My First Sci-Fi Convention

It is quite a bit late (from April 22, 2006), but now that my friend MB finally provided some pictures of Starfest 2006, I thought I’d go ahead an write about the event. Despite being 36-years old, this was the first sci-fi convention that I’d ever attended, and certainly I’m glad MB and KC talked me into going. It was a very memorable experience!

It all started when I came back to work after being away to attend Grandpa’s funeral. MB and KC approached me and asked if I’d like to attend. They were going on Saturday, which we had off, and were even going to have their pictures taken with Tricia Helfer, who stars as Six on the new Battlestar Galactica. In addition, they’d purchased VIP passes, which guaranteed that they’d have a reserved seat for any of the events in the main room. I thought about it for a moment, then reflected on how Grandpa was always dreaming of doing this or that, but never actually doing any of it. Since I’d never been to a sci-fi convention, I decided that it was time.

Before the convention could start, I suddenly found myself on the opposite schedule from MB and KC, meaning I was now scheduled to work the Saturday. I managed to get Saturday night off and part of Friday night. However, because I had to work part of Friday night and didn’t get naught but a brief nap before I got up Saturday, I was pretty tired. The plan was for me to pick up MB, then drive down to the Denver Tech Center to meet KC where we’d have breakfast before starting the fun. I made it down from Longmont to MB’s place, but discovered I hadn’t brought my ticket to obtain my pass. A quick call to the number for the convention revealed that I had to bring the ticket in order to obtain my VIP pass. MB called KC, and learned that he was going to be delayed in meeting us.

So, MB and I returned to Longmont where I grabbed my ticket (including the one for having my picture taken Tricia), then MB and I decided a breakfast at IHOP was in order. I hadn’t been to IHOP for ages and wasn’t that enthused at first, but upon receiving our food, I discovered that the food was really quite good. I would have told you what I got, but I don’t see it on their menu any longer. It was a lot of food though.

The trip south to the Tech Center was just under an hour’s drive. By the time we reached the hotel where the convention was being held, there was absolutely no parking. I didn’t relish the thought of having some long hike, but as it happened, a father and young son were leaving and so we lucked out and scored a good parking place. Yay us!

Entering the Marriott DTC, I was somewhat surprised by the more “upscale” feel of the place, to include an indoor atrium where many room had balconies, many decorated with sci-fi themes. Plus the place was pretty large. I’ll admit, normally when I travel, it is just some Days Inn or the like. Providing they have wireless, high speed Internet access, I’m a happy camper.

After what seemed an eternity of standing in the VIP line (shouldn’t paying for a VIP pass make things move smoother and quicker?) where we watched many “cheap seat” folks register and go, we finally were given our passes and special ticket to have our picture taken with the lovely Tricia. MB and I took some time to look around real quick, before heading to the dealer room. I guess this was the hotel’s dining room (or one of them) in normal times, but I could be mistaken. Regardless, the large room was packed with folks selling all kinds of things. Nothing really gripped me nor MB, though one vendor had some stuff from Japan including a die-cast drop ship and APC from the movie Aliens. That was cool, but the price was more than I would want to spend.

The other tiny booth that caught my eye was the anime booth. They really had no chance of selling anything to me since none of the stuff was from Japan (all officially licensed for the R1 region). However, the person running the booth and one customer were speaking of my favorite anime, Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-ohki. Of course I HAD to to participate, being that I run the Tenchi Muyo! FAQ site.

KC soon hooked up with us, and some exploration led us to some very expensive caffeine. Still, I was very tired, so caffeine was going to be my lifeline if I wanted to stay awake. I made plans to return to this little store in the hotel a few more times.

One of the things that struck me were what is known in anime conventions as “cosplay” — those who dress up in various costumes. I hate to say it, but many costumes looked pretty weak. BUT there were a few that looked good. A few people in Klingon costume spent some time and effort into the makeup job, which looked pretty professional. There was a guy in a Predator costume that rocked. However, I have to say that the storm troopers are the best.

Each of us decided later in the day to have our pictures taken with some storm troopers. I had Darth Vader in mine as well as R2D2. Pretty cool, eh? ^_^ The background “set” almost appears that I could be in the Death Star. Funny thing is, that background isn’t very large, and when seen in person, didn’t even strike me as that impressive. Looking at the picture, I find that it looks much better through the camera lens than through the naked eye. So when I watched Star Wars again, I found myself laughing at scenes in the Death Star because I’m sure those sets were built much the same way this little corner was built in my picture.

The three of us then scouted out the entire hotel where events were being held. We first located the spot where our pictures with Tricia would be held. The staff were setting up for the first pictures. We saw Dwight Schultz (Lt. Reginald Barclay, Star Trek: The Next Generation), who looked much older than I expected (no offense Dwight). We also saw Dirk Benedict (Starbuck, original Battlestar Galactica). We politely, but casually said “Hi” as we passed them. I got to say that this is the first time I’ve seen stars and it was pretty cool. Heading into one of the large halls, we passed Denise Crosby (Lt. Tasha Yar, Star Trek: The Next Generation) in that hall. Sadly, we got no pictures of these encounters, but oh well.

We saw Gary Jones (Chief Master Sergeant Walter Harriman, Stargate SG 1) who was signing autographs and then saw Dean Haglund (Langly, X-Files) sitting at a boot. MB and he exchanged some pleasantries. I have to say, I would never have recognized him. In X-Files, he had long, thin blonde hair and black-rimmed glasses. In real life, he has very short blonde hair and looks older.

