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I usually vend at two to three conventions each month. Science fiction, horror, comic cons, library cons, literary cons–I love all of them. In January, I vended at two sci-fi conventions: IllogiCon in Raleigh, NC and MarsCon in Williamsburg, VA.
IllogiCon is in its eighth year and was held January 11-13 at the Embassy Suites Raleigh Durham/Brier Creek and the Hampton Inn next door. Gaming and author readings were held at the Hampton and the rest of the programming was at the Embassy Suites. This year’s theme was Pirates vs Robots. It’s a small convention, with approximately 350 attendees and a strong literary emphasis. There were authors everywhere–it was fabulous!
The dealer room is medium-sized, and the dealer room coordinator is awesome (that’s my booth in the center of the photo–prime real estate!) Merchandise included books, jewelry, stickers, art, steampunk gear, laser-engraved chopsticks, wands, adorable clay creations, and more.
Guests of Honor included authors Annalee Newitz and Tracy Deonn Walker, and musical artists Valentine Wolfe (AMAZING, by the way…)
Other entertainment included Metricula and the League of Extraordinary Belly Dancers (both pictured above), a costume contest, burlesque show, and more.
There was even a marriage proposal between two of the longtime convention staffers (and really wonderful people! Congrats Avery and Alex!)
Panels included lots of writing and publishing discussions, readings, LGBTQIA in fandom panels (this year, the badges had a space for you to fill in your preferred pronouns, which I thought was kind of cool–hadn’t seen that before), talks about Star Trek, various films, gaming, comics, disabilities in fandom, and so much more! There is also a charity auction, a con suite that provides snacks for the attendees, a dedicated gaming room, and of course the vendor room.
This is a great convention to kick off the year. It’s small and laid back and has a family feel to it (not just family friendly, but as if everyone is family). If you don’t have friends in attendance already, you’ll make new ones over the course of the weekend. Everyone I encountered was super nice! This was my second year vending at IllogiCon, but I hadn’t been able to vend the two previous years since it was the same weekend as MarsCon. They’re not supposed to overlap again for a number of years, so I’ll definitely be back!
MarsCon is in its 29th year and was held at the Doubletree Resort in Williamsburg January 18-20. This year’s theme was The Land of the Faerie and the decorating team did an amazing job of transforming spaces into fairyland! MarsCon had approximately 1450 attendees this year and while it has a sci-fi/fantasy focus, tons of fandoms are represented.
There is a huge dealer room and a smaller artist/author alley, as well as a large art room where works up for auction were displayed. There were books, games and supplies, elf ears, steampunk gear, crocheted goods, wands, potions, etched glass, pillows, adorable clay dragons, purses and totes, leather goods, corsets, art, jewelry, apparel, and so much more. MarsCon has a really well-rounded room that offers something for everyone, at a variety of price points.
Guests of honor this year included authors Seanan McGuire and Catherynne Valente, artist Meredith Dillman, game designer and editor Carinn Seabolt, and Musical artists Valentine Wolfe. Yes–there is some crossover in guests at these two conventions, so if you miss them at one convention, you have a chance to see them at the other!
Other entertainers included Mikey Mason (who is freaking hilarious–do yourself a favor and check him out!), Metricula, The Misbehavin’ Maidens, a burlesque show, filking, Flabbergast the Wizard, Luna-C and their own brand of geek humor theatre, White Plectrum, the Blibbering Humdingers, and more.
There was also a costume contest, a charity auction, a con suite that feeds three meals a day plus snacks to the attendees, children’s programming, a craft corner, water quidditch, mermaid swimming lessons, steampunk teapot racing, a jamboree with carnival games, music, etc, Nerf gun wars, a dedicated gaming room, video game room, anime room, and SO MUCH MORE. Dozens of panels on every topic you can think of, discussions with the guests of honor, readings, workshops, a vaudeville show, trivia challenges, a Doctor Who Tea Party—there is seriously no possible way to be bored at this convention! This was my fifth year vending at MarsCon, and I think I’ve been on the staff for three years? I just started helping with stuff and ended up on staff! It’s definitely one of my favorite conventions of the year!
Please check out the websites and Facebook pages for both conventions–you need to start planning your cosplay for next year! https://www.illogicon.org and https:// www.marscon.net Dates for 2020 should be January 10-12 for IllogiCon and will be January 17-19 for MarsCon.
Psst..that’s me waving in the background. Travis said “Hey Jen–wave!”
Photo credits: IllogiCon staff, James Rippe at Ripptowne Photography, and Steven Lee Munger.