Back from Ring*Con in Bonn, the biggest Fantasy convention in Europe.
It was surprisingly close to my experience of Spielemesse Essen, when I had expected something more like Return of the Ring in Loughborough. Many thanks to Becky Dillon, Jay Johnstone, Julian Eilmann, Marcel Aubron-Bülles, Hayley Rust, Susi Knight and many others for the great weekend! I did fairly well, sold a good number of prints, met a lot of cool people and had a great many interesting conversations, though I didn’t feel at home as much as I had in Loughborough. It was mainly a movie convention, so most people couldn’t connect to what I did. I probably would have been sold out if I did movie star portraits, which was what people were expecting. Thus, Maglor was thought to be Billy Boyd, Thorin was thought to be Christopher Lee, and Maedhros was thought to be every single one-handed character in any fandom, from Jaime Lannister to Luke Skywalker. I do think I have met pretty much every Silmarillion fan there that weekend, so that was nice. But there were definitely fewer book fans than movie fans, and a large majority couldn’t connect, not even to the Song of Ice and Fire art. What was worse, most didn’t even recognise the phrase “Song of Ice and Fire”. For them, it was just GoT, and Jon Snow is a twenty-something guy with a beard.
And then there is this weird tendency to be perceived in German convention goers. In England, I sat there and just talk to everybody who walked past. Even if I didn’t talk to people, we’d exchange friendly glances. Acknowledge each others’ existence and shared literary passion.
Germans will walk past your desk building an invisible wall between them and you. Weirdly, if they stop to look, your display will still be on their side of the wall. They look at your stuff, ignore you, ignore your smiles, ignore even your “Good morning”, venture off without acknowledging your presence. At times, I felt absolutely horrible there. I just hadn’t been prepared for that. It would have been okay if I hadn’t been used to the friendliness I’d met with at Loughborough and which I was expecting here. I know now why so many stall-owners on German conventions can be found sitting there at the back will with their arms crossed or reading a book. It’s not lack of interest. It’s self-protection.
Even magnificently costumed people just look at you disdainfully if you compliment their costume. Apparently, my blue-Jean clad self wasn’t considered an acceptable judge of costume. Sorry, skimpy Daenerys outfits just don’t suit me and my evil overlord costume was in the laundry. Being normally dressed did help with the waiters and personnel of Hotel Maritim though, who seemed to view everyone costumed as a centaur or a wizard with a good dose of scepticism.
Another weird experience was that people didn’t think I was the artist. I’ve always looked younger than I actually am, but this time, I wished I did look my nearly forty years to people would actually think I was actually drawing those images, not just selling them. They were always rather surprised when they found out and a few said they’d expected someone older. A weird highlight was two ladies commenting on the heat in the hall, and when I said I was rather cold (which I always am) they said knowingly, wait until you’re thirty years older. So I’ll stop being cold all the time when I’m seventy? Cool! Can’t wait.
Apparently, the parties in the evenings were rather fun, but I always had to travel back to Jülich every day as I hadn’t booked a room. I have to say I wasn’t too sorry about that, Drinking, alcohol and partying is something else I don’t get, as little as I get Daenerys outfits above a certain body mass index (under which I’d fall as well, make no mistake). Each to their own, definitely. I just wish some of those “each to their own people” expecting tolerance for cosplays etc could be more tolerant towards those weirdos like me who wear jeans and jumpers and don’t drink alcohol.
One thing that did put me squarely into my own element, and in which my lack of costume did not seem to undermine my authority, was the drawing workshop I held on Saturday. It was horribly overcrowded and required a good deal of frantic last minute organisation, but hey, I’m a school teacher. I can do that. The workshop itself was a lot of fun and I got a lot of positive responses to it.
In the future, I’ll probably make sure to stay on the Tolkien side of events – or adjust my ideas of what to expect as well as my range of products. I’ll definitely be at Hobbit Feest in Baarlo, NL, this November, as well as (probably) Hobbit*Con in Bonn next Easter.