21st Aug2010

Hey Star Trek! thachoo AGENT OF EVIL!?

by jerad.formby

The latest Star Trek Convention has come and gone. There were parties. There was madness. It was a spectacle of spectacles. It was the greatest show on Earth.

Not that we saw the actual convention.

There’s just something about the convention and about the people who throw the convention that just boils our blood and rubs us the wrong way. To date, Star Trek Conventions have been the slickest and greatest way for all Trekkies to get their Trek on and that will never change.

Not even after you read what we have to say.

A long time ago, in Trekkie lore, there was no new Star Trek to watch. It was a time when love for Star Trek gave birth to the very famous Star Trek Conventions. We’re sure that these early gatherings weren’t cheap, but it’s not hard to imagine that those days were lots friendlier.

And then a student (or two) grew from these conventions. They took all that was good and wholesome about these experiences and figured out how to make them into true money-making enterprises.

They became They Who Will Not Be Named (and you can pre-order next year’s tickets right now).

Because there’s a good and a bad with just about everything in life, we’d like to discuss the one great thing You Know Who did this year. They put on an event that Trekkies could mark on their calendar.

And the Trekkies came. As they always have and will continue to do.

Every year, we lay in wake for You Know Who and their Clam Eaters to attack. Throughout the economic winter, many of us shovel as many clams aside as we can because we know They Who Will Not Be Named has to be fed. They require many many clams to eat and every year, we suspect that they’re never satisfied.

Environments that once gave way to random encounters with your favorite Star Trek actors are now tied up with rules. The free spirit of a Star Trek convention (at least within the halls of the convention itself) has morphed into a new thing that serves to embarrass both Trekkies and the actors they admire.

It seems all of the actors have either agreed, been told, been ordered, been threatened, been blackmailed, or otherwise forced or paid to not cooperate with fans who want their photographs. This is because You Know Who realized a few years ago that selling digital prints of you and your favorite actor could be another 45 to 75 clams (depending on who you want the pic with).

So put your cameras away folks and don’t ask for a picture if you run into somebody famous. Most everyone you’ll meet will apologize and say something along the lines of “[you know who] won’t let me. I’m sorry.” Or: “I can’t. I hope you understand.”

Or they’ll do like Brent Spiner did and yell at a fan trying to get his picture while he signed in the Dealer’s Room.

Everyone is politely or impolitely referred to that giant line that leads to an unremarkable room with an unremarkable backdrop to get their unremarkable shot with someone who is feeling less and less remarkable with each click of the oh-so-expensive camera.

This instance lacks the fervor and, heck, the flavor of a real-true-life-encounter. The essence of what it means to actually meet somebody is sucked right out of the experience and you’re clam count is getting smaller.

It’s a set number of clams to enter the convention on any given day. Purchasing that sort of ticket will allow you access to all of the events planned for that day and each of the rooms. For twice the price you paid, you can get a picture with a minor celebrity. For three times the clams, you can get a picture with a major celebrity –and miss some action in one of the rooms while you’re standing in line.

We hope you’re not rolling your eyes at this sort of matter because you’ve embraced the fact that ripping off fans is a noble convention tradition.

You very well might be right, but it seems anything that leads to discomfort –an apology from an actor you admire or a shout down from an actor who played a robot you admire –just might not be worth the money.

But they know we’ll buy anyway. We always do.

Plus, it can be reasoned that the pictures help pay the huge fees to bring the actors in in the first place. We at Hey Star Trek! see what you mean, but we also can’t help but wonder why You Know Who doesn’t offer a more unique product for that many clams and let people have their pictures with the actors anyway?

No friends, it’s the monopoly on photos that They Who Will Not Be Named have to rock and because it’s a monopoly, they needn’t worry about product nor service. They treat us as ill is they want because they just can.

They give us the cheap blue background because they can. They give us a tired Trip Tucker because they can. And they don’t have to care about any of it because they’re the only game in town.

Being the only game also lets You Know Who rock the unique position of bullying actors into doing things they want. What we’re telling you here is truth, but the names have been changed to protect the innocent… from being blackballed.

These things happened to a few crewmen and we’re not naming names. These conventions are a large part of their livelihood and for that we certainly embrace conventions (generally speaking).

Our contest is with They Who Will Not Be Named because, in addition to the obvious exploitation that exists on the actors and the fans alike, You Know Who also seems to make some questionable ethics choices.

We have it on good authority that events You Know Who puts on have been cannibalized from other conventions. They Who Will Not Be Named has stolen concepts from other conventions. They’ve then gone to the “inventors” of these events and asked (politely, muhahaha!) that they stop doing said event(s) because it interferes with their own exploitation (er plans).

