Con of Thrones 2019

Posted: July 22, 2019 by patricksponaugle in Diary, Game of Thrones
Tags: , ,

For three days mid-July, 2019, Nashville Tennessee played host to the third Con of Thrones. (If the name doesn’t make it clear, this is a convention for fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones – as well as the book series the show is based on.)

The convention returned to Nashville where it debuted in 2017 after spending 2018 in Dallas, Texas. As a resident of the East Coast, I was happy that the convention was once again within driving distance.

This year’s featured guest was the Kingslayer himself, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, along with Jerome Flynn who played the upwardly-mobile sellsword Bronn on the show. Returning guests included Hannah “Gilly” Murray and Miltos Yerolemou, who taught Arya Stark to water dance as Syrio Forel and has given fencing workshops at all previous Con of Thrones.

Guests aside, the convention featured a tremendous amount programming in the form of discussion panels. Con of Thrones has always had a great deal of fan engagement, not only in the audience attending panels covering various topics related to the show and books, but also in the wide variety of fan-expert panelists. The panels were stacked with entertainment writers, authors, podcasters, Reddit moderators, bloggers, YouTubers, cosplayers, lawyers, therapists, and actors.

Besides the huge main stage which housed the actor interviews, live podcast recordings, and the occasional panel discussion, the convention space featured four large rooms for panels and two smaller function space rooms with tables for special interest group meet-ups and regular programming.

With three convention days running with programming from 10 a.m. to ~ 5:30 p.m. and the possibility of seven panels running simultaneously (I should not forget the autograph sessions, the photograph sessions, and the swordfighting workshops that were in addition to the discussion panels) there might have been too much programming at times.

Ser Jaime’s monologue to Catelyn Stark about so many oaths that conflict with one another can easily be applied to the amount of panels. No matter how you scheduled your day, you’d be missing out on something that you’d want to see.

Ser Jaime: It’s too much.

(It’s not too late to download the Con of Thrones 2019 app and look at the event schedule yourself. When the convention started at 10 a.m. on Friday July 12th, there were TEN THINGS on the schedule for the first session block. Which does not include just going to the convention Marketplace to browse and buying stuff during the day. Or eating.)

The Mood

With Game of Thrones wrapping up, I was curious as to what the emotional tone would be at the convention. Fan discourse during the final season was sharply divided and rather acrimonious. (I might be over-inflating the sentiment of a vocal minority.) To be honest, I expected people who were angry at the show’s ending and critical overall of the rush of the final two seasons to come to the convention hot, ready to argue in all of the panels. There was even a panel featured specifically for people to air grievances and vent. But almost everyone was upbeat and ready to talk about the show (and books) in a constructive way.

I suppose that it’s one thing to hate-watch a show and crow about it on Twitter, and another thing to spend money and attend a convention in real life to complain about a television show. In the face of fans there to celebrate it.

There did seem to be fewer Daenerys cosplay and more Sansa cosplay this year. And for some reason, a lot of Petyr Baelish costuming.

Baelish: So many Sansas.
Me: Eww.

I didn’t necessarily notice any Jonsa vs Jonerys conflicts. (To be fair, I missed the panel on Shipping Characters, but I sent my daughter there and she didn’t report anything outrageous to me.)

I also don’t remember anyone yelling about Stannis Baratheon. (Con of Thrones 2017 had some Stannis stans loudly stanning for Stannis, as I recall.)

The Panels (or at least, my panels and the ones I saw.)

Mischief Management handled the convention logistics and operations, but Watchers on the Wall, the website I’ve been fortunate enough to write for, had put together much of the programming for the convention: the topics, the panelists, etc. Since I am one of the Watchers feature writers, I ended up on six panels and the live recording of the Night’s Cast podcast.

