This review covers a convention that occurred months ago, but recurs yearly. Thunderbird Studios feels it's important to record these events for posterity however.

Habitual convention attendees tend to have a “home con:” that one convention that’s closest to your backyard, probably where you first started developing your convention addiction, where you feel like you know everyone. You walk in and expect that, in the soundtrack of your life, the Cheers theme starts playing. My home con is Cleveland Concoction.

Nestled next to the Cleveland-Hopkins Airport, with easy access to I-71, I-480, and Cleveland’s RTA Rapid transit, Concoction filled the Cleveland scifi/multi-genre convention void starting in 2014, and I’ve been volunteering and doing panels every year. It wasn’t my first convention or even my second, but it’s my home. Which is why I dragged 12 people with me this year— and caught up with old friends and made new ones.

I hit the ground running Friday with two panels, a reading, and a signing session.

“Author Perspectives on Fanfiction” was right at noon on Friday with Barbara Doran, Sara Dobie Bauer, JL Gribble, Brent Seth, and me. This is usually a fun topic, and this time was no exception. We even had a panelist who got into fanfiction after starting original fiction! My next panel, “Exploring Gender in SF,” was only an hour later, which was just long enough for my phone to enter its final, end-of-life boot loop while I finished collecting my notes. Not that it mattered. All my panels go off the rails, which is how you know you’re having a lively discussion. While I had intended to discuss more currently-evolving views of gender, we focused more on how to write a gender besides your own. Addie King, who writes about a female police officer, also had a great example of how gender influenced the setting she chose for a pivotal scene in her book, Shades of Gray. For safety, her character sought only single-stall pit stops, which led her to the location for the inciting incident.

Concoction’s literary program has a dedicated bookstore at the convention called Author’s Alley, which in my experience is a rare and beautiful thing. The staff are also very intentional about ensuring authors have times for readings and autographs. They’re so good at this, they signed me up, despite my (admittedly mild) attempts to avoid it. I read a vignette about a mother who’d watched her daughter be kidnapped by aliens. This year, the readings that particularly stood out to me were Vik K Walker’s Enlightened Love (hilariously awkward!), Brent Seth’s Short Fuse (Hitchhiker’s-style humor), and Mary Turzillo’s short story (in Bonsai Babies?) about what lurks in the kitchen sink’s murk. (Mary’s story has been haunting me ever since!)

While I make a habit of visiting the vendor’s hall, Author’s Alley, and art show every year, this year had a lot of firsts for me: first time making it down to the Gaming Dungeon, first time buying from a fan table in the atrium, first time intentionally attending readings, and first time hanging out with an (unauthorized) fish. And I’m glad. Gaming was a nice respite from sitting in quiet rooms and paying rapt attention to speakers. The fan table swag is just as intriguing as the vendor’s hall, and the audience interaction at the readings was even more interesting than some of the panels, despite (or because of?) the small audience.

Concoction’s filk selection was as quality as always. While I was disappointed to miss Tom Smith’s performances, I caught two concerts with the Blibbering Humdingers, a Harry Potter+ filk duo, even though I’m not in the HP fandom. What a blast! Their style varied between songs, making each one distinct–and they had plenty worth dancing to. After rocking out to “Hufflepuff Sandwich” and its smart lyrics and rhythmic bridge, I dragged my family Sunday afternoon. Even the singers noticed my little sister’s face turn red when we walked in during “Gray Underpants” about Snape’s fashion choices. My mom and I also got a kick out of dancing to “Raised by Nerds.”

Parking was a problem again this year, even though I paid Thursday night for the whole weekend. While no political rallies coincided, as they did last year, this time, a large group flying out of Cleveland-Hopkins had left their vehicles in the hotel lot, which ran out of space before we arrived on Saturday. It was only a minor inconvenience, though; rather than paying airport prices, we parked at the Brookpark Rapid station and braved the cold and wind while chatting up game developer Mike Podgor. Together, we journeyed to the con via the airport station and parking garages— a quality morning quest and a fortuitous way to make new friends.

All in all, this was another busy and fantastic convention. But the best part? Meeting and hanging out with Sara Dobie Bauer, Brent Seth, Vik Walker, and JL Gribble. I can’t wait to see everyone next year!