CONfabulation 2017

Badge2This weekend, I had a wonderful time at CONfabulation, a multi-fandom convention by the people who brought us Wincon. As always, it’s hard to adjust to real life again after several days of being a fangirl at the height of excitement and being uncensored around/among my people. So I thought I’d write it up while the experience is still somewhat fresh.

I headed out on Thursday morning a little earlier than I’d planned. There was a Penguins game that night and the hotel I was heading to was next door to the hockey arena in Pittsburgh, so I was worried about parking. Google said it would take me 4 hours to get there.I left at 10:30am and made it there at 4:45pm; I’m not so sure, but that seems like a little more than 4 hours. But it wasn’t all the fault of traffic or the weather. I did make one wrong turn and had to pay a toll for a road I didn’t even go onto (Grr!) but I got there without too much difficulty, especially once I left Northern Virginia. I was traveling alone this time, as my con friend was unable to get off work, which meant I could stop for snarfs I saw on the side of the road along the way. I earread Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer by Rick Riorden during the drive.

To3 To1 To2 To4 To6 To5

When I got to Pittsburgh, the traffic wasn’t all that bad, but it was FILLED with Penguins fans. As a Capitals fan, it was a bit stomach-churning to witness. Luckily, the hotel had self-parking spots available. So I checked in and then unloaded, realizing on my last trip that I’d left the giant bag of food I’d bought at home! Arg! I settled into my hotel room within two minutes (I never really unpack much). My room had a giant space in it (where another bed or a table once was, I assume, or else it was for playing Twister).

Room2 Room1

I headed down for the meet & greet and ended up sharing two fandoms (Carry On and Grantchester) during small fandom speed dating. I also wrote down several fandoms I now definitely need to put on the high priority list. Then I joined a few people who were heading out to a 7-11 in order to stock up on food. We learned a lot about Pittsburgh City Center during our exploration including: streets are layered, hilly, and confusing; alcohol cannot be purchased at 7-11, and all stores close ridiculously early. I stocked up on some protein bars, bananas, and cereal for the week, then we ventured out to find an open liquor store. Three stores later, we found one that was still open (it was 7:15pm). I also found a good handful of historical markers; my new friends helped me spot them.


We got back to the hotel and I knew from the sight of the downstairs and the streets packed with Penguins fans that I didn’t want to go back out (besides, everything seemed closed). So I spent the night in my room watching Doctor Who episodes, writing fanfiction, reading Outlander, and eating room service. Every so often I checked the hockey score and, when the Pens unfortunately won, the streets outside my hotel room exploded with noise. Ugh. Not where I wanted to be, that’s for sure.


I had a rough night sleep-wise, so I was glad to have my Always Keep Fighting hoodie to snuggle up in Friday morning.

Friday Morning Schedule:

  • FridayEvening110:00am–10:30am Dealer room
    I hit the dealer room and bought a few presents, items for future swaps, and something for myself. I also picked up the custom order I made from NightengaleNeedles for a pillow. It turned out so nicely! I had to run it back up to my room so that I wouldn’t fall asleep in panels with it. heehee
  • 10:30am–11:00am Opening Ceremonies
    Yay! We made it here!
  • 11:00am–12:00pm Buffy the Vampire Slayer: 20 years Later
    Panelists started by playing the theme song, which definitely got us in the Buffy mood. We had a good time talking about our favorite characters, moments, and episodes as well as discussing the uniqueness of the show itself. It was wonderful to find there were quite a few Spander shippers there, including among the panelists. We all pretty much agreed Spike is the fandom bicycle, but we meant it with love of course. I also liked the discussion about how the show highlighted the concept of inventing yourself and that change is possible without losing your friends.
  • 12:00pm–1:00pm Plushie Workshop I
    We had to start from scratch as bodies weren’t pre-made, and deciding what to make took me a while, but this was a much needed fun crafting break up in the Quiet Craft room that happened to also be on my floor of the hotel.

