Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: in 2019 my wife Anne and I attended our very first Dragon Con in Atlanta, Georgia. As one of the longest-running science fiction conventions in America, Dragon Con had received rave reviews from our internet friends over the past two decades, some of whom recommended it to us more than once and, according to my notes, would never shut up about it. In 2019 we caved in, took the plunge, and had a blast. We returned home to Indianapolis with a plethora of new memories, hundreds and hundreds of photos, and a shared suspicion that we’d return someday. Not every year, but someday.
Then came the year after that, and the year after that. In the year of our grand pandemic 2020 we attended exactly zero conventions for easily guessed reasons. In 2021, COVID-19 vaccines became a reality and made a difference in millions of lives and businesses, including conventions. Several cons made their comeback plans, doing their best to implement anti-plague-massacre safety protocols and recruiting whatever guests were willing to show up under those extraordinary conditions. We’ve been tracking our favorite cons over the past few months as guest announcements and cancellations keep alternating. Showrunners are doing their best under adverse circumstances, but the guest lists have not been long or, for our peculiar tastes, amazing.
Among the early contenders, Dragon Con stepped up hardest and made us some offers we couldn’t refuse. We didn’t have to think long or hard before accepting the special rules under which this pandemic-era show would be held. All attendees were required to wear masks in all the buildings. All attendees were required to provide either official, non-fraudulent proof of full vaccination (none of that “Maderna” knockoff crap you can buy for a buck at Dollar General) or documentation for a negative COVID test within 72 hours of attendance. The strictest protocols were announced a few weeks before showtime, which caused consternation to anyone who’d been disregarding all that in other avenues of life up to that point. We were cool with it.
Among the major side effects of these protocol changes: photo ops with the special guests required a compromise. It’s fair to assume very, very few fans would’ve been interested in having photos taken with their favorite actors and everyone in the picture cosplaying as Wild West bank robbers. Instead, the fans and actors were separated by a tall Plexiglas shield. Fans kept their mask on till it was their turn, quickly doffed their facial covering, stepped up to the glass, and made the most of their weird, hopefully happy moment. Then it was mask re-donned and full retreat.
Judging by the complete lack of crowds or long lines in their photo-op area, fans weren’t hyped about that idea, either. Regardless, some of us went for it. Sometimes Anne or I will deliberate long and hard before overspending on bizarre fan experiences so that You, The Viewers At Home, can see how it went and judge for yourself whether or not it was worth it. We did that once for what we correctly predicted would be The Worst Convention We Ever Attended, and we did it again with our first two comic-con photo ops of 2021. Personally, I loved mine.
Fans of TV’s Battlestar Galactica may recognize the seven stars crammed into that tiny space next to me in our lead photo. Seated, left to right: Rekha Sharma, James Callis, and a very awkward Jamie Bamber, whom the photographer struggled to fit into the pic, which required him to valiantly snap one arm in half. Standing, left to right: Tricia Helfer, Tahmoh Penikett, Michael Trucco, and Academy Award Nominee Edward James Olmos. Bonus points will be awarded to any reader who remembers which of these seven actors previously shared a jazz-hands moment with Anne and me at another con. They didn’t call me out on it. I doubt they could even see me.
This new objet d’art represents the largest photo op we’ve ever done and, by extension, the largest number of jazz hands we’ve ever wrangled into a single pic. Longtime MCC readers and our families are well aware jazz hands are our thing, as shown in past entries and collected on our dedicated Pinterest board. I’ve had folks decline the request before (and I’m okay with that! Jazz hands aren’t for everyone), but I’m overwhelmed that all seven of them were game, possibly excited for the brief distraction from their extreme coziness.
Anne had her own moment of plastic-walled joy with the cast of a different sci-fi show: Gil Gerard and Erin Gray from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.
Whereas Galactica was one of my favorite pandemic binges of 2020 (one of the few I never wrote about here), Anne remembers Buck Rogers and Wilma Deering from their first-run adventures back in the day. She met the two of them at a much smaller con back home in the late 1990s, years before convention photo-ops were a thing, and we saw Gerard again at Dragon Con 2019. Anne was likewise content with her takeaway. I don’t like that either of us could be easily cropped out of our respective photos if internet scum decided to swipe them. But they’re much, much better than nothing, and they were fun times for us in the moment.
Elsewhere on the vast show-floor complex, we recruited one more member to the great wall of jazz-hands: award-winning science-fiction author John Scalzi, whose blog I’ve been following for years. I’ve been hesitant to try his novels because I worried — possibly needlessly — they might be an altogether different experience that could taint my blog enjoyment if something went wrong. Earlier in the day before his autograph signing, I picked up a copy of Redshirts, which seemed the most obvious starting point for a lifelong fan of satire like myself. Thirty pages in, I have yet to delete his blog from my reading rotation. So far, so good!
Our other D*C experiences from this year, along with the usual array of photos, will be shared in forthcoming chapters. For my money, these three indisputably 2021 snapshots were among my favorite souvenirs and needed to come first. You can keep your signed-and-numbered limited editions and your grossly overpriced NFTs and your technobabbling flashes-in-the-pan and other ostensibly unique collectibles. With a little help from our favorite cons, Anne and I make our own.
We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.
To be continued! Other chapters in this very special MCC miniseries:
Part 2: A Cosplay Sampler
Part 3: Some Cosplay Parade
Part 4: More Cosplay Parade
Part 5: Still More Cosplay Parade
Part 6: Cosplay Parade Stumpers
Part 7: More Cosplay Parade Stumpers
Part 8: Last Call for Parade Cosplay
Part 9: Winding Down the Parade
Part 10: Day Zero
Part 11: Day One
Part 12: The All-Star Saturday Grand Finale With Wall-to-Wall Paneling