Shore Leave 31 con report (part 1)

And now, at long last, the much promised and long delayed con report!

What do you go to a convention for? The obvious answer is to have some wonderful fanboy/fangirl fun. As I’m assuming no one repeatedly goes to cons and has bad experience after bad experience, I have to say that “because it’s fun” isn’t really an answer. Of course it’s fun. If it wasn’t fun we wouldn’t spend all that money on admission and wait around in long lines for autographs. “Because it’s fun” is much like the response my theatre teacher hated hearing when students were asked to give critiques of shows – “I liked it. It was good.”

Okay. How was it good?

I pose this question to you. Why do you go to cons? Or, more specifically, what tends to draw you to one con over another? Do you weigh the distance? Cost? Do you find yourself in panels all day? Do you decide based on whether they have a masquerade or not? Solely on the number or quality of guests (bigger names? smaller names but more of them?). Do literary guests help to sweeten the deal?

The reason I ask is this – how does one review a con? How do we figure out whether it was a success or not? It sounds like I’m trying to weasel out of reviewing Shore Leave, but I’m not. This is actually an important step. In order to judge anything, one needs to set up some sort of criteria for said judging. This isn’t to say the criteria will be the same for everyone. Sizes of cons change which will affect our impression of the event as a whole. Certain criteria will change, depending on the individual con, but there will most likely be some standards. Understanding what draws us individually to a particular con, however, helps us see for ourselves how we judge a con successful.

One of the reasons I go to cons, quite honestly, is because they provide me with an opportunity to dress up and not be ridiculed for it. At least, not ridiculed once inside the con location itself. There simply aren’t a whole lot of opportunities for safe and emotionally rewarding play for adults. I’m not talking about the dirty, role-playing dominatrix type of play. Get your mind out of the gutter. I’m talking about the kind of play we used to engage in when we were children. The make-believe that was once such a big part of our world. I loved pretending to be a medieval knight, or a Jedi, or even a simple explorer hopping over stones and hoping to avoid falling in a pit of lava. It was play at its simplist, where your imagination could convincingly make a stick into Excalibur or a bed into an airship. When we grow up society tells us that we shouldn’t engage in that type of play anymore. It’s not “normal.” It’s not sane. Well screw that. You know what isn’t sane? Wars, famine and working ourselves to death. We might be living longer, but where is the life in that life? I honestly believe that many people have forgotten how to embrace the simple joys of play. Conventions are where that sense of play is still very much alive. Granted the line between the imagined world and the “real” one has blurred (or possibly never existed) for some of these con-goers, but I would argue that that particular sub-group is not actually as large as the rest of society would have you believe.

Phew.

So, simply put, I go partly for the costumes. I saw some absolutely fantastic ones over the course of the weekend, too. I made the decision not to bring my camera bag with me this time (I felt weighed down by my costume and “regular” clothing bags as it was), so the majority of the pictures in this entry come from Maggie – with one or two picked up from flickr. As with any con, there were a couple of costumes that I spotted in the hallway that I couldn’t place. Thankfully, with the combined geekiness factor that is Megaganie (two of my friends and myself – just so you know, any references to the three of us together will be shortened to “Megaganie” for the remainder of this post) we were able to figure out what most were. Looking for an example? I saw these two wandering around on Saturday. I thought the costumes were great. They were cute, quirky, and had a definite sense of humor to them. I just didn’t know what they were in reference to. When I pointed them out, Mel informed me that they were from the television show Roswell. Not having been a fan of the show during its run, I never would have known that. Now, because of some kitschy costumes at Shore Leave, I have added it to my extensive Netflix queue.

Mel and Mag kept spotting Klingons running here and there but I really only ever got a good look at one. I was a little upset, as I had sort of gone with the agenda of interviewing one of them for a later blog entry. ::sigh:: Alas, that idea will have to wait.

The dealer’s room was fantastic. Or, should I say, dealer’s room and assorted hallways. There were so many booths that they couldn’t fit all in one room. They spilled through the doorways and lined the main hall coming in to the section of the hotel where the con was kept. It was just to the side of the Hunt Valley Marriot’s main lobby and a part of me wondered if the management wasn’t just hoping that we’d stay in our corner. If they were, they certainly didn’t get their wish. We sci-fi fans are an insidious lot, prone to wandering. This notion was supported by the fact that it took us for-freaking-ever to find a quiet, secluded place in which to record our audio for the Masquerade on Saturday. First, we went downstairs, only to find that many a costumed con-goer was trooping around on the incredibly loud carpet.

The carpet wasn’t noisy. Just blaringly offensive to the eyes in color and pattern, as I’m sure you’ll see in the occasional photo.

All in all there were a fair number of people wandering the halls in costume over the course of the weekend. Certainly nothing on par with Polaris but enough for me to feel welcome.

Meganie stayed to watch a performance of the play “House Calls” on Friday night. It was an original play written by Robert Picardo and Ethan Phillips, based on their characters from Star Trek: Voyager. I never really followed that show so Mel had to occasionally clue me in, but the show was fantastic! Although they have a script the two engage in a lot of improv throughout the show and their friendship is quite evident.

