Living your happiest, healthiest nerd life in isolation

16 MARCH 2020

Something monstrous is staring us in the face, and I don't mean COVID-19. Yes, getting sick is going to be awful, but an even greater number of us may end up sharing another experience: the silent deterioration of isolation.

As someone who really likes solitude, I can attest that the recluse life can be brutal even for introverts. I once lived in a remote swamp for 3 months with only a cell phone that I barely touched, and by the 3rd month, I craved media, strangers, civilization. I really thought I would last longer; and when I think of humanity at large living that way, it scares me. I think we're facing a profound mental health crisis that probably won't be noticed right away, due to more exigent fears over COVID-19 and finances. But I've already noticed an uptick in aggression among strangers, and anxiety, depression and self-sabotaging behaviors among friends. Have you?

There have been countless jokes online from introverts and nerds who say that nothing will change for them. But even people who consider their social life on the thin side probably have outlets they count on. It might be a weekly visit to a comic shop, weekend gaming tournaments, movie nights, or just talking to a favorite barista or coworker. If and when that all goes on hold - the absence will be palpable.

We may or may not wind up staying home in the coming months. I know many of you still believe this will blow over, but you only have to look overseas to understand why clinicians are predicting the worst. So if that comes to pass, here are a few ways we can all stay healthy and connected this spring and maybe summer:

  • Catch up on old TV shows and movies you missed. Younger nerds may have missed Battlestar Galactica, X-Files, Firefly; even not-so-young nerds may not have yet seen original Star Trek, classic horror movies or series like Outer Limits

  • Start (or complete) lengthy comic universes like X-Men or Love and Rockets or Strangers in Paradise.

  • Organize your collectibles, sort through old comics and DVDs, and figure out what you can toss, sell, swap or donate.

  • Launch home projects. YouTube is full of tutorials if you don't know how to operate an electric drill or put up drywall or stencil your fireplace surround or refinish your kitchen cupboards. And there's no better way to improve your kitchen skills.

  • Start creative projects. Now's the time for people to jump into the novel, comic book, game or art they've secretly wanted to create but were paralyzed by fear of failure.

  • Step into science. Get into astronomy, rocket building, electronics, quantum physics, botany. You can do a lot of these hobbies alone now and then join clubs later if you find you have a passion for them.

  • Take online courses. Some have a fee but there are a lot of free or reasonably priced options to enhance your marketability or just learn new skills for the fun of it. The market will recover at some point so if you want to get started investing later, do your homework now.

  • Set up virtual parties, reading groups and hobby clubs. I know it's easy to do this with your friends, but you're going to want to see fresh faces at some point so consider creating or joining a more public online event. 

  • Get in shape. Many of us stuck at home will hear the siren's song of eating ice cream on the sofa every night; take up yoga, pilates or strength training and burn off the chub. Look into online therapy apps too to stay mentally in shape. 

  • Go outside. Assuming we never reach the point of being literally confined to our homes, I think hiking, biking, climbing and swimming are going to be crucial to feeling vibrant and hopeful. Of course, there's a danger to doing activities alone in desolate areas and it can be challenging to find places away from filthy humanity. I hiked way off trail the other evening into what felt like pristine wilderness and still found a wrapped edible on the ground.

  • Finally, create a timetable. Anyone who works from home will tell you how helpful boundaries and demarcations are - where you physically work in your house, the importance of getting dressed and not working in your pajamas, observing consistent start and finish times. As we spend days and nights at home, structured time will be a good way to restore discipline and vitality to life - maybe you get up by 9 am, get online till 10 am, then learn a skill/do work until noon, where you go for a walk, etc. Any kind of structure will help kill the aimlessness that can turn into depression.

Just a few ideas. The future isn't set in stone so we'll all have to roll with any oncoming changes and make the best of wherever we find ourselves. Do your best to stay connected and maybe be more proactive about reaching out than you normally would. We're going to need each other.

ECCC has been rescheduled for 21-23 August - will you go?

13 MARCH 2020

Happy Friday the 13th! Between fighting your way through supermarkets for bottled water and pondering life on a respirator, you may have noticed an email from ECCC. They have jubilantly announced that ECCC has been rescheduled for 21-23 August - and it's all going to be fine!

I'm going to be pragmatic about this announcement in a minute, but first let's talk facts:
  • If you had a badge for this year, you can transfer it to the August Con. Just let them know by 27 March. So you've got 2 weeks to see if signs point to a long-term hellscape by then.
  • If you don't transfer your badge, you'll get a refund. I know - you thought you were already getting one. You will and it will happen automatically. Just sit tight.
  • Because August ECCC is only 3 days, unlike March ECCC, which was to be 4 days, you'll get a refund of $15 to compensate should you transfer.

