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FAN EXPO: Home is where the geek is

WE’s Sabrina Furminger chats with Star Trek’s Q and Freddy Krueger, loads up on nerd swag, and geeks out with 25,000 of her own kind
LEGO cosplay at Fan Expo Vancouver 2014.
LEGO cosplay at Fan Expo Vancouver 2014.

Geek culture is alive and well in the 604.

More then 25,000 geeks from all walks of fandom — sci-fi, horror, fantasy, anime, manga, comic books, and video games — spent a large chunk of their Easter weekends in the Vancouver Convention Centre worshipping at the altar of Fan Expo Vancouver.

They dressed up as Stormtroopers, Hayao Miyazaki creations and the Frozen sisters, loaded up on collectibles and superhero t-shirts, and interacted with dozens of genre celebrities in autograph signings, photo opps, and Q&As.

And I? I blissfully walked among them.

Last year, I publicly “came out” as a geek in WE. My geeky passions include Star Wars, Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Lord of the Rings, X-Men, and Doctor Who, and this most recent edition of Fan Expo Vancouver hit all of my geeky pleasure spots.

For most in attendance, the celebs were the main draw — and Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead, Army of Darkness) was clearly Fan Expo MVP. Decked out in boldly coloured blazers and sporting a dazzling grin, Campbell never seemed to tire as he signed autograph after autograph for an unending line of fans that snaked through the hall right up until the final moments of the convention.

I managed to score some one-on-one time with a couple of icons: John de Lancie (AKA Q, the all-powerful thorn in Captain Picard’s backside on Star Trek: The Next Generation), and Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund.

Although he’s most famous for his Star Trek role, de Lancie has also built up a following of “Bronies” — adolescent and adult male fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic — for his work voicing a character named Discord on the crazy-popular animated series.

He explored the phenomenon in 2012’s Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony (watch it on Netflix). “The reason I created the documentary in the way in which I did is because I went through the same process that most people would go through,” he told me. “I looked at the emails [from male fans] and said to my wife, ‘what do you know about this? These are not little girls that are writing me. This is really weird.’”

What de Lancie discovered was a tight-knit nerdy community in its earliest stages of development. “I was not at the inception of Star Trek, but I was at the inception of this, and it’s because of Star Trek that I recognized it,” he said. “[Brony culture] is pretty overwhelming, until you get further and further into it and you realize that it’s not threatening and it’s okay.”

As for Englund — well, I admit I was nervous to speak with the man singlehandedly responsible for some of the most heart-pounding nightmares of my childhood.

But I needn’t have worried. Where Krueger is heartless, cruel and so very scary, Englund is so very scary nice.

Had Englund followed his original career trajectory, we probably wouldn’t be seeing him at conventions today. “I’m an old dog now, and in the 70s, I was always playing the best friend and sidekick, and had I remained that, I might not be working today,” says Englund, 66. He’s got starring roles in two upcoming films, including Fear Clinic with Thomas Dekker of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles’ fame. “I’m grateful that I opened my heart and listened to the advice of Wes Craven in the early 80s and embraced the genre.” 

Englund collects Freddy memorabilia and admires the rare foreign finds he encounters at conventions, but he’s not allowed to display anything Freddy in his house (“My stuff’s in the garage. [My wife] Nancy won’t let me hang anything in the house. We live in a little bungalow by the seashore — kind of like a little wooden house in Kitsilano — and she’s decorated it with what she calls Oceania. Freddy’s banished.”).

Englund was so loquacious and so lovely that I doubt I’ll ever shudder at a Freddy movie again.

I also chatted with Billy Boyd (that’s Peregrin “Pippin” Took to you Lord of the Rings fans). He’d mentioned during our recent phone interview that he’d never been to Vancouver before. His verdict? He loves everything about our fine city — especially dinner at Vij’s.

When not doing my professional journalist interviewer thing, I geeked out as hard as is humanly possible. I stood in a (non-functional) TARDIS. I wielded a lightsaber. I bought a Wolverine t-shirt and an AT-AT wall decal. I high-fived the creators of locally shot web series True Heroines. I ate a lot of mini donuts (one of the only foods available for purchase within the hall).

My geek appetite was sated — at least, until next year.

Fan Expo Vancouver returns for its fourth edition in early April 2015.