Should Comic Cons pay their volunteers?

29 MARCH 2015

The Mary Sue has a provocative article up on whether Cons are legally obligated to pay their volunteers. If you've been to a Con, you know that volunteers are everywhere in their matching shirts and that they can save your Comic-Con life by directing you to the right room at the right time. Volunteers are there because they want to be, and so their attitudes are generally positive and enthusiastic - making them a nice change from surly security guards who are sick of being asked where the Legends of Korra panel is.

Usually they're compensated with a free badge of some type - however, this doesn't exempt Cons from paying them, nor does it serve as non-monetary payment. If anything, that can constitute legal evidence that volunteer labor is worthy of compensation in the form of minimum wage, overtime or more.

It's not entirely surprising that this could be an issue. Comic Cons have ballooned from podunk, grassroots events organized by nerds with more passion than business experience to mammoth, glittering superconventions that demand business expertise. And as we SDCC attendees know all too well, in many cases the business expertise doesn't always keep pace with the demand.

That said, I don't think the companies behind Cons have nefarious intentions - we all know that volunteers are eager to help and usually consider the badge they get in return adequate compensation. (I haven't heard any horror stories of volunteers being abused or overworked - if you have, let me know.)  So hopefully this doesn't become yet another ordeal for event companies to deal with.

The final day of Emerald City

29 MARCH 2015

It's the last day of ECCC and I have that ready-to-go-home feeling. How about you?

Today has lighter fare on the programming menu, but there's still quite a bit to do.

Creatives got offered a cornucopia of panels on Friday and Saturday; today doesn't have quite as many but the following still look good:
Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations starts off the day in Hall B at 10:30.
Hire Me! From Comics Fan to Comics Professional is in Hall D at 12:30PM.
What Makes Fantasy EpicHall B at 1:30PM: this is on how authors create complex and engaging worlds. 
Tabletop Game Prototyping Workshop is in Hall J at 2:00PM. You're encouraged to bring your prototypes to this.
Bad Ass Business Lady is in Hall G at 2:10PM.

Cosplay is going strong today:

Cosplay Q and A is in Hall J at 12:00PM.
Prop & Mask Making 101 is in Hall I at 12:50PM.
Working with Worbla is in Hall I at 3:50PM.

Obviously comic book panels have dominated the programming thus far and that continues today.

#Graphix10: Past, Present, Future is in Hall E at 10:50AM.
I Say A Little Prayer: Hearbreakers Gillen and McKelvie is in Hall A at 11:00AM.
Q&A with Michael A. Stackpole is in Hall B at 11:30AM.
Marvel Animation Presents is in Hall C at 12:00PM.
Science Fact In Comics is in Hall F at 12:30PM. 
Redesigning Heroes for the Modern World will be in Hall A at 1:00PM.
IDW Presents: The New Class of Licensed Comics is in Hall C at 1:00PM.
The Complete Graphic Novel: From Idea to Market is in Hall G at 1:10PM.
10 Years of Mouse Guard will be celebrated in Hall D at 1:30PM.
Marvel: Next Big Thing is in Hall C at 2:00PM.
Image Comics Presents: Something For Everybody. Hall D at 2:30PM.
DC Entertainment Master Class: Art History. Hall C at 3:00PM.
By Design: Fantagraphics Books in Hall C at 4:00PM.

Then we have a whole random offering of panels that hit on practically every subject.

Geek and Gamer Fitness is in Hall I at 10:50. 
They're Coming to Get You, Barbra: The Appeal of Horror in Hall A at 12:00PM.
Transmedia Storytelling in Hall B at 12:30PM.
Reinventing Iconic Monsters is in Hall B at 2:30PM.
The Future of Fandom Conventions in Hall F at 2:30PM.
Exploring the Human Condition with Robots and Monsters in Hall E at 2:50PM.
Women in the Gaming Industry in Hall I at 2:50PM.
Discussing Diversity and Representation in Fantasy and Sci-fi Comics is in Hall E at 3:50PM.

