My first con
[Note from the webmaster: The “Agony Booth panel” discussed in this article is not an officially sanctioned Agony Booth event. The Agony Booth does not produce or present any live events at conventions. The content of the panel described below is solely the work of the presenter(s) and was done without the participation of this website.]
So, in the UK, there’s this event called Alcon that happens every September, and now that I’ve joined the Agony Booth, I thought I’d take a jaunt down to England (from Scotland) to lose my convention virginity, since I’d never actually been to a con before, and maybe meet one of my Boother colleagues. And also because, well, I’m a lifelong shy and socially awkward loner and introvert who generally sucks at socializing and social events in general. I forced myself to go knowing that I might regret going, but I’d regret not going, too, and the latter was preferable to the former.
Also, I should note that I didn’t actually take any pictures while I was there, because that would have required that I possess common sense or something, so instead I have pillaged the Internetz for whatever fit best.
In the weeks leading up to Alcon, the Boother colleague in question, a certain Dorky Dane, mentioned that she had been asked to host an Agony Booth Q&A panel, and she’d probably be hosting it herself since, well, she was the only Agony Booth guest who’d be at the con, though she didn’t expect that many people. And I thought to myself, “Hey, I’m with the Agony Booth, and I’ll be at the con. Could I ask her if I could join?” And I did, and she said, “Well, alright,” and I got super-excited that I’d be co-hosting my first panel at my first-ever con! Yay, me!
So, for the event, I got booked up, spent a fortune on train fare (I’ve since learned I probably could have gotten it cheaper; I’m not good with money), and took the 6 or 7 hour ride down to Leicester, swapping trains about four times, and walked half a mile to De Montfort University. I saw a bunch of cosplayers, and also a small army of pigeons sitting on a bridge, and they all flew off just as I approached, which would have been a damn epic, John Woo-esque entrance, if anybody saw it.
I then got a bit lost looking for the registration (and in my infinite wisdom, didn’t bother asking for directions), started to develop blisters on my feet that would only get worse as the days went on, and finally, sweating like a pig, wandered into Bede Hall to collect my goodie bag, badge, and keys (random info: Diamanda Hagan and Omega Geek happened to be there at the same time).
I went to my room in Liberty Park just down the road (passing one Little Kuriboh. And inside, I’m patting myself on the back for being totally cool about this. You know, no “OHMYGOD IT’S LITTLE-HAGAN-GEEK I’M SO NOT WORTHY!”, not even to myself), got to my room, and if I remember correctly, just collapsed on my bed.
Anyway, like I said, I’m a shy introverted loner, so I spent the rest of that day by myself, though to be fair, not a lot had started yet. I actually just wandered into town to get something to eat (McDonalds, if you were wondering) and roam around the place, then went back to my room, surfing the web and reading for a bit. So… yeah, that was my first day of Alcon: trains, walking, eating, bed. But hey, I saw some (internet) celebrities!
Day 2 was… actually more of the same, just wandering around some more. Actually, I woke up at the ungodly hour of 6-ish, and the con wouldn’t really start until about 10, so after waiting for a bit and failing to fall back to sleep, I got up and wandered into town again, explored it a little more, made my blisters worse still (my blisters are part of my memories, okay?), got lost (more or less on purpose), found out where I was again, limped back to the university and got myself some breakfast, and started wandering around the now-just-opening con…. for about 30 minutes or so, before going back to my room for rest.
And then I… went into town again, since I still felt a bit self-conscious in the con and nothing seemed to be happening just yet (or I wasn’t looking properly; that was possible). I went to Leicester Cathedral and saw the tomb of King Richard III (who’d just recently been found and dug up earlier in the year, and well, when you’re a history buff in Leicester…), and with that done, I went back to the con, and this time I stayed… in the general area, at least, going back and forth between the con and my room, still feeling sort of self-conscious and nervous, not really knowing anyone, and scared over silly, irrational things like “what if I go somewhere I’m not supposed to?”, and just generally hung around. I also saw a zombie hunt and pointed a couple of people who were searching in the wrong place in the right direction, because fuck zombies. Dead people should stay dead!