I headed out with a new friend to find Jimmy Johns for lunch. After walking in the wrong direction and stressing about time, we ended up at a pizza place on the other side of the block from our hotel where several con attendees were also eating. I had a veggie hoagie, which I ate while walking back to the con and finished during the next session.

Friday Afternoon Schedule:

  • 2:00pm–3:00pm Ohana Means Family
    This was the found family panel, and we started off by trying to define found families (does joining an existing family like Harry joining the Weasleys count? do they have to have a parental figure?). I adored the discussion of non-human species (like werewolves) who have a sense of otherness already who need to seek out others for a shared experience (I love a good wolf pack). We also discussed the many different ways they come about—choice, workplace, survivalism, world-saving, etc. Other discussion topics included how fandom is our found family, subsets within families, the greater diversity in a found family compared to biological family, how people with different skill sets help each other, and if there are any found families lately without tragic backstories. You get a tragic backstory! You get a tragic backstory! Look under your chairs, everyone get s a tragic backstory! I was THRILLED to get to talk Sense8 for a while! Squee!
  • 3:00pm–4:00pm A Galaxy Far, Far Away
    We started off by sharing our own Star Wars origin stories, and it was neat seeing the diversity in the group (and also finding others who like the Ewoks). We talked about ships and ships as well. I’m clearly going to have to properly make my way through the Darths and Droids Webcomic. And we ended with discussion of The Last Jedi (SPOILERS!!!!!!) including how even though Finn is wearing Poe’s entire outfit it doesn’t necessarily indicate that Poe is naked, though there is a strong case for such.
  • 4:00pm–5:00pm Vid Show
    The vid show was wonderful; I’d seen only two of the vids before (and as one was Leverage with my OT3 and to an Ingrid Michealson song, I certainly didn’t mind seeing it again). I was utterly destroyed by Darcy’s SG-1 Jack/Daniel vid entitled “Living Alone” and had to break out the tissue pack almost at once. So good!

As I had no one to do dinner with, I worked on my plushie a little and then went back to the only food place I knew was open and ordered a salad (healthy) and onion rings (my weakness). I sewed through dinner and got the body done (even though I had to reinforce the crotch better after stuffing him).


Masquerade2Then I got ready for the masquerade. I wore my Marauder’s Map dress with Marauder’s Map pin on my badge, Marauder’s Map bow in my hair, and the actual Maurader’s Map as a necklace. (I maybe like the marauders a bit, you know) I also had a black mask I bought with the cape I wore to the Walk to End HIV a few years back when the theme was superheros. I discovered upon arrival that I had taken the masquerade title too literally and I was only one of a few who had masks. Still, it went with the outfit and made me feel a little bolder to be hiding behind a mask, so I kept it on. There was a mashed potatoes bar and a dessert bar as well, and the decorations were wonderful. I had a lot of nice conversations with people, including getting to geek out on Classic Who (and ask some questions about it… and get some lovely audiobook recs) and catch up with one of my favorite fellow hurt/comfort writers. I don’t like dances much and attempted to retire to the fandom lounge for button-making with friends like last Wincon, but it was locked up. Drat! So we headed back to the dance. I did dance to the Time Warp, because that one has scripted dance moves. And I danced to the last song with everyone, which was Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” (so perfect, though were were a little iffy on which verse was which LOL).

Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on, and on, and on

Don’t stop believin’
Hold on to that feelin’

Masquerade3 Masquerade1 Masquerade4

I went back to my room after the masquerade and worked for 2 hours on my plushie while watching Doctor Who. I finished up watching the Fifth Doctor’s episodes! I also discovered I cut the underwear too small for my plushie. Then I went to bed at 2am.

I got up at 9 in order to eat breakfast and get down to the dealer room as soon as possible.