What Summer ECCC Might Look Like
Should this Con actually occur, I think it will be smaller and more local than usual. Which actually sounds kind of nice and will probably appeal to many people. I won't be there - this falls right between SDCC and NYCC and within days of my birthday, which I want to celebrate with a trip through my ancestral Scandinavian homelands. It's also within a whisker of Dragon Con, which I believe will prevent some people from attending as well. But none of that is necessarily bad, it just means the sense of local community will be that much stronger.

Here's the thing, though, and I'm sorry to be negative - but the U.S. is still skidding all over the Coronavirus road, and we don't know if this road is leading to "peaking by late May and we'll cautiously move into vaccines and herd immunity" or "our economy itself is on a respirator and we're shooting pigeons for food." Probably it will be the former. But I think Reed Pop should have waited just a few more weeks before announcing this. Right now the media blizzard is focusing on COVID-19's medical trajectory and that's definitely important - but the economic fallout is going to be intense.

And maybe (well, almost definitely) that's the reason for this quick rescheduling: to keep spirits high and offer a solid opportunity to pump cash and tourism dollars back into Seattle and the creator community. Nerds who've had to isolate at home (I will not make a joke here) will be relieved to  have a big fun social event to go to. Those who've lost elder loved ones will probably benefit as well. If we do wind up "social distancing" as a nation for a month or more, the psychological impact will be very real. People are already devastated over the loss of NCAA games, the delay of Mulan and No Time to Die, their cancelled Disney trips. Staying socially connected and mentally healthy is going to be a priority for all of us, infected or not.

So - fingers crossed that it all works out. I won't be there, but I hope those of you transferring your badges (or just waiting for the ticket sale) have a magnificent time. Stay healthy, stay optimistic and you'll be floating through a land of magical cosplay and excellent comics before you know it.

Will the Coronavirus cancel SDCC?

11 MARCH 2020

So you're not going to Coachella. You're not going to see the Final Four. Maybe you're not going to see anyone at all for the short-term future, if you're working from home and told to stay there. But still the big question lingers: will you be going to San Diego Comic-Con?

Everyone's asking that. What if SDCC is cancelled? What if our annual orgiastic fandom rites don't take place and life loses all meaning? People keep coming to me with that question like it's some kind of worst case scenario; for them, it obviously is.

But it shouldn't be. Look, San Diego Comic-Con may be cancelled or we may get ahead of the virus and assert enough control that CCI feels comfortable going ahead. But yes or no, I think everyone should be thinking bigger picture right now.

Like the reality that some of our parents and grandparents will probably die; mass layoffs could occur while pensions and 401k funds might shrink like a puddle in the sun; overburdened healthcare systems could shortchange all patients, not just those with COVID-19. And the economic freefall could impact Hollywood, collectibles, your neighborhood comic shop, all the little joys that flow through your nerdy life. We don't know the scale of the changes yet, but some are definitely coming down the pike.

The NBA just suspended their season. Tom Hanks and Rita Wison have the virus. This is just the beginning of the stunning announcements, bad news, sacrifices and losses we're going to endure, even in a best case scenario. I'm not trying to be the Paul Revere of Pestilence here, but it's obvious that many SDCC attendees are not grasping the full magnitude of this pandemic. Maybe it's because I've written about infectious disease and pandemics and all the horrific changes they bring (collapse of raw material prices, geopolitical unrest, food and drug shortages, hindered response to natural disasters) in my non-blogger life, but I've already expelled SDCC 2020 from my mind in terms of concerns. I encourage you to do the same. If Comic-Con happens, that's great but I just don't think it's anything to get upset about now. We've all got bigger emotional and financial concerns.

Here's what I think attendees should do:

  • Wait and see what CCI says first about WonderCon (which I wouldn't be surprised to see cancelled.) Even if you're not going to WonderCon, their statements may include hints about San Diego. I know CCI is not the world's most transparent communicator, but I'm hoping in this case, they'll be clear, prompt and responsive to attendee concerns.
  • Don't worry about the hotel lottery for SDCC. Last year it was in April. I imagine CCI is in no hurry to hold it while the virus situation is evolving so quickly.
  • If you've made a deposit on an Early Bird hotel room, and you're freaking out about losing it - just wait and see what happens with SDCC. CCI should make it right for you.
  • International attendees worried about continuing travel bans should create a Plan B. If you've already booked your airfare, maybe see if you can get a refund now rather than wait months when airlines' revenue situation may be much more dire. Your call. 
  • Talk to your friends and be candid about who has a chronic condition, respiratory weakness or other issue that could make a large gathering unwise for them. And be prepared for some of your friends to have financial setbacks between now and July.
  • Remember that there will be future Comic-Cons and if we miss this one, it's okay. Disappointing, but small potatoes compared to what will be happening in the world.
  • Save your money. If the world descends into an economic sewer, nerd toys, event tickets and Comic-Con festivities may get a little pricier.
  • And finally, practice good pandemic etiquette to help make the world as healthy and contagion-free as possible.

