MegaCon has restored my faith in conventions.
That is not to say that it was without fault. There were issues, which I’ll get into below. But I’ve been to several cons since my last convention report (nearly a year and a half now!), and one of the reasons I haven’t posted is because many of the experiences have been so negative.
Fandom brings me great joy. Fandom is my chance to escape a high pressure job and nearly unbearable family responsibilities for a couple of weekends a year and to touch base with the things that gave me hope and inspired me when I was young. Conventions should not end in tears, yet the last few I attended have. One landed me in Urgent Care.
Luckily, this one did not.
On Friday night, as I was sitting in the airport waiting on my flight to Orlando, I wasn’t too sure that would be the case. The flight was over two hours late, which meant that I missed my connecting flight. After an hour or so of anxiety, I got a seat on a later flight. Unfortunately, that meant that I did not arrive in Orlando until midnight, and I did not make it to my room until nearly 1 a.m. Considering that I had bought a three-day ticket, on the assumption I would get there in time to do something Friday night, I was disappointed.
I was staying in the headquarters’ hotel, the Doubletree Hilton at SeaWorld. The resort was lovely, the room was quiet, and the convention organizers had provided (air conditioned!) shuttles to take us to the Orange County Convention Center. So that saved my poor feet and back the twenty minute trek to the convention center. Unfortunately, I would have gotten there a lot faster if I had walked. The traffic onto the Interstate was insane, and while I anticipated I would make it there by 10 a.m. (when doors opened) it was nearly forty minutes later by the time we finally made it there.
I assumed, like most large cons, there would be a long line to get in. There wasn’t one. That doesn’t mean that there were not a lot of people there–there were thousands. Upon thousands. Upon thousands. The numbers I’ve seen online estimate somewhere between 75,000-80,000, and that feels about right. Think Calgary Expo Stampede Ground numbers. And like Calgary, things were reasonably well-organized for an event of that size. It took about ten minutes to get inside, another ten minutes to get my prepaid advance ticket, and then I was in.
Compare that to the Wizard Worlds where you stand in line several hours to just get in the door, or Louisville FrightNight where I had to stand in line over two hours just to pick up my prepaid ticket for a photo op. MegaCon could have been a complete clusterfuck, but it wasn’t.
On the other hand, the attendees at MegaCon were some of the rudest I’ve ever encountered (oh, Calgary, how I miss you). One of the emcees felt it germaine to work into his act guidelines for common con etiquette, including showers and deodorant, which I assume meant that there were quite a few first time con goers there and that accounted for some of the nastiness. But some of it couldn’t be–a young woman I walked by called out a truly filthy remark which I won’t repeat here (but roughly translated equates to calling me a cheap whore). Since I did not make eye contact with this person, speak to her, or touch her in any way, and since I was dressed conservatively in bermudas and a tee shirt that covered everything that could be considered “cheap,” I have no idea where that idea came from or why she felt compelled to scream it at me as I walked past her.
The nastiness did not stop at the con. When I spoke to locals and told them I was in town for the con, they were openly rude and condescending to me, putting me and all sf afficianados down. Considering that Orlando is a tourist town, that’s a pretty stupid thing to do from an economic viewpoint. Orlando, if you don’t want money from 80.000 people, I’m sure there is another city that will.
Anyway, back to the con. Once I was in, it was a blast. There were some amazing vendors there, but given that I had flown in with a backpack and a purse, it was difficult but necessary to reign myself in on purchases. I just bought one tee shirt, but I was tempted to buy a lot more. I wish I had gotten in earlier on Friday, because I would have loved to have spent more time looking and talking with some of the artists and craftspeople who were there.
My reason for being there was the Torchwood reunion. Originally, five of the performers were to have been there, but Kai Owen and Burn Gorman had to pull out. That left John Barrowman, Eve Myles, and Gareth David-Lloyd. That still meant that Torchwood-level insanity would ensue. So I decided to head up to the room for the panel and get in line.
The trip up the escalator took less time than I feared. It after noon, and the bulk of the attendees were beginning to pour in the front doors. I made it upstairs and hung out and chatted with people while the organizers were clearing and setting up the room for the panel.
