HOWL Con 2012, the PDX-based werewolf convention my mom won’t let me attend

Werewolf News readers know I get excited about things easily, but I didn’t want to say anything about HOWL Con until I’d done a little research. I love the idea of getting together with other werewolf fans in a convention setting where the most pressing question on my mind is “when should I get in line for the werewolf makeup booth?”, not “when was that fursuit last dry-cleaned?”. My first chance to live that dream disappeared earlier this year when WerewolfCon imploded under the weight of poor marketing and worse management, so I was a little standoffish when Twitter user @howlcon2012pdx followed me last week.  Now that I’ve had a phone conversation with its organizer and done a little homework, I’m happy to report that HOWL Con seems to have its stuff together.

First, the facts: HOWL Con happens Friday October 12th through Sunday the 14th at the Monarch Hotel & Conference Center in Portland, Oregon. Yes, that’s this October. Saturday passes are $20, Sunday is $15, or get both days covered for $30. Friday seems to be an evening-only meet and greet, which costs $5 (or free for weekend pass-holders). Pricing is the same whether you register in advance or purchase at the door, although groups of eight or more can email to arrange a discounted group rate. Once you’re in, here’s what you can expect:

Meet Rhiannon Held, author of Silver and the forthcoming Tarnished, representatives from the Wolf Haven International wolf sanctuary, fiction & role-playing game author/editor Satyros Phil Brucato, shamanic author & artist Lupa, medievalist Rev. Dr. Phillip Bernhardt-House (“the man with a Ph.D. in Celtic werewolves”), and other lycanthropic luminaries.

Programming will cover werewolves in legend, fiction, the media, and the culture at large. We will also be exploring the lives and minds of wolves, real-live canis lupus–that’s right, you run a high risk of both having fun and learning something. Activities will include:

  • panels & presentations by writers, artists, folklorists, scientists, and others with expertise & passion to share,
  • entertainment including live music, dancing, short films, and dramatic storytelling,
  • dealers, an art show, gaming, a costumed Werewolf Wild Hunt, and more!

So what makes HOWL Con likely to succeed where its predecessor failed? Organizer Stephen Couchman was kind enough to take my phone call and set my mind at ease. Here’s what I learned.

  • Experienced organizer. Stephen is a Portland-area resident with experience organizing conventions – he’s run steampunk convention GEAR Con for two years now, and its success is promising – he has plans to move 2013’s event to a much larger venue.
  • Financially sound. HOWL Con isn’t selling sponsorships because it doesn’t need to. WerewolfCon needed to sell thousands of dollars of sponsorships in order to get off the ground, which is one of the reasons it failed, but HOWL Con is already a done deal. It’s “happening for sure”, Stephen said. There are even plans to donate some of the proceeds to area wolf sanctuaries.
  • Culturally inclusive. I think its itinerary is a little lacking in the horror / monster department, but it’s not totally buried in the hippy-dippy “cuddlewolf” zone, either. Stephen says this year’s con is “year zero” – planting seeds that will grow into future participation from increasingly diverse panels, vendors and performers. Sounds like something the SRA might get involved in.

Overall, this sounds like something I’d definitely attend – it’s a small investment, it’s relatively close to me, and the guy running it has experience doing conventions. Unfortunately, it happens to be scheduled right in the middle of my parents’ yearly visit from Halifax. I’d consider bringing them along, but my folks are such gentle souls that HOWL Con might as well be a Gwar concert. For that reason alone, I’m sitting this convention out, but I’ll be watching its development with interest, and I hope to be a part of it next year.