The Big Con: Convention Accounts
221B Con 2015 Review
Time flies when you’re having fun, and this small Sherlock con was no exception.
I attended 221B Con in Atlanta. It’s a Sherlock Holmes convention that was held April 10th-12th. They cover everything from the original source of Arthur Conan Doyle to the BBC version and beyond. From the Guy Ritchie films to Elementary to even the upcoming Mr. Holmes starring Sir Ian McKellen, they don’t leave any version out if they can. What’s great is they included similar fandoms as well. The creators understand the crossover fandoms like SuperWhoLock (a mashup of Supernatural, Doctor Who, and Sherlock). Because of this, there were panels and meetups for Doctor Who, Cabin Pressure, Psych, House, and Star Trek.
Hands down, 221B Con is my favorite convention. This is my third year, and I already plan to go next year. While big conventions like Dragon Con are fun, I really enjoy small intimate cons. 221B Con is unique because about 80% of the attendees are women. I grew up attending conventions half my life. This is the first place where I feel completely welcomed no matter what. Little details makes this convention special for big reasons. For example, a lot of transgender people attend this con. They had “My pronouns are [blank]” stickers on many of the tables so you knew the correct way to address a person. This is an incredibly thoughtful idea that I’ve never seen done at any other convention.
In no particular order, I want to cover some of my favorite parts of 221B Con.
There was a dinosaur theme running throughout the weekend. Guest Ben Syder from The Asylum’s version of Sherlock Holmes attended the convention all weekend. If you don’t know, this movie is also lovingly referred to as “Sherlock Holmes and Dinosaurs,” because Asylum is the company that made Sharknado. Mr. Syder stars at Sherlock Holmes with Gareth David Lloyd (Torchwood) as his John Watson. Together, they try to stop the dino menace plaguing London.
Don’t scoff. This is a great movie. I called it a life experience for a reason.
Mr. Syder and his wife were lovely.
At the Q&A on Saturday, he told us all about making Sherlock Holmes [and Dinosaurs]. He’s one hilarious guy. There were stories like about how the night before filming he was almost killed by a Japanese fighter dog.
Another was how he and Mr. David-Lloyd weren’t told originally what the monster was going to be. Watson correctly guessed it was a dinosaur by pantomiming a raptor in the movie.
Finally, Mr. Syder did a live commentary of Sherlock Holmes [and Dinosaurs] as it played in the background. He pointed out (lovingly) how Mr. David-Lloyd’s waistcoat didn’t fit around his waist, and the times where people almost died. I was amazed the movie was filmed in thirteen days.
This was Mr. Syder’s first convention. I hope he had an excellent time, because I know it was incredible to meet him. I would love to see him back at 221B Con.
Be on the lookout in our podcast section for my exclusive interview with Mr. Syder!
The Tea Party
On the first night of the convention, there is a tea party to help kick off the weekend. The teas come from the genius mind of local comic artist Cara McGee. She’s made over a hundred fandom teas on Adagio all of which are delicious.
The guests are served by cosplayers who explain the brews in character. It’s fun to watch Sherlock and Moriarty bicker over who has the better tea.
The best part of the tea party is it’s a fund raiser for The Beacon Society. This group helps fund programs to make sure Sherlock Holmes is taught in schools. The tickets for the tea party were separate from badge prices.
If you ever come to 221B Con, I highly recommend the tea party.
My only bit of advice is to get there early. There is never enough food.
Three Patch Podcast Suite
Make sure you donate to the ball pit, because what these ladies do is amazing!
Three Patch podcast is a variety show that discusses topics within Sherlock Holmes. They booked a suite block and threw some of the best parties of the con.
Their suite was open every day until about 2am. They provided food for those who couldn’t afford it.
The most fun in this suite was the late night bed time readings. We would cram into the room and read 18+ fanfiction to the group. It was hilarious and a great way to relax at the end of the day. Cramming about thirty people in a small room to read porn is a great way to bring people together. There was definitely a sense of community among us.
Also, no one can decorate a con suite like they can! Check out the pictures in the gallery below!
