On the evening of July 21st, the many thousands of genre fans who have descended on southern California like Tribbles from a bin of quadrotriticale will begin the four day geektacular odyssey that is San Diego Comic-Con. Aficionados of sci-fi, fantasy, horror and such from all around the world will gather to discuss, debate, and be dazzled by all the latest, greatest and lightweightest that the geek-pandering world has to offer.
There can be no doubt that Conventions are playgrounds of many purposes. They are for fans to mingle, for dealers to sell their wares, for artists to display their work (friend of Geek Speak, cartoonist Mark Gonyea will be there), for collectors to find that prized issue of some little known Silver Age comic that will make their dreams come true. They’re for charity fundraisers, and for awards presentations (in San Diego’s case, the comic book industry’s Eisners), and for the studio-types to gauge reaction to their latest labors amongst the masses.
But they are also opportunities for fans to see, meet, and even speak with their beloved genre talents. Whether they be actors, screenwriters, directors, authors, comic book artists, musicians or live-action models (Lara Croft is always a favorite), there is just something indescribably surreal about being in the same orbit as one’s particular geek idol. Even if they’ll never remember it. Even if you have to pay for the privilege. It’ll be worth it, because you’ll remember it forever.
Herewith are tales of fangirl and fanboy squee (along with a few more dignified interactions) in which various authors, website contributors, comic book folk and Geek Speak Staff relate their own close encounters with one of their personal heroes...
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A CAUTIONARY TALE
by Tate Hallaway
by Tate Hallaway
My close encounter is a cautionary tale. Don’t let this happen to you. Always pay attention, even if you’re a totally smitten fan grrl.
Neil Gaiman is not only a really awesome writer, but he’s also kind of dreamy in a gangly, intellectual-yet-wears-leather-jackets, British-accent-speaking kind of way. I’ve been a fan of his work since his days at DC, writing Sandman comic books. I’ve also sort of accidentally stalked him, but that’s another story.
Neil happens to live close to where I do (see accidental stalking,) and so he attended various local science fiction and fantasy conventions -- or did, before he got far too famous for all that. I had a chance to interview him when he was up and coming and I was a stringer for Science Fiction Chronicle. I took the job at SFC partly so I could have an excuse to talk to people like Neil. But also because I was an aspiring writer myself and it was an excellent excuse to ask all the questions you always wish you could about how to break in and all that and get paid for it.
Anyway, Neil agreed to the interview and was incredibly charming and professional. I had only one fan grrl moment when I sputtered, “You are SO cool” into the tape, which I subsequently erased when I transcribed the article for print.
But something about our brief encounter must have lodged itself in my subconscious.
I had a dream about him. Yes, one of THOSE sorts.
A year or so later, my other dream -- the one about becoming a published author, not the sexy one! -- came true. I was doing the con circuit myself now, and discovered I’d be on a panel at CONvergence with Will Shetterly and, to my utter astonishment, Neil Gaiman.
The room was packed. Everyone was there to see Neil, of course. I can’t even remember what we were supposed to be discussing, because, frankly, I was sitting RIGHT NEXT to Neil Gaiman, sweating under the hot lights. But then he started talking in that lilting, smart-sounding accent and I found myself staring into his chestnut brown eyes, thinking girlish thoughts like, “Ah, no wonder he wears sunglasses all the time, it’s to spare us all from falling headlong into that gorgeous gaze...” when all of a sudden he turned to me, and said, “What are your thoughts on the matter?”
I just gaped.
Worse, I’d told a few people in the audience a PG version of the dream before Neil had come in, and as my face reddened it was pretty clear to the gathered masses exactly what my thoughts were.
I think I managed to mutter over all the laughter something about how I was sure everyone was much more interested in Will’s take on the subject, and determined to pay better attention from then on out.
Tate Hallaway is the author of the Garnet Lacey series, and her super secret alter-ego is the author of science fiction that we highly recommend. Visit her at her website: www.TateHallaway.com.
HE WINKED AT ME
by Rachel Day
by Rachel Day
I’m not the type to simply “bump” into celebrities. Obviously I don’t hang out at the right clubs, shop at the right supermarkets or eat at the right restaurants. As my day job until recently consisted of computers and Microsoft Project, it’s also fair to say that there weren’t very many opportunities to run into a celebrity there either. So my close encounter had to be organized and planned.
And, no, I’m not a stalker. Why would you think that? I’m just someone who attended the Avalon convention in 2006 with the aim of meeting two of her favorite Stargate actors, Richard Dean Anderson and Amanda Tapping.
Avalon was Anderson’s first convention in a long while -- there were jokes about virginity throughout -- while Tapping, on the other hand, was (and is) a con veteran, having attended many of the larger conventions, and her own UK-based conventions run by the GABIT organization. [Fundraising conventions featuring Tapping that have raised £75 000 since their inception in 2005 - Ed.]
Picture the scene: rural Wales, a beautiful old town, and Bishop’s Palace with moat, complete with swans.
The convention was small and well-run by GABIT. While the day began with a very fun Question and Answer session, the “close encounters” really kicked off in the coffee session where the two stars sat right beside myself and a friend. Up close, the two actors are just incredibly good-looking. Anderson has that certain charisma that just made me dissolve into a puddle of goo, especially when he winked at me (and he did wink at me, honestly!). Luckily my friend managed to ask a question; I don’t remember the answer as I was too busy being goo.
