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So, Alcon 2013 may have been the most fun I’ve ever had at a convention ever, but it was also in many ways the most problematic convention I’ve ever been to. No convention has ever been such an unbelievable mix of highs and lows in a short stretch of time and while I’m super excited for next year, there are some things that really need to change to prevent me having another year like this in the future.

Thursday

Thursday started really well. I made friends with a lovely lady named Jocy (an excellent comedian and runner up in the Alcon talent show), who’d traveled over from Australia just to enjoy Alcon (she was not in the country for any other reason, no matter how much she may claim a wedding was involved). We had a good laugh playing Cards Against Humanity on the long journey up.

After all going our separate ways to get settled into our respective accommodation we all met up to enjoy our first panel of the weekend, The Cosplay Adventure with Little Kuriboh, which was a blast. It was great to start off the convention with a number of guests doing various spontanious character roles and it was just good fun.

After that we stayed to watch the convention’s opening ceremony, which is where the convention started to go down hill for me (yes, it went downhill right from the opening ceremony). There were three things that came up in that hour long introduction to the convention that each, in order, made me less and less comfortable.

Firstly, when the head of the Ninja clan came on stage, he refered to the head of the vampire clan who had just left the stage as “leader of the sparkly faggots”. I assume this was meant to be an Edward Cullen is gay joke, but the way it was phrased was not really okay with me. Faggot is not a word you use to refer to someone if you are trying to imply they are gay, it’s a word with largely negative and offensive connotations.

Next up was part of the convention do’s and don’t’s tips video. “Tip 2: Things may not always be what they appear” was one big anti trans joke. Our protagonist sees a woman from behind and comments on how beautiful they are. He walks over as the woman turns around, only for it to be revealed that the woman is actually a man in a wig. Cue laughter from the entier audience as the protagonist quickly tries to escape this terrible situation they have found themselves in, because god forbid you treat them like any other human being. While some people I spoke to responded by saying this was just a joke and did no harm, the discomfort I felt in a room of con goers laughing at that was huge. I had people come up to me throughout the weekend to ask me if I was what I appeared and it just put out this message that trans women are men in bad wigs.

Lastly is the biggest issue I had with the opening ceremony, because of what I suspect it lead up to happening later that evening. One of the later “tips” in the video was that some cosplays may be revealing. Cue the protagonist seeing a barrage of clips from anime where women have huge, barely covered, jiggling breasts and visible nipples through their clothing. The Protagonist of this video then proceeds to reach toward the women, making a squeezing motion toward their breasts. I didn’t think much of this at the time, just ignored it and moved on, but looking back I’m pretty sure it lead to what completely ruined the first day of Alcon for me.

About fifteen minutes after this breast squeezing clip was shown the opening ceremony finishes and me and my friends leave. My friends go to the bathroom and I wait outside. A man then came up to me, told me I was a beautiful cosplayer, made the same hand motion from the video as he reaches toward me and proceeds to grab my breasts, “motorboat” them and I have to push him away. He then makes the motion again and continues to walk toward me again so I have to push him away a second time. The parallels to the video that had just been shown are uncanny, I suspect that the tips video gave him the idea that doing that would be funny and would get the same reaction of laughter that the video had had a few mins before.

After that I wasn’t in much of a fun loving mood. I went straight to find my friends and stuck to them for a while before eventually talking to con staff about what had transpired. In their defence, the convention staff, the man who runs the convention and the on site security staff were incredibly helpful at making sure things were dealt with. It took until Saturday for me to find out what had been done, but the convention staff struck fear into the heart of the person involved. I opted not to involve the police as 1) I didn’t want to spend the con in a police station having to explain it on repeat and 2) I’ve heard multiple stories of police disregarding sexual harassment stories involving Trans Women.