I don't mean to trivialize the importance of SDCC in your life. But Fortune 100 companies and top governments are still figuring out their response to COVID-19 right now. I don't think we can expect a definite answer on SDCC. Let's all stay safe, be patient and keep a healthy perspective. We're a resilient community and we'll find ways to stay connected no matter what.

ETA Thursday, 12 March: 
CCI has cancelled WonderCon (as most of us expected) and has shuttered the Museum events as well, noting they are following the CA DOH recommendation to avoid gatherings of more than 250 people.

As for SDCC: "We continue to work closely with officials in San Diego and at this time no decision has been made regarding the rescheduling of Comic-Con slated to take place this summer; July 23-26, 2020."

In other words - sit tight. And try to come up with an appealing alternate plan that will work in a post-plague world.

What the "postponed" ECCC means for us

6 MARCH 2020

So it's official: none of us are going to Emerald City Comic Con next week. It has been "postponed" and you can read the official statement here.

Rumors have run around our world like rats this week, so let's clarify what this means.

  • It's more accurate to say that ECCC has been cancelled - the one we were promised anyway. Another one will be held under the same name in the same calendar year, but it's impossible to replicate this one with all the same guests and exhibitors and events. I'm sure Reed Pop will try their hardest, but Comic Con season reaches a fever pitch in summer and I'm sure many of the people we were excited to see next week will be engaged elsewhere - or just have summer plans like the rest of us. 

  • But that doesn't mean the new ECCC2020 won't be great. I'm sure it will. That said, those of us with SDCC plans pencilled in - and maybe Dragon Con or Boston or Denver or just saving our $$ for NYCC in October - may be too tuckered out for another summer Con. This could shift the attendee demographics to a more local population.

  • Refunds will go out to all attendees. They don't need to do anything. This gets a bit muddled for the people who went through Lyte, but I'm sure that can be figured out easily; what can't are the people who bought badges off StubHub, Reddit, Craigslist, etc. I believe they're just out that amount of cash.

  • ECCC has promised to highlight creators' work over the coming days and weeks to help them financially, though it's not clear how they'll do so. At any rate, don't write off the digital Emerald City community for now - keep checking back and see how you can help support your faves.

  • Obviously there will need to be another ticket sale. While that's never fun, it's also not that horrendous for Emerald City. It's not like nabbing a Preview Night badge for SDCC and then being told it's void and you have to try again. And since we had Thursday, Friday and Sunday badges still available for ECCC, it seems open to anyone who wants to go.

  • I know there's a high level of frustration with Reed for not doing this sooner, but let's be reasonable: they have contractual and legal obligations with the facility, the city, exhibitors, staff, entertainers, guests and other parties that were probably a nightmare to navigate. Let's assume positive intent.

  • As for whether the cancellation was necessary - is there really any doubt? Look at the Egyptian Nile cruise ships or the Biogen conference in Boston. Gatherings are deadly. ECCC would have lit a match to a viral conflagration. This was the right call, it can't be disputed.

And finally, unpleasantly, it's entirely possible COVID-19 will spread through the land like a hex and ruin our summer nerd dreams. In a few months it could just be a bad memory or we could be facing societal changes that make a missed Comic Con seem comparatively minor. But for now, let's assume we'll have ourselves a lovely time in Seattle this summer.

ECCC and Coronavirus Updates

3 MARCH 2020

ECC is being postponed until this summer. The date is forthcoming. 
All attendees and exhibitors will get a refund.

Thank you, Reed Pop, for making the safest and most fan-friendly decision for everyone. We all want a fun, vibrant and robust Comic Con with all our favorite artists, guests and exhibitors. 

I'll share dates and ticket sale news when I have them. And that brings our scary little rollercoaster ride to an end!

As we grow closer to ECCC202, the Coronavirus news out of Seattle is growing worse. I don't have any insider knowledge. I'm just aggregating and reporting what I hear. So I'll post updates in this space as news breaks.

  • The current U.S. death toll is 14 in Washington, 1 in California.
  • In Washington, the number of confirmed cases has risen to 80. Two more eldercare facilities have presumptive positive patients, in addition to Life Care.
  • The declared state of emergency continues. Many companies are having employees work from home, people over 60 and with chronic conditions are told to stay home, and Seattle is setting up quarantine trailers.
  • Many people believe that the virus is more widely seeded in the U.S. than was originally estimated. Some are making comparisons to the 1918 pandemic.
  • ECCC will refund exhibitors and attendees. 
  • Cancellation still looms on the horizon as ECCC says they are "fully prepared" to adjust their plans and act upon changing guidance.
  • Multiple vendors, including Dark Horse, Oni Press, DC Comics, Tor/MacMillan and Penguin Random House, have pulled out of ECCC. Kate Leth, Terry Brooks, Jen Bartel, Dustin Nguyen, Steve Lieber, Mike Mignola, Jim Lee, Jim Butcher, Jim Zub, Max Brooks and other creators have cancelled. Warner Media (HBO, Warner Bros., Turner) isn't letting their employees go either. You can see the full list here.

