The Beck Lecture series at the University of Victoria (located in British Columbia, Canada) celebrated 30 years and concluded this year’s offerings with a look into the Icelandic occult world by Dr. Guðrún Björk Guðsteinsdóttir. She gave the curious a look at elves, ghosts, and trolls from a cultural and literary perspective. Of the former, I sometimes feel like I’m one of the Huldufólk. One slide presented describes how people can tell if one visited the elf world. “You can tell by their love of ‘beauty, art and writing’ and by their wistful look as if having gazed into a disappearing world.” I had days where I’m in that zone. When asleep, my Astral form visits that realm.
Elves hail from a Germanic culture and their appreciation for the arts is especially well known in many a fantasy product. I could resume academic studies to examine the lore. Some material is available online, but more is gained by hearing an educator talk about them than from the Internet. Academic libraries help, but unless you are a student or alumni, I can not borrow them to read off campus.
This program offers more than the flights of fantasy. It reminds Icelanders living abroad about life back home and how it has influenced popular culture. Because of this recent series of lectures, I realize why I love Guillermo del Toro’s Trollhunters and Cressida Cowell / DreamWorks How to Train Your Dragon so much. The seeds which inspired both series hail from this region. When considering the final film to HTTYD is “The Hidden World,” respect to the traditions is made.
I have attended many pop culture style conventions in the past 25 or so years. Some took place in my home town of Victoria, British Columbia but more off island. I am sad not many local shows have a footprint of lasting more than five years. Attempts have been made to centralize all aspects of geekdom, but to pull it off needs a proper committee of dedicated folks. I’m aware most of the businesses along Nerd Row (on Johnson Street and Broad) are in communication with one another, but this community was not in place till the early part of this century.
In terms of history, a major comic book type event (which was a one-off) took place at the Empress Hotel in the late 80’s which had a who’s who of talent (from New York even), which Big Brothers and Big Sisters organized — my introduction to the scene — but since then, everything else which followed never compared. Van Isle Con is a step in the right direction, and although a short commute is required to get there, I’m wondering what’s next? Are there individuals willing to make something happen within the capital city?
I must say this almost every year: I swear I need to find lodgings in or around the University of Victoria (UVic) campus when Tsukino-Con is on. Saturday was a late start for me (again) but this was due to more than the time of travel from where I reside to Gordon Head. There was an added case of business before pleasure. I think the two things I must look into next year are finding accommodation on the UVic campus and bringing along a laptop to type an article between panels.
A number of Saturday panels caught my eye. One was a drawing session and chat on the subject of Osamu Tezuka’s Tetsuwan Atomu (Astro Boy) with Canadian Comic Hall of Fame artist Ken Steacy, the TeamFourStar Q/A with voice actor Takahata 101, Nanohabridged: Table Readings and Auditions Part 1, and the annual Tsukino-Con Swimsuit Showdown. Sadly, of these I only made it to two.
In hindsight, I would’ve included the Vikes Improv panel. I’ve heard they’re good but with years of watching improv on shows like Whose Line is it Anyways? (UK and American versions) and Canada’s own Don’t Lick the Pig, I was still suffering from improv burnout.
Comparing now to then it is still easy to spot a nerd out in public. They have changed little since the 80’s and can still be associated to their exaggerated predecessors of the 1984 movie Revenge of the Nerds. That’s not to say this is a bad thing, their jock counterparts can still be compared to the members of the Alpha Betas fraternity. Others are harder to notice until it comes to convention time. On the bus rides over to Tsukino-Con, Vancouver Island’s local anime and cosplay convention, they were easier to spot. Their costumes are this tribe’s version of war paint. They show their true colours. One example was the man dressed up as the tenth Doctor from Doctor Who, wearing a TARDIS backpack and holding a small pizza (even several billion years in the future, Gallifrey Pizza still delivers in 30 minutes or less). Or perhaps it was his female companion wearing an Elsa wig from Disney‘s film Frozen that gave it away. No matter how one spots a nerd (or geek), bus rides to Tsukino is the one of the best ways to make new friends.
Once you reach your destination at the University of Victoria (UVic) campus, unless you are in a rush to register before the opening ceremonies held this year in the David Lam Auditorium of the MacLaurin building (I missed them again), it’s a good idea to eat something if you haven’t dropped in at Kuma Noodle Japan (shameless plug) beforehand. The UVic Student Society’s (UVSS) Student Union Building (SUB) is a good place to start. Rather than take a lot of time and eat in at Felicita’s Campus Pub, I filled up on sushi at Bean Around the World (across from Felicita’s). But while in the SUB, if you are old school like me, seek washroom facilities elsewhere if you are uncomfortable with the thought of using the two unisex bathrooms that are available. Not all buildings on campus have been converted to reflect the views of the modern student.
Tsukino-Con, the little Victoria convention that could, is growing at a steady rate and may have its unique place among the larger conventions of the Pacific Northwest. The handlers of Tsukino, which rose in February 2010 from the ashes of the seven-year run that was Kei-Kon, have taken few risks.
Those behind Tsukino have adhered to the formula of having their con grow at its own rate rather than take on bigger cons in a head-to-head (Sakura-Con and Emerald City Comicon). Tsukino’s list of past guests is an impressive one, especially for a con of it’s size. Names of Sarah Anne Williams (Gakusen Toshi Asterisk, Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica), Tracey Moore (Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon), Josh Grelle (Akagami no Shirayuki-hime, Date A Live), J. Michael Tatum (Baccano!, Heroic Age), Terri Doty (Seikoku no Dragonar, Joukamachi no Dandelion), and Kensho Ono (Aldnoah Zero, Pokemon XY&Z) have appeared previously.