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C2E2 is Still Better than Comic Con

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Yah, I said it.

I used to go do Wizard World Chicago every year, like a religious pilgrimage to the closest shrine of comic geekdom we had. Then, one year, everything changed and it was suddenly Comic Con Chicago. Vendor booths, artist alley tables, and dealer areas were eaten away to make room for roped off and curtained no-go zones for those who paid big bucks to get signatures from celebrities like Bruce Campbell and Patrick Stewart.

Around the second year of that, if memory serves, we also went to C2E2, Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo.  I believe it was their second year, and it was a small convention, but it reminded me of the early years going to Wizard World.  We had a blast and decided that would become our regular yearly stint.

A bonus was that we always had to make the choice between GenCon and Wizard World. WW always won out due to price.  With C2E2 being earlier in the year, that opened up the opportunity to start going to GenCon as well.  We went to Comic Con one more time after starting to go to C2E2 and, if possible, it was worse than the time before.  It wasn’t about comic books and artists anymore.  It was all about getting in to pay ridiculous sums just to get a glossy picture of an actor signed.

C2E2, while mostly about comics and artists, doesn’t pretend that it’s only a comic book convention.  They do dedicate most of the floor space to comic artists and vendors though.  The amazing part is that in just 7 years they’ve gone from a small show with just shy of 28,000 attendees to a juggernaut topping 80K this past year.

McCormick Place is the perfect venue as well.  Where Comic Con is limited in growth by the Rosemont’s (Donald E. Stephens Convention Center) limited space at 840,000 square feet, McCormick Place boasts 2.6 million, 1.2 of which is all on the same floor.  Just three years ago C2E2 topped New York Comic Con in size, with over 670,000 square feet of space used.  It’s safe to say if it exists in the world of geek culture and you can’t find it at C2E2, you aren’t looking hard enough.

Due to its size, I recommend any attendee go for more than a day.  One day used to be enough for us, whether it was Wizard World, Comic Con, or the early years of C2E2. After the 2015 trip though we knew that wasn’t going to be enough. We were there from opening until about an hour before the floor closed and we felt like we only saw half of it.

Even this year, with two days in Chicago, we didn’t see everything, but we ran out of spending money about lunch time on Saturday and the crowd was getting to be a bit much.  Take your time. Don’t rush; and don’t spend all your money right away.  Best practice, see everything you want to see, and if an item you saw earlier in the day is still on your mind, then go back and get it.  Better to have to backtrack than buy something early and find an item you want more later, but have spent yourself out of funds.

Here’s some other tips for anyone new to large cons:

  • Deodorant
  • Comfy shoes – the show floors are hard despite the carpet
  • Backpack with water bottle compartment – water fountains are free
  • More deodorant – halfway through the day, you’ll wish you could jump into the bathroom and refresh with a damp paper towel and application of deodorant
  • Print/poster tube – pick it up early at one of the many booths selling Dick Blick products. You’ll be glad you did if you buy any art.
  • Phone charger/backup battery – Your battery will drain fast if you use your phone for anything inside a steel and concrete building with no signal strength
  • Dress light, even if it’s cold outside – no matter the temp outside it will be hot in the hall. A short cold walk beats a long sweaty day on the show floor.

Of course, C2E2 is also an entertainment con, so it has a long list of celebrity guests, and some of them cost a lot just for one signature.  The convention does a great job of giving the celebrities space without taking away floor from the comics, artists, and vendors.

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Many of the celebs you meet will also vary in price for autographs from free on up to $60.  I would avoid the meet and greets, though, honestly.  My wife did a meet and greet with Wil Wheaton this year. $60 for a picture with him that he didn’t even sign.  Want that signed? Another $40… yeah, a little disappointing for a long-time fan.

Sure, you get to stand next to them for a second, maybe get a, “Hi, how are ya!” but Michael Cudlitz (Walking Dead, Band of Brothers, Southland) was doing autographs and taking a ton of selfies with fans at his table, and actually talking to people.  We watched from the line to meet Timothy Zahn and it was great to see Mr. Cudlitz treating all of his fans like friends.  He didn’t even sit behind his high table they set up for him.  He came around the side, standing right there with the fans, and it was fantastic.  Granted, Cudlitz had far fewer people in line, but damn if he didn’t show the utmost appreciation for every single one of them.