After a very draining and eventful day me and my friend called it an early night and went back to bed at around 9PM. Sure it was early, but I just really didn’t feel up to staying at the con later. On the way home I got a call from the convention organiser about the incident which reassured me things were being dealt with. I also got a call from Campus Security who wanted me to talk to them at around 11:30pm in person. When I said I’d already gone back to my hotel, the man on the phone says he would be happy to come and talk about it in my hotel room if I wanted. I said no, because honestly the last thing I wanted to do after a man sexually harassed me was to invite a man I didn’t know to my hotel in the middle of the night. Not sure if he thought that offer through as he had no idea I had someone with me, for all he knew he was coming to my room where I would be alone, which rings a lot of alarm bells for me personally.

Friday

Friday morning started with me continuing to sort out the previous night’s incident. I had to go in and talk to the on site security staff about what had happened, had to give them copies of the photos I’d been asked to take of the individual and eventually got to leave and get on with my day. The result of this was that once they found footage of the event, they gave a strong warning to the person and told them they were not to approach me. If I entered a panel they were to leave ect. If they do anything like that again they will recieve a permanent ban from their events.

On the positives, Friday was brilliant panels from start to finish. I started by heading to Brentalfloss’ Early Morning Q&A which was full of funny and interesting insights into the work of a man I hugely respect as an artist. Unfortunately one person in the panel asked a question about why Toad was used in the song “The Truth about Toad” when Yoshi would have been a more obvious choice in his opinion. Why Yoshi? Because “Yoshi’s been confirmed as Gay because he’s dating Birdo who’s a man”. Yeah, Trans Women are really Men and any man who dates a Trans woman is Gay? That was a bit unfortunate as you can’t really interrupt a panel to correct a person asking a question and being ignorant of Trans issues, so I just kind of sat through it and at the end of the panel went over to him and suggested he read up on trans issues before publicly sharing his thoughts on Trans Women being “Confirmed Male”. Brent’s Response was to suggest that “maybe Birdo had an operation”, which in many ways perpetuates this belief that someone isn’t their target gender unless they undergo surgery, which glosses over a much larger set of issues and is the reason so many people have such a rough time while transitioning.

Kyle Hebert’s Video Game VO panel was solid as ever, providing some good jumping off points for people interested in trying their first VO work. Possibly the most surprising panel of the morning was the Doug Walker, What’s So Funny panel. It’s was a much more serious discussion of humour than I had expected and was incredibly fascinating. It’s well worth a watch for anyone loking to improve the quality of their comedy writing.

Following that came the hugely anticipated Little Kuriboh Q&A panel. There was a little bit of drama as everyone who had watched the What’s So Funny panel was kicked out of the room and told to join the back of the enormous line to come back into the room for the Q&A. There were several people upset by this as they had come in first thing in the morning and sat through other panels to get a good seat, but I don’t hold that against the con. I apologised to the staff member for the hate they were getting as I know they were just doing their job, but it was unfortunate regardless as many people who had waited for the panel ended up sat uncomfortably on stairs on unable to get into the room. I’m not sure what could be done about that, as it’s tough to make things fair for both those who camp out for hours for the panel AND the people going to other panels in other rooms in the morning who want to turn up and get top see a panel.

After that I went over to the main stage and spent the afternoon enjoying Alcoholic Teapots of mysterious contents. I’m not usually one for getting drunk at cons, but I made Friday my exception as I was wearing a stupidly uncomfortable suit of armor (yeah, try and sexually harass me in that idiots) and after having had a rough start to the con I wanted to just let myself get a bit silly and have a laugh, just forgetting about the negatives earlier in the week. I attended the Abridgers Pub Quiz with my new group of friends from the weekend and had a lovely time. We were sat further back in the bar and couldn’t really hear the questions, but some lovely con staff came around periodically to read the questions to us which was super helpful and meant we could be comfortable and still take part.

