A few weeks ago, I attended my first CONvergence convention. There, I joined thousands of science-fiction and fantasy fans to ponder this year’s theme, “Your reality may vary.” Indeed, nowadays it seems perception and reality can vary widely. Perhaps John Lennon summed up this dilemma best, “The more I see, the less I know for sure.”

My shared reality was the countless things to do at CONvergence. I was drawn to a dozen+ panel discussions and events (out of hundreds). Panels I was impressed with included the future of artificial intelligence, outer space physics, a NASA employee’s presentation on Mars missions, and multiverse theory/physics.

Numerous panels on fiction writing were my top priority though. One discussed a variety of storytelling techniques that “break the fourth wall.” Another analyzed classic “other worlds” such as The Land of Oz, time travel, portal stories, and myths.

Two writing panels with Professor Jack Zipes were a highlight for me. One of his panels discussed the original 1923 Bambi story—not the Disney adaptation. The 1923 version is filled with fascism metaphors that foreshadowed WWII’s Holocaust. His second panel, “Excavating Fairy Tales,” discussed his efforts to republish hundreds of out-of-print books—in particular children’s books with authoritarian themes (he feels we can learn from authors who confronted fascism a century ago). For those more interested in his efforts to generate hope and action among children, you can read an interview by clicking here. Or, click here to learn more about his publishing house (a few of these republished books are below).

Of course the convention had endless fun activities too. A few popular reality events I attended were stand-up comedy acts by a Guest of Honor, Reverend Matt, and local comedian/writer Joseph Scrimshaw. Closing the convention was the exciting Cirque du Multivers, where circus acts performed in cosplay costumes.

Gaming realities take place all-hours, from cards to board games to role-playing games. Endless pickup games exist for anyone wanting to play a favorite game, or try something new. Amid the abundance of games, I enjoyed trying Everyone is John and Exploding Kittens.

The Cinema Rex theater offers free popcorn, candy, and drinks. Guests relax in dozens of couches as they suspend their disbelief in movie realities. Two movies I particularly liked were the time-travel madcap comedy Everything, Everywhere, All At Once, and the time-loop comedy Palm Springs.

Various party room realities are open throughout the day and night, many for all ages. This was a fun way to meet others with similar interests (such as cats). The Star Wars cantina was impressive, as were extensive 1980’s details in the Ready Player One-themed room (with an adjacent party room filled with retro video games).

The Space Lounge was a surreal reality, with a sensory bar that did NOT offer drinks. Instead, it offered experiences that perplexed your senses (reinforcing “Your reality may vary”).

Two teens I brought with praised the popular Connie’s Sandbox, with its all-ages arts and crafts activities. Personally, I was captivated by this room’s creation and subsequent gleeful smashing of a cardboard fairy-tale village.

For those who like riddles, quests, or achievements, an addictive endeavor is collecting and trading ribbons. Rookie attendees like myself may get random quests via a special invite by staff. My quest led to several ribbons, and was a neat way to discover areas of the sprawling convention. A few of my ribbons were given by cosplay characters—I must say, the spectrum of cosplay costumes was fascinating, as were all the fan T-shirts.

Overall, WOW. Lots of fun, creativity, and learning crammed into four days. The friendly community also took excellent Covid-19 precautions as we transition to a new normal for large gatherings. Thanks to the hundreds of dedicated CONvergence volunteers that made this amazing convention possible. I look forward to next year, as are two teens I’ll bring again!