the obligatory emerald city comicon post

Now that I'm home from Seattle, I'm right back to editing and rewriting and obsessively perfecting my PAX East keynote, but before I can give that the focus it requires, I need to talk a little bit about this year's Emerald City Comicon.

First, the good: The dungeon delve I wrote and ran was really great. We raised $500 for Child's Play, and the people who played in it (and I) had a really good time playing D&D. I wrote an original adventure that I think I may even be able to expand and publish in some form some day, which is great.

Aaron Douglas and I made a bet during the Olympic ice hockey finals: if USA won, he'd wear a USA sweater at the con, if Canada won, I'd wear a Canada sweater. So on Saturday, I wore Aaron's Team Canada jersey, and had a lot of fun explaining to the genuine Team Canada supporters that I'd lost a bet and was a USA Hockey fan, even though I've secretly thought about defecting to Canada for most of my life.

I bought Matt Kindt's Super Spy: The Lost Dossiers, which if the title didn't tip you off is set in the Super Spy universe. Super Spy is one of my favorite comics of all time, and I can't wait to read it.

I met and talked with hundreds of people who came to my table in the expo hall. I sold all of my books. I ran out of 8x10s. I posed for lots of pictures, and probably didn't look like a complete dork in at least three of them. It was, as always, really awesome to connect with people who read my blog and my books, especially the people who told me they'd been inspired to get back into gaming because of something I'd written about it, and the people who I helped to get excited and make things.

The con was absolutely packed this year, and I saw more families and casual geeks than I've ever seen at a con before in my life. On Friday morning, I did some press to help promote the show, and in the process of talking about it, I realized that I love ECC because it reminds me of everything I loved about SDCC before Hollywood moved in and took over. It's large enough to draw some great guests, but it's still small enough that you have a reasonable chance to actually meet and (depending on who they are) get to spend a minute talking with them. It's growing like crazy, though, and while I don't think it will ever turn into the giant clusterfuck that San Diego's become, I was happy to hear that they're adding a third day next year, because two days just isn't enough time to see and do all the stuff that's available at this show.

Which brings me to the bad: I worked so hard to make the dungeon delve memorable and special, I was up after midnight every night last week writing it (after working on my PAX keynote all day) and as a result, I was exhausted before the show even started.

I felt like my Awesome Hour didn't really earn its name. I would have called it The Pretty Good Hour, if I was giving myself a grade. See, I got last year's PAX and last year's ECC mixed up in my head, and ended up reading the same story that I read last year (Blue Light Special, from The Happiest Days of our Lives). I think most of the audience enjoyed it, and they certainly enjoyed it when I read Justice from Memories of the Future, but I could sense that a significant portion of the room was disappointed to hear a story they'd heard before. I also felt rushed, because I wanted to make sure there was time for at least some Q&A, and there was no way I was going to let myself go over, on account of I was essentially opening for Leonard Nimoy and Stan Lee (which was AWESOME, actually. I mean, how often do you get to do that?)

And now to the thing that's really been bothering me since I got home, The Ugly:

I was just awful when we did our Rock Band thing. I mean, I really, truly, sucked out loud. I know the people who played with me had fun, and I'm not taking anything away from their experience, but for everyone who was just watching, I could tell that I didn't give them a particularly good experience. Mostly, that's because Rock Band was scheduled at the end of the con, which was the worst possible time for me. My voice was completely shot, I was completely out of gas, and I only had an hour to play before I had to literally run to a car that was waiting at the curb to get me to the airport. 

There was some great stuff in the setup that we'll carry over to future cons: there were screens that all of us playing could clearly see, there was a microphone stand with a bandanna tied to it for maximum rock, and there was plenty of space for people to get up and mosh, should they have been inspired to do so. 

