I just attended a Sci-Fi Convention in Maryland. Hunt Valley, MD to be sure. It is called Shore-Leave and this year marked their 33rd straight running year. I was told about this convention by a fan and also a celebrity while vacationing on a Star Trek Celebrity cruise in December. This convention is also filmed and made mention of in a film by Denise Crosby called “Trekkies II”. And, it lives up to the fine compliments I heard about it. They all agree it is “Awesome!!”
The people who congregate annually have mostly been arranging, managing and tending to this CON for thirty-three years and it shows in the organization, the vitality and the cohesiveness of those who staff it. But, what really shows is the way in which everyone is drawn together for one purpose; to have a good time and pay respects to authors, celebrities and all in all anyone and everyone’s favorite sci-fi. From Star Trek to Star Wars and every thing in between.
Interesting panels adorn the schedule from discussions on all aspects of any genre you wish to learn more about or just discuss. They are led by enthusiastic fans and moderators and everyone is entitled to join the discussion. I sat in on a few. The one that brings a most profound smile is the effort to discuss the characer Q, those of you who read this and know that for three years running I’ve collaborated with dozens if not more roleplay writers on both Facebook and MySpace and attempted on other sites~ I write the character Q. I try on all levels to bring him alive in the depictions, and have been told I succeed in that effort. The dialog and discussion in this panel was invigorating and an honor, to hear that so many fans share the enthusiasm of “Q.”
The celebrities are invited to discourse in a comfortable environment, that often is lacking in other venues. No censorship, although there is a little, but not enough to thwart train of thoughts or the occasional humor that seems to cause raucous laughter and mirth in the audience. It is refreshing to see how comfortable the actors are in this environment. Their candid stories and thoughts reflect this and their interaction with the fans is wonderfully projected as natural, off the cuff and wonderful; and that is whether they are milling the convention area, the hotel lobby, at their respective autograph table, or in their allotted Q & A.
The fans are respectful of not only the authors and celebrities, but of one another, too; and all who frequent this convention, and proud to call it their venue, and they are deeply engaging in respect to discussions about their favorite episodes, genres and diversity; and I saw very little in the manner of cliches forming. Also, those who are part of the LGBT Community have a voice and they are given respect and show respect in return; truly refreshing to speak with those members and hear their ideas, and share in that which makes all of us unique and yet worthy to call ourselves, human and diverse in America and abroad. While not a member of this Community, I understand their plight in society as a number of my family members are…so my affection to those who stand up for rights that most of us take for granted is of course a wonderful chance to exchange ideas on socio-cultural levels, as well, what we all hope for in our future as depicted through sci-fi.
The most amazing thing that occurred at Shore Leave 33 was…John de Lancie whom I usually…no always venture to see when I strike out to visit these CON’s that are such a distance from where I live. He was amazingly delightful as he took the stage in an exaggerated and profound way announced that he WAS INDEED COMFORTABLE to be there on stage in his robe and hinted that he was sans ‘underwear’, causing a riotous tittering in the crowd. I won’t say here…as he wanted us to imagine too…but I don’t think he was fibbing about it…
His stories of what he is doing, has planned and all in all, the stories of his efforts in show-biz were as always~ delightful, funny and amazing. He truly is an amazing man, a great story-teller and ever so kind, thoughtful, imaginatively hilarious to be around.
I asked for the opportunity to interview John when I arrived Friday, and he said, ‘yes’; however, the opportunity would lead to a more powerful discussion about John the man, his wisdom and his life; and less of his feats and exploration as an actor throughout his life-time, nor would we discuss the usual fodder and efforts of his time on Star Trek as Q. It was a relaxed discussion, with two-way conversation that lent a glimpse of ‘what makes John de Lancie tick’, and he allowed me to give more of an impression of myself, rather than assuming I was just a ‘fangirl’~ which I am, but I put that fangirl quality in the box it belongs and went with the flow and enjoyed the conversations immensely. I went away honored, blown away and totally grateful to whatever karma allowed that to happen. John is truly an amazing actor, but more than that…he’s an amazing ‘human-being’. He is intelligent beyond the definition; patient and kind on a level I’ve never seen anyone I’ve met in my lifetime, and especially a celebrity. I left Shore-leave 33 with the tangible sense that I was no longer a fan…or fangirl, but more enlightened to him as just a person.
I had the opportunity to have candid conversations with Christopher Judge, Sally Kellerman and Gary Lockwood as well. They too were more than the usual fare of mumbling ‘I loved you in_______, or can I have your autograph, etcetera, but again, fangirl was in blossom and to share every nuance and detail…a blog in itself. Maybe the next time I meet them~I’ll be less ‘starstruck’ and I’m sure, because they too were amazing.
The Authors who attend this convention do so on a regular and annual basis. They too give great presentation and reflect a huge following within the local fan community and those who travel within he USA and abroad to this annual event. I got to talk with Micheal Jan Friedman, my absolutely favorite author of Trek; in fact, I need a whole bookshelf for just his works. I gushed like a school-girl at the opportunity. Peter David was also there and his impish nature and sense of humor a pure delight. I now have my copy of “I, Q” signed respectively by both authors. John de Lancie and Peter David. Life is grand!!
The Dealer’s room herald’s a spectacular display the usual convention fare; T-shirts from every series, humorous T’s reflecting the series, jewelry, artwork and games and marketed books as well as home-spun fan-fiction. Quite a plethora. I spent hours rummaging through the Dealer’s room.
In conclusion, and I mean this with the grain of~ “it was so sad to leave Maryland’s heralded effort in a ‘fan-run’ Sci-fi Convention”…as I stood with many on Sunday, realizing that the effort of putting on the greatest, THE ABSOLUTE BEST convention ever that I’ve attended since embarking on Convention seeking…we all sensed a tear filling the corner of not one, but both eyes…but there is always next year…
This is in my opinion one of Maryland’s best kept secrets…and if you think you’ve been to some really great Conventions, lately and have not graced Shore-Leave [insert number here, pssst, it will 34~next year] you have NOT been to the greatest.