I have just returned from Charlotte where I attended ConCarolinas, a multimedia convention focused on speculative fiction – fantasy, horror, and science fiction. This year’s guests of honor were Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Nana Visitor, Ursula Vernon, This Way to the EGRESS, and Rich Sigfrit. The convention organizers seem to have a deep commitment to creating a safe and welcoming environment for the attendees.
This is one of my favorite conventions, because of the quality and variety of their offerings: writing and publishing panels; a film festival; paranormal panels; gaming room; costume contest and cosplay panels; author tables, signing, and readings; Dealer’s and Art rooms; Charity Auction; SCA people; and more. I immerse myself in the writing/publishing tracts, and my husband finds plenty to occupy himself. I’m still hearing about the hour of conversation he enjoyed with Michael Hogan in the hotel bar last year while I was at a panel!
The variety of offerings could be overwhelming, but the convention organizers have taken steps to mitigate the potential chaos. The panels are clustered by subject, so for example, the writing and publishing panels are usually in two rooms and the book tables of the authors and editors who sit on the the panels for those tracts are set up close to those rooms, minimizing the running around for the panelists and allowing the panels to run right up to the hour. Those interested in writing and publishing quickly learn where to hang out.
The experience wasn’t perfect. A few glitches occurred in the schedule, leading to a little confusion but given the clustering of the panel rooms it didn’t seem to cause too much trouble. The hotel air conditioning gave out, and Saturday got more than a bit hot in some of the event rooms and hotel rooms, but convention organizers can only do so much where hotel problems are concerned.
I was impressed this year by the quality of panels I attended. I can’t speak for them all – I mostly attended writing/publishing panels, but the ones I saw were on topic with the panelists offering quality insights. The moderators this year seemed particularly well prepared. They had questions or structure in mind before the panels began and took pains to include all of the panelists in the discussions. One of my pet peeves involves one panelist speaking so much they dominate the panel preventing me from hearing a variety of views, but that didn’t happen on any of the panels I saw. So kudos to the panelists, moderators, and organizers!