Unfortunately, we made a huge mistake and forgot to turn the vocals all the way down like we usually do, and I was so tired, I forgot that I could just pause the game and do it manually! There wasn't a single speaker facing the stage, so I couldn't hear myself at all … and judging by the expressions I saw in the audience, Randy Jackson would have told "From me to you, dogg, it was a little pitchy, dogg. I have to say 'no.' Dogg.'" 

When I play Rock Band at home, that doesn't matter – it's about having fun and pretending to rock, not sounding great – but I'm doing it as sort of a performance for people, it's different than it is when you play in your living room with your friends. I feel like the players had fun (which was very important to me), but I also feel like I let everyone else down – I know I let myself down – and I'm sorry for that. I've only done the Rock Band party thing twice before, and I guess you could say that we're still working out the bugs in a very public (and for me, in this case, embarrassing) beta. I'm going to take the lessons learned from this experience and apply them to Phoenix Comicon in May, though, so hopefully I'll have a chance to redeem myself.

Now, to wrap up on a more positive and less self-flagellating note: I saw a lot of seriously hardcore fans in amazing costumes at ECC this year, but I also saw and talked with a lot of people who were attending their first con, and they were having a great time dancing with the geek what brought them. I also gained several levels in DM while prepping and running the dungeon delve, but all that will have to wait for another post.

Finally, if you want even more Emerald City Comicon stuff, you can hear me talk about it – including a dramatic reading of the backstory and setup for my delve – on this week's episode of my podcast, Radio Free Burrito.

102 thoughts on “the obligatory emerald city comicon post”

  1. Well, I had a blast at ECCC, and you were a big part of that. I was impressed that you took on so many activities. I was thinking that Rock Band would have been a great After Hours activity on Saturday, like they had with the Masquerade and things like that. However, I had a great time with it anyway, aside from the short duration. I was right up front. Sorry for my lameness on sitting down in the front for a bit at the end, but I was trying to get some good pics and vids. (Still working on those)
    I thought the panel was fantastic. At this point, I’ve heard you read so many of your stories that it’s all a blur to me where it was (podcast, audiobook, youtube, in person at ECCC or PAX, etc.) so I don’t even know when/where I heard them before. You do such a great job of reading them that it is really fun to hear them in person. I don’t mind the repetition though. Isn’t that one of the big geeky attributes? It’s like watching a favorite movie again, but this one actually is a little different every time. And seeing you and Leonard Nimoy and Stan Lee all back to back was amazing. Plus I was happy to get some good pics out of it.

  2. Your Awesome hour was so funny it had me in tears, but it was my first panel. Brought a friend that has never seen or been a fan and she became a fan after awesome hour, So I would say it was a success. Also thanks for signing me and hope it didn’t make me look like a complete groupie. I respect you as an Actor, an Author and an amazing spokes person for the Nerd community. The fact that you were my first movie star crush is just a perk. :) Thank you for being so cool with your fans even if your tired.

  3. Hey Wil!
    I wonder if you’d gotten my invitation to the reading of Of Dice and Men at PAX East (posted in reply to your previous post: You certainly don’t owe me an answer of any kind, but I would like to know that you know enough to make an informed decision about whether you want your world rocked or not, so I can quit bugging you about it. Because I don’t want to be That Guy.
    I say this with some recognition that I am already being That Guy to some extent (The Guy Next To That Guy, let’s say), but the fact is, you have to have a little bit of That Guy in you if you’re going to be a playwright whose plays are read by anyone but your mom.
    In any case, despite appearances to the contrary, I really don’t want to bother you. Any more than is strictly necessary, anyway. All I need is a quick reply from you to let me know the message has been received. I have taken the liberty of composing just such a reply, for you to freely cut and paste:
    “Dear Cameron,
    Message received.
    *backs away slowly, eyes narrowed with suspicion, hand groping for an improvised cudgel.*
    Thanks ever so much,

  4. Oh, message received. I've been a little busy lately, so I haven't responded to most messages.
    It sounds like something I'd enjoy, but my schedule at PAX is pretty much set in stone already, and out of my control at this point.

