Please give a big SKoST welcome to +James Patrik as he leads us into the world of the convention from the perspective of the fan and the stall-holder - and in Australia!!!
Supanova – one of three gargantuan sci-fi conventions held in Melbourne each year. It's day one, and the fans have arrived in droves to meet the some of the actors from the original Star Trek series.
I work here; rather, I am an exhibitor working at a stall as part of a team selling collectables.
Right now I’m waiting in line with the rest of the fans. It’s not so bad – there are only a couple of people ahead of me, so it shouldn't be long now.
I glance around the room, taking in the sheer enormity of the event. Over the next 48 hours, approximately 50,000 people will make their way into the Melbourne Showgrounds like costumed pilgrims seeking autographs and action figures. For everyone else, it’s a circus – a day of fun and frivolity – but for me it’s a day of work, and this is my lunch break.
The queue lurches forward again. A couple more steps. In spite of the vomiting butterflies in my stomach, I take a moment to realise just how tired I am. Unbeknownst to the average convention attendee, these conventions are often hard work. Exhibitors arrive two days beforehand and join an army of hi-vis vest wearing men and women unloading trucks and setting up stalls.
This fluorescent army keeps working right up until the doors open on the first day. A strange electricity hangs in the air in anticipation of the day ahead. I’ll always remember seeing the waiting crowd for the first time - thousands of people restrained by glass doors, just waiting for the right time. It was quite a sight, and one that filled me with excitement and terror.
The line is moving again again, I reach for my pocket to check on my trading card – it is still safe – encased in its hard plastic toploader. Others have glossy photos signed, but I prefer the cards. They are smaller and I can stick them on my wall.
The anticipation finally too much, I nervously begin bobbing up and down on my toes. Up ahead, I catch a glimpse of a familiar face, a face that cannot possibly be real.
My heart skips a beat.
In spite of my fatigue, I'm still energised. I have always loved sci-fi conventions. The costumes, the colours, the general over-stimulation. In fact, ‘Cosplayers’ have now become integral to these events. Walking attractions in themselves, they spend the day patiently posing for photographs.
These shows are the only time I get to talk to other fans outside of the internet. Each interaction quickly becomes a heated debate about the current season of Doctor Who or an angry review of the latest Ninja Turtles film. Cheesy as it may seem, I feel I’m among my own kind. Sci-fi fans are passionate, knowledgeable and warm. Though they are strangers to me, we are united by a common love, a shared history and a million nerdy conversations.
And so here I stand, in line with my brethren. Behind me, a green Power Ranger and a girl dressed as Deadpool compare tattoos.
A man up ahead beckons me forward as I nervously fumble for my trading card and place it down on the table in front of me. And there he is – the great man himself - George Takei.
Sat before me, his eyes are piercing and clear, his hair a little greyer than I expected, but there is no mistake – George Takei is right in front of me!
It is a moment frozen in time. This man – through books, VHS tapes and comics – has been a part of my entire life. The realisation is staggering, and the world seems unreal as he sits across a table from me breathing the same oxygen.
George picks up my trading card to inspect it. My mouth feels like it’s filled with peanut butter, but I manage to say hello. His brow furrowed, he reaches for his spectacles and gingerly slips them over his ears, now squinting at the card I have placed before him.
What could possibly be wrong? Does he not want to sign my card? Everyone else is having photos signed. I start to panic.
“Great. I've pissed off Captain Sulu”.
And then it happened – with a practiced flourish he signs my card, offering me a smile and a single word of approval in his familiar iconic baritone.
I shake his hand and politely say thank you as I suppress a childish squeal and return to work, clutching my signed card.
The next day, I had the good fortune of also meeting Walter Koenig, who like his contemporaries is sporting a little more grey these days, yet is still recognisably Chekov. A little less shy this time, I decide to try some witty banter.
“You were one of my action figures when I was a kid”.
He too signs my card and sends me on my way. As I return to work, I ponder the iconic nature of these two men. Takei and Koenig – for me, no longer mere actors but pillars of my youth and a reminder of my 24 years spent trekking. As I write this, the world still mourns Leonard Nimoy, and I wonder if I will ever again have the chance to meet an original series actor.
The convention ended, my feet sore and my body exhausted, I return home and inspect my treasured autographs once again. The items themselves aren't important; they are merely props with which to tell this story – proof that one day, not too long ago, I got to meet Sulu and Chekov for real.