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The last bite: SpoCon 2022's finale

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Photo courtesy of Benny Loy
Photo courtesy of Benny Loy

It all started with a collection of nerds in 2008. They wanted to create a space to celebrate science fiction and fantasy while promoting the greater good by supporting local literacy programs. The first event was held at Gonzaga University, in Spokane. Timothy Zahn, the prolific author of the Star Wars expanded-universe series Thrawn, was the first guest of honor.

The SpoCon convention was a hit, with far more attendees than anticipated. Three years later, after moving to the Spokane Doubletree Hotel, new record attendance numbers were set. Fans clamored to see the creators of their favorite books, art, and films. They sat in on panels with these artists, absorbing every discussion with the same enthusiasm they had when they first explored these works.

The guests asked questions about how they could better their crafts, and they excitedly shared their tales and experiences. But most importantly, in the words of Tim Martin of the "Geek Garrison," they practiced the mantra "be excellent to each other."

In 2019, SpoCon was moved to the Historic Davenport Hotel, one of the greatest venues (if not the best) in Spokane. With the theme "All Hail the Goblin King," the convention was abuzz, with all of geekdom roaming the halls. I was invited to be a speaker that year.

Afterward, I found myself waiting in excited anticipation to speak at the next — but of course, we all know what happened in the year 2020. The convention was canceled due to the pandemic. SpoCon could not risk the health of attendees and speakers, especially those at-risk. So I, like the other professionals and fans, waited.

2021 arrived, and invitations were sent; I would speak again. The theme was "SpoCon ReVamped." Similar 2019, when we there were many panels exploring the folklore behind goblins, 2021 would be about vampires. The theme was chosen to reflect that SpoCon was "improving, changing, and being generally punny." It was also an attempt to rise from the pandemic's grave and express fandom's immortal passion.

However, the increase in cases of COVID again slammed a stake into the heart of the convention. To much disappointment, it was canceled once again.

Another year was spent in limbo, but the promised land of 2022 arrived. SpoCon rose from the grave with the same theme, venue, and guests of honor.

The last SpoCon
As the festivities began, I spotted several cosplayers on my way to pick up my pro badge and attend the opening ceremony. I then sat down to watch video producer and comedian Brad Steiner amp up the attendees. The presentation's tone turned bittersweet when he said, "Unfortunately, this will be the last SpoCon."

It was explained that the pandemic's effect on SpoCon's finances had been too significant. I couldn't help but glance back at the rows behind me and realize there were fewer people than at the last convention. The pandemic had sucked the previously vibrant life force from this event.

That's not to say that the fans that had gathered weren't lively, because they cheered throughout the rest of the opening ceremony with enthusiasm and love. The friendships and good times we had all had together in the past motivated us to make this a great last hurrah. Like vampires, we're going to enjoy these last nights before eventually facing daybreak.

Photo courtesy of Benny Loy  

For my first panel, I joined the writer Lynsey G and historian Krys Wood for a viewing of the 1994 film Interview with a Vampire. We discussed with the audience the subversion of hetero-patriarchy in the film, along with the themes of colonialism. We also didn't miss the chance to make fun of Tom Cruise's portrayal of the character Lestat, sending the audience into fits of laughter.

On the second day of the convention, I spoke on panels about finding time to write and writing what you know. My last panel for the day was about impostor syndrome. It was an exploration of vulnerability, as professionals and audience members shared their struggles with unfounded feelings of fraudulence and their strategies for maintaining self-esteem.

Queer issues
On the last day, I took part in the LGBTQIA+ Fan Gathering. One person shared how both of her grandmothers began to date women later in life but struggled to identify openly as Lesbian. A straight father came to gain insight into his child's experiences trying to decipher their sexual and gender identity. Two Gen Z people talked about the lack of elder Gays in the community, which could have been a boon for their personal journeys if not for the AIDS crisis and discrimination.

An audience member was dismayed that some members of the LGBTQIA+ community could discriminate against other members. The topic of Trans rights was brought up as an example of how some cis Gay people can be exclusionary.

I told them, "It's so shortsighted when people do that. All of the progress we make in society affects one another."

What I said could be applied to the entirety of the meetup. Those grandmothers having difficulty completely coming out, that father wanting to support his child, and those young adults grieving the lack of mentorship — every one of these individual experiences changes the LGBTQIA+ community as a whole.

Photo courtesy of Benny Loy  

As the convention came to a close, the attendees were thanked for their support, and we said our final goodbyes to SpoCon. They say that the Historic Davenport is haunted. Perhaps the ghost of the years of gaming, discussing literature, and the camaraderie we celebrated will stalk those extravagant rooms for years to come.

The hotel itself had once fallen into disrepair and was facing demolition, only to be restored after its historical value was recognized. One can hope that someday someone can raise SpoCon from the dead again, just as its venue had once been.