This weekend I took in my second Fan Expo — for those of you not in Toronto, think a smaller version of San Diego Comic-Con.
(If you’re still confused, there’s a primer here. Short version: it’s a convention for science fiction fans, with a lot of TV and film actors doing talks and signing autographs. And so much more than that — read on…)
I went only on Sunday, so I missed the biggest day (Saturday) but also got to skip the worst of the crowds, and there was still plenty to see.
(Warning: lots more photos behind the jump!)
The Good: All the Geekery One Could Wish For
The first order of the day was seeing Nathan Fillion, of Castle and Firefly fame. He is funny and personable and, charmingly, still a bit star-struck (he enthused about some of the other guests at the con). But he’s almost too blunt at times — he flat-out nixed the possibility of more Firefly and refused to drop any coy hints about upcoming plot developments on Castle.
On the other hand, he told a very sweet story about being alone on the Firefly set and wandering around the kitchen area, thinking “my ship”. *swoon* He also passed on a writing tidbit from Joss Whedon: the key to writing/playing villains is that they don’t think they’re villains — they’re absolutely convinced that they’re right.
Displays and Vendors
Next we checked out the extensive Doctor Who display (extra large this year because it’s the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who!) and the adjacent Star Wars and steampunk areas. Highlights: taking photos with the Weeping Angel statue, and watching a storm trooper getting hit with nerf balls for charity (and doing that “aah, I’m hit” storm trooper stagger).
Fan Expo has a ton of t-shirt vendors. I bought one that says “Fake Geek Girl…Real Geek Woman”. I was also tempted by “Neville would have done it in four books” and various Doctor Who and Game of Thrones shirts, but in the end I couldn’t pick just one fandom. Plus I like the sass on the one I got.
We also browsed and drooled over Artists’ Alley, steampunk vendors, and many more.
One of my favourite things at a con like this is watching the cosplayers — people who have put a lot of time and creative effort into making and wearing costumes of their favourite characters.* I love the particularly impressive straight-up cosplays, like the Iron Man whose suit made exactly the right sort of hissing noises when he walked.
* Yes, that’s a simplification. Steampunk and Lolita costumes are something else, but definitely in the same ballpark.
But the ones I love most are the ones that are bent in some way — a woman dressed up as a male character, or a Batman costume done with a steampunk edge. Those to me are like jazz, riffing on the original and adding a unique touch.
A Glorious Mishmash of Geekery
Along the same lines, there are t-shirts that say “The Doctor is IN”, with the doctor from Doctor Who leaning on the little “doctor” stand from Peanuts. There are art mash-ups of Calvin and Hobbes with Firefly or Game of Thrones. There are shirts that say “And then Buffy staked Edward.”
We saw George Takei from afar, but autographs aren’t really my thing. We saw a parade of Daleks from Doctor Who. We saw this:
And that’s the heart of what I love about conventions like Fan Expo: the myriad of ways in which people express their love of various geeky things. Because geeks are awesome, and the sheer variety of their creativity is amazing.
The Bad: Crowd Control and Organization
Some people swore off going to Fan Expo after last year, which was extremely badly organized. I didn’t see a lot of crowd control snafus this time; from what I understand, it was a lot better than last year’s debacle. But there were still long lineups for escalators and con re-entry — made worse by the fact that the con was spread out over two buildings. I know attendance is pretty massive, but you’d think they’d have this kind of thing sorted by now.
To get into the con, you had to walk through a much smaller sports expo. For me this was just annoying, but I can see it being actively discouraging for anyone who clashed with the popular athlete types in school…like, you know, geeks (stereotypically) tend to do.
I did hear reports that changeovers for the biggest room were a madhouse on Saturday. By Sunday they had it so regimented that…well, woe betide you if you step out and leave a friend to save your seat, because you might not get back in. There were a lot of unhappy people before the Walking Dead panel.
They didn’t clear out the room between panels, either, so by the time we got in for the Nathan Fillion Q&A, the whole middle of the room was taken up by people who hadn’t left after The Walking Dead. I can only imagine it might be worse for people coming in for the third slot, Karl Urban (Dr. McCoy in the new Star Trek movies).
But overall, my con-going companions and I had a fabulous time, and my geeky little heart has been thoroughly satisfied.
Your turn! Do you go to cons like Fan Expo? What do you like best about them?