Friday, May 24, 2019

MegaCon Orlando Community Zone Makes Fans' Dreams Come True

At the heart of every fandom, a sense of community remains an intricate element of every convention. At MegaCon Orlando, hundreds of thousands of attendees enjoy the opportunity to interact with local organizations to share in the love and craftsmanship of their favorite  films, television shows, anime series, or comic books.

The Community Zone at MegaCon Orlando exhibits a vast number of one-of-a-kind experiences for everyone. To benefit charities around the country, attendees can donate money in exchange to have their photo taken in front of an iconic piece of film history like the Batmobile or the Delorean from Back to the Future. Booths offer family-friendly activities like getting close to exotic wildlife to learn and donate to conservation efforts. Located in the midst of the retail section, autograph booths, and cosplay red carpet, fans act out their biggest dreams to help make the world a better place or learn something new. 

This year I discovered a few special places to geek heart that not only helped me become aware of the incredible work and craftsmanship that goes into my favorite fandoms, and also made a few of my biggest and geekiest dreams come true.

I'm On The Bridge

As a kid, I was first introduced to the original Star Trek by my mother as part of a regular weekend of reruns. Later as a teenager, my love for the series was reinvigorated with the first of director J.J. Abram's reboot trilogy. Whether I was watching the original or updated U.S.S. Enterprise throughout the years and various continuations, Captain Kirk commanding his crew at the bridge has been a highlight of my fandom life.

The second that you watch any iteration of Gene Rodenbarry's series, chances are you want more than anything to become a member of Starfleet and be the caption of the bridge. This year, and similarly in the past, Neutral Zone Studios has been a staple at the community zone displaying a replicated bridge from the original series. Along with taking a photo within the display, Nichelle Nichols, the original actress who portrayed Uhara, was also available for meet and greets on her farewell tour. Unfortunately, the timing wasn't right for me to meet her in person, but I'm lucky to have an autographed version of her autobiography as part of my Star Trek collection.

Walking onto the bridge was one of the coolest experiences of my life. Complete with the navigator and helms controls at the front and the captain's chair in the back, I instantly felt like I was on the tv set. I wanted to go where I've never boldly gone before charting a next course of action and listening to first officer Spock's advice.

After taking my photo at the studios, I learned that the Neutral Zone Studios has an official home in Kingsland, Georgia which contains a full-scale suite of the bridge, transporter room, sickbay, briefing room, captain's quarters and so much more. Trekkies can also participate in fan weekends or rent the studios to make their own fan film using their full-fledged production sets. Basically, it's a Star Trek lovers dream, and a trip that I hope to take in the future to see everything they have in store. The Neutral Zone is not a money-making enterprise and currently has a Patreon to help support fan films and keep the lights on at the studios.

Sew or Sew Not

Another stop I made in the community fan zone was The Rebel Legion and its Florida organization Ra Kura Base.

As a global volunteer organization, Star Wars fans join together to expand their costuming talents and give back to their local communities. The Rebel Legion's members not only create costumes of heroic characters from George Lucas's extensive saga but also volunteer to appear at Star Wars related events, charity fundraisers and other community related- events.

Costumes have always been an iconic force in the Star Wars fandom. While I've never been good with a thread and needle, or sewing machine, it was impressive to see the quality of work from the costumes by the Rebel Legion and its Florida-base. I've always wanted to be pilot like Poe Dameron and enjoyed signing up to get future updates about their events and perhaps taking on costuming sometime in the future.

Photographer: Amber Valois

Photographer: Amber Valois

Am I Secretly the 14th Doctor now?

I couldn't pass up traveling between time and space from Star Trek and Star Wars to another fandom I dearly love: Doctor Who.

The Daleks of Florida fan zone assists Doctor Who fans who want to build their own Daleks and encourage fans to help each other build their own. The main forum Project Dalek contains all of the instructions anyone needs to construct their own Dalek with detailed plans available to download for many variations. Several Daleks, K9, a Cyberman's head, the fourth Doctor's costume, and a life-sized Tardis were on display and tour around the country at various conventions.

With their bright lights and shouting "Exterminate!", walking into the this fan zone already made me feel like I was in an alternate timeline where the Daleks were taking control of the convention. And, then I was able to take command of the TARDIS control console. After being given a quick rundown of how to use turn the key and use the controllers, I acted as most doctors act when they're first regenerated: confused and trying to get the Tardis to work properly. Even for just a few seconds, I got to be the secret 14th Doctor. Let me say: the feeling was absolutely addictive. I could control the console and imagine venturing around the universe all-day long.

Since I'm an unofficial Doctor now, the Tardis isn't going to build itself.

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