Nerd Con: Space City Con 2016

We are in peak Texas nerdy con season and I spent this past Memorial weekend at Space City Comic Con. Some of you may be aware that pre-con news for Space City included guest announcements for big names like William Shatner, Alex Kingston, Billie Piper, and practically the entire cast of Sons of Anarchy including Ron Perlman and Charlie Hunnam. As a local Houstonian, and someone who has experienced this con before, I’ve witnessed its growth, successes, and pains as any big event that requires planning and organizing does. Space has always been a smaller more intimate con, which I enjoyed, but I was open and happy to see how things would go with such a powerful lineup.

The pre-con news was somewhat overshadowed by some legal troubles with the Houston Convention Bureau and the con’s use of the identifying term: Space City. Many folks, myself included, felt Houston and it’s nerd community was large enough to handle two conventions during the summer, and a judge agreed there wasn’t enough to prevent the con from using the term. You can read more of the details here. Ultimately, the con was not canceled and went on as planned. I’ll come back to this in a moment.

I would like to preface by saying I can only speak to my personal experience of Space City Con. I do not have first-hand accounts to the bigger “issues” that went down this weekend which affected many VIP attendees and the SoA talent, though I will touch on this, I want to focus on some positives first.

The nerd community is made up of some of the most passionate people, full of talent and creativity in showcasing their passions. Wherever there’s a con, there’s an opportunity for them to shine.

Cosplay

The cosplay was strong. Below are photos from some of the cosplayers on Saturday.

Artists/Vendors

I love buying nerd art and discovering new artists at every con I go to. Below are a few artists and vendors which impressed me.

My Con Experience

My Friday did not go as planned, as there was a horrible storm which prevented me from getting to the con. For those who may not know, Houston has been getting hammered the past few weeks and has been prone to flooding to the saturated grounds. I didn’t want to take a chance so I made plans to start my day early Saturday and make up for lost time.

I got to the NRG complex gates right at 10am. There were multiple events that day, and I happened to be in a graduation traffic line. I would’ve been earlier, but the long line of cars blocked signage that would’ve directed me to a different lane to get the correct gate entrance.  NRG, please get larger signage! Minor inconvenience. Now, I pull up to the correct gate and am about to pay for parking. I have had past experiences at this complex where I’ve used my credit card to pay for parking, but they proceeded to say it was $12 cash. I only had $10 on me. Sure you can say I was ill prepared, but I didn’t anticipate needing cash. Everything is done digitally now and I like to have some sort of paper/digital trail. Yes, I was annoyed, because I had to drive off in search of an ATM.

By the time I got back, I’d lost an hour of con time. I walk into the building and see a massively long line. When I asked a volunteer where media was to check in, he directed me to the long line. This line was for those who prepurchased tickets. The short line was for those who were planning to buy their ticket cash. Isn’t the point to pre-purchase something, to shorten your wait time? I waited patiently and was anxious that I would miss some panels I wanted to attend. I did miss them, and it took me an hour and 15 minutes to make it to the front of the line. To say I was agitated was an understatement. The rest of my check-in process went rather smoothly, and I immediately walked in and gave Dim & Wit a hug. I was so glad they were right in front of the entry door! They make everything better with their amazing hugs.

I brushed off the agitation and made my way to photo op booth to make sure there wasn’t a schedule change. I very rarely trust con apps to be updated accurately. I had pre-purchased a Charlie Hunnam photo-op as a very early Christmas present for my sister. Without knowing there were issues brewing, I got my photo ticket and went on my way.

I walked through the autograph area and saw the SoA dudes hard at work signing for their fans. Everyone was smiling and engaging with their fans; it was great to see. The rest of the late morning, I spent walking through the booths. D-Piddy and our bud, Lonstermash were there, and NASA had a spectacular booth set up where they had HTC VR demos for folks to try. I spoke to the NASA organizer and he described their scheduled panels and the future mission to Mars. I was looking forward to their panels, but sadly my schedule did not work out. I was running 30 minutes late to the SoA panel, so I rushed up to the second floor to try to make it. I was sure it would be packed; I was wrong. The panel was almost an hour late, and only four of the guys were present. I initially thought the rest of the cast decided to stay behind and keep signing autographs (which is what I believe most were doing at the time) however, I didn’t know there was another reason for their absence.

