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Category: Convention Report

Goth Chick News: The New World That Is Wizard World Chicago

Goth Chick News: The New World That Is Wizard World Chicago

As life cautiously assumes a stance something close to, if not entirely, “normal,” some of the most anticipated events are finally sliding back into the Goth Chick News calendar.

It’s no surprise that pop-culture conventions took an especially hard hit in 2020, which saw large, in-person events cancelled across the globe. Wizard World put on some of the biggest conventions in the US, hosting annual cons in six cities; Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Portland, Cleveland, and St. Louis. This year, Wizard World Chicago was back, albeit later that its usual September dates, but with another significant change. Fan Expo, which already runs almost a dozen events across North America, has just acquired the rights to Wizard World conventions.

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GOTH CHICK NEWS: ON THE ROAD TO THE HALLOWEEN & ATTRACTIONS SHOW

GOTH CHICK NEWS: ON THE ROAD TO THE HALLOWEEN & ATTRACTIONS SHOW

Frankly, 2020 didn’t look all that different when viewed from the basement of the Black Gate office, which is home to Goth Chick News. The unisex bathroom walls are still plastered with Heavy Metal magazine covers from the 1980’s. The hallways smell like a combination of microwave pizza and Axe, and the furniture… I can’t. As most of my coworkers never got out much anyway, the quarantine was just the legit excuse everyone gave their spouses for hanging around John O’s D&D marathon. Black Gate photog Chris Z. went off to busy himself with whatever it is he does when he’s not sneaking pics of nearly naked cosplayers at our various events, and I hunkered down to write for a long, and frustrating year. The glaring difference of 2020, is that none of these activities were broken by GCN road trips to roughly a dozen conventions, tours and trade shows, which comprise the seasonal run up to the greatest holiday ever – Halloween.

Like you, we where all here and nowhere else – and it sucked.

Bad.

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Goth Chick News: First Up on the Show Circuit – Days of the Dead

Goth Chick News: First Up on the Show Circuit – Days of the Dead

As signs of life begin to emerge following the zombie apocalypse that was 2020, our thoughts naturally turn to the fate of the many trade shows and live events we normally cover for Black Gate. Earlier this year I posted a list of tentative in-person conventions which hopeful organizers were busy planning. Now this week I am nearly giddy to report that the first one, Day of the Dead Chicago, which we have been covering for nine years, successfully occurred last weekend.

As you would expect, things were a little different in this brave new world, but let’s start with what was the same.

Days of the Dead is a horror and pop culture convention that has been around since 2011. That makes 2021 a big tenth-anniversary year for the event which began here in Chicago, and has since expanded to Las Vegas, Indianapolis and Atlanta. This year, DotD was hosted at the same suburban-Chicago hotel where it moved to in 2019. It had far outgrown its previous location where vendor booths and even some celebrity tables had been relegated to the hallways between banquet rooms, making Black Gate photog Chris Z and I repeatedly wonder what would happen if someone yelled “fire!” The new hotel is far better equipped to host the show which in past years has drawn upwards of 4000 guests over the weekend it occurs. But, if you can believe it, the very-scaled-back hotel bar was bereft of Fireball, depriving us of our customary pre-convention shot.

Bloody hell.

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Goth Chick News: Fill Up the Gas Tank and Break Out the Fireball, or Hitting the 2021 Show Circuit Hard…

Goth Chick News: Fill Up the Gas Tank and Break Out the Fireball, or Hitting the 2021 Show Circuit Hard…

GC, masked up and ready to go…

Now that the dumpster fire that was 2020 is in the rearview mirror, and tiny pin lights of normality are beginning to appear, it is only natural that we here at GCN begin the annual countdown to “the season.”

Now, before I start getting messages reminding me it is only March, allow me to remind you that the event around which the entire GCN year revolves was a sad specter of itself last year. Haunted attractions were closed, parties were cancelled, and even Hollywood closed up shop, leaving us bereft of new fall screen screams.

Though the Halloween pop up stores were picked vulture-clean by mid-September by the masses trying to capture the seasonal spirit at home, those same stores were simply emptying out their 2019 warehouses of old props. Why? Because the trade shows that Black Gate photog Chris Z and I normally haunt in the early part of the year, where retail buyers find all the latest and greatest merchandise, were also cancelled.

So, it’s not without significant giddiness that Chris Z has sent his kilt to the dry cleaners and taken the canned air to his camera collection, while I stock the company Hummer with the usual inventory of road trip goodies. You see, in the last month, many of the events we normally cover each year have cautiously begun announcing 2021 dates.

