I'm still exhausted today (of course, I worked today, so that may be a big factor in extending it), but we'll see how it goes.
I'll give the long semi-linear story behind the cut, and maybe a bullet-point list of edited highlights at the end.
So, I awoke at 4am. This is actually quite normal for me (on days I work, I have to get up quite early, I like time to relax, get on the internet a while, and take leisurely showers and get ready instead of just rushing out).
Left shortly before 6am because that's when the subways open, waited for the bus (a little longer than I should have, but whatever). Didn't spot any obvious geeks (via t-shirts, costumes, etc) on the bus the whole way there, and once I got to the stop for the convention center... I got a little lost. They're doing a LOT of road construction in the area, so I didn't have a lot of my familiar landmarks, and with no obvious geeks to follow, took a guess. I went the wrong way a bit and had to consult my map on my phone, but I got it sorted out, and, I suspect, in the end I wound up in line at roughly the same time I did last year (where I was by the right building almost immediately but spent a half hour searching for the lineup). And, at least a little bit of success! There were a few people nearby I could have some limited conversation... and a cardboard dalek! And a humanoid dalek! And a Malcolm Reynolds! Those were the people with whom I spent my time in line. The Daleks were a married couple, the girl dressed as a human Dalek and the guy guiding a huge cardboard (and enterable) Dalek (which looked quite well done, needing some kind of paint job unless you want to assume it was a Dalek designed to blend in to a cardboard factory or a replacement Dalek constructed out of local materials in one). They were here for the 50th Anniversary attempt to break the World Record for number of Daleks in one place (there were specific requirements, human daleks were okay but you needed a proper number of balls, a head probe, a wisk-thingie an a plunger thingie, I believe, and I think all constructed Daleks had to have people inside them). The Malcolm was one of those... well, I don't know if I'd call it Professional, because I don't think he makes money off it, but the ones who really goes into costuming and doing different ones at different cons. He gave me a nod, recognizing my Blue Sun shirt of course. And I was mostly quiet, but I talked occasionally to the group either about Doctor Who or a little about other things (Firefly actually wasn't discussed much... the Daleks weren't familiar with it)... My major contribution was that I was the only one in our little group who had been in the exact same line (buy at the door rather than picking up pre-arranged tickets) last year, so I could make observations like "they did the exact same thing last year" or "once you pay for your tickets you wait in a tiny line and then you're right in the con"). It was a long wait and my back was getting sore from standing in close quarters for so long (didn't even have a good wall I could sit against), but at least there were occasional moments of conversation with the people around me, which was better than me standing in silence in previous years.
We were near the front of the line, and paying cash we got to enter quite early, and the people I was with all went our separate ways.
And that's where everything started to go wrong. See, the Convention Center is comprised of two buildings. In previous years, the con's taken up one of them (which one has switched sometimes, but only one). This year, it was in both of them. And all the people who payed for tickets at the door lined up at one building and the people who had advance tickets went to a second, which is reasonable enough, I guess... except, that to cross between buildings, you have to go up THREE floors (and, the first time you do it, have to find your way up there.. it's not at ALL well labelled), cross a skywalk, then go DOWN three floors, all in a decently-paced-but-still-slower-than-wal
So, it must have taken me like 10-15 minutes just to get to the building with the celebrity lines (5 of which was just finding the escalators going up... I should have followed the Dalek who were going to the other building for the record attempt and had complete directions that I couldn't quite hear when they were being given, but I hoped I could move faster alone and follow signs and by the time I realized that the signs were very poor I'd lost everybody I'd known in line), and then grab a ticket for the two people I wanted to see, Gina Torres and Nathan Fillion from Firefly. Nathan was already there signing, Gina still hadn't arrived but would get there in a few minutes. But I got my tickets, which were numbered (and at any given time the sign in front of them will say "Line only for people with tickets #100 or Under!" or whatever number they were up to)... Gina Torres I got first, 91... okay, not too bad. Nathan Fillion? 476. In the first 15 minutes. And I think in his case they started in negative numbers because the line was full and the line started with 'tickets under 0'. I'm lucky I got them at all, another half hour or so they stopped handing them out entirely (they promised to hand out more tickets at 2, but I don't know if they did or for how long). Also, I was considering getting a photo op with Nathan Fillion, but, nope, the moment I arrived in that area I already saw that he was sold out... no surprise, I guess. So I figured I'd wait around, hopefully the lines would move relatively quick, I'd probably have to wait a couple hours for Nathan, but maybe I could get Gina in before her panel (no such luck). So I wandered around.