  5. Thanks, I appreciate it; I know how busy you are. If you’d like, I can send you the script. We’d also be happy to make you our guest at one of the rehearsals if you have some time earlier on Saturday.
    I realize the difference between getting a professional solicitation from the next Tom Stoppard and getting one from a guy who writes Wil Wheaton/Thundercats fanfic in play form is… well, nonexistent. You don’t know me from Adam, and you have no reason to believe that this script is any different from any other mediocre geek-based art. But it is. I’m not an amateur, and I wrote a damn good play. It stands for the things you do, and it says them in a funny, eloquent, and touching voice.
    Anyway, last you’ll hear about it. At least until I graciously thank you when we accept our Obie together.
    Please feel free to email at [email protected] at your convenience.
    Thanks so much for your time.

  6. Actually, this is as good a time as any to remind you (and anyone else) that I can not, under any circumstances read an unproduced or unpublished manuscript. It's complicated, and it's the result of living in a world full of lawyers, but it's my reality.
    Have a great performance, though, and thanks for thinking of me. Keep writing!

  7. I have to second what this fine lady has said, Wil. We all had a blast at ECCC together, and meeting you was definitely one of the best parts of the entire con. I’d like to especially thank you for doing that video for me; as it was awesome and my friend absolutely flipped out when she watched it.
    I just finished reading the copy of Sunken Treasure you signed for me today and let me tell you, I am very excited to buy and read more of your stuff. You’re a fantastic writer, entertainer, and all around cool person; and I so look forward to going with Tanya and her family to w00tstock in May.

  8. I too was an ECCC (and con in general) noob. I had a great tim! Meeting you was the highlight of the day! I had you sign a picture and a copy of both books you had with you and was giddy as a schoolboy the rest of the day. I can’t wait for next year!
    I’ll bet I was probably the only one who mentioned The Curse. 😛

  9. Oh yes, I totally remember you, then! There's always *someone* who mentions The Curse. I can't recall if I gave you my standard, "let's never speak of it again" response.

  10. I’m the sucky drummer from Band #6 (thank you everyone who was there for your encouragement!!!!!!! you all made me feel much less nervous), so even “bad vocals” (and I wouldn’t know since I’m quite possibly the worst singer on the face of the planet–but sometimes I do it anyway!) made being in the last band to play Rock Band with you an awesome way to end an awesome weekend. In fact, bad vocals (and I honestly wouldn’t be able to tell) makes it MORE fun because then those of us who suck don’t feel extra pressure to not suck. That and it’s just flat out funny!
    This was my first Con ever and I’ve been wanting to go to ComiCon ever since I found out it existed (which granted was only a few years ago) and it finally happened. And I was NOT disappointed. In fact, MUCH better than expected! I’ll definitely be back to ECCC, mostly thanks to you and Aaron Douglas (I’ve never laughed so hard as during your Awesome Hour), and hopefully you will be back and playing Rock Band with us geeks again. Aaron’s Q&A was hilarious (actually, he made jokes about my height–and the girl behind me who was also short–which made it MUCH less nerve wracking standing in front of a room full of people and asking a question–I got much more brave this last weekend) so tell him he should come back too and bring some of his BSG co-stars along!
    Portland w00tstock will likely be my next stop. Looking forward to seeing Adam Savage and hearing more of your stories.

  11. Turning green with envy that the Hulk would be jealous of my neon green awesomeness!! An online friend of mine pinged me to say she got PHOTOS that’s PLURAL with Wheaton + Autographs. And the mad SUPER PAX PACK of Geekery didn’t stop there! My breath got sucked back into my throat while waiting impatiently for the additional news, then got a sucker punch to the solar plexus! SHE LISTENED TO A READING!
    Man, you West Coasters have all the foosizzle B’Diddly fun! I’ll sit here listening to Pandora crank out the goodness of Bowie and The Police while internally squeeing as I absorb the bedazzle hilarity that is Memories of the Future on Kindle! Oh and to bliss out again reading of the fun news my friend had at PAX.

