Neil Gaiman. 

The most widely treasured stories often spotlight a hero or a team of heroes facing adversity and, against all odds, coming out the other side better for it. We see it when Spider-Man swoops in to defeat the villain of the week and in The Lord of the Rings, when friendship and hope in the end conquer all. For fandom-inclined teens of those stories, a company of aces has shown heroics of its own as it's worked to save its most fantastic and exciting annual affair: BrazCon.  

The Brazoria County Library System, along with its Communities in Schools partners, refused to allow the continuing Covid-19 pandemic to cancel its anticipated BrazCon 2021 plans; it just had to change things up a bit to make it happen.

Following in the footsteps of larger comic-related conventions, the teen-focused event will be virtual this year, a concept that many Houston-area students understand all too well after months of on-and-off online schooling. On February 20 BCLS will host a graphic novel-themed afternoon chock-full of digital versions of some of its most popular attractions, opening with a live conversation with acclaimed sci-fi and fantasy author Neil Gaiman (Coraline, Good Omens, Stardust, Neverwhere, American Gods).

"Our partnership with Mr. Gaiman came about with several questions," says BCLS children’s coordinator and convention founder Stephanie Williamson. "What author would appeal to the wide range of BrazCon attendees, and what author was involved in the writing of graphic novels?"

Unsure Gaiman’s agency would respond to its invitation, Williamson’s team reached out nonetheless. "We got a call from their office several days later," she says. "Much to our surprise, he accepted."

As exciting as it is to welcome such a celebrated storyteller to its event, there have been plenty of other challenges in transitioning the previously vibrant, in-person affair to a completely online experience. "We had to think about how we could incorporate as many elements from an in-person BrazCon to a virtual setting," Williamson says. "For example, a large part of BrazCon has been making fandom crafts, and in order to provide crafting to participants we are offering crafts-to-go at each of our open library branches, with instructional crafting videos available during the convention."

In addition to the Gaiman discussion and at-home crafts, the BCLS team has planned online versions of its costume contest, fan-art showcase, and gaming contests. "Hopefully families will make some fandom crafts together, or check out some board games from the DIY collection and have their own game tournament," Williamson says. "We’re happy that we can offer the chance for our community to 'meet' Neil Gaiman, and we hope that kids and teens have a positive experience while maybe even learning something."

Registration for BrazCon is required and opens on the library system’s website on February 1. With the inability to gather in places like movie theaters, comic shops, and gaming halls, it's more important than ever for young fans to connect with each other in safe, alternative ways. Thanks to Williamson and the many members of the BCLS, for geeks, gamers, and graphic novel-enthusiasts the day has truly been saved.

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