Nerd Life Fun Events and Opportunities

As the winter’s cold winds fade away, the fun season begins with lots of opportunities for those who enjoy the nerd life. Many people love going to entertainment, gaming, sci-fi. or renfest events but they may not know about what’s available. I wanted to share the ones that I knew because those living the fandom lifestyle should support each other and our unique community. The list is unabashedly Chicago centric because that’s the area I live in, but I am willing to list any others that anyone wants to suggest. I’m also listing the ones that have already passed simply so folks can also put them on their calendars for next year.

Gaming/Lego

Brickworld Chicago: AFOLs (Adult Fans of Lego) and young fans have a number of conventions around the nation but this is the one local to me. The Chicago event is on June 17-18 and they sold out early last year, so get your tickets ahead of time. Local clubs come in and display their truly amazing builds along ten-foot+ tables and venders sell specialized pieces, old sets, and their own blends of small builds. Anyone young or old who is a fan of the brick toy will love this event. More info here.

Valorcon: I’m listing this Chicago gaming convention because I found the 2016 page and want to go this year. I don’t know much about it. However, I can’t find 2017 info yet since their Facebook and website all say “stay tuned.” For more info, keep checking here.

Gen Con: Celebrating its 50th year, Gen Con reigns as the nation’s best and possibly largest gaming convention. It returns again to Indianapolis on August 17th-20th, featuring board, role-playing, and video gaming along with a concert from Grammy winning artists They Might Be Giants. This event also supports the literary arts by having author signings by many well-known writers in science fiction and fantasy. More info here.

Brickworld Indianapolis: This event is by the same supporters of the above Chicago event. It is March 17-18, 2018 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. More info here.

Science Fiction/Fantasy/Comics

(Already passed.) Capricon: Held in February, Capricon is a long-standing science fiction convention in Chicago. Capricon 38, Expanding Universes, is scheduled for February 15-18 at the Westin Chicago North Shore, in Wheeling, Illinois. In the past, this conference has hosted a great art show, cosplay, and great fan panels. It is also supportive of sci-fi/fantasy writers. More info about the 2018 event on this Facebook page.

(Already passed.) Geek Chic at Adler Planetarium: This year was the fifth event so I have no doubt they will return again. As part of the Adler After Dark programming, it is a fun night of mingling with sci-fi and comic book cosplayers while enjoying the planetarium exhibits, films and lecture by local authors. It occurs mid-March. More info here. 

(Already passed) Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo: Known also as C2E2, this huge event pulls in hundreds of people and quite a lot of celebrities. Events include, cosplaying, live art, fan tournaments, video gaming, and celebrity interviews. It will be the first weekend in April in 2018. More info here.

(Already passed) ConGlomeration: ¬†Another science fiction convention, this time in Louisville, Kentucky. The website touts it as “Louisville’s Grassroots Interactive, Sci-Fi & Fantasy Convention.” I’ve never been there but it sounds fun. It occurs in April. More info here.

NWI A.C.E. Art & Comic Expo: Sometimes the small events provide an intensive spot of fun between the huge, crowd-pressing national events. This one is definitely in my home area. The expo is on June 11, 2017, at the Patrician Banquet Center in Schererville, Indiana. More info on this Facebook page

Thrillerfest: The first few days of this large and very popular literary event is more for aspiring writers but the last two days are all about thriller fans. I put it here because Thrillerfest also supports literary efforts in science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Writers, check out the Master CraftFest, CraftFest, and Pitchfest (agent speed dating). I’ve attended five times and loved every second of it. For fans, it’s a great place to meet your favorite authors and learn more about the thriller genre. The conference is always in the New York City Grand Hyatt and this year from July 11th to 15th. More info here.

Confluence: I just discovered this conference and am curious enough about it that I may attend this year. It is August 4-6 and located in Pittsburgh. It describes itself as “Pittsburgh’s longest-running literary conference with a strong focus on science fiction, fantasy and horror.” So writers, this is a great one for you although it is not a place to mingle with agents. It also features artists, music and a new cosplay contest. More info here.

New York Comic Con: Another huge crowd-pleaser, this comic and entertainment event is October 5th through the 8th at the Javits Center. More info here

TeslaCon: Steampunk is coming into its own as conferences start popping up all over the country. For those in the mid-states, TeslaCon is from November 2-5th, at the Marriott West in Middleton, Wisconsin. This year’s focus is on ghosts and old world beliefs with a focus on Romania. More info here.

Chicago Tardis: No one in fandom can deny that Dr. Who has a tremendous effect on the nerd life. In celebration of that, this conference, runs from November 24-26 at the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center. They advertise “three days of guests, discussions, activities, cosplay, gaming, kid stuff and more!” More info here.