Flash Fiction Panel
Fanfiction is a huge part of the Sherlock Holmes fandom. With years in between seasons of the BBC show, we have to entertain ourselves somehow.
There were several fanfiction panels over the weekend, but the Flash Fiction was the only one I could get to. Flash fiction is considered a complete short story usually about 300 words or less. Some say you can go up to 1,000 words, but anything more and it’s considered a short story.
In the Flash Fiction panel, each person was given random index cards. They got two characters, a setting, an object or phrase, and since this was the 18+ panel, an optional sexy situation. These optional situations ranged from kissing to blow jobs. They had fifteen minutes to write a complete scene. Then, my favorite part of the whole thing, they sat in groups to read the fics out loud. Everyone else in the group was told not to criticize the reader at all. They were to give positive feedback only and encourage those people. These were extremely fast first drafts. It was so great to hear what everyone came up with. You can read those on tumblr or on Archive of Our Own under the hashtag #221bconflashfic!
Tabletop Day with Epic Gaming Party
The Saturday of 221B Con was also International Tabletop Day. It’s an entire day celebrating tabletop games like Settlers of Catan, Arkham Horror, Here I Stand, Dungeons and Dragons, and everything in between.
(I just listed some of my favorites. We’ll throw Cards Against Humanity in there too! Also, did you know that Settlers of Catan is going to be a tv show? What’s it going to be about? Settling? Trading sheep for wood? If you’ve played Catan, you get that.)
Anyway, there was a group in the game room representing both Andocon and a Twitch.tv group called Epic Gaming Party. Playing board games on Tabletop Day wasn’t enough for them. They took it to the next level.
From Friday afternoon all the way to Sunday when the convention ended, Epic Gaming Party livestreamed non-stop. They demoed games teaching new people how to play. You could walk in at any point of the day, and they welcomed you in. The only time they stopped was for one technical difficulty.
It was incredibly fun to be part of such a personal experience. I went in with some friends of mine. Since I was knocked out of the game early, I sat down with their camera and talked to their stream. Their chat would ask me questions about my work, and of course I pimped out What the Fangirl! It was a special interaction with their fans, and I hope others enjoyed it as much as I did.
How to Podcast Panel
One of my favorite panels I took part in was the How to Podcast panel. They had many “How To” panels at 221B Con like Costuming on a Budget and Beyond Wikipedia which taught how to properly source your research.
As a podcaster, I don’t get a lot of opportunity to talk about the process of producing a show. You tend to talk about the topic at hand. I love having this chance to discuss with curious people about podcasting.
Since we all have different shows, we were able to tackle the topics from different points of view. For example, the Baker Street Babes have a group of ladies with different amounts of knowledge on certain Holmesian topics. If they want to sit out an episode, they can. Three Patch is a variety show. They rotate their producers every three months so they don’t get overwhelmed. They also have a team of volunteers to help with writing, contributing, and editing. Finally even though I’m part of a network, I do all my recording and editing myself. I don’t handle any of my own numbers or subscribers.
I enjoyed being on this panel. My best friend approached me afterward and said she didn’t realize how much work went into a podcast. Being able to teach this process was incredibly fun. I hope we were able to encourage more people to start podcasting.
Someone wrote a nice recap of the panel here.
The Homeless Network
They formed the Homeless Network based on the people who were Sherlock Holmes’ eyes and ears on the streets. Even before 221B Con started, they wrote a series of pre-con guides for first timers. Did you lose your badge, cell phone, wallet, etc.? Tell it to the Homeless Network, and they would post it on their twitter and tumblr. They would reblog room parties on their sites. They wrote recaps and reviews of panels. They would give friendly reminders like making sure people tipped the shuttle drivers who worked for the hotel.
They also had two different kinds of giveaways all weekend long. You had to watch their feeds. At any point, they would throw up a tumblr or twitter prize if you met the conditions. Also, were you wondering where I got all my ribbons on my con badge from? If you could find them at the con, they would give you a ribbon or a Homeless Network and/or Cabin Pressure bracelet. I should point out that not all of the ribbons came from them, but I got several.
