• Member Since 15th Jul, 2016
  • offline last seen 6 hours ago

forbloodysummer


The Golden Crane flies for Tarmon Gai'don.

More Blog Posts27

  • 22 weeks
    Come on Down to Ponyville and Meet Some Friends of Mine

    For about the last three years, the last line of my story ideas document has held five words. Right at the bottom, at the very end of the 'crossovers' section (I've never written a crossover, and have only enjoyed reading a single one, so you can see just how low-priority they are for me), it says:

    Twilight Sparkle in South Park

    Read More

    8 comments · 119 views
  • 31 weeks
    The Great Bronycon Blog - Part IV

    Day One!

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    18 comments · 201 views
  • 32 weeks
    The Great Bronycon Blog - Part III

    Costume!

    I wanted to do this whole blog thing in chronological order, but there was so much to say about making the costume I did, which I’m sure is quite the minority interest to people here mostly to hear of Aragon’s antics, that I thought it’d be better in a separate section.

    Read More

    20 comments · 232 views
  • 33 weeks
    The Great Bronycon Blog - Part II

    Getting There!

    Travel insurance is a useful thing to have if anything bad happens to you. If your flights are messed up, if something goes wrong with the hotel, etc, it’s travel insurance that’ll get you your money back. Most importantly, it covers medical costs where you’d have to pay for that sort of thing.

    But I’d be fine. Nothing was going to go wrong.

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    12 comments · 186 views
  • 33 weeks
    The Great Bronycon Blog - Part I

    I felt that the last Bronycon deserved remembering, recalling and recording in detail. To preserve for posterity as full a picture of it as I can manage. Because its like will not come again. That doesn’t mean the fandom is done, or that there’s any less love involved. I will be here for years to come. So will you. For all I know, the best days of FIM fanfiction are yet to come. And, after the

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    13 comments · 242 views
Aug
11th
2019

The Great Bronycon Blog - Part I · 1:18am Aug 11th, 2019

I felt that the last Bronycon deserved remembering, recalling and recording in detail. To preserve for posterity as full a picture of it as I can manage. Because its like will not come again. That doesn’t mean the fandom is done, or that there’s any less love involved. I will be here for years to come. So will you. For all I know, the best days of FIM fanfiction are yet to come. And, after the con, I feel more connected to it than ever before.

But, even if you’re married for fifty years, you still keep the wedding photo albums, because that’s the shining beacon of triumph. That’s when you stand in front of everyone and declare to the world who you are, and what you love. And that’s what Bronycon was for us.

I think we can accept that without being sad about it. I don’t think we need to be so focused on thinking positive and moving forwards that we can’t take a moment to appreciate what Bronycon was, and how much it meant. How unlikely it was such a thing ever happened at all.

Because this is the thing, when you’re middle-aged, short-haired, comfortably employed and boring, that you’ll tell your children about when they ask what the weirdest thing you’ve ever been part of was.

“I sat in a room full of people with very strong opinions and voted with them, while the finest writers I’ve ever read passionately discussed why the story of the horse in the library was better than the one about the horse in the time loop.” “I watched hugely talented artists drawing cartoon animals to be printed on fuckable pillows.” “I spent dozens of hours sewing a costume together because she’s Best Pony.”

“And I was at the place where that wasn’t weird. Where everyone got it, and everyone understood why everyone else cared as much as they did about it.”

So this is my attempt to create a record of my experiences at Bronycon, which is no more. I’ve never written a travelogue before, so I don’t know how it’ll turn out. But, if I can make one prediction: it won’t be short. That’s basically where this whole opening schpiel is going – it’s a warning about the upcoming word count.

The Wheel of Time. Ghost Love Score. The Great Wall of China. Mens’ hair. Length is a good thing to have! Please by all means add your own penis joke. And I have one stupid, self-indulgent, outstaying-my-welcome record on this site, which is of the longest-ever RCL interview. This blog will be in that vein.

Background!

I’ve often been fairly cagey on here about my real life. Not for any good reason, but out of a strange drive for people to judge my work based solely on itself, rather than from anything external they know of me. I don’t really know why, and it seems a bit pointless really. But things like gender, age, ethnicity, family, etc I’ve tried to avoid giving clear answers to.

