Ascendio Con Report!

So, Ascendio! It was a fabulous con. Wonderful people, stimulating programming (don’t take that the wrong way…), a bevy of authors (including erotica, romance, YA, and fantasy in every combination), excellent costumes, incredible performances, warm and welcoming meetups, and two absolutely fantabulous parties.

I probably won’t have time to write up as detailed a con report as I sometimes do. I’m typing this in the Orlando airport right now, but I’m so tired I might conk out before I can finish it! That’s how good a con it was. Below the cut I do talk about Night of a Thousand Wizards, Chris Rankin’s presentation on fandom, Authorpalooza, slash, and what cons are coming up next…

If you just want to see the pretty photos, my Flickr set for Ascendio is here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/23359893@N06/sets/72157630594128380/

AUTHORPALOOZA
Thursday afternoon the con ramped up with two main events, Wrock festival in which eight? ten? a whole bunch of Wizard Wrock bands played. Everyone having known that Ascendio would be the last HPEF con, and HPEF’s cons being among the biggest and best, I heard that several wrock bands either reunited for a last concert or added extra instrumentation. So it was extra epic.

I didn’t actually get to see or hear any of the wrock, though, since I was involved with the other event happening concurrently: Authorpalooza. Authorpalooza consisted of a series of readings by author guests and also a Book Faire, where various self-published authors and small presses exhibited to all and sundry. After helping to organize the tables, I spent the afternoon at my own table, selling my pro fiction. I FINALLY got volume two of THE PRINCE’S BOY from the printer, and as it was sent directly to the hotel from the printer I got to see if for the first time at the same time as readers. (It came out gorgeous, if I do say so myself…)

I got to read a little from the book, too, in the group Erotic Romance writers reading I did with Kele Moon (LJ: redblaze) and Diana Copland (LJ: oldenuf2nb). We each read a steaming hot selection. I also read a very hot scene from Magic University, the one where Kyle is trying to memorize the Tarot and omens and he gets some “motivation” and study help from Jess…

I sold about $100 worth of books, which meant I had $100 cash in my pocket to spend when we went over to the evening event: Night of a Thousand Wizards.

NIGHT OF A THOUSAND WIZARDS
Francie (LJ: gatewaygirl) and I took the water shuttle from the hotel (which was the Portofino Bay) over to the Universal City Walk, and then walked into the park from there. As our boat was boarding, a downpour broke out, and as we were debarking on the other end, bright lightning began to flash. The downpour and lightning worsened as we were walking through the park and we ended up ducking into a shop to browse and wait for the weather to pass. We ended up buying umbrellas, which ensured that the weather would clear up. Eventually.

When the lightning died down a bit, we walked through Seuss Landing, through the Lost Continent, and then finally we arrived at Hogsmeade. The intense rain had driven off much of the Muggle population, so even though we didn’t officially take over the park until 9pm, at 7pm the non-magical presence was greatly reduced.

Sitting right there at the entrance is Hogsmeade Station, and the Hogwarts Express, and a fellow dressed up as the conductor. (We had a lot of fun goofing around in character with the conductor after the Muggles were all gone, of course.)

I was dressed in my new costume, which those who have read my earlier posts had seen being planned and constructed: my New York Yankees-themed, summer weight Quidditch uniform. It came out fabulous and judging from the number of people who took pictures with me or of me, was deemed worthy. :-)

We had $20 gift cards as part of our Night of a Thousand Wizards tickets, so we went right to the Three Broomsticks for dinner. I had the shepherd’s pie, Francie had the cornish pasties, and we had butterbeer.

Mmm, butterbeer, which contains neither butter nor beer.

By the time we were done with that, the storm was over, the sky was clearing, and there were even fewer Muggles left. They were mostly exiting from rides they had been in line for, it seemed. We took that opportunity to visit the Hogsmeade shops and use up the gift cards.

Simply put, the only place there is better shopping for Potter fanatics is in the dealers room at Potter cons. There is, of course, Ollivanders Wand Shop, where every ten minutes or so they usher in a group of customers and Ollivander gives a little speech about wands and then one customer gets picked to get chosen by a wand. We didn’t actually go through the show and wand ceremony until much later, when it was only our group. During normal muggle hours, of course, it’s usually a child who gets picked, but when it’s mostly adult potternuts, well… let’s just say they sold a lot of wands that night! (The wands, by the way, are replicas from the films and cost $34.) Anneke kept going through the shop show, trying to get picked. She was cosplaying as Scabior, so we were joking that getting his own wand instead of one picked off a victim would be like Scabior’s redemption. (She later told me she got picked and is the ecstatic owner of a birch with unicorn hair wand now.)

