Midnight Jolt Run

Caffeine tastes better when the city's asleep

Of Chum, Chances and Family

Posted by Fiss on August 25, 2013

I want to share with you the moment today in which I seriously thought:  “What the hell is the point of all this?” Kawaiiiiiii!

Before anyone starts shoveling Suicide Prevention Hotline numbers toward me, though, I should clarify that this thought occurred as I stood in line, hot, moody and miserable, in order to get autographs from the voices of multi-coloured cartoon ponies.  This, coupled with similar moments fresh in my mind from May…standing in line…standing in line…paying money and then standing in more lines…really got me thinking if maybe I was done.  Maybe I needed to re-evaluate my Geek Card.  My Nerd Chic was fading.  The Fandoms…be it SciFi, or Magical Friendship Equines….were starting to fade.   Would it really be so hard to just skip the next convention?  Maybe the next two?  Three?  Nine?   And as I weighed in on the internal battle for my squeeing-fanboy-voice versus the sheer insanity that is a Fan Convention exposing its seedy underbelly in my general direction like an unwanted mooning.

You see, the brave souls who organize most cons like this are not in it for the money.  Maybe a bit of recognition and maybe a bit of community clout, but a First Year Convention like BronyCan isn’t built on some Scrooge McDuck pile of money that the one or two secret masterminds swim in as the rest of us are fed excuses for there not being enough toilet paper for more than 300 guests due to budget restraints.  No.  Like most cons, this is nothing more than a few well-meaning and fool-hearty fans trying to tempt other fans to show up and hang out by promising to recreate the same things that got you to fall in love with the fandom in the first place.  But, of course, love is fickle, and the best you can hope for is a regimented selection of love-flavoured Chum being dumped into the water to attract the sharks.  Oh…and they come.  They come and they feed.  You get to see your beloved TV shows, movies, genres, comics, video games, characters and stories thrown into your face after they’ve been tossed in the blender.  Chum indeed.  For every smoking hot Rainbow Dash, you’ll have a dozen Bearded Sailor Moons.  For every kind and helpful fan with trivia knowledge, you’ll have two hundred Hot Topic-Tee wearing assclowns sniggering about the latest catch-phrase Tumblr told them they should know about if they wanted to be LOL SO RANDUM!!!!1111+shift.

For every fan like you…you’ll see another fan.  Just.  Like.  You.  But only a step more oblivious to how goddamn silly they look.  Or act.  Or are.  Or…Goddamn, was that only 2 years ago that you said that exact same phrase during polite conversation???

Chum.  Alone, each shark is a beautiful and incredible killing machine.  Throw a little con in the water, though, and each of them is a mindless, instinct-driven consuming mouth shouting:  “THE CAKE IS A LIE!” and “BALEEETED!” or “NARF!” and “20% COOLER!!!” only to be sated once their overpriced bodypillows have been obtained and the signed posters of the director’s son who might have once been in the studio during casting are safely tucked away into the colourful Swag-Bags given out free with every ticket pre-purchase…And everywhere is the smell of teenage geeks who have not yet even discovered that Axe Body-spray can choke a camel…in fact, you wonder if they know what deodorant is at all, and you pray for them to learn soon-

Sweet Jesus, what have I become?

But then, the line shuffles and shortens.

And maybe I don’t mind so much as I see the smiling faces of the voice actors and actresses who give life to these colourful ponies.  And when I chat with them they smile and are honestly happy to be there because they know that they could do 30 Weetabix commercials and pay their bills…but the gig they have now has a soul and a heart and makes people happy.  Even if they are weird people.  Even if they are people that some other people might look at and ask:  “Does that 45 year old man REALLY need to wear that shirt depicting a pink unicorn’s teaparty?”

