By Micah Schneider
I recently spent the weekend at one of my favorite conventions of the entire year. Arisia is the largest sci-fi convention in New England. Almost three thousand geeks, nerds and freaks of every kind come together in a four-day gathering unlike any other conference I’ve attended.
Arisia is unusual amongst its kind. This is not a “typical” sci-fi con. It would be better described as a geek culture convention. There are plenty of panel discussions on science fiction literature and media, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. Hundreds of panels cover topics of interest to every kind of geek under the sun: writing, burlesque, housekeeping, anime, knitting, fantasy films, art, gaming, astronomy, cosplay, and more. If you can’t find something fun to do here, you aren’t trying.
What really makes Arisia unusual is the strength of its adult and alternative programming. There are panels and discussions that take place here every year that one would normally only expect to find at a public kink event or a sexuality conference. Panels designed to cover the 101-type questions of both BDSM and polyamory are offered early in the weekend. Later topics get more advanced, such as the ever popular Home Depot in the Bedroom (how to have perverted fun with everyday household objects) and, new this year, a panel discussion on Negotiation in a BDSM context. “Advanced” poly topics such as creating a integrated poly home with multiple adults, sorting through jealousy issues and raising children in a multi-adult household are also available.
The folks that run the con (and in the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of the Arisia staff, on the Programming Team) do a pretty good job of bringing in new people every year to keep the programming fresh, and thinking up new topics. Some topics get run every year, such as the Home Depot panel, while others get rotated in and out depending on the interests of the panelists. This past year, Arisia was lucky enough to have Princess Kali (and if you are reading this, I know I don’t have to tell you anything about her!) on a number of panels. Other nationally and locally prominent presenters and educators have also been to Arisia.
This programming draws a sizeable audience of folks that are interested in it. By the end of the weekend, the panelists and the folks in the audience all start to get to know each other. As a regular, on both sides of the paneling table, I can personally attest that I have made lasting friendships with people like myself just by attending this event.
One common question people ask, whether they are poly, queer, kinky or some combination thereof, is “How do I meet people like me?” The standard advice often includes finding your local meet-ups and munches, joining email lists or internet groups focused on your area. But sometimes, resources are available in unexpected places. Arisia is, at its heart, a convention for people interested in science fiction and fantasy, but geeks have a wide variety of interests. The intersection of geeks and alternative sexuality and relationships is nothing new, so at the right event, you can take advantage of that to meet new people.