And here was the second problem of the split up buildings. Because for all the cool things you can do at a comic con? Very few of them were in the same building as the celebrities. I was faced with either making the long and pointless walk to the other building, or stick in the one I was in, where there were a FEW shops and stalls and other cool things, but... not many. Once you've made the circle two or three times, you've seen everything. You can wander through the crowded celebrity alley again, or walk the few exhibits and watch for costumes, but there just isn't a lot to do (I guess you could wander into the sports area but... that's a laughable suggestion not worth considering. Why, Fan Expo, WHY bother with Sports? Hell, a hall full of nothing but cardboard-cut-out-daleks would be a better use of your space than that!). But I didn't want to move to another building, so, that's what I did, wander, looked a bit at celebrities.
The fan expo staff was also pretty loud and kind of annoying at times in their restrictions, a lot of times people were moving and there was a good spot for a photo and they'd yell at you to just keep moving... I mean, I can understand if there was a bottleneck, but often there wasn't. And, there was one other little detail which was odd and may only have applied to two of the celebrities. No photographs. Not no flash (a completely reasonable request, and something that, if violated, should result in ejection from line), no photographs at all, everytime somebody tried, the staff shut them down... now of course, in today's world, you can't escape it entirely, I'm sure thousands of people got it, just fewer close up. And, as I said, I think it only applied to two.. unfortunately, those two were Nathan Fillion and Gina Torres. In Nathan's case, they even erected a screen so you couldn't photograph him from the side as you walked past. And to be honest, I'm more than a little disappointed... I mean, out on the town, hanging with friends, I totally respect no photos... no casual photography from the side I can grudgingly accept, but if you're paying $50-60 for an autograph they can at least let you take a small photograph of the actor while you're in line waiting to meet him and he's right there. I get the impression Nathan is very protective of his privacy (he's made Twitter comments about unfollowing people because they posted old photographs of him without his permission), and I guess I can understand it, but still, if you're going to play the fandom game, you should allow us to be fannish in fannish settings. On the other hand, he's done a lot of work I love, and everything I've heard of him has been polite and friendly and what I patriotically like to feel is true Canadian in spirit, so if this IS a flaw (and I'm not saying for sure it is), it's absolutely a forgivable one.
I just worry that it's yet another thing that used to be a free benefit of cons that they're taking away. Just wait, in a few years "Want to take a photograph of an actor from the side or at a distance? $10!).
But it did seem to be only those two, the other actors or their handlers didn't seem to have a problem (as long as the flow of people wasn't obstructed), although just from the crowds and angles I didn't manage to get many good pictures of stars. My closest celebrity encounter outside of the autograph lines? I actually just about bumped into, and apologized to, a man at one point when I turned around. I didn't recognize him, but just moved past and it was only when I looked back later I noticed that he was one of the celebs going to his seat... Ken Foree who was in Dawn of the Dead and a large number of minor roles in TV and movies (I didn't recognize the name or him from anything, I had to look it up later). Second closest was Stan Lee who at one point walked right by me separated by only maybe one or two people.