This Clam Eating is not in keeping with what we believe to be the spirit of a convention.

Maybe we’re alone in that sentiment. It’s just possible that the tons of fans we saw and didn’t get to meet embrace the fact that everything’s ripping them off and ripping off the vendors and the actors.

A quick jaunt to their website showed us that it’s not just Star Trek that they’re after. They get clams from all sorts of folks, with conventions and official stores. With that many clams coming in… we don’t see why Crewman Lovelong gets treated like she does.

If I was a Ferengi, I’d say “Enough is never enough.” If I was Ferengi.

Maybe it’s a fat shrug we’re soliciting from you, a “so what, Hey Star Trek! bizzniss is bizzniss and it’s still fun!”

We’re not above that. We ourselves got a wristband from somebody and ducked into a few rooms.

We saw us some trivia contest madness. We watched a discussion about the new movie and its impact (shock) on fans. We saw us the Star Trek: The Experience panel.

Speaking of the Experience, we also had the happiness of watching friend and Trekcast listener Allen Wrench try to bid on a piece of Star Trek: The Experience history… right there at the convention. Rules were fuzzy. We didn’t have a wrist band as we watched our past dismantled and sold to the highest bidder…

We even let ourselves get exploited for our first-ever autograph ticket. We just couldn’t resist the excellent Doctor Elizabeth Dehner. We found a picture of her there on the vendor’s floor (rules were specific… we acquired a wristband). Then we met one Star Trek’s marvel’s… the girl who rocked tin-foil eyes!

If you follow us on Twitter, you saw it was a happy day.

Even with what little of the “official Star Trek Convention” we saw, we’re happy to report that the truth of Star Trek fans was alive and well. On the floor (in the free portions) and in bars throughout the Las Vegas Hilton and Las Vegas… we were hanging out with fans and distant friends alike.

Maybe you saw us. We were handing out our Hey Star Trek! brown paper bags (for 24oz cans of Miller High Life preferably) as a marketing ploy (only ten were made!). We also brought out an ancient Star Trek board game (aptly called: Star Trek Game).

We rolled dice, toasted, and laughed right in the shadow of They Who Can Not Be Named.

The truth about where this blog topic comes from boils to the surface for us now. With the fun we had and the memories we made, we can’t help but wonder: does You Know Who still have fun with these things? Do they just need a return to the wide-eyed wonder and silliness that the rest of us play with? If that’s the case, if they have the time, we invite them to come over to our side of the party and kick it.

Because we sure as heck did that con and we did it right –with a little help from our friends.

“Like” Hey Star Trek! on Facebook. It’s not the end of the world. Or is it!?

  • Dale Hoppert

    Loved this column. A Creation of your genius. Remeber everyone… it’s entirely possible to show up and party with the fans without giving your clams to an unworthy recipient.

  • warbirdguy

    How hard would it be to have a fan run Con. Smaller yet less restrictive. Find out what other fan run Cons do that are different than “They who cannot be named”. Dayton Ward said he went to some fan run Cons and had the best time.

  • http://www.twitter.com/apizzagirl Pizza Girl

    I think the thing is that there are seven horcruxes. Any idea what they are?

    I’ll never give my money to He Who Must Not Be Named. I had a blast without spending a dime to get into the actual convention.

    P.S. The borrowed clams were given clams and well worth the investment for giving a nerd the satisfaction of a double signed picture.

  • free_sutekh

    You’re right Hey Star Trek!, there is no rhyme or reason to They Who Cannot Be Named’s attitude toward its loyal consumers. During slavery, abolitionists argued that plantation owners would cut costs and increase profits – and boost the economy by creating a new class of consumers – if they paid willing immigrant workers a living wage instead. The abolitionists had facts and figures on their side; so why were so many people willing to go to war to defend an institution that (aside from being grossly immoral) was not even in their own best interests. Simply put: it gave them power over others, which is even more important to the people at the top than money. I don’t mean to draw a parallel between Trek Conventions and slavery. They are not at all equal evils, but the same principle applies: They Who Cannot Be Named bullies and exploits Trekkies just because They CAN. It satisfies Them to do so. It’s not just a question of money. As you suggest, there are plenty of other ways They can get us to part with our clams (willingly, rather than begrudgingly) that will increase Their profits AND make it a more fan friendly experience. But They show no interest in doing so, not just because They don’t HAVE to – They simply don’t WANT to. The only solution is for hardcore Trekkies to band together and start anew. No one can stop you from having an unsanctioned, unofficial alternative Trek Con. It can start small and cheap and if it delivers the sense of community and generosity that Trek fans value so highly, it may grow into something more, and They Who Cannot Be Named will have to take notice. And if you survive Their inevitable attempt to destroy you utterly (which you can), They will have no choice but to change Their ways.

