Don't do it!

A sour-faced guide to conventions.

Despite so many good intentions it seems that conventions are here to stay with many more “cons” appearing for the steadily increasing number of worthless shows every year. As part of SAD Magazine’s ongoing commitment to its reader, we present the following collection of explanations and advice to help you sort out the chaff from the chaffer, and obtain the most cynical amusement from any event you attend...

Alternate Realities

Conventions exist in them, twisting all normally immutable laws of space, time and current accounts. However bizarre the universe can be at times, there is no other explanation for why attendees queue up for several hours a year to obtain the signature of some celebrity has-been which won’t even be worth anything until they’ve kicked the proverbial.


Much fun can be had by forcing the bidding up through the roof, thus making some sad dickhead pay “a donkey” for some “old tat”. Care must be taken in order to avoid this game backfiring unless you really want to pay a fortune for that Star Maidens annual.


Autograph sessions are somewhat distressing for celebrities who are wheeled out from obscurity to find themselves facing acne-ridden thirty-somethings without having a cattle-prod conveniently located nearby. As a minor courtesy, get the unimpressive and boring non-special guests to sign your stuff as well. Making them feel wanted can have surprising side-effects.

Bar Stewards

The SAD Magazine reader’s friend.

Blooper Reels

Blooper Reels: Sadly, few of these involve people losing vital organs or destroying furniture, generally featuring instead every take that went wrong on a story for a variety of dull and unamusing reasons. Worth avoiding.


These can be amusing for the first hour or so as they usually involve the guests entertaining the attendees. Leave the moment you see some stewards come on in Federation costume to do a chorus of “Super Trouper.”


Much careful consideration should be applied to this well in advance of the event. The main rule is simple: never ever wear anything even remotely related to the series being covered by the convention. At least 90% of the other attendees will be wearing various examples of this anti-fashion and each and every one of them looks like a cock, the tragedy magnified by the close proximity of so many cases. A T-shirt and a pair of jeans should suffice, though even a leotard and Doc Marten’s looks a hundred times more stylish than anything involving a scarf or floppy hat. Only take an anorak if you’ve seen Noel Gallagher wearing the same style.


Don’t go with anyone who intends to pull. If their only chance of getting their end away is to go to a collection of emotionally crippled, anally retentive manic depressives then they will quickly make a complete tit of themselves and anyone with them. Go with someone nervous and free with their money instead.


You’ll need them when you see your fellow attendees.



Fan Clubs

These will always be in attendance. For fun, find the executive committee of a fan club and allow them to extol at length the benefits of joining their group. When they think they’ve got you hooked proceed to explain that you used to be a member until recently but it’s been a little crap of late. Their response will either be good humoured, apologetic or they’ll just burst into tears. (DWAS executive members will agonise about this discourse afterwards because they secretly know it to be true.) Fuelling someone’s self-loathing and paranoia in this way can be one of the biggest highlights of the entire convention.

Fancy Dress Sessions

If a Dalek T-shirt has as much credibility as a lobster in a tutu, then dressing up in a complete costume is not a good idea. If you must, at least wear something with a mask.


Filking: The singing of folk songs based around the convention’s theme. Fact: folk singers don’t have the same sensibilities as everyone else as they only ever put one finger in their ear.


Hotels go slightly strange during conventions and give all their food appropriate names. Thus “TARDIS sandwiches” and “Liberator Burgers” appear on the menu. Do not be fooled. The sandwiches have about as much filling as would cover a leprechaun’s jockstrap and if the burger had been liberated it would still be grazing in a field somewhere.

Hotel Staff

Always check them out, but remember that they can’t wait to do a similar thing to you. It’s always worth taking time to clarify the availability of the waiters and/or waitresses. They will be terrified by the bunch of weirdoes who have run amok over the complex and it may do them good to have a shoulder to cry on.


These suffer from a hugely enhanced ego, brought about by being asked to share the stage with a dribbling old luvvie or pointless member of production staff. Those that try to sparkle inevitably look like hyperactive giggling imbeciles, although this is occasionally more interesting that the responses given by the out-of-work old ham being interviewed.

Interview Panels

Interview Panels: Bit of a mixed bag. As a rule, the fewer the people on the panel the better it will be. Sylvester McCoy or Tom Baker can keep a hall full of attendees happy for an hour. A make up artist or Visual FX chap usually has to go on with someone else to bolster the personality quotient.