Friday morning, 6 March

Nothing much new to report right now. I woke up to a Vault press release saying they weren't coming; at this point, ECCC really will be a ghost town. A petition is asking them to cancel, they're being bombarded by angry comments and threats, but at this point I think cancellation is a high-level discussion happening between Reed, city officials, Governor Inslee's team and the CDC. An announcement should be forthcoming soon.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow has told people to avoid traveling to Seattle. At this point, I think people should not attend ECCC. There's really no legitimate reason to. You're a vendor and your income depends on it? You'll be selling to a fraction of the normal attendee base and you risk winding up quarantined and losing out on your day job/freelance income and people are trying to help you by holding virtual art shows to signal boost cancelling vendors - so is it worth it?

I know most of us are taking this day by day. My friends and I have been talking all morning about whether to still roadtrip to see Orville Peck in a few nights. No one wants to miss out on fun, especially something they've anticipated for months. But for ECCC, especially if you're travelling, making a decision now is probably the safest and fiscally sound choice. 

Thursday night, 5 March

Someone else has died in Washington. At this point, I believe ECCC will officially cancel tomorrow, on Friday. They need to end this now so people can hit their 72 hour cancellation window for hotels, recoup whatever deposits they can and make alternate plans to earn whatever income they're losing out on.

Today seems to have kicked off a certain frenzy in the business world, as if a corporate cabal got confirmation that this is all very real and then unleashed that knowledge across the country. Yet people I talked to at Trader Joe's and my salon were apathetic. "It's just the flu," my stylist said. Even when an actual ER nurse showed up for a haircut and confirmed that yes, his hospital is taking drastic measures to prepare, they were skeptical. It's a common attitude - the Coronavirus is the new Y2K -  which you could darkly translate into the likelihood that many people will not follow prevention guidelines. That's just one reason big events are not going to be safe.

If you're still going, please read the list of cancellations first.

We'll see what tomorrow brings.

Thursday afternoon, 5 March

Today for me has been a blizzard of emails from my clients cancelling trips, asking for my emergency contact information, and informing me of cancelled conferences. Yes, even as ECCC plods on in what's looking increasingly like a deathmarch, other organizations are calling off events and conferences at great expense.

One sidebar: many ECCC attendees have not yet received their badges, like me, yet are asked to send them back by a certain deadline to get the refund. Reed - why were you cutting it so close in the first place? I believe this is one area where CCI is better organized. I don't say that too often.

On that note, 2 attendees have contacted me in anger because they sold off their badges at a huge loss and now they can't get a refund. So that's been happening. Look, at the end of the day, all of us are going to lose something here - whether it's a deposit, an exclusive or a cherished meetup. There's just no way around it. At this point, we have to look ahead to a collective future and do what we can do today to prevent losses tomorrow. And think of the people who bought black market badges! They are truly screwed if ECCC is called off.

I believe cancellation is inevitable, especially with exhibitors and attendees dropping like flies today. I'm sure Reed is likely taking care of the legal this and that before making an announcement. 

Thursday morning, 5 March

Today we've woken up to find ourselves still between Scylla and Charybdis. I think most of us were hoping for a definitive decision by now but instead we're facing information that doesn't entirely add up. ECCC is refunding exhibitors and attendees, which is decent of them, but also suggests a sluggish Con. In the meantime, Seattle has asked high-risk people to stay home; Amazon and Facebook employees are also asked to work from home. Is the city safe or not? At this point, I believe the Con will be cancelled and that Reed is waiting for an official mandate. But we've only gotten recommendations, not requirements, from officials. It's tedious.

But I get it. For every artist and exhibitor and attendee who's saying, "Sorry, not worth the risk," there's someone saying "My financial survival depends on this Con." So I can see why ECCC isn't just blithely shutting down. They're going to upset people (and maybe spark litigation) no matter how they proceed.

I've decided to opt out. I'm more afraid of quarantine than illness, but I also suspect that both the floor shopping and the general atmosphere going out at night won't really be so fun - that essentially I'll fly into a petri dish that's all risk, no reward. But if the show does happen, I hope those of you who go stay safe and enjoy yourselves. There could be an upside; maybe the smaller crowd will help people make friends easily and live out the experience of going to a small Con circa 1998.

