We arrived at the convention around 11:30am. The ID check for reserved seating at the Welcome to Night Vale Live Reading was scheduled from 11am until noon, when the show itself was scheduled to begin. Although there were two separate lines for reserved and general seating, only our badges were checked at the door; nobody asked to see our IDs. Fortunately, our excitement for the event overshadowed our confusion, so we simply found some available seats and didn’t dwell on the discrepancy.
Noon came and went. Maybe twenty minutes after the scheduled start time, an upper-level staffer—co-owner Roxanne Schwieterman—approached the microphone and apologized for the situation. She told us that they were having a snafu of some sort regarding Welcome to Night Vale, and that they were trying to work things out; she thanked us for our patience and apologized again. The audience processed this information and…basically went back to chattering amongst themselves.
Now, I am no stranger to conventions. Over the last seven years, I have attended at least twenty-four anime cons, several of which I’ve staffed, and two of which I’ve organized. That said, DashCon 2014 was attended by one of the most well-behaved groups of con-goers I’ve ever encountered. Nobody tried to start an uprising, nobody threw a fit; everyone just kind of sat around, exchanging theories. Someone even approached the microphone to ask if any of us wanted to order pizza. A few people got the room chanting, “All hail the Glow Cloud, all hail…”, at which point a Glow Cloud cosplayer hopped up and took a walk down the center aisle, basking in the praise. We waited for, I kid you not, a total of one hour and fifteen minutes, and despite the flurry of theories, the lack of information, and the escalating restlessness, nobody did anything stupid to ignite the rest of the crowd. It was a goshdang convention miracle.
Finally, Roxanne returned to the stage and asked everyone to take their seats. Once we’d shut our collective trap, she took a breath and delivered the news: Welcome to Night Vale had “walked.” She told us that they “wanted their money up front,” and declined to wait until after their panel. She described them as “very nice, but firm with their business decisions.” We were told that, at that moment, the organizers were still attempting to remain in contact and possibly reschedule the event, and that we should keep an eye on the schedule and on DashCon’s Tumblr for any updates. [ED: The Geekiary recorded Roxanne’s announcement and posted it to youtube, click here to view it.]
The audience accepted the news gracefully; a few people tossed out questions, and Roxanne did her best to answer. She assured us that the con did not need more donations, that the attendees were “perfect,” and that the funds were currently available. She described the situation as a “fluke, mostly on [WTNV’s] end.” When asked for details, she reiterated that WTNV hadn’t wanted to wait until after their panel for their money, but that the DashCon admins had shown them proof that the funds were available. She apologized again, asked that we not take out our disappointment on Welcome to Night Vale, and then asked us to vacate the room so they could get everyone seated for the Doug Jones panel.
Call me crazy, I guess, but something about that explanation just didn’t sound right. The cast and crew of Welcome to Night Vale have proved their dedication and gratitude to their fans so many times, and suddenly they decided to bail over a “fluke”? That didn’t match up with the people I’d met the previous day. I made an attempt to catch Roxanne for a couple of questions before I headed out, but the incoming panel forced me to take my leave, and she didn’t seem too keen on letting a girl with a notebook catch up with her.
After the nonexistent WTNV live show, my companions and I didn’t have any concrete plans until the evening scheduling block, so we whiled away a few hours browsing the dealers’ room and fighting with the hotel’s spotty wi-fi.
Just before 5pm, my friend and I grabbed some coffee and queued up for the “Homoerotic Subtext” panel—one of several panels that found itself subject to some extreme tumblr judgment.
(A sidenote: although most of the convention attendees had very little internet access at the convention, many non-present Tumblr-users had caught the scent of an unfolding disaster and pounced. Various exaggerations and outright lies permeated the site over the course of the weekend, attacking not only the convention organizers, but also the guests, panelists, and even the attendees. It became such an issue that, although the convention itself presented a “safe space” for attendees, the mere act of attending DashCon subjected many people to harsh ridicule from the bullies of Tumblr.)
Relevant Noelle Stevenson Tweets
However, while Tumblr seemed determined to write it off as an immature, queer-fetishizing disaster run by teenage cis-het white girls, the actual “Homoerotic Subtext” panel consisted of a casually academic discussion of queerbaiting, queer representation (and lack thereof) in media, and an honest look at subtext and fanworks. Source material and examples were given, and audience questions and comments were taken into account without interrupting the flow of the presentation. The panelists—you can find them on tumblr as bisexual-books, markdoesstuff, and sashaforthewin—maintained a friendly, humorous atmosphere while delving into serious topics, resulting in an overwhelmingly successful and informative panel.
After the panel, my group headed downstairs to look into our “extra hour with the ball pit,” perhaps the most notorious of DashCon’s consolation offerings to those who reserved seats for the WTNV show. When we arrived, we found…a large room with a few tables at one end, and no ball pit in sight. We later discovered that it had deflated; it was not until I found the now-infamous photo on Tumblr that I even knew what the ball pit looked like. On a positive note, however, the ball pit has rapidly risen to meme fame, and most of the results are downright hilarious.
My group basically wandered around for an evening of con-mingling and people-watching after that, with a foray into the “Shipping 101” panel around 11pm. The panel was all right—it was pretty basic, but its title did indicate that in advance—and a few interesting points arose throughout. The five panelists ranged in panel-experience and charisma, but overall it was pretty okay.
(Additional sidenote: while I did not attend the BDSM panel, which attracted various rumors of minors attending due to lack of ID check, I can say for certain that everyone was ID-checked on their way into “Shipping 101.” Furthermore, a cursory look at timestamps on the initial posts claiming that minors were in the BDSM panel shows that the rumor began before the actual panel did.)
Convention programming pretty solidly ended at 1am, with only one panel running until 2am, so my companions and I decided to head back to our room. I checked my email—still nothing from the DashCon admins—and flopped into bed. It had been an eventful couple of days.