Then there’s Dervish and Banges, which has all kinds of stuff, including house robes, stationery supplies (including blank books, Hogwarts crest parchment rolls, and wax seals with each house crest, the Hogwarts crest, or the Ministry of Magic seal), T-shirts, toys (stuffed dragons, etc) lots of scarfs, hats, gloves, etc…

The Hogsmeade village, in fact, is covered in snow, which is somewhat incongruous when it’s 90 degrees out and 100% humidity. But whatever, it’s magic, right?

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There’s Zonko’s Joke Shop, the Honeydukes candy store, and also a large souvenir shop inside Hogwarts Castle with a different selection from what they have in Dervish & Banges.

Hogwarts Castle. There’s a moment when you come to the end of the street in Hogsmeade, and turn the corner, and the castle suddenly comes into view… and YOUR HEART STOPS. Or at least mine did.

I did not burst into tears, but I came close. This means Universal finally has something on par with what Disney’s Magic Kingdom has, where you come out from under the train station and suddenly you see Cinderella’s castle. (I *did* burst into tears one time at Disney at that moment.) Several of my cohort did this time, too. And it was unbelievably special to experience that moment surrounded by fellow wizards.

At 9pm they stopped letting the muggles on the rides: only people with our special bracelet could get on. We rode Flight of the Hippogriff (the small gravity coaster for wimps like us) which was a nice shot of adrenaline. (As Francie put it: “I think we don’t get chased by tigers often enough anymore.” So we have to invent these other things that give us a short burst of panic…) In the line to that coaster you see Hagrid’s hut and Buckbeak, and as you go up in it you get wonderful views of the castle and such.

Chris at Snape’s (off limits) office inside Hogwarts Castle:
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The “main attraction” is the ride inside the castle, though, which is a multimedia “flying bench” sort of ride, where you get strapped in and flown around, some of it in IMAX-style film (very vertigo inducing) and some of it live “haunted mansion” style, with various things menacing you. (Harry saves you, of course…) The line through the castle and the greenhouse is full of fabulous details, and there are three pre-show bits with the Founders, Dumbledore, and the Trio that we went back through several times to watch. (The staff also let us go into places normally blocked off to the public, like to the doorway to Snape’s office. See photo above…)

And there was dessert, and all the free butterbeer and pumpkin juice we could drink, and a live DJ who learned that wizards like to line-dance. Pumpkin juice is made with real pumpkin! (And apricot, and apple, and is even 81% juice. Healthy, even.)

It was so fabulous to reunite with my old RP partners, Paula (miss_bowtruckle) and Nic (ramblingnic), at the party (and their husbands: Nic’s is an HP fan named Chris one often sees cosplaying as Snape, while Paula’s man Dave I had heard about for years but this was the first time I met him. And her kids!) Nic was dressed as Luna, while Paula was doing adult!ginny as seeker of the Holyhead Harpies, and had a whole bunch of friends dressed as the other players: with the names “Spinnet” and “Johnson”.

Me, Nic as Luna, and Chris as Snape
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Paula as adult!Ginny and me:
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Okay, now they are getting ready to board my plane, so I don’t know if I’m going to get a chance to finish this writeup later. I have a feeling I’m going to conk out the second I get on board, and once I get home, I have several large deadlines looming dangerously. So here’s just a list of some of the most awesome things from the rest of the con:

AWESOME STUFF:
1. Death Eaters feedings ducks. (Death Eaters in Florida sun is pretty hilarious no matter what…)
2. So many Snapes.
3. Chris Rankin’s talk on his undergrad dissertation on HP fandom.
4. The “Malfoy Manor” ball. (Formal dances are always a blast with this crowd!)
5. Doing the Magic Schools discussion with Lev Grossman.
6. The H/D Meetup in the Slash Suite.
7. Getting to see long long distance friends like Acid & Sinick (and scream like schoolgirls with them on rollercoasters…) and finally meet Aja (LJ: Bookshop) for the first time!
8. Reading Tarot cards in the Slash Suite on Friday night. (I think I did about 12 readings, all in a row.)
9. Craft Faire! (HP Etsy brought to life!)