Other than all that, plan ahead.  Make sure you know what you want to see, and prioritize. You can be in line for a signing longer than anticipated, so don’t schedule anything back to back.  Look for things that aren’t at your local shop, or easily ordered cheaper on Amazon.  Really scope out the deals and find those items that you must have and are hard to find.

Make frequent trips to the car to drop off stuff, but also to get out of the crowd and noise for some fresh air.  The population of a decent-sized city descends on that convention hall and sometimes you just need to get away from it to recharge before diving back in. Above all, have fun.  Any convention you go to is ultimately about that.  Sharing your love for geekdom and having fun.  That’s what makes it all worth it.

Wonder Woman Honored then Snubbed by the U.N.

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The United Nations, famous (infamous?) for having Saudi Arabia on the human rights council, recently appointing Wonder Woman as the honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls.  Then, even more recently enough, people threw a fit that it was reversed.  Strangely enough of the people who complained aren’t who you think.  UN staffers, feminists, and non-fans of the character were vocal about their opposition.  Even written in the petition:

Although the original creators may have intended Wonder Woman to represent a strong and independent warrior woman with a feminist message, the reality is that the character’s current iteration is that of a large breasted, white woman of impossible proportions, scantily clad in a shimmery, thigh-baring body suit with an American flag motif and knee high boots –the epitome of a pin-up girl.

What this says about women who do look like Wonder Woman is a bit of a double standard in my opinion.  While every woman is different, there are probably a great many women who look like her and girls who will look like her.  Saying they are abnormal is just as bad as saying any other body type is abnormal.  Saying she’s a ‘white woman’ shows the ignorance of people who cannot tell the difference between the wide range of  European, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern people, as much as the ignorance of people who think all Asians are the same.  And what’s wrong with pin-up girls?  It’s a job just like any other, and there are highly talented, and successful burlesque dancers, pin-up models, and dancers and if we are empowering women that means accepting whatever job it is they decide is best for them, right?  Who are we to shame any of these aspects of real women?

If a woman of Greek descent, who saves people all around the world and immigrates to America is too American, then which fictional character would work?  What other fictional female character is as well known, especially with the upcoming DC movie?  How many little girls, and even adults, cosplay as Diana every year?  What message does the UN send to these woman and girls, and even boys, when they say Wonder Woman isn’t womaning well enough to be an example for girls to look up to?

And current iteration?  Did they even google Wonder Woman before writing that?  Take a look.  Wonder Woman art is as varied as the artists who’ve drawn her.  Just in the top few results, we have her in the traditional red, white and blue, decked out in armor, wearing pants, and covered from neck to toe in an armored body suit.  She’s drawn as athletic and slender, or muscular and curvy, large chested or smaller, and everything in between.  The current iteration of this immigrant super heroine is quite diverse really, and it seems to me she shows that women can be whatever they want, and look however they want when they do it.

Thankfully fans are speaking out, with one 14 year old girl starting a petition to reinstate her.  Even Phil Jimenez shared this great tweet with art from Catherine and Sarah Satrun:

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Quite honestly, at the end of the day, if the point is to pick a woman who will fit everyone’s definition of a role-model, you’ll fail.  You’re not going to find a single fictional female, or male character, that everyone will think is a perfect example.  It’s simply not possible.  What I do know is when I see the faces of little girls dressed as Wonder Woman, they look like they’re having the time of their lives.  Do little girls really care what she’s wearing, or do they care that they feel like goddesses when they put on a costume and pretend to be Diana for a few hours?  Should we be focusing on what a woman wears (I’m told that’s really bad), or what she does?  Should our message be that a woman can do whatever she wants, and dress however she likes when she does it, or she can do it as long as she dresses in an acceptable manner?  I may just be one of those silly guys, but it seems like a damn confusing message to me.

