This post is dedicated to jarrow who said WRITE, WRITE, WRITE and inspired me with his epic poetry con reports from 2007. I feel like every time I turned around at the con, he was there on my shoulder, like a kind of snarky guardian angel, prepared to give advice and (if necessary) give me shit about 'dissing' Vividcon/vidding fandom last year. The humour and honesty made me feel instantly welcome.
Prior to attending Vividcon I had reached a very zen place about my own vidding. After struggling in vidding fandom for years, I finally gave up posting vids publicly or engaging with the community but kept vidding for myself and discovered to my joy that that was still totally satisfying. While I hate that I got so nervy about fandom, I am really glad I discovered that vidding is, for me, entirely fulfilling a process even without an audience, or with an audience of oneself only. Vidding is my one form of creative expression and very important to me as a person. I don't think I would have felt comfortable attending Vividcon if I'd felt less secure in that. I did worry, prior to the event, that attending might somehow invalidate my own experience, that people would assert that this was not the correct way to do things or that I was somehow weird or perverse for being so invested in personal expression with a small or (voluntarily) non-existent audience. I think one of the reasons I enjoyed Vividcon so much was that it did not invalidate in any way my experience of being a predominantly online, and occsionally entirely private vidder.
Anyway, this view going in meant that I had this vision of Vividcon: me mainly hanging out in my own room, possibly watching vids by myself and occasionally moseying down to the convention rooms to attend a panel and then going back and writing notes up for myself to take away. Notice the lack of social interaction in this picture? Yeah... I was dreading the social interaction at the con, quite frankly. DREADING IT. I had got myself to a place where I was pretty convinced all of vidding fandom hated me and even though I knew intellectually that that was not true, physically-emotionally (my emotions are always very physical), there was no convincing me I was 'safe'. However, two special people opened the door a little way prior to the con and made me think 'hmm, maybe I should at least try to interact with people at the con'. laurashapiro and bradcpu separately both contacted me prior to the con with words of welcome and encouragement, and I was able to tell them a little bit about my fears. It was amazing how quickly having someone say 'er, probably those fears are completely unfounded' made me feel tons better. Laura in particular broke through my hazy neuroses and gave me a welcome reality check. I think deep down I was desperate for someone to say 'it's all in your head' and having that occur before the con helped me be a lot more open to people once I was there. They helped me feel emotionally safe enough to turn up. I can't emphasise enough how important that was.
After a blissful week in San Francisco (which hit my 5 favourite cities of the world list within 24 hours of arriving there!) I set out early for Chicago (5:30 am I think). Thanks to a layover in LAX and timezone shifts, it was about 4pm before I got to the hotel. I got my room and headed out for a walk to the reported shopping mall down the street, quickly discovering that the mud, irregular sidewalk and dangerous traffic situation had not been exaggerated AT ALL. The situation was made a little more perilous by the fact that my brain was still resisting retraining to look the other way when crossing the road (we drive on the left in Australia). I did see some other people attempting the same street crossing and wondered if they too were con attendees (they were). Drifted round the supermarket stocking up on food, drink and snacks for what I thought would be several days alone in a hotel room, and trekked back to the hotel. I did have the foresight to buy a kilo bag of cherries (summer fruit was one of the joys of my trip as it's winter here!) which I figured would be good to share if I did venture into social spaces at all. :)
I was too nervous to actually eat anything or just relax in my room so I headed to the foyer for a drink and wrote a bunch of 'omg, what am I doing here? why the hell did I not stay in San Francisco?' emails to people from my iPod. I then thought I should probably find out where the actual convention was going to be, and turning round to look up to the first floor mezzanine so jackiekjono waving. She was not waving at me, but having made eyecontact it seemed rude not to drift up, so I kind of slunk upstairs and figured it would be a good chance to work out where the con rooms were (check the lay of the land!) before people flooded in for registration. Jackie quickly waylaid me but I was so damn nervous that initially when asked my name I came out with my RL name which of course meant nothing to anyone. She was supersweet anyway, talked doggies with me, and introduced me to people and once I managed to actually say my username seemed to actually know who I was (which was faintly terrifying given my Everyone Hates Me mentality). I do remember reiterating over and over how nervous I was (which didn't need reiterated since I was literally shaking) and at some point elynross arrived and attempted to reassure me not to be at all fazed by people randomly screaming and hugging each other. I remember mentally thinking 'yeah, I'm so fine with that, as long as they don't notice ME!', but it was very well intentioned and kind of her and I was already overwhelmed by how nice people were being. I also got introduced to sockkpuppett but was so nervous I could barely look at her (I'm so sorry if I appeared rude! I wish I'd got a chance to talk to you later!).
