Costumed fans already wandered the halls of the Salt Palace hours before it started when Vladimir and I arrived for the press conference. I’d seen this before in every SF convention I’d been early for myself. We come for more than the celebrities, the exciting panels, or the carnival of offerings in the vendor’s hall and its artist’s alley. We come for the friends, old and new.
As I sat down, Vladimir donned his leather halter, hooked on his cameras and wandered around to talk to the other photographers. He knew about half of them. You can’t miss Vladimir these days, with his handlebar ‘stache.
I, being mostly a fiction writer and Vladimir’s assistant, didn’t know any of the writers there. Plus, I was plagued with a sense of “I shouldn’t be here.” Except that I am writing a book on the history of CG and/or SFX, and featuring some of Vladimir’s photos on my blog, and linking back to the radio station.
Lou Ferrigno told us the story of how earlier that week, when Stan Lee had presented him with the Beach Body Lifetime Achievement Award, Lou had told him that magical things were happening in Salt Lake. Apparently, Dan Farr Productions had contacted Lee’s people a few times but didn’t get a response – or they got a no. Ferrigno convinced him: Salt Lake was the place to be.
Later, Dan Farr would say that there were people, upon finding out that Stan Lee was coming, who had bought plane tickets to come to Salt Lake. Crazy! Crazy good, though.
I’m glad I got to go to the press conference. Otherwise, I would never have sought out Ferrigno on my own. All muscle aside, he’s probably more like Bruce Banner than The Hulk. He’s articulate and kind: a true gentleman.
He talked about how Stan Lee’s Hulk character had inspired him as a child, and that he’s happy to be part of an event that was so family friendly. When asked later why the Hulk inspired him, he said: “When I was a child, I was always drawn to power, to people with great power. The Hulk was very powerful.”
When you look into his life story, it makes a lot of sense. He lost about 75% of his hearing as a baby. He had a father who was hard on him, and thought he’d get nowhere because of his disability. Instead of giving up, he worked hard with the inspiration of Stan Lee’s comic book heroes pushing him in a positive way.
I also got to talk to Richard Hatch. Hatch was someone who I would have sought out. Of my science fiction childhood, Battlestar Galactica was second only to Star Trek. My favorite character was Apollo. So, yes. I had a bit of a fangirl squee as I talked to him.
Utah is no stranger to Hatch. I’d seen him once before at our local speculative fiction writing con; Life, the Universe, and Everything. Not only is he an actor and acting teacher, he’s a writer and life coach, and is involved in the Utah film scene.
Vladimir and I wandered the vendor hall for a while, watching the last moments of preparation before it opened. This is a different kind of anticipation than the community of devotees waiting to enter.
I got some firsthand experience at it that afternoon at the booth for Spark: A Creative Anthology. The brainchild of Brian Lewis, its third volume is nearly out, and it’s fourth is due January 2014.
He fidgeted with the displays while he explained the big idea. He’d graduated from the Creative Writing program at California State Summer School for the Arts. After several years, two of them spent volunteering in Russia and the rest on a successful career in information technology and management, he realized that there was little support for budding writers outside of educational venues. He decided to fill in the gaps. Publishing both short fiction and poetry, the Spark anthology introduces new writers by recruiting well known writers to star in the table of contents next to them. He also guarantees feedback on every submission, a herculean task he accomplishes with a well thought out vetting process and an army of experienced volunteer readers.
Comic Con, he hoped, would put enough copies in the hands of word lovers to give Spark a boost. As attendees started to file past, he smiled, made eye contact, “Do you want to win a free Kindle White?” “Do you like to read?” Slow at first, by the time I left he’d sold a handful of copies, handed out a few more handfuls of discount cards, and gathered a few emails of potential audience.
It was a solid beginning to the weekend.