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A very large number of people who have never attended a Sci-Fi convention have the idea that they are all about people standing in line to get autographs of actors while wearing Klingon makeup and costumes or pointed ears. I'm not saying that those stereotypes don't exist, but the Convention experience is much richer and diverse than you may have been led to believe. To get the best experience it is important first consider your interests and then match them to what conventions are available. Conventions come in two primary flavors: professional and fan run. Professional conventions should have actors who have appeared in genre television and films ready to sign autographs and have their photos taken with fans. Some of these conventions include the costs of autographs and photo sessions in the cost of admission others operate in more of an a la carte fashion. While there are a number of professional promoters, the best known and run are Chiller Theatre Expo, Creation Entertainment, Fed Con (Germany), Starland and Vulcon. Do expect things to be as advertised and run on time. Do not expect warm and fuzzy. Warm and fuzzy is more the field of fan run conventions.
Fans who get together to run conventions have a great deal of enthusiasm, but usually are run with a volunteer staff and can be a bit "bumpy" with organization of the activities. What you can expect? A movie room, anime room, gaming room, art show, dealer's room, and various special interest group rooms and tables. It is a rare con that doesn't have a dance and a masquerade. Many fan run conventions also have guests ranging from actors, authors, cartoonists, illustrators, scientists etc. You may also find workshops for writing, acting, art, costuming, make-up and special effects. It all varies from convention to convention and year to year. Older fan run conventions such as Aggie Con, Balticon, Bay Con, CONvergence, Dragon Con, ICON, Shore Leave, United Fan Con, Toronto Trek to name a few. The following sections may help you in selecting the kind of convention you would enjoy the most. Don't be afraid to try other sorts once you've sampled those that are in your comfort zone. Love to read speculative fiction? Do you have an interest in attending workshops on writing and publishing?
Would you like to mingle with like-minded fans and meet professionals in the field such as authors, editors, illustrators and publishers? Then a literary convention would be the place you might enjoy most. Media conventions are very much about television and film. Science Fiction and Fantasy or Horror and Paranormal guests abound. You may meet and hear behind the scenes stories of actors and illustrators, SFX experts and make-up artists and a host of media professionals. Many of the attendees may be wearing costumes. Depending on whether you are going to a "pro" con or a "fan run" con the rest will vary greatly. Parties are expected and encouraged. At a pro convention this will take the form of a banquet with the guests at a fee and/or a dance or cocktail party all for various prices. Gamers come in all shapes, sizes, ages, colors and ethnic backgrounds, but they all have something in common.
A love of games. Role playing, live, pen and paper, MMOG as well as video gamers and board gamers all have a lot of interactive fun at gaming conventions. You can meet game designers, try out new games that have yet to hit the general market, and play in tournaments for glory and prizes. Once an almost male-only pursuit, gaming now has a growing number of female enthusiasts. Gaming has become so pervasive that it is now nearly socially acceptable to the mainstream public. There are giant conventions like GENCON and ORIGINS, where it is so crowded you may have trouble negotiating the exhibition halls due to the crowds. The upside is the great diversity and FREEBIES as there are so many gaming companies competing for your attention. Then there are the more intimate play intensive ones like Archon, CastleCon, Dragonflight Dreikonigsnacht (Twelfth Night), Festival of Dreams, HexaCon, KublaCon, MACE, MarsCon, Marmalade Dog, ShaunCon, Strategicon, The Once and Future Con, and many many more.
Keep in mind that many conventions other than pure gaming conventions have gaming tracks. If you like to game but want to do more than only game during the weekend you might look into some of the other cons with a strong gaming element. For the older generation anime seems so foreign, even unreachable. Japanese origin, but the striking visual styles and beauty, the characters and stories, connect with westerners as well as with audiences in the east. Because they are animations, they can either be sub-titled or dubbed in the language of the country where it is being broadcast. In anime the stars are the illustrators, authors, and voice actors. At conventions you will find many of these sorts of guests as well as companies promoting their projects. You will also find some of the most imaginative of costumes created and worn by fans. At larger conventions you may find multiple rooms running films day and night. At smaller ones perhaps just one room will be devoted to showing their favorites.