Festival of Fear


on August 21, 2014 | 3 Comments

With Festival of Fear just a week away, it’s always good to go in armed with knowledge. And there’s nothing more important than creating a positive environment to have fun in. So who better to provide some convention etiquette than someone who’s been on both sides of the table, as congoer AND as a guest? Here’s guest columnist Tristan Risk, with some helpful do’s and don’ts for con survival, taken from her blog, High Barbed Wire Walking.

Conventions are a brand new world. Having lived in the rave culture and the West Coast underground party scene for the better part of my adult life, I though I’d be well equipped to deal with the massive crush of humans that these events attracts. But take away my cornucopia of intoxicants, absence of dance music, and glow sticks to bop offensive individuals on the nose with, I’m finding out there are some fundamental differences between my past life and the current one. While most people seem to have a grasp of social intercourse and make it pleasurable, there are a few guilty parties that have yet to fine-tune this. Given that when I’ve been at these affairs as a guest, I have a number of folks looking to punch my dance card. This has given me a great window into observing the human animal in this environment. And, like working with most animals, it’s a delightful and rewarding experience, but there have been some lessons learned, some scratches, bites and notes taken for next time.

Let me preface by saying I’m a big fan of etiquette. Manners are sexy as hell to me, and nothing does it for me quite like people who are considerate and kind. I have been given a few opportunities to hone my skills in decorum from my parents, starting at the young age of learning the basics in public and blossoming into finishing school in my late teens. While I resisted it at the time, I am very grateful for the experience now as an adult. That said, if I have a choice, I’ll always roll with the crumbs over the upper crust…

So I wanted to gather some of my observations from these shows I’ve done, festival raves I’ve attended and performed at, and a few tips to get the most out of these experiences. You’ve paid to come to these events, gotten a CosPlay that’s slicker than owl shit on a door knob, and lined up for ages to meet your favourite performers and artists. I don’t want you to have FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) or have those moments when you’re kicking yourself because the panel you wanted to see is happening when you’re in the wrong place on the other side of the building. I want this to be a positive experience for you and everyone you meet. So let’s begin…

1. Get Your Game On. Start with basics: brush your teeth, have an epic shower, deodorant, and just a little hint of fragrance. Axe body spray is NOT a shower. Do not use half your bottle of Chanel in the hopes you will bed Bruce Campbell. Less is more: if you can hug someone and they can smell your perfume/cologne, but when you pull away they can’t, you’ve done it right. As a note, eau de parfum is more concentrated than eau de toilette, which has more alcohol in it and evaporates more quickly. I’m telling you not to be snobby, but because I wished *I’D* known the difference at my high school graduation. But honestly, things are going to get WARM in there so prep in advance, even if you aren’t a particularly sweaty person to start with. You’ll thank me at the end of the day.

2. Power Up. Your car doesn’t get very fast without gas, and your body is a machine as well. Level up by drinking water first before other things, then eating something substantial in the morning. Don’t give me that ‘I can’t fit into my costume’ jive. Don’t order a Lumberjack breakfast, but do put food into your face. The food options at these events is often ridiculously overpriced for average fare and it’s usually pretty unhealthy stuff that will give you gas. You don’t want to rupture something by holding in a fart at a meet-and-greet. I already made that mistake for you. You’re welcome.

3. Plan Of Attack. Chances are you didn’t just randomly show up to this event. I’m guessing you saw someone or something that piqued your interest. But even if you did just decide to throw caution to the wind impulsively, check out the line up, the panels, artists, vendors and see what’s happening and where. Figure out what you REALLY want to see and do and then plan your day around it. I won’t lie, I was shocked how hard it was to get from Point A to Point B for some things (like being late to your own panel – whuups) so factor that in. I don’t want any Sad Pandas on my conscious because I didn’t encourage you to get your logistics in order. If you’re even as crazy a planner as I am, set the alarm on your phone to remind you so you don’t get distracted by hot bodies in CosPlay, or wrapped up gazing at comics or stuck in the bathroom lineup. And speaking of which, that brings me to my next point…

4. Classic Movements. We all gotta go. Thank GAWD there are human bathrooms at these things and not the porta-potties I’m familiar with at music festivals. But a plan of attack is VERY key here. If you have a super-elaborate costume on that takes five to ten minutes to get out of, it’s a ten minute walk to even get to the bathroom and there could be a potential line up. You might have a serious problem. No one wants to see Spiderman sh*t himself. No one. So have a plan, bring a friend if you need costume assistance (and then buy them a beverage as a thank you for saving you from potential body-function embarrassment). Also, be gracious; you see someone you don’t know struggling to get in or out of their gear, offer up some help. You might make a new friend.

5. Keep Your Feet Happy. What applies at the rave applies here. The floor at these events is concrete. Concrete is hard on your back, feet, legs, etc. It makes for low sass levels by day’s end when you’ve been giving your outfit serious WERK only to find now you can barely hobble back to your car, room or whatever. I have seriously screwed up my back so badly at these things in heels that I’m still feeling it in my skeleton all these years later. My skeleton really wanted me to tell you this. Bring a practical option and listen to your body. You should do that regardless, but you can always put the fancy footwear on for photos, etc. But don’t wind up spending the next few days in traction because of your CosPlay. If it’s THAT crucial, organize a photoshoot so you can have the image for prosperity and save your body a world of hurt.

