Monthly Archives: November 2014

Comics Zen and The Art of Convention Going

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This weekend (14th-16th November) will be my sixth Thought Bubble Festival as a volunteer (redshirt – we proudly reclaimed the word from ill-fated Trekkies). I have been behind the scenes at two Lakes International Comic Art Festivals, two Auto Assemblies, moderated online communities, chaired panels, talks, conferences, am active in ‘public engagement’ (what universities call ‘getting out and talking to actual people for a change’) and attended multiple events of the comic book and media industry type as a punter. I enjoy what I do, and do it freely, in my spare time, passionately and mostly for free (and for the red t-shirt; there must be something in the dye).

I am also aware of a high number of convention etiquette posts from professionals, exhibitors, fellow fans, first-time goers and bored companions (partners, relatives, offspring, pets, stuffed cryptozoa). Personally, I think Dan Berry’s 2012 list is a great resource, along with Luke Surl’s illustrated version for exhibitors. There are plenty more out there, but some tend to be fairly condescending and patronising, even in their tongue-in-cheek style (or maybe because of it). So please take what I say here as tips and suggestions, rather than commandments or recommendations. As a volunteer, I have seen many a visitor storm off disgruntled because they were unable to get a sketch, a signature, a book, a handshake – and it’s not always the event’s fault.

Talk (if you can) – This can be really hard. Emotions run high when meeting your idols, and you might not be comfortable with crowds, small spaces, public speaking or eye contact. That is fine. Creators know that their fans come in all types of person and species, and everyone gets tired/stressed out/overwhelmed at times. If you need help, call upon a redshirt. We’re there to help.

Be Nice – Following from the previous point, if you can’t bring yourself to face someone or speak to them, be nice in any way possible. A quiet thank you, a timid smile, nods, adoration in your eyes. Let the exhibitors know you’re interested in their work if you are, don’t diss them if you’re not. Everyone there is passionate about comics; that’s a whole series of worlds in common. Be nice to other visitors. Be nice to exhibitors. Be nice to staff and volunteers. And be excellent to each other.

Look at Everything – Take it all in. The Big Names are not the only names, and they’re only big to the people who think they are. Make sure you take a stroll through the smaller tables. I have met some of my favourite people in the world by wandering around the halls closing off queues and bringing water or food to exhibitors.

Be a True Fan – So you have all the issues a writer has written, you’re on first-name basis with them, and you’ve seen them multiple times. Excellent! A lovely place to be in! But don’t overdo it. Some people have travelled very far to only attend an event for the day, have less money to spend, less time and may be extremely intimidated by everything going on. Give them their space and time. Don’t be greedy. And don’t for one second think there is such as thing as a fake-fan.

Be an Alien, or, Enjoyable Queueing – Yes, you will have to wait to meet some of the guests. Yes, it can take a while, and it will be boring after a bit. Solution? Use all of the tips above: talk to others in the queue; talk to exhibitors you are close to as you move closer to the aimed table; take in the convention area; plan the rest of your day; if you’re in a group, use supermarket tactics. And most of all..

Don’t Panic – Douglas Adams was bound to make it here at some point. Alas, you might not be able to get everything you wanted done. You might miss a panel. You might be too late for a sketch. The guests might be very tired, unable to make it at all or late. It happens, unfortunately (Kurt Vonnegut? Kurt Vonnegut: So It Goes). But go back to three points above, and look at everything else. You’ll find something you didn’t even know you were looking for.

There are a number of other really important points, such as keeping hydrated and nourished, respecting people’s boundaries, social norms, be mindful of children and event rules and regulations, including personal safety. Some of these are covered by common sense, others by explicit policies such as the SDCC and NYCC ones. All should be kept in mind at all times. My list is simply an addition to those guidelines.

Lost

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The end

is the best place to start
when you’re lost for words
because, apart from the troubles
you’ve saved yourself from
having to think of a beginning,
all you need to work out
is how to retrace your steps
walk backwards, in heels if needs must
in lines in the sand and the dust
and trust me, it gets easier.
Because maybe it’s just a phrase
you’re going through.
And you’ll figure out
that in your end may very well be your beginning,
but – and this is just a feeling, Toto –
we are not in Little Gidding any more
so carry on. Walk.

Run if you must, run from the living
run through the dead, empty words
that brought you here in the first place.
Run until the air burns in your lungs
sounds stick to your tongue
piercing your throat
with peaks of voice.

Pick apart the rain now rushing
on your skin, washing the world
clean of the steps you
took on your way to the end
of your life-long sentence
the full stop with no real cause
attempting to order the clauses
clawing at each other
scratching each other
into your mind and fingers
wanting to spill onto the page.

And when, not if, you lose your thread
make sure to tread carefully
on your own or someone else’s dreams.
Apologies can only do so much
and minds are fragile things,
thumb prints can burn and stay
on blood and ink and skin
so think before you speak
but always, always speak your thoughts.

And run, or walk if you must
carry the weight, count the prints
you left on your route here
close the circle and return
back to the place where you started
all the way back to

How to Scare You

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As the November chill
starts to creep in
ever so softly

as you walk home
along darker roads
ever so swiftly

as the sharp wind cuts
through your warmth
consider this:

I could cut out for you
some time to kill,
as dawn turns into day
and day into dusk
into night.

I could make you
and all your worries
simply disappear,
vanish where no one
will see.

I could offer you
my whole beating heart
on a cold platter,
my hands reaching out
to yours.

I could cook for you
and we shall feast
on whatever remains
once the light has come
and gone.

I could prepare you
for what awaits
I could tell you
what will come
I could show you
what I’ll do

So come closer,
don’t be afraid.
See? I’m smiling.