Monday, February 9, 2009

Got Con?

On this blog, Natalie regularly explores fandom (be sure to come back tomorrow and comment on her post!) and, boy, there's no better place to see fandom up close and personal than at a convention.

In elementary and middle school, I was mostly a nerd. Once I hit high school and AP classes, I found other likeminded souls, but until then, a lot of my peers simply knew me as "that weird book girl." And even then, FoxTrot was my favorite comic (with Jason, the nerdy little brother most likely to quote Star Wars verbatim and camp out for opening night tickets to Lord of the Rings, my favorite character.) One of the first friends I made when I went off to college had his own StarFleet uniform and Klingon dictionary. I was fairly secure by college, but I still thought of myself and a fair number of my friends as being on the outside of some invisible social norm. (Some people still see it this way. I was on a panel with some fellow published authors and asked one writer if she'd ever been to DragonCon--the woman to my left wrinkled her nose and actually said to me, "Isn't that where the crazy people with no life go?")

Now, frankly, I no longer think of myself as that far on the outside--it's fairly mainstream to see Harry Potter movies, read Kresley Cole (since she's on the NYT list, I know I'm not alone in buying her books!) or watch Supernatural (and let's face it, those Winchester boys are way more fun to look at than Harry and Ron *g*). I mean, it takes almost ten minutes of conversation before I start trying to discuss the philosophical importance of the Impala or sing you the entire Dr. Horrible Soundtrack, so if I'm quiet (and you ignore my Browncoats shirt), I almost pass for normal.

Peripherally, I've been aware of fan conventions (most commonly associated in pop culture with Star Wars or Star Trek) for years, but I never saw myself going to one. I don't have a lot of time or money to spare and it just seemed...odd. Going to a Renassiance Festival for a day of family fun was one thing, but actually trying to find room in the budget to travel to something where I'd spend a few days with strangers? I was content to share my raving FANaticism with friends on-line or try (possibly in vain) to beat my dad at Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit. But that's before I heard that Joss Whedon might be coming to DragonCon (held every Labor Day weekend in downtown Atlanta) and since he's a writer I've always wanted to meet, I decided to boldly go where I'd never gone before. (Ironically, Joss being on the guest list was apparently a misunderstanding, but I never regretted my decision. Now, I plan my family calendar around DragonCon, although I did miss it when my brother got married over Labor Day weekend.)

Now, conventions come in all flavors and sizes. I believe there are conventions dedicated SOLELY to Supernatural in Chicago, LA and Australia--I know Natalie's going to some kind of con or event soon and can't wait to hear all about it! Then there are events like Comic Con (this past weekend in NYC...I hear Jared Padalecki was there, which begs the question: why wasn't I?) The bigger cons have programming tracks from everything to music, anime, paranomal shows like Supernatural, Lost and Heroes, movies, novels, gaming, and comic books. Between attendees, guests and volunteers, DragonCon here in Atlanta involves approximately 40,000 people.

The noise and the color (and the costumes!) can be dizzying when you walk into one of the FOUR ginormous hotels that hosts the event (and that doesn't even count the numerous smaller overflow hotels). But once you've adjusted to the sensory overload and long lines (just bring a deck of cards, a good book, or strike up a debate with the girl behind you over whether you're SamGirls or DeanGirls), an amazing thing starts to happen. A bizarre camarederie with people you've never met before. It was like 40,000 people all sharing the same inside joke. (Trish and I were thoroughly entertained when we saw two women walk by in jerseys that simply stated on the front: "Bitch." "Jerk.") I got very little sleep and it felt like a zillion humid degrees, but I didn't care. In fact, my ONLY complaint about the weekend was that there weren't more panels dedicated specifically to Supernatural (and, of course, that Jensen Ackles wasn't there.)

I made new friends, picked up new insights, sang my heart out with a hundred other people (normally, something that only takes place in my shower [alone]) and stood in line at a local food court restaurant behind two Jedis, a dementor, Laura Croft, a few Cylons, a half dozen Dawns, and some guy so into his discussion of World of WarCraft that they had to call his order number four times. (This year, I'm going in costume!) Two of my biggest pasttimes are reading and writing, both pretty solitary, but I underestimated how much I would love the energy of the crowd and meeting people who have the same passions and laugh at the same jokes and get annoyed at the same cliffhangers and plot devices and memorize the same lines.