Immediate thoughts of tearing up my Geek Card are now safely away with a few dollars and some obtained autographs and a few memorable moments of conversation.  Suddenly I’m willing to entertain that a guilty little diversion into the Dealer Room might be worth the expense.  Suddenly, I am giggling like a kid who has just ran out of Toys R Us a billion times richer than the 20 dollars spent would seem to indicate, and I place my cute little plushies and my collectors vinyls and posters safely away so they will not be harmed.

Then its back to the convention, refreshed and revitalized and my wife and I find ourselves in a pun-titled American Idol kind of talent show, where I convince her she should try out and she does and she wins…or at least gets into the finals because she has a blast doing it.

But…

…but….

Just as I’m getting back into the mindless feeding frenzy and ignoring all those higher brain functions that had been grumbling at me earlier, I hear a young man beside me hyperventilating.

Okay, maybe not that bad, but he’s taking it hard that the judges of the panel weren’t 1000% blown away by his nervous renditions of zombie growls compared to a few folk who obviously *live* for the microphone.  And I glance at him again as I realize maybe this guy is actually having a serious panic attack.  So I tap him on the shoulder and ask:  “Hey, are you alright?” as the judges cut the entries from 17 to 5.

He’s dressed up, and dressed up well.  A nice Rule 64 cosplay and he’s put real effort and thought into it.  And he looks up at me with this look in his eyes like he is about to panic.  Not a panic attack…but an honest to goodness Something Is Not Right in the Universe and I am about to Freak Out panic.  The kind that would make the Hitchhikers Guide nod, pause thoughtfully, and comment:  “Hey…yeah…THAT.  Don’t do THAT.”

So I get him to stand and we walk to get some water so he can calm his nerves down to a scream from the boiling adrenalin bath he had just had them in.  And he tells me that this was his big chance to impress the community…no…to prove himself.  That he had practiced for so long and worked so hard on his ability…he had gone from stuttering to clear public converse in the amount of time it takes some people to learn someone’s proper name.  And as he’s telling me this he is absolutely, 100% convinced that he had just let down the community…the smiling Voice Actors I had met only 2 hours prior…and most of all…he felt he had just blown his One.  Big.  Chance.

Now, I’m not going to pretend I know this man inside and out so I won’t claim any such thing.  And I’m hoping if he reads this, he isn’t thinking I’m using him for some stupid little story on my website to make him seem bad.  No.  Hell no.  This is important and it needs to be told.  I was reminded of the first 30 minutes after I had hit UPLOAD FILES on a silly little Geocities account 17 years ago, exposing my soul to the world the very first time and thinking:  “This is it.  I am SO screwed if nobody likes this….”

And suddenly, it all makes sense to me again.  Why this is so important.  Why this is still so important.  Why conventions and fanarts and bulletin boards and meetups are just as important now as they were when I stumbled onto some talking Moon-Cats all those years ago.

For me, it was Fanfiction.  For him, Voice Work.  Others, it will be Art.  Or Direction.  Or Editing and Animation.  Or Mixups and Remixes and Mashups.  Some will sew, others will blow stained glass.  There really isn’t any one thing that fans do.  We might create a videogame for a dwarf who only was on-screen for ten seconds, but we knew the backstory for a hundred pages into the book that inspired it…or craft elaborate wedding bands with unique gems depicting the colours of a world we will never visit but could recite the made-up anthems of by heart.  We name our pets after space captains and wizards.  We bake cakes for alien rituals and tattoo nonsensical geometric jabber on our bodies because we saw something on the DVD’s extra features depicting some concept art.  And many of us learn of our talents and our strengths this way:  By doing what we can for the things we love.

The very act of being a fan of something is precious.  It has happened for as long as humans could record our geeky loves and lusts.  Tyusk might have once loved the way Mammoth tusk resonated in his hut as he tapped it with a squirrel skull.  Why is that so different than Rick camping out for playoff tickets, or Dexter YouTubeing how to create the most authentic Gagh from the Klingon Empire using only lowly Earth Noodles?   Is Joe’s mission to restore the old ’57 Stingray in his garage so much more noble or less so than Jane’s Kickstarter to bring back Firefly in the form of storyboarded scripts?  Why do we do anything that isn’t eating, sleeping or fucking?  Besides those basic tenants of life, why bother with anything else?   And how do we learn what really matters to us?