Afterwards, we stayed in the room to watch a performance of all seven Harry Potter books by a group called Luna-C. Some of the jokes could have been better and some of the “actors” seemed uncomfortable and unsure of themselves on stage, but the guy who played Hagrid throughout the show was absolutely spot on, and the guy who covered Dumbledore was hilarious. Actually, now that I think of it, the guys were all rather good. It was the girls who tended to give most of the weak performances. There were a couple of references that others in the audience didn’t always get (I was shocked that more people didn’t laugh at the David Tennant/Tenth Doctor joke and was apparently the only one who got the Blues Brothers reference), but I ended up laughing through most of the show, and I’d call that a success.

The guests were all tremendous, as well. The first actor I got to see upon our arrival Friday night was actually Christopher Heyerdahl.

In short, he’s tall. Really tall. I don’t even come up to his shoulder. I was standing in the hallway at one of the dealer booths and happened to look over at the extremely tall man standing near me. My first thought was “man, he’s gigantic.” My second thought, on further examination, was “Oh wow, it’s Christopher Heyerdahl!” He strikes me as someone who is very into sci-fi himself. I saw him skulking around the dealer’s booth and, during the award ceremony for the Masquerade on Saturday, he asked to try on someone’s helmet.

Jason Momoa is a force all his own. We barely got in to get autographs from him – a problem with the way they arranged for people to wait in the lines – and were standing around when a fan brought in a cake and a pan of brownies. Well, it looked like brownies. He reached over, said “That piece is mine,” and stuck his finger in a part of the cake. When it came time to cut the brownies he’d cut a piece and eat the raspberry on top, cut a piece and eat the raspberry on top. Someone asked him to hold their newborn baby for a picture. The child looked even smaller, being held by him. Later, we saw him walking through the dealer’s room and down a hallway. There was a kid inside the hotel’s little deli/cafe thingy who pointed at him with a look of star-struck awe on his face. Jason nodded at him and said something along the lines of “Hey man, how’s it going?” I’m sure he made the kid’s week.

I got a smile from Clifton Collins (he recently played Nero’s second in command in Star Trek) as I walked by in full Jedi gear on Saturday. I felt kind of bad for him, as there didn’t seem to be many people stopping by his booth. I probably would have gone to get an autograph, but they cost an average of $20 and I was on a budget. I spotted him later that weekend, reading and highlighting a giant book.

Unlike Polaris, Shore Leave doesn’t boast a whole lot of panels, and most of those that were planned didn’t interest me. There were three or four scheduled to go on most of the time, but the discriptions and topics all seemed kind of blah. I think that I’ve been spoiled on this front by Polaris. It seems like Maggie and I are always running from one event to another at that one. That wasn’t so much the case here. We did attend a panel titled “Tool Time.” It was sort of like the one that we attended at Costume Con, only with different panelists. Well, panelists who weren’t on the original panel. They were attendees of Costume Con, though. In fact, one of the guys running the panel was Marty Gear – one of the guys who runs Costume Con (at least when it’s here in this area).

One of the other guys on the panel was dressed as Indiana Jones. We had actually run across him in the hallway earlier. While LeeAnn was busy buying her day pass (she only joined us for Saturday) Megaganie settled around a post near the registration table. Indy stepped up and complemented us on our Jedi garb. He knew what we had made our lightsabers out of but said they still looked authentic. He asked us, during the panel, to hold them up for people to see. I swear, those things get the most interest of all our pieces.

We had made the conscious decision to dress as Jedis for Saturday because we were going to be entering the Masquerade in the evening. Since the costumes for the masq were going to be kind of unwieldy and just a tad bit uncomfortable, Maggie and I opted for a day in our comfy Jedi jammie-jams. I brought along all my extra Jedi bits (I’ve got three tunics and two obi belts, of various colors) and, between all of that, Maggie’s stuff, and the bits of Patrick’s Anakin costume that Mel could find, we had enough to outfit ourselves as a Jedi, a Padawan, and a Sith. There were more fellow Jedi at Shore Leave than I’ve noticed at other cons so far, but we didn’t have a lot of contact with them. We did have a lot of other folks come up and talk to us about our costumes, though. In fact, a few of these experiences will be put aside for yet another blog entry).

One of the fellows from Costume Con’s Tool Time panel (the one with all the cool Time Lord accessories) was the director of the masquerade this year. When he saw us at the table, registration form in hand, he got excited. He thought we were entering with a Jedi skit and was surprised to learn we would, in fact, be something totally different. Apparently he was in the green room for part of the evening, after we had already changed into our costumes, and Maggie said he couldn’t stop grinning when he looked over at our corner.

After we registered for the masq, we decided to break for lunch. We ended up going off site for food, as the options at the Hunt Valley Inn weren’t promising. We ate at some grill over in a shopping complex down the road. Still very much in our Jedi robes. I think the wait staff got a thrill at seeing us walk in, but that didn’t extend to providing great service.

I’m actually going to break there, as I feel the whole masquerade experience and the final tally of pros and cons (haha…get it? Cons?) for the convention deserve their own separate entry. That, and this one’s getting kind of long.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

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