But yeah, I spent far too much time in the building with the celebrities... did manage to find one small spot with very spotty free Wifi, but didn't use it much, mostly I walked around and took pictures and looked at costumes. I'll talk about them more towards the end, but there was a lot of moving in one circle. Eventually they announced that both Nathan and Gina were leaving temporarily to do other scheduled things like photo ops and that they'd resume at 3pm (that was the time I'd hoped to be home!) and so I wandered over to the other building, try to pick up some swag. Didn't get very much this time around, probably missed a whole bunch of things.. all I got was a mini box of lucky charms, a little Medal of Honor bag to carry stuff in, a mini poster of Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic on one side and Angel/Faith on the other (Both drawn by Jo Chen, possibly my favorite cover artist, who also did the best Runaways covers). And I found a spot that was handing out little cups of Dr. Pepper, which I needed by that point... I hadn't eaten or drank anything that whole day. And after that I went to pick up my scheduled commission from Adrian Alphona. When I met him I said I had one word for him... Lasers. And it took him a second, but he realized who I was and turned over my commission. When I talked to him in email I told him how Chase became my favorite with the scenes early in vol 2 involving his discovery of the Leapfrog Laser, and so my request for him was "Chase doing something awesome with the leapfrog laser" (and specifically said that I'd leave what 'something awesome' was completely up to his imagination, even if he just wanted to do an awesome pose.). And I'm quite pleased with it (it was $60... there was also the offer for a $30 sketchier or headshot only image, but I wanted the extra mile in case it was my only one). I canned it today, and here it is if you want to see it. I have to admit I'm not 100% sure why he's sitting on a mini leapfrog, but I can pretend it's a scale replica he carved out of stone with the laser or something. :)
And that's about it. I wandered around that area for a while (there was a lot more to see and I didn't get to see very much... if they'd put the celebrities in THAT building I'd have been much happier and less bored all around), sat for a while (the south building had a much stronger and more reliable free wifi area, another good reason waiting there wouldn't have been as bad, although I didn't use it too much because I wanted to save my battery for photos), and then when I thought there might be a chance to get to the celebs again, went back to the other building. I managed to get Gina pretty well (it was still something like 2:30-3pm). Didn't talk to her much, I was pretty tired by that point... I said hello, told her it was a pleasure to meet her, said I hoped she was enjoying Toronto (she said she was!), and then after she signed my Firefly DVD set (hers was $50), reiterated that I was a big fan and thanked her. Not very long. Then it was wandering again, and for what seemed like another hour before my 476 was able to line up. But I got in, and paid my money (his was $60). After the hellos, he pointed out that I had quite a collection, and I said yeah, I think I'd gotten everybody who'd come to FanEXpo except Adam Baldwin and he joked "Well, you're not missing much!" and then immediately said he was joking and that he (Adam) was a true gentleman. But I wasn't there very long before being shuffled off, but I understand, it was a huge line and too many people went home disappointed.
After that I took one more trip back to the other building to get a little more Dr. Pepper and look for some more swag and do a bit more costume-spotting, but it was near the end of the day and I was ready to go home.
So here I might as well talk about costumes, the ones I saw the whole con over rather than any specific point or linear progression. There were lots and lots of Daleks, probably because of the World Record attempt (I did later bump into the humanoid dalek and the cardboard dalek keeper, who I talked to and found out that they did make the record with something like 150ish... I suspect it will fall in the con that's on the actual 50th anniversary in UK, but I'm happy for them). A fair number of Doctors and Amys, too. A nice Weeping Angel, and even a Madame Vastra (the latter, I unfortunately never got a good picture of). There was a whole little mock-up of the TARDIS console, manned by quite a credible Eleven, that attracted a lot of the fans (and not too far away a place you could take pictures coming out of the police box with Time Lords near you, but it cost $20). Also, as the day progressed, a lot of the people with the more elaborate full Dalek outfits took to leaving them in that area for safekeeping, so the later it got the more it looked like Daleks were taking over the TARDIS.
Cartoons, there were a few from Avatar the Last Airbender (there was a nice Azula one that I missed because when I saw her she was moving into the path to the other building and never spotted her again), and one Korra. (I missed by a few seconds a good shot of an older Avatar Aang touching Korra on the forehead, to... well, if you've seen the show, you know, if not, it'd be spoilers). Lots of comic characters, including a Pixie, probably my favorite of the comic costumes, there was also a Madrox with Cardboard-dupes, that I've seen before, but is still clever. I can't even remember all of them. Some I'll have pictures of, but not as many as I'd like and sometimes not as close as I'd like. Fair number of Firefly of course, including several partial 'crews' who seemed to be wandering around together, and a lot of Malcolm Reynolds. For newer shows, I did spy one person as the alien girl in Defiance (the red-haired foster-daughter one, I mean). Some elaborate ones for fandoms I either don't know or am kind of meh about... there were old school transformer ones that were pretty cool, and what I think might have been a succubus with wings and stuff. (Some other girl anime girl had wings in her hair that smacked me in the face once, but no harm done). There were loads of costumes that I thought maybe I recognized but I couldn't quite place exactly where. A Fair number of zombies of course. Sadly, once again, no Runaways costumes.
