Northern FanCon... Something for Everyone
by Kenna Lloyd
Ever since I was four, I can recall watching the Lord of the Rings movies, or rather, watching the woolen fibres of a blanket pulled over my head as I heard Gollum creep across the screen. Being the third born child in my family meant that restrictions had become a little more lenient, and if the majority of the family wanted to watch a movie, we would watch it regardless of my presence. Needless to say, I now have a deep-seated fear of Gollum instilled within me.
And yet, even after all of the frightening scenes a four year old Kenna had to suffer through, I cannot deny the tempting allure of those Lord of the Rings movies. It was nearly impossible not to peek my eyes above the covers, to catch glimpses of elves, and epic battles, and fantastical lands from far, far away. Before long, we had revisited the beloved Star Wars series, and let Harry Potter infiltrate our household. I think I speak for many of us when I say that these films and pop-culture sensations were a huge part of our childhoods. They told us stories and tales that have stayed with us throughout life, and taught us lessons that still affect us to this day.
When I heard about Northern Fancon for the first time on the radio two years ago, I was immediately interested. Though my ears had perked at the prospect of such an event, I was hesitant to actually consider going. There’s really no use in pretending that multigenre entertainment and comic conventions don’t get a bad rep from time to time. They can be linked to unfortunate connotations, and may even be viewed from a negatively “nerdy” angle. However, on a more uplifting note, I find that our society today has began embracing what is known as “geek culture,” and allowed it to evolve into something more cool and acceptable. Though in previous years I will admit, with a dash of shame, that I was afraid to attend Fancon for these very reasons, I am equally as proud to say that this year when I was finally given the opportunity to attend Fancon, I pounced.
Despite that fact that I had arrived at Northern Fancon 15 minutes prior to early admission for VIP guests, a long line was already forming, people twitching with anticipation at getting their hands on what the doors in front of them withheld. Since this was my first Fancon, I was completely inexperienced and unsure of what to expect, and when the doors at last opened I was pushed into the venue along with the swell of the crowd. As I walked along the group, it was impossible not to notice the elaborate costumes many of them wore. There were tons and tons of cosplayers, yet none alike. I saw beginners, professionals, and amateurs; welcome all the same. Hogwarts students scuffled past me, wands in hand, before a trio of three young children dressed as Star Wars heroes swept by, clashing lightsabers and laughing. I had to pick my jaw up off the floor at the impressively realistic costumes that had begun swarming around me, and I could only imagine the time and dedication that must have gone into them. Like a lost sheep, I followed behind the horde, letting the more experienced con-goers lead the way, until we had reached Kin 1. In place of the typically quiet and empty atrium was a pop-up arcade, retro games stacked beside one another, drawing people in with their flashing lights and upbeat melodies. On the wall a large screen was set up, displaying a car racing along a winding road accompanied by a jumpy 8-bit tune. I had never been very good at video games, or card games for that matter, so it didn’t take me long to discover the entrance to the Kin 1 rink, in which I entered a completely different, but equally as immersive atmosphere.
As I wandered down the floor lined with ornate stands and booths, friendly vendors showcased their products and offered conversations about themselves and their crafts. I saw sculptings with intricate designs, and posters that had been unbelievably hand drawn by artists, who sat, heads down and pens in hand, at their tables as they created artwork right before your eyes. If you somehow managed to make your way throughout all the fascinating exhibits without spending every nickel in your wallet and every ounce of energy in your body, you would reach the back panel where a lineup of special guests were stationed. Kevin Sorbo, Karl Urban, Alicia Witt, and Charles Martinet were just a few celebrities I saw gracing the tables of Fancon this year, and I was given the lucky opportunity to speak with many of them and ask some questions. Would you believe me if I told you that the voice of Mario had at one point planned on becoming a lawyer? And that Sam J. Jones, the headman of Flash Gordon, had once intended to become a professional football player in the NFL?
As a student on the verge of graduation, I can say that they had some very encouraging things to say in regards to the approaching future. I addressed the somewhat instability of careers in the arts and entertainment businesses, and asked them what they had to say to youth planning on pursuing careers in those areas. “The entertainment industry is all about rejection,” said Kevin Sorbo, “the key is you never, ever give up, and you have to really believe in yourself to make it.” Charles Martinet offered some good advice as well, and added, “have a job, have work, have things that will pay the bills, but seek your dreams. Keep working for your dreams. Get an education, learn everything you can about acting, or whatever it is you’re going into: learn, learn, learn. When you actually go to do something, may it be performing, writing, or anything that is done of substance, you train and learn. Then, when you actually do it, you let go, and become it.”
Seeing these accomplished celebrities and being able to speak with them is just one of many great opportunities dispensed at Fancon. I believe that for young people studying the arts, it is an incredibly valuable experience to meet people who have been successful in their craft. It shows that careers really do exist in those fields, and that you actually can make a living off of your passions if you truly love them and work hard. “Just go for it.” Karl Urban stated with a smile.
Once back inside the busy doors of the CN Centre, I ventured down towards the floor level where I explored, yet again, more exhibitors and local creators. Expert cosplayers flanked the entryway, displaying beautiful ensembles that looked as though they had been peeled straight off the pages of comic books. Ainsley Bircher of “Pigtails and Power Tools” provided me with some insight into the cosplay world, telling me about the process of creating costumes and the work that goes into them. When I asked her about advice for people considering joining the world of cosplay she responded, “just do it! If you really want to cosplay a character, or there’s something out there you really want to make, do it. Because it’s about having fun. At the end of the day, for me, cosplay is about having fun.” In regards to those who are uncertain of how to begin or are scared to try the activity, she said, “don’t be afraid, like, ‘oh man, a lot of people have already cosplayed this,’ or ‘oh, it’s really popular, it won’t look that good.’ If you think you will have a genuinely fun time in it, go do it. My first cosplay was made out of foam. I looked up lots of tutorials, did lots of reasearch, and I reached out to people saying, ‘hey, I’m trying to make this, how did you make it?’ Take baby steps. Any costume can be achievable, you just have to break it down and take it in baby steps.”
I continued throughout the concourse, observing incredible pastries with colourful fondant delicately placed over top of them to create an illusion of perfection, and superhero themed cupcakes that I traded some cash in to try. I made my way over to the main stage, practicing self control as I passed by stands selling neat, little trinkets and clothing from my favourite movies and TV shows. Finally, I reached the main area, sitting down in my chair as the ominously lit panel laid before me. Throughout the course of the weekend, that empty stage would be filled with filmmakers, comic artists, screenwriters, actors, and many more people, all sharing their own knowledge and guidance in their respective realms.
When the end of my experience at Northern Fancon came at last, I was eminently sad to see it go. There is, in all honesty, nothing else like it in Prince George. Stacked with unique vendors, educational seminars, and plenty of fun to go around, Fancon is a must see attraction for anyone, of any age, and of any interest. I found the convention scene to be an exciting and welcoming community as a first timer, and cannot wait for its return next year. May you be a novice cosplayer, soon-to-be screenwriter, budding artist, or aspiring actress, the opportunities presented at Fancon are limitless, and the memories you make there will last a lifetime.