Vampires are hotter than storm troopers. Storm troopers are hotter than Klingons, who are hotter than space fairies, Jedi knights, Deanna Troi and sexy Buffy demons. This is what the masses at the Sci-Fi Summit, Creation Entertainment's weekendlong 11th Annual Grand Slam Convention in Pasadena, decide.
I'm watching the costume contest, the finale to the biggest science-fiction geek-a-thon of the year. Friday was for Star Wars. Saturday was for Star Trek. Today, Sunday, is for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There's an added sense of urgency this year because in just weeks the TV series' final episode will air, and Buffy will wrestle her final demons. Onstage, a woman in a blond wig brandishes a homemade wooden stake. She's dressed up as the Slayer.
"I didn't realize Buffy was so big," says the man behind me as the audience cheers.
"Oh, yeah!" says a young guy two rows ahead. "She's a tall girl. She's, like, 5-foot-5."
"I meant big, like popular."
"Q'apla!" I growl, my one word of Klingon, which means either "hello" or "you fool!" or "beware" or "bloody victory."
The guest list here is extensive: real-life former astronaut Wil Wheaton, the real Princess Leia, the real Darth Vader, Chewbacca, Cousin Itt, Spock, Boba Fett, Captain Janeway's holographic lover, Romulans, vampires, vampire slayers, "Sizzle" (the dog from Star Trek Voyager episode number 153) and William Shatner, among others. Think of the politics. And that's not even counting the Ewoks. I like Ewoks. But many people don't.
For some time now, Buffy has become my secret life. I go to work. I come home. I pop in the DVD. Sometimes it's Season One, during which Buffy transfers high schools only to discover that her new town (like the old one) is also vampire-infested. Other times, it's Season Two Buffy goes to the prom, graduates and saves the suburbs from Ultimate Evil. Mostly, I love Spike, the punk-rock vampire, who is daring and reckless and romantic. Before Buffy, my secret life was Star Trek. And before Star Trek, it was Star Wars. So, this Pasadena convention offers me an auspicious convergence of not one, not two, but three secret lives. It is organic. It is destiny.
The official program booklet on convention etiquette reads: "We ask, as a courtesy to the rest of the audience, that you do not ask for hugs, kisses, favors, autographs, or [tell] them that you love them . . . Let's make the appearances of our favorite celebrities interesting with good thought provoking questions."
My plan is: Go to convention. Find Spike. Ask for hugs, kisses, favors. Outwit rabid fans with their thought-provoking questions, and tell him I love him. We will tackle the whole "undead sucking of blood" issue after the honeymoon.
At 1:30 p.m., there is "a special panel discussion on the excellent new book Star Trek: Star Charts." At 4:45, people line up to question Nicholas Brendon, who plays Xander on Buffy: Who does he like to play more, Xander or Evil Xander? Are he and Buffy and Willow best friends like they are on the show?
"Yes," Brendon answers, "we always walk down Third Street Promenade fighting demons."
"Would you rather go back to dating Anya or Cordelia?"
"Why can't I have both?"
"You're the only one on the show who doesn't have highly developed superpowers," notes one fan. "Is it really your world, and do we just live in it?"
At last, James Marsters, who plays Spike, bounds onstage in full character and is greeted with a torrent of ecstatic screams. "I want to tie you up and feed you cookies!" cries one girl. "You are the hottest vampire on the planet!" cries another.
"In order to stay true to the psychology of Buffy as a girl who gives up her life to save people, it had to be very hard for her to be with Spike, who is evil. The show's creators make money by not giving you guys what you want. That," purrs Marsters, "is that thing called sweet frustration."
A woman in a silver gown scratches her pointy Galadriel elf ears. We sigh in unison. The plan, it seems, has gone awry. No hugs, kisses or honeymoons are in the cards.
You believe so much in the world of the show, the movie, the book. You believe in vampires, in the Force, in life after undeath. You are delusional, a nerd, a dork, a freak. You pay your 25 bucks for a piece of Vader, 60 for Shatner, 10 for Spike embroidered on thong underwear. There's a hierarchy, after all. You've come to find your soul mate, to be with your kin. And when the show spits you out into the ordinary night, you almost trust it, the good versus evil. Conventions, you say, are funny events and who knows if you'll go again, though in your heart, you know you will. You think you are a geek? You're not geek enough.