|No, this is not me.|
Believe it or not, I have never gone to a Star Trek convention. In a costume, that is.
I have been to my fair share of comic book, science fiction, and other esoteric geek-specific gatherings. For many who know me, this will not come as a shock whatsoever. In fact, some of you reading this have been to said conventions with me, so stop your snickering before I start naming names.
This summer, I was able to make a return trip to a comic convention I used to frequent years ago. I was at first inundated by the sheer number of people at the con, but pretty soon I started to settle back into my steady groove of meet-thank-sit in awe of some of the people whose works I have loved throughout the years. It went from being uncomfortable to feeling like somewhere I belonged in no short amount of time. And before you ask: yes, I was in regular clothes.
In a month or two, I will be attending another kind of conference, held annually in Atlanta. This one doesn't come with Klingons or Stormtroopers. This one comes with a different breed of geek: this is the Catalyst Conference.
I've already written about my experiences at Catalyst last year, and how they changed me and the way in which I perceived my attending. This year, I'm looking forward to a similar experience, one where I am comfortable in my own skin, meeting new friends - some in real life for the first time after meeting them online - and saying hi to some old ones. And maybe it's because I am so comfortable in this environment now, and moreso that I am comfortable with me, that I can kind of step back and predict that Catalyst will in some ways feel just like going to a comic or scifi convention:
There will be hero worship. Everyone knows that some speakers will draw larger crowds than others, because these are the "superstars" that they have come to hear. Now, I will admit that if Donald Miller ever tried to sell photocopies of his grocery list, I'd probably buy one...because he's Donald Freaking Miller! But by that same token, I need to remember that even Donald Freaking Miller! has to buy Immodium. This deflates him from the status of larger-than-life hero back to being human faster than when Bruce Banner...sorry; the geek allegory started to take over.
There will be autographs. Much like with my man-crush on Donald Freaking Miller! there will be people who are going to queue up to get the autograph of some of the aforementioned superstars. Now, I have nothing against getting the autograph of a person whose works you admire and respect. A large chunk of my comic books and CDs are in fact autographed by their respective creators. Maybe it's because then idea of getting something autographed has in many ways lost part of its charm over the years due to me having so many items signed already, but I now - if and when I am afforded the opportunity to - try to find these people and instead just say thanks to them. Thanks for sharing. Thanks for helping me to grow. Thanks for helping me to not feel so isolated or alone at times. And thanks for the ever-decreasing space on my bookshelves as you continue to churn out book after book.
There will be costumes. Oh. Will there ever. No homemade HALO outfits, no Daleks, no army of Browncoats, no "Slave Leia" outfits (thank God). Just a lot of hair product (spiked into an appropriate faux-hawk), skinny jeans, t-shirts with witty sayings, and/or clothes from Buckle, Urban Outfitters, or Ambercrombie. Just so you can look as trendy and relevant and cool as everyone else...and just like so many of the aforementioned superstars. Because idolatry is the most sincere form of flattery.
There will be swag. Because who doesn't love free stuff?
I don't state all this to be judgmental or harsh - after all, be it Firefly, Doctor Who, the Justice League of America, Nooma, the latest tome from Thomas Nelson, or Church Diversity...I'm one of you. One of us. The geeks, the fans, the lovers of the mediums and the ones who create these things which bind us together.
I'm also the older brother who used to salivate, sit all starry-eyed at these larger-than-life-only-in-my-eyes people and elevate them to platforms they were never intended for. As such, I can only ask that you heed what I have learned: just be yourself. Just let them be them. Simply be the best you that YOU can be. Don't try to capture the fire that was given to them, lest you be burned because you we never intended to have it in the first place. Remember that they are human, failed, flawed, and some only look that good all the time because of their publicist.
And leave the "Slave Leia" costumes to reruns of Friends. I beg of you.