The Second Age Science Fiction Club (original Klub Fantastyki „Druga Era”) – a Polish association that unites fans of anything that represents fantasy or science fiction – has continuously organized annual Multigenre Fan Conventions ever since 2000. Throughout these twenty years, fans got to attend nineteen editions of the so-called Pyrkon (a bit more on the name later) and two editions of Polcon under the auspice of Second Age. This year, I had the utmost pleasure of representing gamepressure.com at the 19th edition of Pyrkon held in Poznan, Poland. What does this name even mean? Actually, there are two theories on that. The first one is more down to earth, as it says that the first part of the word – “Pyr” comes from the the Poznan variant of the word… “potato,” while the suffix -kon is an abbreviation of the Polish word for “convention.” The second theory involves “Eumolpia” – a hexameter poem said to be written by Musaios, in which Poseidon uses Pyrkon as a mouthpiece when giving his responses to the oracles.
“You must gather your party before venturing forth.”
Before I dive any deeper into describing the preparation for Pyrkon, allow me to say that the organization of the convention this year was superb. Hats off to Second Age Science Fiction Club! I knew what I was going to see and how to plan the three days of the convention over half a year prior to actually showing up to Poznan. Most of the guests had already confirmed their appearance and the organizers had shared general information on what to expect before I even started thinking about packing. At the beginning of April (over 25 days before the convention started), those who decided to preorder their tickets, received special codes to book a seat at four different lectures (there were 8 rooms with a total of 3400 seats that facilitated holding different lectures nearly simultaneously, around the clock). Even though Pyrkon takes place in Poland, the organizers invite celebrities from all over the world to hold meetings with their fans, give out autographs, take pictures, and casually talk about fantasy stuff and beyond. Among the most notable guests, there were such big guns of the industry as Chris Birch – the founder of Modiphius Entertainment, a board game publishing studio – Jeff Richard – creative director at Chaosium Inc. – Mark Rein – an award-winning developer of tabletop role-playing games, – Christy Golden – who wrote books for such universes as World of Warcraft, Star Trek, and Star Wars – Thomas DePetrillo – the creator of Extreme Costumes – and Christopher Judge – the voice and motion capture actor who starred as Kratos in the latest God of War, and also the beloved Teal from the Stargate TV series.
These are only some of the guests who visited Pyrkon. I have to admit, when I was planning my Pyrkon experience with my wife and our one-year-old daughter, I could not even dream of seeing all of them. And I didn’t, because that was simply impossible. Nonetheless, I do think I have actually done 150% of what I was planning to do. And I am more than determined to go to Pyrkon again next year. And the year after. And the one after. And of course, I will gather the same party before venturing forth, because what makes such convents special is actually not what or whom you see. It is with whom you experience it that makes this all worth the effort.
Upon reaching the location of Pyrkon – the MTP Poznan Expo – I saw countless groups of people who would become part of this experience. Most of them were more or less professional cosplayers. And do not get me wrong – all of the costumes were excellent! I do appreciate people, who invest months, if not years, to prepare and upgrade their costumes – nonetheless, I also bow to those who express their love of a given character or franchise by a simple patch, t-shirt, a hat… You name it. It was all there. As I have already mentioned, I attended this year’s Pyrkon with my wife and daughter, so I would also like to tell you a bit more about going to a convention with one of the youngest attendees.
“Negative? Affirmative? Indeed!”
Attending lectures is an intrinsic part of such conventions. Me and my wife decided (with a fair amount of coercion involved) to participate in different panels. Knowing that Christopher Judge will make his appearance on Pyrkon, I wanted to make this a “complete Stargate experience,” so I decided to start on Friday with a panel focusing on Stargate TV series. The lecturer’s intent was to recollect all the memorable scenes from SG-1, however, one does not simply engage in a Stargate-related discussion without mentioning the Atlantis and Universe spin-offs (let’s leave out the Origins mini-series, yeah?). For those of you, who consider themselves fans of this universe, check out my feature on the Stargate video games. I have to admit, it was a pleasant journey back into my childhood, in which many Stargate fans gathered in a single room and took the opportunity to recollect all of the unforgettable scenes from all (again, let’s forget the Origins mini-series) iterations of the Stargate series.
My wife, on the other hand, decided to attend a meeting with Pawel Sakowski – a Polish actor who starred in the eighth season of the Game of Thrones. He started his disquisition by saying “I wish you came here because of me, and not because of me starring in Game of Thrones,” which was an icebreaker worthy of a shy noob actor, rather than one who starred in countless (and excellent) theatre arts, which actually the proper way of describing Sakowski. Starring in Game of Thrones is a tip of the iceberg – or the crowning jewel (depending on who you ask) – of his career. This panel was a perfect opportunity for all the Game of Thrones fans to share their theories on the ending of the eights season and exchange thoughts about particular characters.
