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I’ve been to conferences before, but they’ve always been writing-related, mostly having to do with the business of writing and publishing. They’re not stuffy, but they’re not exactly Mardi Gras, either.
Frankly, I wasn’t prepared for a real sci-fi convention. And make no mistake, GalaxyFest 2012 (which we previewed here) is definitely the real deal. The convention veterans with whom I spoke over the weekend gave rave reviews.
Here's how I experienced two days at the fest.
Saturday — Baptism by (Phaser) Fire
My son and I didn’t think that arriving in costume would be such a big deal. Little did we know. Upon entering the Antlers Hilton’s lobby, we were immediately treated to costumed characters who ran the gamut from Star Trek and Dr. Who, to G.I. Joe, and a galaxy of weird and wonderful blends. One that stood out is a character from the movie Predator, who has inhabited a Stormtrooper’s uniform. The result was a bloody, spectacular mess.
I didn’t quite realize that corsets were almost mandatory. I also didn’t realize that well-done handmade costumes are respected over store-bought costumes. One of the rules for participants in the masquerade/costume show was that the outfits must be handmade; no store-bought or rented costumes allowed. Participants can’t pull out a welding torch and work on their costumes in the green room, either. (The fact that this is a rule actually makes me smile quite a bit.)
My 10-year-old wound up hanging out in the puzzle-and-game room, as well as on the “bridge” of the starship Artimus, a spaceship simulator that requires a full crew to run. He also got to take the stage as an audience volunteer with Dean Haglund and Denise Crosby, in an improvisational show that left the audience in stitches.
While he was off doing that, I attended a Q-and-A with Chase Masterson, who told us that kissing a Ferengi is actually pretty fun, and that she is of the opinion that to be a Star Trek actor requires a little more education, and not just a nicely polished set of straight teeth.
I took in the steampunk fashion show once my son moved on to the science-officer role on the bridge of the Artimus. This fashion show was an amazing amalgam of Victorian beauty and mechanical anachronism ... and you haven’t lived until you’ve seen steampunk belly-dancing.
Tired and smiling, we made our way home. I would have loved to have seen the kilt-blowing, but that was part of the adult track, and my son already had an eyeful of corseted marvels. He was happy. In fact, he looked at me and declared the day to be among his top three ever, in his whole life, only eclipsed by visits to Legoland and Disneyland.
Sunday — In Which I Happily Hemorrhage Cash
In all my conversations with the celebrities, guests, and attendees of GalaxyFest, I never thought to ask about the nuts and bolts of cons. As at author conferences, most of the guests have something for the fans to scoop up and treasure: autographed pictures, books, videos, comics. A slick promotional photograph with personalized autograph goes for around $25. Videos and books vary.
Of course, I had to buy a little of everything: a picture of Masterson “for my son,” a video of him on stage with Dean and Denise, souvenir T-shirts. In the end, the very modest collection of keepsakes sort of came as a shock to the wallet.
I made all these purchases and bade farewell to a couple folks I'll be keeping in contact with. Meanwhile, my son ... was still on the bridge of the Artimus. The creator of the starship simulator, Thom Robertson, explained, "The kids naturally get into the teamwork aspect to get the missions done."
No question, the con was something I didn’t expect, and produced some memories that I will never forget. Yes, I’m a bit lighter in the wallet, but that’s a small price to pay for my 10-year-old’s third-best day ever.