I had the pleasure on Saturday to go to FanExpo Canada, my first time ever attending any expo or convention. I don't know why it took me so long to actually attend one; I have been obsessed with 90% of the things there for most of my life. Probably some past lives, too. And I also don't know how to describe it. Overwhelming is a pretty good start. There is a lot of stuff going on, and about ten times more people. I was fortunate enough to have my partner come with me – she is almost as much of a nerd as me – so I didn't have to face the beautiful pandemonium alone.
Our trip started out with one big mistake: we decided to drive to downtown Toronto. As someone who does not live in Canada's largest city, making the visit in is always... enlightening. Luckily I had the wherewithal to book a parking spot near the Convention Center ahead of time (if you don't have the app ParkingPanda, I highly recommend it, it was a life saver). We arrived at the designated lot to a Lot Full sign, but showed them our confirmation and they directed us to a secret entrance while turning other people away.
We then proceeded to walk down the wrong street, turn around, then try to get in the wrong building. So about 40 minutes after my predicted time of getting there, we finally found the doors. We rounded the corner, got in the wrong line, found the right line – courtesy of a rather loud employee – went through an area labeled EXIT, and then voila! We were there.
And it was amazing. I almost wept a nerdy tear at the sheer size of what was going on. Rows upon rows of vendors, each selling something that appealed to your inner dork. From Marvel to DC, Game of Thrones to Star Wars, anime to SyFy shows, there was everything and then some. We moved with the shuffling throng of people, doing our best to look at everything there was to offer without stopping in the middle of the flow. There was a whole section dedicated to horror, where even I found some things to be a bit much for my taste, but I know – and could see – that there is a massive following for every niche.
After a pass-through or two, we joined the slow river of expo-goers moving to the other building. There I found a seemingly never-ending room of more vendors and exhibits. We started at Artist's Alley, rows upon rows of indie artists selling their work. Though some work shared similarities with one another, you could see the different takes that each individual artist had. Within these rows I met two indie authors and purchased some books, and found an indie game developer selling a drinking rpg card game. I have yet to delve into the novels, but I can guarantee you that Drinking Quest is one heck of a fun game.
I browsed through endless shelves of comic books, got envious of people who had waited in line to see advanced screenings of certain shows, admired the work of children and adults alike in the Lego area, and watched some people play some upcoming video games. I found the board game room, but we were exhausted by that point and most of the games were already out and in play. We visited the booth for Underworld LARP to see what it was all about. I have convinced my Dungeons & Dragons group to take it to the next level, so we will be LARPing from September 30 to October 2.
But I quickly found out that an expo of this size is exhausting. I always thought it was only the hardcore who purchased multi-day tickets, but quickly found out that the perpetual shuffling, the sheer vastness of things to take in, and the constant background noise of thousands of people talking and trying new things wears on you very quickly. When I go back, I will make sure to spread it out over two days, and definitely be more prepared.
Some of the highlights of my trip: a Han Solo carbonite chocolate bar. Seeing the support for indie creators and their work. The creepiness of some of the masks and outfits in the horror area. And the dedication and hard work of the cosplayers. I had always seen some cosplay on the Internet from these events, but had never seen it in person. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of people in intricately detailed, well-made costumes from every genre and subgenre imaginable. The work that went into it was beyond impressive. On top of that, you saw signs around the buildings reminding everyone that Cosplay is not Consent. Just because somebody put days into making a costume does not mean that you have the right to touch them or take a photo of them without their okay to do so. I was there when a very well-done Spock reminded somebody of this when she went to take pictures of some cosplayers candidly.
I know there are some people out there who are hesitant to go to these types of events. They may think it is not for them, that they won't like it, or that it just is not worth it. To these people, I have one piece of advice: just try it. I can almost guarantee that you will find something that you enjoy. I am learning far to frequently that life is too short to stick to what you are comfortable with. Maybe I will see you next year.