Saturday Morning Schedule:

  • SaturdayMorning10:00am–10:30am Dealer’s Room
    My friend put in a request for merch and I was hoping to squeeze it in before the morning panels. However, the dealers didn’t all get there early, so I ended up missing half of the first panel. I also dropped a few BookCrossing books on tables in the fandom lounge to give away.
    Worth it, though. The dealer had the thing my friend wanted AND I ended up buying things from pretty much all the other dealers. Good start to a morning indeed!
  • 10:30am–11:00am Disability in Media
    A LOT less angry and complainy than most of the disability panels I’ve attended at other cons. There was a lot of talk of positive examples and analysis of things. That was refreshing to hear. I’m sorry I missed the part where they discussed Bashir because, I mean, Bashir, right?
  • 11:00am–12:00pm Invisible Unicorns
    I had the HARDEST time figuring out this time slot. It was up against Book Recs for the People (I adore books) and Totally 80s Toons (possibly my only chance to talk about my first fandom with people: Pound Puppies). I asked the panelist heading from Disability in Media to Totally 80s Toons to please NOT discuss Pound Puppies because missing such a discussion would break my heart. Then I stayed in the roundtable room for Invisible Unicorns, where we talked about bi, ace, pan, etc. representations in fandoms. The session was so well attended we had to keep grabbing more chairs. LOL It was wonderful. I came out with a LOT to think about. We talked about the whole “prove it!” thing and the problematic usage of “born this way.” One thing I had never heard put into words before was how there is a shorthand for sex onscreen but no shorthand for things like asexual romance (YET!). There were also some hilarious moments i.e. “Once you cross the het barrier at knotting…” “That is NOT where the het barrier is.”
  • 12:00pm–1:00pm Plushie Workshop II
    I was considering going to MCU, but I’m behind on S.H.I.E.L.D. and haven’t seen the second Guardians yet, so I decided to craft. I had big plans: Finish the head, make new underwear, make the suit jacket, sew the head on to finish it. I managed the first 2 of 4. I made the suit jacket then discovered it’s just a little too small. Drat! I’ll have to redo part of it. But it was definitely another nice break. Except now I have what looks like a headless Morman and not a Ianto Jones yet. One lovely attendee brought a ton of little figures,
    and we had fun going through them, sorting them by property, and selecting a few. I got a couple for myself and one for a friend. At the end of the day, after everyone else had a chance to look through them (and they were no longer sorted) I took a few more.
Plushie1 Figures

I worked on my plushie through lunch (thanks to snacks from 7-11) then headed to afternoon sessions.

Saturday Afternoon Schedule:

  • 2:00pm–3:00pm OT3: A Love Story
    We listed our favorite OT3s in fandom (Leverage, Force Awakens, White Collar, Haven, Marvel, Sense8, etc.) I ship some very rare OT3s so I didn’t bring them up (Wolverine/Iron Man/Captain America; Sherlock/Watson/Lestrade) but it was fun hearing about other people’s ships. We discussed why OT3s are the best (solves love triangle problems, avoids ship wars, solves problem of killing off awesome female characters). We also talked about dynamics of OT3s (relationship negotiations–swoon!, soulmate AUs, imperfect moments, overlap with found families, inviting someone to join, etc.). And, of course, this lovely quote “My fandoms have orgies all the time” which pretty much sums up my writing style. LOL
  • 3:00pm–4:00pm Fandom as Genre
    This one was interesting, and I’m very glad I went. What’s unique to fandom that makes it its own thing and makes it special? Some topics of discussion included: ability to have different versions of the same character, ability to have different settings/situations with the same characters, ability to explore minor characters, having less exposition (already know the shared universe, history, appearances, etc.), POV differences, how much of the community aspect is needed to make it fanfiction, the difference between authorized tie-in novels and fanfiction, why we write fanfiction (for ourselves or for a certain population that knows certain things already about the source material), what we’re allowed to write in a fandom vs. what is taboo, how A/B/O originated in fandom, and the concept of headers/tag wranglers. Some quotes I liked included “Fanfic is the only place characters go into the bedroom and come out as the same people,” “We need to make supernatural disgusting again!” and “We’ve come a long way from ‘we’re not gay, we just love each other.'” There was also a question raised regarding what is at the core of a character that makes him recognizable and feel like the same character when everything around is different?
  • 4:00pm–4:30pm Charity Raffle
    The charity was Planned Parenthood, and people were generous both in the donating of items and in the buying of raffle tickets. I bought $40 in raffle tickets, so I was expecting to win a few things (especially as a few things I put tickets in for only had one or two tickets in the cup). I didn’t get the Ace scarf I really wanted and put a lot of tickets in for, but I did get a bunch of things, including a Martha plushie (who can hang out with Ianto, once he’s done–the Joneses!), tons of comics (including some Archies, Buffys, Marvel, and more), a Donatello figure (he’s my turtle), a Spider-man hat, and some gorgeous fannish jewelry. I was also super happy to see the items I donated to the raffle go to people who will love them. One super nice new friend gave me something she won in the raffle and had two of. Squee!

