(EDIT: I was informed after the publication of this article that there were actually 125 people in attendance. All apologies for my original lowball estimation. The article has been changed to reflect this information.)
A one day con for a movie less than a year old that made less money at the box office than Grown Ups 2? It’s an idea so ludicrous that it just might work, and lucky for Shatterdome Atlanta, it did!
For those not in the Pacific Rim fandom, Shatterdome Atlanta was a one day con on May 31 dedicated to just Pacific Rim. It was a super small con too, with about 100 people or so taking up the four rooms of the Marriott Perimeter Center. With the smallness of the con and as much as they managed to pack into a 12 hour day, it sometimes made my Fear of Missing Out kick in. Show up late to the con because you had your birthday the night before? No world building or social aspects panels for you, Ashley. Want to participate in acting out the movie? Nah, you gotta go get lunch instead or you’ll keel over. Oh, and the fan fiction slam and the costuming panel are at the same time as the science and musicology panels you want to go to. Sucks to be you!
Though, really, if FOMO was the worst problem I had all day, it was a good one to have.
I can say without a doubt that Shatterdome Atlanta is by and far one of the smoothest running conventions I’ve ever been to. Seriously, I’ve been to bigger cons that have been running for years that don’t hold a candle to how well oiled this little first year con was. Not only did the staff know what they were doing, but the attendees were super considerate along with being super enthusiastic about what they were here for. More on that in a bit though.
The two panels I got to attend after showing up late were the Science Behind Pacific Rim and Music and Sound in Pacific Rim, which were lead by brothers Stephen and Andrew Granade respectively. I’ve known of Stephen for years due to his work on Dragon Con TV, but have never actually seen one of his panels. Well, I have to say, after sitting for an hour listening to him talk about the various scientific aspects of the film in a very enthusiastic and entertaining way, I would totally seek out panels where he’s talking about science again. In fact, if I had a science teacher who was half as entertaining as he was, would go on tangents about Atomic Robo, and use cards from King of Tokyo in their presentations, I probably would have gotten grades higher than a C in my college science classes.
I could definitely say the same for Andrew’s Music and Sound in Pacific Rim panel, which really appealed to the music nerd in me. Speaking from a musicologist’s perspective, Andrew was very informative on the deliberate sound choices made in the film and even got the panel attendees to participate by talking about the sounds they heard in various parts of the film. I had never really paid attention to the sound design in the film before, so the panel made me think super hard about that aspect. Hell, by the end, I was realizing how deliberate it was of Guillermo Del Toro to use GLaDOS as the AI system in the Jaegers due to just how video game like the interface is. I think my favorite thing I learned though was that the theme song is pretty much a rock tribute to the original Godzilla theme. It is a love letter to kaiju films, after all.
After that was when the con got truly awesome.
During the science panel, one of the con heads came into the room and mentioned that Rob Kazinsky (the guy who played Chuck Hansen) was tweeting about being in Atlanta and that we should tweet him back. A bunch of us do so, but there wasn’t really any expectation from it.
Well, never say never.
Around 5 p.m. while I was sitting in the game room, we start hearing people run out into the hallway and we hear the words “Rob’s here!” Everyone at the game table barely had time to react before the GM for Pacific Rim: Oblivion Bay told us to go and see. The entire con ran out into the hallway to see Rob Kazinsky standing there getting his badge.
As you can imagine, there’s a bit of an initial freak out upon the appearance of an actual actor at a small con that was sharing space with a medical conference, but even before security told everyone to quiet down and not to kill him, everyone was still being respectful of his space.
Rob couldn’t stay very long, but he was stuck around long enough to judge the costume contest, give a quick Q&A and pose with everyone in a group picture. You know, he may play a jerk in the film, but it could not have been more opposite in real life. He was a total sweetheart and as much of a fan as we are of the movie. The stories he told were funny and sweet, he hugged all the winners of the cosplay contest (and a few others) and shook several of our hands before he had to leave. When I told he had made my birthday weekend more awesome, he just grinned and said, “That was the plan.”
What a guy! Thanks for making the Shatterdome’s day so much brighter.
After Rob left, I was finally able to go to the artist’s alley and talk with other fans. Everyone was super nice, creative, friendly, and a little bit queer! (Okay, not everyone, but I think it was established that all Newts are on the spectrum somewhere.) Plus, I got me an awesome bumper sticker that encapsulated how I felt about everyone right then, a Kaiju Skinmite hair clip to go with my Fem!Newt costume and a sketch of Carol Danvers as a Jaeger pilot. Because punching kaiju is a lot like punching dinosaurs.
As the evening wound down, we sat around to watch the movie and some of us to play Cards Against Humanity with a special Pacific Rim expansion. It was those moments of reciting Stacker Pentecost’s St. Crispin’s Day speech, cheering when our favorite characters first showed up on screen, and laughing over the card “Drifting with a hot pocket” really summed up the con and the fandom for me. We may come from different walks of life, but we came together because we believed in something not a lot of others believed in. It maybe silly at some points, but damn if it is not awesome. A con can be run majestically, but at the end of the day, it’s only as good as the people who attend it.
And I do think this Shatterdome has some of the best people in it.