I-Con 32: The Return
A Convention Re-cap by Bob Reyer
After a five-year hiatus, I-Con has returned! Long Island’s biggest convention, correctly billed as “The Northeast’s largest non-profit convention of science fiction, fact, and fantasy”, and THE destination spot for genre aficionados of all kinds since 1982 has clawed its way back from the abyss through the tireless efforts of Event Chair Katrina Lovett and her all-volunteer staff over the last few years, and having spent three fun days there, I’m here to say “Job well done!” to all concerned!
This time around, I-Con was held March 17-19 at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood, New York, a location that was utilized back in 2009 when their normal home at SUNY: Stony Brook was under construction. Now, allowing that the Stony Brook campus is the size of a small town, the actual venue allotted to the convention within the SCCC athletic center covered a space easily as big as the Stony Brook Gym which housed the Dealer’s Room, so there is certainly enough room for growth.
With so many years “away”, some of the usual vendors from the Stony Brook days had other commitments, whilst others took a “wait-and-see” attitude about this “point one” iteration of I-Con, but there was a nice mix of old and new in the aisles nonetheless. There were dealers in anime and manga tchotchkes, a number of jewelry and statuary concerns, as well as some small press publishers, so if the room was short of the general booksellers and video merchants, it was easy to see that the old percentages were still at work, so with just a few additions, this could be a fabulous bazaar of genre merchandise.
An interesting new feature was Creator’s Alley, within whose environs sat folks such as comics legend Peter David, Marvel & DC artists Rodney Ramos and Alitha Martinez, plus award-winning science-fiction author David Gerrold, although he’s certainly most famous for being the “father” of the tribbles from the original Star Trek! As well as the goodly amount of art and books that filled that part of the room, there was also the magical presence of Ms. Lauren Chu of HamptonsMermaid.com , who is “Miss Mermaid USA”! Throughout the weekend, this area of the convention saw a lot of activity, and I even ran into some folks that I knew there on Sunday, as my young friend Diana fulfilled a dream through the ministrations of Ms. Chu, aka Mermaid Soluna:
One of my favorite aspects of past I-Cons was the great line-up of panels, as they ran that promised gamut of “science fiction, fact, and fantasy”, and at I-Con 32, the usual eclectic mix could be found, as I sat in on talks regarding:
“Comics as Social Commentary” with Alitha Martinez (World of Wakanda), Adam McGovern (Nightworld), and Joe Corallo
“Is Science a ‘Liberal’ Conspiracy?” with science historian John Grant and NASA engineer Izaac Falken
“Gender and Sexuality in SF, Fantasy, and Comics” with Ms. Martinez, David Gerrold, Beth Helton, and Molly Jackson
“Haunted Journeys” , a talk on horror comics with Chris Golden (Baltimore), Chris Helton, Adam McGovern, and Pat Shand
My favorite panel was “Giant Monsters Attack NYC!”, an entertaining and informative tour through the five boroughs as visited by kaiju of various species guided by film-maker Mark Bailey of foxtrotstudios.net , who has even created an interactive map of the real-life locations where these fantastic creatures played tourist! Even as a “Fifties Big Bug Movie” fanatic, I learned a lot during this presentation, and the folks in the packed classroom had a great time in conversation with our host and each other.
Speaking of our assemblage, in that group was a family that caught nearly everyone’s eye during the convention (although sadly I couldn’t locate a picture–arrgghh!!), a casually cos-playing mom and dad (she in steam-punk, he in Superman tee), along with their precious little Supergirl, who so delighted Mr. Bailey that he gifted the young super-heroine with a miniature statue of King Kong atop the Empire State Building, and I’m sure that memento will become a touchstone when her parents tell her the tale of her first convention!
No I-Con round-up would be complete without chatting about the cos-play, and while there was a great mix of outfits from anime, gaming, movies, and TV, comics were the most represented, with the highlight being this group, which came together for a charming photo-shoot:
This being a convention (and in New York!) there is always some grousing and kvethcing: “This show is so much smaller…”, or “It’s not like the old days…” etc , etc. Now, is this the campus-spanning event that featured George Takei, Roger Corman, Ray Harryhausen, Harlan Ellison, and Stan Lee? No, not yet, but we should all have a longer memory, a wider perspective, and a more-forgiving heart, as at its origins, nearly the entirety of I-Con’s full program of events was in one building at the back of the SUNY: Stony Brook campus, so let’s give this newborn a chance to grow!
Here’s the biggest thing that I took from my visit; the people who were in attendance at this new I-Con (over 3,000 according to Newsday’s head count just leading into Sunday!), were all ecstatic to be there! For “rookies”, this was a grand way for them to be enfolded into the good vibes created over thirty years of this convention, and seeing young adults, now able to drive to this con on their own, enraptured over the chance to rekindle a special memory through this new incarnation of I-Con had me aglow. My favorite moments were spent watching the now-adults who were bringing their children (and grand-children!) to a show that was so integral to their own childhood that they had to “pay it forward”, and were here providing their daughters or sons their first glorious convention experience, perfectly exemplified by one little girl cos-playing as a miniature Wonder Woman who exclaimed “This is THE BEST THING EVER!”.
For all attendees, the welcoming and inclusive atmosphere generated by Ms. Lovett and her all-volunteer staff (as well as the good folks at SCCC: Brentwood!) created a lovely bonhomie, one that began in the program book with these words from the wonderful introductory letter by Katrina Lovett: “At its heart, I-Con is the people. It’s you. It’s me. It’s the volunteer that greeted you at the door and asked if you needed help finding a room for a particular panel. We would not be here today enjoying I-Con’s 32nd year without the tireless work of the people mentioned in these pages and more we simply don’t have space to name”, adding that they’ll be working to “…custom build an event to be proud of. An event we plan on growing and evolving back to its past glory.”
As an I-Con habitue since the early days, there couldn’t be sweeter words to hear, so let me add my hearty “Amen!”, and send out my best wishes for the future of this wondrous enterprise!