So, just what is a science fiction convention?

Basically, a weekend-long get-together for SF fans and geeks from around the country, or even further afield. It’s a great opportunity to make new friends and catch up with old ones. There’s an extensive program of genre-related events to watch and/or take part in, so it is possible to sit and be entertained for the whole weekend without saying a word if you’re so inclined, but it’s even more fun if you actively participate, and for many the social aspect is the prime attraction.

In the context of conventions, “science fiction” is a historic label. Back in the early days, the attendees were drawn from the readers of science fiction magazines and books. These days fans of all aspects of the broadest definition of the genre are included. This means that if you are into fantasy, horror, TV, movies, writing, gaming, anime, cosplay or whatever, you will find like-minded folk waiting for you at unCONventional. Basically, the important thing is that you are a fan.

SF conventions (“cons”) are non-profit events planned and run by a committee of unpaid volunteers (the “concom”), with the assistance of many others who are also members of the convention (at unCONventional we call these the “noncoms”). Cons like ours are very different from big commercial events like Armageddon. Rather than tens of thousands of casual shoppers spending a couple of hours wandering through, cons are more intimate community events where most of the attendees stay for the whole weekend, and events run late into the night. The guest experience is different as well – instead of the guests just spending an hour talking to attendees and then selling photos, our guests are a full part of the convention. Most were once fans themselves and still enjoy the community atmosphere.

Some Common Questions
What does the registration fee entitle me to?
The registration fee entitles you to access to pretty much all events at the convention including the right to vote in the Sir Julius Vogel awards. There may be an optional extra event such as a banquet for which there is an extra charge. Generally speaking food and drink are not part of your registration fee. Remember that unCONventional is a non-profit venture – your membership fee basically goes into hiring the venue and paying travel expenses for the guests.

Can I bring my kids?
The conventions is open to all ages and we do have child and family rates. We have a “youth” rate for children aged 13 to 16 and a children in tow rate (ages 12 and under who are accompanied by an adult member of the convention). However, the convention is primarily aimed at adults, and so will occasionally (but not often) feature language and concepts that you may not consider appropriate for children. A small number of items may be held on licenced premises to which children are not admitted. We’re definitely not babysitters – if you wouldn’t let your child wander around the city unsupervised, then they need supervision at the con as well.

What is with the “CON” in the name?
Wondering about the name? There is a long standing tradition of convention names including “con” in their title. Before unCONventional, we had, for example, “Au-Contraire”, “Context”, “Con with the Wind”, “DisCONtinuity” and many other variations. Try asking about the history of some of these names – it is a good way of getting a conversation going.

Should I wear a costume?
Costumes are not required. Attendees at conventions are perfectly welcome to dress up as Spock, Gandalf, Xena, Spiderman, Harry Potter, Kenny from South Park or whoever else takes their fancy. There may even be prizes for the best costumes and probably a special costume event or two. However, most people wear jeans and a t-shirt or similarly casual gear. Wear what works for you.

What is the Weapons Policy?
We do know that some of you who do the costume thing like to include weapons as part of those costumes. However – No weapons are to be brought to, worn or carried at any time during the convention (including water pistols, real or replica guns, swords or knives), unless approved as part of an official event. Only the convention organisers may approve such weapons and their participation in any event.

Isn’t it all a bit cliquey?
Attending your first convention can be a bit daunting. At first sight, everyone seems to know everyone else, and you don’t. The convention will have people looking out for confused newcomers and will have a special “my first con” panel. In any case, just be brave and get involved. It turns out that most people are very friendly and actively want to meet new folk.

Safety policy
It has to be said that the sf fan community is one of the most supportive, tolerant and accepting groups you are likely to encounter. However, in order to preserve this safe community, the convention committee does reserve the right to refuse admission to the convention. We don’t expect any, but any instances of harassment should be reported to the convention security personnel or the committee.

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