That said, I still had trouble finding a seat. Torchwood fans, take heart–it may have been several years since the show has been on the air, but no one has forgotten about it. It was SRO and the capacity for the room was 2000.
Unlike the Wizard Worlds, the organizers actually asked us to move forward and fill in the empty VIP seats so more people could come in and see the panel (Yay! Megacon). They had projectors set up, and those on the left side of the room got to see a pantomime behind the screen–John tried to steal a kiss from Gareth–who waved his finger at him No, no, no.
That, it turned out, was just foreplay.
Because we got to move forward into the empty VIP seats, I was off to the side but still fairly close to the stage, and, luckily, I had my camera out and was recording when the Torchwood trio came on stage–and at just the right angle to be able to see what was happening behind the table.
What can I say? It’s Torchwood. Spanking, threesomes, and simulated rear entry. That’s how Torchwood rolls. For real. I got the video. Go look at it.
Go on. You know you want to see how this turns out.
Gareth David-Lloyd and Eve Myles Give John Barrowman A Good Spanking–While He Records It On His Phone!
Some days when I write these captions I feel like I’m writing for the tabloids.
Anyhow, I won’t go over everything that was said. There’s also video up by another attendee of the entire panel on YouTube. They answered questions, they told stories about the show, they laughed and joked and teased each other. It’s clear that they consider each other family, and that made us feel like a part of the family too. It was wonderful, and everyone around me seemed to be having a great time. I was in fan heaven.
Best question of the panel? Someone asked John Barrowman what it was like to kiss Gareth. John assures us Gareth is a very good kisser.
Silliest moment? John and Gareth teasing Eve about her “ninja tits” (she has just had another little girl and is still pumping). More pantomime ensued (you can imagine).
Afterward, it was time for photo ops. This is where things really got screwed up. No one knew what they were doing, there were not enough people working the lines, and the signage was not adequate. There was a woman working the lines who was the most hateful employee I have encountered at a con since Torchsong. People were queueing in line as they had been instructed by another employee when this woman comes out and starts screaming insanely at people to “GET OUT GET OUT GET ALL THE WAY OUT. NO ONE IS ALLOWED IN A LINE EXCEPT VIP. GET OUT. DON’T EVEN STAND NEAR THE LINES. GET ALL THE WAY OUT OF HERE IF YOU ARE NOT A VIP. DON’T EVEN STAND IN THE PHOTO OP AREA. GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT.”
I’m not talking raise your voice to be authoritative and to be heard. This was hateful, disrespectful, and mean.
So while I am standing in the food court because I have been chased out of the photo op area despite having a ticket for a photo op that was supposed to have started a half hour earlier, I see someone FINALLY come out and start putting up signage to tell people where they should queue. And then I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, because these people are so incompetent they don’t even know the names of the people they are photographing .
David Gareth Lloyd??? Who Is That?
Finally, we got in. I had limited money, because flights to Orlando are damned expensive, so I had decided to just get a pic with all three of my Torchwood heroes. How often are all three of them in the same place? So I go in, and people are standing between Gareth and John, with Eve on the other side of John, and I say to the guys, “Where do you want me, boys?” Gareth starts to pull me in for a hug, but then John goes to grab me and pull me toward him for a hug. Gareth pulls me over me again–I’m in the middle of a tug of war!– and then John reaches around and puts his hand on Gareth’s back and his other hand on Eve, who is laughing at them, and pulls us all in together for a group hug, saying “In the middle!” Yes, Sir. I’m laughing too at this point–and of course that’s the minute the photographer decides to take the pic, so I’m there with my mouth open like a guppy. But it turned out to be a good pic anyway–everyone was laughing and smiling, and it didn’t look like one of those awkward faked posed pictures you often get. There was a genuine, fun energy to it, and I was pleased.
And, to give the photographers credit, they said the photos would be ready to pick up in forty-five minutes–and they were! I redeemed my ticket for the digital download and overhead a family complaining to the manager. I’ll respect their privacy and won’t give details, but it involved the shrill screaming woman and a child. Could someone please fire this woman? Or at least get her some sensitivity training?
