Wednesday, February 23, 2011


For the first time in nearly two decades, I spent the weekend at a science fiction (SF) convention. Not just a run-of-the-mill, literature-based science fiction convention, nor a costuming convention. Nope: I went to Gallifrey One, the big Doctor Who convention held over Presidents' Day weekend in Los Angeles.

The last SF convention I went to was ConFrancisco, the WorldCon held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco over Labor Day weekend in 1993. We bought the house a few months later, and weekend-long events such as conventions (aka "cons") were left by the way, along with a lot of costuming. It's hard to make the time to build elaborate costumes when paint needs scraping, flower beds need weeding, and money needs to be earned to pay for the work on the house.

I ended up at Gally--the nickname most fans use for Gallifrey One--due to the efforts of one of my fiber friends. Our paths have unknowingly crossed many times in the past thirty years, as we're both geeks interested in science fiction and fiber. After she attended her first Gally a couple years ago, she began bugging me to go, and after last year's con, I broke down and bought a membership. I also set myself some rules:

1) No making myself insane over building elaborate costumes. If it isn't built by the end of 2010, it isn't going.
2) No apologizing for not having elaborate costumes. I have a life, darn it!
3) I will enjoy myself, within reason.

Gally was held at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott hotel: a brilliant choice for a good-sized convention. The hotel is just a few minutes by shuttle from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), and is large enough to handle the needs of a convention for nearly 2,000 attendees. The hotel also has a very large lobby seating area, strategically placed between the registration desk, a Starbucks, and the bar: the area has become notorious for a multi-day party known as "Lobbycon" as fans hang out to relax, chat, and drink their choice of beverages.

Gally is a "media" con (different from a literature-based con), so many of the panel discussions were about different aspects of the long-running TV show Doctor Who and its spin-off, Torchwood. There were also photograph sessions with actors and actresses who appeared on the series, and autograph sessions with actors and writers. I skipped the photograph and autograph sessions (I'd rather drink and chat with people than bug them for pictures or signatures), caught a couple panels (I especially enjoyed the "Crafting Who" panel), and spent much of my time hanging out in the "TARDIS Lounge" with the other knitters I had previously met online through Ravelry on the Who Knits? board. I earned my keep: the group knits a copy of one of the scarves worn by Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor each year for a charity auction, and I worked on both scarves over the weekend. I also worked on my own scarf for a future costume.

Science fiction conventions have changed since the last time I attended one. The biggest change is the ready accessibility of social media. On Thursday night, a sign at Lobbycon said, "What happens at Galley is on Facebook in nanoseconds." It's true: as soon as something happened, fans were pulling out their smartphones and tweeting their words and pictures, all marked with #gally. I even managed to send a few tweets myself, mostly about what I was doing and how a long-time costuming friend won the Saturday night masquerade.

All in all, it was an enjoyable weekend; I had enough fun that I sprung for next year's membership. I'm also starting to plan some elaborate costumes for next year's con.