I just attended the longest consecutive running LEGO convention in North America. Brickcon 2012 was the 10th anniversary of North-West Brickcon. The link between LEGO and Science Fiction and Fantasy is undeniable. In fact, Brickcon is responsible for hooking me up with Stack Exchange in the first place. I became aware of LEGO Answers SE thanks to a Facebook post by Mellissa McConnell after last year’s convention. It was just a matter of time before I wandered over to the Science Fiction & Fantasy site.
This year’s event drew more than 470 convention attendees and over 12,100 visitors during the 12 hours of public viewing. Held in Seattle at the Exhibition Hall from Oct. 4-7, it brought together people from around the globe. Sweden, England, New Zealand, South America and Canada all sent representatives to rub shoulders with their American counterparts.
The energy level when I walked into the Exhibition Hall was palpable. These people were stoked, and rightly so. They came to play, and they came to show you how well they play. But there is more to a Lego Convention than just showing your projects to the world. There is a camaraderie that exists between builders. Sure, they want to show you what they built, but they also want to see what you have come up with. They feed off each other a lot like we here at Scifi.StackExchange.com do. Someone gets inspired, and then everybody gets inspired.
The themes were many and varied. They ranged from architecture to art. Castles and Superheroes. Microscale and macroscale creations abounded. The Best in Show model was a breathtaking version of Hogwarts Castle, but it could have easily been the 14 foot tall Space Needle, or the 20,000 piece Bat-Cave. Once you throw away the instructions that come with the sets, anything goes.
Thursday and Friday were spent checking in and setting up, though some MOCs weren’t actually completed until moments before the doors opened to the public on Saturday morning. But, like I said, Brickcon is more than just showing your model to the world. Seminars and contests for the attendees take place throughout the weekend. Each conventioneer gets a “goody” bag and an engraved Lego badge that allows them “back stage” access to a side of the convention the general public doesn’t get to see. In fact, some builders shy away from the press of the crowds during the public viewing portion of the event, choosing to take part in blind builds, bag and box builds and other assorted contests centered on building speed, agility and creative ability rather than bask in the glow of public attention. It’s enough for some to just be there with friends and other like minded individuals that soon become friends.
This year, my MOC was a microscale version of Brickcon. It consisted of Lego tables displaying microscale MOCs while being viewed by miniland scale Lego people. I put the idea out there and before the weekend was done, people from all around the country had added to it. Marianne brought an entire table from California and populated it with models she and her brother had made. Alaskans Breann and Ty pitched in too. Breann added a tiny Bionicle while Ty built an oilrig then added a nanoscale version of it and a miniland version of himself. Fellow Washingtonians Gus and his parents built a dead on Jeep CJ-5 and then whipped up a microscale version to place with the growing micro display. Shawn and Amanda, another couple of locals from Washington and Meg from Colorado also joined in by adding tiny replicas of their models and a risque miniland figure to place in the crowd. It was my first collaborative build, and it went over better than I had imagined.
The 20,000 piece Batcave was outstanding. It included interior lighting and all the bells and whistles you could imagine. Here is a link from another Batcave fan that just about says it all. (My photos did not do it justice) From the top to the bottom, Wayne and Carlyle created a masterpiece. http://kotaku.com/5950767/you-have-to-see-this-incredible-lego-batcave-no-excuses
However, this year’s People’s Choice and Best in Show awards went to Alice’s mega Hogwarts Castle. She began building it for last years convention and hasn’t stopped. It is HUGE. It is eye catching, and she nailed it. If you look closely enough, you’ll find what you are looking for.
Here are a couple of shots of Alice’s award winning creation:
You can find more photos from Brickcon 2012 at FLICKR.
So, to sum it up, if you’ve never been to a Lego convention, you are missing out. The energy levels are high, the entertainment value is well worth the $9 general admission and the experience can be likened to Comic-con. The only thing better than coming to the public display is joining the behind the scenes activities the convention attendees enjoy. It truly is eye candy for all ages. I’ll look for you next year. I’ll be the guy wearing the Major Stackings badge.
After two unsuccessful attempts to attend it earlier this summer, I finally went to the Star Wars Identities Exhibition in Montreal.