  12. Wil,by now you’ve read all the comments from the folks that were there. All commenters have offered sincere encouragement with details of how you made a positive impact on them or made the experience better by your presence.
    If you’re like me and most people who put themselves on the line you probably still have that little bit in the back of your mind that says ‘it wasn’t good enough’ or ‘some people think I suck’. That, my friend, is the Lizardbrain at work. Acknowledge it for what it is, bow to it then wave it away.
    When it’s all said and done, if you’ve communicated with one thousand people in your own style and with sincerity but only a few like what they see then the job has been accomplished. From the replies to this post it appears you’ve done that MANY times over already. Be careful to not let the things that matter get covered up by your own judgment of yourself.
    Be a trooper, get back out there at whatever event comes next and move on. Decide now that the last event is not the next one.
    I’m thinking now about coming to Phoenix just to see you. I hope you read Blue Light Special. I’ve never heard you read it.

  13. Yeah, I think it was something along those lines. I was running on no sleep (too excited to sleep I guess) so I was kind of in zombie mode. Maybe I’ll track down a copy and bring it next year if you come on up again.
    Commenting on my shirt made my day as well.

  14. Wil, last weekend was my second ECCC and I had more fun this time around because I had/made time for four speakers instead of two (you, Nimoy, Stan Lee and Aaron Douglas — who mentioned you several times during his speech, BTW).
    I only planned to get one autograph while I was there — yours. For one, I’m a fan of yours from the TNG days and — more recently — the TVSquad reviews which have become the MOTF stories. For another, you don’t charge an autograph fee like (seemingly) everyone else who signs at these things.
    I was the guy who brought the black TNG glitter-globe toward the end of your morning session. Your signature on the globe means it’s gone from something I might keep (I’ve had it for about 20 years already, I think) to something I will definitely keep and show to my future kids someday.
    Like everyone else in line, I wanted to spend about 20-30 minutes going on about everything I just mentioned above, but I knew the people in line in front of me and behind me wanted to do the same thing (and you only had about 20 minutes left), so I decided to just say thanks for the autograph and head upstairs for the Awesome Hour. I got another guy to take a photo of you signing the globe (my wife scrapbooks), so if you’d like to see that, let me know.
    I have to go get Sunken Treasure and Memories because I want to read these stories more often than just when you roll into town.
    Oh, and I heard from Aaron about your next bet with him (or so he said). Go Kings! :)
    Hope you can make it to ECCC in 2011.

  15. Why hello there, I am aforementioned friend, and I too would like to thank you for that video! I did indeed absolutely flip out. I shall never leave another glass of orange juice unfinished again, lest I fall to the zombies.
    Answers to one-sided conversation:
    – The adjective has yet to be invented.
    – Your Canada shirt is amazing.
    Thanks for being so awesome!

  16. You win at the Internet, Megan. Someone get Al Gore on the phone, because it's time to switch it off. Hope to see you next year!

  17. 1st, Jealous. ECC sounds fun, and sadly i’ve never done a con. And hey man, don’t beat yourself up too much. you got guts just getting up there. myself, I seriously blow at Guitarhero. I play real guitar but can’t seem to manage that game for some reason – gives me no end of trouble. Now if Leonard Nimoy were to stand up there and sing Rockband…that’d be awesome.
    Oh great, now i want to go get that Nimoy/Shatner album out of the cupboard.

  18. Hi, Wil, please be on lookout for email from chimaerapr (me) re:
    < >
    Sending it to the old .net address.
    Will probably try to contact you this summer re a 2011 appearance in San Antonio.
    All the best, Gilder

  19. This year’s ECCC was my second Con, and second ECCC. Last year it was really overwhelming so I completely missed you there. This year was much more relaxing to me, even though it was bigger. I went to your awesome hour and even sat in on your Delve for a bit. I absolutely love they way you write, and to hear you read stories is even better. I had a lot of fun sitting in on your Delve. I haven’t played in quite some time and it just took me back. I have been itching to get back into it since then. I just wanted to say thanks for everything you did at ECCC. I can’t imagine how exhausting it was.