These ladies didn’t have to do any of this. It shows how tight knit 221B Con is. We’re constantly looking out for each other strangers or not. They added to the convention experience, and got an applause the Our Last Bow panel discussing what went right and wrong at the con.
Karaoke and Dance Party
This was the first year they incorporated a dance party and karaoke at 221B Con. It was a nice change of pace for us to party and hang out.
Being the first year for both events, they weren’t that crowded. That doesn’t mean they weren’t fun. I even faced a massive fear of mine and sang at karaoke. Everyone who attended had a blast at both events.
If I had to give any mild criticism, I wish they had switched days. The dance party was Friday night while karaoke was Saturday. This is more of a personal preference. I’m used to Dragon Con where the Yule Ball is one of the biggest parties on Saturday. I would dance until I fell over, because it was the last night of con. I chatted with a few people who said they didn’t go to the dance party, because they didn’t want to wear themselves out before the long Saturday. Some people also didn’t like the music choices. I love the 80s as much as the next person, but it wasn’t even pop music you could dance to. Some of the songs were older than then attendees there. If they kept it more modern or just party music, it would have been better. Though, I do understand them wanting to keep it family friendly.
There also wasn’t a lot of promotion for the dance party. While it was clearly on the schedule, some people didn’t even know one was going on. Maybe some social media blasts beforehand?
Either way, I had a great time at both. I’ll be going back next year.
Doctor Who Panel
As I mentioned at the top of this article, 221B Con wasn’t strictly a Sherlock Holmes convention, but instead included other fandoms that are similar to the various Holmes fandoms. The producer of BBC Sherlock is Steven Moffat who is also the current show runner for Doctor Who. I was excited to be on this panel since I’m also on a Doctor Who podcast called Who True Freaks.
I was joined by Tabitha who was great. I love panelists like her. There were a few times we were on the opposite sides of certain points. That was never an issue between us. We respectfully discussed the topic and neither of us were wrong.
We had a great audience. They didn’t mind that we were only versed in New Who. We had several fantastic Old Whovians who gave great input where we couldn’t. We had fantastic discussions about the fandom and how Peter Capaldi was doing as the new Doctor.
Time flew by far too fast. I know I felt we didn’t cover enough in the hour given. That’s when we had a brilliant idea. Glimpsing at the schedule, we realized there wasn’t a panel after us. We got permission from the con and talked for another hour. We were able to fully discuss the Ninth Doctor though the Twelfth, many of the companions, and even some of the IDW comics.
Overall, it was a great panel!
Cabin Pressure Panel
This was probably the most emotionally charged panel I was apart of for many reasons.
Cabin Pressure is a radio show that came on BBC 4. It’s written by the very talented John Finnemore. Stephanie Cole is Carolyn Knapp-Shappey who refuses to be a little old lady and starts her own airline (though they only have one plane so it’s an “Airdot”). She’s tough as nails not taking crap from anyone. Roger Allam is First Officer Douglas Richardson who is a competent pilot but was fired from Air England for smuggling. He’s a suave con man who constantly saves the crew with his schemes. Benedict Cumberbatch is Martin Crieff who’s new to the airline after failing his pilot exam seven times. He’s the safety conscious member of the group often hesitant to join Douglas’ plans. Arthur Shappey, played by Finnemore, rounds out the group as the Airdot’s steward. He’s a relentless optimist always eager to help despite not being the brightest. To him, everything is “BRILLIANT!”
Whether it’s trying not to accidentally kill a cat or battling over a bottle of Talisker whiskey, Cabin Pressure is a comedy spanning the world and the skies. But really, it’s a story about four tragic people finding a family together despite their differences.
The final episode aired Christmas Eve 2014. There had been Cabin Pressure panels at past 221B Cons, but this year had way more emotions. We shared our various stories about what the radio show meant to us. I talked about when I lost my home to foreclosure that Cabin Pressure was what got me through that troubling time. Many of us related to the characters in the show. We don’t want to settle into our lives like Carolyn, or we might be poor like Martin. There’s something for every person.
As he’s done in past years, Mr. Finnemore took our questions and answered as many of them as he could. Some of them were tying up lose ends while others teased us.