SaturdayAfternoonAfter the raffle, I bought a few things from the other vendor I hadn’t purchased from yet (I’d frankly been avoiding her booth because I wanted every single thing she had for sale and didn’t trust myself). I ended up with a few buttons I’d never seen before and a super soft Kaylee Bear. I thought about also buying the Jayne Bear, but I just couldn’t do it without a Simon Bear to ship with him. #noregrets.

ButtonsButtons2A few of us stayed in the fandom lounge to finally take advantage of the button machine. Making buttons was one of my favorite parts of Wincon, and it was fun to have one of my button-making friends back as well as some new button-making friends joining the crew. We had a great time going through stickers and magazines, looking for things we wanted. I made a kickass perfect RuPaul button that is sort of now my favorite. I also made an Alexander Hamilton button and a kitty King George button to go with him. And some others, of course. We were at it for a little over 2 hours. It was such fun seeing the creative things people made!

I had just enough time to pop over to Jimmy Johns (found it this time!) before it closed (it was only 7:20, mind you!) and get back to the con in time for the trivia contest. I’d planned on just watching, but I got roped into playing. Glad I did; I even knew a few of the answers, like what century Outlander was in. However, I feel SHAME forever for saying “Flashverse” instead of “Flashpoint.” I will never shake off that shame. I was proud to be able to answer the question about all the Weasley siblings (including next generation) and probably could have done the hockey siblings one, but two people on my team JUMPED at that, so I let them have at it. I’m also sad I couldn’t remember the names of the Hansons! Terrible fangirling on my part; I’m just not good at remembering things when there are time constraints! In all, we had a great team and we came in second… though later I heard we misgraded another team’s paper and actually came in third. Just like the Puffs play says “Third or nothing!!!”

After trivia was Badfic Idol. My fic “Five Times Something Happened and One Time Something Else Happened” was read at the beginning. It was my first attempt and it didn’t win first place or even second. But it did get some laughs. And my friend appreciated the Picard on a Horse inside joke from Wincon I threw in there. Actually, 80% of the fic was thought up during Wincon a few years back, so it was fun to share it. Instead of the judges giving their thoughts after each fic like last time, they gave them all at once at the end, which was a little more confusing, but we got there in the end. The winning fic had no words and was written only in emojis starting with policeman knife fireman and ending with sailboat. I mean… sailboat, you know? That’s a damn powerful ending. Definitely deserved to win! It was a great event; all the stories were hilarious; I had tears in my eyes from laughing so hard. And the judges’ comments were amazing!

After Badfic Idol, I stuck around for a game of Cards Against Humanity. I actually won a round, which was great. I played some fantastic cards but just the one win. Everyone was bringing their best to the game, and it was definitely a hoot.

I headed back to my room and packed up so everything would be ready the next morning.

On Sunday, I woke at 8:45 sleepy but fine (one nice thing about never drinking is not worrying about con morning hangovers). I finished packing and, once again, headed to the dealer’s room for a morning purchase. I had forgotten a button I HAD to buy a friend and, luckily, there were still a few left (in various styles). Score! I’m not posting the photos of things I bought for people, BTW, because that would spoil the surprises.