Following that came the first Brentalfloss Live Show. I had an amazing time as 1) I was front and centre the whole time 2) Brent demanded I chug my teapot before his first song which got things off to a wonderful start 3) The first Madlib performed during the evening  was one I’d suggested on Twitter 4) I won a free signed CD for getting some Gaming Trivia correct and 5) During Dr Mario With Lyrics I got a high five from Brent and was told I had crabs. There were cameos from both the amazing DemonTomatoDave and KerriVeck too, which made the show an unforgettable experience. I went to Brent afterwards to let him know that his show had absolutely made my weekend. Despite the rocky start, that show completely brought me back into the fun loving Alcon spirit. Best Alcon Ever!!!!!!

The evening wasn’t even over yet. I went back over to the main stage in time to catch the FDP and Parle Late Night Panel, which I was relieved to find was much better than the same panel last year. For anyone unaware, last year at least one member of the Parle Cosplay Group on stage was very drunk. They kept asking and prompting the audience to ask questions designed to make both Jenna and Lucas uncomfortable. Lots of deeply personal questions, probing into their sex life ect. Thankfully this year everyone was sober and it turned into a really enjoyable panel. It was lovely to see the panel go well and a great end to a hugely positive day.

Saturday

Saturday got off to a much better start than earlier days of the convention. Going back to my comfortable and reliable backup Cosplay of Rainbow Dash, I got up early and went over to Megami 33’s Q&A which while not super busy, contained some really interesting questions and the debut of her new Abridged Series based on Tokyo Mew Mew. It got a great reception and I felt honored to get to see it early. While I understand not every guest can bring new material to every convention, but I absolutely love getting to watch new material and feel like I’m one of the only people who knows about it.

Following that came the annual tradition of the MasakoX Q&A/ Early Morning Smooth Jazz Experience. There was lots of talk about his fantastic Project Jikoku Webcomic, which I was really happy about as I feared people would forget about it in favour of focusing on his established TFS roles. It’s one of the Alcon panels I’m always sure to get to, just because it’s always a good way to relax and work off the previous night’s hangover.

Following that was another Amazing panel from Doug Walker about Movies Everyone Disagrees with you on. I must say, I was really impressed by the mix of amusing and educational material he and the TGWTG team brought to the convention. If they return future years, I’d highly recommend going along to experience what they have to share.

I then took an hour’s break from panels to prepare for my own panel on “How to Get Paid Reviewing Video Games and Anime”. I’m still pretty new to hosting panels so my preparation largely consisted on having a shot of dutch courage and reading my list of notes over and over for a while. The panel itself didn’t necessarily go as planned, but I think it went pretty well regardless. The material that at home had taken me an hour to talk through here only took half an hour, presumably because nervous speed rushed me through my points, but I managed to somehow turn my nerves and honesty into winning the audience over, made the last half hour a Q&A and got through it in one piece.  I still remember the whole panel, an improvement on my panel at Nine Worlds the month before, and after a celebratory drink I felt on top of the world.

Following that came one of the highlights of Alcon for me, the Abridgers Meal. As the top supporter of last years Abridgers to Alcon fund, me and two friends went along for a nice meal in the company of some of the guests I most admire. I got to talk through ideas for running next years fund with one of the guests who had some really insightful thoughts to contribute and even enjoyed singing songs from Book of Mormon with the lovely and wonderful Tim, man behind last years A2A fund.

Following this we headed back in time for the second Brentalfloss Live Show. While I was a little disappointed to learn that several tracks throughout the evening were ones repeated from the previous night, the show was still fantastic, and the Madlib was as hilarious as ever.

We ended the evening by heading to the Masquerade Ball, followed by the Alcon Rock and Roll Night. Both of these were great fun, even if the room got a little hot and sweaty by the early hours. Everyone was friendly and even someone like me who hates to dance was able to cut loose and just have some fun. Also, I learnt the Makerena can be done to absolutely any song, no matter what tempo.

During the evening a friend of mine was interviewed by a person attending Alcon as press about why she got into Cosplay. I’ll get back to this later in our coverage, because it turns out this interview would be the cause of considerable distress for that friend on Monday morning.