Not so great: missed the Snape meetup entirely as it took place during Night of a Thousand Wizards. Ah well, can’t be everywhere at once since the Ministry destroyed the rest of the Time Turners. Also wished for time to chat with slash-loving acquaintances like Pir8fancier, Chaeche, Meri_Oddities, et al. but just didn’t catch up with everyone.

Me and Paula in the dealers room:
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SHOPPING!
I was only able to browse the craft faire a short time since I was on a panel that overlapped the time slot, but it was really neat to see all the things people had made to sell, and I bought a few neat items, including a painted quill, a neat little potions bottle filled with hand sanitizer, and a golden snitch bun holder. Overall, I did much more shopping than usual–normally I hardly buy anything. But I sold some more books, which led to cash in my pocket, which led to weak will-power. I couldn’t resist buying some parchment rolls at WWoHP, and I picked up a mini-snitch “kit” in the dealers room, a Slytherin tie button, and also some T-shirts for friends back home. Lots of little things! The one big thing I went for was a new set of Slytherin robes in a unique style: they were selling off the costumes from the “Mischief Managed” musical and they had “Marauders era” robes designed by the playwright’s mom, who has a costume business called Use It All Arts. (She has an Etsy shop and is also at www.useitallarts.com .) The one change I’ll probably make to the robes is that the buttons are gold and I think they would look better silver. (See photo above.)

BOSTON-AREA FOLKS…
Then there was the (once again) realization that so many of the folks we see at these cons are in the Boston area… but we travel to faraway places to see each other. Pie, Noe, Femme, Alyse & Dave, Dean (tsuj), and many others are in the Boston area. If nothing else I’d like to get everyone out to afternoon tea some time? I ran into Tom and Bella on the airport shuttle and Tom said he’d be very into my plan to do it perhaps in October when the Boston Harbor Hotel does a Halloween tea and us all going in costume would be most apt. And of course in January I’m planning to run another Hogwarts Alumni Party at Arisia and it would be AWESOME if lots of folks helped out with and came to that!

Me & Chris Rankin at the ball:
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CHRIS RANKIN (aka PERCY WEASLEY) ON FANDOM
Some notes from Chris Rankin’s presentation on his paper about HP fandom. For those who don’t know, Chris was lurking around in the online fandom from the early days. After being cast in the movie, but before he was allowed to tell anyone, he was already a fan of the books, and he went online to find what fans were up to. He got on an early fan forum (“with the brilliant username of ‘IamPercyWeasley’ of course”) and started making friends. He’s been involved and stayed involved with the fandom ever since, even when Warner Brothers told him not to.

Among the questions he was asking back when it was written (last April), the main one was “will Potter fandom survive the end of the canon?” Of course at that time, the last movie was about to come out and Pottermore hadn’t yet launched. Looking at it now, a year after final movie release, it certainly doesn’t look like HP fandom is going away. Unlike Lost, whose creators were very involved with their fandom and did a lot to foment it, yet despite that the fandom just sort of went “poof” when the show ended, HP seems to have some staying power. Why? (My take is that HP fandom has greater “biodiversity” which makes us less likely to go extinct from a single event like the canon ending. Chris went on to detail much the same thing, but not in those words.) Lost seemed to get all its squee from a single source. In HP we have both books and movies, and more. Potter fandom stuff has generated fandoms of its own in some ways, where now you can be a fan of wrock bands, Youtube stars, writers, etc. There are also so very many fan-generated ways to get involved in the fandom, including fanfic, costuming, wizard rock, musicals, Youtube stuff like Potter Puppet Pals & Starkid, academic papers, and RPGs. Now we’ve got Pottermore, also, which is sort of like getting “new” stuff (and I noticed Chamber of Secrets started to be posted over the weekend?) but it isn’t really. Chris talked about how he found Pottermore “massively disappointing.” He asked the audience (which numbered probably 200 people) how they felt about Pottermore, and the response was a resounding groan. He said he had been talking to people involved with the site during the planning stages and what sort of thing would get people excited, and figures that the creators of the site just didn’t really incorporate what the fan advisors to Pottermore told them. (The two things that people in the audience seemed to want most from Pottermore which they didn’t get were 1) the long-promised encyclopedia, and 2) a way to interact, play, and social network with other fans. Those capabilities are so severely limited on the site that people quickly lose interest.)

