I’m watching my partner in nerd, my co-founder Omar try to conquer a shaved ice from the Blerdcon BBQ event that’s larger than the mass of hair he has been growing out over the last few years. He’s losing. I chose a simple smoothie that I downed in about seventeen minutes. Lauren won this particular sweepstakes with some fruit blended medley that was neither mediocre, nor messy. This is my first time at Blerdcon (its second year of existence) but after a weekend there, it’s apparent this is a metaphor for the convention itself. Everyone can get something specific they are looking for. Sometimes you go simple. Sometimes you bite off more than you can chew. But its always on your terms.
After the success of Blerdcon’s launch last year, BNP invested heavily this year, hosting panels and sending more folks to cover it. The word was that Blerdcon exceeded expectations by providing space, an abundance for every kind of nerd, with a bend towards inclusion for marginalized voices. This year, it succeeds in that, in spades. There is no shortage of either content or personality on display.
For a new con, the setting of the Hyatt Regency in Alexandria, VA worked out well for accessibility to events, panels, etc. Even parking (the scourge for an outsider of DC like myself) was readily available for those traveling via car. And folks traveled in droves. What I imagined would be a well attended on a small scale con, and what I witnessed was a well-attended medium sized if not larger con. A true flocking of nerds not only attended events, but seem to represent well in plenty of panels and workshops. As the possibility of a con growing larger (especially one that had success in its inaugural year), the venue seems to be hugely accommodating for what the event that Blerdcon was this year and will be for the next couple of years at least.
Things to Do
There was a breadth of material at Blerdcon this year, mostly centered around panels more than most things. By the sheer number of panels, you’re going to get your great panels and not so great panels. This isn’t by the fault of Blerdcon by any way shape or form. As Blerdcon becomes more ambitious with even larger communal events, it may naturally trim down on the number of panels. Which hopefully will increase the quality and reduce the repetitive talks and workshops that might presently exist. We found some great vendors in artist alley, but it definitely felt like the least invested aspect where more artists could’ve been in attendance. Not knowing what the incentive programs or rates may be for artists, it would be nice to see even more vendors participating with even more diverse offerings.
The GAMING ROOM. This gave me life, fam. A whole ass room with every console you could think of (including PS VR). From original Mario Bros and Karate Kid on Nintendo to Tekken to Super Smash Bros. (with some streaming commentary thrown in). A lot of gaming options, organized extremely well, and all the fun to be had.
That’s the wired up life, the tabletop gaming room looked fun as hell too (alas, there but only so much time). But it had its own room full time.
Also, there was a lot of dance party late night shenanigans with some mystery, escape room type stuff (that might have cost extra), cosplay contests, nerd poetry slam, etc. All in all, a lot of stuff to do with some room for growth for next year.
What must be the grand success of Blerdcon as far as I can tell is the prevailing sentiment that folks are here because of the necessity of their voice and others. There’s a lot of generosity inside the panels and discussions, across multiple presenters for folks to collaboratively reach conclusions and brainstorm how to push our artistry, inclusion, and impact in multiple areas.
Even while focused on marginalized voices doesn’t make this con exempt from the exclusion of some hosts and audience members as to what defines “nerd” or even “blackness” and its import regarding these topics. That’s by no way Blerdcon’s fault, but a reminder that there’s still plenty of work to be done regarding the community and how it views itself. Having said that, there were plenty of panels and workshops that challenged exactly that, with special designation like LGTB-HQ and the Women of Color in Sci-Fi Television Panels.
Wrap – Up
If we’re honest, we still live in the aftermath of talking about a con that didn’t happen as much as we talk about those that do. The promises that have got broken elsewhere are often fulfilled at Blerdcon the past two years with the promise of more to come. In just two years, it has become one of the most reputable cons focused on diversity with no sign of slowing down.