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Science Fiction/Comic Conventions: A Survival Guide

  • Feb 25, 2011
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Nerds, geeks, and fanboys (and fangirls) unite! This list is a fun little run down of necessities that will help you survive those pinnacles of geekdom: Conventions. No matter if it's a small local convention that is highlighted by the appearance of a local science fiction author or one of the big boys such as the San Diego Comic Con or DragonCon in Atlanta, you're guaranteed to make it out alive if you have all of these essentials within reach!
Fan shirt
It's sort of like showing up at a gunfight with a knife if you don't have on a tee shirt sporting your favorite character's image or the logo of your favorite show.  Personally, I like to show up at conventions sporting my Doctor Who TARDIS tee.  It not only easily identifies me as a Whovian, it also attracts fellow Who fans with a flare for the Doctor's adventures. 

Wearing a fan shirt lets others know what you enjoy, and can be wonderful icebreakers if you're alone at the convention or your unmarried friend is hitting on the chick dressed like Mystique and you have no one else to talk to.

Let's be honest.  You go to conventions to meet celebrities, check out the latest comics and upcoming films, pick up some new toys for your collection, and look at all of the wonderful costumes.  A camera can help you remember all of these wonderful things with just a quick snap!  While many people have turned to using their cellphone to take photos, I highly recommend toting at least a cheap digital camera to take photos with.  Maybe it's because I'm old fashioned, but I prefer cameras over camera phones.

The only, and I mean THE ONLY, way you can get away with not wearing a fan shirt at a convention is if you don a costume of your favorite character.  Most conventions have a costume contest anyway, so you might as well come prepared.  If you're relatively new to costuming, I recommend keeping it simple the first few times you put one together.  Sure, there are going to be guys dressed like stormtroopers and anime characters that put a lot of detail into their costumes, but their is absolutely no shame in sporting a trenchcoat and a long scarf and calling yourself "The Doctor."

Don't be afraid to go up to people in costume and ask them about it.  You'd be surprised how friendly these people can be and almost all of them will happily give you information on how they made they costume and what you need to do to make one of your own.

Opening lines

Perhaps you've found a young lady dressed as Xena who has caught your attention?  Maybe that guy dressed as Thor is giving you saucy looks?  What are you going to say to David Tennant when you finally get to meet him after waiting hours in line? 

Be prepared!  Have plenty of opening lines at your disposal when attending conventions.  If you  go to conventions hoping to find love, make sure that your opening line won't drive people away.  Notice what your selected target is wearing.  Compliment their makeup if they are in costume.  Ask them if they've seen the latest episode of "Being Human."  Comment on their Jayne hat.  Pretty much anything along these lines will help you initialize conversation.

As for myself (being married and, as such, pretty much out of the running for finding love at a convention), the most important opening lines I worry about are those I say to the celebrities I meet.  If you're lucky, you'll run into a very talkative and friendly celeb like Chase Masterson or Daniel Logan who will start up the conversation without you ever having to say a word.  Other celebs, however, say hello to you and then wait for your first question. 

A little research can go a long way in the celebrity department.  Ask around the convention to see which celebs are talkative and which ones stay fairly quiet.  A lot of convention attendees have met many of the visiting celebs on a number of occasions and can offer up great advice about how to approach them.  Some celebs do not like people bringing up certain bad movies from their past, while others love it when fans mention how they share a love for a particular social cause, pet, etc. 

Here's a freebie tip:  Challenge Richard Hatch to a thumb war!

Bottled Water
While I'm not suggesting you bring in your own water (many conventions frown on this), know that conventions usually mark up prices on food and drinks that they sell.  Buy some water and keep it on you because you will probably find yourself doing a lot of talking to whoever is near you in line and you'll need to wet your whistle once in awhile.

Hydration is important, but so is the eating of large amounts of nachos, pizza, and hamburgers.  You'll spend most of the convention on your feet, so be sure to have plenty of energy stored up while you're at the convention.  Most conventions offer food, but it can be pricey.  I highly recommend eating a good breakfast before hitting the convention floor, and then scarfing down a granola bar or a candy bar while you are waiting in line to get an autograph. 

Many conventions supply bags for carrying around all of the cool swag you can get from vendors, fan groups, and celebrities, but it never hurts to bring a backpack from home to tote things in.  Just be sure that you pack lightly and properly, so that you don't smash your autographed photo of Leonard Nimoy! 

Protective sleeves
I learned about this essential quickly when I attended the New Orleans Wizard World Comic Con this year.  I didn't bring anything to carry my autographed photos in, and had to shell out a couple of bucks more than average had I bought a protective sleeve in a comic shop or department store.  These sleeves are truly essential if you plan on getting autographs or purchasing rare comics.  Many comic dealers will often give you a free sleeve, but you might want to purchase your own sturdy version just in case.  Lucianna Carro actually gave a protective sleeve to anyone who bought an autographed photo from her when I met her at ConDuLac in 2010, which was very cool.

The sleeves come in all shapes and sizes, and can be used to protect just about anything you might want to get signed at a convention.  While you can get the light sleeves that keep dust off of your autographs, I prefer to buy the hard, bend-proof versions.

Can't find your way to the bathroom?  Lost your floor map and don't know where the line begins for William Shatner?  It's no problem if you have your cellphone on you.  Call or text your buds to see which lines are moving fastest or which panels appear to be the best.  You can also snap a quick photo with most cellphones these days, although I do recommend bringing an actual camera for the best pics.

Also, if you do manage to swap digits with Jewel Staite, you'll want to take a photo of her so that you'll see her pretty face every time she calls you!

Body Spray
If you bring along the backpack as I suggested earlier in this list, you might want to toss a can of body spray in it.  With all of the walking and standing and general tomfoolery you'll experience at a convention, passing a few squirts of body spray across your stinky self throughout the day will keep people talking about the newest Transformers film and not your pits!

Also, if you wear a costume that requires a mask, a rubber suit, or prosthetics, you will sweat and you will stink, so body spray will be your best friend at a convention.

There are tons of body sprays out there to choose from, so you have no excuse for finding a scent you like.

Sharpie Permanent Markers
Many people will say that bringing a Sharpie is not necessary when attending conventions since celebs and anybody else who signs autographs at these events usually have their own to use. 

My reasoning for bringing your own Sharpie is simple:  Celebs aren't always at a signing table!  For instance, you've had a long day at the convention and decide to visit a local pub for a brew or two.  You're sitting at the bar when, amazingly, Aaron Douglas of Battlestar Galactica sits next to you!  You start talking about the convention with him and quickly lose track of time.  Before you know it, you hear, "Last call," and decide you want to ask Douglas for his John Hancock.  You notice that the bar sells a t-shirt with its logo on it, buy one, and Mr. Douglas signs it for you thanks to the fact that you had a Sharpie with you.  Now you have a wonderful memory and a unique t-shirt to commemorate it with!  That, my friends, is why you need a Sharpie with you at all times while you're in a town with a convention going on!

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February 28, 2011
If I had to choose between 1 and 3, I'd definitely choose 3! Thanks for this super in depth list. I feel so prepared now! :D
February 28, 2011
Glad you enjoyed the list. I just got a wild idea one day and decided to make this. I've made two costumes total (Mad-Eye Moody and Doctor Octopus), and they both use the same trenchcoat. You can make some really cool costumes with just a bit of imagination.
About the list creator
Kendall Fontenot ()
Ranked #16
Despite looking extremely cool, I have to admit that I'm a dork. I grew up on the outskirts of the small town of Oberlin, LA. I have since relocated to the Lake Charles, LA area.I love my home state … more
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