For an abbreviated panel, there were funny moments and also emotional and poignant moments.


I found myself tearing up when Cindy Dietz, Danny Dietz’s (Lone Survivor) mom reminded us the importance of Memorial Day and gave Ron Perlman a Navy Seal Challenge coin while saying, “I want my angel to be with you.” Ron was visibly touched.

After the panel, I met up with my family, who were experiencing a Houston nerd convention for the first time. My sister and I walked to the photo op only to find out it was delayed to 5pm instead of 3pm. It seemed Charlie wanted to keep signing autographs. We admired his dedication.

After having some food, we walked the vendor/artist alleys and found some more goodies. My brother in law had his first star struck experience meeting Hacksaw Jim Duggan. He was like a kid in a candy store and Hacksaw was awesome. My sis and I made our way back to the photo line and it was of an expected length…namely, long. You can’t do a con without being ok with a long queue. By the time we got close to the front of the line, we could see Charlie and he was pulled aside to discuss something of seriousness. Everyone had harsh looks on their faces and were whispering fervently. Again, being none the wiser, we didn’t think too much about it when Charlie came back and resumed photos. He was lovely, polite, and must have been exhausted. My sister was giddy and we were happy with our photo!

IMG_6911 We ended our con with another artist alley walk through and picked up some goodies that were being held for us. Upon arriving home, I realized how exhausted I was. I experienced a bit of frustration but more highs. Then I ventured onto social media to see what others were saying about Space City, and that’s when all of the odd moments and frustrations made sense. 

Missing funds…unpaid talents…the talent staying for fans for free…VIP packages not validated…schedules delayed…and the list goes on. If you want to read more details on this, please see NOLA Nerd Couple‘s article here as well as cosplayer Ava Jade’s article here. It took a few days, but the Houston Chronicle finally wrote something, though brief

I am angry and embarrassed. The nerd community is full of passionate and generous people. For someone to take advantage of the community and abuse their power is unacceptable. Were those funds used to pay for their legal fees against the Houston Convention Bureau? Did the bureau have information about potential shady dealings and that’s why they wanted to shut the convention down? These are all my personal speculations, but one wonders. So far, Space City has deleted their Facebook page and has offered no form of explanation, or apology, or plan of resolution to their guests. Though it seems some folks did receive refunds from ShowClix, not all have been resolved. Something has to happen to ensure this doesn’t happen again. Space City may have to dissolve if they don’t restructure. Their Twitter is still up if you want to tweet them and demand answers for those done wrong.  

I ask for everyone to not view Houston in a bad light. This is just one organization who put their trust in the wrong people. Mistakes were made. Don’t let this ruin your future con experiences! Respect to the poor volunteers who had no idea what was happening and were suffering verbal abuse. Respect to all of the talent who stayed for free to make the best experience possible for their fans. Respect to attendees who showed patience and restraint. I hope you find your answers soon. 

Update: This morning the HoustonPress released the other side of the story. It’s difficult to be sure what side is telling the truth, and that may not be the point. I hope all of this gets resolved as painlessly as possible. Read the report here.

Thoughts are with all!
Nerd On!
~R
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3 Comments

  1. It would be one thing if it was just the SoA people. However, I have trouble believing Comits if the twins, and more specifically, Wolf photography had trouble getting paid.

    • For sure. I’m especially doubtful of his claims now that Charlie is coming back to Comicpalooza and honoring the VIP packages from SCCC. It’s amazing.

  2. Pingback: Nerd It Forward: Comicpalooza and Charlie Hunnam

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