Mike Pence will be touching down in Seattle today so perhaps a decree will emerge from his visit. I'll share what I hear, though I'll be offline for about 4 hours in afternoon/evening.

Wednesday morning, 4 March

Someone on Twitter posted a message from ECCC saying they "do not see any scenario where the event gets cancelled" unless they're shut down by the state or CDC. I think a lot can change over the next week. I appreciate ECCC may be concerned about financial losses but a lackluster Con with empty booths and a diminished crowd isn't good for anyone. And if it does accelerate the infection rate or lead to quarantine for attendees, they will take a massive reputational hit.

Interestingly, Reed HAS cancelled their London Book Fair, featuring 25,000 people. Note that London doesn't have the same death toll as WA. So why cancel? Essentially publishers and agents were pulling out en masse and forced their hand. Now many are annoyed the cancellation was left to the last minute. Reed's response:

“We have been following UK government guidelines and working with the rolling advice from the public health authorities and other organisations, and so it is with reluctance that we have taken the decision not to go ahead with this year’s event." 

That would be the same reluctance to cancel ECCC, no doubt. A "senior publishing figure" quoted in the same article said, "I understand that if they cancelled last week they would have taken a financial hit, but that would have been the responsible thing to do. They’ve been citing government advice but it’s really irresponsible in the current climate to have a mass gathering of international publishers. It’s a very ugly cat and mouse game they’re playing. It’s purely financial and makes them look money-grabbing."

Right now it seems that Reed will only cancel ECCC if cancellations hit critical mass OR they're state-ordered to. Basically, we're living through the death of a thousand cuts here and it's leaving everyone in limbo as to whether we should cancel hotels, flights, etc. Really just a mess.

Tuesday night, 3 March

Washington Governor Jay Inslee said today, "We are not making a request formally right now for events to be cancelled - but people should be prepared for that possibility."

I believe Wednesday will bring more vendors pulling out as they do a cost analysis on losing the show income vs. sick/quarantined employees and low sales - not to mention the possibility that the outbreak could explode by next week and it's all been for naught anyhow.

I think cancellation is likely at this point & that Reed could be waiting for an official health department order or some other documentation to facilitate an insurance claim. Just a theory. I'm sure many variables are in play. But their silence and lack of reassurance today speaks volumes. Like most of us, they're likely waiting for the right information to make the right decision.

Tuesday morning, 3 March

Personally, I don't feel it's looking good.

A few things to keep in mind. I know it's tempting to bluster about how some virus won't keep you home. But remember this isn't just about you. It's not even just about getting sick. It's about maybe getting suck in quarantine, far from home. Or being able to cancel flights and hotels in time to get refunds. And possibly becoming a carrier who infects someone who does become seriously ill, even though you soldiered through your illness just fine. I'm not saying these things will happen - just that it's not as simple as confidence in your own immune system.

The Coronovirus & why we should stop touching each other at Comic Cons

2 MARCH 2020

So we have a new global pandemic, just in time for the 2020 Comic Con season! At this very moment, MSNBC is telling me the Coronavirus death toll has risen to 5 in Washington, where I and thousands of others are headed for Emerald City Comic Con next week. King County has declared an emergency. Yesterday the Louvre in Paris closed; all over the world, exposed people are quarantined; it's all very frightening and yet so redolent of Outbreak / Contagion/ World War Z / 28 Days Later that it seems a bit surreal. Are we really in danger of dying from a new virus on the show floor?

Probably not. But it is something to consider and I encourage everyone headed to ECCC and other large gatherings to do their research on both the virus and their own risk level. If you're elderly, sick, immunocompromised or some other category of medically fragile - now is obviously the time to be cautious. There is always another Comic Con. At the same time, there are many factors in play:

  • Both airports and ECCC have instituted cleansing and preventive methodologies to limit contagion. ECCC has released an official statement.

  • Vendors and exhibitors have asked that attendees not touch them - no handshakes, fistbumps, hugs, etc. I think that's a good idea for all of us. That said, Comic Cons are touchy experiences - I pick up a comic book and look at it, put it down, you pick it up, I touch an escalator rail after someone sneezed on it, you get the (revolting) idea. It's kind of impossible to be totally safe.

  • ECCC still has - interestingly - Thursday, Friday and Sunday tickets available. I was actually going to post on this and speculate whether the Emerald City star is fading, but right now I'm just thinking: will people turning in their tickets find takers? Once it would have been a sure thing, asking Lyte to find you a buyer. Now I don't know.

  • All over the country, "officials" - of all stripes - are asking people not to cancel events like voting and that presumably includes nerd festivals.

