SWCA: Saf Errant

It was a month ago that I finally stepped foot onto the plane that would bring me, for the first time in over 15 years, to America. I meant to sleep the flight away–I really did–but instead I absentmindedly drank a glass of wine offered to me before remembering my sleeping pills had a “no alcohol” rule. So for around 30 hours, I did not sleep. Oops!

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At least there was free food.

Why was I going to America? Well, for Star Wars Celebration, the massive convention for Star Wars fans all over the globe to converge and nerd out together. As if anyone needed more proof of how much I love the franchise, this was it. From the 15th to the 19th of April, I was to be surrounded by Star Wars.

My first half-day and night in America was spent between Hawaii and LA, and during that time I learnt many exciting things, such as:

  • American toilets are oddly full all the time
  • Seriously, I thought the first three toilets I looked at were broken
  • I apparently look the type perfect for “random checks” at airports
  • (That or I’m just very unlucky)
  • American money is all one colour (why?!)
  • I don’t know how to turn on hotel showers.

I conked out pretty thoroughly on the evening of my second 14th of April, despite the excitement and slight anxiety flooding me. Dear God, I thought, I’m meeting people tomorrow.

I needn’t have worried at all. The first person I met was Johnamarie Macias (of The Wookiee Gunner), who is as exceedingly nice offline as she is on. After a quick stop for In-N-Out burgers–talk about true greasy American food–we went to pick up our badges. The moment I step out of the car, I’m surrounded by people who I know and who know me. I’m recognized off Twitter for the first time (and what definitely wouldn’t be the last) and feel slightly famous.

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Spoiler: I’m not remotely famous.

There was much groaning from me at hearing everyone butcher the name Tangaroa as we met up with those I’d only spoken to online, including a fellow writer at Force Cult, at the probably inappropriately named Tangaroa Terrace.  I tried to be healthy and ordered a salad, but the salad was sweet and the tofu was fried. Why do you do these things to me, America?

Against my better judgement, and because I’m a sucker for tagging along with whatever my friends do, I went back to the convention centre to join the overnight line for the JJ & KK panel. On a normal day I wouldn’t even consider something like that, but the hype of everyone else pulled me in way over my head.

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We had pizza. Pizza bought for us by Abrams. Whaaat!

I did not sleep a wink, but instead ran around like a madwoman finding people to talk to, including the guys from Rebels Report and some of the Far Far Away Radio crew.  I felt so alive!

Eventually we were ushered into the main stage, greeted by thumping bass and fancy lighting. Remember when I was impressed by PAX Aus’ setup?  That was nothing compared to this. I was delirious from a lack of sleep, my head spinning from the dance music blasting us, there was a t-shirt cannon. It was all very dramatic.

Of course, anyone who actually cares already knows what happened on that stage. What I can’t ever capture with words is the atmosphere of the place; filled to the brim with people who love Star Wars so much they were willing to be awake at ungodly hours just for this.

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I tweeted: ‘celebration hasn’t even started yet & it’s the best con i’ve been to already.’

BB-8 was a-freakin’-dorable with their strange beeps and real life rolling. The new cast was too cute, too lovely, too gorgeous and handsome to handle, while the old cast brought a tear or two to my eyes. By the time they showed the teaser, I was ready to full-on bawl. Obviously I cried on the inside, like a winner.

LIKE A WINNER.
LIKE. A. WINNER.

Jonathan, my co-writer at Force Cult, wrote a much more in-depth piece on this whole experience, if you feel like checkin’ that out.

When we were finally free to breathe fresh air and experience real sunlight once more, a beeline was made for the Del Rey and Her Universe booths. There were badges and cupcakes to get and people to meet, then it was off to the Rebels Report live podcast.

Jabba the Hutt-cake. I only hope Hutts don't really taste that good.
Jabba the Hutt-cake. I only hope Hutts don’t really taste that good.

I admit, I may have dozed off a little during their podcast. I did that thing where you nod off and then jerk awake, only to nod back off again, and at some point I woke up and saw one of the RR guys looking straight at me, catching me red handed–or … closed-eyed. This is what I get for sitting in the front row.

After was The Untold Clone Wars panel, which was a panel even a Zillo beast couldn’t have kept me from. There was a line of us livetweeting the panel, and I later found out one of my Kiwi friends had been following one of my buddies’ streams. It was a strange crossing of my different lives!

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Terrible photo of awesome cosplay. There was also a kid getting super excited about Stormtroopers wandering around. So cute!

Tagging along to the Now, This is Podcasting! live recording, I totally expected to sit down at the comic store and take a nap. Instead, I was dragged into the podcast itself. I’m not sure I made any actual sense during the whole thing, because I was basically falling asleep in front of the mic.

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Featuring the super-nerds Jason and Randy. They’re all right.

At some point I ended up at the Hilton, which would become the regular meet-up for us all, and then, completely out of it, I tried Uber and did not die. This would end up setting the tone for the rest of the convention: exhausting, but exhilarating.

Friday morning, against all better judgement, I joined in on a group workout. Surprisingly, the only casualty was a crushed snail and not me passed out. I then jogged back to my hotel because I love the pain. While heading back I was shocked and amazed by passers-by smiling back at me. I sure wasn’t in Auckland anymore.

Also distressing: the road crossings didn’t beep. What a strange country of silence and smiles.

