The Best Moments and Most Unique Aspects of the Wheel of Time's Newest Fan-driven Convention
This article is spoiler-free.
Guinevere of the Red Ajah on the costume contest catwalk (Photo by @AndrolSedai)
WoTCon, a Wheel of Time convention created by fans, kicked off its inaugural event this past July 8-10 at the Marriott Columbus Northwest in Dublin, OH.
If there's a proper state of mind to be in for a new Wheel of Time convention, I certainly wasn't in it. I had just moved into a new apartment and was living out of boxes. I was only successful in packing for WoTCon because I had the foresight to designate a suitcase for all my Wheel of Time swag before I moved. (Yes, my swag fills an entire suitcase—don't judge me).
As I grappled with the upheaval of my life and my stuff, things got even more surreal when Lezbi Nerdy came to my city and crashed at my place the night before WoTCon. Jenny was the first content creator I sponsored on Patreon—I had watched her videos religiously—and there she was, on my couch, with my cat in her lap.
The next day, we met my buddy, Anas, at the airport and were swept away into the sky. As we traveled together, Jenny and Anas gave me a lot of shit about some other personal changes in my life that would be glaringly relevant at WoTCon. (For more about that, and my overall experience of the Con, see my #WoTCon2022 Twitter thread.)
Photo by @anasmanutd
This is all to say that my brain was already in whirlwind mode when I arrived at WoTCon on July 7. Recalling the overstimulating chaos that was JordanCon, I assumed that going to a Wheel of Time convention would make me feel even more out of sorts, especially given the unpredictability of a brand new Con.
To my surprise, WoTCon grounded me—not only because the Con went smoothly, but because I got to be around all my friends again. I had forgotten an important principle of the fandom: it doesn't matter how long it’s been since you’ve seen your Wheel of Time friends, or whether you've even met them in person before. It always feels like picking up exactly where you left off.
The laughter started as soon as I helped Lezbi Nerdy walk into the lobby holding her big cardboard cut-out memoji head on a stick. Then came all the warm and fuzzy feelings of trust, respect, and mutual appreciation that appear naturally out of having the shared language of the Wheel of Time.
Photo by hobbitskald
As I hugged my friends by the lobby couches and chairs, I felt immediately at home—a feeling that was much needed, as I floated in uncertainty between the old home I had just left and the new one I hadn't yet settled into.
I'm grateful for the yank back down to earth; otherwise, I wouldn't have been able to truly absorb everything there was to enjoy about WoTCon, let alone pinpoint the top ten—and it's a really good top ten.
If you didn't make it to WoTCon this year, I hope that, by the time you finish reading this list, you'll be convinced to attend next year's con. And if you were there last month, enjoy the memories...
Family Feud at the Sunday morning main session
WoTCon set itself apart from other conventions by prioritizing a sense of community and inclusivity via large group sessions and shared meals, bringing all 202 attendees together for four main programs, two lunches, and one dinner.
Guests also had the option to upgrade their ticket for admission to an additional "VIP" dinner on Friday night. While the idea of "VIP" might not feel very inclusive, most guests purchased the VIP pass, and those that didn't (myself included) were not lacking in other opportunities to connect.
At the VIP dinner, WoTCon Operations Director Nae’Blis discussed the reasoning behind the community events at WoTCon: as it has been said countless times, the best part of attending a Wheel of Time convention is spending time with the people you meet there. WoTCon, then, was designed to maximize interactions with as many people as possible, in a way that got everyone involved.
Nae'Blis mentioned that, at JordanCon, people generally split up into smaller groups around meal times, which left some people feeling lost or left out if they missed the opportunity to connect with a friendly and hungry group.
For this reason, the lunches and dinners at WoTCon were particularly successful: they eliminated both the anxiety of making meal plans and the associated separation into clusters that can leave people feeling excluded.
Photo by Kritter XD
The date and location of WoTCon also supported greater inclusivity. Teachers and others who are not able to take time off in April for JordanCon were now able to attend; and for many others, including a fair amount who drove to WoTCon, the midwestern location was more convenient.
Size matters, too. With just over 200 tickets sold, WoTCon had a smaller, more intimate vibe that broke down barriers and made it less intimidating to approach new people. It also allowed fans to connect more casually and organically with the guests of honor, Daniel Greene, Michael Kramer, and Kate Reading.
