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Watching Killing Eve at ClexaCon (me and Yoshiko)
Waiting to watch Killing Eve at ClexaCon.

Event Purpose and Details: Where ClexaCon Failed

In April, I went to ClexaCon, a fandom convention targeting queer women and nonbinary people. I got a bit of FOMO last year, and my friend Yoshiko and I decided to go to this year's convention.

Part of the greatness of community in these gatherings is the power of shared identity and interests. The opportunities to attend programming targeted at you — from actors who play queer characters on Wynona Earp, The Runaways, Black Lightening, One Day at a Time, and more to panels addressing representation and intersectionality. ClexaCon is also an industry event for actors, producers, writers, directors, and others involved in television and film. Where else are you going to sit in a room with 600 other queers and squee over the second season premiere of Killing Eve?

In its third year, ClexaCon has over doubled in growth since 2017. An estimated 5,000+ people attended the 2019 show. With that growth, there are growing pains; however, the biggest one is a fundamental issue — the event hasn't quite figured out what it is.

This became clear when people asked about my trip and I had to explain what ClexaCon is. I stumbled over this even with fandom friends. Is it a fandom gathering? Is it an industry event? What should I expect in the panels I attended?

Unfortunately, if I was confused, ClexaCon's focus when I actually got there was even more confusing. The Tropicana's convention center layout didn't help with long narrow hallways marking different eras of expansion and very few ClexaCon signs. We followed people with queer haircuts and fashion choices into the right section. No one really checked our badges when entering rooms, and everything was dependent on the maze to deter non-attendees from winding up at ClexaCon.

Programming varied wildly. Many panelists were programmed on one too many panels. I went to a panel that used the word "space" when it could've meant "sci-fi" or "safe spaces." Luckily, it was a good panel regardless.

One of the joys of attending targeted conventions is the vending room. Especially in a space where you know you'll be supporting smaller vendors, who are part of the queer family.

However, from the moment I walked in, it was clear exhibits were an afterthought. The booths were tables in rows, pretty typical of most conventions. But the space seemed haphazard compared to other conventions, including many empty tables and spaces. There was a booth for the web series Carmilla, where its popularity and long lines blocked neighboring vendors. It could've been easily moved into emptier places with lots of space for queuing.

Nothing was labeled. Not to list of who was where. Nor was there a sign pointing into the vendor room and explaining what happened beyond convention center airwall openings. Nothing to welcome attendees into the space and get them to open their wallets.

Vendors did not have their own badges — and many reported issues trying to move out their stuff on the last day since volunteers had no easy way to identify vendors compared to regular attendees. Additionally, at a con supposedly centered on queer people, vendors did not have an easy way to communicate their pronouns and many were accidentally misgendered over-and-over again.

Vendors also lost money on ClexaCon because they were not focused on at all. Besides the lack of information about them and where they were, I did not hear a single promotion from the main stage, nor promotion in other programming to make sure you stopped by. Which means ClexaCon only ended up hurting their own community.

ClexaCon hasn't figured out what it is. And if you have not figured out what you are, you cannot figure out which details are important. The vendor room suffered from this. It suffered from the focus on the celebrity — from the big panels and bringing big names in. It suffered in the details, and it suffered in its bottom line.

The women who run ClexaCon openly admit they'd never run a fancon before. I hadn't either, until GeekGirlCon. You can learn, but you do also need to talk to people who've run them and go to other cons to take notes on what works and what doesn't.

The thing is con runners themselves are a small subset community. Even volunteer pools are small. When starting GeekGirlCon, we reached out other convention runners in Seattle, and sat down with the people behind PAX, Emerald City Comic Con, Sakura Con, and more. People who graciously and candidly shared their insights and experiences. We went to a ton of cons, and our staff did have a handful of people who'd been involved in other cons from operational staff to day-of-volunteering. We figured out what we wanted to emulated and what might work better for our audience.

Ultimately, ClexaCon's own bottom line will suffer from this lack of direction. Vendors likely won't be back. Fans have picked up on this outrage post-con. ClexaCon's staff seems to struggle with providing answers and steps for improvement for 2020. Word-of-mouth is still the most powerful tool out there, and if you cannot explain to your friend what ClexaCon is about, will they be interested in attending?

Bookworm corner

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells 5/5 stars

I love you, Murderbot. A novella about an android, who is maybe more human than it wants to admit, but isn't human at all, and what happens when a murderbot gets attached both to itself and to its humans.

Aquicorn Cove by Katie O'Neill 5/5 stars

Like all of O'Neill's books, this one is sweet with a great message. It focuses on extreme weather due to our climate emergency and the effects of ocean pollution. Her illustrations are beautiful.

Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries #2) by Martha Wells 4/5 stars

Murderbot may think they are alone in the world, but finds there are many kinds of intelligences out there as it tries to find the heart of its trauma.

Critical Space (Atticus Kodiak #5) by Greg Rucka 3/5 stars

I understand why fans of Atticus hate the turn here and the destruction of most of Atticus' close family-friend relationships. I also agree that money and a diesel bod do not make one Batman. The ending is abrupt. Also spoiler: Why does Atticus take an assassin's word that Atticus' actions knocking out the banker killed him?! There's no further investigation of this, only Atticus labeling himself a murderer too. Especially when this assassin is known to play psychological games.

