I went to my second sci-fi convention this past weekend, Polaris in Richmond Hill. Three days of fan fun. This was quite a different gathering than my first one a couple of months ago at Ad-Astra. That one was a writer's con and geared towards the business of publishing and writing. Polaris is truly a fan convention, a gathering of fans of sci-fi/fantasy in all forms. It's the kind of con that is parodied by the popular media.
Is it as strange and fanatical as the media portrays them? Or are these the people who are healthy because they have found an outlet for the stresses of life?
Where else can you wander the corridors and run into all incarnations of the Doctor? Where you turn the corner and are nearly smoked by people clomping around in military boots and uniforms sporting the SG-1 patch on their shoulders? And don't forget all the Star Trek uniforms or the plethora of storm troopers who must have been pouring sweat inside their armor. Amazing steampunk outfits that I wouldn't mind borrowing and one that really impressed me, which I think was the same one at Ad-Astra, was the stone angel from NuWho. From head to toe, she looked exactly like the stone statue and if she didn't move, you could swear she was a statue.
Well, on the surface it's like one big masquerade party and some people 'act' their personas. There is Klingon Karoake night. I presume the premise is that if you're going to sing badly, you might as well sing badly in Klingon. We have scientists and science geeks gushing over their latest discoveries and research into topics like the 100 year space ship, the poisons and drugs of superpowers, the finding of Zermina, which may or may not be a planet capable of sustaining life and powering the future.
I only attended one business-oriented panel, to learn about book covers. There wasn't much new but it did confirm that I was on the right track with my own cover. One thing that I did take away from it was the 30 foot test, the importance of the spine of a book and that at least 80% of purchases in a book store/online store are impulse buys and you had better have something to capture the attention in 10 seconds or less or the reader will move onto something more interesting. It's all fine and dandy to work on your story and pour your heart into it, but if no one can get past your cover, your blurb or the first couple of paragraphs of your book, what's the point because they're not going to read it unless you're already a name in the business.
The dealers room was packed full of fan accessories. I have to admit to making a few purchases.
I had to get a t-shirt.
And the one that truly makes me feel like a fangirl. My very own sonic screwdriver.
The book reading with Julie Czerneda was great. A fantastic sci-fi writer. She read from a manuscript she is currently working on, a departure for her, a fantasy. A consummate professional, a nice lady and a wonderful storyteller. I was fortunate to win an ARC copy of one of her older books, "In the Company of Others."
The piece de resistance were the actor Q&A sessions. At first, I hadn't intended to go to any. I was not one of 'those' fans asking silly questions about obscure details of their favorite shows. But I relented because a con is not complete until you've seen, at least from a distance, one of the guest stars, so I went to the Ben Browder Q&A. The questions were pretty standard. Ones I imagine actors could answer in their sleep. But what hooked me was Ben Browder. He was hilarious and a really good sport and you could tell that he was a fanboy himself and got a kick out of being involved in a con. That was it.
I ended up going to 3 more after that over the next few days: Adam Baldwin, Paul McGillion and Armin Shimerman. They were all wonderful and quite funny, but the one who impressed me the most was the last one. Armin Shimerman is a very talented character actor. Unlike some actors who are annoyed when people ask them to do scenes from plays, he happily did two of them for us. A long scene from his current play and one from Richard III. Amazing performances. He's been teaching Shakespearean acting for 30 years and, he is also a sci-fi writer with a trilogy under his belt.
If you were to ask me the one moment that defined the weekend for me, it was during the "Dr Who and Mr. and Mrs. Pond" panel. It was just a group of fans talking about their favorite show, but near the beginning one of the audience mentioned a specific detail and the entire room when 'oooh, yes' and you knew that every single person in that room knew which episode and scene was being referred to without any further elaboration. It was that moment when I first experienced the incredible feeling of unity and love for a show and its characters, despite any differences in interpretation they may have.
As Ben Browder said, there is nothing quite like the sci-fi community. It truly is a community and this is the world that I have chosen to immerse myself in and write for. I do not regret the choice.