This exposition is presented as a exploration of what forges a person’s identity and uses the different characters of Star Wars to represent this. It’s divided into sections that explore these factors, and in each section, you build your character by responding to questions relative to your character’s identity. The first choice you make is the species of your character. From there you choose genes, parents, a culture, mentors, friends, events, an occupation, a personality, and values. From these choices you build an identity, and this experience is meant to give visitors some insight into how identity is formed. I was very skeptical about this part of the exposition. If it were about some historic figures, instead of the fictional Star Wars universe, it might have been more interesting to me. Maybe if George Lucas had a Ph.D in Psychology and had made sure his characters were built to reflect the latest scientific research on the subject of identity, I could have better understood the connection. So, while some others visitors around me seemed to enjoy the character identity building, I wasn’t really interested in that part of the exhibition. I did design my own hero and I watched most of the videos on the subjects which were scattered all over the exhibition, but I skipped some in the end. It was not that boring and I would probably have watched all of them if I had had more time. However, there were so many other things I wanted to see. Anyway, it was a good decision, because after two hours of exhaustive examinations of the other areas the clerks had to kick me out of the showroom because they were closing.
So, the quest to identity yourself as a Star Wars character is not why you should visit this exposition. The real reason to go is to see the impressive collection of original artifacts. Being in the same room with all these objects is something a Star Wars fan should not miss.
First, you can see at least one costume for each of the main characters. The Jedi Knight outfits are a bit redundant, but Amidala’s dress is beautiful. The real treasures are the Stormtroopers, Bobba Fett, C-3P0, and Darth Vader. All are worth a lengthy examination. And Chewbacca! You have to stand in front of his fur costume how realize how tall and impressive he is!
I was also quite impressed by the various artworks. They are meant show the progression of the characters identity when they were designed. My favorite was one showing Han Solo as a bearded lightsaber wielder. How awesome it would have been if Han had sliced first!
Additionally, there are many other props, like the ominous Meson Taloscope (Midi-chlorian analyzer), a carbonite frozen Han Solo, and Anakin’s full size pod-racer. But the things I found the most impressive were the starships and the starfighter models. The details on those! I would still be staring at them and discovering new features, if I hadn’t eventually been kicked out.
I really enjoyed my visit to the Star Wars Identities Exhibition and recommend it to every Star Wars fan. I will probably forget about all the identities theories, but will forever remember leaning toward an incredibly detailed Imperial Star Destroyer.
You may check out some of the photos I took during my visit. bitmask also visited the exposition last April, and you can see his photos here. If you want to see the exhibition with your own eyes, the show will be in Montreal until September 16, 2012. It will be in Edmonton, Canada, from October 27, 2012, to April 1, 2013. Note that this exposition is quite popular and I had to buy my tickets a day in advance to finally see it.
Three representatives from Stack Exchange (Abby, Katey and myself (Brett)) traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina this past weekend to participate in HeroesCon. HeroesCon has a reputation for being one of the friendliest and most fun comic conventions in the United States. We were pleased to find out that the reputation was an understatement! The creators in attendance were all super psyched to be there and the floor was gently packed with enthusiastic and outgoing fans of all ages and fandoms. Even Saturday, usually the biggest day of any convention, managed to feel vibrant, crowded and alive without approaching the mosh-pit levels of closeness that the bigger conventions lean towards.
Stack Exchange’s adventure in Charlotte began on the Thursday night before the convention with a SciFi.SE-sponsored pre-party held at local comics shop, Spandex City. This event saw the debut of the now-infamous Stack Exchange Spinning Wheel. How infamous is it? I’ll be getting to that in a bit, but if you went to HeroesCon, odds are you saw (and probably spun) the wheel. While some of the store’s regulars enjoyed some righteous barbecue (from Charlotte’s own Lancaster’s BBQ), the Stack crew asked people questions from our site about their favorite science fiction and fantasy franchises. Game of Thrones? Harry Potter? Legend of Korra? Batman? Questions about all of these and many more were asked that night and throughout the weekend. An answer (note that we did not say right answer) allowed the participant to spin the wheel and win a prize. There was a healthy assortment of SciFi.SE bags, shirts and stickers there for all the winners; some lucky people even won 3-day passes to HeroesCon and comics. Spandex City was super generous with their time and space and we were incredibly thankful for that. The pre-party event went over well thanks to Spandex City’s great environment. If you’re in the Charlotte area, do yourself a favor and check them out! You can watch a video about the event here.