Somewhere through this hazy deer-in-headlights time, such_heights showed up and we stuttered our usernames at each other and completely failed to work out that we knew each other (later when she picked up her badge I shrieked and fell over, and she had a similar moment--but more dignified--when she worked out who I was, which was kind of delightful). I then hid in a potplant for a while, and at some point wistful_fever emerged and we got chatting. I felt instantly comfortable with her (she is one of the loveliest people you will ever meet!) and kind of clung to her petticoats like a lost child. Then kuwdora popped up and gave me an 'omg, I'm so glad you're HERE' hug that made me feel like I'd always belonged and we were lifelong friends. I started to feel a bit less jittery.
By this time registration was kicking off, so I lined up for my nametag bag/badge thing and felt SO MUCH BETTER as soon as I and others could be identified more clearly. It took away a lot of the anxiety to know who was who. I also heard a little voice behind me and turned round to find laurashapiro and get a big welcome hug and babble about how amazing she'd been to me before the con. I was still super nervous but it eased my heart to find someone who had been so kind to me. fan_eunice waved me over for welcome hugs and mutual confessions of how we'd flaked out on vid chat due to ridiculous anxiety issues, and once again I had the 'I feel like I've known you my whole life' feeling.
kuwdora and wistful_fever led me to their room (a haven!) and I met cherryice (the cherry-buying thus proving fortuitous!). We headed in search of food but the bistro down the road was mysteriously closed. Walking along we heard shrieks from the other side of the road and a bunch of fans rushed over to hug hello. The nerves had kind of got me back into a zombie mode by this stage so that when talitha78 hugged me hello I could kind of hardly look at her (which is RIDICULOUS since we've been friends online for five years and I was going to be STAYING with her after the con). I made it up to her later in the con (I think) with hugs and dance squee at CVV, plus we had a glorious couple of days of post-con comedown together (she and her sister were the best hosts of all time!).
Still on the hunt for food we ordered Chinese and headed back to the room. bananainpyjamas and milly wandered in without noticing me (I had confessed to wistful_fever how nervous I was to meet DC and she gave reassuring handholding as I trembled on the end of the couch til they both casually hugged me hello--again it felt like we'd known each other forever). milly explained that bradcpu was stranded. Woe! (There was a collective sigh of relief when he finally turned up on Friday.) Since we were all ravenous by this time, I dashed up for tim tams and cherries to share with people.
Having somewhat lost track of time, I realised I should be at the Newbies Welcome session, so I headed off to find it. Embarrassingly, I couldn't work out what room it was in and had to ask and then get chauffered in late in the middle of the_shoshanna's spiel. I remember thinking 'oh fabulous, I've flunked the con already'. Most of what was said (that I can recall) was reassurance about the whole con experience and the fact that the con comm were here to help and wanted everyone to have a good time--which I have to say I never doubted, even when all the pre-con wank went down: I remember that my main thought during all of that was 'I have absolutely no doubt that the con comm would do everything they could to make someone feel welcome and safe and make the con as accessible as possible to the specific attendees if they came forward and raised any issues, bearing in mind that there may be limitations beyond the con comm's control'. I felt that to be even more true by the end of the comm. All the con comm members I met were welcoming and did an enormous amount of work (and put up with all sorts of weird shit) with incredible good humour and had a genuine interest in receiving feedback--which is clearly a huge part of how Vividcon has evolved over the years. I have to confess I was a little bit cynical at the beginning about all the earnest 'we want you to have a good time' messages, but I quickly realised that it was entirely genuine and not the cult-like drink-the-koolaid phenomenon it had seemed like online. (Or possibly I just drank it! If so it's the happiest cult I've ever been a part of!) The advice about vid review seemed useful (though I'd already been warned about what to expect).