Blake’s 7 fans wear a lot of this, but then cows don’t wear plastic. You haven’t lived until you have seen the disturbing sight of overweight leather-clad valkyries rushing after Paul Darrow asking him to autograph their breasts.

Mixing with the attendees

You will have to. Quickly identify the people disregarding the guidelines on clothing and completely ignore them. Equally, avoid those trying too hard to be cool as they will inevitably attempt to pull. (This includes people with so many bits of their face pierced their nose has its own gravitational pull.)

Mixing with the guests

You won’t be able to. In theory you can but the elite of organisers, fan club executives and stewards will be brown tonguing their way into the guests’ memories so much that you won’t get near. Gareth Thomas does make the effort to mingle but this is merely in the hope that someone will buy him a drink.

Mixing your drinks

See Drinks.


Disease fatal to rabbits.


Don’t take any. If you are staying in the hotel and haven’t taken your own refreshments then room service can be utilised instead. Special gasses are pumped into the hotel during conventions which block all normal restrictions on your behaviour such as modesty, good taste and overdraft limit, so it is wise to avoid any temptations by simply removing your wallet. If you are determined to spend some money (“it’s all right. I’m only after one tiny thing...”) then it is wise to investigate either re-mortgaging the children or, alternatively, prostitution, as a potential source of funding.

No Shame Theatre

A bunch of wannabe actors/comedians putting on a hastily rehearsed and hopelessly underwritten collection of sketches for your amusement. You won’t be. Suggest they go and shove a “Klingon Surprise” (“out of this world jacket potato with a galactic choice of fillings”) where the sun don’t shine.


A sequence of coded instructions fed into a computer enabling it to perform logical and arithmetical operations on data provided. Spelling commonly confused with:


A piece of cheaply printed tat with a very rough approximation of the convention’s schedule. This will change at least three times a day so it’s not worth memorising but it may give you a certain idea of what’s going on. These have usually been produced with only two days to go before being printed and been finished off at four ‘o clock in the morning by a sleep-deprived organiser using enough beta-blockers to keep a gang of nursing students going for a month (who of course are using drugs instead.) If you get the chance, find some spelling mistakes and mention these to the organiser with the largest bags under their eyes


As far as chat up lines go “What’s your favourite episode, you pretty little thing?” is only effective as a swift and inexpensive method of tooth extraction. Fact: Almost all Doctor Who fans are male and most Blake’s Seven fans are female. The Who’s 7 events offered an unrivalled opportunity to mix with fans of the opposite sex but their demise means your chances have been reduced. They have not, however, been reduced as far as, say, a gay male Blake’s Seven fan’s chances have been.

Social Skills

Take time before the day to practise immobilising an anorak with just a fist and a rolled up Grauniad. Many other attendees will thank you for your foresight, and maybe a couple of the guests will as well.

Stewards: (or “the Rozzers” as they are sometimes known.)

Never forget that they have paid to attend as well but will get to see considerably less of the con than you. This means they will become very short tempered, a fact you can exploit when you get bored and want to wind someone up. (This is easy: the different coloured badge they wear seems to turn them into fascist dictators. Pricking their self importance can help pass the time in autograph queues and occasionally provides some entertaining fireworks.)


There’s always at least one. Check the Adam’s apple on the Servalan impersonator before you invite them back to your room. If it is a bloke try to maintain calm. Don’t hyperventilate and exclaim “Well, I’ll be buggered.” You very nearly were.


For main conventions the advice is simple: don’t. Stay in the hotel, even if you live nearby. Conventions start quite late on the first day due to registration, but on the second they start on time and fate will conspire to ensure that never-to-be-missed highlight-of-the-weekend panel is rescheduled and starts while you are walking down the motorway, petrol can in hand looking for a garage.

Video Room

Videos are supposed to offer some respite for attendees when nothing much is happening but inevitably force attendees to go to the filking session by playing Time and the Rani or any episode of Star Trek. The only time something worthwhile is shown is when the highlight-of-the-weekend panel is running. (Not that this matters if you don’t stay in the hotel as you will miss both gems anyway, see Travel.) The bastards in charge of video scheduling should be trussed, coated in feathers and featured on a christmas cookery program.

And if you still want to go to one after all that, may God have mercy on your soul...

Robert M.J. Morris
(from bitter experience)