Physical Connections In The Electronic World
Summer is here and the convention season is upon us. It’s time to strain and pull ourselves away from our computers and hopefully make some sort of real human contact with the people that we’ve learned about through e-mails, forum posts and web pages. These are webcomics and comic communities bringing people with similar interests together, and showing quite clearly that most costumes look ridiculous on the average human being.
If you’ve attended a comic convention before, then you know this on some sort of level. If not, it’s something well worth pursuing. The people you connect with at the cons can be wonderful pen pals and electronic friends. There’s something adventuresome about seeing these types of friends once per year and getting caught up on the things that have happened in the time between.
This is all well and good, but make sure you go prepared. With that in mind, I will dispense with some conventioneering advice for the uninitiated and a reminder for the experienced con-goers. It’ll be in point form, for your convenience:
– Pre-Register: Get your ducks in a row and pre-register where possible. The line ups at the major conventions are berserk and you don’t want to be caught waiting for 3-4 hours just so you can pay more to get a ticket and get in. If you want to go to a convention this summer, you must organize it now (sooner than now, go back in time and start immediately).
– Travel: If you live in Chicago, San Diego or the like, you’re set. For the rest of us, look long and far for travel deals. You may wish to use a travel agent; they get their cut, but if they can also save you a big chunk of change then it’s well worth it.
– Lodgings: If you’re not staying with friends or family then get a map of the city you’re going to and scour the outer rim of where the convention is. Even a 15 minute walk to the convention center can save you hundreds of dollars on accommodations. You don’t have to be across the road to be a part of the convention experience. Your hotel room is crash space, nothing more.
– Cash and credit card: Don’t underestimate the cost or ability for a convention to liquidate your funds in new and amazing ways. Keep cash on your person, but don’t go overboard. Where possible, try to keep your brain from going into overload and spending more than you can afford. That life-size Captain Marvel bust may have seemed like a good idea in the midst of the surreal con experience, but you won’t be as likely to scream “Shazam” in a good way when your Visa bill comes in.
– Food: Let me make this clear- meals at the convention center are priced by Satan himself. A ham sandwich and a Coke will cost you $9.00. Go out and away from the convention hub for a meal with a group, or prepare to be gouged. I personally went to a local grocery store and made up a fresh sandwich or bought other cheap snacks to eat for lunches, and then had nice dinners out with friends guilt-free.
– Water: Bring a bottle of water. Honest. Not pop or sugar-overloaded stuff… just water. You will dehydrate at the major conventions, no ifs, ands, or buts. You’ll thank me for this advice later.
– Sniff: For the love of all that’s holy, wear deodorant, cologne, perfume… something. Shower everyday you’re at the convention. I mean no insult, but the clichés of geeky fandom have got to be combated. Make sure that you are relatively odor-free, even when the con floor heats up with hundreds of bodies. You don’t want to be remembered that way. Oh yeah, check your breath while you’re at it…
– Schedule and a watch: I was surprised at how many people weren’t wearing a watch at the convention. Time is pretty important when you have panels you want to attend. Go through the con’s schedule, highlight the panels that interest you, and keep track of time. It sounds obvious, but it can slip away very quickly when you’re waiting in line for an autograph or perusing through dozens of dealers’ wares.
– Camera: Get one and keep it secure at your side at all times. Even when I brought my digital camera last year, I left it at the hotel once or twice and absolutely kicked myself when I missed a great photo opportunity. Sure it looks dumb wandering everywhere with a camera, but compared to Klingons, Supermen and Stormtroopers, you are invisible.
– Contact Info: You’re going to meet a lot of new people, for either fun or business. Have your contact info easily available with a business card or even just photocopies on paper. Make sure that the connections you make are able to get in touch once the weekend is done.
– Goals: No matter what, set a few goals for yourself and see them through. Rather than just flying by the seat of your pants all the way, set at least one reasonable milestone for yourself (ie. I will meet Mike Kunkel and shake his hand or I will get a photo of myself with Lou Ferrigno). That way you can look back at the weekend and know that no matter what else, you got at least one major thing out of the convention.
– Fun: It’s a quick weekend and you can’t let it get to your head. You’re there to have fun and see new things. Take it in and enjoy the chaos. Don’t get uptight if Chris Crosby doesn’t go for a beer with you or Adam Hughes won’t draw you a sketch. In the grand scheme of things, it’s minor.
The web is a wonderful thing and the communities that we’re a part of can be far-reaching and entertaining. Even still, there’s nothing quite like real human contact to inspire and surprise. If you can, attend a convention this summer and kick that social system up a notch. The memories you create will be well worth it.