I was pretty eager to a) obtain food and b) flee the site of my public embarrassing lateness, but on my way out, a couple of people--danegen and mresundance (and others? I am hazy now!) came forward to say hi. (People want to say hi to me?!!) This was very exciting and yayful and I was super excited to meet them! I also met a bunch of other people drifting around the foyer and had both surprising and amusing moments when people recognised me--the surprising was being recognised for DLZ (YAY!! \o/) and the amusing was being recognised as the beta for freece (I'd joked with me before the con that this would happen and she was all 'nah, don't be silly', but it TOTALLY HAPPENED).
Scampered back to find Chinese delivery had arrived and hung out for the rest of the night with my newfound buddies kuwdora, wistful_fever, cherryice, milly and bananainpyjamas, trying not to get all shy about how many amazing vidders were right there in the room with me. I have to say the shyness didn't last all that long, as they are all so damn nice and easy to get along with there was no need for it. Plus, I got to hear milly and cherryice perform the Canadian, Please song, which was priceless.
wistful_fever and I bonded further over our mutual desire for cappuccinos, kuwdora got all cute and giggly drunk, and everyone poured over the program working out what to attend and talking about pre-panel jitters.
I went to bed very happy but still a bit nervous. Breakfast was a challenge (I was late up and it was swarming with people and the coffee urn was UNFORGIVEABLY EMPTY). It was lovely to have people call me over as I tried to find a table. I think it was also this morning (though possibly the day before) that I ran into sdwolfpup in the lift--to be honest, I didn't at first realise who it was, I was just transfixed by a cherubic boychild staring at me (I'm freaky looking, I get it, kid!) and then had one of those lovely 'oh HIIII, it's you!' moments.
I'd been looking for amnesias as we'd both been rather concerned about what the con would be like as international visitors and I'd missed her at the Newbies Welcome the night before so it was good to run into her at breakfast, even if it was brief.
All of this happened before programming had even begun. I think I was finally beginning to realise that I might possibly not see so much of my room as I'd anticipated...
I'm going to save more in-depth reflections on specific shows and panels for separate posts, but will mention highlights here. First up was the official welcome to the con and the 'History' vidshow, which was really exciting because a lot of the vids shown aren't available online or I had not previously seen them. It was a really amazing experience for me because it was my first time seeing vids on a projector screen, watching vids with a group, and also watching vids in succession (at home I usually watch one vid at a time several times, with my headphones on, on my laptop, so it's a far more intimate experience). I started desperately scribbling notes about my first impressions of the shift so I could articulate them later (which I'll do separately).
After that it was the O, Canada vidshow which given that I was even more excited about after being worded up on it before hand the night before. Plus, there was maple candy! As someone who would love one day to put on an Australia vidshow, it was really enjoyable to watch a country other than the US showcase their material. Also, I love watching vids for sources I don't know so this vidshow really entertained me. It also made me curious about a whole lot of shows (why oh WHY have I never seen Slings and Arrows?! Someone needs to tie me to a chair and make me watch that). There were some fabulous musical choices as well and some well-loved vids for Due South and Hard Core Logo.
I was buzzing with so much to say to people after this that I bolted to my room, attempted to scoff food quickly and bolted back down to be chatty with people for as long as possible. I think it was around this time I met jarrow (who immediately began his campaign to get me back on the internet and speaking positively about vidding fandom--he's nothing if not upfront about his intentions! :p), serrico, akemi47, counteragent and butterfly. So I was having loads of 'OMG!' moments all over the place. milly nudged me in the direction of bradcpu once he'd arrived, but he was busy getting greeted by more important people like jarrow and absolutedestiny to begin with so I slunk around in the background nervously til I had a chance to say hi. Once again waves of nerves overtook me and my knees actually shook when he hugged me hello (yes, hi, I am a giant dork but he and dualbunny are my ultimate vidding heroes--I WANT TO VID LIKE THEM WHEN I GROW UP--so what's a girl to do?). I think Brad was completely bemused by this and asked if I felt any better now? I said no and got a second, more reassuring hug.
I did actually feel better enough after that to say hi to absolutedestiny (I would have regretted it the whole con if I'd never said how brilliant he was, even though I'm sure he's sick of hearing it), and to ask if it was ok to donate some tim tams to the con comm (I had been too shy the day before to do so). He was very gracious about this though i'm sure he was thinking 'er, we don't actually need any MORE sugar' (the con suite had this absolutely INCREDIBLE array of homebaked yummies that everyone could snack on all weekend).
Ran into talitha78 again and was able to be far more spontaneously and naturally squeeful about how exciting it was to be there with her (phew!), however the intermittent waves of nerves versus extroversion continued all day in dizzying succession.
At this point I was still thinking that I mainly wanted to see a lot of vid shows (having not been online as much in the last year I was pretty vid-starved), but my first panel, Paging Dr Vidder, kind of changed my mind. It was run by milly and discussed the ways vids can be used to 'fix' shows, to fill in or expand on plots/characters/themes that get ignored in the official work. As someone who struggles terribly with straying from canon at all but who also greatly admires vidders who do so with confidence this was a very liberating panel for me to attend. And I actually spoke! \o/ Foolishly I did so right after heresluck, who was far more coherent than I was. It was either here or in Structure Redux that I realised belatedly that I was sitting beside astolat and once again failed to be anything other than a giant dork in front of Important People in Fandom.
I think this might have also been the session where I saw anoel's amazing note-taking skills in action for the first time. Impressive stuff! I had by this time abandonned my own notebook so I could just soak it all in.
I was pretty eager for more panels after that, but still trying to balance that with my need for vids, so ran off to Nearly New, which was a fabulous collection and included several upbeat squee vids (LILO AND STITCH! RATATOUILLE!) which was right what I needed by that stage of the afternoon.
Before I knew it I was in dualbunny's Structure Redux panel, which was like HEAVEN and could happily have been three or four times as long and still been interesting. Since my own vidding has actually become less and less formally structured over time (I am intuitive to the point of absurd superstition now and just fling clips any which way on the timeline until something takes shape) it was kind of lovely to hear everyone talk about different approaches and still be completely comfortable with my own. There was heaps of fruit for thought.
Also Premiering was the last vidshow for the day and despite being waaaaay overloaded by vids (I now understood what akemi47 had meant earlier about wanting to go to more panels in her second year), I soaked it all up.
By this stage I was so exhausted in every sense that the world was already getting a bit blurry and shaky, but I zipped off to change into Club Vivid outfit (superman logo and small cape courtesy of a child's costume--the story I ran with was that I mugged a small child to get it, but actually supacat bought it for me in the last mad days before flying to the States). I was really nervous about Club Vivid which was weird because it was always the thing I thought I'd like best about the con (maybe that's why I was nervous?), but once again kuwdora and jarrow and wistful_fever did a lot to make me feel more comfortable. jarrow mentioned that he was also going to be coming as a superhero and went off to make his entrance... which provided wonderful payoff when he returned as bradcpu.
I snacked on the food and squeed over people's costumes as they arrived. laurashapiro and such_heights made a brilliant Eleven and Amy Pond combo, and milly was the friendliest Mord Sith ever (though her pain sticks were intimidatingly realistic :p). cee_m had a dizzyingly ruffled costume that kept tripping me out, anoel came as ADAM (*fangirls*), and kuwdora was all glammed up and I wanted to tell her she was the prettiest girl in the room (because she'd been so worried about doing the girl thing and it was TRUE): did I tell you that, honey? I forget...
I ran into deejay pouring over the playlist and was able to boast that I'd met mranderson71 (as we were both squeeee that Let It Rock was playing). It kind of made me feel even more belong-y that I'd met such a great vidder (and a fellow Aussie!) prior to showing up at VVC.
