Is this what happens at conventions, celebrities donning volunteer shirts, buying action figures of themselves, hanging out with fans already packed to the gunnels in narrow passages between shops and artists? Is this what I’ve been missing? Why didn’t anyone ever tell me this? Or is what happened at the Northern FanCon unusual, and most of the time, these types of events are boring and lifeless?
It’s been a week since the aforementioned FanCon concluded, and I’m still reverberating. Dreams still clumsily piece together high points. I don’t throw around the word “cathartic” idly, but let me just say that even though this was my first real true comic/gaming convention, it certainly won’t be my last. Not as an attendee, mind you, but as an orator and raconteur for my Dias Ex Machina label, the Penn Jillette to Nick Greenwood’s Teller. Nick is the Hugo-nominated artist responsible for 95% of all DEM illustrations, a nuanced and reserved individual, one my girlfriend got to dubbing the “adorable hobbit” (behind his back until, assuming Nick reads this, just now). Nick and I had been collaborating for nearly ten years but finally met the first time just over a week ago. That was how my FanCon began…well, that and Gigi Edgley disembarking off the same plane as Nick. Distracting. I love Farscape, and suddenly my enthusiasm for Nick was tempered by the possibility of meeting “Chiana”. That would be the first of nearly a half-dozen encounters over the event. She would not be the only celebrity encounter and not the only high point of the weekend.
To think I was initially skeptical of the event. For months, I worried it didn’t have a real voice, that it lacked consistency. It had a broad range of celebrities with little promotion for anything else. One of the organizers asked me to volunteer, to help make the event better. Said organizer estimated 5,000 people would pass through the door over the three-day event. I challenged that, raising the bar to 10,000. In a span of a single lunch, I swayed from doubter to full Kool-Aid-drinking devout. It might have helped that he offered to fly up Nick Greenwood as a special guest. I’m sure it was more than that. Nick wouldn’t be the only guest, one among a peculiar collection. Everyone knew William Shatner would be awesome, but would people recognize Isaiah Mustafa or Justin Rain?
Did I mention Gigi Edgley hugged me? It was probably worth mentioning twice if I did. I also danced with Tia Carrere and discussed the methods of tying a full Windsor with Giancarlo Esposito. Michael Hogan from BSG was down to earth, stopping to chat with everyone. We shared a nice conversation while he smokeed outside the venue. He was a real winner, making me feel guilty for not liking his show (yup, just said that). Yet, all of this paled to staffing a table with Nick Greenwood, selling art and books to fans like water in the dunes of Dubai. I was expecting to sell a few prints but be ultimately overshadowed by competition. As it turned out, we were the ones to beat.
It was clear by the end of the first day this FanCon was going to be a success. That was only a preview for Saturday, when the crowds were packed tighter than a sushi roll subway. People could barely move leading me to wonder what will happen at future events. My commitments to volunteering kept me away from my table most the time, but when I orbited back around, Nick was always selling. I also made connections with veterans like Leo Leibelman and Adam Dreece, gaining insight on how to present a table and how to sell oneself. It hardly mattered as the crowds kept pushing in like the CN Center was the ark and the crowds were led by Tubal-cain (wow…that’s an obscure reference). The Greenwood/Dias table was the first one on the left, impossible to miss. Although many people trotted by like horses with blinders on, many still came back to check us out. And they did so often. I was slack-jawed at the attention his work and mine received. I really think attending cons could be financially viable, selling both books and art prints.
Obviously, I enjoyed myself. I was able to connect with virtually every celebrit; about the only one I didn’t directly communicate with was Shatner. The only picture I paid for was Jewel Staite, the only autograph was Gigi. Most guests appeared to enjoy themselves too. Free booze at the evening parties helped, I’m sure. Cosplay was also a gigantic success. End of the event, we had 11,000 people attend, and a certain organizer now owes me a lunch. Many of the guests want to return, claiming ours was one of the best organized they had seen. I’ve tasted the life and I like it. I know it’s miniscule compared to the ones others put on, but I really felt we did well. There will be another one next year. I’d love to get voice actors like Billy West next time, maybe even Wil Wheaton or Jon Tron. I’m sure the fans will be back as well. Northern FanCon is here and it’s not going anywhere.