People people EVERYWHERE

The last days of a Comic-con

I had been hearing distinctive Artoo Detoo chirps and raspberries for a while but I couldn’t quite nail down where they came from – until the next morning, when I noticed a bevy of life-sized R2 units in the concourse.

I raced down to play with them of course.

There’s a picture. I’m leaning over one in a full Leia pose, one hand on its noggin.

Alma and R2-D2 photoDid you say ‘Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope?” someone asked on Facebook, later, upon seeing the photo.

Well, not out LOUD,” I responded primly.

My signing at the University Books booth was at 2 PM and so I presented myself there at that time, together with John Pitts and Robin Hobb, who of course immediately drew a line of people who were telling her how much they loved her books.

A young lady came up to the table where I was sitting, without a book in hand, but with a very earnest expression.

I just wanted to tell you, I love your books, and I think they’re wonderful,” she said, and I got this lovely warm feeling all over. “I think I have them all…

“There’s a brand new one,” I said, lifting ‘Empress’.

I tend to read on Kindle,” she said.

It’s on Kindle,” I assured her.

She lit up. “Thanks!” she said. “Ill look for it!

Other people wandered up with copies of ‘AbductiCon’ or The Were Chronicles books. It wasn’t Nathan Fillion, it wasn’t Robin Hobb, but it was a pleasure.

Cosplay Superpeople photoI made my way through the fairies and the warriors and the hobbits and the wizards and the princesses and the monsters and the superheroes and the gods (and one Sheldon Cooper) and walked those long five blocks back to the hotel where I keeled over. With another book. Which, yes, I finished before bedtime…

The crowds had worn me down and there was no “have-to-see” panel or event on Sunday. It was time to go home.

On the way out, a family of four – Mom, Dad, and two kids, one teenage, one slightly younger – all smiled at me as I stepped into the elevator. They were all wearing lanyards with Comic-Con badges on them. I wasn’t wearing my own badge any more but my T-shirt had a Tribblecentric version of the “Soft Kitty” song that Sheldon Cooper so loves on Big Bang Theory, a crossover of two fandoms, and the Mom of this little family nodded at it.

I’m guessing you’re in sympathy with all this, going by the shirt,” she said, clearly meaning the Comic-Con gestalt we all shared.

I caught the eye of the teenager, and she grinned broadly. I smiled back. The Next Generation.

Ever After

I’m a convention veteran with two World Fantasy Cons under my belt, six Worldcons, and countless other smaller cons across the breadth of the continent. I have badges stuck on a cork board from cons in New York, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Canada, from Vancouver to Toronto and Montreal.

But they’re all tiddlywinks compared to something like this. It was literally the first time I had gone conventioneering with the population of a small TOWN. It was… an interesting experience.

Cosplay Wizards photoThere’s a buzz, something in the air. There’s a knowledge that you can say something weird and crazy and utterly esoteric and be certain that someone will *get it*. It’s a feeling of belonging. It’s a sense of being able to smile at a complete stranger wearing wings or horns or a cut-out shell of BB8 covering her large pregnancy bump or the robes of a Middle Earth Wizard or the uniform of a Star Trek officer or a Spiderman mask, and know that even if you’re wearing none of those things they’ll grin back and know that you’re “in sympathy with all this”. There’s an immensity of inclusion.

But for a cast-iron introvert like me there’s also a weight to it which can become crushing – there is a reason I tend to avoid large crowds. I can spend a limited time in them, amongst them, and then I get the urge to find a quiet corner somewhere to catch my breath and re-collect my scattered energies. I NEEDED to leave that space when I left it because there were PEOPLE EVERYWHERE. The constant stream of people up and down the packed escalators looked like a gush of water from a busted hydrant, unstoppable, powerful, sweeping all away before it. There were moments I was part of it. There were moments that it was imperative that I *get out of its way*. It was an exhilarating but also very draining three days.

Am I glad I did it? Oh yeah. I asked Maleficent to excuse me when I stepped on the trailing edge of her cloak on an escalator. I hugged an Artoo unit. I watched a Unicorn playing a fiddle out in the sunshine of a convention center courtyard. I caught a glimpse of a Captain Mal smile. I met some of my own fans at the book signing.

I’m glad I did this.

Tomorrow: How Comic-con came to be. A history

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Surrealism in Seattle

My first Comic-con: Friday, Day 2

The closer I got to the Convention Center the more surreal the streets became. Pirates. Boba Fetts. Lots of Reys, of different ages and sizes, the youngest maybe not yet seven, the oldest possibly older than ME. SCADS of Spidermen (that was the thing for some reason. Lots and lots of those.) Fairy princesses. People painted green. Star Trek crews from different eras. A dog made up to look like an Ewok.

All flowing towards the center of gravity. ECCC in full bloom.

I had asked someone the previous day how many people they thought were there.

About 50,000,” I was told. “And you wait. This is just the first day.”

On Friday I heard revised estimates. 80,000, maybe 85,000. I was an ant in an anthill. Some of the ants were mousy, like me, but some were truly spectacular. I started taking pictures.
Eccc Hall Crowds photoThe signing queue in front of the booth where the star attraction, Nathan Fillion, was signing autographs was a heaving mass of hundreds of souls. I contemplated joining them but the price of admission was a little too rich. I don’t think I’m ever going to be convinced that $80 for the price of a signature was a prerequisite for getting within eyeball distance of anyone.

I remember the Worldcon in Japan where they had George Takei doing much the same thing – but there I simply joined a queue and when I got to the front I spoke a few words to him and shook his hand and that was enough – there wasn’t a requirement for money to change hands.

I just drifted on the edges a bit, saw Captain Mal flash that brilliant grin at someone else at the front of the line, and went on my way.

I did go to another signing. I had bought a copy of Matt Ruff’s latest book, “Lovecraft Country”, the previous day, and finished reading it that night. (and LOVED it.) After getting my copy autographed and chatting with him until the next fan stepped forward, I pressed on.

There was a 3-D scanner for people. You could climb in and be full-body-scanned, and then they could print a figurine of you from that. The scan was free, you could decide later if you wanted to buy the action figure, so I had myself 3-D scanned. How very futuristic.

And then there was the artist R.K. Milholland sitting at his booth chatting to a friend until I smiled at a sign that he had there in front of him: ‘I DO FREE SKETCHES FOR NICE PEOPLE.’

You want one?” he asked.

I don’t know, am I nice enough?”

He grinned. “Well, you haven’t pissed me off yet.

He hauled out a piece of white card. Wolf boy cartoon

So what do you want me to draw?”

In honor of The Were Chronicles, I requested a Were creature, half boy, half wolf. He quickly drew this hilarious caricature, and then broke me up completely by putting in a speech bubble above the creature he drew, who had an expression of pure comical consternation, which bore the single word,

….Help.”

I took more pictures.

I bought a T-shirt with the picture of a cat drawn WITH NUMBERS. Which portrayed the maths of the Uncertainty Principle. The cat, of course, was Schrodinger’s.

I saw a panel that looked interesting but by the time I decided I wanted in, the panel had been declared full and I was turned away. .

My usual affliction was starting to present itself. Namely, I have wretched feet. No matter what shoe I put on, I will end up with a blister SOMEWHERE. The one I was beginning to cultivate this time was getting painful. I found a first aid station and, like my wolf-boy, I said “…Help.”

No problem,” said the first-aid person. He applied a thin gel-like thing over the enormous blister that had developed on the side of my foot and then put a massive oversize bandage to go over that. “You are definitely not the first person to present yourself here with that problem!” he added cheerfully.

I had a standing dinner engagement back at the hotel with friends, so I retreated from the Center in good time to limp back to the hotel slowly and carefully. After they left, I went back up to my room and finished another book. Yeah I know. I read at the speed of summer lightning…

Day 1 can be found HERE

Tomorrow: Day 3

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Batman and the Redshirt photoI didn’t see this guy at the ECCC.but  I’m sorry I missed him.

Redshirt killed by every character in history

“Go to any big sci-fi convention,” Gavia Baker-Whitelaw writes at Dailydot.com, “and you’re guaranteed to see a few people dressed as the red-shirted security officers from Star Trek’s original series. It’s a simple costume that provides a built-in theme for cosplay photos: getting horribly killed, which was the primary role of Star Trek’s redshirts.

“Cosplayer Tim Adam has perfected the art and has built up a massive gallery of imaginative redshirt death crossovers with other cosplayers from Marvel to Star Wars to Mad Max: Fury Road.

Go to Dailydot.com to read more HERE

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The geeks and the nerds

My first Comic-con: Day 1

My knowledge of the comic-con phenomenon came from the legends of my tribe, the nerds and the geeks and the science fiction and fantasy people of this world.

The people who can quote you chapter and verse from the canon of half a dozen iconic shows, who have read all the books and know everything there is to know, who are lovingly familiar with all the characters and all the worlds and who do not grudge the time and the money it takes to reproduce those characters in eye watering detail in the halls of the convention center.

I knew this at one remove but I was a comic-con virgin until I accepted a ‘Pro-Pass’ invitation to attend the Emerald City Comicon in Seattle.

I also knew that it was going to be vivid and big and crowded and wall-to-wall-peopled with others who love the things I love. I have to admit that there was a frisson or two because large crowds have always been tough for me to handle, they suck strength and vim from me, and there is usually only so much of a thoroughly crowded place I can take before I start wildly looking for quiet boltholes.

But it is part of geek-cred to do Comic-con, at least one Comic-con, at least once. And here was this one in my back yard – there it was. And there I was going to be.
I drove down to Seattle on Thursday, April 7, Opening Day. They were still not quite a going concern when I got there, with various escalators in the Convention Center being guarded by fierce staffers herding eager con-goers with the wrong kinds of badges — there are several different kinds of badges, and oh boy do they matter — away from the area not yet open.

In the Main Stage area, the drifting populace clumped into a heaving, impatient, queueing mass, a low undertow of chattering squawking occasionally roaring humanity underlying the music played over loudspeakers as they waited for the doors to the main show floor to open at 3 PM – and flowing through those doors like a human river as soon as they were flung wide. I had a bagful of books to deliver to the University Books booth, so I took one of the forbidden escalators to the sixth level as soon as they were opened up and divested myself of those.

Then, exploring the two different levels of Show Floor, I plunged into Huckster Heaven.
Huckster Exploding Kitten photoWhat didn’t they sell at Comic-con? T-shirts, of course, but also Batman bikinis and Superman bathrobes; chocolate mounded into Daleks and the Tardis and Weeping Angels and the Death Star and sonic screwdrivers and eyeballs and brains; every possible kind of stuffed ANYTHING, from Hello Kitty and Kittchthulhu to plush Dust Mites (I kid you not) and sloths and various Manga like critters whom I did not quite recognize and Gothified plushied versions of characters who ALMOST looked familiar but were desperately not quite there; artwork of every description from 2-D posters and prints through figurines, electronic LED flashing things, sculptures that were sometimes quite breathtaking, hand-made leather journals that made me drool over their pure beauty…

Take a breath:
Huckster BRIGHT Booth photo….books, geek-heaven mix-and-match DIY backpacks which you could build out of different bit parts like luggage lego; masks and wigs and cat ears oh my; games (one crowdfunded one which went by the name Exploding Kittens and came in kiddie and R-U-Old-Enough shrink-wrapped versions; mugs; vast piles of comics; things for the making of comics and art (pens, brushes, paints, notebooks, paper); music; craftsman beer; things that had no business being made out of Legos but still impossibly made out of Legos; booths which sold… things…Huckster Cat Ears photo
which were an explosion of color, like a unicorn had wandered past and vomited up a rainbow; endearing ceramic creatures which made you smile just to look at them; fairy things and dragon things and flame-thrower things and wand things and soft things and fascinating things, and ….
I wandered through in a daze, watching one young woman counting out $95 dollars without blinking and handing it over to a booth holder in exchange for a bag stuffed with stuff – and this was THURSDAY, the con was barely open. I wanted so many things. I didn’t buy anything, heroically, at all, at least in those first few hours. But it WAS heroic. There were dollar signs dancing in the crowded aisles between the tables. The air was green with them.

I stopped at a booth (wo)manned by a Facebook friend of mine, who was talking to another woman, and patiently looked at art until they both looked over. And then the other woman, the customer, frowned and said,

But I know you. From Norwescon, right?”

Not this year,” I said.

No, but from Norwescon. You write books. About, I don’t know what was it, magical spam…?”

Spellspam, yes,” I said, supplying the name of one of my Worldweavers Young Adults..

I have your books,” she announced triumphantly. “I LIKE your books.

I meandered on smiling.

I ended up, a little footsore, at the Cheesecake Factory restaurant right next door to the Convention Center, and had dinner over a brisk conversation with two women about women and comics (oh STRAIGHT out of Big Bang Theory! They even discussed Thor, just like the BBT girls!) and after a very nice dinner dragged myself two blocks down and five across back to my hotel.

Tomorrow: Day 2

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QUOTE

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time—or the tools—to write.” — Stephen King

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