It might be Sunday, but we have an exciting day in the Main Hall.

First The Doctor in Hall D at 10:30AM will feature a participatory and unscripted time traveling comedy. Then we have...

11: Stan Lee
12: Curtis Armstrong: The Scribe of God
1: Scott Wilson
2: Firefly with Gina Torres and Jewel Staite
3: John Barrowman

4: Anthony Mackie

It's your last day: make it count.

Is Emerald City for you?

28 MARCH 2015

We have 1 more day of ECCC left. Here are my thoughts on why this Con works brilliantly for so many people, and why it won't work for others.

It has some of that weird and wonderful randomness SDCC lost years ago. I was texting pictures of various curios to a friend who used to be my SDCC partner in crime: a sticker set of sloth faces, a fake kitten skull, picto-charms of George Sand and Ursula Le Guin, a photo comic book called "Cats You Never Learned About In History Class."  Her assessment: I remember when San Diego had rows of that kind of stuff. Small offbeat vendors have mostly been priced out of SDCC now and while a lot of the newer attendees may not miss that stuff, I do.

It has some of the best names in comic books. I talked to the very talented James Tynion IV (who's selling early copies of his new UFOlogy title, and it's awesome) about ECCC and he was pretty open about how much he loved it and how he'll never miss an appearance here; he said that Emerald City has the best collection of comic book talent and that there's no better convention for comic fans.

The cosplay is indier. A lot of conventions, you see two dozen Poison Ivys and Catwomans and Batmans walking around, with a few Daeneryses and Doctors sprinkled in. Here? Characters from Wicked + Divine and Saga and Sex Criminals wander around the halls.

It's more progressive and more sex-positive. Somehow I can't imagine Salt Lake Comic Con or SDCC holding the panel on geeks and kink I went to. In general, there's plenty of 18+ content which I think a lot of people appreciate. And not only does the programming reflect a commitment to diversity, you see that same diversity in the attendees. This truly feels like a Con where everyone is welcome - regardless of age, race, gender identity, sexual orientation and background.

The barrier between fan and creator is lowered, when not dissolved entirely, and there's a more informal environment that fosters real connections and even career advice. At several panels I went to, people lined up and asked some variation on, "How can I make my career happen?" And they got sound advice from accomplished professionals.

The focus on comic books benefits not just attendees, but vendors as well. Dan Parent - who said he prefers ECCC over SDCC's "rigidity and red tape" - said he does better financially at Emerald City than at San Diego. That's telling.

Now onto who shouldn't be at ECCC. The easy answer here is any attendee who craves upcoming season trailers and the cast of their favorite show sitting on a Hall H stage. Yes, you will get some starpower in the Main Hall but it probably won't be enough to satisfy those hardcore superfans who live and die over their Hall H hours. As hard as I'm thumping the Emerald City drum, I will say that Hollywood-focused attendees probably won't be fulfilled here.

To be fair, I met a few locals who don't think I or anyone else who took a plane to Seattle should be here either. They want their local Con to stay local. I can understand that sentiment, I really can. But that horse left the barn a while ago - and the barn was demolished completely the day ReedPOP bought ECCC.

And I have met 2 other people who washed out in the SDCC badge sale and are now doubly glad they're here. They understand what I keep trying to convey: I promote ECCC not as a consolation prize for people who can't get into San Diego Comic-Con, but as a fun convention that is special and worthy in its own right. It offers things you cannot get at SDCC. And with ReedPOP in the mix, it's just going to become more of a draw. I respect Jim Demonakos (ECCC head honcho) and I believe he'll preserve the special flair that defines Emerald City - so despite my initial misgivings, I'm looking forward to seeing how this partnership plays out next year.

And that brings Saturday to a close. Having failed to pace myself, I'm currently a sleep-deprived zombie who's staying in tonight. Hopefully the rest of you are out having fun and ready for a great final day at ECCC.