Well, the simple answer is what drives an introverted geek to write a fanfic.  Its what causes a shower-singer to post on Youtube.  It might even be what gets someone prone to stuttering into a profession that requires public speaking.  The simple answer is that we do geeky, fan things because they are cool.  Because they inspire us to do great works of art and of craft and of whatever we have in our soul.  How can you not weep at the beauty of that?   Of these simple, inspiring things that to one man might be a hobby during summer re-runs, but another woman might be a reason to get up in the morning and continue breathing air?!

These acts…these methods and ways we celebrate our fandom….they bring us joy.  And as an added bonus, knowing that there are other people out there that enjoy some of what we enjoy means we get to skip some of the annoying audience questions when we get posed to share ourselves with the world.  “I like this.  You might like this.  Check it out!”  sounds a helluvalot nicer than “Oh, I sure hope someone likes my work.”

But, for those 30 minutes…or 20 seconds…or maybe 10 hours when you are out there, untested and unknown and ready for the sharks to smell blood and begin their slow circle inwards to tear you apart….you really get a sense of the word fear.  Terror.  Awesome, untamed and raw.  You start to imagine all the ways your Cool Thing might not be So Cool.  How you might fail…and if you fail it will be failing in front of the one audience you are absolutely certain if you fail in front of, no other audience could ever be as forgiving or as kind.  You start imagining that this might be your one true shot to connect with the people that might be ready to listen, or give you a chance or even prop you up on their shoulders and shower you with praise.   Everything else is the wilderness, maybe, but if you fuck up here…with your peers…with other fans…oh sweet holy God, you are so fucked.

But no.

That’s not the case, and this is what separates a fandom from just a bunch of professionals critiquing each other in some kind of circle-jerk of who’s better.

If you fuck up around people who like the same things you do, chances are they won’t just throw you to the wolves, or grind you up as chum or poke you like some parody.  No.  I’d like to think that if you like what I like…you might be inclined to help me when I make a mistake.   Why?  Because we make mistakes.  All of us.   And we all do that part, no matter how cool it sounded in our heats and how powerfully the need to share it was pounding piston-like in our hearts.  One-Big-Chances are what people get when they are all alone or worse…surrounded by people who think they know better than you.  You have your 15 minutes of fame if you’re lucky.  Collect your cash.  Then you ride it into obscurity because the next One Big Thing is happening for someone else.  But that’s not what will happen here.  Not around fans.  Not around friends.

You see, you’re not just around people who like the same Ninja Turtle you liked.  Or wore the same Jersey and Number of a winner.  You’re with people that liked that Ninja Turtle for the same reasons you liked them and who read the back story and the comics and realized the creators were shafted but wanted to do so much more with that plot arc you thought would be amazing.  You’re with friends who saw the same incredible, odds-defying jump-shot or pitch or swing that you did that made you believe in heroes more than a billion shitty Hollywood sports stories.  You’re with people who share your love for the things you love.

In my dictionary, that makes you damn near family.

So, as I sit here in the hotel, with the thumping beats of pony music ringing out through the floor, and the smell of a wet sunrise still hours away, but thankfully washing away the heat and smell of nine hundred sweating con-goers, with an e-mail from the one poor soul who thought he might have blown his one big chance with his community, I’ve had a good chance to look back at my thoughts and my frustrations and I realize how silly they were.

This is my family.

I couldn’t be prouder.

 

(But seriously….Fedoras with leather Trench-Coats?  Come on….okay, fine…just lose the pony-tail, okay?)

 

Studio Shinnyo 2013.  Khattam-Shud, EOF.

Posted under Manifestoes

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