What about you? Ever been to a convention? Thinking about going? Do you think you'd prefer the small, intimate crowd of a con dedicated to just one thing or the crazy energy of one where you're likely to share an elevator with a Wookie, Jack Sparrow, the Yellow-Eyed demon and some dude toting bagpipes?


AuthorM said...

I'm so excited to go to the Supernatural con I'm starting to work myself into a little bit of a frenzy.


Never been to a fan-con before, though I worked at the Renn Faire, so I've had my taste of that sort of wackiness.

I don't love any show the way I love Supernatural, but I like lots and lots of SF stuff and would love to go to a con like Dragon-con.

I went to the Star Wars exhibit at the Franklin Institute in Philly last year and my picture taken with...with...




Anonymous said...

I'd love to go to a con, but would want to go with someone I know and no one wants to go. I think all us sisters should go somewhere together!

Anonymous said...

Of course, I would need more money first. :s

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

It's been decades in the making, but finally, individualism matters!

Comic-Con has gone mainstream, with big movies and TV shows unveiled, and the personal connection between the creators of entertainment and the audience has become, it seems, the biggest draw. It makes us part of instead of spectator to. Comic-Con NY had 77,000 attendees this year. You don't even get that many people at the SuperBowl! And NY isn't even the "big" con!

I think cons give us an escape from people like that woman who said we have no life, and allow us to feel normal with the immersion into a temporary world of like beings.

I hate crowds, and I would have to go with someone I know and really like, too, but someday I'd like to get to Comic-Con. In the meantime, I'll give the Salute to Supernatural in Cherry Hill, NJ, a try and see if it lives up to expectations. :)

AuthorM said...

Who said we have no life?!

Anonymous said...

>>>>Who said we have no life?!

Some misguided author I once did a panel discussion with. (Not by my choice, this was in a public venue where we'd both been invited.) But I'm not bitter--she just doesn't know what she's missing!

Natalie and Terri, if you make it down to DragonCon, you'll know Trish and I *g*

I'm so jealous of those of you going to a con specifically for Supernatural! What fun! Natalie, I can't wait to hear all about it...

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Someday I'll get to DragonCon!

I'm afraid that at the SPN con I'll be walking around in such a haze of squee I won't be able to write anything at all interesting or adequate to convey the experience. :)

phouse1964 said...

I used to go to local comic book conventions years ago and a couple DOOL events back int he 90's but the best thing ever? My BFF & I went to the Supernatural Con in Dallas last summer. No Jensen (he was kind enough to cancel on my freaking birthday, thank you!) but meeting Jared and Jim Beaver and some of the rest of the cast was tons of fun. It was nice because it was only a 20 minute drive and all the moola I would have spent on airfare and hotel rooms was spent on Supernatural crap! You know, like 6 foot banners of Jensen Ackles. Just what ever 44 year old woman needs hanging on the wall in her apartment, right?

MJFredrick said...

Dude, I can't even get anyone to go to Friday the 13th with me....much less a con.

I had NO idea there was a con in Dallas though! That's not toooo far.

Anonymous said...

You all will have to keep me posted on the when and wheres of upcoming cons because I have no idea. How many Supernatural cons are there. I'm a total con neophyte.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Canceled on your birthday, phouse! That so sucks! At least we knew from the beginning there'd be no Jensen at this one.

Just what ever 44 year old woman needs hanging on the wall in her apartment, right?

Absolutely! LOL

Poor Mary. Even the boy won't go? Or is he not old enough/into that stuff? At least with a con you have other friends who can meet you there.

Terri, there are going to be four SPN-specific cons this year, in Cherry Hill, NJ, and in LA in March; in Vancouver(!) in August, and in Chicago in November. The guys (mostly Jared) sometimes go to others, too, like EyeCon in Orlando, and there's one in the UK each spring I think, too.

Here's a link:

MJFredrick said...

Nah, the boy is 17, too old to go to a movie with his mom.

The dh is playing Valentine's Day and the boy is doing something with his girl, so maybe I'll go by myself....not the same as going alone to a chick flick, though.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Too OLD to go with his mom! Phwa. No matter what, he owes you, man. LOL

I agree, this is the one thing I probably wouldn't do by myself. I'm sorry! :(