In a few days time, I’m off to Birmingham to enjoy my annual highlight of the Transformers calendar – TFNation. This will be the second TFNation, the convention itself taking up the reigns of the biggest UK Transformers Convention from the previous Auto Assembly cons.
I’ve always enjoyed attending the Auto Assembly cons, and last years first TFN was similar yet different enough to be equally as enjoyable. It’s always a highlight of my August, but my approach and attitude has definitely changed over the years. And that’s partly what this post is for, to try and get my head straight on it.
For the first few years of my Transformers con experiences, I was actively working on the books as a freelance colourist, and was privileged enough to be a guest at Auto Assembly, from 2009 until 2012. This was a privilege I was not ignorant of, and I massively enjoyed my time there in this capacity. I only paid for my own travel, the room was paid for, and I got to sketch for people all day behind my table, and had massive access to chat with the other guests. I always, always, felt like a complete imposter around the other creators, and I counted my lucky stars that I’d not only gotten to work on books officially (a childhood goal realised), but that I got to interact with the fanbase in this way too.
From 2013 through to 2015, I was no longer a full-fledged guest at AA, but sort of a middle-ground Artists Alley-type – which was fine, and as I was no longer a regular contributor to the books at that point, I certainly couldn’t complain. Although I now paid for my own travel and rooms, I at least still had free table space at the con, which was still hugely appreciated. Around 2015 and into 2016, I was also thundering headlong into a massive creative and mental block, and also finding it hard work to muster up the enthusiasm to do, well… anything. After the main programme of events were done for the day at the Saturday of the final Auto Assembly, I clearly remember being so emotionally wiped out I hid in my hotel room for a few hours.
The first TFNation was somewhat similar. I was still deep in the depths of a creative funk, and I’d originally signed up to purchase a table in The Forge (TFN’s Artist Alley). I ended up cancelling this, opting instead to attend this time purely as an attendee only, and I’m very glad I did. I got to spend time with seldom-seen online friends, and enjoy the events and panels at my leisure, but I was still finding it exhausting to work up the energy for social interactions, so again I spent a bit of time hiding away in my hotel room, or scooting out to grab a Subway in the NEC, away from the crowds. It’s probably a bit weird, paying all that money to go to a con and the spend a good chunk of it hiding away from the world. But I guess that’s part of the reason I do it – it’s my little holiday from everything I think. Especially because my day job changed a few years ago, so my usual routine of doing the con in a quiet month and spending Thursday thru Monday there, was now shot to shit. August is now one of the busiest, most stressful months in my day job, and I’m denied leave, so can only attend the con Saturday and Sunday. that changes things too.
So with TFN 2017 approaching, I can see myself doing the same. I will likely miss breakfast and the opening ceremony on Saturday so I can have a lie-in and try and get some rest. I’ll see people periodically throughout the day, and catch up with folks. I’m going to try (try!) and work up the courage to say ‘hello’ to people I know online but have barely spoken to in real life. I’ll buy some toys on Saturday. I’ll almost certainly disappear to go for a walk if the weather’s nice, or go hide in my room if the weather’s shit. I’ll definitely attend the Saturday evening stuff, partly because I’ve been more actively involved in one aspect of it this year. I’ll be in bed earlier, after a few ciders – gone are the days when Andy Turnbull, Ed Pirrie and myself could drink the bar dry as the sun rose the following day, with James Roberts mixed look of awe and disdain as he watched us down bevvy’s while he checked out at 7am. Sunday will be about the same level of interaction as Saturday for me, and then by 5pm I’ll have to take my leave, and be back in work on Monday for more fun phone-based shenanigans. I’ll be catching the train up and back at least, so at least I won’t have to be super alert and driving, and can hopefully catch a wink or two on the journey.
It should be a good weekend!