Keep on shouting
When the billing for this year’s FandomFest (part of the Fright Night Film Fest) went up and I saw Gene Simmons’ name, I was more than a little excited about going. I went last year, and despite the insanity to get our tickets at Will Call, it turned out to be an interesting event. This year, I knew to expect a little chaos, but with the level of geek celeb billing, I hoped the convention would have pulled together a bit more and tied up some of their loose ends.
My husband and I went together on Saturday, and I returned alone on Sunday to do a bit of writing and to try to catch a peek at Simmons, since I knew I couldn’t afford tickets for autographs or the meet-and-greet.
I was excited to see others — John Barrowman from “Doctor Who” and “Torchwood,” for instance — but most of all, Gene Simmons. He’s one of the reasons I became who I am. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. The closest I got was a holding room with two lines going into a narrow doorway where Simmons was signing autographs. I didn’t even catch a glimpse.
For me, the con was not a total bust. I met quite a few of the celebrities. I remember seeing Jason Momoa (Khal Drogo on “Games of Thrones”) and knowing I was in danger of ruining my marriage if I didn’t keep my distance. The highlight was having Joey Lauren Adams (“Chasing Amy”) ask if I was writing for a right-wing organization. I had to assure her that I was not before I could take her picture. Me, with dreadlocks — some of them dyed blue.
The con’s problems cannot be chalked up to growing pains or a lack of volunteers. This was a mess. The schedule was wrong. Information about the celebrity guests was wrong. It ran late. There was little signage. At one time, rumors had the con shut down, and people who had paid for their entire families were being turned away at the door without refunds for tickets.
When you host an event and charge people hefty sums of money for VIP tickets and photo-ops, you have to get it right. Getting it right does not mean perfect. With the amount of money attendees paid to come to FandomFest, it is disappointing that the organizers did not take care to ensure the basic functions of the convention moved smoothly.
At the event, I took notice of the types of people. The crowd was mixed, but overwhelmingly geeky. The Japanese also have a word for this type of dedication: “otaku.” It refers to any person who has an obsessive interest in a subject, whether that is anime, comic books, horror movies or, in my case, geisha culture and killing Wilhelm in “Borderlands 2.” This type of convention is home base for otaku of all kinds.
The types who become otaku are many, but the majority are those who have struggled to fit in, overcome their anxieties and connect with the outside world. You see, being otaku takes a lot of time and often puts the individual in the light of being a “weirdo.” It is important when you have spent much time learning about something, collecting memorabilia and being called weird because of it — you want to see that something presented in the best light possible.
You want your experience to be enriching. When attending a convention such as FandomFest, it is the expectation of the core audience that they will find fellowship, have the chance to shop for items that add to their collections and maybe have an opportunity to meet a celebrity.
It is the duty of the organizers to honor their attendees and the people who live geek culture by getting it right. I’ve heard stories about people having anxiety attacks from standing in long lines, and vendors that suffered because their shoppers were stuck in those lines. I hope the organizers hear their audience and pull it together, or lose them to the other regional conventions.
Erica Rucker is a freelance weirdo, writer and professional wedding/portrait photographer at eElaine Photography.