Well, I've finally done it. I've sent in my pre-registration for this year's BotCon, in Lexington, KY (as well as that for my brother, who lives in Louisville, and will be joining me there).
In the weeks and months to come, I'll no doubt have more to report on what exclusives and features will actually be offered at the convention. Likewise, I'll no doubt have specifics to talk about during and after the convention itself. This entry is not about any of those things.
Rather, I'm feeling reflective on having finished making the commitment to go to what will be my third Transformers convention (the other two being BotCon '98 in Anaheim and BotCon '04 in Pasadena). Of course, my mind was made up long ago, and having already made the plane reservations for a trip to KY (this will be the first time I've actually had to fly to get to a BotCon!), one could definitely argue that I was already committed to this trip. Still, sending in the registration (and the check for nearly $350!) was the last step.
On the Official Club message boards (I'd give a link, but unless you're a member, it won't let you in, anyway), I've recently been arguing that BotCon is not for everybody. To read the responses there, one would think that to make such a statement is sacrilegious. Everyone who loves Transformers should go, they say! And, I would certainly agree (and have done) that anyone who is able to go should at least give it a shot. You really can't know if you'll like it until you've tried it.
But, the thing is, I have given this a shot twice now. And it's okay. If I didn't think so, I wouldn't be bothering to go again. But, to be honest, I'm really not interested in what some people call "the whole convention experience." If other people like that, I'm certainly not intending to begrudge them. Go. Have fun. And I've certainly had occasion to recall (as recently as yesterday) some of the really cool people I've met at previous conventions. Getting to meet face-to-face fellow Transfans is definitely one of the reasons to go to a convention.
But, speaking purely for myself, those kinds of experiences, as valuable and important as they are, have never been (to me) worth spending the kinds of money necessary to attend a convention. As has been well established in the fandom (to the point of insanity, often times), the location will always be an inconvience to the majority of those who want to go. There's no way around that. I've been extremely fortunate to have two previous conventions available close enough to drive to (in fact, the 2004 convention was only a couple of blocks from where I work!). Most fans never get that chance.
I should stop briefly to emphasize that I am not here complaining about the price of the convention. Although it is admittedly higher under Fun Publications that it was for the other conventions I attended, I was perfectly willing to spend extra money for the exclusives at both conventions. There are simply more exclusives available now than there were then (granted, my brother is paying more just to get in the door on Friday than I ever had to pay, sans exclusives).
But the fact remains that, as impressive as this year's set of exclusives are, I wouldn't be going if my family didn't live within driving distance of the convention, allowing me to visit and stay with them (I might pay for the non-attendee exclusive set, but the price is rather high for that...). And I really probably won't go beyond the Friday that I'll be going with my brother to pick up my toys. I'm going to try to keep an open mind on that one. I'll be in the area through Sunday (the convention actually starts on Thursday, but I won't arrive until Thursday night in Louisville, so I'll miss that anyway).
I actually expect that I'm kind of an oddball among Transformers fans (one could well argue that being a Transformers fan makes me something of an oddball to begin with, so I'm kind of doomed). Although there are a few people I've met that I've truly enjoyed getting to know (and hopefully you know who you are), whenever I go to the convention, I just can't shake the supreme sense of alienation I feel at seeing so many people around who strike me as simply.... freaky (and hopefully you don't know who you are!). While I know that this is an extremely unfair assessment on the basis of no more than a few seconds of distant observation of people I've never met, it's tough to shake.
To judge from the responses of folks on the Club message boards, they would say that I'm not trying hard enough. After all, I haven't given these "freaky" folks a chance, and that's my problem. Perhaps I can (and should) try harder. However, I am different than most fans (and most people in general), and I'm actually fairly comfortable with myself for all that. People are different. What works for one person won't work for everybody. A convention that's worth the cost of admission for one won't be worth it for all. And I strongly resist being told that, if someone doesn't enjoy it, that's their own fault. That's just not fair. Why not just accept that the convention can't, and shouldn't, please everybody?
*By now, I've probably disappointed a lot of readers who read "die-cast" in the subject, and thought I was about to report that the BotCon exclusive toys will be made out of die-cast metal. Sorry. Not going to happen (I happen to be one of those "freaks" who prefers plastic to die-cast, anyway...).