Not counting the podcast (whose topic was choosing three favorite moments from characters – I volunteered to talk about Bronn, letting my co-hosts get the usual faves) these were the topics for the panels I was on:

  • Growing Strong: the Roses of House Tyrell – discussing House Tyrell in the books and the show, favorite characters (Olenna and Margaery, naturally), the purpose of the house as low-key antagonists/foils of the Lannisters (and Starks) and what might be in store for them in the unpublished books.
  • The Ultimate Weirwood Deep Dive – “ultimate” might be a bit of an oversell, but we did talk about weirwoods, the seemingly physical component of the Old Gods and the symbolic threshold/bridge between the worlds of the secular and the supernatural.
  • Sam the Slayer – everyone’s favorite election-rigger and kleptomaniac.
  • Aragorn’s Tax Policy: Economy in Martin’s World – this panel was exactly what it sounds like. Scheduled opposite Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s interview on the main stage, I was surprised that anyone showed up to hear us talk about Medieval economics, usury, trade, etc. And yet people did and we could have gone for another hour.
  • Sworn Brothers and Sisters of Ice and Fire – a discussion panel which relied heavily on book knowledge, since we talked more than just Night’s Watch and Kingsguard, but included Silent Sisters, maesters, septons and septas, the Dosh Khaleen, the Faceless Men, and had we not run out of time would have included the Unsullied and sellswords through the lens of fraternal orders.
  • Northern Justice and Guest Rights – this panel was in reaction to the successful panel from Con of Thrones 2018 talking Morality Beyond the Wall. We’d just decided to head Dornewards and talk next about the customs south of the Wall (and touching on the Riverlands and the Eyrie.) This was for a packed audience (because we’d been relocated from the Oathkeeper room to the smaller Needle room) and the other panelists nominated me to be panel moderator. (No iron and bronze crown of the ancient Moderators in the North was presented to me, sadly.) I was gratified with the ASOIAF bigwigs in the audience, come to hear us talk about cultural things.

My wife Lisa was on two panels, one talking about racial issues in A Song of Ice and Fire, and one with various people discussing what was known about the upcoming successor show Bloodmoon (possibly not its final title) and what the panelists wanted and expected.

I saw panels talking about all the necromancy and resurrection happening in A Song of Ice and Fire (which included much talk about if Gregor Clegane in the books still had his head), a panel on the concept of Honor and how it relates to the story and characters, a panel on feminist issues and themes in A Song of Ice and Fire (and the show), and a fantastic and informative panel on the difficulties faced by entertainment writers trying to cover the show which in its final seasons had become some kind of zeitgeist juggernaut.

Man, zeitgeist juggernaut sounds metal as hell.

I wish I could have gone to so many more panels.

Other Highlights

As mentioned above, I could not see the spotlight interview of Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (because I was talking taxes and tariffs in one of the function rooms like a dutiful loser) but I did see him in the spotlight interview of all four headlining actors. The spotlight interview of Jerome Flynn was particularly great (since I could make use of his perspective when I defended Bronn’s Season Eight storyline on Sunday morning during the Night’s Cast podcast recording.)

Saturday night was the costume competition which is always enjoyable, but afterwards was karaoke, which made a big impression. Particularly a Cersei Lannister cosplayer who gets 10,000 cool points from me for singing Ace of Base’s song All That She Wants (Is To Have Another Baby.)

I wasn’t the only person impressed by Queen Cersei’s musical performance.

Seeing NCW suggesting that Gwendoline Christie go to Con of Thrones 2020 was unexpected and very exciting. As well as him tagging the real Cersei Lannister (you know who I mean) so she could see this musical Cersei cosplay.

My wife and daughter got a surprise when they were browsing the goods at Broken Shoulder Forge’s stand in the convention Marketplace. They were chatting with the proprietors and suddenly realized that they were merely inches away from the Kingslayer.

Besides all of the scheduled programming, another huge plus were the costumes and panoramas being put together to showcase the cosplay.

The Future

The show has ended but there seems to be plenty of life in this particular convention. This year’s panels were decided on well before the final season even aired so Season Eight is still a factor. The finale events obviously were referenced in discussion, but (except for the Vents of Winter panel designed for people to complain about the show’s ending) the panel discussion topics weren’t necessarily tailored to address Season Eight. Next year’s convention might take that up.

There was so much programming in the past three conventions, it would probably be worthwhile to rehost some of the older panels (with some tweaking) so people who missed things the first time can come in and experience the discussion, discussions now informed by last seasons of the show.

There’s been years of discussion within insular communities like Reddit, and those discussions can be brought up in the public forum of Con of Thrones 2020 and beyond.

Some panels discussed events from Fire and Blood Volume One, a tome that could drive ten panels next year..