So let’s now state a few things clearly, for the record, because they’re relevant to bits and pieces of this blog:

  1. I am a straight, white, cisgender male. Very few surprises there, I’m sure.
  2. I am English and live in England. Again, no surprises if you’ve seen my spelling.
  3. I haven’t been to a pony convention before. The main UK one finished in 2016. I’ve been to the London Film & Comic Con and Collectormania a few times, which are generic conventions with lots of actors from Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who etc.
  4. I’ve never flown alone before, come to think of it. We don’t tend to do domestic flights much in the UK, and I’d think it takes a stronger reason to fly solo internationally.
  5. Less relevant, but, in case that bit above about telling future generations of Bronycon is misinterpreted, I don’t have kids and don’t plan to.
  6. I’ve only cosplayed, like, one and a half times before.
  7. I’m very nocturnal. I go to bed at 3 or 4 and wake up at 11 or 12. This is a great advantage for transatlantic online friendships.

Of which I have one in particular. NaiadSagaIotaOar and I have spoken online pretty much every day for the last three years. Often for hours and hours, and frequently about sirens. You’d be amazed how much there is to say on the topic of those three characters.

So it all began about this time last year, when everyone was posting Bronycon 2018 recap blogs. They made it sound like enormous fun. Hanging out with members of the general fandom never held much appeal for me, but I loved the idea of meeting up with writers and readers I knew from fimfiction.

Alas, there aren’t many of them near me. CGPH and I once managed to meet up in person, back when he was much more active in the fandom (we met up to go see the MLP movie together in the cinema), but even that involved a four-hour drive each way.

And then came the announcement of 2019’s Bronycon being the last, and that rather changed things.

All my friends IRL are on whatsapp, but I don’t have a smartphone, so I don’t actually speak with them that much day to day. The odd Facebook group chat message, that sort of thing. It’s usually brilliant when we do get together, but that never happens often enough.

Whereas Naiad, as stated above, I speak to a lot. So meeting up with her in person is a big deal.

Bronycon, therefore, for me became a matter of together or not at all. If Naiad was up for it too, I’d fly 3,700 miles for the con and spend the £1000 required (I haven’t worked out the final budget, but it was in that rough area). If not, I’d leave it.

And conventions aren’t really either of our scenes, and Naiad’s not so great with crowds, so I figured that after it not being mentioned for a few months, she’d decided to give it a miss. No worries – definitely cheaper, and we could always meet up sometime whenever the opportunity did present itself in the future. I do have lots of family on that side of the Atlantic and stuff.

But then, in March, we were talking about running a contest together, and mentioned Bronycon as an event on the fandom calendar we’d have to plan that around.

So that was a ‘uh, right, ok then, off we go!’ kind of thing. Checked tickets were still available and stuff, googled some flights. Realised I didn’t know what I was doing, but that those flights were way more expensive than I’d heard rumours of.

I called my brother, whose girlfriend lived in Washington D.C. until very recently, so flying that route (cheaply) was something he had a lot of experience with. Flying to BWI airport was much more expensive than flying to Dulles and getting to Baltimore by public transport. Likewise, flying on Wednesdays was expensive, so much so that it was considerably cheaper to fly on Tuesday and pay for an extra night in a hotel.

The red dot is Dulles airport (IAD), purple is the White House, blue is BWI airport, and green is the convention centre. You can see, I hope, how much easier flying to BWI would have been.

Booked my con ticket. Booked my flights – Aer Lingus, with an hour’s stopover each way in Dublin. Next I set about finding hotels, the suggested options being in the realm of $200 a night. No thanks.

Then, therefore, came looking at Bronycon forums to see if anyone was looking for a room share. And I lucked out, because I found an ad for the last spot in a room at the Marriott, for five nights, all for $200. I snapped that up, and, after speaking to the organiser on Discord for a few minutes, he was happy to have me on board.

...Upon my mention of being a fanfic writer, he then told me all about a MLP fanfic he’d been planning for several years but had never written. He didn’t at any point ask about anything I’d written, or even for a link to my stuff. Just talked about his idea. For half an hour.

I was a bit wary about paying him in cash on the first day in the room, because there was no paper trail whatsoever connecting me to the room. No name in the hotel records, no paypal transfer, just $200 in cash on the day and a room keycard in return. Thankfully that bit all worked out ok.

Alright: con ticket, flights and hotel all sorted. That just left local transfers at each end, and what to do for the extra day. A quick look at the Baltimore aquarium website suggested it had nothing on Nausicaa not far from me, so, since I was flying closer to DC anyway and there was much more to see there, that seemed a better place to spend that extra day.

Looking at big government buildings from the outside doesn’t really give me much I don’t get on TV, so I wasn’t bothered about visiting the White House. But the Smithsonian, that sounded far more my thing. If you’ve had the misfortune of seeing the third Transformers film, you might remember that one of the few good scenes is set in the Air & Space museum. Not only is an SR-71 centre-stage, but at one point the camera pulls back and reveals the writing on a B-29’s hull. It reads ‘Enola Gay.’

