TFNation 2018

Another rapid weekend and the third TFNation Transformers convention has been and gone. And, as usual, Billy and his dedicated crew of staff and volunteers yet again deliver an event that’s now a slickly polished machine, and also an annual family reunion of sorts. I apologise in advance – this is gonna get rambly.

Knowing now the sorts of people and personalities at TFN, I was determined to get my good friend Jim there to experience it, and I’m very pleased he was able to join me this year. My current role in a university means that for all the TFN’s to date, I’ve not been able to get time off before or after the con, and this year was no exception. We set off on Friday evening, and arrived at the hotel just in time to collect our tickets and stuff just before collections closed. Then it was a chance to head to the bar, say hello to people, and start catching up a little. The super-brilliant Trevor got me an early bevvy, and we had a good natter with fellow Twitter-mate SantiagoJones, who promptly ruined StreetFighter II for me by reminding me that Ken is short for Kenneth. Yeah.

We then caught up with Ed and Ben Pirrie, Temple, and Kei Zama. These guys and gal are always great fun, and awesome to hang around with, and it was great to catch up, and also introduce Jim to them. Over the evening I chatted briefly with Chris McFeely, Geoff Sproule, James Roberts, Grace Wallace, Andy Senyszyn, Barry Shaw, Tom Geoffrey, Jim Sorensen, Graham Thompson and… just loads and loads of other wonderful people! I am but one former Transformer creator with a shitty memory, but it’s always amazing and gratifying that so many people are happy to say hi! Andy Turnbull handed me a copy of the Ladybird G2 Tribute style hardback book that I’d been lucky to be involved in helping with, and I was really happy with how that turned out.

I was super tired, and needed an early night (actually no – I needed to not stay up until 5am!), so Jim and headed back to the pretty nice hotel room and ended up watching Top Secret until gone 2am. Whoops.

Saturday began with an early start, as I introduced Jim to the wonder of the Hilton Breakfast Experience. After that, it was just a matter of waiting for the doors to open to the main hall. We waited a while for the queue to die down, but we still caught the tail end of it, as it comedically snaked back on itself before we finally got into the hall. As usual, being dumped into a large hall full of three decades worth of Transformers toys brought a smile to my face that threatened to split my head in two. We spent a while weaving through the throng, rooting through the loose toy bins, and surveying the boxed newer figures. My big purchase this year was a Masterpiece Sunstreaker (I’ll probably do a separate rant about the pricing), and then I ended up grabbing another seven ‘Combiner Wars’ and ‘Power of the Primes’ figures over the weekend. First time attendee Jim ended up purchasing **REDACTED**, which I think we can all agree is a **REDACTED** amount of figures. We then watched the opening ceremony, and I got to see the music video I’d helped edit, up on the big screen, which was a huge buzz (and Thew liked it, which I was chuffed with, cos he’s a music guy innit). The rest of Saturday flashed past checking out the artists and crafts people who were working wonders in the Forge, scoping out the excellent customs displays, and chatting with various people throughout the hall and the corridors, like Danny, Alex, Rob and more. We bumped into fellow Welshie Lisa (who’d been working herself into the ground getting her fantastic cosplay costume done), and attended an utterly fascinating panel from former Transformers designer/overlord Aaron Archer. We went for a wander to the nearby TGI’s for some food, chatting briefly with James Roberts along the way, and then it was into the other hall for the cosplay competition, and the script reading.

The cosplay competitions were the usual mix of talented invention and creativity we’ve come to expect from the TFN attendees, although it did feel like there were a smaller number of entries this year – but the MTMTE and Lost Light comics continued to hold their grip on the majority of the entries! The slightly early finish meant that Billy and the compères without compare Petrina and David staged a fantastic little time filler quiz, and then the guest voice actors DC Douglas, Daniel Riordan and Andre Sogliuzzo took to the stage for the script reading. This was easily the nerve-rackiest bit for me, as I was fortunate enough this year, like last year, to co-write the script along with Ed Pirrie, and Chris McFeely. So I was really hoping we hadn’t… well… fucked it up, frankly. Fortunately, the sheer talent and energy of all the guys on stage meant that they nailed it, and made it ten time better than the words on the page, and I think it went down well. We all then cleared out of the hall as the staff ‘transformed’ it ready for the upcoming Stan Bush concert.

Jim, Ed, Ben, Temple and myself then lurked in the bar, making each other laugh while we waited. We saw the queue for the concert slowly start advancing up the hall toward the bar area, so we walked out the back exit of the bar and around to join the queue… only to find that the queue was now backing into the bar we just left. Temple comedically fumed as we ended up almost back where we started.

We eventually got into the hall, having briefly caught up with fellow Welshies Jason Cardy and Simon Williams who’d appeared to attend the concert. And after a rousing crazed into from Nick Roche, Stan Bush and his band took to the stage. The crowd lapped up great performances of some original tracks and 80’s themed motivational rock, before going absolutely batshit insane for performances of Dare, The Touch, a cool encore, and finally (in response to shouts of “ONE MORE! ONE MORE!”) Dare was once again played out to finish off a brilliant gig. The band were noticeably taken aback by the crowd’s responses, and it seemed that Stan Bush himself was also a bit shocked at the sheer amount of enthusiasm.

We retired to the bar for a little while, but at this point my legs and feet were killing me, and the old codger in me simply wanted a lie down and a cuppa. We headed back to the room, and chilled out for an hour or two before turning in. Gone are the days when I can get lashed at a convention and still make the Sunday. Seeing the state of Chris McFeely on Sunday, sorta vindicated that decision I reckon!

Sunday began with a really fun breakfast with Jim and Temple, laughing about toasters and Michael Flatley films. We then head back to the halls to have a root around the second hand stuff, and have a chat with a few folks. Knowing it would be somewhat quieter on the Sunday, I took the opportunity to have a chat with Aaron Archer (who had just the most fascinating stories, he was really good to talk to), and to also thank the voice actors for their great work on the script reading. They were all brilliant sports! I also able to have some great catch ups with Mike Collins, John-Paul Bove and Jess Bradley. I also got to introduce Nick Roche to Jim and vice versa, which was fun, just before Nick had to dash off to his Wrecker panel.

We sat in on the TFN round table, which was a really candid and welcome insight into the thinking and work that goes into making the con, then finally it was the closing ceremony, and the convention was done and dusted for another year. Jim had Monday off, but I needed to get back fairly soonish (especially as it turns out I was developing a bout of cellulitis in my right hand, so… yeah…). We did a quick circuit of the bar, trying to say goodbye to whoever we could spot, before heading off. I know I missed out a TONNE of people – I’ll try and do better next year, promise!

So all in all, a brilliant, knackering, expensive, awesome weekend, and a welcome escape from real life for a little bit. Billy, and everyone working so hard to bring the con to life, deserve such huge thanks (Tori, Isa, the Davids, Petrina, Andy, and SO many others). And also it’s so great to see and speak with so many other brilliant people (and I still didn’t get to speak with everyone cos of my damned shyness!). I’ve left out loads, and forgotten to mention people almost certainly, but man. What a weekend. The sheer warmth and friendliness on display is just wonderful to see and be a part off.

So now it’s the long wait for TFN 2019. Which will be Beast Machines based… and I love Beast Machines! Roll on next August – I’ll only be able to do the weekend again but I can’t miss it!

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