Sunday

And with that we’re onto the final day of the convention. First panel of the day was the Pokemon ‘Bridged Q&A, which completely off guard with not one, not two, but three new episodes of Pokemon ‘Bridged. The episodes were spin off episodes based on the Orange Island League and were made in such a way that they leave room for them to continue the main series any way they wish and it shouldn’t clash with that they did with these one shots. The episodes were brilliant and made it well worth attending the panel.

Following this was the most bizarre, off the wall and unexpectedly hilarious panel of the convention, FDP – How to run your Con on Schedule. Originally submitted as a joke panel, the hour was centered on Lucas AKA “Twinfools” getting into character as George Banks and interacting with a room of Cosplaying Anime Geeks as a very posh, slightly sexist, British gentleman from the turn of the 20th Century. Starting with an impromptu funeral for a deceased rubber frog and ending with an attempt to make a kite from whatever the audience had in their pockets and were willing to throw, the panel went surprisingly well and felt like something I couldn’t have had the same experience with by just waiting for it to show up on Youtube. You just had to be there in person.

Following that was the Yugioh 3D Riff with Xthedarkone and Little Kuriboh. Despite some audio level issues, freezing video then buffering video, the panel was a great laugh and an opportunity for the audience to have a laugh at the expense of a very cheap film.

From there I headed over to the Alcon charity Gala to watch and record Jocy’s second comedy set, a routine about the Monopoly Iron which got just as good a reception as her first set did earlier in the weekend. Other highlights of the gala included Sparkles from Area 11 performing a beautiful acoustic set alone on stage, joined briefly by Beckii Cruel for a Laid Back Lounge version of Shi No Barado and the hilarious charity Auction which saw the Knighting of a new King Duck (one person single handedly donated over £700 to charity at the event as was honoured considerably by both guests and audience alike).

After that I took a few hours break to get some proper food, have some water and have a nice sleep in preparation for a nice late final night at the convention.

We went back in time for the Closing Ceremony, which was unfortunately a bit of a let down compared to previous years as a good chunk of the guests were having a meal and missed the event. Instead of the usual star studded fairwell, the guests that did show up were sent away and Attack on Titan Episode 1 was shown. It’s a bit of a shame the closing ceremony didn’t have the same sense of closure to it as last year’s, but it couldn’t really be helped.

Following this was the final panel of the event, the Abridgers Late Night Panel. While the panel itself was fantastic, there were some issues with it. Having spoken to some of the Abridgers after the panel, it seems the idea had been for this panel to be alcohol free. That was not the case. An audience member gave the guests a large amount of 80% alcohol which, as they couldn’t take home, many decided to rush through on stage. The result was a panel that, while at times hilarious, was also somewhat awkward to watch. You could see certain people on stage who didn’t want to get drunk being peer pressured into it, there was “baby birding” and people wretching and some of the panelists just looked like they’d rather not be there. There’s a time and a place for getting that drunk, and it’s possibly not when half of the people on stage don’t want to drink.

I unfortunately missed part of the panel as I suffered a really weirdly symptomed panic attack, but both the Alcon staff and the Abridgers were super helpful. I started off having rapid, shallow breathing, then my body filled with the sensation of pins and needles, then my muscles all became extremely tense which was something I’ve never experienced before. I freaked out considerabloy about my locked muscles, which made the panic attack much worse than it would usually have been and I ended up needed help leaving the area. The Alcon staff were super helpful and even found somewhere I could sit to finish watching the panel without being so crowded by people. Both Xthedarkone and Little Kuriboh came out to check how I was doing and I eventually came back to enjoy what was left of the panel. I unfortunately had to keep correcting repetitive misgendering while this was happening, but that’s the life I live.

The night ended with me and some friends heading to the dance floor and partying the last night away. A personal highlight was my duet dance with a new friend in the centre of a huge circle to “Star Trekkin'”. From there we headed out to the infamous Alcon Slide and had a great time meeting new people, catching up with old friends from BanzaiCon in Norway and getting to spend some time with Jenna and Lucas which doesn’t happen often enough with us living in different continents.