Club Vivid started faster than I'd anticipated and there were shiny lights and glowsticks (I remember frantically helping people on with theirs) and glitter and dancing and hugging and a lot of ridiculous overenthusiasm by me as I was already quite trashed (MISTAKE). I'd kind of always thought it would be really hard to watch or fully appreciate the vids and it was indeed so. The overwhelming desire to dance and run around squeeing at people was too hard to fight. I gave up on the vids for the most part although I would randomly attempt to squint through the crowd or bounce around excitedly when a new vid came on. I do remember bouncing up to bradcpu when Let It Rock came on and being all 'it's Rick's vid! it's Rick's vid!' and getting rewarded with an 'I know, dumbass' stare in return. (I was very drunk by this stage.)
talitha78 and I had hugs and excited dancing about finally meeting each other after all these years in Smallville fandom. She was my very first inspiration and mentor in vidding and so it was just AMAZING to be there with her at last, dancing beneath the glowy lights. Wheeeeee!
Somewhere in the middle of all the glowy lights and dancing, I caught sight of dualbunny who was DANCING WITH DARKEN RAHL (radixiscat) DRESSED AS RICHARD (from Legend of the Seeker), which was clearly so mindblowingly awesome that it overrode any previous shyness I may have had about saying hi. She was the last of the people I was most nervous to meet at the con (because they were super-important to me) but I don't really think that was in evidence when I waved my ID bag in front of her and then had squeeful OMG OMG OMG!!!! HUGS. I've heard about dualbunny's costumes for years and should have known that she'd have something brilliant lined up this year, but I never expected it to be based on my secret guilty fannish pleasure. Therefore much yay! Also she was super nice to me and just seemed very amused by my drunken squee.
My conscious mind kind of retired after this and my subconscious clearly thought that more alcohol was required (WRONG, subconscious, WRONG!) which resulted in the rest of the night getting pretty blurry. What I remember is at some stage a huge wall of emotions slamming into me and feeling completely and utterly helpless, followed rapidly by the sensation of a block of concrete pushing me earthwards (gravity? I assume). I was sick at some point and people poured water down me, and yes, it is true, packed me off to bed. YES, PEOPLE I HAD ONLY JUST MET WERE THAT GODDAM NICE TO THE ANNOYING DRUNK AUSTRALIAN. My thanks to Team Taking Care of Drunk Boppy: cee_m, wistful_fever, kuwdora, bananainpyjamas and everyone else that pitched in. I even (apparently!) got serenaded in French by cee_m (you GUYS! she is HILARIOUS!). (My tendency to babble in pidgin languages when drunk is unfortunate--I do apologise!)
Waking up in a strange hotel room, clothes-less and not really remembering how you got there, to the sound of someone entering said room has got to be high on the list of disconcerting experiences in one's life, yes? But in my case I didn't feel alarmed at all when wistful_fever woke me at around 7 to return my key and explain that she and bananainpyjamas had checked on me throughout the night to make sure I was ok). She joked later that I'd looked very happy to see her, which is hilarious, yes, but truthfully? Waking up that morning I'd rarely felt so calm. The concrete block but also the tidal wave of anxiety had completely lifted from me and I felt only a floaty inner peace. Admittedly this was punctuated slightly by realising I'd been obnoxiously drunk/ill the night before but I figured if anyone wanted to hate on me for that then it was a fairly good reason and more power to them. It was a sort of 'well there's no way but up from here' feeling. Plus there was a FULL DAY's AWESOME PROGRAMMING AHEAD! I also attribute this inner calm to the sense of safeness and belonging imparted to me the night before by my newfound Vividcon buddies. Roll your eyes if you will but I'm pretty sure I would have been pretty alarmed that morning if I'd not felt good cause for inner security despite the surface embarrassment!
I slept a little more, scoffed some painkillers, wrestled uncoordinatedly with the shower taps (so tricksy!) and padded down to breakfast. jarrow and mresundance were both clearly surprised to see me upright, and jarrow expressed some concern that I might hate on Vividcon just because it gave me an almighty hangover. (Have you MET me?! I am not that big a bitch, dude! :p) I explained that the hangover was definitely all my own making and in fact not that terrible (I tell you I had the best drunk-care team ever!). It was certainly improved by caffeine and muffins at breakfast.
Since this was kind of the turning point of the con for me, I'm going to leave the rest for another post. To be continued...