There is exactly one military aircraft I could tell you the individual name of. That one.

So yeah, seeing that would be quite something. Not to mention that they also have the Wright Flyer and the Apollo 11 command module. They’re split across two sites, though. The first two planes of interest are in a huge hangar next to Dulles airport, the latter two vehicles in the museum in downtown DC. But my returning flight wasn’t until 5 in the evening, so that left plenty of time on the last day for visiting the hangar next to the airport. And I could see the DC ones during my day there.

I also rather wanted to see Arlington Cemetary, which is quite iconic from lots of different military action films (such as the opening scene of The Rock).

Then I threw myself into writing, because I wanted to get Mine For The Taking all published before Bronycon, and, at one chapter a week, that meant the finishing deadline wasn’t far away.

Totally missed that deadline.

That was ok, I could publish two chapters a week, giving me a bit longer to get it written before publishing had to begin.

Totally missed that deadline too.

My thinking was that that story not only one I was very happy with, but also complete, and so a good thing to be able to say ‘If you want to read one thing of mine, try this one’ of. That certainly seemed a less awful prospect than being known for the dog one.

But I got it done in the end, and figured that if I at least got the first three chapters published before the con, that’d be enough to sell it to anyone who was interested in reading more.

So with that done, I started on my costume.

It was the final Bronycon. I couldn’t not do.

More on that in the next section.

Time passed while I sewed. The con was now two weeks away, and I hadn’t booked a hotel for the night in Washington. So I did that. A hotel half a mile from the White House, for £123, which I thought was alright. I did contemplate staying in the Watergate, the thought of which somehow seemed a bigger thing than seeing the White House itself, but it was double the price so I declined.

As a useful added bonus, having that extra night at the start and booking a single hotel room for it meant I had a street address I could give to immigration for where I’d be staying, rather than a shared room in Baltimore without my name on any official records there.

Because it turned out I had to do a whole big immigration thing (an ESTA), which wanted all sorts of passport details and the address where I’d be staying. It also asked if I wanted to provide my social media details, saying that bit was voluntary. I left it blank, but, just in case, I made sure not to post anything political on Facebook until I got back.

I spent most of the last two weeks sewing. More on that in the costume section.

I also, much too close to the deadline, started doing my research on where everything was in DC, planning out what I was going to do there. More importantly, sorting out my transport links from airport to capital to Baltimore to hotel. Nothing could be booked in advance, but even the day prices were very reasonable, and, while not having tickets already sorted out added some uncertainty, it also gave flexibility.

Everything had its own little complication. The airport bus only took exact change. The Baltimore light rail was down for the entire duration of my stay, running rail replacement buses instead, but not (as far as I could see) as far as Penn station, where I’d be arriving from DC. But I worked out where to get the shuttle bus from, how to pay for a ticket, and checked out the route to the bus stop on Street View. It showed everything sunny and nice, and looked totally safe, but Baltimore has a bit of a reputation, so I thought I’d see how it felt at the time whether to go for the bus or spring for a taxi.

Yeah, Baltimore. I knew it mostly from one line in Eraser, an excellent 1996 Schwarzenegger film. Then I heard about Bronycon being there. Those two things made it sound a pretty good place.

Then, late last year, I watched all five seasons of The Wire.

It’s a show preceded by its reputation as just about the finest TV ever made. But it doesn’t disappoint. Most TV shows, if you look at their Wikipedia pages, have quotes from the creators about the ideas behind the show. The Wire has an interview. A full, 12-minute interview with its creator on its picture of the world, how close it is to reality, and what can be done about the catastrophic, systemic problems it highlights. And the guy asking the questions – the man performing the interview – is… President Barack Obama.

So when The Wire shows a city truly, truly broken, where the right to drive drunk is taken as written for police officers, and the poor live in ghettos that make the slums of Bucharest look up-market, it’s not wrong. It knows what it’s talking about and it’s not exaggerating.

I still didn’t believe it, though.

All cities have their grotty areas, absolutely, where you shouldn’t feel safe. Rome left an impression in that regard. And in those circumstances I have to keep reminding myself that it’s no worse than some bits of London. Probably far better, in fact. Romania is the one place I’ve been I’d consider ‘worse’ than London. Well, Cairo, I suppose, but I only really remember the abysmal driving.