  20. Wil,
    Thanks for coming to our fair city! Getting to speak with you was the highlight of ECCC for me. I want the record to show that you rocked the house on the Rock Band stage. “Band 9 from Outer Space” was sad we didn’t get to play with you, but we were cheering and singing along with every song you were able to fit in!
    Thanks again,
    Will (of the Aeofel ribbon)

  21. Don’t get yourself down about Rock Band. My friends and I didn’t get to play on stage with you, but being in the crowd, watching how much fun everyone was having and swaying with our iphone lighter apps was one of the HIGHLIGHTS of ECCC.
    I wouldn’t have known you felt that way had you not written about it! We really felt like we were in someone’s living room playing Rock Band with friends.
    Also, you should wear a Canada Jersey more often…it suits you 😀

  22. Wil,
    Everytime I read a post of yours detailing the awesomeness of a comiccon that was made even more awesome by the presence of you, my eyes get that wistful twinkling/sparkly thing that you sometime see in manga characters. But living on the wrong coast for most of these cons makes it kinda of difficult to plan…which is why last fall I finally started to plan out my dream vacation of going to my first West Coast Con (my first comiccon ever really) at SDCC. Of course this is also before I heard that you WERE going to be doing PAX East *facepalm D’OH!*. I’m sure SDCC isn’t as great as it used to be (everything evolves for good or for ill), but I’m still super excited about it come what may. Any chance at all you might give it another shot?

  23. I’m totally giving you a mental hug right now, Wil. Sounds like you had a rough time – but I am entirely sure that pretty much everyone had an excellent time regardless of that.
    I wanted to ask – any chance you’ll be attending Pittsburgh Comicon any time in the future? I have a hard time getting away from the city to get to other cons, and I saw you there once before (before my recent delve into Star Trek fan-land) and didn’t get the chance to meet you. I typically go to see Scott McDaniels (shockingly, a friend of mine through my husband – we only get to see him on Facebook and at comicon anymore though!) and to try desperately to find some comics I’ll enjoy.
    Hopefully I’ll get the chance to see you there sometime!

  24. I don’t suppose you ever make it out to Dragon*Con. I saw that Frakes, Spiner, and Sirtis were going to be there this year, and Patrick Stewart was there last year.

  25. Dragon*Con is a direct conflict with PAX, so as long as they're on the same weekend, I'll continue to admire D*C from afar, sadly.

  26. I love Pierce Brosnan. He’s gorgeous, seems friendly, seems intelligent. Not a bad package, no complaints here.
    When I saw him in Mamma Mia, I realized his fatal flaw. That boy can NOT sing! I mean but he’s AWFUL! Oh he tried, wow did he try. He sang his heart out. He emoted. He was earnest on every note. He gave it his best. But he sucked.
    When I saw him on-screen, singing poorly, I didn’t think to myself, “Well now that just ruins everything. What a shame.” What I did think was, “Wow, he can’t sing! Ha ha, I love that man!” It didn’t ruin the experience for me at all. If anything, it made me admire him more.
    I once sang “Stand By Your Man” in a Korean karaoke bar at 2 am, way too drunk and way past my bed time. I didn’t just butcher it – I killed it and brought it back to life just so I could kill it even more. I should have been shot and dragged from the stage by my ankles. There’s no way you were THAT bad!
    I’m sure your fans didn’t care what you sounded like. And not even the best of performances would have impressed your non-fans. I wouldn’t sweat it. You probably weren’t as bad as you think you were, and if you were then it was understandable based on the circumstances you listed. Your desire to provide a great experience for those around you is what counts, and from the comments above it sounds like you accomplished that. =)

  27. Speaking as the singer for Band #1 — who completely failed out halfway through “Livin’ On A Prayer” — I wanted to say it was an absolute blast rocking out on stage with you. I was a complete jangle of nerves when I realized we were first in line, but that evaporated as soon as the crowd cheered us on. Wish I could make it to Phoenix for the next session, but will have to settle waiting for ECCC 2011.
    And I think your voice was less trashed than mine.

