This past weekend I was getting my geek on by spending my Labor Day holiday at DragonCon in downtown Atlanta. If you’ve never heard of DragonCon, it is one of the largest sci-fi, fantasy, gaming conventions in the U.S. Just over 30,000 fans of comic books, anime, sci-fi/fantasy and gaming converged at this 4-day conference. My own personal niche of interest was sci-fi and fantasy. During DragonCon, I had the chance to meet the stars of my favorite shows and movies such as Battlestar Galactica, StarTrek, Babylon 5, Lord of the Rings, and Firefly. Also, I got to participate in several fan seminars to talk about the shows and hear directly from the cast members. The one thing that surprised me the most about my experience was the costuming. It was incredible! People were dressed up as Stormtroopers, Sauron from Lord of Rings, Hellboy, Ironman, Batman and just about every imaginable character from anime, comics, tv or movies. (if you want to follow my Twitter feed from the event which includes pictures, goto: http://twitter.com/bigcreekbill )
It was such a fun and enjoyable event. But during the course of DragonCon I couldn’t help but reflect on the reasons why an event like this is so compelling to so many people? And why do these sci-fi/fantasy, superhero genres fascinate so many people? Here are just a couple of my thoughts on why that might be:
We Want to Belong.
Throughout the entire event the fans and the stars talked about the wonderful community of DragonCon. An eclectic bunch of people, from all over the country and from all ages and walks of life, connected at DragonCon over their shared passions and interest in sci-fi/fantasy, anime, comics or gaming. What knit everyone together was a shared experience and a sense of mutual acceptance. I believe people fulfill a need at these conferences (or any group, club or organization) to connect with others who have shared interests, loves and passions. It is important for us to be and feel affirmed. We want to know that we are not strange or weird just because we like fantasy and sci-fi. There is power when like minded people come together. We all have the need to belong, somewhere and with others. A conference, like DragonCon, helps people fulfill that need to belong.
We Love to Imagine a Better World.
Several times during the convention I heard mentioned that this show or that show imagined a world the way it was “meant to be”. I believe that there is a sense in each of us that knows that this world is broken and that there awaits us something much more. Deep in our soul, we yearn for that. Sci-fi/fantasy attempts to imagine and picture how the world was “meant to be” and attempts to imagine a pathway towards that end. Often this genre desires and hopes for a better and brighter future (there are exceptions to that rule). I believe that there is an “eschatological hope” in the human soul that this genre is attempting to address. None of the conclusions that artists and authors imagine of the future even come close to the real hope and future that resides with the Kingdom of God. They picture and imagine but mere shadows of what the world will be when it is fully restored and put to rights under the reign and rule of Jesus, our King.
The Power of Story.
All the great sci-fi/fantasy had one great thing in common – it was built around a great and compelling story. The reason people love this genre is that most of the time the stories are compelling and they reflect the human drama that we all face. One fan discussion on Battlestar Galactica revolved around what is morality and what it means to be human. The stories from these sci-fi/fantasy shows were driving these incredibly thoughtful questions forward. Fundamentally, as humans, we love story. The reason for this is that are lives consist of story. We are a people with our own individual story or narrative, and we live within the framework of a larger story or meta-narrative. That larger story binds us all together. It is God’s story. It is a story of our Creation to our Fall to God’s Pursuit of Us that moved to Reconciliation through the Cross and is moving toward the time when all of creation will be Restored.
I will always be a fan of great sci-fi/fantasy not only because it provokes and is fun to read and watch – but also because it resonates with the human experience. I will probably go back next year to DragonCon. And who knows, maybe I’ll be brave enough next year to suit up in my own costume.