Trent Ernst, Editor
Spiderman is trying to teach Superman how to dance.
It is day one of the Northern Fancon, at the Breaking Beats after-party. On stage, R. J. Mitte, best known for his role as Walter Jr. on the TV show Breaking Bad, is behind the mixing console. On the dance floor, maybe two dozen people bounce up and down.
It’s impossible to hear anything over the music, but watching the two heroes, their conversation is plain in their movements. “Come on, it’s easy,” Spiderman seems to say. Then he points at his feet. He begins the most basic dance floor shuffle, stepping left and right rhythmically in time with the music.
Superman stares at the other’s feet for a moment, then begins to imitate, though instead of moving with the music, he is merely stepping back and forth.
Spiderman smiles, and begins to dance a little more intensely, getting his upper body involved, and swaying to the music. Superman continues to step left and right, back and forth for a few more moments, then turns and walks off the dance floor, to join the dozens of people lining the walls of the Kin 2 Arena in Prince George.
First days for a new Fancon
While jocks have their sports teams to unite them, there is an entire group of people, who fall somewhere along the geek/nerd spectrum, who historically have spent their lives isolated or in small groups.
Isolated, that is, until the rise of the convention. While not a new phenomenon—the first science fiction fan convention happened in 1936—but it is only in the last decade or so that these conventions have hit the cultural mainstream, and it is only this year that they have come this far north.
Northern Fancon is the first of its kind in Northern BC, a chance for people who are fans to get together and celebrate their geeky obsession with, well, everything. Comic books, movies, TV show, video games…it’s even open to people who are passionate about sports teams, though these are in short supply over the three days of Fancon.
The largest and most popular convention is the San Diego ComicCon, which draws over 130,000 people every year. That’s nearly twice the number of people that live in Prince George. While the focus of ComicCon is on Comics, it has expanded to become ground zero for geek culture in general.
The big draw to Fancon is the stars. This year’s headliner is William Shatner, best known for his role as Captain Kirk on Star Trek, the Original Series (ST:TOS for those of us in the club). He is signing autographs (at $75 a pop) and posing for photos ($50). He also does a one-hour session, telling stories from his acting days and answering questions from the audience. Shatner is also famous for his “get a life” skit from Saturday Night Live, where he berates fans at a convention for being obsessive over ST:TOS. It’s funny, but only because it cuts close to the bone.
Shatner isn’t the only star on hand. Isaiah Mustafah (the Old Spice Guy; yes, there are fans of a TV commercial) is there, as is Jewel Staite (Caylee from Firefly, Shiny!), Tia Carrere (The Relic Hunter), Giancarlo Esposito (Gus from Breaking Bad), John de Lancie (Q from ST:TNG), Michael Hogan (Colonel Tigh from Battlestar Galactica) and Gigi Edgley (Chiana from Farscape).
What is a geek?
Let’s get this out of the way right now. Geek is not a pejorative. While it has been used as an insult in the hands of some, when used properly, it means simply someone who is passionate about something. Do you know what the cell number Princess Leia was in? (Cell 2187 in Detention Block AA-23) Then you might just be a geek. Do you know how many goals the Sedin brothers scored this year? (82 apiece.) Then you, too, might be a geek. Does every conversation you have eventually come around to the tragic cancellation of Firefly and how Joss Whedon really needs to use his newfound Hollywood Cred to reboot the show? (Please?) Then you are definitely a geek. Geeks are people who, well, geek out about stuff, who love the details of whatever they are passionate about.
It is possible to geek out about the newest Avengers movie or about the latest concept car from Audi. Geeks get excited by baseball box scores or by the fact that Mark Hamill reprised his role as the Trickster in the new Flash TV show. Geeks will spend hours playing Halo or NHL 2015 or reading the latest Brandon Sanderson novel or…. You get the picture. A geek is simply a fan writ large, writ more passionate. Yes, many geeks are borderline obsessives, and many more gleefully traipse over that border into full-on obsession. A small sub-group of these become what is known as Cosplayers.