So then I took to Wikipedia, looking up all things Baltimore. The local gun laws could be worse, with concealed carrying being illegal without permits only rarely granted. And it was the home of Edgar Allen Poe! These are good, encouraging things, right?

Keep reading. Go right down to the section titled ‘Crime.’

In 2015, there were more murders in Baltimore than in New York City. Baltimore has a population of 600,000; New York has 8 million. The murder rate is 14 times higher than in New York. Baltimore has more homicides per capita than Detroit.

The DEA reported that 10% of Baltimore's population – about 64,000 people – are addicted to heroin.

That’s the kind of statistic I just cannot wrap my head around. But Baltimore is where the ponies are, so that’s where we have to go.

As stated earlier, I don’t have a smartphone. So I’d be navigating the old-fashioned way, and relying on Discord and fimfiction on my laptop to stay in touch with people. I dug out an old fob watch to keep on me, since I usually use my (non-smart) phone for telling the time.

Then I remembered I also usually use my phone for an alarm clock. Couldn’t take it with me, as it had no flight mode. And someone might call or text, which would cost a fortune. So instead I bought a new phone for £15, gave its number to only one person as an emergency contact, charged it up fully and took it with me. Good for an alarm clock, and in case anything went wrong coming home.

I booked my National Express coach from home to the airport and back again afterwards. The options were arriving at the airport 2.5 hours before check-in or 4.5 before. All advice says get to the airport 3 hours before for international flights, but getting on the coach at 4 a.m. just sounded too depressing, so I chanced it and chose the later one.

I printed out the tickets. And the flight details, the con ticket, the document I’d assembled of the places I’d be going and the details for getting there, the list of things I had with me, a map of DC showing the things I wanted to visit, two maps of Baltimore showing how to get to the hotel, and the ESTA stuff. Put them all in a folder, along with my passport.

Two days before, I walked into town to change some money into dollars. Got way more than I was likely to need, but better to have too much than too little. Unless you get mugged, that is.

Naiad and I talked until what for me was 5 a.m. on the 29th, about how weird it would be meeting up in person after so long, and how we were both a little apprehensive about it. We’d never exchanged photos, heard each other speak, or even confirmed how old we were. Going in very blind!

We looked at Google Maps together and picked a place to meet at 9 a.m. on the first day. Checked it on Street View to make sure we knew exactly what to look for.

I left a whole day for packing. The costume boots were not small, and would take up a lot of suitcase space. Got it all done surprisingly quickly, though. Cosplay stuff, hygiene stuff, normal clothes stuff, Gala formalwear and shoes, book for M. A. Larson to sign.

And then in the backpack I had my laptop, some pens and paper, my supply of dollars, my folder of important documents and passport, the new phone, a barely-functional mp3 player, my nice headphones, earplugs, a small purse containing needle and thread, and my cosplay suit, complete with the unfinished bits I had yet to attach.

I had my purple Adagio hoodie tied around my waist, a cowboy hat to stop the sun turning me pink, and that was it.

As stated somewhere above, I’m fairly nocturnal. Which is great, right up until an early morning comes along and ruins it. I physically cannot get to sleep if I try going to bed earlier than my usual time. So I was up until 4 sewing, and my coach left at 6. An hour’s sleep would probably make me feel worse than no sleep at all, so I stayed up and powered through.

Ten minutes before leaving to be dropped off at the coach station, I was thinking about what would happen if I did get shot or something, being cut off from free healthcare and on my own. Wasn’t there a form or something you had to get, something to do with the consulate?

That was when I realised I’d completely forgotten to get travel insurance.

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Comments ( 13 )

Since my family has lived in Baltimore and the surrounding area for generations, I always find it funny when people get skittish about it. I mean, yes, it is a an exact blend of The Wire and John Waters movies, but it's just Baltimore... Besides, the Inner Harbor is about two square blocks of normal city! Totally normal!

Looking forward to hearing more.

5103637 The Inner Harbor was absolutely delightful, and the ability to walk for blocks and blocks on air-conditioned skybridges is something I'll miss everywhere else! Out of interest, is there anywhere in the States that you would be more apprehensive about visiting?

Did you hear Uruguay and Venezuela had issued travel warnings, advising citizens not to go to Baltimore? :twilightsheepish:

5103650
Oh no, Baltimore is pretty much the worst! :pinkiehappy:

It's more that there are only three reasons to go into Baltimore: the Inner Harbor, the zoo (Baltimore has a pretty nice zoo!), and Johns Hopkins... but if you grew up in Maryland it's perfectly normal to go to Baltimore for one of those things, and the idea of going there for anything else seems really weird. So when people were like "OMG, BronyCon is in Baltimore!" my reaction was, "...but it's in the Inner Harbor. That's a fine place to go, as long as you aren't walking five blocks in any direction. Do you people not know Baltimore?" (But, of course, they don't.)