In the Age of the Geek, the Hate is Too Strong

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When I was growing up, I kept most of my nerdy shit to myself. No one at school knew I played Magic: the Gathering, painted Warhammer armies or played more tabletop games than they could name (which was probably none). I was already an outcast with zero friends, why make it worse for myself by sharing that which I loved and occupied most of my waking moments?

All of that has changed. The nerd flags are flying proudly enough that I will (and have) stopped people for their Firefly t-shirt, Vampire: The Masquerade pin or Star Wars car decal. Of course, this is still thought of as weird now that nerd is a little more mainstream and the culture isn’t what it was even 10 years ago. There used to be this feeling of a secret club and we were so excited when we found each other, but now I encounter far more glares than excited chatter.

I’ve noticed a trend on social media that I find disturbing. Now, before I go into this rant, I am all for free speech and saying what you want but somewhere we lost some niceities, please let me explain.

I recently posted a meme that I saw flying around, “If you tattooed one song title on your body, what would it be?” and my good buddy Vince responded with ‘Imagine.’ For those of you who don’t know, it is a song by John Lennon that is quite old and by far one of my least favorite songs, mainly due to the fact that we sang it in choir (yes, I was in choir) and we sang it at Nausium. It was big at the time, so not only did I sing the crap out of this song I already wasn’t a fan of, I also had to hear it at length. I responded with, “Sorry, dislike.” He responded with a frowny face. Now, I don’t know if this actually ruined his day or not. I’m unsure, but the point is that I didn’t need to say it. Saying that I disliked it didn’t prove anything. It didn’t make the world a better place. In fact, in that moment, I doubt he smiled. So I robbed the world of a smile which, to me, is sinful.

I’m sure you are searching for a point in all of this ramble, but I assure you that I have one and it’s simple. We don’t have to advertise everything we don’t like. Honestly, who cares? Of course there are exceptions to this. Food being one. You don’t want to go to a friends house and eat something you can’t stand because you’re afraid to tell them what you didn’t like. Clothes shopping is important to state what you do and don’t like. These are acceptable, but that isn’t the trend I’m seeing. What I’m seeing is people boasting about something they like, love, adore and the response being a list of 39 reasons their friend doesn’t like it.

I’ve sat and listened to friends and strangers talk at length about the things they love that, at the time, I had no interest in. I could see the joy on their faces, the excitement, the passion. It feels so lost anymore, but I can see all of it as they explain My Little Pony, Warhammer, their favorite writer or their favorite game. They are sharing their love with me and seeing their joy brings me joy, so of course I pay attention. I recently started watching My Little Pony  with my daughter and I love it. If I had stopped them and said I didn’t like their interest and explained why, what would that have accomplished? I would have wiped the joy from their faces and possibly disappointed them. We are given so few chances to gush about the things we love.

Even Vanri looked at my farm on Stardew Valley because I loved it and I put so much work into it. She asked questions and made comments; it made me so happy because she was showing interest in something I enjoyed. She could have told me no and explained that she wasn’t that interested in it as I was, which I knew, but sometimes excitement takes over and you just want to share it with someone else. What did it cost her? Some time? It’s worth it just to make a friend happy.

I’m asking us to dial back on the hate, even just the simple dislike. Let someone rant and ramble on about what they love. Don’t post that negative comment on a post about someone’s happiness. There is a lot of hate going on in the world, a lot of negative. Let the positive reign just for a little bit.

Real Women of Gaming’s Nerdy Summer Activities

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Summer is a great time to get stuff done, don’t you think? For those in school, you have summer break. For those whose school days are behind them, summer translates to outdoor barbecues and vacations to the beach.

For the Real Women of Gaming staff, summer means nerdy activities (just like the rest of the year). Read about them here!