Saturday night at Emerald City

28 MARCH 2015

What's going on tonight for the nerds of Seattle? Quite a lot, actually.

Drinks With Authors - You had to RSVP to this and I don't know if they're accepting stragglers. It's from 8-11 pm at The Pike Brewing Company.

Insert Coin - This is a regular LGBTQ party at the Eagle but it will have cosplay and gaming and general nerdiness for ECCC.

The She Makes Comics Documentary is in Hall C at 6:00.

The Critical Hit Show: a Live RPG Comedy Experience is at 6: 30 in Hall D.

The ECCC Cinema Series is showing Scott Pilgrim vs The World. Remember that Brandon Routh canceled; not sure if someone else will present.

The Real Nerds of Comedy is in Hall F at 6:30. 16+.

The ECCC Costume Contest - 8:00 in the Main Hall.

The Charity Art Auction is at 7 in Hall B.

The Steampunk Murder Mystery is at 7 in Hall I.

Of Dice and Men screens at 7:10 with a Q&A in Hall G.

The Beer Geek Girls Happy Hour - At the beer garden from 5-8 pm. No badge required.

The Comixology Hire Me Party - 8-11 under the escalators on the first floor.

I also know of an all-girl attendee party but I'm not sure if it's public or invite-only. If it's open, I'll post details because it's going to be a good time.

There's something for everyone - so don't say you don't have anything to do. Have fun and play safe.

If you need a room, plead your case now

28 MARCH 2015

Two days ago, people found out where they landed in the hotel sale. Some have since made their deposits, some have since bemoaned their fate, and some are horse trading like mad online.

If you didn't get a room, you might be feeling depressed and think there's no point in reaching out. You're wrong. Some people are still looking for needy attendees to transfer their rooms to and people in general are trading tips on which hotels have (expensive) rooms available. I urge you to be proactive and find what you can ASAP - don't wait. One place that is really on the ball with this is the Friends of CCI site.

I know I haven't been much help in this whole mess because I've been so immersed in Emerald City. I wish I could do more. Good luck.

Day 2 of Emerald City Comicon

28 MARCH 2015

Happy Saturday, everyone. What do we have on deck today?

Today’s creative panels are practical and varied. People in comics or the visual arts have a whole buffet to choose from:
Building a Career in Comics: The First Stretch - Hall G at 11:10AM 
Advanced Digital Inking with Brian Haberlin in Hall D at 11:30AM 
Cover Artist Confidential in Hall A at 12:00PM 
The Role of the Artist on the Electronic Frontier in Hall F at 12:30PM 
ComiXology Submit: The Future of Self-Publishing - Hall E at 2:50PM 
Draw Your Imagination in Hall F at 4:30PM
In Brief: Writing Short Comics - Hall G at 6:10PM

And creatives of all stripes can enjoy:

Trapped in an Elevator: How to Pitch Your Idea. Hall B at 10:30AM 
How to Be a Nerd for a Living: Your Career in Nerd Culture in Hall E at 11:50AM.
Finding the Story in Hall B at 1:30, followed by Beyond the Children's Section at 2:30
Defense Against the Dark ARCs: Dealing with Trolls, Controversy and Criticism in Hall B at 3:30PM.
Gigs and Careers in Fandom and Geek Culture in Hall E at 4:50PM.
How to be a Negotiation Ninja! In Hall G at 5:10PM.

Cosplayers have 
Building Your Next Epic Cosplay Costume! Part 1 in Hall I at 10:50AM; 

Cos Fit in Hall J at 1:00PM;  Body Confidence and Positivity in Cosplay in Hall J at 2:00PM; 
Building your Next Epic Cosplay Costume! Part 2 is in Hall I at 2:50PM.

