Monday, March 8, 2010

StacyD's Convention Etiquette 101.

With my upcoming trip to Seattle for the annual Emerald City Comic Con and Star Wars Celebration V on my mind, I thought it'd be a worthy diversion to set down a few thoughts on proper convention etiquette. Whether you're an old hand at attending Science Fiction and Fantasy conventions or a relative newcomer, it never hurts to go over the basics and establish some guidelines. Best to have and not need than need and not have, right? Without further ado, let's jump right into it:

Convention Etiquette 101:

1) The Golden Rule: A very simple creed to live by and a positive necessity at a con, doing unto others as you'd have them do unto you is just good common sense. That doesn't mean you need to be a Pollyanna or a milksop, but just remember to be polite and pleasant whenever you can. I know it can be difficult when the line to get food stretches off into the horizon or the guy jabbering behind you on a cell phone at a panel is working your last nerve, but a little civility can go a long way.

2)Cultivate patience: Waiting in line is a fact of life at cons, whether it's for a panel, food, or even the washroom and general admittance. Focus on the destination rather than the journey at those moments you feel your patience begin to fray. Save up some really geeky questions for impromptu debates between friends, or hey, maybe even strike up a conversation with the people around you in line. You might make some new friends, and that never sucks.

3)Don't be greedy: Yes, you're here to get Wil Wheaton's autograph, you loved his voice over work on Teen Titans and the Legion of Super Heroes and you thought his guest appearances on The Big Bang Theory were bust-a-gut funny. Thing is, we the people behind you did also, and we'd kinda like to say hi and get something signed for ourselves, so could you maybe e-mail him the epic sweep of your life story so we can get a shot at a signature? I know, I know, Rule #1, but remember that we're here to see our idols as well. . .

4)Always Ask Permission: One thing about Science Fiction and Fantasy conventions that I love is getting the chance to watch local and travelling cosplayers go completely Muppet Labs and make the future today in terms of insanely awesome costumes. And they're usually more than willing to get a picture taken and strike a badass pose for you to immortalize them for your Facebook album or flickr page. Something to remember though, is to always seek their permission before you take a picture, to ensure that they're A)Not trying to get somewhere or B)Not busy. Doctor Fate may fight the Lords of Chaos and their evil machinations but Buddy Wasisname in his outfit may want to take off the helmet and get a Coke.

Also(and this is very very rare)there are certain folks within the fan base who follow those in costume in hopes of shots from. . .shall we say. . .creative angles, particularly when it comes to female cosplayers. Always asking permission and taking a tasteful picture is infinitely preferable than being seen as one of the creeps, and if you do spot something like that going on let someone on staff know. We're all here to have fun, not make people feel uncomfortable.

5)Don't be mean: Like the great Buckaroo Banzai said, we don't have to be mean. This may tie in with Rule #1, but remember that above all else we're here to have fun and hang out and exult in the things that we find to be awesome. Yes, you might have certain concerns about a given direction your favorite book has taken or the paper quality of certain releases but I'd ask that you approach the parties you hope to raise your concerns with privately, rather than getting into a panel and grinding it to a complete halt with a confrontational attitude. Also, while I may not get anime and manga fans, and while I really don't get the furries, I respect that they're having fun and just want to come to a place where they can enjoy themselves in an inclusive, friendly atmosphere. Really, didn't we get enough clique jockeying back when we were in high school? Do we really have to bring that to a place we're in control? Hell, maybe this year will be the year some plucky anime fan finds the series that turns me around in terms of my opinion on anime or manga, and I might bond with furries over my love of Usagi Yojimbo and Captain Carrot. The point is we're all out to have a good time. Grandstanding and being mean-spirited need not apply.

6)Avoid becoming Torg, the Living Log Jam: Let's face it, the aisles of a convention can get crazy busy. If you can, try to be as salmon-like as possible and get to where you're going as best you're able with as much civility as you can muster. If you have to stop for anything, try to make yourself as small as possible. Remove your Con Swag backpack and set it by your feet, and if asked do your best to move for anyone you might be blocking. Cosplayers should be aware of how much space there is in an aisle. If there's room to pose and people can get around, have at it. If things are a bit congested, perhaps suggest adjourning to the lobby. Sometimes people need to get where they're going as quickly as possible (like me after two cokes and a bran muffin) so if the aisles are moving, people can get where they need to go and stay happy.

7)Thank your vendor: Speaking as a guy who's worked both sides of a con, thank your vendors. He came here in the very, very wee hours in the morning, set up his booth, and now gets to stand on a concrete floor for about 8 hours busting his hump so you can get a shot at quality merchandise (merchandise that could be found, say, at Red 5 Collectibles!) for a decent price. They do the most gutsy thing imaginable; making their passion their profession, and anyone who suggests they have it easy is quite mistaken. Next time you buy something from one of these fine people, thank them for the effort it took to get out here and set up for you. It's just good karma.

8)Have fun: Remember that above all else, a convention is that rarest of opportunities: a chance to get together with people who understand why it's so important that the Earth-2 Superman was named Kal-L and he defeated the Anti-Monitor in one of the sickest fights ever, or that the Force is an energy field that unites and binds all living things, or that Sheridan's farewell to Delenn is one of the most heartbreaking scenes depicted on film. These are people who understand, who get it, and who prove that you're not alone for loving this stuff. That other people do too, from all walks of life from all over the world. More than anything else this love of the shared passions we have for our 'crazy books' and 'sci-fi stuff' is one of the most amazing things I've ever encountered, and it's ability to join complete strangers in bonds of shared experience is something to truly be savored as one of life's rare joys.

Oh, and if you could help me complete my run of Sleepwalker, that would be so boss.


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