“Since I am missing out on, what feels like, every convention ever, I am hoping to at least make the Ren Fair this year with Lily. There was a time in which I wouldn’t be caught dead not attending and now I find myself missing it too often. I adore it so and even have my own garb. They are amazing.” ~Crymson Pleasure~

“I don’t know that I do anything specific during summer months that I don’t do during other seasons. But, currently living in LA, I can say that it’s certainly easier to lay on the beach and read horror books to my heart’s content in summer. Other than that, it’s just video games and writing as per usual.” -Vanri the Rogue

“I, too, seem to be missing out on all the cons. I am also really looking forward to Renaissance Fairs. I love dressing up in my garb and just having a lot of fun for a day.
I also look forward to a Harry Potter program that I run every year for kids at the library I work at. Every year we have a new theme and it is one of the last programs we have for the Summer Reading Club. It is a bit stressful since, as the Gryffindor on staff, I keep trying to make it bigger every year. It is always worth it during the program when the kids are having so much fun!” -Thia the Bard

“Streaming is my summer activity. Working on my bot, schedule and networking. Other then that will be chilling with the family.” -KinkedNitemare-

“Already did Comic con, and a friend invited me to go to Gencon with him this year. Still deciding on that one, though it is soooo tempting.” -Fluffy the Necromancer

“Conventions. We have a local gaming convention I hit last weekend called Fog Con. This Saturday is ACE which is an artist and comic expo, and in August we have GenCon which is going to be incredible this year.” -Trever

“Otakon, and possibly Faerieworlds if finances line up. I…need to actually start working on costumes XD” -LaLuneVide

“My family and I had planned on attending the 2016 Cherry Springs Star Party, but had to cancel. Cherry Springs State park has virtually no light pollution due to its location. As such, during a new moon it is a prime stargazing spot. We may make another attempt during the next new moon.” -MaxUrso

“Nothing really until DragonCon to close out the summer on Labor Day Weekend. For financial and scheduling reasons we had to severely limit our convention schedule, but DragonCon is too amazing to miss so we’re making that our one big con for the year.” ~Rinshi

What’s your favorite summer nerdy activity? Let us know in the comments below!

Valentine’s Gifts for Geeks

Ever wonder what to get a geeky significant other? Want to know some gifts we’ve given or received for Valentine’s day? You’ve come to the right place! The Real Women of Gaming staff have come together to tell you what we want, have given or have gotten for Valentine’s Day! Look below to see more!

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Read the rest of this entry

On Fangirling and Carrying On

On Fangirling and Carrying On

…Or Fandom, Nostalgia and Coming Out as a Fanfiction Writer
By: Thia the Bard

A lot can come to mind when the word “fangirl” is used. You may see images of rabid teenage girls; nerdy girls gushing on YouTube; or perhaps even a book that was written by Rainbow Rowell in 2013. None of these give you a clear definition of what exactly a fangirl is, though, or why it is often said with a sneer. Well, let’s go to Dictonary.com for an actual definition:

“Fangirl [fan-gurl]

Noun, Informal: Often Disparaging.

  1. An obsessive female fan, especially of something technological or from popular culture”

Wait… “often disparaging?” Well, ouch. No wonder I so often feel shame about admitting to being a fangirl. If I was not a fangirl, however, I never would have met some of my best friends. Without fanfiction and fandoms, my life would be very different.

I have been conditioned to feel shame for not only reading but also writing fanfiction. Yes, it is true. I, who am so totally cool, have written fanfiction. Not only have I written fanfiction, but I was also in an elite group of girls who wrote together. Before I go any further, though, I should probably explain what fanfiction is and why I would be hesitant to talk about it.

Fanfiction, or fanfic, is a fictional account written by a fan of a popular television show, book, movie or video game. Usually, it is used to explore themes that the original medium is not exploring. When I first started writing with my friends, it was back in the early 2000s, so we mostly wrote about what would happen if characters fashioned after us were placed in our favorite stories. Ah yes, back when original characters (OCs) were still considered novel and even encouraged.

Now, people groan at OCs, since so many of them have been written as “perfect” and/or overly magical versions of the writer. For example, my character in our Harry Potter fanfic was the daughter of Sirius Black, an American exchange student, with purple hair, who wore combat boots with her robes and ended up marrying Draco Malfoy. It didn’t seem so hard to imagine different endings for Harry Potter back then, since we were living in a magical time before the final book was published. The world was our oyster and the only thing that stood in our way was our imagination.