Today also brings a lot of panels on culture and diversity and some that defy categorization:

How Can You Help Diversity in Gaming? is in Hall J at 12:00PM.
Nerd Rock Jamfest in Hall G at 12:10PM will have three bands from the growing Nerd Rock movement.
Creating Welcoming and Inclusive Gaming Spaces is in Hall I at 12:50PM.
Convention Horror Stories in Hall E at 1:50PM promises to be “ridiculous, embarrassing, always entertaining.”  18+
Gothic Charm School: In Real Life! is in Hall I at 1:50PM.
God is Disappointed in You (The Sequel) is in Hall C at 2:00PM for “an hour of unforgettable irreverence, including Q&A, audience sketches, and the hilarious-yet-accurate "ten-minute Bible."
It's a (Straight White Cisgendered) Man's World is in Hall I at 3:50PM.
Incredible Girl Presents: Geeks and Kink in Hall D at 5:30PM. 18+
The Realm of You: How media has positively affected the LGBTQIA community.  Hall E at 6:50PM. 

Comics, books and collectibles have even more offerings than yesterday. Such as:

Fight Club 2 in Hall D at 10:30AM with Chuck Palahniuk, Dave and Cameron Stewart and other Dark Horses. 
Image Comics Presents: Your New Favorite Comics is in Hall C at 11:00AM.  Frank Barbiere (Five Ghosts), Matt Fraction (Sex Criminals), Kieron Gillen (The Wicked + The Divine), Brandon Graham (Prophet), and Kurtis J. Wiebe (Rat Queens). Crowded? Oh, yes.
Star Wars Action Figures is in Hall F at 11:30AM. 
Celebrating Will Eisner's The Spirit at 75 is in Hall D at 12:30PM.
DC Entertainment All Access: Weeklies Coverage is in Hall C at 1:00.
Push Diversity Forward: The Continuing Rise of Webcomics. Hall D at 2:30PM.
Marvel: From Black Vortex to Secret Wars is in Hall C at 3:00PM. 
Rat Queens Social Club in Hall D at 3:30PM witer Kurtis J. Wiebe.
Comics in the Real World: The Non-Fiction Revolution! In Hall F at 3:30.
Reinventing Horror in Hall E at 3:50PM.
Behind the Scenes with Titmouse Animation in Hall C at 4:00PM.
DC Comics: Champions of Justice is in Hall D at 4:30PM.
Oni Press Launch Panel in Hall C at 5:00PM.
The Valiant Comics: 25th Anniversary Celebration will be in Hall C at 6:00.
The Mignolaverse: Hellboy and Beyond in Hall C at 7:00PM.

For Hollywood we have:

Two fan discussions: Teen Wolf in Hall E at 10:50AM and Red Dwarf in Hall J at 3:00PM.
The Voices of the Avatar in Hall A at 11:00AM has Janet Varney, Dante Basco, and Steve Blum.
Veronica Taylor is in Hall A at 3:00PM, followed by Finn Jones at 4 and then Janet Varney at 5.

Remember that your ECCC guide went to print before some changes for the Main Hall today - we have:

11:  Anthony Daniels: The Golden Droid
12:  Amanda Tapping
1: Alex Kingston
2: Gina Torres
3: Patrick warburton
4: Marina Sirtis
5: Clark Gregg
6: Orlando Jones

There's a lot going on tonight - so stay tuned.

CCI finally issues statement on hotel sale

28 MARCH 2015

Finally, CCI has come out with a statement. They issued it to the SDCC Unofficial Blog (I'm having trouble linking to anything this weekend, if you couldn't tell) and it's pretty much a non-statement of bland unhelpfulness and misdirection, but at least they finally acknowledged what happened to their attendees.

Well, kind of. It doesn't actually say what happened or how many people it impacted. It's more like a defensive "hey, we did our part." Here, read it yourself:

"We're obviously disappointed the sale didn't run as smoothly as we would have liked. Our attendees are very important to us and we have worked to secure more room blocks and reduced rates at area hotels. We continue to strive to provide the best means of accommodations for the growing number of people looking for lodging during the show. In fact, one of our major sticking points in remaining in San Diego are hotel rates. This incident has cast a shadow on our efforts but we are working with Travel Planners to ensure this situation doesn't happen again."

