Friday, September 13, 2013
A Nerd Journey Part 3: Nerd Prom
Before we had purchased tickets to Denver Comic Con, I had asked my wife a simple question: Do you suppose we can afford for me to go to Comic Con International in San Diego. My friend and comic book guide and I had discussed this possibility a year or so before. To my surprise, delight, and a whole bunch of other nouns of thrilled descriptions, she said yes. I called my son and asked him if he wanted to go. He too said, yes. And there we were, barring inability to get tickets, I, along with my son and my friend and his son, was going to the Mecca of nerdom, San Diego International Comic Con (SDCC). I had no clue what we were getting into.
SDCC is also called Nerd Prom and for good reason. It is one evening and four days of all things science fiction, fantasy, and game play. It draws over 160 thousand nerds and bring in $163 million to the local economy. This means that despite the tremendous pain having that many people gathered in one place for one of the odder events, San Diego does it shiny best to make everyone welcome. Restaurants change their entire decor for the event. Streets are closed and movie and television production companies set up massive attractions for their upcoming films. Movie and TV stars show up to do Panels, or in other words promotions for their upcoming films. Just to mention a few of the upcoming and current films and television shows with promotional booths that were at this year's was Ender's Game, Game of Thrones, Catching Fire, Dracula, The Blacklist, Revolution, and The Wolverine. I am getting ahead of myself.
One of the first issues was to get tickets. I was fortunate that my friend who does audiobooks and writes for an online sci-fi magazine was able to purchase professional passes. That means he could get three passes which covered him, his son and me, and so all we needed was a pass for my son. He did this by putting on every computer he could find on the ticket site. SDCC sold out in just over 90 minutes this year. We were lucky. One computer got through, and he got his pass. In advance of the passes coming through, we also booked our flights and rooms early figuring if passes didn't come through, we would cancel. Once tickets go on sale, rooms are sparse in the entire area. Rooms at the hotels near the conference center downtown go into a booking pot which means that you cannot book rooms downtown early for SDCC. You have to take chances in the mad rush for luck of the draw, basically. All the rooms downtown were gone in about ten minutes once they became available. My friend found rooms on the island of Coronado. We got the last rooms available there despite booking very early. This gave us a beautiful location, but it also gave us the cost of going by taxi or ferry to the conference most days.
The big day arrived. We were getting into the preview night on Wednesday night one of the more difficult nights to get at SDCC. We would arrive in plenty of time to get to our hotel, check in, figure out how to get to the convention center, get our passes and then go see the preview of new television series. At least that is what we thought. We flew into San Diego after a brief stop in Vegas where we attempted to buy lunch. The staff at the restaurant tried valiantly to get our order right. They failed. Still, we arrived in San Diego fed, just not with what we ordered, and decided to go take one of the air port shuttles to our hotel. The van, carrying us also took others to other hotels. It was a ride, to say the least, that became an adventure. My friend described how two years before he and his son had stayed at a different hotel that was in a less than stellar neighborhood and how they also enjoyed being in the flight path of landing jets at the airport. As he finished his story about the bad hotel, the shuttle stopped and my friend's son announced that in fact this was the hotel. Two people left the van to get, no doubt, glumly their hotel room after having heard what a horrid place it was. My son and I burst out laughing. Our driver had decided to end his life, or at least seemed to have a death wish. Barely avoiding running into several vehicles and running over pedestrians, we, the last passengers in the shuttle arrived at the hotel, shaken like a Bond martini. We checked into our rooms and made our way to the bus stop across from the hotel that we hoped would take us either downtown or the ferry. We were wrong.
I have no sense of direction, and since I had no idea where downtown San Diego was, I was at a distinct disadvantage. My friend had not made the trek before either. We chose the right bus going the wrong direction. After riding for quite a while looking at the lovely beaches and military installations, one passenger, over-hearing our pondering if we were in fact going the wrong direction, informed us that we were. While the bus we were on would eventually turn around and go back to downtown San Diego, it would first continue its route and make a final stop near the border at Tijuana. We decided that we didn't want to go to Mexico and so got off at the next stop. We found a restaurant where we could get change for busfare so we could take a bus going the other way. The young lady was kind and made the change telling us that they really did have good food and that we should come back. We crossed the highway, awaited a bus going the other way and then rode the 30 to 45 minutes or so back downtown. We would be too late to get into the previews, by the time we got our badges. Still they were previews as my friend would point out that we would see when the shows came on in the fall anyway. So we went instead to the exhibitor's room.
The San Diego Convention center is 615,700 square feet. To give you and idea of the size, the Colorado Convention Center in Denver is 584,000 square feet. Still the size of the San Diego Convention Center has had some controversy of late as to whether it is big enough for the International Comic Con which now not only covers the convention center, but most of the hotel's meeting spaces, downtown open spaces, and the entire district known as the Gaslight District across from the Convention Center. Not bad for a convention that in 1970 had 145 attendees. Since 2005 SDCC has had over 100,000 people in attendance with this year's being a record. So to say that the exhibitor's area is massive is an understatement. Every major studio, book publisher, comic book publisher, tee shirt manufacturer, toy manufacturer, ornament manufacturer, steam punk group, graphic art studio, anime, comic artist, and a host of other vendors and exhibitors occupy the space. One does not simply walk through the space. You shuffle, you get bumped, you do your best to see all that you can see and for the next four days, after that first night, it is exactly what we did. It Was Awesome!
Next: The Real Con