Comic-con or Bust


You’re not really going to put yourself through it again, are you? You are a serious glutton for punishment. How many years in a row has it been now? It’s become an addiction for you, like an alcoholic who very clearly remembers the heavy, cement-stuffed pounding of being unable to lift his head off the bed the morning after but still picks up a bottle again at the end of the day.

You’ll drag yourself out of the hotel room at 6 a.m. and forge your way through the streets packed with shoulder-to-shoulder crowds while being buffeted by 8-foot Pikachu, ratcheting Steampunk wings, enormous fantasy-sized 3-D printed missile launchers, Aliens and Transformers who can hardly see where they’re going or control their enormous robotic feet. You’ll be jabbed by convention bags as big as coffee tables stuffed with action figures and lightsabers and memorabilia while people with smart phones and cameras with lenses as long as their forearms stop abruptly in front of you as they try to take a picture of that girl dressed (barely) as Poison Ivy or that guy with buffed up pecs and biceps wearing a white wife beater and long silver adamantine claws sprouting from between his fingers sharp enough to slice your hand off even though they’ve supposedly gone through weapons check.

Don’t you remember the stifling proximity of 150,000 people giving off body heat and pheromones pressing through the narrow rows of vendor booths gawking at every newly rolled out piece of merchandise while disrupting the natural flow of walking so that you have to dodge through the crowd with your shoulders hunched forward to block any blows coming your way? Maybe you should wear a costume that has a shield this year. Maybe Captain America’s got the right idea. Then there’s the sensory overload of loud speaker announcements, the crazed screaming of celebrity sightings, billboard size posters sprouting from floor and ceiling like a nightmare obstacle course, and the endless neon-lit displays of high-end action figures, weapons, toys, props crushing your senses until you feel your head swimming with flashbacks of previous cons.

Do you really need to relive the grind of walking miles and miles each day from one end of the building to the other and back again and again on the off-chance that you’ll get into the panels you want even though you know that unless you get there at least two hours ahead of time there’s no chance at all? At least you’ve learned not to wait in line for eight hours straight for the Masquerade. You can just go have dinner then slip into the back of the auditorium where there are always empty seats and multiple large screens to watch the same hosts as last year, and the year before that, make jokes about the costume descriptions, and you join in the countdown as people in costumes that have taken them a year to make act out their bits to pre-recorded audio and get cheered or booed by the ravenous audience. Or you could watch it on a big screen in the tent where it’s easy to get a seat, but it’s so f-ing cold that you’ll probably catch pneumonia after sweating your ass off all day.

Your feet still remember the swollen ache from last year as you shift uselessly from one leg to the other to alleviate the pain of standing on them hour after hour as you wait in line in the scorching hot sun hoping upon hope that you make it into Hall H to see the Star Wars Panel. And this after you voluntarily slept all night sitting up in a camping chair just to get a seat halfway back in a 7,000 person auditorium to see a panel of actors bandy about some jokes as you watch them on a screen above your head, because even though they are up there on the stage, they are too far away to make out any facial features. Packed tightly into an unmovable metal chair surrounded by stinking people who haven’t bathed, you get to eat bad convention pizza that contains thousands of calories and untold grams of fat while watching a five minute movie preview that you’ll be able to see on YouTube in two months time. Is it really worth it to be the first to post about it on Twitter?

Damn right, you say! 

©2016 Nancy Steinman All Rights Reserved. To republish in print or online, please contact me. It’s OK to post a link to this page.



Once more to Wyrdcon!

Now that Wyrdcon 6 is finally upon us (Yay!), I thought I’d post something I wrote after Wyrdcon 5. I hope it conveys some of the unrestrained exuberance of the weekend. But there are also more studious tracks, for those less inclined to wildness.

By Nancy Steinman

Once upon a time in a magical land called Los Angeles in a castle called The Westin where the good king Ira Ham ruled, a group of storytellers gathered for a five-day adventure. On the last weekend of the month of Mayday, they came from far and wide – flying on giant silver eagles or driving chariots of steel.

Once their trunks, stuffed to the brim with enough costumes to last a week (or more), had been unpacked, and their foam weapons stowed, they gathered in Limbo. There they raised a toast to the days to come – days to be filled with merriment and magic, battles and bofurs, LARPs and ARGs and a live arcade game. And stories, of course.

From the moment the adventure began until the final farewell, sleep was in short supply. There were just way too many enticing activities to fill the hours. Even though time travel was part of the package, it could not meet the demand of trying to be in two places at once. And so the attendees made their choices and then put heart and soul into whatever they participated in. Like the arcade; a live action puzzle-solving, story unfolding maze.

The walls between the worlds grew thin as the days wore on. Warriors roamed the halls as war cries rang out and swords clashed. Dystopia rose. Battles broke out in Belegarth. Wizards cast mighty spells to rid the realm of ghosts and demons. Fairytale characters held court. Andy Warhol and Frank Sinatra debated and sang karaoke. Pirates sailed the seven seas. Meanwhile in the farthest realm of the future, the Oculus Rift was encountered at the unthinkable complexity of a cyber ball. And somewhere a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Jedi and smugglers roamed the Court of the Hutt. And the bloody arcade vexed us. Again.

From room to room, from world to world, we slipped in an out of character. We slept on bean bags and had cobalt nightmares or dreamed of battle in Lannerea. We crafted armor and living dreams. We puzzled over clues, flew on a Starship and left the “real” world behind.

There was discourse on matters of utmost import from renowned storytellers such as Jim Butcher, Todd McCaffrey and Barri Evins. Technical wizardry was demystified by Conducttr Robert Pratten and AIL Fellow Geoffrey Long. And stories were mystified by True Thomas.

And we listened, rapt. And we fought with mad abandon. And we danced in El Wire trances. And we gambled with our imaginations…

and won friendships. And we took home transmedia memories and killer ideas for LARPs and ARGs – and arcades. Enough to do it all over again next year. Which seems ever too far away in the distant future.


But no longer! Wyrdcon 6 is here!

Above and Beyond

At San Diego Comic-con this year, I spent a good deal of time at the Weta Workshop booth where several of the other staffers were working and hanging out. The copy of “The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey Chronicles: Creatures & Characters” that I bought turned out to be my best purchase of the con. Some of the artists who worked on the film took turn signing, going above and beyond by personalizing their signatures with drawings as well. By waiting patiently for all the artists to show up, I ended up with a treasure. Thanks to all the amazing Weta artists who took the time!

1HobbitChronicles2DanielFalconer3Johnny Fraser-Allen4PaulTobin 5Ben Wooten6AndrewBaker7NickKeller8LindseyCrummett9DaveTremontRichard_Russell web