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Shattering Conventions: Commerce, Cosplay and Conflict on the Expo Floor Paperback – May 10, 2013
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"One part Hunter S. Thompson, one part Forry Ackerman, Bob Calhoun tackles Comicons, Star Trek fandom, right-wing lunatic fringe gatherings, and everything in between with humor and an eye for detail that gets right to the heart of the craziness and business behind humanity's obsessions." --Ed Brubaker, award winning writer of Fatale, Criminal and Captan America: Winter Soldier
"Shattering Conventions is a super-entertaining journey into those peculiar distillations of humanity that we call "conventions." I feel lucky to have read about the conventions I wished I'd been to, but blessed to be able to read about rather than attend for some of the more repugnant events. Breakfast with Breitbart? Better you than me Bob! Thanks. You have done us all a great service." --Mike Bonanno, The Yes Men
"Bob Calhoun's stories about who he meets at these gatherings of like-minded obsessives are as interesting as the topics the people have convened to go on and on about. I would support a year tour of conventions replacing senior year of High School." --Jackie Kashian, The Dork Forest
About the Author
Bob Calhoun used to wrestle men in Sasquatch suits while drunks threw food at him. He chronicled these days of glory in the punk-rock/lucha-libre memoir, Beer, Blood & Cornmeal: Seven Years of Incredibly Strange Wrestling, a national bestseller. His work has appeared in Salon.com, The San Francisco Chronicle, AOL News, Filmfax, Giant Robot and Inside Kung-Fu. Calhoun is currently a Senior Research Analyst at the University of California, Berkeley.
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He doesn't just stop at current commercial gatherings of his former loves - Movies, TV and Comics of the "fantastic" - but also takes dark detours into the contemporary convention worlds of guns, refer, right-wing political/religious enablers, and even extreme conspiracy marks (yes, they have their own Con!). Like Calhoun's earlier work, there is much humor. And anger. Anger in the "what have we become?" realizations that we make along the way with Bob. Not to be a buzz kill, but there is also deep sadness is this work. We are sad for Calhoun as he painfully discovers more of a paradise lost, and even mutated, present, rather than the familiar homecoming he had hoped for. But the brilliance is in not only getting an inside view of worlds unknown, but the realization that it is really our own sadness that we feel in Shattering Conventions affirmation that none of us can stand in that same river twice. The bell tolls for thee. However, ring-a-ding, what a ride!
I mean it when I say Calhoun is my present-day Hunter S. Thompson. Much of it is due to our commonalities - we have many - but it is mostly in the how the hell he sees, feels and tells it. Bob not only goes places he really shouldn't go, but he often goes deeper than is healthy or safe. I find myself wondering how he hasn't gotten his ass kicked like Thompson did by the outlaw bikers he was semi-glorifying in his Hell's Angels book. Probably because Bob's a pretty big boy.
-- Daniel Boyd (filmmaker, graphic novelist, Chillers, Strangest Dreams, CARBON)
If this had been written by Hunter S. Thompson, as the editorial compared him to, he would have gotten on stage, gotten thrown out, or gotten arrested. Instead, he stays in the back, and talks to a not terribly interesting people.
I've been to many of these conventions, and they are populated by no end of odd, unusual or fascinating people. But you don't find them by hanging around the edges, talking to one or two people. You do it by getting on a panel, backing a candidate, or hanging out in the bar until 2am, talking to whoever you meet, until you find the fascinating people that you find at all of these conventions.
If you go to one of these (although after this book I don't know why you would), make it your mission to meet people. People you agree with, people you don't agree with, people who make you angry! Get involved, and live it, and you'll have a life changing experience.
Or stay in the back, and be a wallflower, then write a book.
If there was anyone out there to go to all these conventions for us sinners, I’m glad it’s Bob Calhoun. Finding himself with free time thanks to mandatory budget cuts from UC Berkeley, Bob Calhoun becomes a man on a mission: to go to as many conventions as possible before getting laid off, then write a book about it. That sounds like a dare to me.
Now you might think it’s easy, hopping on planes to exotic locals with halls filled with green Orion slave girls and guitar rock chicks, but as Bob points out, “my more pressing concern was whether spending half of my weekends surrounded by booth babes and floor displays was going to drive me insane.”
“Shattering Conventions” has the usual suspects: Comic Con, Star Trek, Macword, Wrestlemania, and NAMM. At these cons, money would get you access. Want a photo with the original Captain James Tiberius Kirk? Hundred dollars please. Sir Patrick Stewart? $200, he’s a knight for Christ sake! Save money by upgrading to a gold pass that gets you hang time with Martok and Gowron along with an ice cream social with the Star Trek Rat Pack.
Bob goes past the geeky glitz and glamour to find the bare knuckle truth about these nerd fests. Creation Entertainment, described to Bob as “The 800 pound gorilla in the con world.” One wouldn’t have realized how much the convention scene has been codified to search out the online mega niches, find the price per square footage, and squeeze every cent out of the conventioneer. Conventions are big business, growing in the worst economy since the 1930’s to become a $100 billion a year industry.
From raking in billions in the glass and concrete halls to selling out burgers and hotdogs in the driveway, if there are more than two people into it, chances are there’ll be a con. For every Comic Con there's your Bigfoot Con selling out hamburgers, a Conspiracy Con peddling GEET water engines, and Neurologist Con, where the halls stink of formaldehyde from the rows of severed heads and the screeching of bone saws.
Even in this world of social media there are still aspects of life that draw a crowd. As Bob put it, “A large part of what makes conventions so irreplaceable is that the energy created by so many people with the same obsessions, occupations or situations coming together in conference rooms both modest and expansive can not only be affirming, but transformation.”
“Shattering Conventions” isn’t just a book poking fun at people's obsessions, but takes at that need to share the inner geek in a place where there is no shame or judgment. I’m just glad it was Bob Calhoun, going to these cons for us sinners. Shoosh, I sure hope he makes it to the World of Concrete next year.