Photo by @Talmayonnaise
A lot of WoTCon attendees said that interacting with the special guests felt more like connecting with them as fellow fans than as celebrities. Kramer and Reading, in particular, did some hardcore mingling. But more on them later.
It’s easy to get so caught up in the social aspects that you forget about the meat and potatoes of the Con—the panels. For those who tried not to spend all their time socializing in the lobby, a total of twenty-one panels were held between Friday and Saturday. They were broken down into three panels per one-hour time slot, and honestly it was pretty rude they made us choose.
What was most impressive about the WoTCon panels is that every single one of them was successfully livestreamed for virtual ticket holders, allowing fans in Chat to interact with each other and the panelists in real time. Inclusivity!
Photo by 9lz
In fairness to all the amazing panelists, I refuse to list a specific panel in the Top 10. First, I didn't make it to enough panels to give a proper review, and I haven't yet made use of my access to the live recordings (still available on the WoTCon website to anyone with an in-person or virtual ticket). Even if I had, ranking them would just be cruel—to me.
I did hear a lot of praise for the “Why do We Hate Gawyn?” panel; and the "5 Minutes in Heaven" panels generated some of the best #OverheardAtWoTCon quotes, including, "Maybe Lan is one of 80% of people who can't smell asparagus pee" (regarding Moiraine's "tell") and, "I'd like to see Jeff Bezos argue with more of Lan's ass."
9. Sunday Afternoon
Photo by @FlamingoSedai
Another genius move by WoTCon was to limit Sunday's schedule to just one main session in the morning. Afterwards, instead of separating off into more panels, everyone stayed together to eat lunch and make plans for the afternoon.
One of the Sunday afternoon activities was a large group expedition to the Book Loft in downtown Columbus. Although the store was hot, cramped, and very busy, there was something special about browsing through bookshelves with other Wheel of Time fans, hunting down the SFF section, and making recommendations to one another amid the intoxicating scent of new books.
Afterwards, the group wandered over to the coffee shop next door, showed off newly purchased books to one another, posed for a TikTok video with Kritter XD, and said farewell to the self-proclaimed Book Shaman, Brian the Gleeman (seriously, he united people with stacks of books they never knew they needed).
It was a fun day, and if it weren't for WoTCon's short Sunday, attendees would not have had the opportunity to deepen friendships with one another in the outside world, doing everyday things like riding in a car together, or sitting at a café.
8. The Hotel Staff
Dayon (aka Dayondred), the bartender (Photo by @BethDomon)
If you've ever wondered what hotel staff think about large groups coming into their space for conventions, WoTCon helped answer that question (sort of).
More than one WoTCon attendee actually mentioned feeling nervous about what the staff thought, a sentiment one can imagine comes from a history of being bullied for...liking stuff.
Here we were, a huge group of nerds milling about, ordering drinks, loudly discussing books, dressing up in costumes, sorting bricks, recording livestreams in the lobby, and scream-singing until all hours of the morning. Was this the Marriott Columbus Northwest's biggest nightmare?
To our surprise, we were notified that the hotel staff had expressed their appreciation for what they deemed to be one of the best groups they’ve ever hosted for a convention.
Apparently, they don't care how late you stay up making a racket, as long as you clean up after yourselves. It makes you wonder what the heck is going on at all the other conventions.
Photo by @Graendal12
It turns out the feelings of appreciation were mutual, and a couple of the hotel staff ended up becoming WoTCon legends: “Heavy-Pour” Gary who manned the cash bar, doling out the unofficial WoTCon beverage, “A Bunch of Crap in a Glass;" and Dayon, aka Dayondred, the bartender who promised he’d start reading the Wheel of Time before next year’s Con.
7. The Proposal
Photo by @MandiSedai
The plan for this adorable proposal was executed so smoothly, no one really saw it coming until Dan was on his knee. Here's how it went down:
After dinner on Saturday night, the Master of Ceremonies (Innkeeper Hatch of The Dusty Wheel) summoned the aforementioned Dan onto the stage, under the allegation that Dan had beaten Hatch in the poker tournament the night before.
The Innkeeper had done plenty of other other call-outs throughout the weekend, so the crowd thought nothing of it. Maybe Dan was about to win a prize or play an impromptu game. Instead, The Innkeeper handed Dan the mic and nonchalantly walked off stage.
Next thing you know, Dan was calling his girlfriend, Andrea, onto stage—and that’s when the gasps and excited whispers began. After a very sweet proposal (she said yes!), the crowd erupted into a standing ovation, with huge smiles on faces and more than a few tears, too.