Our story starts, like all good adventures should, in a library. I had just begun volunteering in my high school library when a girl with curly red hair came in yelling to our librarian. I tried to hide behind a Scholastic Harry Potter display because I was new and shy (also, she was kind of intimidating, and would probably want it to be noted that she still is). I was spotted and it was discovered that I liked Harry Potter and we became friends. I hung out with her a little bit before she broached the idea of me writing with her and her friend. I looked them up online and read everything they had written. I was was more than a little nervous about the prospect of writing with two such talented people. At our first meeting, another author, who happened to be the main editor, looked me up and down like she was going to eat me for breakfast.

We added two other people to our group during the next school year. We shared a love of Harry Potter, anime, music and Anne Rice. The confidence and security I got from not only writing but also from just being with these girls was astounding. By the time I graduated, our group had grown and we had become a family. They are the first people I go to when I have a problem. They are the ones that I share the most jokes with. I am certain I would not be who I am without them. I didn’t fit in; not in the greater school or in my family at the time. I cannot discuss fandom without thinking of them. That is why I am always baffled by the flippant way that some people discuss fandom and “fangirls.” Fangirls are my family. Fangirls have saved my life.

I have been thinking about how true that last sentence is since I picked up Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell a few years ago. That book brought back so many memories; memories of my high school days, but mostly memories of college. I was a lot like Cath; so much so that I had to put the book down multiple times. At one point, a friend of mine found me with my head down, arms over it and the book slewn nearby. It was almost too much to be thrown back to that place during my Freshman year when I could hardly navigate my way through the dark and choppy waters of new adulthood.

Thankfully, I met other fangirls. I made friends with people who loved musicals and fantasy; girls who marathoned Lord of the Rings; girls who had long discussions about the values of different Hogwarts houses and where we belonged; girls who wanted to be Jedi or Superheroes; girls who loved horror movies and zombies as much as I did; and girls who loved talking history and politics.

These girls were there when I was given news that changed a lot for me. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety during my first semester. I was scared, mostly, because of the concerns of the councilor. She was very worried by the results of my test and, in a flurry, scheduled me to talk to someone. She even cleared some time to talk to me right then and there because she was that worried about me.

I had always known there was something. I wasn’t a happy kid, but I was good at faking it. Now, I couldn’t. Now, there was a real diagnosis and a very concerned professional staring at me. My friends banded around me instantly. No one said I was faking it or just told me to get over it. The fangirls became shields, shoulders to cry on and distractions, depending on what I needed. I would not have made it through this time without them. Therapy was difficult. Collage was even more so. If not for the support of fangirls and fandoms, I would not be typing this article.

I have met new fangirls since then. Some are coworkers, who have become friends and people with whom I can gush about books. Some are gamers, who have helped me evolve into a person I could never have imagined. I met two of them at a New Year’s Eve party. I walked in with a college friend to find an intimidating redhead and her good friend (who was her main editor) while I tried to find a corner to hide in. Sound familiar? Yes, I laugh about it a lot. I wasn’t even there for a half an hour before we got into a conversation about fandoms and they had decided I was their friend. Later, they invited me to take a role in their group about women gamers (hint: you know them as Crymson Pleasure and Vanri the Rogue), which has led to so much growth.

I have a lot of fangirls who are my friends. I am lucky enough to be in a lot of fandoms. I was there when people thought that Draco Malfoy was going to be a Vampire or that Ron Weasley was the Seer*. Fangirl and Carry On, also by Rowell, had me in tears recently because of these fandoms; the memories of these fandoms; the magic of fanfiction; and how friendship and love really are more powerful than anything.  They helped me through school, they help me with depression, they helped me when my mother lost her battle with a whole slew of painful things I have gone through. I have shining memories of creating worlds and communities, some of which have been left unfinished (so sorry, Gundam Wing fanfic).

In short: fanfiction and fandoms made me a fangirl. Being a fangirl gave me ideas and worlds that I never would have had before. Being a fangirl gave me friends that I have needed in order to continue on my own adventure. Without fandom, I would never have made it to this point. Without these shiny magical things, I would never have been able to carry on.

This article is cross published with the West Chester Public Library

*PS. Ron totally should have been the Seer, but that could be a whole other article.