Flying High At Raven*Con

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With a plethora of large cons scattered throughout the country, it’s easy to forget about smaller cons, the more intimate gatherings, but when con-goers do so, they do themselves a disservice. At those larger cons, between rushing to the next celebrity panel or the next video game new release preview, it’s all too easy to get swept up in the swag and the more immediately visible elements of geek culture, and to lose the social element that cons originally evolved to provide.

Attending Raven*Con in Richmond, Virginia is a great way to rediscover those connections to other geeks from a wide variety of fandoms. While the Raven*Con guest list does not rival that of Dragon*Con or New York Comic Con, it does offer some notables. This year featured literary luminary Glen Cook of The Black Company and Garrett PI fame, and fantasy artist Matthew Stewart. Those guests conducted panels and autograph signings. However, those panels were hardly the main thrust of what brought people to Raven*Con 2012.

For that, the con-goer must experience the Con Suite, which was open to all attendees and provided an unusually diverse spread’featuring such almost unheard of items as vegetables’as well as a place where the real meat of the con occurs. Sitting down at a table with a plate is enough invitation for nearly anyone to come and join, striking up a conversation about topics ranging from literary developments in genre fiction to which Doctor makes the best use of the sonic screwdriver.

he panels offered at Raven*Con appear to be continuations of this inter-geek dialogue, so while Raven*Con is clearly a more literature-oriented con, panel topics are not restricted to writing workshops, fanfic, and self-publishing guides.

Other panels focused largely on topics of general geek interest. Some of these panels were really entertaining such as the one titled ‘When I am a Super Villain.’ Some of the panels were pretty silly like ‘Dr. Who vs. the Xenomorph.’ However, despite the utter strangeness of the topic, somehow the group really did work, no doubt buoyed by the conviviality of the attendees all united in their affection for the subject matter.

Raven*Con also offered attendees other entertainment, including the belly dancing troupe ‘Wicked Hips’ (http://www.wickedhipstribal.com/pages/main.htm) who bring a fresh-perspective and humor to the traditional art. Their first number involved blending belly dancing with a particularly well-known Charlie Chaplin routine and ended with a rousing rendition of ‘Mambo Number Five’ into which a substantial part of the audience was cajoled into participating, including a Steampunk Darth Vader.

The Masquerade interlude entertainment was provided to a very receptive audience by geek sketch-comedy troupe Luna-C (http://www.luna-c-productions.com/), and the Masquerade itself featured costumes ranging from anime-oriented to steampunk dresses to a beautiful Clockwork Android. The band Bella Morte rounded out Saturday night with a fantastic concert that lasted well into the wee hours.

All praises aside, Raven*Con is a small con, meaning that the $40 tab for the at-the-door entrance fee seems a little steep, especially when compared with other small cons in the area that offer more activities. Raven*Con is very definitely a con that one can leave and return to without having missed anything. Indeed, there seemed to be a more than average number of lulls in the action, and the dealer’s room is quite frankly not large enough to keep an average attendee’s interest, unless he or she is looking for good prices on harder to find sci-fi and fantasy novels.

Video game fans are probably not going to find too much at the con to interest them. Raven*Con did have a fairly active game room for those more interested in rolling dice, but with just one small area set aside for video gaming’containing both a functioning Atari with game cartridges and a vintage Pac-Man arcade game.

Despite all the problems inherent with a small con, Raven*Con is definitely worth attending once, for the experience if nothing else.

Besides, they offer cake (http://www.youtube.com/user/CakesbyCarla), ‘Cool’ ribbons for great costumes, and an election for the fans’ favorite guest. Touches like these remind attendees why they started going to cons in the first place.

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