Geek Girl Con is not a very large convention, only taking up the atrium of the Seattle Conference Center, and this year it happened to fall on the same weekend as New York Comic Con. Understandably, there were not a lot of big names present at Geek Girl Con 2014. But GGCs fourth year (and my third year attending) was, once again, a very fun time.
What makes Geek Girl Con stand out is its focus. It doesn’t specifically emphasize comics or anime or games or any particular medium or fandom like that. Instead, it is focused on celebrating geeky women and creating a safe, inclusive space for people of all types to enjoy the things they love and you could really tell, both from the make-up of the attendees and from the panel topics. Not only were a very large portion of the attendees women, but throughout the conventions various forms of non-traditional gender presentation were on display, even beyond the cosplay. The whole convention just has an open and friendly atmosphere and there really does seem to be a sense of community.
Like last year, the passes for the convention sold out within the first few hours of the doors opening but the organizers had clearly learned from last year and the lines were much better managed, especially Saturday morning’s initial line to pick up passes. Where last year the line had blocked the escalators, this year the staff did a great job both at directing the attendees towards the appropriate desks to pick up their badges and at ensuring there was enough space for the room to be easily navigated. This year I was in the line to pick up my pass on Saturday morning rather than doing the early pick-up on Friday and the staff also did a great job before the doors opened, letting us know which desks to go to when we got inside.
I attended a total of four panels, “Fangirls Find the Force: Star Wars from Episode VII and Beyond” and “Geek Identity: What it Means to be a Geek in Today’s World” on Saturday and “The Carol Corps and the Evolving Face of Fandom” and “Gaylaxy Quest: Exploring Queer Sci-Fi and Fantasy Fiction” on Sunday. In all four of those panels, the need for representation was a big theme and in three of them, fandom gatekeeping was specifically condemned. Except for the Carol Corps panel, which still had a pretty decent attendance, the panels I attended filled up. I would have gone to more panels if I was able, but pesky things like the need for food got in the way.
While all the panels I attended had mostly female panelists, the two panels I attended on Sunday had all-white panelists, which the moderators did acknowledge as a problem, with Sigid Ellis, the moderator of the Carol Corps panel, specifically noting it as an oversight of their part and apologizing for it. Hopefully there will be a little more mindfulness in this area in the future.
Panels weren’t the only things to keep attendees occupied. While, as I mentioned, GGC is a smaller con and the exhibitor hall and artist alley reflected that, the exhibitor hall had a nice variety of booths, including a book seller, a comic seller, several geeky jewelry booths, a few nail polish booths, representatives from small specialized presses, and geek soap. The friendly community atmosphere extended to here, with most of the dealers being very open and friendly throughout the con and Northwest Press’s booth even having a reading area set up so you could browse their books in a comfortable space.
One baffling change this year was the lack of onsite ATMs, either in the exhibitor hall or anywhere else in the building. While all the dealers I dealt with accepted credit cards, this was still fairly frustrating. There was an ATM just across the street with a clear sign, but I hope that future years see a return of ATMs to the convention site.
The artist alley was very limited. It had some great artwork but not a lot of booths. I got through there in just a few minutes and felt no real need to make another round. If you weren’t looking for a large print or a painting, there wasn’t much there for you.
The lower level was once again home to the game area, and there was a lot of focus on non-video games. Game studios set up tables where attendees could play some of their board and card games and, if that wasn’t enough games for you, there was an area for free play, where you could borrow games from the counter or be your own piece in a giant Tsuro game. There were also board game tournaments for King of Tokyo and Sushi Go, for the more competitive game lovers, and game related workshops, where attendees could paint miniatures or design games or participate in other game-related activities.
A little bit separate from the board and cards games, Ubisoft had a console room where attendees could relax and play various video games on consoles and screens, including games that were not created by Ubisoft, such as Mario Kart. I didn’t participate in any games myself this year, but when I went through this area on Sunday it seemed very popular with kids, which I take as a good sign.
Another activity that was very popular with the kids in attendance was the DIY Science Zone, set up between the exhibitor hall and the larger panel rooms. Attendees could perform a variety of science projects like creating invisible ink. Again, this isn’t something I participated in but I did walk by it often and it was always busy.
For people who were feeling overwhelmed or tired by the activity of the con, there was the Introvert Alley, a room set aside in an out-of-the-way spot across from the first aid room in the lobby. It was very quiet, with some table-cloth covered tables and a water cooler. When I went in there, there were several people taking advantage of it, quietly reading, playing games, or napping. This was a great addition idea and I commend the convention organizers for thinking of it. I was concerned by lack of visibility of the room, however. It was not labeled on the map at all and while there was a sign next to the door, do to the out-of-the-way location I wouldn’t have known it was there had I not specifically gone to that area to see if there was anything there. I really hope they continue to have an Introvert Alley but make it’s presence a little bit more known so those in need of a break know that there’s a place they can take one.
Along with the regular programming that continued throughout the weekend, the special events were a blast. The Geek Girl CONcert Saturday night, featuring Thundering Asteroids, the Doubleclicks, and the rapper Sammus, was full of energy despite being delayed twenty minutes due to what seem to have been technical difficulties. A quarter of the room was set aside for dancing and the children in attendance took full advantage of it. The highlight of the concert was probably the surprise four-cello cover of the Doctor Who theme that the Doubleclicks opened their act with. It was a really great way to keep the crowds energy high.
Thankfully, this year the concert returned to the convention site. The off-site venue last year was nice, but if you were unfamiliar with the area and/or did not have access to a car, it was not the easiest to get to. Last year I had to leave a panel early to get to the concert on time and that was a huge bummer. It was also nice that admission to the concert was once again free with the Saturday pass, as opposed to being sold separately like last year.
The keynote speaker for this year’s closing ceremony was astronaut Wendy Lawrence, who presented a slide show about her journey to become an astronaut and gave a Q&A before the convention was closed out by a performance by local slam poets Elisa and Rebecca, who’s performance touched on freedom, double-standards, alienation, and the need for community.
I really enjoyed the convention as a whole and I am most certainly looking forward to attending again in the future. The staff has clearly learned a lot from previous years and did a great job ensuring an enjoyable experience. Passes are already available for Geek Girl Con 2015 on October 10 and 11 of next year which, unfortunately, looks like it’ll be overlapping NYCC yet again.
And, of course, there was also lots of cosplay on display! There was quite a variety of costumes, including one costume on Sunday that took full advantage of it being game day:
While not a major focus, there were Star Wars costumes:
And here are some of the other costumes I saw at the con: