Unconventional | Arts & Entertainment | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Unconventional 

While fan conventions take a pandemic hiatus, here's how to capture the experience safely at home.

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COMIC CON INTERNATIONAL
  • Comic Con International

I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a pandemic. The economy is tanking—thanks in large part to the lack of leadership at most levels of government in the United States—and since they didn't do enough to combat the crisis, we're all still locked in our homes, unable to attend the most beloved of nerdy pastimes: conventions.

This week would have been San Diego Comic-Con. This year, it's been rebranded as a free experience called Comic-Con@Home; all of its offerings will be online. Dragon Con is going virtual with most of its content. How they're going to do their renowned masquerade via computer is beyond me, but if anyone can pull it off, they can. Mega-gaming convention Gen Con has done the same, going so far as to offer virtual gaming to all of its attendees. Our own local show, FanX, recently announced that their event scheduled for September has been postponed until next year.

All of this can leave you with the feeling that you're missing out. When you're accustomed to attending these events regularly, their absence can leave an emptiness in your Zelda-style heart meter.

So how do you approximate that feeling of having gone to a convention while being trapped at home, hoping that the most lethal symptoms of COVID-19 pass you by? One of the most important aspects of going to a convention is the social aspect. You want to interact with like-minded people. In these days, a rocking party could be confused for a Zoom room and some Jackbox games while you quietly nurse a Jack and coke at your computer. But that's also the answer to replicating the feeling of a convention. Organize watch parties with your con friends. Consume all the virtual content the cons have to offer, and then schedule a time to joke around and talk about it. Having recently survived an online conference myself, this was the key to making it feel normal. We strategized together about what content we wanted to see, watched it together, and then came back to discuss it as though we were in the hallways between panel rooms.

But what about walking an Artist's Alley or the vendor hall? How could you possibly replicate that feeling? Well, I've got news for you: DeviantArt and Etsy are a thing. In that same Zoom room you've set up with your friends, you can all take turns walking the virtual vendor hall in order to spot new art and crafts that you may or may not need, and send the links back to your group.

Twitter has been an invaluable resource for this as well. Vendors at cons are, in some ways, like itinerant carnival workers—traveling from city to city, selling their handmade wares or art. Seeking them out on Twitter is a great way to find them. If the search bar doesn't come up with anything, just ask. There are lots of creators out there boosting posts by these vendors, to help them get through these lean times. If you have fared well through the pandemic and have cash to spare, vendors like this could use the boost.

If it is comics you're looking to snag, you have plenty of local options. I'm sure Dr. Volt's and Black Cat would be more than happy to help you track down whatever dollar-bin comic you'd otherwise be kneeling on the concrete floor of an exhibition hall trying to find. They're both open now, and can help you pick up your comics in the safest ways possible. If they can't find it, though, eBay certainly can.

If you're looking for coverage of all of the latest news that you would find at a convention, there is no shortage of websites and podcasts dedicated to analyzing that information for you. It just depends on what your area of interest is. Any simple search of your favorite fandom and the word "podcast" is going to bring up any number of shows dedicated to the nerdy introspection of your favorite thing that you would expect from a convention. Say, for instance, you wanted to attend what is essentially a Star Wars convention, and all you have is iTunes. A simple search for, say, Full of Sith, would bring up a podcast hosted by yours truly with all of the celebrity interviews and news analysis you'd ever want from a galaxy far, far away.

As we learn to live without things because of the pandemic, it seems as though the world of the internet can offer us most of the things a convention can, but without the plague-inducing crowds. Stay safe, stay home and find your path to replicate the experience without catching a coronavirus. It's no joke.

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