At that point, I was exhausted, so I took the shuttle back to the hotel to take a nap. I had tickets to see James Marsters’ band Ghost of the Robot that evening, and I wanted to be rested and up for the performance. I went back over to the convention center a little early and popped into the Rosen Center Hotel to have some sushi and then made my way back across the street for the concert.
Except for some vids on YouTube, I hadn’t heard much Ghost of the Robot music. I had heard people rave about the band at cons, and I knew GOTR had given Gareth’s band, Blue Gillespie, their start by asking them to open for them in the U.K., so I figured if they liked Blue Gillespie enough to give them their break, I’d probably like their music too. I was really glad that I went, because It was a great gig. Despite the fact the room was so cold we were all there shivering in our short sleeves, the band keep energized and did a full hour set of their own original music (if you’d like to check them out, here’s the official Ghost of the Robot page on YouTube). I’d read in reviews that people compare Marsters to Michael Hutchence, and could definitely hear why in his voice. I also got a Green Day vibe from a few songs as well, which pleased me, and I was also very pleased with their blues number too. The hour flew by, always a sign that you are in the presence of good musicians; they tapped into the energy of the music and took us along for the ride. I was impressed enough that I actually bought some of their cds, and I have not regretted the purchase.
James Marsters at Ghost of the Robot Concert
I’d missed the shuttle to the hotel, so I popped back over to the Rosen to get a cab. It was about the same time that the Barrowman meet and greet was letting out, and I got a chance to talk to some folks who had attended. I had gone to the Torchwood meet and greet in Calgary, so I didn’t go to this one, but John had set up the event as part of his fundraising for his new album. He’s still collecting pledges, so if you’d like to contribute to the project, here is the webpage where you can learn about it. One of the people I talked to from the meet and greet told me that John had said that by crowdsourcing the album, John will have the freedom to choose the songs that he and his fans love, not just those that a recording company have rights to or think will be most profitable.
A couple of nightcaps back at the hotel, a chat with an absolutely adorable young gay couple who were obviously madly in love, and a drunken frat type yelling “cougar” at me across the bar–it was time to call it a night.
Sunday is always autograph day for me. Everyone looks like crap and is hungover on Sundays, so there’s no point doing photo ops if you can avoid it. So I went over super early, got in line, and as soon as the doors opened made my way to the celebrity section of the hall.
On the agenda was to complete a Torchwood Children Of Earth trio photo that Eve had signed at a previous con–that meant lines for John and Gareth. I also had never gotten Marsters’ autograph before; I had met him and had a photo, but I had never been able to get a signature. I was determined that today I would.
I know John is always one of the first to make it to the convention floor, so I got in line for him first. He didn’t disappoint. I snapped a picture of him while in line.
Who looks that good at 10:30 on a Sunday morning? Amazing. John signed my photo and, as usual, took time to chat with me. If you have never had the chance to actually meet and talk to him, I really, really urge you to do it. He is genuinely a great guy, and his respect and affection for his fans is evident. He treats everyone with respect and consideration, whether it is a toddler, a squeeing fangirl, or a grandma. And if you’re game for a little cheekiness, well, he’s up for that too.
Next, I went for Marsters’ line as it was already starting to get really long (at one point the lines for some of the celebrities were all the way outside the man hall snaking back towards concessions. Friendly advice for newbies: if you want autographs, haul yourself out of bed and get there at the crack of dawn). The band members were at the table too, and I got to chat with them before I moved down the line to James. He, too, is a gentleman, taking time to talk to you, make eye contact, and genuinely engage with you. While some celebrities don’t like to make physical contact with fans, James shakes your hand after the signing. (Adam Baldwin is another who does this, but that is a story for another day). James didn’t have any pictures of Captain John (darn!) but I’m perfectly happy with sulky Spike. While I was in line, I saw James take a photo with a fan at the table, and he not only hugged her but leaned over and kissed her on the top of her head. She was so overcome she was trembling. He did not tease her about it–again, someone who is very respectful and considerate of his fans.
