NELSONS COLUMN Go To San Diego Comic-Con? Not On Your Nelly!

While all this has been going on, my friends and colleagues have been asking me one thing. It’s the same thing they ask me every year around this time, and then again in July, while the event is happening: “Are you going?”

When I reply that I’m not, there’s always an astonished pause. “But… you’re a geek. Don’t all geeks go to San Diego Comic-Con?”

“I’ve never fancied it, really.”

Then I get The Look. Remember all the controversy about “booth babes”, attractive women hired to attend big tech or sci-fi events just to add glamour? They often know nothing about sci-fi or fantasy, and this makes people angry because they’re at geeky events but they’re not real geeks. They get The Look, too. It’s The Look that says, “Some geek you are! You don’t want to go to San Diego Comic-Con? All geeks want to go there! If you don’t, you must be a pretender!”

These days it seems to be very important to get your geek card stamped at SDCC. It’s geek Mecca, after all. It’s the place sci-fi and fantasy-lovers around the globe flock to so that they can worship at the altar of their chosen genre. If you don’t attend, it’s often for one of two reasons: you need some serious moolah to do so, given that flights and hotels ramp up their charges come July, to make the most of the feeding frenzy; or you’re just not enough of a geek. Or at least, that’s the feeling I’ve been getting from people over the past few years whenever I announce that I’m not San Diego-bound. I’m not sure if I’m the only one who experiences this, but when people who aren’t remotely geeky themselves (say, random workmates in your company’s sales department) give you The Look when you tell them you’re not going to Comic-Con, it starts to get bloody annoying.

Well, Mr Sales Department Guy, I’ll have you know that I am a geek, thank you very much! As amazing as SDCC undoubtedly is – and as grateful as I am that it even exists, because it’s great to see our favourite genre being taken seriously – it just isn’t my thing. While it would obviously be wonderful to sit in a room and watch Robert Downey Jr walk into it as though he really is Tony Stark , the thought of queuing up for hours on end beforehand, in the blazing heat of a Californian sun with no guarantee of getting a seat at the end of it, isn’t my idea of fun. The same goes for any of the events, actually: it’s common knowledge that nobody gets to see anything at Comic-Con without lining up first. Despite being British and thus genetically predisposed to enjoying a good queue, I get antsy enough waiting ten minutes for a bus – let alone camping out all night long to see a Firefly panel. It was on the internet within hours anyway, for Pete’s sake. No queuing required!

As noted above, Comic-Con is also pricey. It’s not just the cost of the flights, getting into it and finding a place to stay, either: can you imagine how much stuff is available to buy there? I’d need to mortgage everything I own to purchase all the goodies I’d want to buy. Walking from one end of the convention centre to the other would be like trying to navigate landmines made of juicy Star Trek and Buffy merchandise. One false step and BOOM! My credit card explodes!

Then there are the crowds. The largest convention I’ve ever been to was attended by 6,000 people and despite the fact I enjoyed it a lot, I also found it claustrophobic, noisy and unbearably busy. If I found 6,000 people tough to cope with, how would I cope with the 120,000-plus who regularly attend SDCC? Naturally most of them would spend their time queuing (!), but I imagine that even a trip to the loo would involve bumping into at least 5,000 women busting for a wee. No. Just no! If you can handle crowds, go for it. I’ll be over here in my soundproof room all by myself, gently rocking in my loneliness.

People who’ve been there tell me, “But it’s so much fun! There are all these amazing cosplayers!” I know, I see photos of their costumes on the internet within seconds of them walking into the convention centre. “The panels are great!” others say. They are. I know that because I watch them on YouTube or through other websites, usually within hours of them happening. I’m told, “You get massive exclusives!” Yes, but they’re only massive exclusives for the 0.2 seconds it takes for someone to Tweet them. “There’s a great atmosphere!” people assure me. Of course there is, but there was also a great atmosphere at the convention I went to last autumn with only 400 attendees, and you know what? I didn’t have to queue for the loo. Or for anything else.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t go to San Diego Comic-Con. And, as I said above, I’m thrilled that it happens: geeks are here, we’re numerous, and it’s great to be pandered to. I’m simply saying that I don’t fancy it. Every twinge of jealousy I have that someone’s seen an exclusive Supernatural panel is tempered by the knowledge that I didn’t have to punch someone in the queue outside for pushing in front of me. I may be jealous that people get to see footage from blockbusters months before I do, but all those films hit cinemas eventually. I am patient. Mostly. (I may still be a tad butthurt about missing the Godzilla footage last year, but I’ll live.)

Everybody I’ve ever met who’s been to San Diego Comic-Con has had fun, and I’m glad that they have. I’m sure if you’re inclined to go to all the effort to attend, you will have fun. But they always say the same thing to me afterwards: “It was very tiring.” Call me an old fart, but I’d rather have a good night’s sleep and watch/read about Comic-Con on my laptop on my comfy sofa. And as Comic-Con gets bigger and bigger each year it becomes more corporate, more frantic and less like the kind of geeky thing I’d like to do. But that doesn’t mean I’m any less of a geek for not going – it just means that I’m happy to live vicariously through others.

And all those geeks who do go? You are far braver than I will ever be, and I salute you.

Jayne Nelson

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