This situation is developing rapidly; it's hard to say where we'll be in three days and if ECCC guests will cancel and if maybe we'll all be living in an apocalyptic medical nightmare next week. For now, do your research and take whatever precautions you feel are necessary. And keep an eye on this situation as it evolves so you can make the best choices for you.

4 Hotel Day reminders

23 FEBRUARY 2020

Just a quick warning: Hotel Day hasn't been announced yet, but we can almost certainly expect it in March or April - and if you haven't yet, you should get ready. That means:
  1.  Make sure you have enough room on your (or someone's) credit card for a 2-night deposit. This isn't something you can put off; when you lock down your room, that deposit is required. 
  2. Get clear with prospective roommates on who's bunking with who, how much you're all willing to pay and who's willing to sleep on an air mattress, sofa, etc.
  3. Decide which downtown and non-downtown hotels you prefer and which ones you can accept. If you're new to CCI's hotel sale, you'll get to select your top 6 downtown and non-downtown hotels - but you can easily wind up assigned a hotel you didn't pick.
  4. If you're willing to take an Early Bird room, grab it now. That option goes away before the hotel lottery goes live and the good rooms disappear before that - so don't wait any longer and commit.

I'll post more details on successfully navigating the sale as we get closer. Those of you who are joining me at Emerald City, you're probably hoping the hotel lottery doesn't happen until we get back. Hotel Day 2019 didn't happen until April so we might get our wish - but play it safe anyhow.

It's time to be practical and pick an Early Bird room

22 JANUARY 2020

The Early Bird sale is live! Most of you already know what that is and how you feel about it; this blog post is for the rest of you.

Tender young first-timers have no idea of how grim the SDCC hotel lottery really is. All of the special luck and positive karma you normally have will fail you during that lottery, even if you lead a charmed life otherwise. A very few people wind up with downtown cream of the crop rooms; most get a distant room or nothing at all. There's the waitlist, there's the wrangling and trading and dealing of rooms that go on between attendees, but by and large it's just a horrendous and devastating process.

But then there's Early Bird. This opportunity - unsung, unloved but immensely useful - lets you book a room now. You need to pay up front and it's nonrefundable. The room won't be downtown but it will be on the shuttle route. You can book it and settle back, serene and secure from now until July, while the rest of us crawl over broken glass through hell. Just be aware: the Early Bird option will only stay live for a few weeks and then shut down before the lottery. So you can't wait and see how you do, then grab a room. You have to choose now. It's a quintessential Comic-Con dilemma, isn't it?

My hotel pick for Early Bird is once again Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina. It's a very quick shuttle ride up Harbor (just 3 miles so any Ubering isn't going to kill your wallet either) and you'll still feel reasonably close to the action. This hotel is better than what many of you will get in the lottery - so please consider it.

You can book your Early Bird room here.

Let's talk about SDCC hotels

12 JANUARY 2020

Happy New Year. It's kind of a weird time for an SDCC nerd, isn't it? We're past the badge sales - and have started making alternate plans in some cases - and we're still months out (probably) from the hotel lottery and other sales. It feels like winter is the season to sit back, settle in with Star Trek: Picard and catch up on any comics we've missed.

But it isn't! Not completely, at least. See, this is also the season to think ahead to your Comic-Con lodgings. Nerds in the know are already booking back-up hotel rooms in anticipation of the annual bloodbath known as Hotel Day, Hotelpocalypse and the San Diego Comic-Con hotel sale.

How You Can Book a Hotel Room

I know there are lots of first-timers swimming through our virtual aquarium this year, so I'm going to review the hotel reservation process for those of you looking forward to your inaugural SDCC. Warning: it's grim.

1. You can book your own hotel room whenever you please. However, because of the vast number of people pouring into the area during SDCC - not just attendees but vendors, creators, studios, staff and guests - the prices are sky-high on the regular market. There are hostels available but the reports coming out of these are pretty dismal. Airbnb and the like are an option, but of course the demand for these is also competitive.

2. You can wait and book your room through CCI for a more reasonable price. They offer two options:
  • You can book a room through the Early Bird sale. I recommend this because you can choose your hotel and the prices are good and it's completely stress-free. However, you must pay up front, it's non-refundable and the hotels are not downtown.
  • You can participate in the hotel lottery. This is far worse than the badge sale. You can request your top picks but there's no guarantee you'll get one - or get a room at all. Only a tiny number of people actually get a downtown room in walking distance of the Con. Most of us wind up assigned to a motel out in the hinterlands or we get that tragic email informing us we didn't get a hotel at all. At that point, some people start trading rooms and offering to room with or take in strangers. Then people wait for the waitlist to open, at which point they scramble for the scraps that are left.

