ZomBcon 2011, or Why I Shared Chapstick with a Stranger

I am in line to meet True Blood’s Sam Trammell at Seattle’s second annual ZomBcon, a conference dedicated to zombie culture.

By 11 a.m., I have stood in two different 45-minute lines and bumped into 16 other people in the exact same Sookie outfit as me ("Just another soon-to-be-dead waitress at Merlotte’s"). My make-up needs to be retouched and I am riffling through numerous pathetic-sounding one-liners in preparation for meeting the sexy “shifter” from HBO.

It’s been an uncommonly busy Sunday morning for me, but it’s been an even busier year for pop fan culture in the area: Emerald City Comicon in March, Sakura-Con in May, GeekGirlCon earlier this month and now zombies. And no lack of costumed, gamboling, and gleeful fans.

And somehow this surprises me about Seattle. Sure, we have our share of Star Wars nerds. What city doesn’t? But enough geek power to pack in the sci-fi celebrities numerous times each year?

I snap a picture of an undead Mr. Rogers complete with Zombie King Friday (shown left) and nearby I see a man with melting eyeliner cradling a newborn as he makes conversation with an enormous woman in a black bustier. Not your typical Sunday morning brunch in Queen Anne.

Fans of a variety of comics, cult figures, narratives, and backgrounds abound. And in spite of being repeatedly redirected and disappointed (the conference is out of programs… the promotional True Blood posters never arrived… they’ve capped the line for this panel…), the mood is generally giddy and communal.

Everyone is swapping stories about different costumes they’ve seen, their traditional practices at Walking Dead dinner parties, their Halloween plans.

When I say that I’m nervous about what I’ll look like for Sam now that I’m all dried out from the hotel air, a stranger hands me her bubblegum lip gloss and lets me refresh.

We're all in this together.

David Rollison, director of social media for ZomBcon, sat down with me for about two minutes before he had to steward actor Sid Haig to his next panel. The harried staff is almost entirely volunteer-based and is shepherding hundreds of people through a constantly-shifting programming.

So Rollison answered my questions quickly, but with enthusiasm. He tells me that ZomBcon was founded by Ryan Reiter (organizer of Fremont Outdoor Movies & Seattle Zombie Walk) and that zombie culture often experiences a renaissance of popularity during times of social turmoil or unrest.

Apparently, film historian Robin Wood made an argument for Night of the Living Dead as a late-1960s critique of American capitalism and as an allegory for the civil rights movement. Rollison says there are many people that identify with and revolt against creatures stuck in the drudgery of everyday living (dead).  ZombOccupy Seattle, anyone?

Later I take a stroll through the exhibitor hall: One hoodie shouts at me from the sales rack “&#$-*@ the Revolution! Bring on the Apocalypse.” It's complemented by a zombie Che Guevara picture.

A comic novelties exhibitor hands me a gray ribbon and informs me that May is the official “Zombie Awareness Month.” Zombie apocalypse disaster kits are widely available along with free brains cupcakes. There’s zombie jerky for everyone, including vegetarian zombie tongue that tastes like dried mangoes. Maybe I am still in Seattle after all…

“Seattle is the zombie capital of the world,” adds Rollison.

After three-days and several hundred attendees flowing through the SEA-TAC Hilton, I’m convinced Seattle is at least a zombie town with geek staying-power.

If the zombie apocalypse were to happen tomorrow and someone wanted to throw a farewell gala, the party is already happening here.

 

Jessica Day, writer and karaoke enthusiast, lives in Seattle. She serves as an artistic director for local arts organization The Heroes and looks to Buffy the Vampire Slayer for inspiration on a daily basis.

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