Let's break that down.

They're disappointed, okay.  "Horrified" would be my word but I know CCI is all about the understatement.

They've worked to secure more room blocks and reduced rates - if so, why are so many people homeless? Who's in those additional rooms?

Ah, but we have our answer - "the growing number of people looking for lodging during the show." WHO? Why would there be a growing number? The number of attendees is staying the same. Cap what vendors get and make sure your attendees are taken care of. It's not that difficult.

One of their major sticking points in remaining in San Diego are hotel rates. My first reaction to this was incredulity because we've all followed the story of the convention center expansion and the people blocking it. Then I thought he was referring to the way the hotel tax plan to finance the expansion was shot down.

Then I thought: are the hotels just sick of these reduced rates attendees get? Are they making fewer of those rooms available and more rooms available to the studios and companies who could pay higher rates than we will? That would explain a lot. Including that ominous article from a few weeks back that stated exhibitors had bought up more rooms than ever and predicted attendees were going to choke. Or maybe hotels simply offered up fewer discounted rooms for CCI in general.

It's just a theory. If it's true, it has massive implications for attendees. That could be the "growing number of people" he referred to - more businesses that want in on that sweet, sweet Comic-Con marketing or simply regular people that want to go to the nerd carnival - and it would indeed reduce the number of downtown rooms available. It could be what motivated CCI to go out and add distant hotel like Del Coronado and others that were never included before under the Travel Planners umbrella. And of course CCI would never communicate directly about such an obvious approaching tsunami of a sale because they're never transparent about anything.

Like I said, just a theory. But something happened with this sale. It wasn't just a bad form and poor loading. We still have a ton of people who did not get rooms. I originally thought there must have been a sizeable influx of outsiders, and that still could be possible. But it's just as possible that hotels offered up fewer rooms than usual and CCI can't do much about it.

And if you're wondering why CCI can't just raise the hotel rates for downtown hotels, the difference between our rates and regular rates during SDCC is hundreds of dollars.  Call around right now. You'll be stunned.

And on that note... some hotels are still available, both on and off the CCI grid, and they're charging some tough rates. But it's worth calling around if you don't want to wait for 8 April. Again - last year when hotel reservations went live again, the system crashed from the demand. I don't know if that will happen again this year but I will say that most people aren't going to easily access the system and find a good hotel room without any problems - there's just too much competition.

On the other hand, we do know some people will be letting go of their rooms. Travel Planners booked a lot of groups (say 3-5 people) into rooms with 1 king bed. Some will probably bring air mattresses, but others will let their rooms go, which could help the supply and demand situation. Basically, we just don't know how this will all shake out, but smart attendees will be looking for alternatives now. It's clear we can't depend on the system as it is.

Hotel Hell: where we are and what to do

27 MARCH 2015

The sun is setting on day 4 of what has been a truly nightmarish San Diego Comic-Con sale. As best as I can tell, nothing has been resolved. By now, everyone knows where they stand - which hotel they got, if they got one, or if they got utterly denied.

There have been so many bizarre elements to both the sale and the aftermath that I can't even summarize them all. Here's what matters:

CCI still hasn't made a statement. Not an apology, not an explanation, not even the most cursory acknowledgement. It's stunning.

It's clear there won't be any do-over or any kind of effective resolution. You got dealt the hand you got dealt - capricious, unfair, catastrophic - and there won't be one atom of accountability or remorse coming your way.

Thousands of attendees are homeless. People who beat enormous odds in Pre-reg and Open Reg are now finding themselves literally with nowhere to stay. Some of them will probably have to turn in their badges. Can you imagine a more bitter reversal of fortune for someone whose dream has been to finally attend San Diego Comic-Con?

And my own unprovable conviction: something tipped the scales for this sale. It's not just a matter of technical inadequacy. I don't have the number of people who are currently unhoteled, but the emails I've gotten and the online stories I've seen indicate a much higher than usual number. Again: more hotel rooms than ever were made available this year. The number of attendees is the same. So who booked all the rooms?

