Montreal Comic Con

To recap, my son and I went to Comic Con Montreal in September. We hit some panels, crisscrossed the convention floor several times, saw William Shatner speak and at the end of the day went to the William Shatner/Patrick Stewart “Reunion of the Generations”. It was a great day, an awesome day, filled with Trekkie goodness. I added Wil Wheaton and Brent Spiner to my slowly growing autograph collection of (mostly Star Trek) Science Fiction cultural icons.

There was a lot of great cosplay going on and the population density was probably about as high as FanExpo, though it was around a third the size. Year over year growth was something like 50% for the con, though, which can at least partly be attributed to the gathering of Star Trek star power at the con. William Shatner and Patrick Stewart headlined, and made a rare appearance together on stage. But let’s not stop there. Brent Spiner, Wil Wheaton, John de Lancie, and let’s count Malcolm McDowell (who dropped by on stage with Shatner and Stewart) to round out the Star Trek gathering. Yes, there were other major personalities there, and not just in media, but it was a Trek focus for us, although I wish I had managed the Kevin Sorbo Q&A (Shatner ran long and who was going to tell him to stop if he wanted to keep talking?).

Related to the trip, but not the Con itself, there was food.

Dinner the night we arrived was at Comme par Hasard, an awesome little restaurant on the Longueuil side of the river (where our hotel, the Sandman, happened to be). There I had one of the greatest burgers of my adult life. I can’t think of why it’s never occurred to me to melt blue cheese on a burger before, but combined with the house blend mayonnaise (which I also don’t normally indulge in) made a stellar combination.

And it was a burger kind of trip, I guess, because at we had lunch at a not as small as it looks from the outside restaurant under the name of Montreal Brisket. At this great little place, you’ll find an incredible selection of meat. My son was able to continue on his mission to seek out and consume new animals, adding kangaroo to his list. Yes, a kangaroo burger. He expected it to be chewier, but was happy to have the experience. I went for the elk burger, myself, even though I found ostrich on the menu (which I like).

I left Montreal with some great audio, some great ideas, and some great memories. A few pretty good pictures, too, a selection of which I’ve popped into my flickr stream.

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Montreal Comic Con, a set on Flickr.

It was a long drive home, though.

Be well, everyone.

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4 Levels of Failure

My son and I went to Comic Con Montreal in September. We hit some panels, crisscrossed the convention floor several times, saw William Shatner speak and then at the end of the day went to the William Shatner/Patrick Stewart “Reunion of the Generations”. It was a great father-son experience and the only thing at or around the Con we didn’t do together was early in the day when he went to a Mass Effect 3 panel while I went to see Wil Wheaton speak.

It was a really fun day, marred only by a single, short experience.

This picture has four levels of failure in it and two of them are mine. Combining those four levels together has more or less soured me on the whole Photo Op experience which, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t all that keen on to begin with. I’d rather go and listen to someone speak for an hour, even if it’s at the back of the room, than stand in line for the same hour to get my photograph taken with them. Aside from being far cheaper financially, the time investment feels better spent to me. I really enjoy the presentations and Q&A sessions I go to, though I’ll admit that’s probably a lot because I pick the ones I known I’m going to enjoy.

When I really want that personal touch, I go and get an autograph, something I only recently started to consider as part of my fan experience. The minute or so of small talk while you’re picking your photo and it’s being signed is generally enough to give me that inner thrill. Deliver a quick thank you for the work you’ve enjoyed by that person and another for taking the time to sign for you, and sometimes you come away with a quick fist bump or even a handshake. My autograph experiences have been uniformly positive so far. I won’t go when the line is huge as there’s always too much else to see at the Con, but if you’re paying attention, you can often time things really well except for the super big names.

But, as I was saying, four levels of failure.

1. The Convention

Enamored by the vast, insufficiently tapped geek wallet, some power behind the Con decided that it would shove as many people through the photo ops as possible, which makes the experience measurable by a tiny march of seconds. I know this makes a certain kind of financial sense—more photos = more $$ —but it’s also not treating your customer base with respect. More irritated people is going to equal fewer $$ next year for similar events. Sacrificing the long term for the short is never a good business strategy, but it seems to be the way things work lately. Comic Con fail.

2. The Photographer

Either because s/he had no option due to the over-scheduling or because s/he was just too lazy, the Photographer didn’t have enough pride in his/her work to take the extra second or two with each person that would make a good picture. The words “squeeze in” followed by a shuffle to the right by my son was all that was needed. Photographer fail.

