Night gathers, and for Game of Thrones fans, their watch started a very long time ago.
Ahead of season 7 many have analyzed every second of footage, scrutinized photos to read ancient texts, and shared their predictions and theories online. Although the show will be ending in the next few years, HBO is working on five successor show concepts to Game of Thrones, which are all in the early stages, but any of them could potentially (eventually) make it to TV. For fans of A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series on which Game of Thrones is based, their watch might be even longer. The final two books in the series have no publication date in sight.
And this weekend—which coincidentally occurs just two weeks before Game of Thrones returns to TV—some of these fans will converge at the crossroads in Nashville, Tennessee, for Con of Thrones, a convention geared toward fans of the show, the books, and the vast fantasy world that George R.R. Martin created. And although it’s not the first Game of Thrones-themed convention to hit the circuit (Ice and Fire Con has been around since 2013), Con of Thrones is arriving at, as co-founder Zack Luye describes it, a pretty unique time.
“This would be like if we’re at the part between Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince,” he explained.
The Harry Potter comparison for Luye, who co-hosts Game of Owns and PotterCast, is a natural one to make; he grew up with Harry Potter fandom. It’s also where he first met Melissa Anelli—the webmistress of the Leaky Cauldron, whose company, Mischief Management, has spearheaded fandom conventions like LeakyCon, GeekyCon, and Broadway Con.
When Luye first started exploring the idea of Con of Thrones nearly two years ago—roughly around the time Game of Owns hosted a live podcast during New York Comic Con 2015—Anelli, who also made the Half-Blood Prince connection, was one of the first people he approached.
“It’s such a vivid fandom, and it’s just the right time for a convention,” Anelli said. “People have asked, why now? Why not now? There isn’t a big flagship convention like this for Game of Thrones, and it’s just at the right time. Two more books, two more series, there’s going to be a spinoff. The Game of Thrones world is not even close to ending, so it’s the perfect time to get real-world gatherings going like this.”
First announced just over a year ago, Luye and Anelli wanted to have an all-encompassing convention that serviced every kind of fan and allowed fans who might not normally attend conventions like this to be at home and make friends. Several Game of Thrones podcasts will be hosting live shows, while many of the panels scheduled for the weekend were submitted by fans. They’re able to hear panelists discuss everything from spoilers and theories to the show’s themes, character arcs, and thoughts on which spinoffs HBO should make. The panels are part of a larger process from Luye of getting as much input as he could from others. (Full disclosure: I’ll be participating in some of the panels.)
But that’s not the only thing fans will be able to do. Several Game of Thrones actors, including Iwan Rheon, Kerry Ingram, and Kate Dickie and sound designer Paula Fairfield will be in attendance for panels, spotlights, autograph sessions, and photo opps. (Two other special guests, Carice van Houten and swordmaster Tommy Dunne, were initially scheduled but had to cancel.) Miltos Yerolemou, who played fan-favorite Syrio Forel on the show’s first season, is teaching a water dancing class.
“I wanted to make sure that we created an atmosphere that would celebrate what’s happening right now in the TV show but also what’s going to happen in the next season,” Luye said. “Because it’s only two weeks after the convention. And also what will hopefully happen in The Winds of Winter.”
Con of Thrones settled on Nashville (and the Gaylord Opryland) in part because of how it would allow many of the fans who wanted to go to travel by car for the convention instead of having to fly in like they usually do with coastal-based conventions. But another aspect to it was capturing the right atmosphere the Gaylord itself, which—minus the modern amenities—could easily fit in with the Dornish stronghold of Sunspear or the Westerosi capital itself.
“It’s got a very King’s Landing feel,” Anelli said. “And it just feels like you’re in an environment as opposed to a hotel, which is going to be great for the people who are there for the entire weekend because they can just lounge and be with their friends and be in their cosplay and going to lots of events and having a great time. And then it won’t feel like you’ve left the world once you’ve walked out of the ballroom.”
Con of Thrones starts on June 30 and runs until July 2 in Nashville. Tickets for all three days are still available to purchase.