Monday

Somewhat unfortunately Alcon didn’t finish on Sunday Night’s positive note, but instead ended with my friend discovering the video interview she had done on Saturday Night was on Youtube. The problem was the the video was a zoom in on her breasts. No audible speech, just a zoom in so that her breasts filled the screen for several minutes. Luckily it wasn’t hard to find the names of the uploader, interviewer and man behind the camera in the video description, so we reported them to Alcon. The video was later taken down and a stern warning given to the involved parties. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it just put a big black cloud over our journey home and our last thoughts of Alcon.

Wrap Up.

Alcon this year was an odd mix of some of the most amazing experiences of my life, combined with some pretty horrid experiences. To their credit, the Staff of Alcon were super quick to act on matters of Sexual Harassment and seemed to genuinely regrett that they had occoured, but it doesn’t change the fact this is the first convention I’ve had this much of a problem at. I would suggest that while they were very good at reacting to things that go wrong, possibly a stronger message of Cosplay not equalling Consent needed to be put out during the convention rules section of the opening ceremony, just to make sure the tone from the start was that these things are not acceptable.

In terms of content, the convention had so much happening that I was having a tough time deciding what to do at any given time, which is a wonderful problem to have. While some of the panels seem to be out growing their respective room sizes a little, the convention was largely amazing. I still stand by my feelings from last years that just getting people drunk doesn’t always make for a great late night panel, but I still feel this was the shows strongest year yet, it just has some issues to work out for the future.

Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Hi, Gareth here. I was the guy in the checked shirt that met you and Tim on the Sunday – was very nice to meet you even if it was only for a few minutes.

    I have to agree with you on many points. On some certain choices, such as the opening ceremony, while I don’t have the perspective of someone who would feel awkward or worse at the content I do find it unnecessary from the perspective of being “tired” and “played out” and certainly giving the wrong idea on what the con should be like.

    Other large-scale problems that do need addressing are a expansion – with over 1300 attendees the con is much too small. If I recall right Talks Room 1 is supposed to have a limit of 150 people, and – while not trying to assume for all attendees – a large fraction of the attendees were there for the big guests and panels such as the Abridgers Q&A, The TGWTG Q&A, Kyle Hebert’s panels, and all of the Late Night panels.

    Certainly at Sunday’s Late Night panel a friend of mine missed out on most of the panel because of an infection/injury caused by standing for hours on end. When complained about to the staff, the given response was that “we should have alerted the staff to her disability to get seating”, which was impossible in the crowds surrounding the stage. Even after I had asked other congoers to spare a seat – which I am very thankful for that they could help with – the injury was still there, leading to her and another friend having to wait for 90 minutes for a paramedic (which is of course out of the con’s hands, and I would also like to thank the staff of the campus itself for helping there).

    I have read and seen some other problems that occured, such as the concern over the 80% alcohols at the Late Night panel. If anything, I can only advise the guests and staff monitoring the panel to monitor what is given and potentially reject anything that could cause issue, if needing to restricting what was drunk to stuff from the bar only. The other issues would have to be discussed by the guests and the con themselves.

    Overall, I do agree with you on the general strength of Alcon this year, but I do think that the con committee needs to seriously think about which way they want to take the con in the next few years, otherwise I think that it is likely it will saturate too quickly or be refused by De Montford’s administration to continue to run. Certainly what needs to be focused on is the con’s policies on harassment, the capacity situation, and what position it wishes to take on the issues you raised above.

    (And on a personal note I’d like to say it was again very nice to meet you however briefly and to wish you good luck on the upcoming A2A fund campaign.)

  2. Brilliant article, Laura but also incredibly heartbreakingly sad to think that there’s still so much of this shit being perpetuated.

    You know, I really don’t have the words to express my genuine disappointment that people think it’s okay to ask in such a way and that there are so many chances given to them by others to excuse behaviour which is quite frankly not okay.

    I’m really glad that things picked up for you and serious kudos for actually addressing this issue.

    Again, points out of ten for such a great article.

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