In between the lectures, we were wandering across numerous halls to get an eyeful of… basically everything. From random people cosplaying their favorite characters, through very interesting and unusual team-based activities, karaoke, fan groups (like Mandalorian Mercs), youtubers, regular people meeting their idols… It was all there.
But let’s go back to the panels. Especially the one called “Christopher Judge Q&A.” Once again, Second Age – you did a great job, apart from canceling the Harry Potter trivia quiz, my wife was going to attend – but fret not. She’s preparing even more ardently for the one I hope is going to take place next year. Each panel featuring a non-Polish guest had a qualified interpreter willing to help all those, who’d like to meet their idol, but could not fully understand him or her. There were nearly no delays and the guests seemed well prepared for the upcoming and sometimes surprising questions from the audience – have you ever asked Christopher Judge about his favorite Jaffa joke? If not, please do that at your earliest convenience. You will not regret it. Also, hearing Christopher Judge saying “indeed” and “boy” in real life made my day. I could not believe that such an extrovert and entertaining person could ever get into the role of a stone-cold poker-faced Jaffa. Meeting Christopher Judge in person was proof positive (if ever such proof was needed) how good an actor he is.
Autograph signing sections went on smoothly, and everyone who did not get a chance to get their piece of memorabilia signed at first got at least one more chance during the upcoming convention days to approach their “target” once again.
I would also like to take this opportunity and mention the panel on “Extreme Costumes” I gladly attended. Thomas DePetrillo (already mentioned above) did not spend all the time blabbering about how awesome his costumes are. He actually decided to spend an hour on showing all the attendees why expressing oneself and joining the cosplay community is so important for everyone, who simply wants to create something unique. Whatever the size, whatever the inspiration. Don’t worry about failing, do not fret others criticizing you. Create a costume to express yourself and your interests. Oh, and don’t forget to bring a handler with you!
It’s all about the people
There is so much I would like to cover here… The sheer fact of people wanting to get together, express themselves, play, dance, and sing together makes you feel… at home. Looking from a father’s perspective, I have several things to add here. I have NEVER seen a person wasted, drunk, or intoxicated in any fashion during this convention, which makes me proud of being a part of a community, where people meet to have fun based on their interests and do that so responsibly. Also, I happened to attend some of the panels with my daughter – Milena. She was not always as interested in what the lecturer wanted to say as I was, and she did express that as loudly as possible. Nobody ever exhorted me or anything. People around me were (at least that’s what I think) happy to see me and my wife sharing our interests with our daughter. From the organizational perspective – each child received a wristband with their parents’ telephone number (I’m sure glad I did not have to see if it worked) and also, there was a dedicated area for children, with lots of animators showing the younglings how to paint, play, carry out interesting experiments, and what not. That was my first convention with my own child. And I’m more than 100% sure it won’t be the last one.
Those who showed up without their offspring could also enjoy Pyrkon’s nightlife. And by no means do I want to add any pejorative connotation to the notion of “nightlife.” Among the plentiful attractions, there were theatrical performances, discos, even more panels, and gaming sessions. Until now, I have attended multiple RPG, tabletop, and LARP night sessions. But I have never seen so many people playing at once. They did not play the same game, that’s true, however, seeing so many fans of tabletop entertainment engaged in hundreds of simultaneous matches… This is exactly, what makes such conventions stand out.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re alone, with a group of friends, or family. Conventions like Pyrkon allow you to express yourself and share your interests with others. Not to mention purchasing some unique collectibles and making new acquaintances. When I first read about Pyrkon 2019 I trembled in horror – how am I going to do this with my wife and daughter? How am I going to be able to go around gathering material for my work and spend some time with my family? Are they going to like it? What kind of people are we going to meet? Pyrkon 2019 that took place between April 26 and 28 proved that all my concern was unnecessary.
The last aspect that is often left unmentioned is the location. Attending such events is always a good opportunity to take a tour around the city. And Poznan is definitely worth it. Being located close to Poland’s original settlement – Gniezno – it has a lot to offer. Since we’re not a travel magazine, I won’t delve into all the cool stuff you can see there, but suffice to say that if you ever find yourself in need of taking a break from fantasy/science fiction themes only to dive into some history, Poznan for sure is a place to do just that.
There are a lot of stories about 2019’s Pyrkon I would like to share. And I’m sure I will. The only thing left here is to invite you all to attend such conventions – no matter If you’d like to come alone, with friends, or with your family. Just make sure you attend such event at least once, and I’m more than confident you won’t be able to wait for the next one. Just like me right now. See you next year, May 8-10, when the next Pyrkon will take place. Me – I for sure will be there. Indeed.
Hank | Gamepressure.com