EDITOR'S NOTE: Yes, I (Evan Minto) was the Convention Chair for Genericon XXVI. However, I have absolutely no control over the tone of Ink's coverage of the con (press relations was handled by someone else and other than some tiny copy edits, I kept my editorial hands out of his report). The opinions below are solely Ink's.
What started over 25 years ago in Troy, NY as a strict sci-fi convention has morphed into a post-apocalyptic-themed celebration of sci-fi, anime, ponies, Homestuck, gaming, and just about everything geek. Genericon is run annually by a volunteer committee comprised of RPI (Renneselaer Polytechnic Institute) students, and the 26th iteration (this one) was chaired by Ani-Gamers Editor-in-Chief Evan Minto (Vampt Vo).
Genericon ran from 5pm Friday straight through to 5pm Sunday. Panels were stop-and-go in the wee hours, but the gaming areas (video and tabletop and everything in-between) and video rooms were always open. While I cannot speak to the gaming side of the con, a lot of the video content was right in line with the post apocalypse theme. This also carried over into many of the panels, even those not directly related. Since this was a multi-fandom con, it was easy to relax and just let everyone do their thing without judging and melt into the fun of it all. Homestuck cosplayers, ponies, anime fans, belly dancers, belly dancers AS anime characters, and even a genuine, award-winning science fiction author were all in attendance!
I have to say meeting and talking with guest Tim Maughan after enjoying his Twitter rants for some time now was one of the highlights of the con. I never took sci-fi seriously before. I liked sci-fi movies and TV shows but solely as entertainment. After a few panels on apocalyptic fiction and cyberpunk, however, I was raring to get my hands on some solid sci-fi literature. Luckily, Maughan had a handful copies of his book of short stories, Paintwork, on hand. They sold out after the “Meet Tim Maughan” panel, and I was one of the lucky ones who got a copy. On top of hearing how and to what he spoke of concerning sci-fi, what really convinced me to take the genre seriously was a “rough draft” of a short film Maughan premiered.
Genericon had some insightful panels last year, but this year’s selection blew it away. Panelist Walter Amos relayed an experience of hearing one of the Antipode belly dancers remark, “at least there’s something intellectual at this con” (or something to that effect) after noting Walter’s “Science in Anime” panel in the con guide. But that was just the tip (of the iceberg). There was also a history lecture, a biographical retrospective, genre retrospective, artwork analysis, manga industry insight, and so much more! Apart from the academic, there were a range of fun panels, including anime-themed game shows, “Convention Horror Stories,” and (admittedly my favorite title of the lot this year) “Pony Should Pony Pony.”
With all the appealing panels, one would think it would be difficult choosing what to attend. This was not the case in my experience, and upon speaking with the con chair (who’s incredibly hard to get a word with), he commented how much care was taken not to schedule panels dealing with like fandoms opposite each other. There were also only two panel rooms (plus Main Events), so that also facilitated things. Still, good to know someone was looking out.
Vendors also benefitted from good forethought, specifically space allocation. Previously segmented betwixt several small rooms, the vendors got an exclusive and spacious area (with slight spillover into tables lining the Great Hall) at Genericon XXVI. The resulting lack of crowding and congestion was a great relief and gave everyone breathing room. The organization was such that it felt like a Dealer’s Room at any other con rather than reminding attendees that this event took place at a college. The fare to be found was fairly nominal, though the con’s history, theme, and multi-fandom added a decent bit of diversity to what is a fun-size version of larger cons’ Dealer’s Rooms.
Artist’s Alley was likewise commodious. It was still segmented amongst several small rooms, but the lack of traffic from vendors created a comfortable air in which to appreciate the artists’ offerings. The more relaxed atmosphere was especially more conducive to custom commissions, like furry portraiture and custom scrolls. The latter were actually quite lovely and out of the ordinary, as were a couple other offerings which made AA worth attending.
Speaking of addictions, there are (at least) two food joints worth checking out while in Troy: The Brown Bag, a burger joint that serves this, and Dinosaur BBQ, which does not serve dinosaur but does have a tasty craft beer selection and some very yummy BBQ (that isn’t dinosaur). Food is never so tasty as it is with friends, and it’s here I’ll whole-heartedly say hanging out and attending panels at a small- to medium-sized con with old and new friends really made the weekend wonderful. This was the first con I was actually sad to see end.
Well-organized (aside from the occasional extended panel room handoff) and enjoyable from start to finish, Genericon is wholly recommended for those near Troy, NY. Ani-Gamers will keep the coverage a rollin’ in the following weeks with in-depth panel write-ups and a general panel summary. For now, I’ll leave you with a few shots I snapped of cosplay, panelists, and areas around the con: