• Bronycon 2013: CouchCrusader's Retrospective

    Heh. I've always wanted to do one of these.

    8,704. 8,407 (I can count to books)

    That number represents the official attendance count of Bronycon 2013. If I have this much to say about what's happened over the past four days, just think about how many stories, memories, meetings, feats of awesome, and kindled friendships people will be carrying away from Baltimore this year. One weekend was just not enough for me to reach out to all the people I wanted to contact, but I won't say I'm unhappy with the number I managed to find.

    I'll apologize up front and in advance if I misplaced any of you in these recollections, or, worse, omitted you. If you remember something better than I do, kick it up in the comments. Please.


    Thursday began at 4 in the morning, in the home of a dear friend who for some unfathomable reason was conversational and bubbly while she drove me out to the airport. Seven hours later, I stepped off the light rail in Baltimore and checked into my hotel. With several hours to go until my roommates arrived, I found a burrito chain, purchased a burrito with a little too much hot sauce in it for a muggy summer's day, and tracked down a Kinko's to print my con registration.

    Little did I know I would also track down one of many, many people I would meet completely by accident over the weekend! As I returned to the hotel, I ran into Darius, a fellow Seattleite y'all might know better as the mod of Ask Drunk Celestia. We got the requisite "no ways" and "how bad was the trip here?" topics sorted out and we would later grab dinner at the burrito chain just outside the convention center.

    Meanwhile, the texts I'd been sending out non-stop to my roommates began to pay dividends. Until now, my only brony conventions and therefore pre-reader connections had occurred on the west coast. Present Perfect was the first East-side pre-readers to arrive, followed a bit later by subtle brony extraordinaire and token hunk Aquaman. I mean, the guy's 6'4", built like a linebacker, and came in a tank top and sunglasses. We took turns playing "spot the brony" in the streets, which you must keep in mind happened before most of you had your badges for the weekend.

    Cupcakes and Alexstrazsa pulled in after we came back, and we wound up meeting with Benman, Pegasus Rescue Brigade, Noble Cause, ABagOVicodin, Fangwarden, and Skipsy at registration. To everyone who had to stand in that huge line for their badges that night, I salute your patience and your musical inclination! I daresay the weekend was worth the wait, yes?

    After helping Alex schlep his horsepads through a non-air-conditioned convention center and setting up his table, we grabbed some Jimmy John's for dinner and discussed pre-reader matters. Then we got two fifths of rum that disappeared over the course of the night. Drunk Celestia's crew came to the hotel room, as did Acesential's entourage, our EqD Music coder Hypermark, and fellow EqD author Calpain!

    Despite getting security called on us once, everyone had someone to talk to that night while I brutalized my previous drinking record with the assistance of Aqua and Captain Morgan.

    That was the moment I knew I had arrived. Everything I'm going to say about Friday through Sunday was almost universally great, but no moments will be more special to me than talking drunk shop with a fellow author I had only previously known over emails and Skype. Six of us stayed behind in the room and I found my spot on the floor, curled up in my sleeping bag, and dreamed of the morning.


    Have you ever tried running on a treadmill while hung over from the previous night? Yeah. My resolution to exercise the entire weekend died about ten minutes into my run, and I just waited around with Ben, Present, and Aqua until the vendor hall opened.

    Poor Aqua. He was determined to bring nothing home but the free sketch Drunk Celestia gave him over burritos the night before, but he texted me a bit later confessing he had purchased a Fluttershy plushie for his girlfriend. Meanwhile, Ben and I stewed in the Packbreakers line for the Twilicorn promo card for a little over an hour, and I snagged the "I Believe in M.A. Larson" button from Pixelkitties I had wanted oh so very, very badly since Unic-- er, um... since February.

    Much as I'm aware that representing Equestria Daily in the convention scene separates my experience from the average con-goer's, I'm still going to say that press-badging my way to the front of the convention's first voice actor panel was pretty awesome. Perhaps one of the biggest highlights of Bronycon for me was Nicole Oliver picking up something she started back in Las Pega-- I mean, in February, when she expressed interest in something between Celestia and Discord. To see her give such a thorough answer to a hypothetical evening between them here makes me think she wants them to be, ah, more than hypothetical.

    That said, if a convention is in your near future, I would like to take y'all aside and ask you to consider your approach to panel questions. It's okay to be nervous at the mike. I always am! But you should endeavor to ask your question expediently, and to select one that won't have the talent scratching their heads in confusion. Never assume they know anything from the fandom, and assume they're aware of crossover material even less. There is no faster way to paint a target on your face than bringing Q&A time to a screeching halt.

    Unfortunately, our coverage of the panel had to stop there so Aqua and I could make it to our own panel -- namely, the Equestria Daily pre-readers panel! along with Alex, PRB, and Ben. I, uh, only remember answering some questions and getting the mike snatched away from me for others. I still can't believe I asked that one gentleman if he wanted "an honest answer." I also got to meet CapnChryssalid, who has transcended every standard of insanity by writing This Platinum Crown, and GaryOak, who I met at Everfree NW. And Landon? What a coincidence that you were doing AV for our panel, too! Good to see you there too, man!

    Soon after the panel let out, Scrooples came up to me and told me he'd read one of my stories. Fans of authors take note: no matter how many followers someone has or how popular their story is, I guarantee you there is no better way to make us writers feel like gods than letting us know you've read our stuff. We. Want. To. Meet. You.

    I wandered into the Quills and Sofas room after the panel let out to begin typing up the VA panel for the blog. Now, in theory, Quills and Sofas was a general-purpose room where attendees could arrange meetings with each other, and there were plenty of places to record personal headcanon and world-building ideas.

    In practice, the place was Fanwriter Central, and present in the swirling throng was a large, magnificently-bearded Civil War re-enactor known as The Descendant (T.D., for short.). We've posted his latest story not that long ago and I'm reading it as soon as I get done with this post. Wanderer D, Obselescence, and Golden Vision stopped by to say hi. Whiteout and kits [sic.], two old friends from IRC, also swung by to meet me for the first time, and it's a minor miracle I was able to post the VA panel writeup before Amy Keating Rogers' ukulele panel went live.

    Sure, the Hall of the Moon was in the minor leagues compared to the Mane Events hall, but it was still a fairly large room able to seat several hundred. Imagine Amy's surprise when we all packed in there to the walls to hear her play! Armed with a new uke she'd purchased from signing revenues at Everfree, she proceeded to play us her life's story, starting from her grade school affair with one Jason Bateman (yes, that Jason Bateman) to the time he thought her dead from a benign brain tumor--and beyond.

    As we all learned, one can accomplish a great deal from clever arrangements of C, F, and G7 chords, and among other things she soldiered her way through her original pitch for "Smile, Smile, Smile" whilst accompanying herself. I took videos, but the one constant of the convention for me was crappy internet :( I'll try and upload her songs when I get back home.

    Turns out M.A. Larson was there to listen to Amy, too, and I wound up running into the two of them again in the hallway by accident later that evening. In a convention of non-stop fun, dragging Aqua after Amy and introducing the two of them to each other stands out in my mind.

    I didn't do this because I'm Big Name Fan Best Friends Forever with her or anything like that. She makes appearances at these conventions so she can meet people like me and you, end of story. I know it can be scary trying to say hi to the show staff, but as long as you avoid demanding exorbitant amounts of time from them, a simple introduction and a few sentences about how their work has affected you will go much farther with them than you would think.

    Aqua and I grabbed some Five Guys with Chryssalid and Wanderer D before we linked up with a bunch of PRs, Vicodin, Midnight Dancer, and SleeplessBrony at the seafood bistro across the road. I mention this because while we were eating out there and contemplating the imminent ruin of our food budgets, a woman approaches our table and begins asking us about this pony convention going on across the street. Again, a lucky accident: I think out of all the bronies she could have contacted first, she found a fairly decent group who could explain the differences and appeal of G4 to her.

    Turns out this woman was Lauren Echo, the original intro jingle singer for the My Little Pony franchise back in the 80's! Rescue from Midnight Castle? You bet she sang for that! We told her to go inside the convention to see what it was all about, and to try and meet with the con chairs to see if she could come on as a special guest.

    We purchased more booze after that. The rum survived the evening this time, but I found a lot of cider bottles under the desk the next morning.


    No hangover for Couch this time! I was up and at 'em for the writers' panel at 10 AM, and once again I must extend my compliments to Joe Stevens over at Equestria Inquirer for moderating a fantastic panel. I was going to ask about M.A. possibly bringing Trixie back in Season 5 for Seth, but that's only wasting someone else's question time. Besides, Amy got to prove Applejack DOES have the potential for a good episode that doesn't involve apples or family: her deleted scene in "MMMystery on the Friendship Express" shows she can wrestle with being honest, fail, and then wrestle some more with covering up her dishonesty versus coming clean.

    Seriously, though. Just go vote for Applejack already.

    After the panel let out, I booked it for the Quills and Sofas room once again to type up the writeup. If Friday made it hard to focus on writing, Saturday was absolutely devilish. T.D. was there, and I also remember meeting John Perry, Applejinx, and Sunchaser there. Missed Eakin, though. That hurt. Vicodin talked with me a bit about a story of his I'd declined from the blog, and I was very impressed with how calmly he handled a rejection I still believe was harshly phrased. It's shockingly easy to pass judgment on people when they're just words on a screen, and my time at Everfree and Bronycon has really shown me that folks with good brains stand behind those words more often than not.

    I stopped by the vendor's hall soon after that to say hi to some other folks I'd neglected until then -- Fetchbeer, Acesential, Arcum, NAS, Skipsy, Steve Holt!, UC77, Heilos... and those were only the folks I'd had the chance to talk to before! I would run into Tygerbug later that night, met the mods of Discorderly Conduct and Cupidite, Spitfireart (who ran out of the one Gamer Luna print Sethisto REALLY wanted), Cheerilee's Chalkboard...

    I know I'm forgetting 1,000,000 people here, and I'm sorry if I left you out! There was so much incredible art and other things for sale that it's hard for me to piece out who I met and when, and every vendor I saw there only made me wish I had things worthy of printing out and selling at a table of my own.

    I also got to meet briefly with Jonathan from college, Pen Stroke in a crosswalk, Noble Cause in the hotel (who was dropping off vidya gaems for Alex) and Calpain and Xyro, the latter coming off of a highly exciting string of tardiness and almost-missed flights.

    As a quick reminder: Xyro and I plan on attending Nightmare Nights in Dallas this November along with Cereal Velocity and Sethisto. If for whatever awesome reason you want to meet them or weird reason you'd like to meet me in person, you should go!

    Now, I told you all that when I should've told you this first. 9 AM: I'm refreshing Twitter waiting for someone to fave or retweet me because my inner life is a husk when the My Little Pony Twitter posts something about a collectible card game coming up from Enterplay. Since Cupcakes works for Enterplay, I asked him about it and it soon came to light that the tweet was released a tad pre-mature. Noon comes around and Seth texted me asking if I could cover the Enterplay panel that night.

    Well, in addition to covering the panel, I wound up scoring ten minutes with Dean and Gail for a few EqD-exclusive questions. I quickly learned I'm a terrible interviewer because I didn't know I was doing one until Seth told me three hours before the panel, but the Enterplay folks were very gracious and approachable and I think the writeup turned out well anyway. It did, right? The only way I think the panel could have gone better was if the audience had played along and hadn't tried to undercut Dean's announcement of the CCG, but I understand how few were truly aware how much he was looking forward to being the first to announce the release of a secret project.

    Weirdly enough, I ran into M.A. Larson in the skybridge afterward, and after all the times I've met him, it was only that time that I told him my name. Ridiculous! It seems so silly in hindsight, but there are a ton of people who speak to him without giving him their names, either on Twitter or otherwise. You are greeting another human being. Name yourself.

    And Calpain, if you're reading this, you should still feel stoked that he asked for you by name, and I'm sure you two will finally get the chance to shake each others' hands sometime.

    I immediately returned to the hotel room and published the writeup literally at the stroke of midnight. In doing so, however, I was unable to join my friends at a certain midnight panel. Fortunately, I ran into Chryssalid and CyborgSamurai outside the room, and we went across the street for a beer and discussions about writing. Again with the writing, awesome! That's where I met up with Tygerbug as well, who I remember for an excellent (if not the best) dramatic reading of Argembarger's Spiderses.

    I later met up with Acesential and his friends and took them back to the con, where my midnight panel friends had found a round table for what I can only call a debriefing while I'm speaking to this audience. It was Aqua, Alex, Vicodin, kits, Whiteout, Present, Skipsy, and Sleepless et al. until three in the morning, talking shop after dark while the artists doodled for each other.

    It's the worst possible thing I could complain about, having too many friends to hang out with. In fact, I wish that exact "problem" upon each and every one of you out there. Even if you don't think you're anyone in the fandom or know anyone famous--that's all a matter of perspective for the former, and how much you involve yourself in the creative side of fandom for the latter.


    There is hardly a more depressing feeling than waking up on the final day of a convention. No matter how together you have it, there will always be unfinished business by the end of the weekend--and the day certainly saw a rough start with the early departure of Calpain and Pixelkitties from the convention. I think I speak for everyone when we wish you two well! Y'all are awesome!

    Since the IDW MLP comic panel with Katie, Andy, and Heather Breckel (who y'all should go adore and love as the colorist who doesn't get as many panel appearances as she deserves) didn't start until 11:45, I decided fiscal responsibility was no longer a thing and swept through the vendor's hall for prints. Along the way I met AoshiStark, another friend from the ATG-Alumni IRC, and Fetch, Arcum, and Acesential rounded out the table. kits took up a chair between Alex and Skipsy across the aisle, haha. I chatted briefly with FlavinBagel and the mod of Ask Lying Applejack, scored buttons from Steve Holt!, and I am now flying home with pictures from Braeburned and Dovne, Spitfireart, Karzahnii, and TygerBug. If I get to writing and find myself another job, I'll be commissioning someone for the cover art to an upcoming Pacific Rim crossover.

    I'm an author on this blog; I'm allowed to promote my projects like a donkey synonym.

    Jake the Army Guy and Silvermane of FOB Equestria moderated the MLP comic panel and did a great job of it, though I was about ready to jump out of my skin to ask the comic folks a question as the panel reached its 40-minute mark. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed all the banter that traded across the stage. Hearing how Katie and Andy had known each other for a humongously long time before MLP was nothing short of awesome, and it seems impossible that a team with this much inner harmony could exist to make stories for our enjoyment.

    While PRB started typing up the panel in the Quills and Sofas room, I continued to meet with other folks involved in the fic community: Jake stopped by, and I recognized Airstream in his classy suit from Friday's pre-reader panel. Let's just say that if you were friends with me by that point in the weekend, you were there. I honestly forget what we all talked about at that table beyond that it was writing, as part of that was me beginning to nod off while another part wanted to go off and watch the Gravity Falls season finale with everyone. That didn't happen.

    What did happen was the 4 PM panel featuring the Do's and Don'ts of writing fanfiction, starring Pen Stroke, Wanderer D, Obselescence and his sexy Fontaine impression, Golden Vision, and Bleeding Raindrops. Like Amy's ukulele panel, the Hall of Dusk packed itself to the walls.

    I got a huge surprise from Shellsh0cker while I was there--turns out he's read my stuff, too! And he recognized John standing next to me, and Chryssalid... poor Aqua again, though! Left out in the cold on that one.

    In all honesty, I kind of tuned out for most of the panel due to reasons Obs put best: it's hard to offer general advice on stories when each one has its own specific conceits and concerns, and I think it's a credit to our craft that it requires intense flexibility and lateral thinking in order to produce a successful manuscript. I do wish I had done a panel writeup of it, and I may have done so had I had a place to sit and take out my laptop.

    Obselescence did have a moment where he just up and took hats from the attendees present, and the result could have stocked TF2's demands for three seconds.

    Pictured: Domination.
    The panel ran over time as the occurrence of closing ceremonies left the Hall of Dusk with no following programming to kick everyone out. I decided to make for the hotel room with Aqua, John Perry, and RTStephens instead. Along the way, I spotted a woman I thought was familiar sitting next to the con head, but I didn't stop to ask who she was and risk embarrassing myself.

    As it turned out, I think it was in fact our friend Lauren from Friday night! She managed to make herself known to the Bronycon staff, and she appeared at the closing ceremonies as a special, unscripted guest. Good for you, Lauren! We may have winced at the lyrics before, but you were only paid to sing 'em, and we're glad you decided to check out the pony craze as it stands now!

    Dinner that night was a party of thirty-three, and I'll be damned if I'm going to list everyone in attendance. I wound up sitting with Ben, Aqua, Vicodin, John, RT, PRB, and two other gentlemen whose names unfortunately elude me at present. For the whole weekend, Sunchaser was running himself ragged organizing a get-together for the fandom writers attending Bronycon, and we descended upon The Cheesecake Factory like a swarm of locusts. They pulled out the situational equivalent of a flamethrower by messing up our reservation ahead of time.

    Thankfully, the Irish pub on the upper floor was more than happy to take us in.

    After dinner, The Descendant stepped up and, true to his Civil War reenactment background, delivered a speech in our honor to squeeze tears from a statue, emphasizing our accomplishments and what out presence at the convention meant for the fandom. Applejinx passed around the Quills and Sofas poster for everyone to sign and a notepad for exchanging Skype addresses, too, so we'll see if we end up forming some kind of snooty ponyfic Illuminati group out of this. We had a magnificent photo in front of the bar there, and then we all went our separate ways when Pen Stroke wasn't leading us to locked doors -- it was pretty late by the time we wrapped up the meal.

    See if you can spot me in here. I'm the whitewashed guy.

    The night concluded with eight cans of Bud, an Ice, and half a fifth of rum stuffed in my backpack for the walk to Chryssalid's room, and on the way I ran into Invidlord and Kuroi from the ATG! Haven't talked to y'all in forever.

    I have absolutely no idea why the cops weren't called on the ten of us in there that night, especially considering our game of choice was Cards Against Humanity. There's really nothing I enjoy more than proving I'm a terrible person. I'm happy to report that not all the winners were morally reprehensible: the ol' "Coming soon to Broadway: Bursting into Song and Dance, the Musical" chestnut came up again from my games at Everfree NW. I am proud of winning with "Mom ruined charades forever by acting out the miracle of childbirth," though!

    After the game wound down, being writers, all of us had one final chatterfest before it was time to head back to our rooms. I never wanted to not go to bed so badly before.


    I woke up, wrote some words, and managed to catch Ben as he was leaving early in the morning. After a couple hours of heavy breathing while watching my roommates sleep, they woke up. kits and Whiteout stopped by before we checked out and said our goodbyes, and the last person I spoke with was Aqua as he boarded the light rail going north while I headed south.

    Haha, psyche. The fun didn't end there!

    I totally ran into CyborgSamurai in the terminal, and I spent most of the afternoon sitting next to him and cursing the slow wifi in the airport. I also ran into Drunk Celestia, skipped across Concourse D to say goodbye to Skipsy (and meeting Rambles and Screwball from EFN as well) -- and spotted Katie Cook walking alone to her flight home to Detroit.

    Being the classy guy I am and not the slightest bit creepy at all, I let her know I was there by tapping her on the shoulder. Things turned into an impromptu interview from there, and I'll just copy-paste my very rough memory dump after I returned to my gate. The words here are largely hers; I tried to keep my commentary out of it where possible. Highlight the black for spoilery material.

    What’s the diff b/w SDCC and Bronycon? She mentioned the two felt completely different.

    It’s one fandom, one interest. You can feel the love and energy and intensity of the fans here: they’ll give each other high fives even if they don’t know each other. With SDCC, you have all your different comics fans staying separate — here’s your Batman group, here’s your Superman group, etc.

    Katie’s taking November through January/February (sorry, don't quite remember which one!) off for baby #2, then it’s back on the circuit. She goes out there even though she has to leave her husband and children home, ‘cause she gets feedback from the fans that helps her and Andy make a better product. I for one am extremely impressed with how well she's able to juggle her career with her family, as I'd crack under the load for sure.

    Still, she’s overanalyzed to filth! Everyone always takes her too seriously, now! She can’t joke around anymore. Guess that how you tell you're popular.

    I mentioned Fleetfoot's gag in #9 as my favorite ever. She said she loved writing it, and Andy went absolutely wild with the art. Fleetfoot's getting concussed and acting completely out of it totally worked. Don’t think you’ve seen the last of her, either! She's going to reappear in #10 as the silly girl who loves Big Mac from afar when she doesn't even know his name. This was probably obvious, too, but that was Andy’s ponysona trying to sell Big Mac a caricature portrait as well!

    Katie’s seen the pencils Andy’s been working on for #11 (even at Bronycon!) and is really excited for them! She loves taking characters that haven’t really been explored and makes them her own, especially since SA feels a bit boring and flat. Back at SDCC, she mentioned how she felt Chrysalis belongs to her and Andy now, and that Meghan and M.A. Larson have been really supportive of what she’s been doing with the characters. She might get a little mad if they use Chrysalis again and she’s different, ahaha.
    I boarded my plane at 6:09 PM in the evening, and Baltimore became a memory half an hour later.

    It's almost cruel how quickly this weekend evaporated into the past. I thought I had fun at Everfree NW last month. I did! I met so many people there. Same with SDCC, same with Bronycon. In the end, after I've wrapped up my panel reporting, all I want to do is meet people, show staff to friends to fans. I feel like I've learned a lot in the past month about how I interact with others, and that some things that should be taken for granted aren't so obvious when you're on the spot. I've made plenty of mistakes while interacting with the community, some more embarrassing than others, but I'm glad they happened anyway.

    If you're attending a brony convention you need to find ways to break out of yourself (within sane limits!). Make friends, find common interests, thank your role models, and inspire your followers. I won't pretend the fandom is anything close to cohesive on many accounts, but I do believe our experience and influence is a net positive on the world around us. Believe in that, even if it can only apply to you--especially if it can only apply to you.

    'Cause ponies, guys. Ponies are awesome, and if they can be awesome, so can we. Go out there and be excellent to each other.

    Thank you for reading. CouchCrusader, out.