At the end of the day, this Con doesn't exist without the attendees. We are its lifeblood - not the celebrities, not the vendors. We are the ones pouring cash into San Diego's economy every summer. I am so tired of the general attitude that attendees are a rabid tribe of fans who are lucky to go to Comic-Con. No, we're paying customers. And everyone else who shows up here and gets preferential treatment over us is here because they want to sell us something. We should not be treated like third-class citizens. I don't know how CCI's leadership sleeps at night.

For now, if you're one of the ones who got shut out this week, your options are limited. You can wait for 8 April when the system opens back up - though I anticipate that will be its own frustrating meltdown - and you can scout around on Airbnb, place ads on Craigslist, and best of all, try for room swaps. See who needs a roommate. See who has a room they're letting go of, and see if they're willing to transfer it to you. An amazing attendee transferred his room at the Hard Rock to me; there are others out there in that boat but you've got to act now because the deposit needs to be made quickly. Social media and the Friends of CCI site are best for this but don't hesitate to ask around your digital communities too. This is a situation where everyone has to be proactive and make their own luck happen. Just be careful.

And keep communicating - we're obviously not going to get a clear accounting of this situation, so all we can do is be open and transparent with each other.

ECCC Night 1: where are we going?

26 MARCH 2015

It's Friday night in Seattle and there's an array of activities for ECCC attendees to choose from. The Guardians of the Sexy burlesque is sold out, unfortunately, but we still have movies, games, panels and more - both in and out of the Con.

The Live Art Show is at the ECCC beer garden at 8:00, no pass required.

Improv Against Humanity is a comedy show featuring, of course, Cards Against Humanity. 18+.

The ECCC Cinema Series features The Avengers, presented by Stan Lee himself at the Cinerama.

Pink Party Comicon on Capitol Hill has Hodor from Game of Thrones and a glitzy cosplay contest.

Cleopatra's Cabaret is at 7:00 in Hall I. This is a participatory role-playing game for badge-holders only.

The Guardians of the Galaxy Laser Light Show is at the Pacific Science Center. Tonight's the last night to see it.

The Cyanide and Happiness Group are doing a sketch jam panel at 7:10 in Hall G.

The Urban Dictionary Game Show is in Hall B at 6:30. Also 18+.

Stripped: the Comics Documentary will have a free screening in Hall A at 6:00. You do need a badge for this.

Whatever you do, have fun - but get your rest because tomorrow's a big day.

ECCC 2016 will expand to 4 days

27 MARCH 2015

Coming as a surprise to absolutely no one, Emerald City has just announced the 2016 show will be 4 days instead of 3. The dates: 7-10 April.

The rising fan interest, speed of ticket sales and of course ReedPOP's paw in ECCC has made this a natural next step. The Con is a respectable size, not colossal, at 80K this year, but because it offers major talent, its size works in its favor - attendees get more face time with the creators and actors they want to see. And as it's become known as one of the top Cons in the world for comic book nerds, it's been attracting some of the biggest names in the industry along with rising stars. I'm guessing that trend will accelerate next year, with more comic superstars present and more celebrity guests who recognize an opportunity to give and receive more personalized attention than they would at NYCC or SDCC.

In other words, I think tickets will go even faster for 2016 - so if you think you might want to attend, pay attention to ECCC developments starting this summer.

Day 1 of Emerald City

MARCH 2015

Emerald City is off and running. For anyone who's contemplating a Deluxe Badge for next year, I definitely recommend it; not only do you get a free t-shirt and swag bag, you get to jump the merchandise line and the Exhibit Hall line. Witness everyone waiting in line while I and other VIP and Deluxe holders got in:

It's crowded but not overwhelmingly so. The few lines I saw, such as for Dark Horse or Kelly Sue DeConnick, were manageable and I haven't had to wait to buy anything really. Unlike bigger Cons where you see books and comics on the tables and the artists and writers are nowhere in sight, there are plenty of creators sitting right there waiting to sign your stuff and answer your questions.

