An online convention? Are you nuts? That was my first thought when other convention companies chose to start broadcasting convention panels in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Let’s be honest, part of the thing we all love about science fiction conventions is the interaction. The way we get to see each other all dressed in cosplay, the connection with our fellow fans, and if, like me, you’ve had the chance to attend some really small and intimate conventions, the unique aspect of interaction with the guests. I honestly was sceptical about the idea of an online convention or similar fan experience.
But then B5 Events came into being. If you’re a Babylon 5 fan, or a Star Trek fan, the likelihood is, you’ll know the name Patricia Tallman as well as you know the names of your own family members. She’s both actress and stuntwoman, and also an entrepreneur unlike any other. Whilst I have yet to take part in one of her Quest Retreats, I can honestly say that I look forward to the day that I can. Her life coaching skills are incredible, and there’s no one else that can lead me through a guided meditation the way that she can. When Pat runs a meditation session, you can visualise what she describes, find yourself in the places she talks about, and you come out feeling so much better. So, naturally, when my sister said to me “Hey, Pat’s forming this company and they are going to be running Babylon 5 related events online,” my answer was sign me up.
The Gathering was the first of B5 Events’ online experiences. I was fortunate enough to have both a general admission ticket and a VIP ticket for the experience, and I got my general admission ticket under the Early Bird price which saved me $10 – a nice incentive for a first event (or any event). After getting my tickets, it was just a case of waiting for the event to go live on my end. If you know me, patience has never been my strong point, so whilst I know that some people would have preferred a longer time frame in which to purchase tickets, the shorter time frame was beneficial in my case. It was also something to look forward to in the midst of all the chaos that the world has currently been in, especially with the pandemic.
This isn’t some pump piece. I won’t sugar coat the fact that there were issues with the platform on the day. Personally, I was unable to see the chat that others were able to take part in, but this could have been due to an issue with either my browser (although I did update it at one point during technical broadcast issues, or my OS). The broadcast issues seemed to be issues with the platform for the team behind B5 Events. I know that others had different issues. But that’s the risk of using a new platform for hosting a different type of event. The team managed it admirably. To be honest, not being able to take part in the chat made my experience more intimate because I wasn’t distracted by the chat and what was happening there, and I was able to pay attention to what was going on in the panels and segments.
The Gathering had an amazing guest line up in Pat herself, Claudia Christian, and Mira Furlan, with Jason Davis as M.C. There was the usual vendors area, and whilst half the fun is usually purchasing your items in person, I’m actually looking forward to receiving my post from both C Three Foundation and B5 Events. I ordered a signed copy of Claudia’s Snack Hacks to sit on my book shelf with my signed books and away from the kitchen where my very used copy is very clearly loved and, I will admit, falling apart, but that’s what happens when a cook book becomes your go to favourite. I also ordered a key chain pill holder from C Three Foundation to replace the original plastic one I’ve had since they first started doing them, which is also falling apart. There were a multitude of other vendors as well, and I have to admit, that when they do another event, depending on the price, I wouldn’t mind paying for a vendor’s space for my Redbubble store.
The panels had the usual format of the M.C. asking questions. But the beauty of these panels was the way in which the guests were all so relaxed, even though they weren’t in the same place. Being in the comfort of their own homes, allowed a certain amount of freedom we don’t usually see in convention panels, and it the connection between Pat, Mira, and Claudia was clear. They bounced off each other in the group panels and there were plenty of laughs to be had by all. It was very clear to all that twenty-seven years after The Gathering episode first aired, these three are the firmest of friends and that made for an extra special event. I found it particularly funny when Claudia would apologise for swearing and Pat’s sentences were peppered with the odd swear word without any concern. The three women each have such diverse energy and yet it melds together to create something beautiful. All three are extremely intelligent, extremely passionate, and as we all know, incredibly beautiful, inside and out.
What I loved about the format of this event was that as well as the usual panels, each guest gave a demonstration of something they are passionate about. Mira gave a yoga demonstration that not only showed her passion, but was inclusive of those with limited mobility, like me. She began it with chair yoga exercises that a wheelchair user like me was able to take part in. That’s something I will never forget. I’ve met all three women previously, and I know that accessibility for fans is important to them. But I wonder if they realise just how much it means to those of us who are disabled that they make that effort? I cried for a while after that inclusive section.
Claudia used her segment to give us all a cooking lesson with her exceptional cooking skills. Not only was the segment on CC’s Pandemic Pantry Leftover Rice Salad informative, but it was hilarious. If people didn’t know before, they will certainly have known afterwards, that Claudia has a fantastic sense of humour and a flare for comedy. I wish more cooking shows were like that segment, I might actually find them interesting and entertaining enough to pay attention to, rather than the dry British cooking shows I’m often subjected to over here. Claudia has a natural flare for entertaining and it was an absolute pleasure to watch that segment.
Pat’s segment was on meditation, and as I mentioned earlier, her guided meditations are the best by far. What I didn’t mention earlier was that during this particular meditation session, sat alone at my desk, with just my hamsters and rats in the room with me, there was an odd kind of quiet that fell over the room. Even my rodents stopped what they were doing and listened. Pat has this way of making you focus. She taught an exercise in which we each asked the universe for an answer to a particular pertinent question for us. Pat warned that we may not like the answer, but that we would get one. Well, I did as she asked, and since I went to bed on Saturday night the universe has been shouting its answer at me loud and clear and has not stopped….
The combined segments of the three guests worked together to create a holistic experience that given the current world situation was much needed. It gave a focus on something other than our fears, and an escape from the stress of day to day life. I would have liked more time for the vendors area in between segments, and perhaps more regularly scheduled bio breaks, but, other than that, the layout of the day was great, and the timing was perfect considering that I was in the taking part in the UK and they running everything in PDT. I hope that the next general admission advent will also be on a different platform, not just for the sake of attendees, but the sake of the panel and the team.
The VIP party was on a different platform and the beauty of that was that we were able to see each other, talk, and didn’t have the glitches. It was small and intimate, and it was good to be able to have that type of experience where we were with a group of people who were intelligent, interested, and wanted to learn more about the things that had happened in the sessions. I wish that it had lasted longer than an hour, but all good things come to an end. It was definitely worth the extra cost in order to be able to have that time with the panel and with a few others.
We’ve come away from the event with a new community being formed, which is the sign of any good event. The tagline for the B5 Events is more than just a fan thing, and they are right. It’s so much more. It’s building a community of people who, even after one event, are already showing that they are willing to be there for each other and support each other. It’s showing each other ways to do things and cope with things. In all honesty, I cannot wait for the next one. I’ve just found my new favourite way of experiencing convention life in a pandemic world.