Our scouting trip spotted all the small panel rooms before ending up in the main room. The main room was some large auditorium with tons of seats. The room was pretty dark save for the lights on the stage and the lights from the big-screen TVs on either side of the stage. We found our seats, but since the current presentation was something none of us were interested in, we bugged out to continue our look around.

Heading back through the picture area, we saw George Takei (Sulu, Star Trek). KC had met him before back when The Voyage Home was done as he’d been a member of the real U.S.S. Enterprise. I guess George came to the ship for an event and there had been some little adventure surrounding it (I was too tired to get the details, and never remembered to ask KC, even to this day). George remembered it well, and my impression was that he could have remembered KC. For several minutes, the two talked like old friends. I have to say that I found this to be pretty cool.

Once we’d scouted out the entire place and scored some more caffeine, it was close to time to have our pictures taken with Tricia. We wanted to get there early enough to make sure we could get through and attend some other events. However, getting to the line early wasn’t early enough. The line snaked out from the picture area, passed the registration area, and began to snake down the large main hall.

I’m not sure how long we were in line, but when one is tired, it seems like an eternity. Still, eventually the line began moving forward and it was our turn to have our picture taken. When it was my turn, I shook her hand, thanked her for coming, and told her I appreciated her work on the series. She smiled brightly and thanked me for watching the show. Being a big guy, I wasn’t sure how scary I looked to her, but being the ultimate professional, she did her thing. While I am astonished at my image (I wasn’t always this big you know), I did like the picture that resulted enough to post it on my companies directory for my name. I’ve had some fun with that, but that’s another story.

After the picture was over, KC and MB wanted to see an event in the auditorium, but since that event had no interest to me, I headed to the anime room. They were supposed to be showing the first couple of episodes of Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid (fansubs since at that time, FUNimation hadn’t officially licensed the title). I’d already seen the series, but I thought it might be fun seeing it with others.

When I entered the room, they weren’t playing anime but instead were playing an episode of Robot Chicken. I was annoyed that no anime was being displayed, but the spoof on the movie Seven staring the Smurfs was pretty funny and wrong.

When TSR started playing, the small room filled up. Clearly the show has a popular following in the U.S., though I wondered how many of these people would normally be English dub watchers rather than Japanese with subtitles. It is silly, I know, but that’s what happens in a tired mind I guess.

Afterward, I met up with MB and KC, where we grabbed more caffeine and scored some food. I got to say that I was unimpressed with the food of this fancy hotel, less so because of the price. Granted all I got were chicken strips, but still, how can you not do those right? Then again, maybe I was so tired that the food just didn’t taste good.

Upon finishing our meal, we went to the main room to watch George Takai’s presentation. Obviously, he was a fan favorite and he amused us with tales of how he got James Dohan into sushi, and later the rest of the crew.

He did a question and answer session, and one fan asked a question about Colorado and laws regarding homosexuals. It was here that I got annoyed as George took the opportunity to preach. Yeah George, thanks for reminding me that you are a sausage eater. I don’t care that George is a homosexual, and has been one forever. I don’t pay good money to go to an event to get some political preaching on how homosexuals need special rights (though to be fair, he didn’t call it that, but that was the meaning I took).

Fortunately, the preaching didn’t last too long. Another fan got up and greeted George in Japanese — “Konichiwa!” George then spouted off a lot of stuff in Japanese, which sadly my brain was too tired to even attempt to try to comprehend (not that my Japanese is good enough to know more than a bit). The female fan was clearly flustered and made some comment back. George didn’t stop his “attack” and hit her with more Japanese, clearly calling her bluff. Her attempts to squirm out of it failed and almost everyone in the crowd laughed her to scorn. Still, she was a trooper and asked her question, but I felt so bad for her that I don’t even remember what the question was. But I left the room and have despised George from that moment on.

After George was done, we got to see a large number of movie trailers with the editor of Starlog magazine (Dave McDonnell) hosting the event. So we got to hear a lot of neat things that we wouldn’t normally get to hear. We were excited about the upcoming crop of movies, though in the end, I only saw three of them. We started to watch the first 30-minutes (or so) of a screener copy of A Scanner Darkly, but mercifully, the DVD player refused to play it after nearly 15-minutes. Man, that was awful!

Finally, the event we’d been waiting for arrived — the hour-long presentation by Tricia. She decided that rather say much, she’d turn the who event into a question and answer session, which pleased the fans. Many fans got up to pose questions to her, including MB and KC. She revealed how she went from being a Victoria Secret’s model to an actor and ultimately how she landed the role as Six in the new Battlestar Galactica. She also spoke of her marriage and how working on the show impacted that.

Most of her talk was of the show. She teased the audience by having a book that was supposed to be a script for the upcoming episode(s) of the current season. She spoke of various episodes from the show, revealing little details (such as the tub of slime she emerged from in one episode), and generally delighting fans with her genuine, down home, friendly nature.

After Tricia’s event was over, I’d had enough. I still had an hour drive back home, not counting the time it would take to drop MB off. I knew I’d have to score one more Mountain Dew for the road or else I’d be in a world of hurt. Fortunately, I got MB home safely, then got myself home and into the bed!

Thus ends the tale of my first sci-fi convention and I want to thank my friends MB and KC for convincing me to go and to Marc for the photos. I have to say that I enjoyed the event so much, I do plan to return next year. Who knows, maybe I’ll go for two days and see more people speak.

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