The big event itself started on Friday and lasted until Sunday. We expected that our table, located at the far end of the convention center floor on the edge of the artists’ space, would get some foot traffic. We really expected to spend the entire weekend shooting video content for our YouTube channel (StackHQ) with one person left behind to work the spinning wheel. That…didn’t exactly happen. Little did we know, but people love spinning wheels. And I don’t mean a passive love, I mean an all-consuming and incredibly active love. The kind of love that leads to repeat visits and waiting in long lines. Because we had long lines. For the better part of two days.
HeroesCon was our test run into exhibiting at a convention, so we didn’t quite prepare for the massive crowds we received. We had to ration our t-shirts and bags so as to not run out on Friday, although by Sunday all the t-shirts were gone. The same was true for the stock of comics we brought to give out alongside our stickers. Three trips had to be made to the show floor to find more comics for the prize wheel. Thankfully that wasn’t a big problem, although getting receipts from vendors at a comic convention proved more entertaining than I could have predicted. We did learn a few things from working the wheel nonstop for two days:
- People love spinning wheels (this cannot be reiterated enough)
- Regardless of the answer given, the spinning wheel is a fun introduction to our site that leads to many smiles and much swag
- Give away most of the bags and shirts on Friday so that people will be using them all weekend long; by Sunday we became known as the “bag people” because of the high number of our bags on the show floor
- It takes 3 people to man the booth; 2 to ask questions and 1 to wrangle the wheel’s line
- People care way more about trivia than swag, although swag is super awesome too; people came back multiple times JUST to be asked more questions
- Ask kids softball questions and be super awesome to them; they have parents attached to them who will probably like the site if the site’s representatives make their kids happy
- We need some banners: one that clearly states that the table is a SciFi.SE jam, and another that features a call to action about the spinning wheel (“Can you answer our questions?!” or something)
Since we didn’t get a chance to leave the table for the first two days of the con, we decided to shut down the spinning wheel and make video content our main priority for Sunday. My main goal with HeroesCon was to create video content that could live on the internet forever and reach a wider audience due to having informative content with creators that people care about. The success of the spinning wheel got a bit in the way of that, and led us to learn a few facts about creating video content at a convention:
- Try to bring enough people to a convention so that 2-3 can work the table and another 2-3 can hit the floor to get video content. If only 2-3 people can go to a con, set up a spinning wheel schedule so that all 3 days are relatively equal parts table-sitting and video production.
- Schedule interviews ahead of time! I had gotten permission from a few comic creators before the con to interview them, but the fluidity of our agreed-upon time led us to spinning a wheel for two days straight. Approaching all your people on Sunday? Not the best idea.
- Don’t bank on Sunday. Creators are tired by the last day of the con!
- Joe Quinones & Maris Wicks: In this interview, we asked the interviewees what their favorite sci-fi or fantasy property was and then centered the interview around discussing that question.
- Question in Conference Room B with Dean Trippe: This is pretty much the same as what we did with Maris and Joe, except with all of the fun dressings of our web series. Plus the more conversational nature of QiCRB allows the conversation to go in different places. This isn’t just a question-answer interview, it’s a discussion.
- Kelly Sue DeConnick: This is the main type of interview I want to do. I want to find the writers and ask them questions about the work they have created. Kelly Sue DeConnick is about to take over writing Ms. Marvel (now Captain Marvel), so who better to ask the one Ms. Marvel question on the site? Stack Exchange prides itself on getting expert-level answers, and in sci-fi and fantasy it doesn’t get more expert than the writers themselves.
By the end of the show we made a lot of new friends, came up with a lot of ideas to improve our future con presence, gave a few hundred people hands-on, in-depth experience with SciFi.SE, and created internet content that can be shared and enjoyed until the internet cracks in half. It was a lot of fun! For more photos from HeroesCon, visit the SciFi.SE Facebook page, or keep an eye on our Flickr.