At the photo session later, I did pull myself together enough to have something of a conversation with Tapping. Namely at how exhausted I was and how exhausted she must be. The photo itself meant that I was happily sandwiched between the two stars for a good couple of minutes until there was a photo we were happy with.
Later, at the charity auction, having bought a picture of Anderson, I also received a wonderful hug from Tapping as a thank-you. My friend later claimed that I bid not for the picture but for the hug. She may have had a point.
Sometimes you hear horror stories of how people met their heroes and they turned out to be awful, but I have to say, both Anderson and Tapping were incredibly charming and lovely, and absolutely made the experience worthwhile. And I fully intend on “bumping” into them at another convention in the future. (Still not stalking, I swear!)
I had never been to a Trek convention before. Never gotten my photo taken with a celebrity. Certainly never paid $60 to have my photo taken with a celebrity. Even though I live in Vermont I remember thinking, "It's only Pennsylvania, how far could it be?" 10 Hours. It was 10... hours.
Since this was going to be my first Star Trek convention, I had splurged for the "gold ticket": autographs, preferred seating, VIP admission, nice. Wait, what? Photos are extra? Son of a...
We (my friend Sam was there as well) headed upstairs to the photo room. The hallway was packed, hundreds of people waiting in line. Ok, staying optimistic, we waited... and waited... annnnd waited. Finally we entered the room itself and the first thing I noticed was the camera they were taking photos with. A tiny, tiny point-and-click thing on a comically large tripod. Still optimistic though.
Then I saw William Shatner in a chair at the head of the room and my first thought was, "Um, does he look... medicated to anyone else?" It didn't seem like the buzzing activity around him was really registering. My guess was he had gotten off a red eye flight from California moments before and understandably looked exhausted. Behind him was a banner of the original cast as people were ushered up to, into and promptly out of the chair next to him. The pace of these actions was, to be blunt, ridiculous. I'm going to say it was 15 seconds per person at most and a majority seemed far less than that. Slightly less optimistic at this point.
Most people simply sat in the chair and then moved on. Not me, man, I stuck my hand right out there for a handshake, dammit! I stepped up and threw my hand out as I sat down. His handshake was… how do I put this?... non-committal. A weak fingertip grasp as he leans about as far away from me as the chair allows. Click. Next!
Did I mention you don't get the photos right away. You go home and the photos come weeks later, which they did. I gingerly opened the envelope and my photo with William Shatner that I drove 10 hours (each way) for was crumpled, off-color, off-center and slightly blurry.
P.S. Nimoy was AWESOME!
AN UNEXPECTED WIN
by Sara Paige
by Sara Paige
The cold truth is that I rarely if ever win a contest. The raffle committee never picks me, and the guy sitting next to me always wins the award. But one fateful night in 2001, I was able to get around my luck and win something. Even though I really lost.
I was watching TV one night when a commercial came on announcing a “WB event” with “stars” but including Alexis Denisof from Angel! At that point, my little fangirl heart grew three sizes (I love Wesley!) and I immediately found out all the details and forced a friend to go with me.
The night of the (star-studded! From the C List!) event, I went to the front of the stage and met up with some Buffy and Angel fans, who were incredibly cool. Alexis came out and we just screamed like 14-year-old girls at a… Justin Bieber concert? (Is that that what the 14-year-olds like now? I hear they have the Bieber fever.) He took one look at us and it was clear that his blood ran like ice.
The WB selected people to go on stage with the stars ("stars" = him) and do some Fear Factor-esque stunts for a prize of $250. I kept waving my hands around and it was clear that Alexis was avoiding picking someone from our section. But I caught his eye and said "Aw come on, you know you want to." (Clearly a last-ditch effort.) He awkwardly replied, "I always want to," in order to survive his own fans. Under the onslaught of this peer pressure, he relented and told me to go up.
Our first task was to drink a pitcher (2 quarts I think) of this nasty drink that turned out to be watered down condiments like Tabasco sauce and mustard. It was horrible, but I won the chugging contest hands down. The fact is, I couldn't wimp out; I needed to stay on the stage with Alexis. Then, the three remaining contestants had to eat cloves of garlic. The Buffy Cheerleading Section told me to close my nose, so I did (thank god) and was okay. One person threw up, but I kept it together.
t was down to just me and one other guy. The crew brought out electric razors: the last "test" was to shave your head the fastest. Defeated at last, I gave the announcer a nasty look and set the razor down, with a loud comment about gender bias. So I lost the cash, which goes along with my "I never win anything" gig. However, I stood back and Alexis stood next to me and gave me a hug and told me I was a champ. I squeed when he said, "I'm glad you didn't cut your hair, it's really pretty." Entire libraries of fanfic have been predicated on lesser statements!
He presented me with a book bag (which I instantly had him sign) and we chatted for a while. I kept thinking he was the champ: after all, I had just chewed up three or four cloves of garlic. I could smell myself well enough; he should have won an Emmy just for chatting within 200 feet of my breath. When I asked him if he was going to sign stuff for the Buffy Cheerleading Section, he overcame his fear and mingled with all. A win for fangirls everywhere!
Ahead: Anne McCaffrey, James Marsters and more...