As always, bring or get cash; connectivity isn't great in the convention center and a lot of vendors were struggling with their Squares. My texts and tweets pretty much fizzled out in real time, so factor that into your plans if you need to communicate with someone.

So what panels are on the docket today? There are quite a few on sci-fi and fantasy, such as Hard Sci-Fi Made Easy at 1:30, Fueling Creativity: Sci-Fi and Fantasy Authors on Ideas at 3:30, Preventing Magical McGuffins at 4:30 and Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction at 5:30.

Meet the Valkyries, about female comic retailers, is at 12:50; Being Non-Compliant, which features "women at the forefront of the modern wave of feminism in comics" should pack them in at 5:00 and the adult comics panel Strip Tease at 6:50 probably will too.

Comic creators will have to make hard choices - consider How to Make Beer Money with your Comic or Zine at 12:30, How to Run a Comic Anthology and Not Screw It Up at 1:10, Expanding Your Characters into Other Media at 1:30, Breaking into Comics the Marvel Way at 2:00, Worldbuilding in Comics at 2:30, and Comics, Creativity and the Law at 2:50. Behind the Scenes: Making Comics is at 3:00, Coloring Between the Lines is at 3:10 and the Indie Creator's Legal Took Kit is at 5:10. Collaborating and Co-writing in Comics is at 6:10.

There's a panel on Wayard at 2:50, another on Gotham City at 3:00, an Image panel at 3:30, Valiant at 4:00, Kieron Gillen and Matt Fraction at 4:30 (heard a lot of people talking about them today) and BOOM! at 5:00. Slipshine has a panel at 5:30 and Dark Horse has a panel at 6:30.

On the cosplay front, the Men of Cosplay are at 1:00 and 2nd Skin: Prosthetics and Makeup for Cosplay is at 4:00. Intro to Costume Craft and Cosplay is at 4:50.

That doesn't even cover the panels on comics and diversity, comics and hip hop, gaming and nerd wellness. In short, there's a lot going on today; attendees who planned on living in the Main Hall over the weekend might struggle to find time for both the Exhibit Hall and other panels today.

I'll update on what's going on tonight in a bit.

And Emerald City Comicon kicks off

26 MARCH 2015

This is how I know we're all going to have an amazing time at Emerald City Comicon: running into Scott Wilson from The Walking Dead, just chilling in the Seattle night and talking to his fans. That's what I call a favorable omen.

See you tomorrow, nerds.

Apparently we'll be homeless for SDCC

26 MARCH 2015

So far every person I know has been rejected from the hotel sale. Self included. I got my submission in at 9:03 a.m. A friend who submitted at 9:02 got rejected. What is going on?

Sorry, but given the long delays other people experienced, and the huge number of people who got the bad form, I refuse to believe that all hotel rooms were gone by 9:03 a.m. I participate in this sale every year and I know what timeframe gets a room. Travel Planners has either screwed this up on a biblical level, or the sale was crashed by tons of outsiders.

How did everyone else do?

ETA 4:45 pm PST:  Okay. I had hoped this was something like TP accidentally sending a rejection email to everyone (at this point, nothing would surprise me.) However, I did just hear from someone who got a hotel - a downtown one. He doesn't know exactly when he got in but thinks it was about 5-6 minutes in. In other words, after me and another friend.

So my feeling is is that something is algorithmically, numerically, formulaically wrong. It could be an error that was already lurking in the system, or it could be that in their panic to help the people who got shafted on Tuesday, TP somehow reswizzled the whole queue. But that still wouldn't explain why so many of us are getting rejected across the board. I just cannot believe that every single hotel is full - on Hotel Circle, on Coronado, out by the airport, every hotel room. Remember, CCI added more hotel rooms this year, but the number of attendees stays the same. So something is rotten in Denmark.

I'm still hoping this is an email misfire.  Let's all keep each other posted.

