Taking My Daughter to Penguicon This Weekend

Geek Culture

Image from Penguicon Website, user Sheryl67Image from Penguicon Website, user Sheryl67

Image from Penguicon Website, user Sheryl67

The Penguicon website likens this weekend’s Science Fiction and Open Source Convention in Romulus, Michigan to a “whole solar system to explore.”

“The twin suns of this binary system are two communities that share curiosity, creativity, and a welcoming volunteerism ethos. They are the free/open source software developers and users, and fans of science fiction and fantasy.”

At Penguicon 7.0, there will be Linux lessons and ice cream making (What’s geeky about that? Using liquid nitrogen!). There will be gaming of all sorts – Jane McGonigal will be running her Free Space crowd forecasting project – music from the likes of Dual Core, presentations from Jon “maddog” Hall, and a slew of panels featuring science fiction and fantasy authors.

I’d actually been planning to attend this con for awhile, almost solely on the guest list’s inclusion of notable geeky dads Wil Wheaton and John Scalzi. A couple months back, though, my 12-year-old daughter expressed an interest in coming along, and I figured we could make this a great GeekDad/GeekDaughter trip.

I haven’t done a full-on convention immersion since 2005, and Penguicon will be her first con experience.

It was the liquid nitrogen ice cream making that got her attention, I think, and the Open Source Soda Project. But since then she’s become a fan of Wheaton’s Rock Band performances, and she’s also deep into Scalzi’s Zoe’s Tale. Other stuff she’s looking forward to: Panels/discussions on Harry Potter and Twilight; learning to play Munchkin and Chemistry with Professor X (the program blurb includes the phrases “Terminator Bananas” and “The Vomiting Pumpkin”).

Having never been to Penguicon myself, I asked someone who’s been there – and who happens to have a daughter about the same age as my own – about the atmosphere and suitability for kids.

The con site’s FAQ section is helpful, if blunt, on the subject, noting that there will be some panels on adult-oriented topics, and that some functions may involve attendee costume and possibly inappropriate activities. “We don’t provide anything specifically intended for them to do,” it reads. “We don’t charge for children age 12 or under to attend, we don’t allow them to register as an attendee, and we don’t kick them out. The one issue we have had, is that we do ask that parents not use the Chaos Machine or the board games room as babysitting…”

A fellow GeekDad advised me that while yes, there can be events and places I might not want my kid wandering at Penguicon, he’d have no problem taking his own daughter. That was encouraging enough for me.

This week, as my daughter and I read and considered the schedule of events while planning our weekend, she interjected, at one point, with a note of wonder: “But dad … When are we going to sleep?”

[This post was written by new GeekDad contributor John Booth]

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