Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Value of Sincerity

A confluence of events led me to attend the InConjunction Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention a few days ago. I have friends who are deeply involved in Live Action Role Playing, and since I like HP Lovecraft (the setting of the LARP) and acting, they sometimes tap me to play roles for their games. It is both twice as geeky and twice as fun as you imagine it to be. It just so happened that I was passing through Indianapolis during the convention, so I joined them. I had never been to such a convention, and was very curious.

Before going, a friend who had been before said, "We'll be the coolest people there." He was right. If my trip were a fictional film, I'd have ripped the filmmaker for unrealistic stereotypes of Sci-Fi and Fantasy fans. Every caricature of fanboys was there. The Comic Book Guy from the Android's Dungeon on "The Simpsons" was there in spirit, if not in the flesh.

To be honest, I didn't much enjoy the convention. My own role there was primarily to work the LARP, helping to direct the storyline. Most of the day was downtime between LARPs, though, and I simply could not become immersed in the sea of Sci-Fidom. I've never really understood collecting memorobilia beyond simple decorations, and while a strategy game involving hundreds of little tiles and chicklets might be fun with your friends, I don't have any desire to play such games with strangers. I think most of the people were there to meet old friends who shared their interests, but since I went with the only people I knew, I couldn't participate in that part either.

Here's the spot where people would normally denigrate these conventions. Even though I found a lot of silliness that calls for a thorough mocking, I have to confess that I found something rather charming about the whole thing. I mean, here were people who were in full hypergeek mode, meeting with the other hypergeeks to do the hypergeekiest activities around -- and they knew it. For the most part, they didn't seem to care. People went around in costumes and bought Buffy action figures and cheesy S&M art of dragons and robot maidens, and didn't care what people thought of them. They liked it.

The most counter-cultural aspect of the whole convention was the attitude. Most of us (myself included) spend a great deal of time cultivating a cool ironic detatchment from the culture around us. If we can treat our popular culture ironically, the logic goes, it shows that we are better than and smarter than the masses that consume it. Shows like VH1's Best Week Ever (which I love) allow people to engage in popular culture while simultaneously denying their attraction to it. We're like the anti-porn activist who crusades because it gives him a socially acceptable chance to look at the porn he is trying to ban.

Here were people sincerely and unabashedly wallowing in popular culture. While I think they could have chosen more worthwhile subjects than, say, Dr. Who memorobilia, I found their sincerity charming. I like irony, but sincerity can be pretty cool too in its own way.

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