And okay, so now stuff Actually Happens, and I went to a panel about filming and editing for YouTube hosted by Parlé Productions, whom I’d never heard of before, but were very, very enjoyable (and thank you, DracoAries147 of AnimeLeague.net for helping me find their channel). They were cosplaying as Movie Professor X (James McAvoy version) and Mystique, and in the audience were their colleagues as anti-mutant protesters. I didn’t actually learn much that I didn’t know already (more because I’ve already researched this stuff for myself; the panel itself was still very informative), but it gave me confidence for the panel later on, plus the pair hosting the panel were just hilarious.
With that done, I wandered around the exhibitors’ hall, through the gaming rooms, etc., and with just 45 minutes to go to the panel, I finally saw my co-host, who I introduced myself to by getting my staff picture up on my phone, tapping her on the shoulder, and showing it to her just to make sure she knew who I am, though had I realized she was playing Diamanda Hagan and Omega Geek on the Nintendo (thought she was just watching them; sorry!), I might have waited a bit.
A few minutes and one quick bathroom break later, Sofie and I went upstairs to wait for the lecture hall to be ready for the panel, where I was formally introduced to Diamanda, Omega, and Film Brain, who it turned out would be in the audience. Sofie said she was surprised that she was asked to host this panel because she didn’t think the Agony Booth was that popular or well-known… and it turns out she was right, because we only had 7 or 8 people in attendance, and three were from Channel Awesome, and the other four consisted of an Alcon staff member (whose name I sadly didn’t learn, but she was very nice), and three or four others who admitted they had never actually heard of the Agony Booth (should we all have some kind of crisis meeting over this? Are we bigger in America?), and only one of whom really asked any questions (a very nice cosplayer named Laura, if I remember correctly).
Even so, it was actually pretty fun, and we got to talk about our articles and videos, argue about Space Jam, The Hobbit, and The Matrix, talk Doctor Who, and basically just had a good time making jokes and talking movies and stuff. And even though it was a small audience, if half of them are internet personalities you’re a fan of (and you’re co-hosting with one of them) and you get to actually argue film with them, I’m not exactly going to complain. First panel ever, first con ever, and I thought it turned out pretty good.
Next up was the Abridged Q & A, and the privilege of hosting the previous panel and having a VIP pass means that I (and the aforementioned Laura) got to sneak in the front row before anyone else, which was good, because this panel was packed, and was on for two hours (which I didn’t realize at the time). People were turned away because it was so stuffed (others were let in later in spite of that; sorry, people who were turned away earlier!) and I got to be entertained by an energetic audience and a great panel of voice actors (MasakoX sat in the chair I just sat in! He sat in my chair!). Also, we got to see the debuts of “Final Fantasy VII Abridged”, and “Attack on Titan Abridged”, and both were hilarious.
And finally (and by now I’ve been glued to one seat or another for a good two hours or so), Obscure Cinema with Diamanda Hagan, where we all learned about, and saw trailers that proved the existence of, such movies as Mystics in Bali (‘80s Indonesian film about disembodied limbs and lesbian witches… I think), Cockhammer (“evil is uncircumcised”—very explicit violence and nudity), and of course, Repligator, a low budget movie about perverted military experiments that for no reason at all turn male soldiers into porn star female soldiers, then into killer alligator people whose bite turns people into gay zombies (that is, they are camp, and they only attack people of the same sex). The panel ran a bit late, so we didn’t get to see the whole thing, but it was definitely… pretty much what you would expect from a Diamanda Hagan panel, honestly. It was a lot of fun. Weird, strange, perverted fun.
After that, between walking for hours and sitting for hours and my feet getting slightly more blistery, I went back to my room, exhausted, sore, and having eaten nothing since breakfast, but a good afternoon overall. My first Alcon was starting to go pretty well.
