ConShark

Recap & Photos: GeekGirlCon2014

Tea & t-shirts, both popular items at GGC.

Tea & t-shirts, both popular items at GGC.

It was a much quieter and calmer day Sunday at GeekGirlCon, devoid of the bummer trolls of Saturday morning and the joyously weird fun of Saturday night’s concert.

We hit the “Geek Elders Speak” and “Women in Comedy” panels before the closing celebration, which featured a keynote address from Wendy Lawrence, former NASA astronaut. “Geek Elders Speak” was a great look back at what fandom was like in the early days of zines and cons, and the women on stage gave the audience a great reminder: that they’ve already spent years fighting the battles young women are fighting today. At an event that’s very focused on the future of geekdom, a reminder not to forget the past is always welcome.” The “Women in Comedy” event was geared toward encouraging women to get into the comedy scene, with an emphasis on stand-up. And the closing celebration was really more like closing inspiration, once Wendy Lawrence took the podium. Her speech took the crowd through her early days as a Navy pilot, her extensive training as an astronaut candidate, and her experience during multiple missions in space.

The nail art trend hits geek cons, too.

The nail art trend hits geek cons, too.

Outside the panel rooms, a walk through the GGC show floor is an interesting experience: in recent years we’ve noticed mainstream cons gaining more vendors focused on female-friendly products and services. At NYCC 2013 we saw multiple booths selling cosmetics or giving manicures; one booth wasn’t even a geek company, just a startup selling basic stick-on nails that clearly thought there was enough of a female audience to make their trip to the con worthwhile. Coming to GeekGirlCon is like visiting the epicenter of a movement that has already started to ripple throughout cons across the country: the show floor is mostly filled with apparel, bags, purses, makeup, plush toys, jewelry, and art. GGC is not where you’d go to dig through longboxes of $1 comics, or even to pick up a new book; vendors that aren’t selling finished craft goods are few and far between. (And yes, there were at least 2 booths selling nail polish plus another table offering manicures.)

Organization issues at the show were relatively minor, consisting of problems that even the biggest conventions still suffer from: not enough space, sound too low in panels, and line management were the most overheard complaints of the weekend. We’ll concede the sound in panel rooms could use some work, as could the lighting; it’s strangely dark on stage for most of these programs. But line management was actually handled quite well given the limited space on the third floor, where most programming was taking place and where the vendors were situated. When all three programming rooms had simultaneous popular panels on Saturday, there was a brief issue with lines for each room zig-zagging across the entire top floor and sometimes crossing over each other; thankfully GGC has an impressive number of volunteers who did a good job of keep each line, well, in line. (Clearing rooms after each panel also contributed to long lines outside; crowds were managable enough that attendees didn’t need to pick between two back-to-back panels for fear of not making it in to the second one, but a note in the program guide that rooms are cleared would certainly have been appreciated.)

A booth at GGC teaches attendees how to fix their own phones; GGC has a huge emphasis on women in STEM.

A booth at GGC teaches attendees how to fix their own phones; GGC has a huge emphasis on women in STEM.

But placing the majority of programming and all the vendors on the top floor makes for an odd environment, as does having the relatively small convention split across three floors: despite the huge number of cosplayers, there wasn’t necessarily one main gathering point for all of them. Having cosplayers scattered across three lobby areas on three separate floors really cuts down on the amount of people watching. The second floor in particular, home to Artists Alley and the “Connections” (career-oriented) panel room, felt eerily silent most of the weekend in comparison to the liveliness going on upstairs and downstairs on the lower level, where the gaming tables were also popular.

And, sadly, it did not go unnoticed by many attendees that this year’s guest list was likely negatively impacted by sharing the weekend with NYCC. Despite being on opposite coasts, the competition for guests among conventions is stronger than ever; it’s very tough to go head-to-head with one of the biggest comic cons in the world. GGC 2015 is once again scheduled for the same weekend as NYCC; hopefully GeekGirlCon’s continued growth will help them pull in even more well-deserved, high-profile guests.

Still, if these are the only growing pains GGC exhibits, we should be pretty impressed: a whole lot of conventions, both fan- and corporate-run, have shown us a hell of a lot worse. GGC is a fun show, highly recommended for Pacific Northwest locals in particular but also well worth the adventure up from our HQ here in LA. (We even had enough time to get out and see the city!)

GeekGirlCon 2015 will be held October 10 – 11 at the Conference Center at the Washington State Convention Center. Tickets are already on sale; hotels, guests, and programming have yet to be announced.

Did we mention GeekGirlCon has an awful lot of great cosplay? Check out some of our favorites in the gallery below, as well as shots of the dancing Spider-Woman at Saturday night’s concert, and other scenes from the con.