Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Wrath of Con

Holy crap.

I got a package in the mail today from a buddy of mine living in Vegas.  We grew up on a steady diet of science fiction movies and TV shows, spending many hours of our youth tucked away in a dark theater on a hot summer day watching some sci-fi geekfest that we waited a few hours in line to see and, of course, several years anticipating its release; we clamored for tiny tidbits of info in a pre-internet age where Starlog or Famous Monsters magazines would dump a sneak-peek photo that only piqued our curiosity even more.

I opened the box and inside the carefully-wrapped plastic bag was a signed photo of Richard Hatch, the first "Apollo" from the 1970s incarnation of Battlestar Galactica and more recently the villain "Zarek" from the newer Battlestar series from a few years ago. 

A smile grew across my face as I held it up and read the inscription.  He signed it to me and my son in silver Sharpie ink, which, I thought, looked very futuristic. It would take a place of honor between my Alex Ross-signed Justice League postcard, a Jack Johnson-signed tour poster, a photo of my son standing next to Lee Unkrich, the director of Toy Story 3 (and a fellow Clevelander) and a recently-added Meat Loaf-signed Bat Out of Hell album cover.

My buddy included a booklet showcasing the industry that is the traveling Star Trek convention.

Yikes.

Like a herd of banthas, these conventions move across the country, stopping at various cities for a weekend of mirth and nostalgia.  Well, and to cash in on fanboys' fixation on cancelled TV shows and impossibly large-breasted superheroines. 

Which begs the question:  How does Power Girl fly with those massive boobs weighing her down?  Her physique reminds me of a hot air balloon needing lift and its pilot madly tossing anything heavy out of the gondola just to gain a little altitude.  Note to DC Comics:  In an age of amped-up, cinema verite heroes, please bear in mind your female characters need to be a lot more aerodynamic to become a little more realistic.

This booklet, more like a multi-community Yellow Pages tome, listed the events for "The Official Las Vegas Star Trek Convention, August 9-12, 2012."  It was huge and read like a college course guide.  This three day convention had events on the hour, every hour, and showcased several interesting Trek-related themes.  I glanced through this book and, much like anything related to Sin City, realized this was an event squarely designed to remove as much money from the average Star Trek nerd's pockets as possible.  Who needs slots and craps tables when there are photo opps, autograph signings, live theater performances and hall upon hall of merchadise for sale all populating the three-day schedule?

You could buy event tickets to get in line before anyone else to meet the Ferengi guys from ST:TNG (for those of you who don't speak Geek, that translates roughly into "Star Trek: The Next Generation), or attend a summit, no shit, on "Asteroids, propulsion and NASA's Dawn Mission to Vesta," whatever the hell that is.  Appropriately, the seminar was subtitled "Think Ion Propulsion is Limited Only to the Eymorgs of Sigma Draconis?"

Why, yes, I did.

I'll admit it:  I'm a geek.  I've always loved sci-fi movies and the promise of space's final frontier.  I daydreamed a lot when I was younger, which explains why I'm writing this blog from a mancave instead of the Bat Cave (A little geek humor, for those of you that don't speak Klingon is a reference to Bruce Wayne, multi-billionaire and part of the 1% who would never write from the comfort of a Mountain Dew-stained carpeted mancave...) 

I can tell you the genealogy of the Skywalker clan.  I can name the USS Enterprise's first full crew, most of ST:TNG's crew and may even know the Kryptonian names of Clark Kent's real parents, but some of this stuff made me, a die-hard geek, feel a little, well, uncomfortable.  I love sci-fi but never took it this seriously.  I never fantasized about the green-skinned chick that Kirk banged in one of the first season's episodes of the original series ("ST:TOS"). 

People really freaked out when Kirk kissed Uhura, the black chick on the Enterprise.  Big deal, you might say, forty-plus years after the fact.  But it was scandalous for 1960s television; CBS was threatened by boycotts and lawsuits when Kirk locked lips with a, gulp, woman of another race. How come no one said anything about Kirk copulating with a girl from another species?  I'm sure hot sex with a green chick should have been more scandalous than a black chick, right? 

Oh well.

Anyway, I read through the next several pages of this Old-Testament sized booklet and was fascinated by how much money must have changed hands at that convention.  If you want someone's autograph you need to pay for it.  The minimum price that I saw was twenty bucks, and most of the names commanding that bargain basement price were actors that I had never heard of and apparently died within the first fifteen minutes of the show, the infamous "red shirts" whose duty was to accompany the captain and first officer to a new planetoid and be unceremoniously fed up as fodder to an alien ray-gun or a pissed-off demigod.  After their television deaths they apparently lived the rest of their professional days on the convention circuit, assigned to a purgatory of mid-fi hotel rooms and re-heated cafeteria food.

Apparently, it's a good living.  Stan Lee just attended a Columbus comic-con and the asking price for a photo opp was $400.  That's a lot of jack for a thirty-second meet and greet.  I could think of a lot better things on which to blow four hundred bucks.

Like that table full of Justice League comics right across the aisle.



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