This was my first time at Polaris, which started as a “Relaxicon,” became a Star Trek convention (Toronto Trek), and morphed into a much broader SF gathering. It features a heavier media element than the conventions I typically attend. In addition to authors (GoHs Kelley Armstrong and Robert Sawyer offer commentary in my video), the Convention featured several performers of note.
I took part in four panels. I would say that two went very well, and the other two were passable. Robert Sawyer presided over a strong discussion of bionics in popular culture; we have moved, to a degree, from believing in the Six Million Dollar Man and admiring him, to seeing him as far-fetched and fearing him.
Derwin Mak and Eric Choi presided over the second launch of The Dragon and the Stars, which featured readings by several of the authors. I once again recommend this anthology.
I cannot speak for Polaris historically. This installment featured better-than-average (and more) costumes than many Conventions, a good range of panels and workshops, and an impressive Huckster’s Room. Buyers could find some excellent deals. It did offer fewer social opportunities than many Cons. Room parties happened, but the traditional circuit, which invites contention-goers to meet people, didn’t really exist. We already knew many people, but this set-up might deter newcomers. The Consuite featured a giant television in one half and occasional events (book launches and readings, for example) in the second. Good things in themselves, they work against the Suite as a place where people talk and relax.
I’ve had less experience with the celebrity element, which I know appeals to many people. My wife attended a meditation workshop given by Lindsay “the Bionic Woman” Wagner; she found it worthwhile though a little “flaky” for her tastes. For the most part, the celebrities give Q&A presentations and sell autographs. The Con forbids any pictures of them anywhere, save for the official photos which one can purchase. Thing is, the majority (correction: about half) of these guests played secondary and tertiary roles in shows that no longer run. If you’re into this sort of thing, you might be better served by the end-of-summer Toronto Fan Expo, which boasts many big names, or San Diego ComicCon (Alexander Case will be representing the Bureau there this weekend), which features major players active on current movie, television, and comic projects.