RavenCon: Born in Richmond, Thriving in Williamsburg

I remember a time when the idea of a science fiction convention in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia, was a pipe dream. That was what two guys in a car heading to North Carolina were lamenting about back in 2005—why didn’t Richmond, the capital city of Virginia, have its own science fiction convention? These two guys made a decision that this needed to be remedied, and in 2006 that is what they did on launching RavenCon, named in honor of one-time Richmond resident Edgar Allan Poe.

RavenCon: The Origin Story

For a decade, RavenCon resided in Richmond; but this year marked its second year in Williamsburg. Among the RavenCon volunteers and its regular attendees, there was a concern that making the jump from Richmond to Williamsburg would result in an attendance drop. However, Con Chair Michael D. Pederson knew the reputation of this event would serve as its unfaltering foundation. RavenCon would be fine.

Mike underestimated RavenCon. RavenCon is not only fine, it is flourishing. From the look at their second year in Williamsburg, there is no signs that this convention will be ending anytime soon.

Now, I feel like I should come clean and say that when it comes to this event, I am a bit biased. It is not necessarily due to the fact that RavenCon is Richmond’s longest-running literary convention, or that Mike Pederson is a good friend of mine. Remember that origin story I told earlier with the two guys in a car?

Hi. I’m the other guy that was in the car. Mike was driving.

RavenCon: Same Quality, New Digs

I still remember those early RavenCons, so I guess that makes me one of those con goers that has watched the event evolve over the years. Instead of longing for the days of how we were a scrappy little literary event trying to make a name for itself, I am thrilled to see how well the convention has adapted to its new surroundings in Colonial Williamsburg. The previous hotel where RavenCon happened could be best described as cramped.

There was a delightful open air atrium on arriving to RavenCon but the actual corridors leading from conference room to conference room were tight. Now in their second year at the DoubleTree of Williamsburg, Virginia, there is plenty of open space. Everywhere. Two atriums allow for fan tables to appear without feeling like you’re leaning into someone else’s lunch, and getting from Panel A to Panel B no longer brings on the dread of being stuck in the Death Star’s trash compactor.

As for the event itself, RavenCon is a celebration of all aspects of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. There were anime panels, gaming panels, musical acts, interviews with Guests of Honor, and plenty of fantastic cosplay to be seen. If I were to give a quick and dirty glimpse at what you can see at RavenCon:

  • Dave Lee and his crew made quite the impact bringing an epic WarHammer 40K.
  • A live studio audience gave the antics of Geek Radio Daily an extra boost of energy.
  • Attendees craving their geek with a more melodious approach were granted performances from Devo Spice, the Misbehavin’ Maidens, and many others!

And this happened on Saturday. Just. Saturday.

RavenCon: Why I Come Back…

A con is truly defined by its attendees, and it is the attendees that usually drew me back to RavenCon. (That, and the Wonderful Billy Flynn.) I was asked by Mike Pederson to take a panel that had no other speakers as he knew I was passionate on the subject and that I could handle the pressure, and yes, the pressure was on as the panel was to be an introduction to The Expanse. I was not certain what to expect as I was flying solo, but imagine my delight when the room filled to Standing Room Only capacity, half of the attendees not knowing a thing about The Expanse, the other half a collection of rabid fans of both the TV show and James S.A. Corey’s books.

The next fifty minutes flew by with laughter, groans at some of my more inappropriate humor, and questions a plenty. This sort of enthusiasm was a constant in both the panels I participated on and the panels I attended, the last one including Guest of Honor Mercedes Lackey and Artist Guest of Honor Larry Dixon, both of whom were absolute delights to speak alongside. Special props should be given to Mercedes who was sick for the entire weekend, but soldiered on through the entire weekend in greeting fans, signing books, and making her panel appearances. Thank you, Mercedes, for being a consummate pro.

My own Expanse panel, upon reflection, was a good cross-section of RavenCon, both in its attendees and in its overall approach to fandom. When we started planning out RavenCon 2006 in his car, Mike and I both agreed that RavenCon was to be at its core a Literary convention but would not exclude other fandoms as some cons do. RavenCon would be different. If you’re a cosplayer, come on in. You’re more a consumer of film and TV? Come on in. You want to get your geek on through gaming? Come on in. RavenCon calls itself “The Con of Opportunity” as the event from the beginning is a celebration of the speculative fiction genre and the pop culture it inspires. That, in a nutshell, was my Expanse audience: a mix of cosplayers, book lovers, and media fans, all coming together to have a bit of fun.

That’s RavenCon in a nutshell. It doesn’t matter what you’re a fan of. You’re a fan. That’s the truth of it. Welcome home.

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