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Convention Recap: The Houston Con

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Without having the numbers in front of us, it appeared that the new The Houston Con was a success. Sunday's attendance was rather light, but there was a bustling crowd on Saturday and even Friday looked pretty busy.

The only real problem was the heat on Saturday. The main lobby has a lot of glass windows in the ceiling, like a greenhouse, and it felt like a greenhouse as well. This was especially trying for the attendees in costume. (Personally, by about noon I had to start reminding myself not to do any poses for photos that involved raising my arms.) However, everyone stayed in a pretty good mood and at least the ballrooms and meeting rooms stayed cool. Storms and cloud cover later in the day made the temperatures a little more bearable and by Sunday, it seemed like the hotel had cranked up the air conditioning.

We did wonder about the ticket controls. Much of the con was out in the lobby of the Hilton Houston North hotel and no one appeared to be checking badges. It seemed like anyone could have walked in and seen most of the con without buying a ticket. Hopefully, all the attendees supported the convention in the monetary sense.

There were a few prevalent themes during this con and one was diversity. The Houston Con had more of an emphasis on diversity amongst fans than any other that we've attended so far. Every pop culture convention has "booth babes" or sexy female cosplayers who man their own tables and sell posters. The Houston Con was the first we've seen that featured just as many studly male ones and that's totally fair. More and more women attend these conventions every year and the stigma of being a smart girl into geeky things is long gone.

It wasn't just male/female diversity that was emphasized. The Houston Gaymers group, an LGBT awareness and social organization with an interest in video gaming, hosted multiple panels. They also manned the 24-hour video gaming room. (Due to a miscommunication with the hotel, the room had to close on Friday night, but was able to start the 24-hour schedule on Saturday.) There was additionally a "Disabled and Proud" panel.

Another big theme surrounded Star Trek: Axanar, a unique attempt to create a big-budget-looking Star Trek feature film without film studio backing. CBS currently owns the rights to the Star Trek franchise, so the film cannot use the Star Trek logo or branding and the filmmakers may not charge anything for it when it's completed. If Axanar is going to get produced, it's going to have to be via the Kickstarter that's currently running. An initial Kickstarter to fund a "proof of concept" prequel called Prelude to Axanar was so successful that it garnered $101,171, blowing past the initial $10,000 requested.

Axanar features several actors who are strongly associated with roles both from prior Star Trek endeavors and other seminal science fiction shows. They include Richard Hatch ("Captain Apollo" from Battlestar Galactica), J. G. Hertzler ("Martok" from Star Trek: Deep Space 9), Tony Todd ("Kurn" from Star Trek: The Next Generation) and Kate Vernon (from the reimagined Battlestar Galactica series that ran in 2004).

In a bit of thespian musical chairs, though, no one is playing a character similar to what he or she has done before, using the opportunity to break out of their mold. Hatch is a Klingon; Hertzler is not. Todd is an admiral and Vernon is playing a tough captain. One actor is staying with a familiar role; Gary Graham is reprising the Vulcan ambassador he played in Enterprise. Obviously, the effort is far more than a "fan film" and the final product could be an eye-opener in terms of what kind of movie a grassroots campaign led by the right team can really accomplish.

Houston still has a lot of love for Power Rangers, as evidenced by the long lines at their autograph tables. The group of five-- Jason David Frank (Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers), Erin Cahill, Jason Faunt (both from Power Rangers Time Force), Alison MacInnis (Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue) and Michael Copon (Power Rangers Time Force), hosted panels to answer fan questions as well as to generate some excitement for the upcoming Power Rangers "Mega Wars" movie.

Finally, there was a whole lot of cosplay, including a few practical panels about costuming. There was a "how to work with Worbla" panel (Worbla is a thermoplastic often used by cosplayers to construct armor and props) and a "Cosplay on a Budget" panel that focused on using inexpensive or found objects for costuming needs (with tips like using a backpack frame as a support for wings and making a quick and dirty ladies mask from a swath of lace). Suggestion for next year: include a brief description of the events in the program. We have no idea what the "Buried In Cosplay" panel was about. Costumed zombies?

Overall, it was a pretty strong start for a new effort and it's a good bet that The Houston Con will roll around again this time next year.

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