Overall between the stories from fans and the show ending, this was one of the more emotional panels I was apart of. It was great experience!
Panels I didn’t make it to
There’s only so much time in a weekend. There were many panels I wish I went to. Here’s a rundown of some of the panels I sadly missed:
AU and Crossover Panel – “Come discuss the great number of alternate universe and crossover fic available in the Sherlock Holmes fandom.” I’m a huge fan of the crossover universes like CabinLock (Cabin Pressure and Sherlock). I wanted to hear this discussion so bad!
Craft Circle- I went to this last year, and it was so much fun! You don’t need to know a craft before going in. They have basic patterns and kits to teach you how to knit, crochet, and other skills. If anything, you can sit and relax with a great group of people to start the day.
Atlanta Radio Theatre Company –”The year is 1899 and the nefarious James Moriarty is plotting a crime on a scale never seen before. It’s big. No, bigger! It’s even bigger than that! It’s the crime of the century!” The Atlanta Radio Theatre Company is a local group. Their play this year had only been performed once before.
Legalities and Ethics of Fan Works – “Many of us love fan created content, from fan fiction to vids, but are they legal? And beyond legality, what are the ethics of transformative works?” As someone who has recently created her own Once Upon A Time radio show, I desperately wish I had attended this panel. I wanted to discuss my rights in my own fanwork with experts. Sadly, it fell in the only time period I had to get food before one of my panels.
Sebastian Moran: Canon and the Fandom’s Obsession – “An exploration of the second most dangerous man in London and how he is depicted in canon, film, and fandom.” The fandom has ran away with their view of Moran. There are many great fan works and cosplayers of Moriarty’s right hand man. Unfortunately for me, it was the same time as my Doctor Who panel.
Trans Issues in Fandom – “Sherlock has a flourishing trans community. This is reflected in many of the fan works we all love. A discussion of how trans-visibility is affecting fandom.” This was a panel right up What the Fangirl’s alley. It was one I wanted to report on. Once again, my Doctor Who panel overlapped into it.
From House to Psych: Hollywood’s Appropriation of Deductive Reasoning: “Even outside of direct Sherlock Holmes remakes, Hollywood seems to have a million uses for the Great Detective’s science of deduction. Come discuss some of the great, and not so great, shows that can trace their origins back to Sherlock Holmes.” THREE YEARS! Three years I’ve wanted to go to this panel! I even mentioned it in my interview with the 221B Con directors on What the Fangirl’s podcast! Shawn Spencer from Psych was one of my first Sherlocks. I wanted to bring up how iZombie is following a Holmesian model as well. It was the same time as my Cabin Pressure panel. Next year for sure, right? Right?
I should also mention there were other guests at this Sherlock Holmes convention. Lee Shackleford attended. He’s best known for writing the off-Broadway play Holmes and Watson in 1990 and starred in the lead role as Sherlock Holmes. He then pitched stories to Star Trek: The Next Generation for the episode “Ship in a Bottle.” Writer Angela Misri known for her YA detective series Jewel of the Thames was there. Her second book just came out in March titled Thrice Burned. Dr. Karen Dill-Shackleford attended too. She is a media pgychologist focusing on how “the world of fictional story influences our everyday lives.” She’s the author of How Fantasy Becomes Reality. I didn’t get a chance to go to any of their panels.
221B Con is my favorite convention. I love how they cover a vast range of Holmesian stories. They strive to have something for everyone. If you’re like me where my first 221B Con I came in only knowing the BBC version, they want you to leave having expanded your knowledge and love of the Detective and Doctor. For example after my first 221B Con, it prompted me to buy the original stories and read them.
I highly suggest going to 221B Con. It’s the most welcoming convention you will ever go to. I certainly will return next year and many years to come.
We want to hear from you!
What the Fangirl wants to hear your 221B Con stories! I know some of the ones I read about made me cry. Did you see a friend you haven’t been around in a long time? Did you discover a new love for a new Holmes? I know Mr. Syder became one of my favorite Sherlocks! Did the weekend change your life?
Send us your convention stories to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Until next time!