There was another The Clone Wars panel in which they premiered the unfinished “Bad Batch” story reels, which are now on starwars.com! I may have cried about “Clone Force 99”, but we won’t talk about that. A bunch of clone costumers went up on stage and gave Filoni a present, and I instantly recognized the Captain Rex as the guy who’s at every Armageddon here. As soon as we left the digital stage I went hunting for him. Another Kiwi! Oh, how refreshing it was to hear my own accent again.

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You just don’t have a bad angle when you’ve got that bucket on.

Friday also happened to be #AhsokaLives Day, which is why I was wearing an Ashoka themed shirt. I managed to lose all of my friends while everyone was gathering, but there were adorable little Ahsoka cosplayers. Plus, I met Ahsley Eckstein! What a phenomenal woman, honestly. Dave Filoni was there too. He and his hat.

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Do you know how many NotDaves there were at Celebration? Too many. Too. Damn. Many.

Miraculously I scored front row seats for me and my friends at the Story Group Panel, featuring Michael Siglain, Jennifer Heddle, Shelly Shapiro, Leland Chee, Pablo Hidalgo, C.B.Cebulski, Jordan D. White, and Sadie Smith. I was tired, but I worked extra hard to stay awake and not embarrass myself like at Rebels Report. People asked a lot of the questions you’d expect, and Brian of Tosche Station was basically facepalming behind us. But, it could have been worse. The Story Group handled them all like champs.

Of special note: the other Brian, of EU Cantina, is a livetweeting machine. I don’t know how he does it, but his tweeting skills are something I can only dream of.

I lost everyone for a while after that, which was okay because I then found Leland Chee! Whoa! I guess I also saw Eric Geller, who’s kinda cool. From there I got into the 3D screening of Revenge of the Sith. The 3D was done really well, and it almost made it seem like another movie altogether. Would recommend!

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As you can tell, I don’t know what to do when I’m actually in front of the camera.

That evening we ran into both John Jackson Miller (who I probably embarrassed myself in front of when I remembered he wrote the Knight Errant novel, which I love), and Tom Kane. The Hilton was definitely the Place To Be every night.

I asked JJM something I’ve been wanting to know forever: whether or not Annileen was purposely named for the “Annie” nickname parallel. As it turns out she was not, her name simply sounded suitably Western to Miller. Kind of a relief to know it wasn’t planned torture for Kenobi. Plus, it was so cool getting to talk about Knight Errant with the author. I’m fangirling all over again just thinking about it!

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I briefly turned Imperial that night. I just love the hats!

On Saturday I whipped out my Leia costume, but found that because my crowd was mostly media (unlike at Armageddon, where I’m super involved with the cosplay side), cosplay wasn’t really my jam at Celebration. I didn’t have time for photos or stopping to chat to other cosplayers. Next time, maybe something a little more casual.

Regardless, it was a great day. How could it not be, when it was Rebels day? First up was the big Rebels panel with the cast and crew, where the hardest questions were asked by the kids. They premiered the season two trailer and, if I’m completely honest with you all, screaming at Rex’s appearance is the reason I near lost my voice.

Possibly the only shot of me in costume, taken by Eric Geller. So many awesome friends!

I was then ditched by all my media friends who were lucky enough to be going to the Rebels press conference, so I headed up to Joel Aron’s Classic Portraiture panel. Riveting panel that I hopefully learnt as much from as I feel I did. Aron is clearly passionate about his photography, and his shots are gorgeous. Life goals, guys!

Meeting up with everyone again afterwards, we went to the Rebels season two premiere. I had to pick my jaw back up once the final credits had rolled. Season one was already spectacular, but the new season is just going to blow it straight out of the water. I wrote a spoiler free review over at Making Star Wars, if you’re interested.

Later still I went to the DK Publishing party as a plus one. I talked to so many cool people (including Amy Ratcliffe, who I’ve secretly adored for months) with what was possibly too many gin and tonics in my system (you can thank the open bar for that). I ended up leaving that party with some rad new Twitter followers, and an early copy of Ultimate Star Wars signed by the authors.

On Sunday, the final day, I opted for the From a Certain Point of View panel about the diversity of opinions within the Star Wars fandom, rather than the Star Wars Anthologies panel. It was a great panel filled with laughter and some great discussions, and while being there meant missing the Rogue One teaser, I regret nothing.

There was yet another Rebels panel, at which we saw more footage from the new season. Hondo! A B-wing in action! Could this season get any more exciting? Probably!

Right before the closing ceremony I managed to get into the The Force Awakens exhibit. I took so many photos of Rey’s costume, because I am totally making that for Auckgeddon and the TFA premiere. I nearly cried when I saw that her costume is made from viscose, my mortal enemy of fabrics.

Special shout-out to the dude in the new Stormie garb who high-fived me, and to the Del Rey guys for being so awesome every time I visited the booth looking for badges.

After quickly running to the Her Universe stall for a sweatshirt, it was finally time for the closing ceremony. Essentially a recap of the entire convention, the ceremony was a bittersweet way to end an event that had ended up being the best five days of my young life. When people hugged me farewell, I refused to let them go.

Our last group selfie, accidentally taken after Brian had already left us.
Our last group selfie, accidentally taken after Brian had already left. Ft. Jay, Johna, Andy, Jonathan, and Heath.

But Sunday wasn’t over yet! I met up with my fellow Kiwis from SWNZ, which was a little weird because I’d suddenly started registering New Zealand accents again, then headed back to the Hilton for the last time in a long time. While the table piled up with dishes, I felt totally at peace among the friends, both new and old, that surrounded me.

This calls back to another photo…

Related:

Jedi Mulan
Jedi Mulan shoot
SWCA photo gallery
SWCA photo gallery

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