Sunday, September 01, 2013

The Conventions of Conventions


If you absolutely must wear a costume,
go with HST: it gives you a sound excuse
to be the freak that you are. 
You will soon be reading a transcript of the single panel I had the opportunity to be a part of this year, but first I wanted to share some thoughts on the larger picture.

Covering conventions like Dragon*Con takes many skills that typical journalists lack. You have to keep jujitsu-like reflexes and be able to wrestle an alligator into submission-- no that's a pile of shit but you do have to have the liver fortitude of an ox. More importantly, you need to learn how to keep one foot in the party and the other in a state detached enough to provide external commentary later.

I spent several years of my life essentially hopping from one convention and festival to the next, and often found myself one of the only "embedded journalists," which is to say gonzo journalists, in attendance. Everyone else is too busy getting obliterated, or on the opposite side, struggling up a hill with a mountain of video equipment, and reporting on the event from a state so alien that they may as well be a bunch of British anthropologists writing about the pack of savages they've been living with. You have to go native.

Not that I'm going to complain about Cosplay,
aside from the people that think it gives strangers
the right to grope: it does not. 

Unfortunately, my experience this year was so short lived that I didn't really have the opportunity to reach cruising altitude. I showed up, did my thing, and had to turn right around and vanish into the myths... er, mists... like Batman. (Aptly enough- I got MRI results about my back while in transit and they weren't that great. But Bane broke his back and he healed in a dank and rotten hole in the ground, so anything is possible, right?)

So my real missive is going to have to wait for the Transmedia panel transcript, which should be running over at Disinformation any day now. But this to other would-be reporters, looking to explore the strange alter-culture that exists in this world of festivals, a world that is so much more than cosplaying, a world where the actual social rules and standards that exist in the rest of this culture shift, subtly or in the extreme--that is to my mind the real story, and yet no one ever talks about it. Alternative sexuality, culture, and identity undergoes such a mainstreaming process at these events that some people get whiplash -- especially those that depend on their very difference for their sake of identity. Let it go and for once let yourself become a part of the crowd, if that's what's natural.

But maybe I am (metaphorically) more like my least favorite superhero, Superman, whose real identity is the one in the costume, and who hides in plain sight the rest of the time. The first time I set foot at events like Pennsic, Dragoncon, Gaian Mind, and the like, I had the strangest sense that I was home in a way that I haven't experienced elsewhere. Not completely, of course, but more so than I've encountered in other social spaces. I didn't need to hide in plain view--even if my de facto state has been to strut my difference, here there would be no stares or awkward whispers. The actual genre(s) represented by these event didn't matter. And to the many other "pretender" conventions of all sizes, all the way up to the monolithic San Diego Comic Con, which has more of the air to it of an alter-culture strip mall than the so-called "real deal." I once again had to partially slip into my disguise.

These are events that I don't have to cosplay at. Where I can be myself. And that is what I always look to report on, while at the same time looking for others that seem more in their element. I look forward to the next time I can be at my home away from home -- and next time it's Dragon*Con, I intend to stay the whole time, goddamnit.

[Take a Trip with us... Mythos Media.]

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