3. I’m too Canadian

I could have complained. I should have complained. Yes, I’m far too polite. Yes, it’s a culture stereotype in the Great White North, but it’s not a hard and fast rule. Sometimes you need to complain, even if you know it won’t do any good, and I know it wouldn’t have in this case. How do I know? I saw some of the other photos people were picking up. Ours may not be that great, but there were a lot worse on the table and you can be damned sure the Con wasn’t letting people circle back through for another try. The process isn’t set up to allow it. Personal (cultural?) fail.

4. My inner fanboy is a brainless idiot

How much presence of mind would it have taken to grab my son by the shoulder and pull him closer in? Not much, but I wasn’t just getting my picture taken, I was standing a handful of centimeters from Captain Kirk and Captain Picard. Close enough to be able to put a hand on each shoulder. Oh yes, my inner fan boy was running the show and he has no idea what’s going on in the rest of the world. I’d thought myself evolved enough in parenting that this couldn’t happen. I always pay attention to my kids when there’s anything going on. My purpose is always to ensure that they’re having the best time. Always. Only apparently not always. For just long enough to screw up the photo, I let my proximity to a pair of cultural icons suck all of the brains out of my head. This will not happen again, no matter what the experience is. But it happened this time. Parenting fail.

Rectifying any one of these failures would have resulted in a better photo, a real memento to help crystallize the memory of an awesome moment. As it is, I do have the memory of standing with my son next to a pair of bright, shining beacons of Star Trek, the conversation and time we spent in line and moving through the cattle stalls to get there and the excitement of the picture being taken. But I also have the memory of the disappointment in the photographic evidence.

The disappointment is secondary. We were there and we shared the moment, if not as well as I’d like. Given another opportunity, will I shell out for a better photo? Not for myself, but if he wants it, I’ll stand in line far longer and be far more alert while doing it.

For reference, if the picture taken a ¼ second sooner, my son swears he had a giant smile on his face, and I believe that because he was pretty excited, but he was still half hidden behind Sir Patrick.

Also for reference, the picture my girls had done with Rose McGowan at FanExpo in August turned out spectacularly well.

The Girls With Rose McGowan

Each experience on its own terms. Learn and grow and adapt.

Be well, everyone.

Fan Expo, The Aftermath

[audio https://renaissanceninja.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/004-fanexpo-aftermath1.mp3]

004 FanExpo Aftermath

It was tough to get up this morning and not get ready to go to Fan Expo. But the con is over and I’m at home now. Actually, I’m at work now and it’s past midnight already. Coming back into nights after a two-week vacation isn’t easy and it’s probably going to be a few days before I can establish a normal sleep pattern.

So, exhausted and sad, and my teenager is trying to talk me into Montreal Comic Con in mid-September so we can see William Shatner and Patrick Stewart on stage at the same time. Since I already have two of the three Con days off, I have to say that it’s not taking a lot of arm twisting. Comes down to whether the bank account can handle it.

But this post is about the Fan Expo experience, which was mostly a good one. If I had to pick one thing to be less than happy about it would be the crowds and lines. I really think the Con has outgrown the space it’s taking up and I hope they’re working on how to expand things next year. Fan Expo isn’t quite as big as the San Diego or New York Comic Cons, but it’s not really all that far off anymore. If I had to pick a second thing, it would be the page taken from the book of Ikea that you can only go in or out in one place and that those places are mutually exclusive

If I had to pick one thing to be happy about, I can’t. I met people and celebrities (who are also people), went to great panels and Q&A sessions, took pictures, shopped in a geek friendly environment, made a couple of new friends, both in the flesh and virtually, and got to watch all of the members of my family have a great time across the four days we were there.

But yes, we’re all exhausted.

Did I see everything I wanted to? No, but that’s impossible in an event this size. We all did pretty well, I think.

Unpacking wasn’t as painful as it might have been, thanks to the organizational abilities of my awesome wife, and while we still need to figure out placement and distribution of certain items of swag, the geek factor in the house is going up, which is always a good thing.

Looking at it from a writing slant, I came back from the convention with a tonne of notes and ideas, mostly for blog/article topics but a couple of story kernels as well. A lot of those ideas stem from one panel, “So You’re A Gamer and No One Understands You”, which ran over a lot of different ideas during the discussion, but I took a lot of thoughts away from Fan Expo this year. And I’m going to share one of them here.

In the second half of his Q&A session, John Rhys-Davies made a significant point that has been ringing in my ears ever since. Me paraphrasing a little, he gave the advice that everyone should find something they love enough to do for free and then make sure you get paid for it, and he thought the point important enough to repeat.

I completely agree and think I’ve hidden behind things long enough. There are a lot of things I love to do and I do some of them just for the love of it and some for free. It’s time to start finding ways to get paid doing them.

Be well, everyone.