I’ll be honest, there were some good things and some bad things about this years’s Wondercon. I suppose that’s inevitable, everything isn’t going to be perfect, no matter where you go, but there were some things they did very right and some things they did, and will probably continue to do very wrong. I’ll start with the good.
We spend most of the first day in panels, it is, by far, our most panel-heavy day that we’re going to have, which I suppose is good as it gets a lot of them out of the way early on. The panels we attended were excellent and I had a lot of fun in them.
The first one was on teaching with comics, it was an educational panel, part of their Comics Arts Conference track. It was a discussion of how teachers can get comics into the classroom and use them to both increase the educational effectiveness of a class and to interest students into reading sequential and comic art. The room was packed with teachers and future-teachers and it was an interesting discussion on how, even at the highest levels and even with the most complex topics, some comic writer has created a story based on old mythology, classical literature, etc.
However, the one thing I got a real kick out of was an older gentleman who sat in front of me who wore this shirt. The front of the shirt said “I Teach Science” and you can see what it said on the back. That’s one thing that I really feel about these conventions, they really attract a skeptical audience. Yes, there are some religious groups at the convention, and in fact, I’ll look at one of them in a minute, but overall, the vibe that I get is generally non-religious and definitely skeptical.
It’s funny because on the way to and from the convention, my wife and I were listening to a podcast that Grundy over at Deity Shmeity turned me on to, Geeks Without God. It takes the best of the geeky podcasts I listen to and the best of the atheist podcasts I listen to and smashes them all together. It’s really hysterical stuff and each episode is only a half hour long so it’s easy to squeeze into whatever free time you happen to have. I highly recommend it, they’ve got 36 episodes out so far and we got through the first 5 while on the road. Thanks again Grundy!
As for that religious group, and honestly, I have no idea why the hell this seems to happen at every single comic or sci-fi convention I go to, you had these retards hanging out in front. It wasn’t just one guy, they must have had a good dozen people holding these signs, some of them were young kids during school hours. They were all trying to engage anyone passing by and, almost without exception, people were not very happy to have them around. Most ignored them completely, I flung a healthy amount of four-letter invectives their way every time I passed one, although most of them were clearly so religiously-addled they probably didn’t hear or understand me. To be honest, I find the whole point of the sign ridiculous, we all die, sinner or not. What difference does it make? I watched these morons stand out in the middle of the street for years at Comicon, screaming through bullhorns until the cops carted them off, exactly what makes them so concerned for the souls of people attending comic conventions.
Oh yeah, my previous comments on the non-religious and skeptical…
Regardless, our second panel is a yearly tradition at Wondercon, we go to the Quick Draw panel where they get cartoonists who quick-draw funny pictures as suggested by the audience and the moderator. This year, they had Scott Shaw!, Jeff Smith, who created Bone and Bobby London, who created Dirty Duck and did the Popeye newspaper strip for years. Some of the topics for this year, multiple instances of “What if X and Y had children?”, “Draw the best and worst picture of yourself” and the funny “There was controversy on The Bible because some said the devil looked like the President. Show us what the devil really looks like!” This has been ongoing for many years and there are many different cartoonists usually involved. This is the second year in a row that Sergio Aragones has not been there, last year he was sick and in the hospital, although they called him from the convention and this year, he’s just had an artificial hip installed and wasn’t up to the trip. I wish him a speedy recovery.
The final panel, although I have no pictures of it, was on Science in Science Fiction, it was very interesting to see how close a lot of modern-day science is to some of today’s speculative fiction. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of a panel that Robert Forward used to do at Loscon many, many years ago. Artificial intelligence, bio-engineering, prosthetics, etc. were all discussed in relation to many of the films and TV shows that are on the air today, geeks are just getting more and more savvy and it’s getting harder to tell science fiction stories without including the technology that is a common place part of our every-day lives. I love living in the future.
We were going to hang around and watch the world premiere of the new episode of Dr. Who, it showed a full day before it’s premiere in the UK, but honestly, we were just too tired and hungry and if there was any event in the place that would be packed to the gills, that would be it. Ah well, I’ll just see it in the comfort of my living room on Monday night.
But I said there were some bad things too, right? Unfortunately that’s true. Last year I wrote a bit on what they did wrong in their first year in Anaheim, as well as the hope that it was just growing pains and they’d figure it out for this year. Well… not so much.
First off, they didn’t do parking at the Anaheim Stadium this year, which I suppose was both good and bad. Last year, Wondercon shared the convention center with a cheerleading convention, this year, it has the whole place to itself, so all of the parking is on-site. They said on their website that there would be plenty of signage directing people to whichever of the six lots were available. They lied. No signage at all. In fact, instead of having all six lots open, they tried to funnel everyone through a single entrance and it took forever to park. Then, we got in to pick up our badges and it took FOREVER! Remember, we’re in professional registration, the lines are short, but unlike San Diego Comicon where they have scanners and computer systems, here everything is done by hand. No clue why since it’s all run by the same company, presumably with access to the same equipment. We stood in a relatively short line for more than 45 minutes to get to the front, have them manually look up every name on a list, etc. Come on guys, join the 21st century.
And, just like last year, there was no communication between the convention staff and the convention center staff. One would arbitrarily decide to move a line somewhere, only to be followed up by someone else who would simply decide to move it somewhere else a few minutes later. We spent more time moving around and waiting for things than we did sitting in some panels. Honestly, this can’t be that difficult! It isn’t like the convention center isn’t used to having a ton of people at their center, it shouldn’t be beyond them to know where to have people stand.
That was maybe the biggest disappointment though… the people. We stopped going to San Diego Comicon specifically because it was so absurdly overcrowded. It was wall-to-wall people every second of the day, you could never stop and look at anything, much less buy anything because there was a never-ending tidal wave of human flesh sweeping you along. Today felt just like that. Much of the time, I felt packed in like a sardine in a can and it’s not just that there were a lot of people, but that there were a lot of STUPID people. These are people who are either ignorant of basic human interaction, or just don’t care. I mean people who will stop in the middle of an aisle, blocking traffic both ways, and talk. They have no concept of getting the hell out of the way. Perhaps the stupidest example were the two morons who were ahead of us on the down escalator, who decided to stop the second they got off the escalator and have a discussion, blocking the exit to the escalator. Asshats, it’s not like the people on the escalator can stop, they’re coming down whether you like it or not! Unfortunately, that’s something that I see all the time, people who either don’t know enough, or don’t care enough, to think about the people around them. They’re far too self-centered to be bothered. That’s not a Wondercon problem, that’s a modern human being problem.
And so, that’s the end of day one, tomorrow we don’t have a lot of panels to see so I can get in and really see the dealer’s room. Hopefully the crowd won’t be too absurdly bad, but I fear it will be. It’s the only day of the con that is completely sold out. Wish me luck!