It's not for the faint of heart. I have played every role possible in the SDCC hotel mayhem. I've gotten the dreaded "no hotel room for you" email. I've wound up assigned at Town and Country. Last year I got the Marriott Marquise in some kind of incredible lucky strike fever dream. I've traded rooms away and received them from benevolent strangers.

But one thing I always do, because I am an intensely practical sort, is to book a safety room whenever possible.

Booking a fallback room used to be a lot easier. There were years when friends would sigh because they "only" had a fully refundable backup room booked at the Horton - you know, right next to the Con. Now most of us would sell a kidney to be guaranteed a room that close. It's tough out there and while some new hotels will spring up and offer a crazy good rate one year, they're wise to us and raising their rates the next.

Booking Your Backup Room

Here's what I would advise. Yes, look around now (if you haven't already) and see what you can grab. Obviously your ideal backup requires no deposit and/or is fully cancellable and refundable. I booked such a room - not at my dream lodgings but the hotel is in walking distance and I can jettison it if I do well in the hotel sale. I also saw a different downtown room about half a mile from the Con for 279/night or so - nonrefundable and not luxurious by any means, but that's still a good deal to lock down IMO.

First-timers, in your anticipatory flush of joy, you may think any room is good - but you'll still benefit from taking the reins in your hands. Think now about:
  • What $$$ are you willing to spend on your hotel room?
  • How close do you want to be to the Con? Do you want to party all night in the Gaslamp? Get away from the noise and crowds? 
  • How much stuff might you buy and take back to your room?
  • Will you be cosplaying and want a room nearby for repairs and changes?
  • Who are you rooming with? What's their budget?

Maybe the Early Bird shuttle life is fine with you. If so, do it and don't look back when it goes live. But if you are one of those downtown-or-die people (I am) then start hunting around online. And be flexible. Maybe you and a larger group of friends agree to go in on a more expensive but refundable room just in case, and then you're able to find something better in the hotel lottery and can cancel it. Maybe you book a backup that's not great, but you're able to grab 2 nights at a much better hotel off the waitlist. Be creative and develop tiers of options so no matter how well or how badly the lottery goes for you, you have a room you can live with.

And don't fall into despair the first time you start looking for a room. This is an ongoing process that can take months. You will find something. Starting early, being strategic and patient, and working with others is the key. Good luck.

It's time to spin the Nerd Wheel of Fate: SDCC Open Registration is here

16 NOVEMBER 2019

10:17 am

So that was a pretty balanced badge sale, I feel. Patterns I noticed:
  • People who did well in Returning Registration did not do well in Open Reg. I'm in this category, although I did get picked while there were still Thursday/Sunday badges live.
  • A decent number of first-timers scored good badges. While this may not feel positive for those of you who got nothing, it's fun to add new blood to the community and see SDCC through fresh eyes.
  • Preview Night seemed harder to get than ever. If you really wanted it and didn't get it, remember that recent Preview Nights have featured amazing offsites like ScareDiego. You'll find plenty to do.
  • People seem less dismayed about getting Thursday/Sunday. I attribute this to the greater interest in offsites - attendees know they'll stay entertained in or out of the convention center. And veterans know that taking a break mid-Con can save their sanity (and their feet.)
  • But overall, an SDCC badge sale is a tough challenge and you really can't count on a victory.

If you didn't get a badge today, you may feel pretty miserable. Give yourself a few days to lick your wounds, then start making Plan B. Emerald City STILL has all 4 days available. New York Comic Con is attainable (mostly) and just as big and fun as SDCC. Dragon Con is a great alternate for a summer Con. You have lots of options so don't be myopic and think SDCC is the only show in town. It's not.

If you just got your first SDCC badge today - congratulations. The hotel sale is still months away so all you need to do right now is learn about the Con and make some friends. Visit digital communities like the blogs, Friends of Comic-Con, etc. and ask all the questions you want - someone will help. But also read up on available resources because you can learn a lot that will help you get the most out of your Con. Yes, just being there is fun but it can also be chaotic - so figuring out the lay of the land in advance will help you have a great time.

It's only the middle of November.  Whether today was good or bad for you, we're a long way from SDCC - so I hope you have a beautifully nerdy winter.

9:26 am

Tough sale for me and everyone who's checked in with me. Not one of us out of at least 30 sessions has gotten picked. Brutal!

How are you faring?

9:01 am

And we're on. CCI has dedicated this badge sale to late president John Rogers, which is very sweet. 

8:23 am PST

It ends today - your uncertainty as to whether you'll attend SDCC 2020. Remember when we thought 2020 would mean a massively expanded convention center and enough badges for everyone? Obviously that didn't happen. Which means we're still battling as fierce odds as ever.