Also the huge masses of people, some in costumes you recognize, does freaky things to your recognition sense. There were so many times I spotted somebody and thought for a second that I knew them from somewhere, but it turned out that they just looked a little bit like somebody I knew from somewhere (or combined featured from several different people I know, some real, some fictional).
Conversation-wise, I said 'nice costumes' to a few people, and managed to ask a few to take their photograph (but mostly I just got in on the side when other people were taking one), but outside of that and the bit of conversation in line or, later, with the people I shared lines with, I didn't really say anything to anybody except celebrities, with one except. Towards the end of the day I did manage to see liabrown (actually I saw her earlier but we were each mid-way on our way to the other building), who was in an easily-spottable costume as The Top (the Flash villain) and talk to her for a couple minutes. And almost lost my phone there after a few minutes of fumbling in my bag to get a piece of paper in it (figures, the most embarrassing thing to happen to me and of course it happens in front of the one person I know a little from outside the con! ;)). But I did say hello, asked if she was enjoying the con and showed off my commission (also sorry if the handshake was awkward or bothered you, IIRC you're not too keen on that sort of thing, but it was reflex and one started I couldn't seem to abort).
In terms of the social aspect, I've had better cons and fan experiences, but I've also had much worse and more lonely ones where I barely talked to anybody. I hated the layout and chaos and the sheer amount of time it took to get what I came here for (not to mention the costs which seem to go up every year), but other than that, it wasn't bad... and yet, I'm not sure how many of these I'm going to keep doing. They're just so exhausting for, generally, such little benefit. Maybe once I complete my autograph goals I'll only go once in a while if there's a really good guess or I want to see some costumes... really the con experience seems like it'd be a lot more fun with good friends you can hang back with and talk to when things get slow, or if I ever decide to bite the bullet and try a costume myself (but of course, I still haven't thought of one I'd like to do. I still kind of feel like I need to look a bit like the person I'm pretending to be, and ones who are , and so far only two have come to mind that I could maybe, with the right kind of preperation, pull off.. one of the male Stark kids from Game of Thrones (Jon Snow or Robb, depending on my hair length), or Jamie Macrimmon from Doctor Who, old school. The first I'm put off by the over-elaborate and quite heavy costuming for a con season that is primarily summer, and the second... well, let's face it, there's no WAY I'm ever building up the confidence to venture out in public in a kilt, and I can't even do a good accent if my life depended on it. Maybe I should just go all out and do one with a mask and hope that helps me with my shyness a little (along with the fact that it'll attract people to me who I have common interests with who might be nice to talk with), but still, what mask?. And it needs to be a mask without an embarrassing (to me) spandex costume. Meh.)
Anyway, despite the lack of 'meeting new people' ability that I kind of wish I could manage, it really is heartwarming to see the large numbers and different types of geeks out there, a variety of ages and races, men and women in comparable numbers, all enthusiastic about geeky things enough to wait in long lines and pay far too much. Gives me hope for the species as a whole. Though I have to admit, I had a kind of old fogey moment when I observed a group of young women (possibly teenagers) dressed in TOS style Trek uniforms, and I thought, "Hey, that's refreshing... the classics are still attracting people" and then later grumpily realized that they're probably actually just fans of the movie series (which hey, if you like it great, by all means dress up for it, but I don't like it).
Oh, and since we're still going linearly, after I talked to liabrown I pretty much left straight after and made the journey home, getting back at about 5:30pm, in time for dinner. Oh, and although on the actual subway I didn't see any geeks, but when it came time to take the bus from my subway station home, there were a group of three girls on it with me (one wearing an R2D2 dress, one with some kind of headband-with ears, and the last I'm not sure if she was wearing anything special) who I suspect were from there, and they also exited the bus at the same stop. No conversation though.
So, edited highlights:
It's a MAD HOUSE! A MAD HOUSE! (Oh I also saw some neat Planet of the Apes costumes)
No photo op with Nathan, which I'd been considering. Despite getting my ticket very early, it was almost 4:30 in the afternoon before I got my autographs.
Got a sweet commission from Runaways artist Adrian Alphona, link.
A bit of conversation with random people and somebody I already know on LJ, but otherwise mostly quiet. Exhausting.