Sunday Morning Schedule:

  • 10:00am–11:00am The State of Fandom
    I had to ask but, yes, everyone agreed that LJ is DEAD. Someone suggested Pillowfort, which is like Tumblr only fixes all the problems Tumblr has and lets you have actual conversations. Someone else suggested Pinboard for bookmarking. We talked a lot about building our “brands” and the differences between us oldtimers and the new internet generation in terms of privacy concerns. We also talked about things like how releasing whole seasons at once erases that anticipation we once had for week-to-week shows, how there used to be a fannish code and norms that get passed down but are being challenged now culturally, and how freakin awesome Fanlore is.
  • 11:00am–12:00pm Hamilton: Who Tells Your Story?
    We started off talking about race and how it puts so many marginalized groups back into the narrative of our country. Then we went into discussions about gender (how women are in the war scenes and how it’s kind of Eliza’s story, or would be if she were in it more). I loved the point one person made about how in Revolutionary War times, a person’s writing style was uniquely identifiable just the way the musical styles for each character are uniquely identifiable for us today in the musical. I was shocked that more people hadn’t read the Ron Chernow book, and I was going to recommend it for people who write Hamilton fanfic, but then the discussion moved on (it’s filled with amazing details like the fact that Hamilton & Eliza had a dog named “Old Peggy” and how Washington’s aides usually shared beds at camp). But we did talk about how the American narrative actually wasn’t as rose-colored as we thought and how the musical humanizes history. Some recommendations included the book Colony in a Nation by Chris Hayes, the Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast, and a Sleepy Hollow crossover where Alexander Hamilton comes forth into modern day and is stuck here. Also, I was given a rec that has Asexual!Dom!Washington and subby!Hamilton that is currently my favorite Hamilton fic EVER!
  • 12:00pm–1:00pm Family Affairs: Incest in Fandom
    Was great to end the con with a good ol’ incest panel! We talked about our first and favorite pairings. I asked about Bates Motel because I LOVE me some Bates Motel and was told the fanfic is not good, which wasn’t too surprising. We also talked about what makes incest fic good and the different kinds (I’m in love with the term Gencest now!).
  • 1:00pm–1:35pm Closing Ceremonies
    I had to leave during the closing event, because of my hotel checkout time and because I wanted to get home before it got too dark, but it was nice being there for part of it. And people waved to me as I left, which made me feel all warm and fuzzy. The con com did an amazing job putting this together and making it special and unique. I really hope the next Confab Con is somewhere close to me so I can attend it!

On my way home, I attempted to find some postcards of Pittsburgh to send to people and struck out everywhere I looked. I picked up a grilled cheese with onions and some more onion rings (did I mention I was driving home alone?) as well as a frozen slushie drink at Sheetz. My GPS wanted me to go one way that was blocked off with a detour, so I took the scenic route out of Pittsburgh and quite enjoyed the drive. Then I ended up on 40 heading to a big snarf stop I’d seen when I was driving up but couldn’t stop for because I’d been worried about Penguins game parking. I finished earreading Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer and put on In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord, which I also ended up finishing on the drive. So then I started Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.

I found the historical markers (snarfs) I’d been looking for and discovered it was General Braddock’s grave. Just down the street from that was Fort Necessity. I thought about just doing a drive-by with it and coming back some other time. I even went into the park, drove around the lot, and then went back to the highway again. Then I decided to just do it and went to the fort. I was still on a Hamilton high, and what better way to end my con weekend but with a George Washington fuckup? The park ranger was sad to inform me that the reenactments were all done for the day and that there was only one showing of the film left; I didn’t really care about either. I went through the museum and headed out to the fort. Apparently the Braddock Road by my home is, actually, the very same one I’d been driving on for an hour up in Pennsylvania. I snarfed all the signs and took some nice shots of the fort, the tavern, and the monuments. Hopefully no one thought less of me in my wearing my Hamilton/Harry Potter mash-up t-shirt.

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I found a few more historical markers on the drive home, stopped for gas in the little town that literally has an interstate running right through its middle just above it, and got home around 8:30. My cats were happy to see me, and Ozma kitten has already claimed my CONfabulation bag as her own.

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