And then, day 3, where I was starting to find my bearings, starting to feel comfortable and roughly know where I was, and I woke up at a more reasonable hour this time. Went to town, got a nice big “stuff-myself-rotten” breakfast, then went back to chill out and play some games. Found myself playing Super Mario Kart for the GameCube (God, I hadn’t played that in years) and was later joined by somebody else whose ass I profoundly kicked because I am the Mario Kart master (though, they admitted they hadn’t played it in ages, and I was playing as the Toadstools, and they’re broken as anything, so…)
Next up was Sofie’s Cosplaying in Europe panel, and she showed us videos of a Mulan cosplayer that nearly made me cry (I’m not exaggerating—I literally had a tear in my eye) and a guy Elsa cosplayer who made us all laugh and cheer. All in all it was a fun, interesting, and well put-together panel.
And then we went down to the games room, where I challenged Sofie and Diamanda to Super Mario Kart and I kicked their asses too! You guys suck! I am the master! I rock! …Ahem. And one or two other games, then I wandered around for a bit before going outside to play on my phone.
That’s when Sofie, Diamanda, and Omega passed by, and Diamanda said, “See you at the panel later!” (the Channel Awesome panel in the evening), and then I stepped back and… promptly fell backwards into the bushes behind me. Diamanda and Omega came over to rescue me, which took about three or four tries, with me dropping my phone once or twice and laughing the whole time. So, to Diamanda and Omega Geek… thank you for saving me!
So, that done, and now suffering from more blistering pain, I went back to my room to read for a bit (and had to double-back because I’d also dropped my timetable), then wandered around some more, did stuff, and then went early to the Channel Awesome panel, which featured comedy, anecdotes, cartoon animal sex, and some giant… thing that showed up in the last 15 minutes (it was a staff member cosplaying as… I don’t know what the hell it was, but it was sort of like a cross between a long-necked bird and the Slender Man).
And some time afterwards, Diamanda asks, “Hey, Scottish Agony Booth guy! Want to get some food?” And I say, “Yes, food! Food is good.” (My exact words.) Then I asked her if “Scottish Agony Booth guy” was what she thought my name was, and she said that she sometimes forgets everybody’s real names, including her wife’s. I told her I wasn’t sure what her real name was, and that the Internet seemed unclear on that point, and she said she liked it that way.
So, that was us: myself, Sofie, Diamanda Hagan, Omega Geek, and Leicester resident Two Mile Tower (who made the intro for Film Brain’s Projector show, amongst other things) marching through Leicester on the hunt for food, me not quite sure how I ended up with these strange people or where they were taking me, Two Mile Tower leading the way and promising us that there was a South African place in the city center …which turned out to be closed. So he said there was another place he could take us, and so we went on another journey through the dark city night, hoping that this time we would find food. I quietly suggested to Sofie and Omega that we eat the tall ones if we got lost and began to starve.
…and again, this one was closed, so we just went into the first place we saw, a small place called Grizzlers. I had a chicken platter. It wasn’t bad, but a bit too much lemon juice on it for my taste. But we all enjoyed ourselves.
After that, we marched our way back to the city center, past Leicester Cathedral. Hugs, handshakes, and goodbyes were given, and I limped my way back to my bed.
By now, the place was winding down, many people had gone home, and my feet were at their most blistered, so I spent most of this day in my room, leaving only to scavenge for food and see a voice acting contest hosted by Little Kuriboh (it was humorous). I spent most of my time just reading (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N K Jemisin; I’d give it four out of five stars; it’s imaginative, but I wasn’t a fan of the ending and the romance was a bit Twilight–ish at times, to be honest).
Also, it got a bit noisy at night, even though it was meant to be the “quiet” residence, and I’m a cringey old fart who likes to get his beauty sleep, God damn it! Ah, well; Travelodge or Holiday Inn next time, anyway.
And you know what? I do want to go back next time. I had fun, I enjoyed myself, and I met some interesting people. I may not have so much “come out of my shell” as stuck my neck out a bit every now and then, but I’m glad I went, even if I didn’t have a clue what I was doing half the time.
So, yeah, Alcon. Roll on next time!