Road Trip Origins Year 2, Part 1 of 3: Internet Fandom Rendezvous 2000

Gateway program!

If you recognize the logo that this program cover is aping, then you may appreciate who we met that year…

Every year since 1999 Anne and I have taken a road trip to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. My son rode along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college. From 2004 to 2011 we recounted our experiences online at length for a close circle of friends. From 2012 to the present we’ve presented our annual travelogues here on this modest website for You, the Viewers at Home, which I’m grateful includes some of those same friends. Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover, we told the story of our very first road trip together, an amateur expedition to Wizard World Chicago 1999.

Fast-forward one year later to July 14-16, 2000. While we remained best-of-the-best friends in separate apartments, we had begun pooling resources on select line items and seen our situations improve when she left McDonald’s after a ten-year stint and switched to an adjacent, much better-paying career track — call-center work for a major mail-order club. It was still customer service, but with 100% less grease and 0% chance of having to stand for hours at open drive-thru windows in zero-degree weather. Overall we were in slightly better standings one year after WWC when an idea for a second road trip walked right up, pinched my cheeks, and wouldn’t let go.

As with our inaugural outing, this would be another geek convention in a state beyond our own, with a guest list of well-known media personalities and hotel accommodations required. However, the proposal was far more ambitious in one groundbreaking respect: it would be our first time meeting people we knew only from the internet.

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Whatever Happened to the Indianapolis Geek Convention Boom?

Deadpools!

An outtake from our Indiana Comic Con 2015 cosplay photos, starring three Deadpools and a pair of kids who are each probably a foot taller by now.

Large-scale geek conventions weren’t a thing in Indianapolis when I was a kid. We had tiny comic shows in hotel ballrooms, but nothing requiring the spacious accommodations of the Indiana Convention Center. My young-adult years saw the advent of an annual Star Trek convention that brought great joy on several occasions and would become beloved by many, though their fortunes have ebbed and flowed over the past two decades. In 2003 Gen Con became the first super-sized company to believe in the considerable forces of local geek dollars, and they’ve been rewarded handsomely ever since for their benevolence by tens of thousands of Midwest gamers as well as folks like me who weren’t strictly gamers but were content to enjoy any sort of hobbyist gathering validation. We took what we could get, and we liked it.

Another full decade passed before other convention companies and wannabe startups noticed we’re here and began bringing their medicine wagons to town in hopes of finagling our approval and our wads of cash, and not necessarily in that order. Over the past four years we here at Midlife Crisis Crossover have shared our photos and our experiences — the good, the bad, the distressingly inept — as we’ve explored these new contenders in hopes that sooner or later, someone would establish the Greatest Indianapolis Comic Convention of All Time. My wife and I still find ourselves driving to Chicago twice per year for geek satisfaction, but it’s nice to know folks are trying to save us some gas money. And they’re welcome to keep trying.

Anne and I are now preparing for our next con this coming weekend, for which we’re mostly excited but reserving the right to retain our qualms after the rockiness of the showrunners’ last two events, each of which ran more like dry-run learning experiences than like professional expositions. While we’re selecting our personal artifacts for autographing and deciding what camping gear is most suitable for an unsupervised photo-op line, let’s take stock of the cons that have been courting us Hoosiers, praise those who did right by us, bury those who aren’t coming back, and look ahead to what’s on the Circle City calendar so far for 2016.

Right this way for what’s coming and what’s gone away…

Speed-Conventioning Challenge #3: Starbase Indy 2015

Christmas T-Rex!

T-Rex snaps at Christmas wreath, mistaking it for low-hanging tree-dwelling prey. In the far background by the green-screen you can just barely, accidentally make out actor Chris Nowland, one of those “been in lots of things” kind of guys.

On this weekend in 1988, the inaugural Starbase Indy introduced Indianapolis to the amazing world of Star Trek conventions, though it later expanded its dominion into other sci-fi TV shows. Setting aside several years skipped during turbulent times, SBI is one of the most persistent fan-run geek conventions in Indianapolis. It’s a fraction the size of Gen Con, Wizard World, and our other regular cons, but we’ve attended SBI more times than we have any other con. The smaller scale allows for shorter lines and less suffocating crowds, while still attracting talented guests from shows well-liked by geeks like us. With 2015 marking SBI’s twentieth iteration, the con is a regular highlight of our average Thanksgiving weekend, usually more satisfying and ethically defensible than Black Friday. (You can click through to the “Starbase Indy” tag for select photos from previous years.)