Thanks to Dean Trippe, The Nerdy Show and Flame On! podcasts, Scott C., Kelly Sue DeConnick, Joe Quinones, Maris Wicks, Spandex City, Whitney Cogar and HeroesCon for a great weekend. See you next year!
A hurricane of nerdery made landfall in New York City from October 14th to 16th, and Stack Exchange was in the thick of it. For readers who have not experienced the pop culture colossus that is New York City Comic Con, I’ll do my best to explain it. The con (colloquially referred to as NYCC) is where the past (yesterday’s coolest trinkets and treasures), present (big celebrities, writers and artists) and future (upcoming films, games and TV shows preview here) of a mess of genres and mediums (sci-fi, fantasy, horror and action comic books, novels, television shows, films and video games among other things) come together in a huge building to entertain over 100,000 people. It’s big, crowded and full of enough people in costume to populate a hundred Party Cities. Stack Exchange’s CHAOS team (which, full disclosure, I am a part of) made New York Comic Con its first foray into the epic world of comic conventions. And we came prepared.
Bubbles, the Stack Exchange mascot, has been spotted in the wild before (most notably on the video feed of a Stack Exchange podcast or two), but she made her big debut alongside thousands of people dressed as their favorite sci-fi/gaming/anime characters (and at least a hundred Matt Smith Doctors). For more about Bubbles big outing, and to see the awesome swag created just for New York Comic Con, check out this Blog Overflow post.
We were there on behalf of Stack Exchange in general, and the Gaming and Science Fiction & Fantasy sites in particular. Attendees who ran across some of the Stack Exchange agents received swag, some of which were exclusive to the con. Yep, the Sci-Fi site (currently still in Beta and sans design) debuted a design (possibly the design) at the con on two pieces of merch: a sticker and a t-shirt. These items were limited to the convention (note how they say “NYCC-SE-2011″ on them, which stands for New York Comic Con – Stack Exchange) and are now totally gone. Limited editions are the best editions!
Overall we had a blast at the con and were successful in spreading the good word of the Stack. Our involvement in New York Comic Con was a test run for the future. We hope to go to as many gaming and sci-fi cons as we can, mostly because Bubbles loves to travel (even though we have to buy her three airplane seats) and also because I have to complete my run of Uncanny X-Men somehow.
Stack Exchange is giving away 10 3-day passes to New York Comic Con. This is exciting! You’re excited, right? That’s what I thought. Here’s what you have to do to enter the giveaway:
- Follow the @StackHQ Twitter account. Only followers of this Twitter account are eligible.
Find your favorite question at the Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange and share it using the site’s handy dandy sharing tools (see right). Be it Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, DC Comics, Harry Potter or Transformers, if it’s Sci Fi or Fantasy, we probably have it. If we don’t, ask it! When you share your question, make sure to…
Use the hashtag #nyccse. Only questions shared by @StackHQ followers via Twitter with the hashtag #nyccse are valid entries into the giveaway. You may tweet as many questions as you like; each tweet acts as an entry to the contest BUT only 1 3-day pass will be awarded per user.
The names of 10 people will be drawn at random. So yes, the more questions you tweet the higher your chances, but you cannot win more than 1 3-day pass.
The winners will be notified via Direct Message and will have to provide a mailing address that we can send the 3-day pass to.
The deadline for entry is Wednesday, October 5th at 3:00 PM EST/19:00 UTC.
Also, only enter if you are 100% able to go to New York Comic Con. We want to make sure that the passes go to people that are excited to take in the spectacular spectacle that is NYCC.
And that’s it! New York Comic Con is an awesome experience and we hope everyone has fun tweeting their questions. Just make sure you aren’t spamming your followers with a bunch of the same question (ultimately, you know what your followers want, just operate under the “be cool about it” rule).
Stack Exchange is only responsible for the 3-day passes. The winners must provide their own transportation and lodging arrangements because, again, you are only getting a 3-day pass to New York Comic Con out of this.
