hassling kids, to boot.

This is not the con's fault. This is in no way the con's fault and I do hope to be back next year, but the security issues need to be resolved. Unfortunately, the convention center has the con over a barrel as there is no place else they can go.

A media con is not a media con without cosplayers. I have no objection to security and no objection to prop checks, but putting blaze tags on literal toys...and not toy weapons either...is not how you keep people safe.