Con Review: MystiCon 2018

MystiCon 2018by Erin Ashley


MystiCon 2018
February 23-25, 2018
Roanoke, Virginia

This regional convention attracted some great names this year! Joe Lansdale, Tommy Dreamer, Clare Kramer, Zach Callison, Shawn Durington, Bella Morte, The Vailix, the Geek Radio Daily crew, Tha True Original GATA, Allen Wold, and many others attended. The organizers seemed to keep the lines for signings, panels, etc. well in hand.

The gaming section kept busy. With rooms set apart for Live Action Roll Play (LARPing), video games, and tabletop games, a con-goer could find whatever game desired and a space to engage in it. Video game consoles ranged around the room. Con-goers could kick it old school on the Atari or Nintendo, or play more up to date games on Xbox and Playstation, and everything in between. For tabletop lovers, multiple games ran at any given point in time—Magic to GURPS and Pokemon to Dungeons & Dragons. Organizers also scheduled some larger, long-running games for interested con-goers.

MystiCon provided multiple panels and workshops for those interested in costuming, robotics, and crafts as well. I didn’t personally get to attend any of these, but I heard good feedback for these tracks from other con-goers.

Some great cosplayers were in attendance. Costumes varied from kids characters and superheroes to gaming characters and wrestling celebrity look-a-likes. MystiCon provided costuming workshops of different levels of expertise for anyone who was interested in beginning or improving their cosplay participation.

The literary track panels received a lot of great feedback from audiences. MystiCon ran a great programming schedule and kept to the schedules well. Panels ranged from character creation and anti-heroes to podcasting and self-publishing and marketing. A number of panels focused on women’s contributions to film and fiction, which received some overwhelmingly positive responses from the audience and panelists. Programming also provided some very inventive panels, including author-reader speed-dating and creative marketing ideas for self-publishing authors. While some were more serious and others more playful, the audience loved them.

Outside of programming, the organizers and convention hotel worked hard to make the experience great for all of the con-goers. The hotel arranged for multiple shuttles to run from three or four nearby hotels to transport attendees safely around the busy area. The Holiday Inn stands near a major shopping center with numerous grocery stores, restaurants, and other stores within easy walking distance. Many of the local businesses work with the convention and give con-goers discounts! Just remember to mention that you are going to MystiCon when you order. Numerous other fantastic restaurants are within driving distance as well. (Check out Review Alley on for some local restaurant reviews.)

All in all, MystiCon 2018 was well-organized and engaging. I highly recommend attending and checking out the Roanoke area while you are there. If it’s possible, consider coming in a day early or staying a day later and getting to know the local area. I recommend the Roanoke Pinball Museum, hiking in the Carvin’s Cove Nature Reserve, and driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s worth it.

See you next year at MystiCon!


Con Review: MystiCon 2014

mysticonby KT Pinto


MystiCon 2014
February 21–23, 2014
Roanoke, Virginia

When I heard who the GoH was this year (first Marina Sirtis, then John DeLancie, both from Star Trek: The Next Generation), I was a little worried about MystiCon. Could a medium-sized convention take on the responsibilities that go along with a crowd-drawing star?

I had no reason for concern. MystiCon had amazing security, crowd control (even with the con being at capacity), and time management. They also made sure not to forget all their other guests, which is something that happens when a con is not used to a mainstream media guest. Their Author GoH, Todd McCaffrey, was a good draw as well, and was extremely outgoing and personable.

Pre-programming was a simple process and there was a huge variety of choices. The layout of the hotel is simple and the rooms are easy to find. One concern of mine was that the readings seemed like they were being held on a separate floor from the rest of the programming, but MystiCon had it on the floor with the con suite, and had planned other programming around it, so it wasn’t in no-man’s land, and it was possible to pull in passers-by.