This year we nearly didn’t attend. The guest list was largely composed of actors from shows we’ve never watched (Alien Nation, Stargate SG-1) or shows I gave up on (Once Upon a Time). One guest, Admiral Nechayev from Star Trek the Next Generation, we saw at Wizard World Chicago 2010. Complicating matters further, we agreed to host Thanksgiving this year and spent much more time than expected over the past two days with visiting family members from near and far. We had a few obstacles with Starbase Indy, but money wasn’t one of them. Our energy levels weren’t at their peak today, we only had about two hours to devote to it, and the ultimate to-do list we prepared in advance could fit on a single Post-It.

But they invited one Deep Space Nine actor we were thrilled to meet at last, there were a few vendors we thought deserved money in exchange for goods and services, and I rather liked the idea of viewing our one-day ticket expenditure as a sort of donation on behalf of keeping Starbase Indy alive, even if we arguably didn’t get what other ordinary humans would call “our money’s worth”. We got exactly what we came for. We’re fine with that. Our funds will nonetheless go toward meeting costs for this year’s con and, we hope, help ensure Starbase’s continuing future. Yay geek causes!

Right this way for what we did and who we met, including a fellow WordPress blogger!

Star Wars Celebration 2005 Memories, Part 1 of 3: Who We Met

Ralph Brown!

He was burnout concert promoter Del Preston in Wayne’s World 2, a victim in Alien³, and the big-bad Dr. Fennhoff in Marvel’s Agent Carter, but to Star Wars fans with advanced memories, Ralph Brown is best known as panicky pilot Ric Olie from The Phantom Menace.

So far my Labor Day weekend on the internet has been all about (a) toy fans reveling in the Star Wars “Force Friday” merchandise onslaught, and (b) longtime cohorts kicking around Dragon*Con in Atlanta seeing lots of SW-related costumes, actors, and at least one novelist. I’m happy for everyone enjoying themselves for those various reasons, but skimming through all this STAR WARS STAR WARS STAR WARS STAR WARS STAR WARS has put me in a nostalgic frame of mind about a relevant occasion from our own past that I meant to dredge up four months ago for May the Fourth but delayed due to distractions.

Ten years ago last April, my wife Anne and I attended all four days of Star Wars Celebration III (“CIII” to our friends), the second and final major SW convention to grace the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis. As with the 2002 shindig (previously relived on MCC here, here, and here), our weekend was filled with costumes, props, things containing Star Wars logos, performers, crowds, terrible line management, and out-of-town internet friends given a great excuse to visit.

Sadly, my own write-up of the experience was atomized shortly after its initial posting due to a freak accident involving dumb stupid idiotic software that made it too easy for a trusting message-board administrator to delete dozens of threads with a single misunderstanding keystroke. Anne’s own version of events survived the purge and remains online as a minute-by-minute account more thrilling to those of us who were there, probably less so to outsiders. This, then, is the recap of her recap.

Right this way for Star Wars! Star Wars! STAR WARS!

Midwest Convention Watch: What’s Next, If We’re Lucky?

Marvel Booth

Merchandise and props are keen to look at, but every convention needs guests, fans, and a functional staff. (Photo: outtake from our C2E2 2014 collection.)

After our mixed experience with the first last month, my wife and I were disappointed to learn today that their next show, Awesome Con Milwaukee, which had been scheduled for the weekend before Thanksgiving, has been canceled. On November 5th Awesome Conventions President Ben Penrod posted a statement on their official Facebook page that read in part:

We initially planned for this event to be a huge celebration of comics and pop culture, but we had a number of challenges, and things just weren’t coming together in a few areas. Providing an unforgettable convention experience is key to Awesome Con’s entire existence, but it was looking more and more like this con wasn’t going to be able to live up to its name or your expectations for what Awesome Con is. Rather than falling short, we have decided to cancel this year’s event.

I’m truly sorry, and I’m sad, and I completely understand that you will be upset with us (and we are upset, as well). I appreciate everyone who signed up for the con, everyone who bought a table or booth, everyone who supported us and all of our partners in Milwaukee. It means a lot to us and we’re very sorry that we are letting you down.

Right this way for a few more stories, and our own upcoming con plans…

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