As I watched the crowd billow and swell throughout the avenues and boulevards of the FanX exhibition hall on day two, I wasn’t thinking about how many of them had driven from out of state to behold our fair convention. I wasn’t thinking about how wonderful it is to see so many geeks converge and let their freak flags fly. Instead, I couldn’t shake the thought that if just one of these people was bitten by a zombie, we would all be righteously screwed.
Luckily, FanX day two was free of zombie contaminants—as far as I know, anyway. The increased volume of attendees was treated to another full day of panels, celebrities, and all the nerdy shopping that they could handle. Personal space issues needed to be checked at the door before entering the exhibition hall, as the throng of people extrapolated itself as the day progressed, but what’re a few body checks among convention attendees?
In addition to the increased levels of attendance compared to Thursday, the crowd was charged with enthusiasm after hearing the news that Sir Patrick Stewart would be arriving at FanX on Saturday, which means that, with the exception of Wil Wheaton, the entire crew of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Enterprise will be in attendance this year. Let’s just hope that meddlesome Q stays out of the picture.
Amid my chaotic comings and goings during the day, I managed to make some time to check out a few of the many celebrity Q&A sessions that were scheduled for the day. The first of which was a spotlight on Gates McFadden and Denise Crosby, whom fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation will know as Dr. Beverly Crusher and Lt. Tasha Yar. The Star Trek franchise has a long history of iconic female characters, and the characters that were brought to life by these two actors are no exception.
One of the unwritten truths about these Q&A sessions is that they live, or die, based on the questions that the audience asks. I’ve seen many a charming celebrity turn dry as a bone after hearing the question, “So, what was it like to work with so and so?” for the zillionth time. However, our audience members managed to get some good stories out of Crosby and McFadden. It was a fine moment when a single mom explained how much having strong female characters like Tasha Yar and Beverly Crusher helped her find the strength to meet her incredible challenges. Not only was it a testament to the power that stories can have in a person’s life, but it gave Crosby the opportunity to discuss how much being raised by a single mom influenced her role on the show. The audience’s questions also led McFadden to discuss a character known as 1/8th Gates that occasionally pops up on the Ensemble Studio Theatre of L.A.’s Tumblr, which is an adorable and slightly creepy tribute to her character on Next Generation.
Karl Urban, perhaps most well-known for his portrayal of Dr. McCoy in the rebooted Star Trek films, took the stage after Crosby and McFadden—an interesting bit of Trekkie time-warpery. Urban has appeared in several film adaptations of geeky staples such as The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and 2012’s Dredd. As a native New Zealander, Urban has convinced me that most, if not all, of the folks who come from those parts are both terribly attractive and charming. Though he’s the type of person who could read last year’s census report onstage and still be entertaining, he delivered a few answers to fans’ questions that made him all the more likable. When asked if he would accept a role in the upcoming Star Wars sequels, thus securing his presence in every major sci-fi/fantasy film project in the last decade, he told the audience that he would decline based on his respect for the fans. “Even though I would love to be involved, I wouldn’t want to show up in a Star Wars film and be overly recognizable as Bones from Star Trek. It wouldn’t be fair to the fans,” Urban says.
Over the course of FanX, it’s been hard to choose which panels to attend. I found that my interests were gravitating towards the roster of local authors who were present, so I began the day with a panel that was assembled to discuss the upcoming trends in sci-fi and fantasy literature. It included authors J.R. Johansson (Insomnia), Bree Despain (The Shadow Prince), Brad R. Torgersen (The Chaplain’s War) and literary agent Michelle Witte. Some interesting factoids that emerged during the panel was the fact that the dystopian literature trend that was popularized by The Hunger Games and Divergent is officially dead as far as publishers are concerned, and potential authors should avoid star-crossed vampire romances like the plague.
Next on my list was a panel celebrating Troll 2 and its subsequent documentary Best Worst Movie. In order to truly understand why these two films have a following, it’s probably a good idea to queue both films up on Netflix and watch them back to back. Go on. I can wait.
The panel included actors Jason Steadman, Darren Ewing and Deborah Reed, who will be among the first to tell you that, although Troll 2 was a truly awful film, it was also one of the most singular experiences that they’ve ever had. Based on the film’s low budget and a monumental language barrier that existed between the cast and the director, Troll 2 should have ended in actual bloodshed. But for some reason, it all came together in what one audience member described as a “beautiful accident.” As such, Troll 2 has become the stuff of midnight movie legend, inspiring viewing parties all over the world. The Utah connection to the film is strong considering it was filmed in parts of Salt Lake and Park City, as well as the small northern town of Morgan, and many of the actors were locals. Getting a behind-the-scenes peek at a film as magnificently flawed as Troll 2 was a small slice of geek heaven.
Of all the subcultures that are present at conventions like FanX, the costume clubs have always piqued my interest. Like many attendees, I assumed that these costume clubs were made up of people who simply enjoyed dressing up like characters from their favorite films and TV shows. After talking to a few representatives of these different groups, however, there is a lot more to these clubs than a desire to look awesome. I started with the Krayt Clan, which is the Utah chapter of the Mandalorian Mercs. For the uninitiated, Mandalorians are the badass progenitors of Jango and Boba Fett, who are arguably the best dressed characters of the Star Wars universe. Though the group is united by their mutual love of the Star Wars films and a DIY attitude towards costume creation—it’s the community service that really matters to the Mercs. Daniel Wagner, one of the chapter’s members, further enlightened me to their overall mission. “We do a lot of charity work for Primary Children’s Hospital and the Make-A-Wish Foundation,” Wagner says. “While we’re here at FanX we’re raising money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.” When they’re not helping out around the community, I’m sure they manage to cash in on their fair share of intergalactic bounties.
Another group that was present was the Starfleet crew of the USS Kelly, one of seven ships that make up Starfleet Command’s Seventh Fleet. Admiral Carl Stark, who is second in command over the fleet’s seven chapters, took some of his time to discuss the organization and charity work that the make up the Seventh Fleet. Like the Mandalorian Mercs, the Seventh Fleet began as a group of people who bonded over their interest in science fiction, specifically the universe of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. As the group grew, members began to organize blood drives and highway adoptions, along with monthly social activities that were able to evolve into a support system for everyone involved. At FanX, the crew of the USS Kelly was busily dedicating their skills to raising money for the Utah and Idaho chapters of Hopekids, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing support for children that have been diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses.
That does it for day two, compadres. Based on tomorrow’s schedule and the anticipation that has already been built for the final day of FanX, I’m expecting a day packed full of epicness. Keep following @SLUGmag on Twitter and Instagram for our continued coverage!