The Wheel of Time has brought many couples together over the years, but it’s an entirely different thing to see it happening right before your eyes. It's yet another piece of evidence that the Wheel of Time fandom is a magical entity. And really, what better way to celebrate your love for the books and the fandom than to make them part of one of the most important moments in your life?
6. The Innkeeper vs. DJ Nibbles
The rivalry between Nae’Blis and Innkeeper Hatch has been brewing for almost three years now, originating with some light heckling in each other's livestream chats and escalating to Nae’Blis’s full-on campaign to make "Manfear" happen. (If you're not familiar with Manfear, it refers to a cosplay the Innkeeper has promised fans when he reaches 50K subscribers).
A few months before WoTCon, during a Dusty Wheel livestream, the Innkeeper revealed to fans that Nae'Blis is a DJ and asked Chat to suggest and vote on potential DJ names.
Clearly a premeditated move on the Innkeeper's part, Hatch began to relentlessly use the winning name, "DJ Nibbles," during WoTCon main programming, while Nae’Blis responded with blank stares and passive aggressive audio interference.
The climax of the rivalry occurred on Saturday morning, when the Innkeeper distributed fan-made DJ Nibbles stickers to "fans of Nae’Blis,” under the pretense of apologizing.
The Innkeeper may have won this round, but Nae'Blis avenged himself this past weekend during his ruthless roast of the Innkeeper on The Dusty Wheel's Third Anniversary Livestream.
It begs the question—will Innkeeper vs. Nibbles become a WoTCon tradition? If either of you gentlemen are reading this right now, consider this your challenge to step up your game at WoTCon 2023.
5. Recappa Sedai
If you read about Recappa’s WoTCon contributions in last week’s Maidens’ List, you’ll know exactly why she deserves a spot on this week's. WoTCon truly would not have been what it was without her.
Recappa’s creator, Brian, is a natural-born entertainer, and the Wheel of Time fandom is lucky he shares his talent so freely within it. Brian had a hand in writing and preparing most of the WoTCon main programming, while Recappa arrived on the scene to read prophecies and start drama.
Even just the presence of Recappa dressed as Moiraine made WoTCon magical. Plenty of people cosplay at conventions, but they’re not usually on stage, entertaining and running games.
Photo by Olver's Ears
Brian, who transformed back into himself in the evenings, also made the beautiful, stamped wax tokens that were used as prizes and raffle entries, and distributed cute swag, like flower crowns and colorful fans.
4. Costume Contest
Sherbet Mango as an Aes Sedai of the Purple Ajah (Photo by @AndrolSedai)
WoTCon put a fresh and exciting spin on your typical costume contest, and the result was pure joy. Held Saturday night after dinner, the contest felt like a cross between a fashion show and an Olympic event, with entrants strutting and twirling across the stage as "I'm Too Sexy" and a variety of jock jams blared through the speakers.
Before each contestant finished their last twirl, special guest judges Daniel Greene, Kritter XD, Lezbi Nerdy, Michael Kramer, and Kate Reading displayed their scores on whiteboards raised over their heads.
The success of the contest owes in large part to the contestants, who completely embraced the format and brought fire to the catwalk. But the judges were entertaining, too, starting off with ratings between 1 and 10, then going off book completely to Daniel Greene writing an infinity symbol for Rolan, Lezbi Nerdy giving a Nynaeve cosplayer a one followed by as many zeroes as she could fit on her whiteboard, and Kritter writing "1 billion" for Egwene and "69" for the high-heeled, flogger-wielding "Mistress Liandrin."
Elizabeth as Faile (Photo by @AndrolSedai)
Other standout costumes included a couple colorful Tuatha'an cosplayers who twirled gracefully on the catwalk; a snarling, braid-tugging Women's Circle member; a sexy, book-reading Min (who admitted to padding her assets); and of course, the winner, Elizabeth, as a truly perfect Faile (who earned a "10 x infinity" from Greene).
3. Deleted Scenes
Late on Saturday night, the Innkeeper tweeted that something big was coming on Sunday morning and hinted that it had to do with "promises made."
During the main session the next day, he revealed they would be showing two deleted scenes from Episode 1 of the Wheel of Time: a scene between Tam and Egwene after she serves him breakfast, and the ubiquitously marketed yet noticeably absent scene of Egwene emerging from a pool, covered in paint.
