This summer's convention extravaganza featured a bunch of shows that can be best described as mega-cons. I mean, there were over 55000 people at PAX, and something like 179 million people showed up for Comic-Con. Most of the conventions I've done over the last several years have been pretty huge, attracting crowds in the thousands, so this summer wasn't much of a departure from that.
From the Land Beyond in Sacramento, where I spent this weekend, was small by comparison, but I still had a great time and will likely go back if they invite me next year.
Saturday was the SciFi and Horror con, so there were lots of people there dressed as awesome zombies (zombie goth girls are way hotter than they have a right to be) and tons of people in Star Trek and Star Wars costumes. There were a lot of families (yay for affordable cons!) and the vibe in the whole place was really laid back and positive. It seemed like everyone there was having a good time, whether they were fans or guests or vendors.
I spent the entire day sitting at a table next to Aaron Douglas, who plays the Chief on BSG. We hit it off pretty quickly (it turns out that we have a mutual friend in Yuri Lowenthal, who I worked with on Legion and who I currently work with on Ben 10: Alien Force). If you get a chance to see him at a con, and you're even a tiny fan of BSG, you should go for it. He's really nice, totally unpretentious, and seems like a really good guy. I'm way behind on BSG (Nolan and I are still in the 3rd season on DVD) so I worked really hard - and Aaron helped - to avoid spoilers all day. As I said on Twitter, " Aaron Douglas is awesome. A++++ WILL SIT NEXT TO AGAIN!1!"
I had a panel on Saturday, which I thought was going to be shared with some other Star Trek alumni. Turns out I was wrong, and I'd be on the panel by myself. I had a little bit of a last-minute panic when I learned that I was going it alone, because I hadn't prepared anything, but I thought quickly, and decided to read my Datalore review from TV Squad, because it's in Sunken Treasure. I figured this would let me perform and entertain whoever showed up, while fulfilling the "Wil's going to be talking about Star Trek" portion of the program. Thing is, I haven't really looked at it since I wrote it several months ago, so I needed to prepare (being super prepared is very important to me) before I attempted to present it. I spent about 20 minutes reading it, remembering where the beats were, figuring out where it would be safe to drop some ad-libs in and where I should just stick to the material. It wasn't as funny as I remembered it, but Datalore wasn't as good as I remembered it, so I figured those things cancelled each other out. Besides, it's not like I had anything else to perform that fit the bill, so I just went with myself (thank you for that timeless advice, Fiona Apple.)
I thought the panel went well. The room held about 100 people, and it was completely filled, which really surprised me, because I didn't think I'd draw such a large percentage of that day's attendees. I think they had fun, though, and I didn't totally suck, so I was ultimately happy with the whole thing. I took a few questions after, and then signed some books and pictures at my table before the day came to an end.
I didn't get to wander the vendor's room as much as I wanted to on Saturday, but I did leave with something totally awesome: a vintage copy - damn close to mint condition - of the Dueltrack expansion for Car Wars. When I opened it up and saw all the little pieces together on one card, the catalog, the instructions, and everything else so perfectly unspoiled, it made me tremendously happy. I could see and smell and feel and so clearly remember standing in The Last Grenadier in Burbank when I bought my copy. I could see and smell and feel and so clearly remember getting it back to my house, opening it up, carefully using an exacto knife to cut the pieces out, and building a track on the dining room table.
It's unlikely that I'll play with this set - I have my Car Wars Deluxe Edition on the shelf right behind me, after all, and it has everything I need - but just having it again, and just being able to hold it and pet it and squeeze it and love it and call it George makes me incredibly happy.
Sunday was ... interesting. It was an anime con, so the average attendee was probably 15 or 16. As I said on Twitter, "There are a TON of cosplaying anime kids here today. I am as relevant to their lives as the war of 1812." It was a much slower day for me than Saturday, but it was still enjoyable. I didn't read the program, so I didn't know that I had a panel on Sunday as well (I know, WTF is wrong with me? FAIL, Wheaton. EPIC FAIL). However, I dug into Sunken Treasure again, and pulled out the excerpt from Just A Geek that includes The Trade. It's part of a chapter about the moment I turned the switch from actor/writer to writer/actor, so I thought it would fulfill the "Wil talks about blogging and writing" portion of the program. Incidentally, nobody was admitted during the exciting rock climbing portion of the panel on either day.
The audience was extremely small. The room that held 100 people Saturday had about 20 people in it on Sunday, and though it should be easier to play to a more intimate crowd, it's always been much harder for me than maybe it should. I fucosed, though, and had a hell of a lot of fun (maybe a little too much fun) reading for them. I had time for about 20 minutes of questions after, and everyone seemed to leave happy, including me, so I'm marking it down as a HUGE SUCCESS.
The very best part of the entire weekend for me - even better than getting my hands on Dueltrack - was meeting people who came to the show because I mentioned it on my blog and sent an e-mail using Eventful. Because I wasn't busy at all - I think I signed as many autographs over the entire weekend as I signed in one session at PAX - I didn't feel rushed, and I was able to do more than just talk for a moment or two with my fellow geeks. You know who you are, and I really enjoyed meeting all of you. Thank you for coming to the show!
If they invite me back for next year, I probably won't attend on Sunday, simply because I'm not relevant to the demographic, but I'll totally go back for the SciFi/Horror con, because it was what conventions are supposed to be. I think a lot of the bigger Sci-Fi cons have lost their way in the last few years, and forgotten what they are supposed to be about. They've become expensive autograph shows where you can't even get close to the people you're there to see, unless you shell out even more money to sit close to the stage. It was nice to be a a sci-fi con that was about celebrating the things we geeks love, instead of squeezing every last dime out of our pockets before sending us on our way with a bunch of hastily-scrawled autographs and disappointing, over-priced photo-ops. This show was small, but it was still a whole lot of fun. If the promoters stay focused on giving fans the kind of experience they got this year and find a way to add a little more programming, this convention is going to grow into something wonderful, because their hearts are really in the right place.