Travels

Con of Thrones 2019 – Nashville

Game of Thrones is not only a cultural phenomenon, it’s an amazing work of Fantasy. In fact, I’ve been on board since season 1 and it’s genuinely changed me. It sounds so stupid, but I can accept that. Never have I seen this depth of character on screen or in print, and it’s intoxicating (I’m not posting to defend or to argue about anything just yet, that’s saved for later).

Earlier this year, I decided to narrow down my raging fangirling – the comics, the shows, the movies – all needed to be channeled into just a select few amazing subject. So I chose. I’m not reigning in my comics obsession due to necessity (more on that later), but I wanted to focus in on and become really knowledgeable about just a few things. Again, it’s strange to admit this outside of one’s own thoughts, but don’t we all kind of do this? Don’t we focus in on the thing(s) we want to be “The Go-to Guy” on a subject and get all puffed up when friends stand in awe of our abilities to recall the most obscure facts about a thing?

I have too many interests, straight up. And if Erin Falconer’s How to Get Shit Done and Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck have taught me anything, it’s that I need to hone in on just the few things I give shitfucks about and be the best at those things. Okay, perhaps Falconer and Manson are more socially/economically bent, but their ideas function on multiple levels (yes, even the fangirl level).

Long story short, giving a rather large shitfuck about Game of Thrones, I made an impulsive decision to attend the 2019 “Con of Thrones” in Nashville. And why not – free room and board with my family, hang out with a bunch of book geeks all day, discuss GoT with people who know the difference between a Glover and a Mormont, all in my home town.

I spent two out of the three days at the Con. It was the biggest book club I’ve ever experienced, and it was hilarious. The folks I got to interact with were witty, creative, and super clean (a pleasant surprise from my past experiences with conventions)! In my opinion, the best panel discussion was on a Thursday in which everyone in attendance more or less thanked everyone else for physically being there, being supportive as a fandom, and being just as excited about a story as the person speaking was. It was simultaneously humbling and reassuring to hear peoples’ stories of being ostracized by their surrounding society while being so wholly embraced in a fandom.

Do creators think of these things when they set down to their work? Granted that ASOIAF was first printed in 1991 and the pilot didn’t air until 2011, but did GRRM understand what he was doing? I mean, a writer’s job is to produce for profit. Meet deadlines, convince the publishers, and get picked up. That’s the gig: get your story told. I’m not belittling the process by any means, I’m a bibliophile myself. But that’s the bare bones of it. The more noble authors are artists in every sense of the word – like all artists, they’ve got this thing inside them that demands to be shared. Once public, there is relief. There’s a beauty in that. But do they ever consider the rippling impact a work can have on a culture, a group of people, a fandom? I’m scouring through GRRM interviews to see his thoughts on my question.

I’m convinced Tolkien knew the impact his story would have. He took it that seriously, and it’s evident in the works. Some artists are the opposite, I’m sure. They believe they hold the key to something that once loosed will “save” us in a way. Maybe the answer is there’s a fine line in creation.

Alright, let’s not get too existential here. I’ll update as I find more resources. As for the Con itself, it was beautiful. The Music City Convention Center is so large that it never felt cramped. For the highlight reel:

  • The Wolf and the Crows: These guys made my whole weekend. I was more star-struck and in awe by these lads than I was by the headliners (sorry not sorry). True story tellers, entertainers, and dammit I just wanna buy ’em a round. They were so sweet to me as we got the photos and I asked for their signature. Even after their long trip, the multitude of people they’d already dealt with, and the panels they hosted – still sweet. I think I have a huge crush on the boys.
  • The Iron Throne: What was it made out of? A plastic garden chair, Styrofoam swords, some wood pieces, and lots of spray paint? Who cares! It was awesome!
  • The Cosplayers: If I were a stronger person (with at least one companion), I would’ve considered cosplaying. I don’t know if it’s the fandom having so many inside jokes, the pervasive internet humor conquering my generation, or the genius of the wearers, but they were hilarious and very well crafted.
  • I’ve never seen a Con so invested in a beer cart. Or beer at all for that matter. Rock on.
  • I was not prepared. I hadn’t done enough homework to even be in the presence of some of those nerds. They put me to shame, and I’m admitting that now. They’ve renewed in me my commitment to read the books, study the lore, and create fan art. It’s something I’ve never tried before, honestly, and I don’t know what my hang up is about fanart, but I left inspired.
  • I think I wanna get in on this conceptually. They need a little help organizing, and there are some events that could’ve been… bigger, more interactive, more creative.
  • The doors of the fandom have swung open, and I’ve got a hell of a list of creators, speakers, and artists to browse through now. This is possibly the best thing that came about from the Con. I don’t want to spoil things for myself, but I also don’t want to be left behind. I’ve mostly just gotta hurry and catch up.
  • The single thing that drove me absolutely nuts, no matter the timing or the panel: Referring to the author as “George,” like one’s had the guy over for Thanksgiving dinner since 1990. Perhaps just a stupid quirk, but it started to get to me in the end, and I started laughing aloud whenever someone would do it.
  • The app: The programming app was 5-stars, and I’d never seen a con run off an app before. It was brilliant, convenient, and super fun. I love the focus on community as we could be in a panel, and other were posting pictures of things in a different hall or cosplayers or updates or inviting the group to after-con drinks. Next year, I’ll be more prepared and more receptive to this community.

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