Similarly, every now and then people would be like, "I'd like to see the city! What else is there to see?" And my thoughts would be, "...are you crazy? It's Baltimore. You're in the Inner Harbor. That's what there is to see."

Naiad and I talked until what for me was 5 a.m. on the 29th, about how weird it would be meeting up in person after so long, and how we were both a little apprehensive about it. We’d never exchanged photos, heard each other speak, or even confirmed how old we were. Going in very blind!

Meeting people in person is always my favorite part of a convention. You see someone, you look at their nametag, and both your faces just light up. It's pretty great. I had a lot of those moments in 2013 when I first went to Bronycon, and then I actually had a bunch more this year since it was the last one. One was you, actually. I just think it's so cool to meet people I've seen so many times in comments and actually speak in person.

5103675 It did feel almost perversely disconnected, that we were wandering the streets in pony costumes, and our biggest concerns were the lines for the vendor hall and how quickly the bookstore would sell out, while a handful of miles away people were killing each other. 500 deaths a year, so, odds are someone died each night of the con.

I did hear Baltimore has one of the most beautiful old libraries, and that felt like something we should visit, as acolytes of Twilight Sparkle. But, while it looked like a reasonable area, it was further north than I was familiar with from our sheltered little con zone, so I gave that one a miss.

5103676 Oh I agree, that was a unique thrill, and a thoroughly enjoyable one, with meeting you included.

But with Naiad, because we'd been talking for so long, I think there was a fear that who we revealed ourselves to be when we met up wouldn't line up with who we each imagined the other to be, and that that might change things between us. Something that seemed a lovely idea when it was months away, but, as it grew rapidly closer, in crept a few doubts of 'what if it goes horribly wrong?' Meeting in person felt like it could be quite a paradigm shift, to use a really stupid term for it, and a friendship of three years is a big thing to risk.

So it was a really wonderful relief to talk about it with her and find we'd both been having similar apprehensions, and do what we could to lay them to rest.

It was very cool that you came out for BC this year! I know we didn’t get to do much more than just say hi, but that in itself was pretty great. Just about everyone seemed to be there!

Huh. With the way you and Naiad seemed to be close, I half figured you two were hooked up. Neat to hear that it was a 'first meet' thing.

Also that costume was your own work? Impressive!

~Skeeter The Lurker

5103711 I'm really glad I did! Thanks for saying hi at the bookstore, I hadn't even thought to keep an eye out for other authors around me, and I think that was the first time anyone recognised my name who I hadn't already gone over to approach. Getting everyone to sign a book was a really nice idea, too.

5103732 Ah, it's sweet we gave off that impression, but we're joined at the hip rather than the groin :twilightsmile:

Thanks! All my own work, and to be detailed in part 2 or 3 of this blog series, if anyone actually wants to hear about it!

5103921

Meant that more as husband/wife but that works too.

~Skeeter The Lurker

Then I remembered I also usually use my phone for an alarm clock. Couldn’t take it with me, as it had no flight mode. And someone might call or text, which would cost a fortune.

Maybe in the future, you could consider taking out the SIM card so that you can't get any service of any kind? Wow, awesome to read about your travels! And it was a pleasure to meet you, forbloodysummer. I look forward to reading about part two!

5103975 That is an excellent idea, and I didn't do it solely because I didn't think of it :twilightsheepish: Yeah, now you say it, that should have occurred to me.

In practice, I'm still glad I did it this way. I remember being stuck in Finland four years ago and having my email blocked. I'd tried to sign into it in a public internet cafe so I could print out cruise tickets for a ship leaving that evening. But signing in in Finland was registered as suspicious activity, and my email was blocked. Unblocking it was surprisingly tricky on a computer set to Finnish.

That would have been less of a problem in the US, and with my own laptop, but when that was my only point of contact, I thought it best to leave my usual phone on but at home, so that if necessary it was reachable for sending one of those five-digit account unlocking codes. I figured two different email accounts, Facebook, Discord and fimfiction probably wouldn't all lock me out, so there'd be some way to get the unlocking code from my phone to me.

It was a pleasure to meet you too, Octavia Harmony, especially how we met and then bumped into each other about half an hour later and grabbed a beer before turning in for the night.

The second part gets worse, I promise.

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