Watching two new scenes evoked the same euphoric feeling of watching Season 1 for the first time, except amplified by having the 200 people in the room, watching with you and bursting with anticipation to see the full scene behind the most iconic image from the trailer.
The Tam and Egwene scene, which has yet to be officially released by Amazon, featured a gripping performance by Michael McElhatton as a concerned father trying to protect his son's heart, while weaving in a bit more background about Kari al'Thor.
It would be a crime to turn down more Tam time, but the scene doesn't add much to the story that wasn't already be conveyed through some of Rand and Egwene's scenes. Plus, McElhatton's acting is so good, it makes Madeleine Madden's look stiff in comparison.
The pool scene had mixed reactions, with some immediately understanding why it was cut, others slowly accepting it, and still others (like me) who will always believe it is a precious baby that should absolutely have made it into the episode, extra 2.5 minutes be damned.
And if, also like me, you found yourself scrambling to match Nynaeve's words with the corresponding color of paint being poured into the pool, here's the breakdown, courtesy of Rainbow Sedai:
Naturally, the Innkeeper played both scenes more than once, so the crowd could analyze them at length and speculate on why they didn't make the cut, or how their inclusion might've changed the lore of the series.
2. Kramer and Reading
Photo by @anasmanutd
When it comes to guests of honor, WoTCon nailed it with Michael Kramer and Kate Reading, the beloved audiobook narrators for the Wheel of Time, the Cosmere, and more.
Not only were Kramer and Reading the special guests, they were the life of the party—staying up late, drinking everyone under the table, telling long stories, reading ridiculous tweets in goofy voices, and just being their awesome selves. It was a joy to interact with the two of them as people and fans of the book series, not just the magical beings who read the books to us.
Photo by @robchristianson
But it was their live performances that left everyone stunned. On Friday night, those who attended the VIP dinner were treated to a beautiful live reading of The Golden Crane.
At the main session the following morning, they read Weep for Manetheren, in which Kramer expertly performed unique voices for each angry villager in Emond's Field and played up the subtle humor written into the scene. By the time Reading, as Moiraine, concluded the famous speech itself, there was not a dry eye in the room.
The idea for WoTCon grew out of a desire to spend more time with friends, so of course the best part is exactly that. Any free time between programs and panels meant another opportunity for shenanigans in the lobby and hotel bar—and we certainly did not miss any opportunity.
On Saturday evening, WoTCon hosted a dance, but the real party happened much later on, in the lobby. After having an assortment of beverages from the cash bar (or provided by one another), people mingled in the lobby, just chatting, playing games, gossiping, and goofing off.
Among the most memorable moments was an impromptu 90's music sing-along, led by Jen Isgro of Talk’aran’rhiod and Delusions of Graendal, who belted songs by Creed, Nickelback, Jewel, and Alanis Morrisette to a crowd that definitely did not ask for it but loved it anyway.
Sometime between Nickelback and Alanis, Joe Perry (also of Talk'aran'rhiod) started blowing a horn, and Omar from WotSeries bought everyone hot wings.
Photo by Olver's Ears
Sunday evening was another time for lobby adventures, with more drinking, more laughing, and even some brave souls attempting live recordings.
As for myself, I chatted with a few people I hadn't yet met, was offered free churros, and dropped off the s'mores ingredients I had brought for #CampfireCon—it's a long story, but I'm pretty sure they did not go to waste.
It’s always hard to tear yourself away from a Con on Sunday night, but for some reason, the end of WoTCon felt more satisfying than expected. At JordanCon, part of the feeling of sadness and regret on Sundays is the realization that you didn't get enough time to really talk to everyone.
Maybe since WoTCon was smaller and more intimate, it was easier to believe you accrued enough quality time with each person you talked to (though, deep down, you know that will never be the case).
Brother Dan’s puppet head rests in The Way of the Leaf’s suitcase, ready to go home
I hadn't planned to go to both JordanCon and WoTCon in the same year. I bought my WoTCon ticket in a fit of FOMO, peer pressure, and romance, but I told myself I wouldn’t go to both Cons in the same year ever again. After witnessing the truly special and unique vibe of WotCon, though, I am strongly reconsidering that decision.
At some point, we may find ourselves with a different Wheel of Time convention for every month of the year. This would leave us with an abundance of tough choices to make, but I would still strongly recommend prioritizing WoTCon—it's only going to get bigger and better each year.