by Cat Ellen, contributing writer
Wyrd Con 5 opened to participants on Thursday, May 22 at The Westin LAX. Programming falls into one of several tracks to make it easier for attendees to decide how to shape their schedules. The “What Is?” events focus on broad overviews of various events and toolsets, and were designed for the newcomers at the convention. “Mixing” track events focus on panels and activities that combine design and development. Transmedia and Live Action feature prominently in these. The “Creation” workshops have expanded this year to embrace the Maker community members, focusing on using various toolsets from the con discussions, applying skills in different medium and events. The dinners, dances, and other more social opportunities fall under the “Con Event” track, and some events are exclusive for the “Steward” badge holders.
It is easy to discern that Live Action Gaming remains a primary draw for many convention participants. Walking through the halls of the hotel, guests can easily wander past sword fighters practicing with foam weapons (“There’s a tournament in just two weeks! I have to be at my best!”), women in flowing silk saris, men in top hats or bowlers, and young people packing nerf guns and dressed in homemade artillery bandoliers.
Gaming adventures, workshops, and even more classes! Thursday’s schedule was packed with fantastic opportunities. “Conductrr Training Masters Class” hosted by Robert Pratten, introduced the Conductrr software suite for interactive transmedia development. “Jim Butcher Writing Workshop, Masters Class,” a six-hour professional writing course hosted by the reknowned author Jim Butcher, was described by one new author as completely life-changing. And for the late-night participants, the “Werewolves of Millers Hollow” game was run until midnight on Thursday, the fifth year for this game at the con.
Thursday night started with the Wyrd Con Opening Party, featuring “True Thomas the Storyteller” (Robert Seutter) treating the guests to traditional tales from the Middle East. True’s spotlight stories focused on the Tales of the Two Rings of King Solomon, and then treated guests to short stories from the Hodja Nasruddin traditions, in between raffle ticket drawings. Over a dozen Steward pass holders won 15-minute one-on-one sessions with Wyrd Con guests Jim Butcher (author of the Dresden Files), Barri Evins (working film producer and screenwriting instructor), and Todd McCaffrey (author). And on Thursday night, dozens of well-dressed men and women enjoyed a ’20s-themed Casino Night and Flapper Charity Ball.
After the Stewards Wyrd Anniversary Dinner on Friday night, participants were treated to “Story Telling with Todd,” an improv storytelling game led by featured guest author, Todd McCaffrey. In the first round, Ira Ham (event coordinator and founder) and Robert Seutter (featured storyteller and workshop instructor) joined several members of the audience as they played, “Give us an Occupation, an Object, and a Place.” Several stories had the room roaring with laughter and playing along, such as waving their jazz hands/elephant trunks while at the circus with the Third District Comptroller. Ah, the fun of improv and storytelling.
The second Wyrd Con storytelling contest brought fifteen hopeful contestants to the stage, each sharing five-minute original tales, histories, and even song with the audience. At the end of the night, Jim Butcher, Todd McCaffrey, Mallory (Mauri), and True Thomas awarded first place to Chris’s tale of the “Best LARP Ever,” his experiences at SEAR (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) school in the military, and second place to RJ’s personal story of his visit to France and the weight of life’s experiences. Each winner will be going home with signed books from Jim Butcher.
Friday scheduled courses during the day included Jim Butcher Q&A and Todd McCaffrey’s Ramblings, opportunities for participants to enjoy questions and answers from two featured authors. In the Creation track, the “Weapon Making workshop” introduced foam sword-making techniques for beginners. Gamers enjoyed “Dying Kingdoms–Political Theature” Friday afternoon, with pre-generated cast characters available for newcomers. “Experiential Entertainment: Fad or Future” appealed to Gaming and LARPer participants, as did the “Association for the Advancement of Rights for Fairytale Creatures.” Gamers interested in XCom videogames had a chance to try out a LARP version at “X Command Resolve.”
Todd McCaffrey hosted a class on “Outlining for the Faint of Heart” to help writers take the pain out of the outlining process, looking at why it can be an exceptional tool for any writer. “Sewing for Beginners 102” examined patterns and how to use them, a skill that many people have long sought. Other classes on Friday included “Wonder Women of the 21st Century,” “Writing to the Chinese Curses,” “Getting Your Foot in the Door: Breaking into Hollywood,” “Myth and Folklore in Modern Media” (a panel discussion with storytellers and mythologists), “Creativity That Lasts,” “Don’t Drop the Spindle” (an introductory course in making yarn or thread by hand on a drop spindle.
Finally, it was very encouraging to see the first topic in the Wyrd Con handbook reads, “Community Code.” With so many conventions having issues with misogyny and harassment, the conference staff has established a Code of Conduct for the community gathering, spelling out very clearly that harassment or discrimination would be not tolerated. The code details the exact behaviors that would be grounds for action, and the measures that would be taken if necessary. Every age and walk of life seems to be here at the con, and it was reassuring to see that the Staff remains committed to making the event enjoyable for everyone. Well done, staff, well done.
The future date for Wyrd Con has not yet been announced, but they are moving back towards the fall period of the year in 2015. This has always been the best time for Wyrd Con.
Cat Ellen is a technical writer by trade, an occasional copy editor
and beta reader, and has a passion for teaching ATS bellydance and
numerous textile arts, notably drop spindle and card weaving.