Renaissance Festivals

Scarborough Renaissance Festival: This Texas-based faire was my first initiation into the Faire life over twenty years go. Over that time, the organizers have perfected the events. It runs from April 8 to May 29th while the air is still relatively cool in Texas. It is located in Waxahachie, Texas, near enough to the Dallas-Fort Worth region to make hotels and travel easier. More info here. 

Bristol Renaissance Faire: This Chicago favorite was voted the number one best Renfest in the nation for five years running. I love it and try to go every year, particularly on Steampunk weekend. Like most festivals, it spreads over a large, green acreage, with a marketplace, theme weekends, pub crawls and lots of wonderful acts. The band, Tartanic (one of my favorites) often shows up for at least some of the festival weekends as well as Adam Crack (whip expert and comedian), Moonie the Magni’cent (comic high wire act) and the bawdy Tortuga Twins. It runs July 8th through September 4th on the weekends, just across the Illinois border in Bristol, Wisconsin. More info here.

Feast of the Hunter’s Moon: Although not really a Renfest, this weekend event celebrates the 1700s America when the traders came down the Wabash River for the last time before river sets in. Lafayette charities such as the Boy Scouts and local churches provide quality, settler style food while visitors walk around trader booths, blacksmith shops, and costume sellers. Other choices include watching French and Indian War Reenactment, hearing speeches by famous Americans such as Ben Franklin, or listening to wonderful period music. A great weekend with the kids. It is held Sept 30 to Oct 1 at Fort Ouiatenon Park near West Lafayette, Indiana. More info here.

Texas Renaissance Festival: Texas is big enough to support two renfests that thankfully do not compete with each other time-wise. Located in Todd Mission, Texas, near Houston, this faire through October and November, when the summer heat is gone but people are still wanting to party. Like Scarborough, it has been around for ages and even has packages for weddings and school days. Lots of fun before the winter blues set in and a great place for Christmas shopping. More info here.

I know there are many, many other conventions, renfests, and conferences so please let me know your favorites and I’ll list them in future posts.

Trailer Park Fae Brings Disease into Fairydom

Although Lilith Saintcrow is a leader in the urban fantasy genre, writing under several names, Trailer Park Fae was my first experience with her work. I enjoyed reading this book, which is unusual because I’m not partial to fairy stories. I was entranced immediately by the quality of the writing. It engulfed me with sensory details, making it easy for me to lose myself in our world and the different fairy kingdoms. The prose flows beautifully and I felt immediately engaged with the complex characters.

Trailer FaeSaintcrow’s fantasy realm overlays and connects easily with the humans’ grittier reality. However, the people are oblivious to the sidhe in their ranks. The fae use them as tools or victims always to the detriment or death of the humans. This makes the fae mostly horrible, an idea that might not be popular with some readers. Whether the monster is a space alien, demon spawn, or Summer Queen, we like to think that humanity could defeat or at least break even at some point. This novel does not harbor those illusions. The two protagonists are half human at least, which is the only reason why they survive their interactions with the other worlders.

The story dives into three plots interweaving three different characters. First, Jeremiah Gallow, half-fae and ex-guard of the Summer Palace, is fighting off suicidal depression after the death of his human wife. He has turned his back on the sidhe, wanting only to be left alone. Unfortunately, he drops into the middle of a complex conspiracy dealing with a plague on the sidhe and the fight between the kingdoms to control the cure.

Next enters Robin Ragged, an unwilling messenger of the Summer Queen. Robin becomes the key to controlling the plague that is decimating Unwinter’s realm. Gallow meets her by accident when she tries to outrun the King’s henchmen. She resembles Gallow’s wife, which sets off a protectiveness and curiosity in him. This sets up emotional tension between the two characters and provides the impetus for both to work together.

The third character is Puck Goodfellow, a free fae unattached to any court and seeking to make trouble in both. He stands outside most of the action, serving as the role of conductor to orchestrating the chaos. His hidden agenda and desires are not revealed until toward the end of the novel.

Although I enjoyed the lovely narrative, the descriptions sometimes ran on too long, obscuring meaning rather than clarifying a vision. Some of the phrasing and words were unfamiliar to me as well, which I put down to the fact that I don’t know the genre. Usually the meaning of certain unusual words can be picked up through the text, but that was not the case here. A glossary would have helped.

The ending, although surprising, still felt incomplete. The story of Goodfellow resolves but the others are left open for the obvious sequel. I’m a fan of series but feel that each book should stand alone. More resolution for the primary characters would have been nice.

In conclusion, if you like evil fairy-oriented urban fantasy, you’ll enjoy this book. However, readers new to the genre might get a little lost with this novel being their first choice.