Finding Home, Vol. 1: The Traveller by Hari Conner 5/5 stars

Janek and Chepi are the most adorable, and this story is for all those who love a long setup as characters slowly fall for each other and eventually hook up. (At least that's what I'm betting will happen.) Also yay for more magical queer love stories.

Fortunate Beasts (Letters for Lucardo #2) by Otava Heikkilä 5/5 stars

I love these books so much. For those looking for some supernatural, historical, intergenerational (with a twist), and queer erotic romance, these comics are great. Ed and Lucardo are the best.

Forward by Lisa Maas 4/5 stars

When I think of queer books I want in the world, Forward is one of these. The story itself is about dealing with life's traumas in your late 30s/early 40s and building a life forward. There are hundreds of these stories in books, film, and TV featuring straight people, but they continue to be so rare in expressions of queer love, especially love between two women.

Grave Sight (Harper Connelly #1) by Charlaine Harris 2/5 stars

Harris always entertains me, but is this book good? Not really. Will I read the other ones? Likely, eventually.

Kill You Twice (Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell #5) by Chelsea Cain 3/5 stars

This book would've been better if there wasn't constant body-shaming. I get that she's evil, but "hahaha Gretchen got fat and kind of ugly on her psychological meds that keep her from being a serial killer" was a bit much.

Legend (Legend #1) by Marie Lu 4/5 stars

Lu builds and teases an interesting world. The world itself — including the mechanisms of how this California dystopia militarized government works — ends up more interesting than the main characters. Perhaps, it's the YA tropes, but where Day and June end up at the end of the book is incredibly obvious. The writing is greatly entertaining, and it's refreshing to have YA dystopian stories about characters of color. I'll definitely be reading more in the series.

Man-Eaters, Vol. 1 by Chelsea Cain, Kate Niemczyk, and Lia Miternique 2/5 stars

Issue #4's transphobia — through refusing to deal with trans people being in this world, while using trans issues to frame cis problems — and Cain's remarks on Twitter rather ruined this book for me. Also the lack of plot movement, which is not typical of her work.

The Middleman: The Collected Series Indispensability by Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Les McClaine 2/5 stars

Skip the comics, just enjoy the TV show. All plot, characterization, and other issues were fixed by the TV show. It was all done much better on the show.

Mind of My Mind (Patternmaster #2) by Octavia E. Butler 4/5 stars

Doro's breeding project of telepaths and telekinetics comes to a head. Butler plays with tropes of power, along race and gender, and also the outcomes of trauma and if those who inflict it and also suffered from it can be redeemed. In many direct ways, what would happen if those in our society, who suffer from substance addictions and extreme mental health issues, could not only get 100% better, but also climb to power over "ordinary" people.

The Plant Lover's Guide to Ferns by Sue Olsen and Richie Steffen 4/5 stars

Great book about ferns for: 1) fern dorks like me; and 2) people using ferns in their gardens, and looking for basic information about how ferns work and which are good for gardens in their climates. So many pretty pictures of ferns too!

A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid 4/5 stars

Beautiful writing about colonialism and consequences, but also people and complexity. The 3rd part dragged a bit for me, but that ending... it's going to stay with me.

Stay (Aud Torvingen #2) by Nicola Griffith 4/5 stars

Gwendoline Christie needs to play Aud in a three season limited series, each one based on each book. This novel is about grief, but it is also about healing from trauma and what happens when you finally let yourself feel what happened to you.

Things I wrote recently

On Patron:

Reviews on my comics blog:

Green thumb update

Is it the garden or me struggling? Is the garden the literal springing forth of my own existential crisis? Or have we had a colder spring here in the PNW?

An owl has appeared and may have taken out the rats. Or a neighbor killed them. I've only had one plant munched on by something larger than a bug since the initial raid on my garden and murder of many seedlings in early May. This does not account for Zeta's attack on my golden rat tail cactus.

I did have a blast meeting up with other PNW-based fans of the plant podcast, On the Ledge. We visited the Amazon Spheres, Volunteer Park Conservatory, and Cultivate Propagate, plus had a plant swap! It was an extremely packed day, but plant nerds are the best.

For the fourth time this spring, I will do some major replanting, trimming, and repotting this weekend. I believe it is finally going to get warm. Fern Fest 2019 is next weekend. I know you're excited.

North garden bed
South garden bed
Left: North garden: peas, spinach, beans, cucumber, basil, cilantro, parsley, kale, carrots, saffron, beets, arugula, lettuce, peppers, cabbage, tomatoes, marigolds, watermelon, poppies, and parsnips.
Right: South garden: turnips, eggplant, cumin, dill, borage, cerinthe, watermelon, corn, kale, chives, tomatoes, poppies, peppers, cucumber, basil, marigolds, and radish.

Keep dreaming your dream,


Erica McGillivray

Copyright © 2019 Erica McGillivray, All rights reserved.

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