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.

Nerds? Geeks? How about We Ditch the Labels.

I’m a nerd, or geek, however you want to phrase it. I love sci-fi, comics, steampunk, complex board games, fantasy creatures, urban fantasy books, and cosplaying as a highborn lady for any local Renaissance festival. I’ve introduced PMS into Dungeons and Dragons when my character needed a good excuse for fire-balling some grumpy dwarves. I’ve been a geek so long that I understand what Heinlein meant by “groking” someone. (If you get that reference, bless you. You’re old too.) In fact, this year I may vote for Cthulu for President, figuring he actually might be the lesser of two evils.Cthulhu, pictured on the campaign trail.Even more so, for the most part my family could substitute for any number of the characters on The Big Bang Theory. We own light sabers and have fought with them. We play Magic: The Gathering (known as Mystic Warlord of Ka’a on TBBT) along with Star Realms, Fluxx, Dominion, and many others. If a blue police box vibrated into reality in front of me, I’d not hesitate to step inside and meet the Doctor. We quote movies at each other, have IMDB as a favorite app, and answer the phone in Huttese. And don’t even get me started on my AFOL Lego collection!

Nerd? Geek?

Now I want to write a book that involves this somewhat specialized group of people who love things whimsical, futuristic, powerful, and wildly different from the “average” person, or ‘danes as we call them (short for mundanes). We are a great and growing population that was stigmatized in the past. We wander down different thought paths in search of the great beyond or the magic deep inside.

However, in desiring to name the genre of this new book, I wanted to avoid hurting people in this lovely group. What should I call them? Nerds and geeks were the tags most often used. Traditionally “nerd” was a bit of a social misfit but not necessarily smart, while geek was an almost idiot savant smart person in only one category, now usually associated with computers.

What Rules in the Name Game

For more views, I reached out to others with that question. The answers I got back were wide and in some ways astounding. Some talked about which words were less offensive. A few said they wore the monikers with pride. Others suggested alternatives like “the fandom life.” It doesn’t have the negative connotations but also is a bit too vague, in my opinion. A few responders said nerd was more akin to social awkwardness while geek has a “passionate fan vibe.” I think the Nerdarchy people might disagree with this, however. One beautiful, intelligent lady even declared she was called the “Dork Queen” for years. Really? And that’s not nasty? She didn’t think so, so more power to her!

“I aim to misbehave”

Finally I decided, “Ditch the labels.” I hated them anyway. These name tags foster unnecessary bigotry and separateness. We have nothing to be ashamed of. I can’t think of one negative aspect about living the “nerdly life.” My people are dreamers, builders, teachers, explorers, readers, lovers, and so much more. We stand proud, wizards and superheroes next to storm troopers and airship commanders.

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Steampunk fans gather at Renaissance Faire in Bristol, Illinois one weekend every summer.

If you in the mundane world doubt any of this, just take a look at any of the original 1960s Star Trek episodes. The communicators then are the cell phones of today and Yeoman Rand always presented Kirk with a box to sign forms. Her small computer embraced the idea of the modern day tablet. Some of the members of the fandom collective invented these wonderful modern conveniences by being inspired by the possibility of “what if.”

So here’s to the fandom life! Or as Jayne would say, “Shiny! Let’s be bad guys!”

And look here to share one of my theme songs. Talk Nerdy to Me