Since last we met, dear readers, the summer has passed and I have tried to keep myself productive, with varying levels of success. I’ve made some progress on my next novel, the third and final in The Talbot Trilogy, and my garden has been happily growing, feeding bees, butterflies, earwigs, slugs, and birds. I don’t mind that I’m helping the first two, but the latter three I’d prefer to be rid of, particularly as they like to snack on my lovely Heirloom tomatoes.
The highlight of the last few weeks — and a point of particular stress — was taking my family to FanExpo in Toronto. Our great end-of-summer hurrah, as it were. Weeks of preparation, developing an itinerary and choosing accommodations, creating costumes and explaining the passage of time to my daughter. And with that much anticipation, it’s no wonder that the time we spent at the event flew by, though enjoyably so.
I will admit, there are some aspects of FanExpo that I had hoped to be more satisfying. I thought a lot about the power of anticipation on the way home — how the expectation of something grand and exciting can outweigh the experience of the thing itself. Like the chase feeling more fun than the catch, or the trailer more tantalizing than the film. I’d set up photo opportunities for myself and my family with some of our favourite actors, and we looked forward to those intensely, but when the pivotal moments arrived, I was too shy to make the most of them. I saw others having fun with posing, and props, but I was too keyed up with the glamour and shock of actually being there to do what I’d dreamed of doing: asking for a quick hug, or standing between a pair of actors rather than slipping to the side. An expensive learning experience, to be sure. Photo ops are a long wait, and a quick doing. I’d thought that they would be better and more personal than an autograph, but after sharing some nice, quick conversations with two other actors (and waiting only 20 minutes for each), I think my opinion is reversing itself.
Still, there is something to be said for spending two days in the company of thousands of like-minded individuals. I saw people of all ages and faiths, ethnicities and educational levels, mingling happily in a sea of science fiction and fantasy merchandise, celebrities, icons, and workshops. Cosplayers are among the kindest people you will ever meet. They’re much like Shriners, in fact, in my experience: very friendly, open to conversation, willing to help or point you in the direction of help, highly creative and generous of their time.
I think that the attendees and volunteers of FanExpo are perhaps the best part of the event.
It’s a place for waiting, you see. You wait in line to meet someone who’s been part of your favourite fiction, for a fleeting chance to tell them how much you appreciate their work and if you can afford it, take away their signature as a treasured souvenir. You wait in line to obtain a precious bottle of water or a slice of pizza for your hungry children, acutely aware that you’re grateful that it’s there and you live in a country where a long line is a minor inconvenience. You wait to find a place to squeeze through the crushing crowd between tables displaying information about philanthropic fan organizations raising money for Sick Kids, and pick up advice on costume repair or spy a coveted tea pot while you’re there. You wait to meet your significant other, who is trying to get to you from the other side of the building. And yet the adventure keeps happening around you, while you’re waiting.
You’re seeing superheroes and creatures of mythology rubbing elbows with fantastical recreations of anime characters and video game villains. You’re glimpsing famous faces at the end of one of those long lines, smiling and shaking hands with the fans who support them, and delighting in the proximity. You’re making way for a grand Gandalf with his perfectly Hobbity wife, steadily moving forward with the aid of a walker, while an infant barely a month old is wearing the onesie of a comic book heroine, swinging in her father’s arms. It’s hot, and it’s loud, while a gathering of gaming fans cheers on competitors in a virtual race, and the people stream in breaks and eddies toward the doorways that funnel them to the next part of the convention centre. It’s beautiful, dizzying, and maddening, all at once.
You make friends at FanExpo. I had lovely conversations while waiting in line, with a nice young couple who’d just finished school. The lady (whose name I was too shy to ask) offered to pilfer a Sprite from an unwatched case on behalf of my thirsty self, and I promised her we would bond in jail. (Don’t worry, we didn’t steal the pop.) And then I chatted with a terrific gentleman who was the only person I’d seen with the wisdom to bring a folding stool for the waiting. (Hello, dear Man-with-the-Stool, if you held onto my card and have gotten to read this!)
Adding to this the experience of strolling downtown in a metropolis in full creature or hero gear, passing sports fans on their way to the Blue Jays game and boarding the subway with evening commuters, and you have a summertime adventure that simply cannot be equalled or diminished, even if the photos weren’t quite what were originally envisioned and the legs and feet take days to recover from hours of walking and standing on concrete floors. After all, adventures aren’t meant to be perfect. They’re occasions in which to learn about ourselves, to take risks and push boundaries, and later to share with others by story and photograph.
We first went to FanExpo last year, and we enjoyed it so much then that we determined to make it a family tradition. Already, my husband is planning how to improve his costume for next year, and my son is considering his cosplay options. I’ve learned the value of carrying a large, colourful or easily recognizable staff — it might seem cumbersome, but it’s incredibly useful for identifying someone across a crowded convention hall. I’ve also learned the value of the revealing, light-cloth costume in an environment heated and humidified by thousands of bodies. So the next trip should be even better than this one.
But though I feel a layer of disappointment here and there (which may also be a mark of my own anxieties making themselves known — always worried that I haven’t done things exactly right), I know that my family had an excellent experience, and that makes it all so very worthwhile.