Cosplayers are geeks who love what they love so much that they spend hours creating costumes of their favourite characters, and there are dozens, perhaps hundreds on display at Northern Fancon. Costumes range from the simple (a kid walks by with a Darth Vader Halloween Mask), to the highly ornate (one person is dressed as Cersei Lannester from the TV show Game of Thrones. While her costume is not as eye catching as the fellow dressed in full-on predator costume, she says she spent over a hundred hours doing just the beadwork on the bodice.)
Cosplayers of all stripes, and skill levels walk the convention floor. As he is leaving the main area, Deadpool stops, busts a move, then continues on, wandering past a group of storm troopers. A pair of kids walk past, dressed as blue warrior and white warrior from a classic karate video game that was old before they were ever born. Indiana Jones walks past a wookie with a human head. A pair of Starfleet officers walk past, him in command red, she in science blue. There are steampunk skeletons and a rainbow-hue of Anime style wigs.
Cosplay is so big, in fact, that one of the headline guests is Lindsay Elyse, a professional cosplayer. She’s signing autographs and doing photo ops (at $21 per) and her line-up is just as long as Tia Carrere’s. While all the other famous people are dressed in street clothes, Elyse is in full costume.
Every geek stereotype is here. The awkward overweight dude with glasses the mousy brunette with glasses and frizzy hair. These are my people, and I keep seeing faces I think I recognize, but realize that they are just analogues. Archetypes. But there’s a lot of people here who you wouldn’t peg as geeks.
Two of those people are Debbie and Lloyd Frank. The two Tumbler Ridge residents don’t look like the sort that you’d expect to see at a Fancon. And Debbie says that if they hadn’t won the tickets in the Tumbler Ridge News giveaway, they probably wouldn’t have attended. But she’s so glad they did. “I enjoyed every minute of it,” she says. “I wasn’t sure what to expect. We’ve never been to a convention like this, but it was great. The celebrities were all amazing. Friendly, easy to talk to. It was a lot a money, even with the free tickets. You paid for autographs, you paid for pictures, but once in a lifetime to meet these people.”
Debbie says, while she was a fan of ST:TOS, she was there to see John de Lancie. While he’s best known for his role as Q, she says she became a fan of his back when he was doing daytime television. “When my kids were little, I was a housewife, and didn’t work,” she says. “I watched him on Days of Our Lives thirty years ago. He made the show for me. He was the comic relief character. When he became Q on Star Trek, I was following his career, so started watching that.”
Husband Lloyd, she says, took a different path to fandom, becoming a huge fan of the sci-fi genre after seeing Star Wars.
“We’re not the kind of people who would normally go out to meet celebrities. It’s not the sort of people we are, but it was so great,” she says. “I babbled like a school kid when I met de Lancie. “Can I call you Eugene (Bradford, de Lancie’s Days of Our Lives character)?” We’re not the type to follow the circuit, but I know after this weekend, if we get the opportunity to go again, we probably will go. We enjoyed ourselves so much. Lloyd’s already said if we get a chance to go to another one he wants to dress up as a Klingon, because there were no Klingons at the event. “
Debbie says that there were a number of surprises at the event for her. She says that Michael Hogan’s talk was a highlight, as after his talk, he came out into the crowd and just talked to people.
But the thing that stood out most for her? Was how fandom crosses all borders. It has no race, colour, creed or age. “There were so many children there. I was sorry I hadn’t brought our grandkid. There was this little boy who was afraid of Artoo-Detoo when he first came out, but by the end of it, he was following Artoo and trying to talk to him and shake hands with him. There were people of all ages, from six months and up. And you didn’t hear any kids crying because they were so enthralled. There were so many generations there, that’s what stood out the most. I was very much taken with the fact that it was so family oriented.”
See more of our photos from Fancon on our Facebook Page.