And there’s always the chance that George could finish up The Winds of Winter this year. (Maybe I should keep that in my pocket for Con of Thrones 2021 programming. Which is also optimistic.)

But we know there will be a Con of Thrones 2020. We just don’t know where or when yet.

I know for a fact that people are already putting together panel proposals. Now is a good time to plan ahead for programming. No excuse for last minute Google-doc sharing.

I hope I get to see some of you there next year. Having Twitter friends come up to me before and after the panels was a legitimate joy. Particularly the ones who were nervous to talk to me. I was nervous to talk to them. And it was nice being nervous together.

(Comments are always welcome. Super welcome! But if you want to talk spoilery Game of Thrones talk with me (also welcome) I’d invite you to visit my Safe Spoilers page on my backup blog. That way my non-book-reading friends won’t be shocked with foreknowledge.)

I try to provide attribution for images when I can, unfortunately some of the images used came from Twitter where they had no doubt been aggregated from other locations, like the CoT 2019 app, or from articles written about the convention.

My daughter took the photo of Wun Wun the Giant and little Lyanna Mormont. She also took that clandestine photo of Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.

The photo of dead Littlefingers and triumphant Stark ladies was taken by John Fitten Goldsmith (you should follow him on Twitter – @fittentrim )

I believe that the photo of the Watchers on the Wall panel (the last photo) was taken by Vanessa Cole’s husband. But I’m just guessing.

If you liked this article, thank you! I have all of my Game of Thrones related articles on my handy-dandy Game of Thrones page should you want to read more but don’t want to navigate around my site.

© Patrick Sponaugle 2019 Some Rights Reserved

  1. Haylee says:

    Sounds like great fun and I’m so glad it will continue. I’m still upset that something which was a significant part of my life (arguably much larger for you!) ended but it’s things like this that help to keep up the nostalgia. Albeit, thoroughly rose-tinted memories!!
    It’s a shame CoT is during our term-time, otherwise I would love to try and make it one year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know just what you mean about it being a significant part of one’s life, and now there’s a hole. Hey you! It’s great to hear from my blogging cousin.

      I hope you and yours are well. (I have been bad at keeping in touch.)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Haylee says:

        I think I’ve been worse!! I rarely use Twitter anymore, in fact I’ve had an aversion to social media in any form for several months (Blog? What blog?!). It wasn’t conscious, I think I just lost interest, not in what I was reading but in the habit I was forming, doing the rounds of different apps.
        But we’re all good here thank you, I trust you are all well too? 😊 I’ve been spending a lot of time reading (I’ve just started the Witcher series, in preparation for the TV adaptation, which may fill part of the GoT hole) and gaming. Trying to be a convincing pirate in Sea of Thieves and failing, haha! (Or should that be ‘Ha-Arrgh’? 😂)

        Liked by 1 person

        • ‘ar ‘ar ‘ar!
          I’m pleased you are reading the Witcher to get ready for the series. I haven’t read the books, but I am looking forward to the show. Exactly for the reasons you mentioned.
          I understand entirely about avoiding social media, as a good habit.


          • Haylee says:

            I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read so far – very easy to get in to but not as richly detailed as GRRM (easier for my small brain to cope with!). I’ve never played the game and I believe a lot of the cult following comes from here. Just concerned the show will fall flat, either by trying to emulate GoT or just based on other game-to-TV/cinema creations that have been dire! So I guess it’s good that the roots are in a book series. And I can see Henry Cavill being well suited to Geralt, from the image I have of the character so far.
            Looking forward to His Dark Materials too, perhaps a series will flesh out the story better than the film did (although I quite liked the film, ssshh!)


  2. ghostof82 says:

    Hi Patrick I’m sure I’m likely writing this comment in the wrong place, but did you ever write a post summing up what you thought of the GOT finale? I’ve been looking around your blog but can’t seem to find a review/commentary on the last episode or summing up how you felt about the end of the show.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey! This is a fine place to leave the comment, friend. I’ve been slack about writing up things. The finale had me with some topics, and I should be putting them out. I think it’s fair to say that I was satisfied by the overall ending (and season) even if it’s clear that the season (and last season) was rushed and would have been well served by ten episodes for each, instead of the abbreviated offering. But I’m not going to complain much. Nothing that happened bothered me, and I think there’s room to discuss in the ambiguity of what went on.

      Liked by 1 person

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