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The 1940 Chicon Auction, or, “My Kingdom for a Time Machine!”

The 1940 Chicon Auction, or, “My Kingdom for a Time Machine!”

Virgil Finlay painting for George Allen England’s “Darkness and Dawn” (Famous Fantastic Mysteries, 1940)

For decades, beginning with the very first Worldcon in 1939, held in New York City, science fiction magazine publishers sent art to the convention, to be auctioned off to fans to help raise money for the con. Particularly in those early years, so much art was sometimes sent that the con didn’t have time to auction it all, and at the end of the auction original interior illustrations from the likes of Virgil Finlay, Edd Cartier and Frank R. Paul would be tossed into the audience for free.

Sadly, no one has ever thrown a free Finlay at me.

The tradition that was started at Nycon 1 continued in 1940 at the second Worldcon, held in Chicago from September 1-2, 1940 – Chicon 1. One of the attendees, and a man who was actively involved in organizing that Chicon, was legendary fan and SF author Wilson “Bob “ Tucker. At the time of the con, Tucker was in the midst of publishing his classic fanzine, Le Zombie, and in issue #40 (July 1941), he posted the results of the Chicon auction. In his list, Tucker identifies (where he knows) the artist, the piece, the fan who bought it and the selling price. I include that list below; I think it’s a fascinating glimpse at the earliest days of SF art collecting.

Not every item was a piece of original art; some books, magazines, fanzines and ephemera were auctioned also, but the vast majority of it was art. Tucker notes that his list is missing some info, as the auction moved so fast and he was rapidly taking notes as each piece was being auctioned. He also notes that the list is only for the Sunday night auction (September 1, 1940), but he did not make the same sort of notes for the continuation of the auction the next night.

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Adventures in Art Collecting: Windycon XXX

Adventures in Art Collecting: Windycon XXX

Art from the Gordon R Dickson collection: Cover to Sleepwalker’s World
(DAW, 1972) and The Pritcher Mass (DAW, 1973). Art by Kelly Freas

When folks ask me for advice on how to collect original science fiction and fantasy art, I pass along some tips I’ve learned, but I also tell them that sometimes, you just have to get lucky. Case in point…

Classicon is a one day pulp and paperback show near Lansing, MI, generally held twice per year (at least when things are normal!). It’s organized by a friend of ours, Ray Walsh, who owns Curious Book Shop. Back in 2003, the fall edition of Classicon was to be held on November 9, and Deb and I planned on attending.

That same weekend, the Chicago area’s largest science fiction convention, Windycon, was taking place (Windycon XXX, which ran November 7-9, 2003). We weren’t able to go to Windycon that Friday due to work, but decided to make a short detour to it as we drove to Michigan on Saturday. We planned to just spend an hour or so there, to drop off fliers for the 2004 Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention, take a quick tour through the dealer room and art show and say hi to some friends.

All was going to plan until we made the last of our stops and entered the art show. As we walked in, we spotted two of our friends, Bob Weinberg and Alex Eisenstein, in close conversation. Walking over to them, they didn’t seem quite as excited to see us as we were to see them. They kindly remarked, quite insistently, that there was nothing to see here, and that our time would be better spent anywhere else other than at the art show. Not surprisingly, their helpful advice immediately raised our suspicions, and they soon came clean.

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After Action Report: Gen Con Online

After Action Report: Gen Con Online

gencononline

Gen Con is a major — the major — tabletop gaming convention of the year. 60,000 gaming enthusiasts arrive in Indianapolis (where the con has been held since 2003) to participate in thousands of board games, card games, miniature games, role-playing games (including live action), seminars, reveals, auctions, and cosplay. And more. Spread across the Indianapolis Convention Center, multiple hotels, and Lucas Oil Stadium, the scale of Gen Con is unmatched.

However, with COVID-19 disrupting major sports, shuttering millions at home (who are fortunate enough to work from home), and sparking debates about masks, conventions big and small canceled in-person events months ago. San Diego Comic Con. GaryCon. Origins. Who’s Yer Con. TravellerCon. Gen Con. Many have attempted some sort of online alternative, a path Gen Con 2020 followed.

Gen Con undertook the challenging task of offering an extensive virtual convention, featuring many tabletop gaming sessions and the sprawling, chaotic, glorious Dealer Hall of gaming companies, artists, dice creators, and many others hawking and showing off their goods. In past Gen Cons I have run games, participated in seminars, and spent hours roaming the Dealer Hall. From Thursday evening to Sunday afternoon, my weekend would be little else but gaming, shopping, and some sleep along with visiting a food truck to scarf down a meal between. This year would be different.

