I am a horrible person, and have left this to sit for weeks... This isn't polished, and may not read as well as I had intended but I figured that if I didn't post this shambles I wouldn't post anything and we're well past the time when I was still writing this fresh. Be gentle dear reader/listener. Read not for context, read for the feeling. And be sure to comment with your own awkward Convention stories, thoughts on ECCC if you attended, or thoughts on conventions in general either on your own or with a group of folk. Why do you go? Do you go? What do you do there, and how do you prefer to travel?
I had the opportunity to sweep the event space with Heather from Turn up the ladybro (find the show page on facebook at facebook.com/turnuptheladybro) on Saturday. We talked a bit about what we observed and it was good to pick the brain of someone who interacts with the events of different fandoms. ECCC and Sakuracon, both of which take place in the Seattle convention center, make up the bulk of my convention experience. Neither of these events are huge. These aren't SDCC, Pax Prime or the monstrosity that is Dragon Con, but they certainly have a respectably high attendance. This years show was the first time I have been primarily on my own at a con, and I had some time prior to and post meeting with Heather to analyze my thoughts on the whole business. Our conversation was mostly on the people and why they were there. What is the point of Sakuracon or ECCC beyond the obvious catering to fandom? Why do people do, or pay money for the things offered?
Heather's experience comes from Film festivals and Horror conventions. My understanding of which is anecdotal at best but follows like this; The attendees to be a bit closer to the mid-twenties to middle-aged range. A bit more life under their belt lending itself to a different kind of enthusiasm. Their is less of a drive to consume products and more of a drive to consume showings, Q&A's and meet and greets. Everywhere you looked at ECCC there were people hauling bags of purchases, some signed by authors and artists, some not. tubes of prints or boxes of comics. We overheard someone say what i thought was a good definition of the event as a whole. 'you'll spend 50 bucks every ten feet.' while we were wandering together I tended to concur with Heather's thinking that all the stuff people were buying, and their need to buy it made little sense when it could all be grabbed online. On Sunday I think I left that train of thought as I had the chance to peruse artist's alley and shake hands, listen to creators talk about the things I was buying and see the non-big name studio talent shine. It's a different type of thing when you get to see the passion people put into the piece of art or comic you are buying as you are buying it. To see what your interest means to them. It's something I didn't see with most of the better known folk i browsed the booths of. Best example of this would be saturday afternoon while I was hunting down the booth of Ben Templesmith (Hail Squid!). I'd been through a row twice when the awesome guy Onrie Kompan flagged me down. He was there representing his work on the comic Yi Soon Shin: Warrior and Defender about the Japanese invasion of Korea in the 1500's. While i stood and listened to him describe his comic, he got more animated and excited when he realized that i was engaged with what he was saying. I bought all four trades and felt like it was money well spent. Made even better when I passed him again on Sunday after breezing through them in the hotel the night before and told him they were great. Spending money with the big names, the studios isn't something I do much. You can buy that stuff anywhere, and a lot of times you can find it signed on the websites it comes from. As cool as those folk are, they talk with and see so many people they sometimes just seem exhausted, and that takes something from the whole deal. Worth it to note again that this would be the same section I ran into Josh Vogt ( Author of Enter the Janitor) which I talked about on the show, who was equally entertaining and engaging. I feel like the general appreciation of enthusiasm extends out to a lot of other con-goers promoting themselves and their projects like I was. One of the good ones wasn't the most unique, but was still a good enough idea to mention. That would be Sean Antisquia and his Hexpand kickstarter. Hexagonal expandable shelving for collectibles. Good stuff, you can find it at (http://engrit4u.com/index.html)
My feelings on the Signing area were a little less than stellar. When we entered the area there were sizable lines for everyone present. And my initial comments were basically "I wouldn't even know what to say" and "I don't think I'd pay for this" were partially proven later that day when I finally found Ben Templesmith, I chatted at him awkwardly, praised his work and bought an awesome collectors coin after handing him the Podcast's promo card it was both a cringe-worthy and hilarious thing. I am equal parts embarrassed and happy that I made the attempt. That aside, paying for a photo and an autograph just doesn't feel genuine to me. I don't know that I could make my case well but celebrities, even the awesome ones, just aren't offering the same thing as creators(artists/authors) when you need to pay them. Examples; last month I stayed in Seattle to see Gogol Bordello perform at the showbox downtown. It was a good show, there are some funny and unfortunate stories around it but that's beside the point. The next day as I was walking through The market I saw Eugene Hutz( their front man) getting mobbed by a few fans. I didn't bother trying to crowd in, I waved. He pointed at me, called out ' I saw you', I called back something like ' I like your stuff!' And moved on. Just two people on the street, one of which was famous. It was good. Though that isn't the same as a Nathan Fillion or a Norman Reedus, I guess that if there wasn't a need to put down money I'd be on board. And when it comes to Heather's answer of 'they're just people.' I suppose i knew that already, but there is a sort of shock when you see someone from television and movies in person.
This year and going forward my answer to the questions I asked are that I am at these conventions to promote myself and the Digital and Dice podcast. I also go to see the things I will spend hard earned money on later, or buy prints and comics from folk who aren't on shelves. And I go to see the energy people put into their own reasons for being there. The quantity and quality of the cosplayers at ECCC was astounding this year for example was a reason unto itself.