  28. I had similar feelings at Rincon last October, after my friends and I performed “Everlong” with you. Except that it was ME letting YOU down because I chose A. a ridiculously hard song for drums, and B. a song that I really couldn’t sing at all, even though it is one of my favorite songs. I really was bummed out after our performance, because I felt like I had broken Wheaton’s Law twice in a row – it was I who also caused drumming headaches for you when I chose “Give it Away” at Phoenix Comicon earlier in the year. So I apologize for that, but hope that you still had fun anyway. I will do my best in Phoenix this year to NOT be a dick, if I get to participate in the Rock Band Blowout again. :)

  29. Ahaha, thanks! (Though it would be very creepy if there was really a big switch that just… turned off the entire Internet… scary thoughts!)
    Anyways, yeah, I hope I can come next year indeed!

  30. Regarding Rock Band at ECCC:
    I was the band leader and guitarist for your opening act. I realized, in retrospect (hindsight is 20/20 after all) that YOU should have been on vocals or guitar for the first song, not in the back on drums. It was your show, man! People should have been able to SEE you for the first song.
    But the two random folks I got teamed up with could only play bass and vocals (sort of), respectively. And, while I could have drummed (I play everything, even sing and guitar at the same time both on Expert, however I’m weakest on drums), but I wanted to show off my mad guitar skills. Which, given I saved our poor singer, did come in handy.
    I would have loved to have played in your Dungeon Delve, but there was no advertising for it. I asked various con-staffers about it, but none of them seemed to know anything. I learned on Sunday about your Twitter post – alas that I do not have remote Twitter!
    Anyway, it was really fun jamming with you, even if you were behind and to the far right of me. And playing, even a toy guitar, in front of that many folks is pretty darn amazing. I’d happily play Rock Band with you any time you’re in Seattle! I thought you were awesome (certainly compared to many of the other folks on that stage). It’s just wonderfully geeky fun to play a toy guitar pretending your a real band in front of a real, excited, geeky crowd!
    Thank you so much!

  31. Hi Wil,
    THANKS for the signed copy of MoF.
    Saturday, ECC: I was the guy who finagled a book out of you after you had shuttered the booth for the day. You said it cost $25. I had $40. You didn’t have change. I paid an extra $15 for your scribble. It was a thing.
    Anyway, forgive my abrasive nature I’m a journalist. I really appreciate what you did for me, and it was the highlight of what was my first Con. You lived up to my perceptions.
    Most of all you made me want to write, which is kind of an important thing for a reporter.
    If you’re ever in Vancouver, B.C., shoot me an email – I’d love to do a story.
    [email protected]

  32. Remember when I told you I would let you buy me a drink with that extra money you gave me, when you refused to let me just sell you the book for $20?
    You bought me one of the best Hendricks martinis I've ever had. So thanks, man!

  33. i was incredibly jealous when my sister told me she was going to see you in Seattle. i unfortunately live on the east coast so it was a bit far for me. i hear she told you something rather embarrassing that i would do if you signed her book (i wouldn’t really do that by the way. the expression was just to show my true excitement). i did think it was weird that you were wearing a Canada jersey in her picture with you but i love a good bet.
    can’t wait to see you on big bang in the 12th!

  34. My boyfriend and I are very excited about attending Phoenix Comicon in May. :) We would love to participate in your Rock Band party. I’d especially enjoy taking over vocals for a song, and my boyfriend ROCKS lead guitar. 😉 Will there be a sign-up list of some sort? Or is it “first come, first play?”

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