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Gen Con 2020 Online

Gen Con 2020 Online

GenCon2020I have been attending Gen Con regularly since 2009, and reporting on the events and new games here on Black Gate. It’s one of the highlights of my year, honestly. But this year, of course, Gen Con has suffered the same fate as so many other major in-person events … a shift to online participation. Gen Con Online will run from Thursday, July 30, through Sunday, August 2, 2020.

Registration for Gen Con Online is free for attendees. There will also be three different Twitch channels that are livestreaming demos, live games, and other broadcasts related to Gen Con, with links available here. There is also supposed to be a Discord server set up, though that is still coming. Not surprisingly, it looks like there will be ample abilities to purchase games through the Gen Con Game Store, and of course to purchase Gen Con merchandise. All of that goes live online when the convention begins on Thursday. Once you’ve signed up for your badge, you can register for individual events on the Event Page, though at this point many of the most popular events are sold out. (It is still worth checking in, though, as some people might not show up for their registered events.)

Favorite annual major events from Gen Con are still taking place, though in modified forms. For example, the annual Costume Contest allowed entries throughout the first half of July. Finalist videos will be placed on the Online Costume Contest website on July 29, allowing for votes from fans (1 vote per person). It isn’t going to be quite the same as the Saturday parade of costumes through the convention center, to be sure, but I’m definitely glad that they’ve found a way for these impressive cosplayers to show their stuff and get recognized for it.

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Pathfinder Second Edition and Virtual PaizoCon

Pathfinder Second Edition and Virtual PaizoCon

PathfinderGodsMagicSince GenCon 2019, there have been a number of great resources and supplements coming from Paizo to support their Pathfinder Second Edition roleplaying game. Last November, I covered the first two setting supplements, the Lost Omens Character Guide and Lost Omens World Guide. Players and Gamemasters alike have a slew of options available already, with even more slated to come by the end of the summer.

For those who don’t have time to plan or create adventures from scratch, they have one full Adventure Path, Age of Ashes, released, with the second, Extinction Curse, releasing its final volume in the next month. Each 6-volume Adventure Path for Pathfinder Second Edition takes players from level 1 through level 20, creating a truly epic campaign. Age of Ashes (Paizo, Amazon) involves the heroes discovering the secrets of an abandoned Hellknight fortress and its connection to an ancient evil force. Extinction Curse (Paizo, Amazon) is a circus-themed adventure, where the heroes must save the show while also investigating a plot to unleash an ancient curse, with a volume entitled Siege of the Dinosaurs. The upcoming Agents of Edgewatch (Paizo) is a fantasy cop adventure, as the heroes take on the role of law enforcement officers in and around the city of Absalom.

In addition, Paizo also releases a steady stream of smaller adventure scenarios to support the extensive Pathfinder Society Organized Play organization. Those adventures, available exclusively on PDF through Paizo.com, run about 4 hours per scenario, and players who play through them gain chronicle sheets that determine the amount of XP gained, as well as Fame & Reputation with various in-game factions, and of course gold and treasure. Characters also gain a variety of boons from these chronicle sheets, providing unique in-game benefits based on the previous adventures that they have completed. The structure of Pathfinder Society means that players can take the same character across a series of adventures at local game stores and conventions, and have the feel of being part of a larger adventure campaign.

Of course, that all assumes that game stores are open and conventions are taking place … but Paizo and gamers have stepped up to make sure there are opportunities to play, even in the midst of the dreaded “new normal.”

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Experience an Epic 4X Game with Heroes of Land, Air & Sea

Experience an Epic 4X Game with Heroes of Land, Air & Sea

Heroes of Land, Air & Sea-small

Heroes of Land, Air, & Sea (Gamelyn Games, 2018)

I love elegantly designed games, and games with deep replay value. When I fall in love with a board game, it’s usually because it has simple mechanics, backed up with a rich and creative setting.

But mostly, I fall for games with a cool map.

While I was walking the floor at Gen Con 2019, I wandered into a packed booth where they’d set up several sample boards for the new Heroes of Land, Air & Sea game. Competing booths nearby had open areas with loud demo games underway, but the Gamelyn Games crew instead had simply set up a few mid-game boards, then walked away to allow attendees to gawk as long as they wished.

It worked. Readers, I gawked. This is a huge and beautiful 4X game (Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate), with a 3D mapboard, gorgeous terrain, dynamic miniatures, and detailed accessories. It’s precisely the kind of colorful and deliciously intriguing play surface that brings gamers from far and wide just to ask, “What the heck is THIS??” Have a look at the set up below and see what you think.

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