Madison makes way for its first geek convention, appropriately called Geek.Kon, this weekend -- Oct. 6-7 -- at the George Mosse Humanities Building on the UW-Madison campus. If you are an über-nerd looking to socialize with other anime-loving, gaming-obsessed, role-playing folks, this con is the place for you.
"The goal of Geek.Kon is to provide people with the opportunities to explore as many different 'geek' activities as possible," says Sarah Eichhorst, the promotions and PR co-chair for the convention, which is co-sponsored by the Center for East Asian Studies at the university. Eichhorst is also co-chairing the anime viewings, though they are only one part of the dozen-plus events planned for the weekend.
"We're trying to bring together geeks from a wide variety of disciplines, and provide activities ranging from introductions to each event to more advanced levels," she says.
Eichhorst answers our burning questions about the upcoming free shindig.
The Daily Page: It is assumed patrons will be dressed up -- what do you surmise will be the most popular costumes? Do folks usually attend these events with individual dress or are group themes common?
Eichhorst: Some of the most popular costumes will likely be from various video games, from anime series such as Bleach and Naruto, and from sci-fi shows such as Firefly and Dr. Who, though there will certainly be a much wider variety of costumes than just those. There are some people who will dress up as individuals, but I think it's more common to see people in group theme costumes. It's certainly a lot of fun to get four or five of your friends and try to dress as as many different characters from a show or a video game as possible.
What's up with the "faux-weaponry"? This seems to be a big part of the rules section?
Many costumes from video games, sci-fi, and anime require weapon props to complete the outfits. Because we are a university-sanctioned event and we're using university grounds, we have to abide by their rules on weaponry. Most events of this type have some rules about weapons, especially if they are held in locations where the general public could mistake weapons (fake or peace-bound) for real weapons and something dangerous.
We don't want to take that risk. Attendees are permitted to have their faux weapons for the masquerade, but we don't want to give anyone the wrong impression, and we are doing all we can to collaborate with the university on this issue.
What do you expect to be the sleeper portion of the weekend?
I honestly don't know. I think that everyone is excited in some measure for each of the events we're hosting. I'm not sure if there will be as much crossover and trying out new events as we were hoping, but I'm still holding out hope that people will come to the event willing to learn new things and attend the panels.
What is the emphasis on most -- anime, sci-fi or fantasy? How are these interlinked?
We tried not to emphasize any area, due to the fact that we really want this event to be all-encompassing. We certainly seem to have a lot more emphasis on anime in terms of viewings, but that was due to the fact that it is extremely difficult for a first-year free convention to pay for screenings for many of the major science fiction films.
We're also seeming to place a lot of emphasis on gaming in its various forms, but that's because it's such an integrated part of geek activities. There are anime games, sci-fi games, fantasy games, etc. In addition, our anime viewing is also trying to show science fiction and fantasy shows, so that hopefully we can bring some of the sci-fi and fantasy fans into an enjoyment of anime that they might not have had before.
What speakers have been formally slated to talk at Geek.Kon?
We will have guest appearances by a wide variety of people, some as speakers, some as panelists, and some as a meet-and-greet format. Our most exciting draws are probably Studio Anti Thesis, Blame Society Productions of Chad Vader fame, a performance by Luke Ski, Dungeons & Dragons designer Monte Cook, and sci-fi and fantasy author and editor Joan Vinge and Jim Frenkel, respectively.
Those interested in coming to the event can still do so by registering on-site on the day they wish to attend.
Over 600 people had pre-registered for Geek.Kon as of two weeks ago, and as many as 1000 soldiers of hard-core fandom are expected to attend the two day party. Supporters are also encouraged to volunteer and/or donate to what organizers hope will become an annual event.
As the weekend approaches, anticipation Is building for Geek.Kon. Hopeful Guitar Hero virtuoso Ryan Zeinert is seeking a cheering section as he prepares to compete in a tournament for the game at the con, while Matt M. McElroy is putting the finishing touches on his gaming presentation, fantasy novelist Sarah Monette gets ready for her panel discussion, and locally based craft vendor Space Oddity preps its wares.
"The idea here," says Eichhorst, "is that it's a friendly environment for all geeks to come together and learn more about one another and what we all enjoy."