  • Dr. Wrench

    2 years ago a female friend had saved up all her cash to go to the Vegas Con. Her big ‘$$$ thing’ at the convention was to have one of the ‘paid lunches’ with ‘Q’. The cost was around $200.

    Once she got there she found out the lunch was steamed hot dogs in a cafeteria setting… and De Lancie seemed pretty bummed out about being there. Total let down.

  • JT

    Another opportunity for Hey Star Trek to add some smut pictures.

  • Methos

    I think you also need to add San Diego Comic-Con to the list of those who are all about raking in the Clam. I have boycotted SDCC because the “C” in “CC” no longer matters. Until the day where the SDCC board can reasonably argue why non-Comic or Comic “medium” related properties are positioned favorably over comic panels and within the dealer area – I will keep a tight hold of my clams and seek bluer oceans.

  • http://www.subspacecomms.com Chris / Subspace Communique

    Hey, my picture wasn’t smutty. I kept my shirt on….

  • http://www.daytonward.com Dayton Ward

    There are some great cons out there who are not affiliated with Those Who Shall Not Be Named. Starfest in Denver (30+ years and going strong), Shore Leave in Baltimore (also 30+ years), Trek Expo in Tulsa (20+ years) are the three off the top of my head so far as media cons go that do the best job, IMHO, of providing a well-rounded con experience for the money. Movie screenings with the actors providing intros/Q&As, “dinner theater” on Friday night, a real “dinner with the stars” on Saturday night, panels and activitiies on multiple programming tracks all weekend, a dealer’s room that’s not just selling the con promoter’s photos and other claptrap, and of course…hanging out with your friends. THAT’S what a con’s supposed to be.

    All three of the groups I named go above and beyond to bring in guests who are in demand at reasonable prices. Recent example: Edward James Olmos was at Shore Leave, and you were able to get an autograph from him for $30 (he normally commands at least twice that rate, but the con committee negotiated with him to keep the price reasonable). Pics with the guests were allowed throughout the weekend, even though there was also “pay for the official pic” deal going on.

    So, don’t give up on cons yet…just seek out better cons. 🙂

  • Chris R

    Not to date myself (too much) but I have been attending cons since the early 70’s (and was on the staff that ran a Con at the University of MD in the 80s). I remember when cast members like Grace Lee, Walter, George, etc. would simply walk around at the con, talk to fans, sign autographs etc. At the time the stars actually realized where they would be without the fans (a hint – not a star). Also, people from NASA and other guests would appear for no fee just because they wanted to get thier message out. Those “surprise” guests were usually greatly entertaining.

    Over the last 20 or so years, Cons have turned into a “How much can we suck out of the fans?” experience. Unfortunately fans have allowed it to be this way. I think that’s because the younger fans don’t know any different and the older fans like myself have stopped going to cons due to family responsibilities and also being fed up with the “cattle’ mentality at the cons. Several years ago, I actually saw Michael Dorn diss a handicapped kid who “had the audacity” during the Q&A period to hold up an Enterprise model he had build with the quote “Like I’ve never seen one of those before.” The audience was stunned. Guess that’s why he only makes bad B-TV shows now.

    Granted the actors get paid to attend – but to charge $60-&100 for an autograph that, with few exceptions, if not for Trek, they wouldn’t be able to give away is insane.
    And the con promoters – There was a female “Klingon” (security staff) at several of the Creation Cons who used to actually tell people standing on line “Get against the wall”, and make other rude comments (under the guise of being “in character”) to “keep order”. She even used to push people who would step away from the wall. I complained to the staff and was told it would be handled. She was there for several more conventions acting the same up until the point i just stopped attenting thier cons.

    There was a company called “Slanted Fedora” who used to put on decent Cons at a decent price and with better star/fan interaction but last I heard (they even sent a letter out stating as much) they were forced out by “Those who shall remane nameless” because they couldn’t afford the big fees that the other promoters were paying to the stars (and then getting back from he fans with inflated pricing).

    Cons used to put out program books (I still have one from the third ever NYC Con), have alternate programming rooms, stars would sign all day long (not for just an hr or whatever it is now) and the prices were about on par with what a movie ticket was at the time and was all inclusive. Now it’s easy to drop a few hundred $ to go to a con and just pick up a couple of autographs.

    I hate to see cons become a thing of the past but maybe it’s time they did.