An image from this year’s Drinking with Geeks panel, courtesy of Bob Alberti.

Anyone who has been to CONvergence, or even who has read my Twitter feed during CONvergence, knows that a lot of drinking goes on there. There are three floors of parties every night, most of which serve alcohol. There are even multiple panels dedicated to drinking now: the now-infamous Drinking with Geeks (which I’m always on) has been joined with Cocktails with Cthulhu (which I was also on). There’s talk of starting up a third one next year (which I will probably also be on, given my track record).

You may also surmise from this that I’m pretty okay with alcohol. I almost never drink to get drunk or even buzzed, but I absolutely love the vast varieties of beer, wine, and scotch that exist on this planet. Plus, my body’s intolerance for caffeine and for aspartame, and my distaste for sweet drinks, have left me with few beverage choices aside from water and, well, booze.

And I’m fine with CONvergence being fairly boozy. For the most part, the attendees at CONvergence are extraordinarily well-behaved, even when tipsy. In the past, I’ve volunteered for the convention by helping Operations respond to radio calls in the wee hours of the morning, and I’ve seen the sort of emergencies that arise during the drinking times. For an event that puts 5,000-6,000 people in the same place with copious amounts of alcohol, there are astonishingly few problems. Yes, there are problems; that is expected simply because of the sheer volume of people we host. But there are very few problems.

Yet I wonder: how much celebration of the fermented beverage is too much? CONvergence is growing by leaps and bounds every single year. Will there be a point where hosting a Drinking with Geeks panel would be downright irresponsible? I sure hope not, but I do wonder.

CONvergence already does take steps to keep the ocean of booze from taking over. If you attended the convention within the last few years, did you notice that there’s an AA meeting discreetly placed upon the programming schedule each night? The convention also provides a myriad of other services that also help: free food and non-alcoholic drinks that are easily available, wandering hosts that can respond to issues of all varieties, and a whole plethora of late-night events that do not directly involve alcohol. The convention also keeps very clear policies about behavior: keep weapons (even fake ones) peace bonded (because there may be a drunk or irresponsible person near you), and, generally, don’t be an asshole. This year, CONvergence even started a “costumes are not consent” anti-harassment campaign, and posted Safe Space areas around the hotel. Yet, even with this amount of forethought, I wonder when the resources of the convention will be overwhelmed.

I hope that “overwhelmed” point is beyond the point where the convention overwhelms the venue itself. Eventually, CONvergence will grow to the size where the hotel simply cannot handle that number of humans in one space. The Bloomington Doubletree hosts other events that have around 8,000 people, so CONvergence has a little bit of growing space… but not much. And, in the Minneapolis area, moving to another venue really isn’t much of an option (for reasons I won’t go into here). I’m fine with CONvergence hitting a size limit. I’m far more leery about CONvergence trying to alter the freewheeling party atmosphere that has been built out of joy, creativity, and, yes, booze.

Not that anyone has been talking about CONvergence quashing booze or anything like that. This is just me musing about the future and wondering if I can talk the convention into a third drink-centric panel.

P.S. — By the way, did you know that alcohol is pretty much the basis of modern society? For an okay 45 minute primer on this concept, I recommend watching How Beer Saved the World (which is currently available on Netflix Streaming). For a far better and more detailed source of information, I highly recommend Drink: A Social History of America by Andrew Barr.

P.P.S. — While I am on the CONvergence convention committee, the opinions I expressed above are mine alone.


  1. I’m thinking that you could flip Drinking with Geeks, putting the making of cocktails up front, and the drinkers on the sidelines. Then you could promote it as science & history. Sort of. Seriously, an elaboration of ‘The Physiology of Drugs & Alcohol’ with more drinking, to make the audience aware of what happens when they drink, without telling them not to drink. Then we could get Anne Sauer to come back, AND we could do SCIENCE!

  2. We tried to do something like that the first year, and it mostly was just a no-go with the audience. That audience wants *blood*, man. 😉

    I’m totally down with bringing in Anne Sauer for science drinks, though. I talked with her a little about doing something like that this year, but I couldn’t get everything coordinated in time. Next year: SCIENCE BOOZE.

    I might throw some history in there, too, if I can do my spiel fast enough. (Though that’s almost more the domain of the Cocktails with Cthulhu panel, which combined Lovecraft analysis with drunkening. Next year: Potables with Poe!)

  3. As much as I enjoyed the intellectual bits of Cocktails with Cthulhu, Pat Harrigan kept getting steam-rollered by the rest of the panel. There needs to be a definite ringmaster for the show, as Scrimshaw does for Drinking with Geeks. If Tim Wick were up for it, he could probably pull it off.

  4. (Okay, your spam plugin ate my previous post, and I’m not going to re-type it, so here’s the condensed version):

    Personally, I don’t think that irresponsibility will be an issue. You don’t hand out alcohol to the audience, and it’s more of a ‘humorous review’ thing than anything else.

  5. I’m not a drinker. I can count the number of drinks I’ve had in the last year on a shop teacher’s hand as drawn by Matt Groening, but I thoroughly enjoyed the Drinking with Geeks panel, and I also enjoy seeing and hearing the enthusiasm that people have about mixology, brewing, and vintering, even if I can’t appreciate the actual product of it. Maybe it’s because I don’t hang out much at the parties, but I really don’t see a lot of people who are seriously over-drunk. No one vomiting, passing out, or falling off balconies. I think that a lot of con-goers watch out for each other. The parties card, and I think a lot of people who are providing drinks tend not to encourage over-endulgence. For the most part, the con takes care of itself. I bet there’s a lot of stuff I don’t see or hear about, but most people want to remember the con. Maybe if there were signage similar to the anti-harassment ones reminding people to drink responsibly, not to provide minors with alcohol, and an easy way to deal with drunken revelers who are perhaps need someone to help them, that would be helpful.

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