There was much more in Chris’s talk. I know there was an audio program company selling the sessions at the con, so if you’re interested, I recommend you try to get hold of it.

Me and an owl (and the owl’s handler from animal rescue, and behind us is a painter, painting a painting of an owl…)
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MAGIC SCHOOLS & OTHER PANELS
I spoke on a couple of panels, in addition to the aforementioned reading with Kele Moon and Diana Copland, I joined the two of them and Saritza Hernandez on a panel called NO CLOSETS, about being “out” about writing slash and how writing slash has helped all four of us in our professional careers as writers (and Saritza is now an agent representing many fanfic writers in the original fic world). One important point we wanted to make was that none of us try to pretend now that we never wrote fanfic or slash–in fact we’re still writing it (and would be writing more if we didn’t have pro deadlines to meet). I was also on one the changing world of book publishing, and how digital books have turned the traditional publishing model on its head somewhat.

Another panel I spoke on was me and Lev Grossman talking about having written “magical schools” books, and the genre of magic schools in fantasy. Very much a Ravenclaw sort of topic, and we intellectualized it quite well, as you might imagine. And we gave a quiz. (Evil grin.) And then we gave prizes to the two people who got the highest marks. Lev brought Brakebills T-shirts, and I brought book on of the Magic University series in paperback. So much fun.

Would you like to take the quiz? Here you go:

Magic Schools Quiz

Which of the following subjects is not taught at Brakebills (Lev Grossman, The Magicians)?
A. Physical magic
B. Necromancy
C. Healing
D. Illusions

On Roke Island, where the wizards of Earthsea are educated (Ursula K. LeGuin, A Wizard of Earthsea), which of the following is not one of the Nine Masters?
A. Master Chanter teaches history (in song form).
B. Master Windkey teaches weatherworking.
C. Master Hand teaches tricks and illusions.
D. Master Wand teaches transformation.

At Hogwarts, which of the following spells would reveal invisible ink?
A. Revelio
B. Aparecium
C. Deletrius
D. Dissendium

At Veritas, the magical university hidden in the Harvard campus (Cecilia Tan, The Siren and the Sword), which of the following is considered a magical subject of study?
A. Mathematics
B. Chemistry
C. Poetry
D. History

If you should cast “Tergeo” at a pool of spilled ink in the library, which of the following would happen?
A. Madam Pomfrey would scold you.
B. You would see your future in the pool of ink.
C. The ink would be cleaned up.
D. The ink would write your essay for you.

At Carthak University (Tamora Pierce), they teach many subjects other than magic, including the noble arts. Which of the following is not a noble art?
A. Music
B. Heraldry
C. Calligraphy
D. Needlework

Which of the following magical schools does not feature moving portraits?
A. Hogwarts
B. Groosham Grange
C. Wizard Hall
D. Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches

At Greenlaw College (Caroline Stevermer’s “A College of Magics”), which of the following subjects is not taught?
A. Engineering
B. Magic
C. Latin
D. Deportment

Which of the following ingredients should you not put into your Boil Cure Potion in potions class at Hogwarts?
A. Porcupine Quills
B. Hellebore
C. Snake Fangs
D. Horned Slugs

Which of the following transfigurations would be easiest to accomplish, according to the transfiguration curriculum taught at Hogwarts?
A. Mice into footmen
B. Hedgehogs into pincushions
C. Beetles into buttons
D. Pumpkins into coaches

I’ll post the answers later, but give it a shot! The two winners got 7 out of 10 correct.

The next HP con I’m planning to attend will be MISTI-Con, May 2013 in Laconia, NH, at the Margate Resort, the same lakeside site where Aeternitas was. The place tops out at about 500 people, so I would suggest “get your tickets now.” I already pre-bought mine through their Kickstarter!

The other con some folks talked about was Alohomora in London next year, but some were saying it looks to be only two days long? The web site for Alohomora still doesn’t say what the dates or location is! Some felt it wouldn’t be worth a trip all the way to England for a two-day con, but if the con organizers add other stuff to it like a Leavesden studio tour or other such extra days, it might be. I don’t know anything about Alohomora myself other than it was quite expensive to go to England for Diacon Alley, and as mentioned, right now the website has scant info.

And then there’s Lubricus, the Seattle-area HP slash con, which is coming up in August this year but I can’t manage another cross country trip right now. That and Yaoi-con are both on my radar but not possible right now with my health and my deadlines…!

I miss everyone already!

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