NSO’s NonCon brings nerd culture to College

Daniel Myers & Pacita Prasarn of Tea and Absinthe Photo by Katie De Heras
Daniel Myers & Pacita Prasarn of Tea and Absinthe Photo by Katie De Heras
Daniel Myers & Pacita Prasarn of Tea and Absinthe
Photo by Katie De Heras

Attendance at the thirteenth annual No Such Convention (NonCon) last weekend more than doubled from estimations for last year’s convention. Hosted by Vassar’s No Such Organization (NSO), a science fiction, fantasy, video game interest club, the three-day celebration of pop culture fandoms drew an estimated 500 attendees, compared to last year’s 200 in attendance.

Other areas of NonCon also witnessed expansion this year. There were over 40 hours of programming with invited speakers, artists and comedians presenting and performing on topics relating to Fandoms.

Guests and NSO members taught workshops on a diverse set of skills ranging from speculative writing on the internet and henna to belly dancing and chainmail linking. Attendees also had the opportunity to participate in video game tournaments, costume contests and Live Action Role Playing, or LARPing. These tournaments included Street Fighter versus Tekken, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Super Smash Brothers Brawl, Halo 4 and Ultimate Marvel versus Capcom 3. Additionally, games included Pokemon Jeopardy and Fandom Deathmatch. NSO screened the films, The Gamers and Adolescence of Utena, and the Saturday morning cartoons, X-Men: Evolution.

The convention also saw a high number of table vendors in the College Center. Wrote NSO’s Cultural Attaché Zach Bodnar ’15 in an emailed statement, “All told, we had about 40 tables worth of vendors selling all sorts of geeky things; enough tables to fill both the college atrium and much of the second floor!”

According to the organizers, NSO began publicizing with a strong Web presence this year, but word-of-mouth buzz has been credited for the swelling turnout. Attendees arrived from local high schools, colleges nearby like Marist and Dutchess Community, and out of state schools like Mount Holyoke and Western Connecticut State University.

Registration for three-day passes cost $15, but college and high school students, who were the vast majority of attendants, gained free passes at registration. Sales of passes to non-students came in at around $2,000, a big uptick from last year.

NSO began planning NonCon officially in mid-November after its annual production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show wrapped, but started booking vendors as early as September. “Our big events are Rocky Horror and then this convention, which is in mid-November when we officially started planning this,” said Chronicler and Keeper of Logs, otherwise known as secretary, Cat Morgan ’15.

Morgan also noted that the planning of this year’s convention began earlier than in previous years. Her responsibilities when putting together NonCon included setting up vendors and guests, arranging their hotels, and gathering supplies.

She insisted that all members of NSO were involved: “It’s a big collaborative project. I’ll have a couple jobs, someone else will have a couple jobs, someone will run the video games, someone will get speakers together. We’re really collaborative.”

According to Bodnar, this was key to this NonCon’s success. Bodnar explained, “It is worth noting that it was the smoothest convention in recent history and that the group effort that went into making the convention as well as advanced planning is what made it so smooth.”

“It’s really going well,” said Michelle Lessard ‘13, a member of NSO who hosted several events during NonCon, including a cosplay—short for costume play—contest and a panel called Irrelevant Mythology. “We’ve got a lot more vendors, it’s really exciting,” Lessard noted.

One of the main speakers of the three-day event was Thomm Quackenbush, the author of the Night’s Dream series-including We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods-novels that one reviewer claims blend realism with fantasy.

Quackenbush was born in Beacon, and gave three lectures: “The Legal and Moral Aspects of Fantasy Universes,” “Mythology of the Hudson Valley” and “Writing Speculative Fiction in the Internet Age.”

Among NonCon’s most coveted guests were sex educator “Sex Nerd” Sandra Daugherty and comedian Dave Ross. Daugherty and Ross cohost the “Sex Nerd Sandra” podcast on iTunes and Nerdist.com where each week they delve into different aspects of human sexuality. During NonCon, Ross and Daugherty recorded two podcasts for their show: “Hot, Smart Sex” on Friday and “Dorm Room Deeds” on Saturday. During Dorm Room Deeds the speakers brought on two guests representing Giggles Adult Store in Poughkeepsie. Throughout the podcast those in the audience—around twenty people mostly from outside the Vassar community—were invited up to speak about their sexual lives. Audience members brave enough to recount an experience received free toys from Giggles. Throughout NonCon, Daugherty also hosted a number of workshops, where topics spanned from roleplaying to busting oral sex myths.

Another one of NonCon’s panels on Saturday was “Tea and Absinthe,” featuring speakers Daniel Myers and Pacita Prasarn. Myers and Prasarn, self-described “Purveyors of the retro-decadent lifestyle,” run a company also called Tea and Absinthe, in which they sell a variety of both products as well as accessories. Throughout the three days of NonCon Myers and Prasarn were vending in the College Center, and, according to their website, they plan to travel across the United States to similar events to sell their wares. In their panel they shared their expertise on their main products, explaining the history of tea and demonstrating the correct way to drink absinthe.

Carl Custer, who is known professionally as Uncle Yo and was one of three invited comedians, gave a presentation Sunday on the history on the Dr. Who series. The character of Dr. Who, like his British compatriot James Bond, has been played by different actors over the half century that the series has been on the air.

One attendee of Custer’s presentation was Kathleen Holsopple, from F. D. Roosevelt High School in Hyde Park. Holsopple, in a red bow tie and tweed jacket, was dressed up as the current Doctor Who. It was Holsopple’s third year at NonCon and she said that her favorite part was a public reading of My Immortal, a piece of Harry Potter Fanfiction written in 2006 that has been celebrated as being awful.

Holsopple says that while being fun, conventions carry a serious underlying message.

“I think it brings everyone together,” explained Holsopple, “and lets everyone know there are people as crazy into the things as you are.”

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