ETA: 6:57 pm PST. All of the news I've collected so far has mostly been more of the same; a few people got hotels, but the majority got nothing.

If this is your first rodeo, you should know that this is somewhat unprecedented. Yes, there have always been people who failed to get the rooms they wanted, but by and large, most people got something. I've always maintained that everyone gets a room eventually because every year there are a few hotels with all 4 nights available long after hotel reservations open back up. I myself have always landed at one of my picks - and while it's true that I've led a somewhat charmed Comic-Con life in that I always somehow manage to get a Preview Night badge, I didn't get into the hotel sale significantly later than I have in  the last few years when I landed at the Marriott Marquis or Hyatt or Omni.

So what happened this year? I'm thinking we have three options:
1) A lot of outsiders flooded the system. Anyone with the link could have gotten in; that's why I didn't post the link on here. But I did see it shared online and anyone who wants to go to NerdHQ or just come down and take in the sights could have seized the opportunity for a discounted hotel room during Comic-Con.
2) There could be a bunch of people - randos, vendors, professionals - with one or two nights already in the system, blocking people looking for all 4 nights. Some companies might have extra people staying just through Thursday or Friday to help them set up. Others might have blocked rooms just for the weekend if they're sponsoring or attending a party. I am seeing a lot of people with Preview Night or 4-day badges who got nothing.
3) Travel Planners somehow severely effed up the process, either from the beginning or in trying to add in the people with the bad form who manually submitted their picks.

Unfortunately I don't see much of an easy fix. It's not like Travel Planners can cancel existing reservations or discern the badged peoples' reservations from the interlopers. Right now this is looking like one of the worst sale disasters ever - because unlike the days when an online sale simply crashed, there isn't going to be a do-over for this one.

Update on FlameCon

26 MARCH 2015

A few months back, a new New York LGBTQ Con called Flame Con was announced. Born of the efforts of Geeks OUT to foster more content and inclusiveness for queer nerddom, the inaugural Flame Con will be held 13 June in Brooklyn. It's a one-day affair, with 1500-2500 attendees expected; Geeks OUT president Joey Stern provided more detail on what people can expect.

 Straight people can attend.

Well, thank god. No, seriously, I get what he's saying. Nerds of all stripes and sexual orientations are welcome at this. Why would a straight person want to go to Flame Con, you ask? See the next point - but also to hang out with their friends and go to the very fun after party. Just as straight people are welcome at Gay Pride and other events, anyone can come to this.

This Con will help attendees discover new creators.

That being specifically "smaller scale creators they might otherwise miss at bigger conventions." If you're a worldly nerd who's read your way around the block, you know quite well that small can = talented and big can = mediocre. Some of my favorite work has been by artists and writers who just haven't gotten much acclaim or attention, for whatever reason. So Flame Con is an opportunity to put some interesting creators into the spotlight.

There's going to be queer content and a crossplay-friendly environment.

In recent years we've all seen (and maybe participated in) the dialogue around whether comic conventions have a harassment and/or diversity problem and what organizers should do about it. Here's something I think many straight people don't always grasp. Even when there is not outright harassment (and although harassment does happen at SDCC, the attendee community by and large is awesome in my experience) there's often still an automatic default assumption that nerd = straight, white male. This is conveyed in countless subtle ways that can be mildly annoying or downright  alienating.

There's been a marked effort to include LGBTQ panels at Cons in the last few years, which I applaud, along with other panels on diversity. But lots of people still feel a need for a Con where they are the default and not the special interest group. Stern says that Flame Con will offer that kind of environment - for instance, crossplayers will be in a safe space and the panels will go deeper than the typical obligatory Homo Comics 101 panels that tend to crop up at Cons. They might also partner with GaymerX.

So far the biggest guests I know of are Phil Jimenez and Cecil Baldwin from Welcome to Night Vale. But Stern says they will be adding other big guests over the next 2 months and making more announcements. It wouldn't surprise me if attendance went well over 2500.