6. CosPlay Don’ts. Large wings, cowcatcher hoop skirts, anything that can take out other people’s eyeballs, shoes you can’t walk in, Pyramid Head from Silent Hill, anything that inhibits your vision, any costume that if you bail you can’t actually get back up again. True story: I saw actual CosPlay roadkill on Day One of Fan Expo in Toronto. It wasn’t pretty. I also heard that sad story of the whole group of X-Men CosPlayers who had heat exhaustion from wearing actual leather jumpsuits and were lying sprawled near the washrooms. It was said it looked like Magneto lambasted them. Latex: totally awesome in photos and at fetish events but only the hardest of the hardcore can wear that all day. Beginners might want to start with either spandex or if their hearts are set on latex, then immersion therapy of wrapping themselves in cling film. Testing your costume BEFORE you go to these events is a good way to know your limits.

7. This Should Be Obvious: Respect. I feel like I shouldn’t HAVE to say this, but I will. Respect people’s boundaries. CosPlay is not permission. Do not insist on any unwanted interaction. If you aren’t sure about reading the situation correctly, ask! ‘May I please have a photo with you?’ ‘May I have a hug?’ ‘Could I please shake your hand?’ are all good questions to ask if you aren’t sure. No one will be mad at you for asking them. You know who WILL be mad at you? The person who’s ass you patted ‘all in good fun’ and me. Especially me. If you’ve seen me with a fillet knife, I’m sure you know it’s in your best interests to respect your fellow convention goers and fear my wrath. Karma is also huge, so when you go out of your way to take care of each other, it makes the WHOLE affair more fun for everyone and raises sass levels all around.

8. Smile. You’re not too cool for school. This goes to convention goers and guests alike. The lighting is universally shitty at these events, but smiling makes everyone look better, gnome I’m sayin’? You have the power to affect positive sass levels just by doing that smile thing with your face. So do it.

There you go! I set you free into the world for all your adventuring! If you have any additional advice to include, please post them in the comments section.

Hive fives and sass flashes!

Little Miss Risk

Little Miss Risk, taken at Festival of Fear Vancouver, 2014


Tristan Risk can be found lurking online via Twitter, Facebook and on her very own blog, High Barbed Wire Walking. And for you Vancouverites, Risk will also be hosting this weekend’s 4th Annual DEAD ON FILM Short Horror Film & Video Competition, tomorrow night at Vancouver’s Rio Theatre. Check out their Facebook page for all the details.

Tags: Convention Etiqutte, Festival of Fear 2014, Little Miss Risk, Tristan Risk


  1. Lara says:

    Excellent advice!

    If I can be so bold as to add another –

    Sitting. You’ll be on your feet most of the day – in line-ups, wandering around the exhibitor floor… you’ll need to sit whenever possible to conserve some energy. While Q&A panels are an ideal rest period, other times you’ll pray for any opportunity to rest your weary feet. But be considerate of others when you do. Don’t pull up a swatch of carpet in a highly trafficked area – it will create bottlenecking of the crowds trying to navigate around you. Also, don’t camp out on benches and in the food court, just because you’ve got 45 minutes before you need to be anywhere. Other people are probably looking for a place to sit and eat their overpriced food too. Sit, eat, relax – but when you see others looking around for a place to perch and you’re just sitting there checking twitter for photos of you, it’s time to relinquish your chair and give someone else a chance.

    The best decision I ever made was creating a costume that has bedroom slippers as footwear. But even then, 10 hours of verticality takes a toll.

    • Tristan Risk says:

      It’s true! And for the love of sass, try and drink water, not just energy drinks. Those will kill you faster. Take some Siberian Ginseng to get a bit of a natural boost without the sugar crash.

  2. Stacy says:

    I’d like to add 2 comments. First I met Tristan last Year at fan expo in toronto and she was so nice. (Being a guy even after going to cons for over a decade I always feel a bit weird getting a photo with a female as you never know as silly as it sounds do I put my arm around her or behind her so it appears around her or on shoulder) Tristan took the lead posed nice for a photo and I felt at ease!

    2nd we all want to meet our fav celeb or artist or what not and we wait in insanely long lines and way over pay for signatures…. (celebs need to understand this and maybe charge less cause kids wanna meet a hero too and really can’t afford 80$ for a captain kirk. And those celebs charging that much should at least take 10 seconds to acknowledge the fan paying this much and waiting so long)
    And fans should understand that we are all there for the same thing….so don’t take ten minutes tell g a celeb about a script you wrote or anything cause really they hear this from everyone. As well this goes for comics more so but applies to all celebs….go meet them say hi shake hands take a minute…limit the autographs to just a few….not everything you own….and for comics limit it to like 10…not a full box (I’ve seen it and if it you are a person getting a collection signed look behind you….If the guy or girl who you have probably been chatting with in line has only 1 item…let them go first…so you wait 10 extra seconds as mentioned Karma)

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