The Con Game

37 MinutesEvery year, dozens of Science Fiction Conventions, i.e. “cons” make their way around the country. One of the biggest, DragonCon, recently concluded in Atlanta.

Cons are one of the wonders of the world. In each con hosting city, writers and fans, actors and artists, crawl out of their dark basements and descend en masse to the appointed time and place. The con is a celebration of science fiction, a place to meet new friends and fiends, and make one’s voice – either as a fan or as an artist – known.

The Channel 37 team has attended numerous conferences in our time. Our home con, if there is such a thing, is Balticon, held every year during Memorial Day weekend. As a team, we would like to attend more, but we are always surprised when one passes and we haven’t heard about it. But that is for us to work on. (NOTE TO FANS: Let us know, while there is still time to register if there is a con we should attend. Thanks!)

So, the point of this narrative is simple. We want you the fan, writer, artist, and possibly actor to attend. This can be a guide to helping that happen. We also would like you to survive – not that we’ve heard about fatalities, but we’re dealing with very creative people. This guide is mostly for “newbies” – seasoned con attendees are encouraged to comment on points that are missed or minimized.


Showing up is 90% of the participation quotient to have a successful con. A certain amount of care and observation will be needed to navigate the first fledgling steps of one’s arrival.

For instance, where does one go to pay for the con? There may be signs. Many cons think that all attendees know what to do and therefore money spent on the signs could be better used to fund the aftercon party. All is not lost should this be the case.

As one walks in the door, look for a huge man, usually with very long hair and long beard with a badge, preferably stating “staff.” He is the gatekeeper.

DO NOT, repeat, DO NOT approach him and say, “Excuse me, I’m here for the Sci-Fi convention, where is registration?” No one will hear from you again. This would not be an attendee fatality, and therefore not counted in the overall statistics.

DO ask “Registration?” Wait for the glare and jerk of the head indicating the proper direction. Follow said direction and stand in long line that appears not to move. Eventually, the badge will come. The schedule, program, last minute notes, and free samples will usually be given out at that point.


The schedule will list events panels, events, signings, screenings, and a myriad of activities all happening at the same time. Unfortunately, most schedules are in Klingon or 3-point type. Choose one of the events and attend. Attending many different types of events may enhance one’s appreciation of all aspects of Science Fiction.


This room is the place where most everything interesting happens. All the latest gadgets, books, and apparel can be found here. Most of the most interesting people are also found here. This is where time can be spent between events. Authors generally are here selling their books, artists their art, and craftspeople their crafts.


Deep in the darkest part of the hosting hotel is where the gaming rooms are kept. These are usually running twenty-four hours. Most people in these rooms will not know what time it is anyway. Many people only attend cons to be here. It is said that some never leave.


Cons often have twenty-four hour movie screenings. Some may be old favorites; some may be imported with or without subtitles. The schedule will be in the program.


Panel discussions are one of the great events at the con. Many well-known writers, artists, or filmmakers will be on hand and share how “you too can do _____.” Often questions are asked and everyone gains much enlightenment. Some of the bigger names will actually hang around and sign a book or two.


Cons are great places to revel in the science fiction world. Many interesting things can be learned, as well as learning the latest genre mutation.

We at Channel 37 encourage all our readers to go to a con. Be sure to look us up and mention this article. We’ll have a little sticker to give out to our fans.

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