I came home from Renovation with some sort of Convention Crud™ which laid me low for about a week. so I’m just getting to the wrap-up posts I promised right at the end of the con. First up is my audio interview with Jason Snell, host of the excellent Science Fiction and Fantasy podcast, The Incomparable.
The Incomparable has been around for about a year as I post this, and it covers a wide range of SF&F, including books, movies, TV shows, comics, and just about anything else that relates to the genre. I interviewed Jason at Renovation on August 19, 2011, in one of the panel rooms between sessions.
Here is the interview; it’s 7:16 in length.
If you’re on an iOS device or otherwise can’t use the Flash player, you can also find the interview here.
With the Closing Ceremonies complete at 4 PM today, Renovation, the 69th World Science Fiction Convention has officially drawn to a close. Technically, this was the shortest Worldcon ever, since chair Patty Wells forgot to gavel the con open at the Opening Ceremonies on Wednesday. So officially, we have not actually been at Worldcon, but just an amazing five day simulation. It’s the kind of thing that SF&F fans take completely in stride. Patty gaveled the con open and shut at the Closing Ceremonies. I’ve gotta say, it’s been an awfully well-done simulation; my feet hurt.
Now, it’s onward to Chicon 7, the 70th World Science Fiction Convention, in Chicago, to be held August 30 through September 3, 2012. We met with the Convention Chair of Chicon, and perhaps Stack Exchange will have a presence there. Watch this space.
We were able to reach many science fiction authors, artists, and fans, and we gave away a lot of Stack swag. Your tip for the day: writers and musicians (who do a lot of autographing) think the Stack Exchange retractable Sharpies are awesome.
Though Renovation is over, we still have stories from Reno to file. Over the next few days, we’ll be posting an interview with a SF&F podcaster (just as soon as we get home and edit the audio); writing a post talking about some of the panels we attended; and probably one or two more.
The con ends tomorrow, but the key event happens tonight in the Tuscany Ballroom at the Peppermill Hotel and Casino: the presentation of the Hugo Awards. If you’re not with us here in Reno, you’ll be able to follow along in two ways:
Renovation will be providing a live video stream via UStream. That’s scheduled to start just before 8 PM PDT.
There will also be text coverage via CoverItLive, also beginning a few minutes before 8 PM PDT. You’ll be able to find that coverage on the Hugo Awards site.
We’re not going to reveal all of our votes, but just for fun, here’s how we voted in two categories:
Dori: Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis Tom: The Dervish House by Ian McDonald
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form:
Dori: Toy Story 3
Let’s see who picked correctly!
Late-breaking news: here’s the complete list of winners.
Who doesn’t like to dress up? OK, probably most of the folks who hang out over on Server Fault. But here at Worldcon, it seems like you see people wearing costumes all the time. The Masquerade (a huge event, held earlier tonight) is devoted to extravagant and innovative costuming, in individual and group concepts. Sadly, we missed the Masquerade, though we’ll link to photos as we find them.
An attraction of Science Fiction and Fantasy conventions are “hall costumes,” many of which are simply stunning. Surprisingly, we’ve seen only a few Klingons; perhaps they’re going out of style. And we fully expected to see more than a few Na’vi, but haven’t seen any (our guess: all that blue paint gets pretty messy; it’s just not that practical). The biggest contingent here seems to be the steampunk crowd—one of the costume vendors, Damsel in this Dress, snarkily claims that steampunk is what happens when Goths discover brown.
We’ve seen dozens of cool costumes (all of which have made us regret our decision to rely on our iPhone 4s; while they have a decent camera, our Canons would have been better).
Waiting for the shuttle bus to the convention center today, we struck up a conversation with this woman who made a beautiful headdress from leather and then painted it with exacting detail and subtlety.
In the hall outside one of the convention parties, another leather creation—this time a jerkin—nicely detailed and painted.
But our favorite hall costume so far was worn by this woman dressed as the TARDIS from Doctor Who. Just like the… er… real TARDIS, the light on her head pulsed when she chose to transport away, and it even made the TARDIS sound! Truly a delightful costume. You can’t see it in this picture, but her dress even included the door handles and the sign on the front of the police box.