The one problem I did notice with the convention was something I’m starting to see at other conventions as well: poor moderation on panels. Some moderators I experienced were amazing—like on the Delphic Oracle and the ghost panels—but some moderators were so ineffective, other panelists took over the reins. I’m not sure if it was because of inexperience or just personality issues (like for example, I know I am not moderator material), but no matter what the reason, a bad moderator makes the experience not as much fun for the panel or the audience.

All in all, MystiCon was great! Some concern was mentioned about how they will survive without a mega-media guest, but I have gone to this convention in the past, and I don’t think they will have any problems in 2015.


Con Review: MystiCon 2013

Mysticon2013by James Fulbright


MystiCon 2013
February 22–24, 2013
Roanoke, Virginia

Today I’m going to start my 2013 convention review series. First up this year is MystiCon… MystiCon was held February 22–24 in Roanoke, VA at the Holiday Inn–Tanglewood. Guests included Orson Scott Card, Larry Elmore and Peter Davison.

Let’s get this out of the way immediately, MystiCon was a fun convention. If you take a quick look below, you might notice that I have more negatives than positives. I highly suggest you not read anything into this fact. The convention is well run, professional and fun. Most of the issues they experienced came from some very astounding growth rates between 2012 and 2013. When you add about 450 people to an 850 person convention, bad things have a tendency to happen. The positive here is that most of those issues are fairly easy to solve prior to 2014.

The Good
• The programming was very well run; panel topics were interesting, and the panels were well attended.
• The guests that I dealt with were all personable and engaging. I never got the feeling I could not approach any of the guests.
• The staff were very friendly and professional. It seemed like they truly wanted to see people having a good time.
• The convention used the mobile app LiveCon to display their schedule. I know other cons have used this app, but I hadn’t had a chance to really use it myself. As a guest, I like it a lot. I didn’t have to carry a paper copy of my schedule around with me all weekend, which is a big plus.
• The Dealer’s Room was a decent size, with a nice selection of dealers and plenty of walking space (but see below).
• The hotel appeared to be extremely flexible in working with the convention. Check-in was very quick. And, while I had a few maintenance issues with my room, once I arrived the hotel resolved those immediately. Additionally, the hotel sold reasonably priced (not hotel-priced) concessions during all meal times.

Possible Areas of Improvement (The Bad)
• Pet peeve time: Name badges. Please, if you are a con organizer, make the names large enough on the badges so that they can easily be read from a distance of about six feet. I had at least ten people ask me my name, and then apologize for asking, stating they couldn’t read my badge. Additionally, I highly suggest MystiCon drop the watermark from behind the names. That just makes it even harder to read the badges.
• It is really not a good idea to have panel discussions going on in rooms that are next to concerts. The panelists should not have to shout at the audience, and vice versa. I experienced this at a couple of panels during the convention.
• The next one is really just a minor irritant, but someone took most of the paragraph breaks out of my bio when it was placed in the program book. I felt it made me seem like I didn’t understand basic grammar, which is bad because I was listed as a blogger on the guest list.
• There was a major bottleneck in the main hallway. The convention either needs to limit its attendance to about 900–1000 people, or find a way to get rid of the tables in that hallway (or possibly some of both). It also might be a good idea for Security to take a proactive role in organizing any long lines before they happen.
• I had a situation where one of my scheduled events was cancelled, but I was not informed. If the schedule changes during the con, it is mandatory that all guests involved be contacted. Also, the con might find it useful to request contact information from each guest, so they can be reached during the con.
• The Dealers’ Room was nice, but I do have one question: Where were the costume dealers? There was a good-sized Masquerade at this convention. It would have been nice to have a costume dealer or two.
• The stage in the main programing room was outright dangerous. The convention needs to either push the hotel to buy a new stage or rent one that meets basic safety standards.

Okay, that’s it. Like I said earlier, the con is very good, even with all my areas of improvement. MystiCon is definitely going on my list of cons to go back to next year. MystiCon 2014 will be held February 21–23, 2014.