See why I love Torchwood fandom so much? There is not one person involved in this show that I have met who has not been an absolute wonder of a human being.
So, next up–Gareth. Since they were doing photos at the tables, I decided I was going to ask Gareth for one. I’ve had several with him before, but when I went over to the table, I saw he had on The Hat. You know, The Hat. The Hat he was wearing at the first Sex, Wales, and Anarchy concert. You don’t remember The Hat? Go look at it, here.
As it turns out, it wasn’t The Hat. It was The Hat’s Twin. But The Hat’s Twin is still an awesome hat (go look here). Coupled with the new beard, The Hat made Gaz even more adorable (is that possible?). So I just had to have a picture. As luck would have it, there was a lull in the line, so I also got a chance not only to get a picture but also to chat with him about his new movie, I Am Alone. The crew was finishing up the last scenes in L.A. that weekend, and I asked Gaz if he thought the film would be making the festival circuit this year. He said no, it would take most of the rest of the year for post-production, and the film probably wouldn’t make it to the festivals until 2015.
At that point, people were starting to walk over to his table, so we had to end the conversation, but after the con, Gareth tweeted some news about another one of his projects that he was promoting at he con called Enoch the Traveler. Enoch is a novel by Lady Soliloque, about a woman who finds a man unconscious in her driveway. When she takes him in and tries to get to the bottom of who he is and why he is at her house, they are confronted by dangerous and otherworldly visitors who plunge her into a world that tests her understanding of the boundaries of reality and her own abilities. I have read the book. It is very, very good, and I am a pretty demanding reader. It’s a fast-paced, engaging story, and it poses some interesting philosophical and ethical questions as well. Gareth has been involved with the audiobook version of Enoch as the narrator, and it has just been announced that Enoch will be filmed as a limited run series, with Gareth playing the character of Nickolov. I’m not going to spoil the story by telling you about Nickolov other than to say this is not a Ianto-like character–it’s going to give Gareth a chance to explore a whole new range of emotions and experiences in his character-builiding. If you would like to know more about the project, you can find out more on the Enoch the Traveler page. Gareth also now has a personal twitter account @pancheers where he is posting updates on his projects as well as personal tweets and pictures.
I had succeeded in getting all three of my autographs (and an awesome pic of Gaz), so I made another round of the hall to see what I could see. My fangirl heart nearly exploded when I saw Dirk Benedict was there. I managed to get a fuzzy pic of him on my phone.
I was madly in love with him when I was a kid, between Battlestar Galactica and the A-Team. Richard Hatch was supposed to be there, but I didn’t see him, and I was also disappointed that I did not see Manu Bennett from Arrow. I did, however see Will Wheaton, and I thought it was pretty funny to hear a parent tell a child, “That’s the guy who is on Big Bang Theory with Sheldon.” Ah, Wesley, have they forgotten you already? There were folks there from The Walking Dead, but the lines were so long I couldn’t get near to see them.There was a truly amazing display of fanmade Star Wars items from Han Solo in carbonite to remote controlled R2D2s.
Han Solo in Carbonite
At that point, I needed to call it a weekend and make it to the airport, where I had the shock of flying from a location where it was 83 degrees to another where it was 18. Ah March. It’s supposed to come in like a lamb, out like a lion, not in like a lion, out like a lion.
Anyway, overall, I smiled more at Megacon than frowned. I got a reasonable amount of sleep, and I managed to eat healthy meals (most of the time). I met more nice people than rude people. I got an awesome Doctor Who teeshirt. I got to see my heroes again, and that brought some joy back into my life. I had fun. Megacon, bring back the Torchwood Trio, and I’ll be there. In a flash. I need more joy in my life.
P.S. I do want to give credit where credit is due. Despite the shrill screaming woman in the photo ops line, the photographers, who had promised the digital downloads would be up in 7-10 days, actually had them up within five. Given how many they had, and how long it could have taken, I was impressed. The transfer of the file went smoothly, and there were no glitches.