Wednesday, October 8, 2014

CONtraflow SciFi Happened, and I Was There

Unlike San Diego, Atlanta, or even New York, New Orleans isn't known for a particular convention, but the Gulf Coast is home to several conventions held throughout the year. It's my goal, here at She-Geeks, to showcase those smaller (but no less enthusiastic) conventions. If there is a convention in or around the Gulf Coast that you'd like to see me cover, please send the convention details to

This was the fourth year for CONtraflow SciFi, and though I missed half of the convention thanks to some particularly infuriating travel mishaps (I will never attempt to take a taxi in Atlanta again, ever), the parts I was able to attend were great fun. Now, before I get too far into this, I'd like to explain the convention's name: For those of you who don't live in a city that with a propensity for evacuation, the term "contraflow" refers to a practice of reversing the direction of travel lanes on specific highways during an emergency evacuation to aid in the flow of traffic. Essentially, all lanes of major highways along established evacuation routes will flow the same way (specifically, the hell out of town) in order to cut down on gridlock in an emergency.

Contraflow in action in Houston. Every lane traveling in the same direction, and still gridlocked.
It's a scifi convention (which are often populated by those of us who probably didn't fit in with the crowd growing up) named after a procedure that literally has scores of people driving against the grain. Clever name is clever.

As a scifi convention, CONtraflow does not disappoint. Recognizing that you can't have science fiction without science, in addition to artists, authors, and entertainers, many of CONtraflow's guests have strong connections to the hard sciences, including the Author Guest of Honor and physicist, Gregory Benford, author/NASA scientist, Les Johnson (who received the Frank Brewer Civil Air Patrol Memorial Aerospace Award at the convention), and Lt. Colonel Kathy Beauford of the Civil Air Patrol and Director of External Aerospace Education and Robotics Project Manager for the state of Louisiana.

One aspect of conventions that's pretty exclusive to the New Orleans area are the parade Krewes (pronounced "crew"). Everyone knows about Mardi Gras (it's inescapable here), but what many out of towners may not know is that those awesome parades are put on by the parade Krewes. There's a different krewe for each parade, and the term is thought to date back to the 1800s. There is an increasingly popular krewe here that has brought an immense amount of joy to my geeky, little heart, and had a lovely showing at CONtraflow: The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus. Yes, it is as amazing as it sounds. If you visit for Mardi Gras, and you do not make it out to the Chewbacchus parade, you're doing it wrong.

I present to you, The Bar-ship Enterprise. A handmade, mobile, functioning bar pushed through the streets during the Chewbacchus parade.
In addition to the Krewe of Chewbacchus, the Krewe du Who LLC*, dedicated to all things Doctor Who, was also out at CONtraflow with the ever popular life sized TARDIS and The Lady Cassandra in tow:

Additionally, CONtraflow had a sweet gaming area set up (kept nice and cave-like for proper gaming) complete with an old Doctor Who pinball machine and a cute kids play place dubbed The Cadet Lounge:

In one of the art galleries, there was a unique display of t-shirts and programs from area conventions dating back to 1975, with a wall covered in a list of conventions to which attendees could add their names. I thought it was an awesome way to pay tribute to conventions past, and allow for a quick trip down memory lane.

Of course, it wouldn't be a convention without cosplay:

This handmade 'Howard the Duck Dynasty' won the costume contest.

*Full Disclosure: I am a member of the Krewe du Who. I write a weekly episode review for the KdW blog, and sat in on a KdW panel at CONtraflow:

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