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Culture » Arts & Entertainment

Con Artistry

Relieve your post-FanX doldrums with pop-culture takes on fandom.



Whenever convention season in Salt Lake City rolls around, I think a lot about the idea of fan celebrations. They're big and loud and fun and bring a lot of people together. But after these fan gatherings, there can be what I call "post-con depression." Though it's going to be a long six months until Salt Lake Comic Con comes back to town, there are plenty of pop-culture creations to help you cope during the wait. Or, if you're not the sort who usually goes to conventions, these books and films can emulate the experience, and maybe even convince you to participate in the next one.

The movie that comes most immediately to mind is Galaxy Quest. David Mamet, the American playwright and screenwriter behind Glengarry Glen Ross, has publicly hailed it as one of the best films ever made. It takes a look at fan culture and fan conventions through the lens of a fake Star Trek-type show, and I think it's one of the few that gets it right and doesn't make fun of the nerd lifestyle. The geeks in Galaxy Quest who go to conventions are an actual community, where most depictions of attendees at similar events paint them as loners and losers—like Melllvar, the 34-year-old Star Trek fan and gaseous cloud who lives with his mother and abducts the crew of the Enterprise on one of the best Futurama episodes, "Where No Fan Has Gone Before."

Another fun depiction of fan conventions is the appearance of San Diego Comic-Con International in the 2011 film Paul. It stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as a pair of nerdy best friends who encounter a real alien. Since the actors themselves—who also wrote the script—have been to more cons than you could shake a fist at, they were careful to replicate the experience faithfully.

They weren't the only filmmakers to shoot at a real convention, either. Sharknado 4 featured our very own Salt Lake Comic Con, and Mark Hamill's 2004 Comic Book: The Movie was also shot at San Diego Comic-Con. That film is a mockumentary set at a convention where Hamill (playing the film's director, Donald Swan) undertakes a quest to stop a film studio from making a movie out of his favorite comic book character, Commander Courage. It's a lighthearted look at convention culture and the cast comprised of a dozen top voice actors in live-action roles, including Billy West, Jess Harnell, Jim Cummings, Tara Strong and Tom Kenny.

My favorite of all might be Kevin Smith's Chasing Amy. It's a heartfelt film whose backdrop is the comic industry—and environment that Smith knew well (and would get to know even better in subsequent years). It tells the complicated love story of a trio of comic book artists and writers. As their lives intertwine in and out of comic book conventions and deadlines, their desire for romance comes to a head. It's a wonderful film, and it might be Smith's best.

I, myself, dabbled in the world of con culture at one point as well. My first novel, Lost at the Con, was set at a fictional version of Dragon Con, which is the major convention held every year in Atlanta, Ga. What would happen if a Hunter S. Thompson-esque journalist took a look at convention culture? That question was my starting point, and I had a lot of fun with it.

Whatever story you turn to—whether it's to beat that downer feeling of the convention's end, or to learn more about what all those geeks downtown are doing—any one of these would be a great choice. Isn't a better understanding of our fellow humans exactly what stories are for?