A few last minute tips - stay in the game to the bitter end. Even if you're watching all badge types sell out and you are outraged at the idea of you, an A-level elite nerd, possessing merely a Sunday badge - just grab it. Make a weekend out of it, do the offsites, and then swing back into Return Registration next fall for a victory march. Also important: if you're working with a group, don't bail just because you secured your badge. Stay in and see if you get picked so you can help out your mates.

Finally, screenshot everything if you have a problem. CCI is pretty reasonable if you can prove you were a victim of a glitch. And double finally - pay people quickly if they buy you a badge. Don't take advantage of our little community's goodwill, because it's one of the nicest things about SDCC.

Regardless of how things pan out for you today - please remember there is always another Con. San Diego Comic-Con can be magical but it can also be frustrating, expensive, humid and tedious. If you don't get a badge today, it's natural to feel devastated. But please remember there are other great Cons you can go to.

That said - good luck. I'll post what I hear.

Prepping for SDCC Open Reg

13 NOVEMBER 2019

Open Registration - your last chance to attend San Diego Comic-Con 2020 - is this weekend. Some of you may be prepared; many of you probably aren't. I say that based on the number of people (okay, not that many, but a few) who contacted me in the middle of Returning Reg to ask if I could get them a badge. And these were existing attendees who should know better!

If you don't know better, you're not reading this - because those people manage their Comic-Con life in a haphazard manner. But if you're still new to SDCC and maybe navigating your first badge sale without an experienced guide, you might want to review these tips:

  • Be prepared to not get a badge. Go in with an attitude that it's nice if you get one, okay if you don't. There are other Cons. Try to make yourself believe it. Because Open Reg is brutal.

  • Follow the instructions. There's no wiggle room in terms of late entries to the waiting room or trying to use a registration code twice. If you haven't already, test your tech. Have a good credit card on hand. Use a real laptop in a stable location instead of trying to do this on your phone in a parking lot. And let your household members know that you are entering a pressure cooker of an hour where you're liable to snap if they try to bother you.

  • If you do get picked during the sale, calm down and take your time. Even laidback people get flustered during an SDCC badge sale. The last thing you want to do is pick the wrong days or forget to include someone - so don't rush. That said, don't waste too much time trying to track someone down because their Member ID isn't working. At some point, move on.

  • If you get in toward the end of the sale and discover that only Thursday/Sunday or just Sunday are left - grab them and check out. You can debate the merits of those days with yourself later. Personally I believe they are well worth it, especially for first-timers looking for a toehold in the SDCC ecosystem. But if you decide otherwise, you can always turn them in.

  • Finally, if you don't receive an email with a registration code - check your Member ID account. It should be there with the link.

My own badge is squared away, but I will be in the sale to help others - and I'll live-blog the sale as always. Good luck.

Today is the ECCC badge sale

23 OCTOBER 2019

1:09 pm

4 day tickets are sold out.

12:58 pm

Celebrity and Comic Fan Premium Packages are sold out - 4 day are still available.

12:16 pm

 And it's over for me. How about you?

Word of caution: when you confirm your tickets, there is a teeny little link to book your hotel. Don't miss it.

12:02 pm

We're in the queue....

10:23 a.m.
It's a special day for PNW nerds - the day when the (digital) gates to Emerald City Comic Con open and we lock down our badges.

If you're an ECCC veteran, remember that you can choose from premium packages this year; if you're new to ECCC and/or ReedPop, be aware that you can book your hotel at the same time. Also be aware that your odds of getting a full badge are good only if you get into the queue on time. This isn't as nuts as an SDCC badge or hotel sale, but it's still competitive.

I'll be in the sale with you and I'll post what I hear and see.

Will we have 2 ECCC badge sales next year?

21 OCTOBER 2019

This Wednesday, 23 October at noon PST, tickets and hotels for Emerald City Comic Con go live. In some ways, this ticket sale will be exactly what you're used to. You can buy a 4-day package for $145 or buy each day separately for slightly more.

But - plot twist! This year, ECCC has come out with "premium packages" for the dedicated fan who also has a little extra cash to burn. While these packages are intriguing in themselves, what really interests me is that each promises "Access to 2021 Advanced Ticket Presale." That's explained further as "2020 Premium badge holders will have first access to ECCC 2021 tickets Cost." (No typos - that's exactly what it says.)

In other words, much like NYCC, we're apparently looking at two ECCC badge sales next year - but instead of dividing between last year's attendees and the general public, it will be between premium attendees and the rest of us. Yes, just when you decide you really don't need a fancy overpriced premium ticket, you realize you probably will need to buy one if you want to lock down 2021. Tricky, tricky, ReedPop.

These packages include:
  • Celebrity Fan - $299: private lounge at the Hyatt, reserved seating for 2 Main Stage panels, fast pass for photo ops and autographs, various merch.
  • Comic Fan - $275: private lounge by Artists' Alley, early access to the floor, advance access to guests, various merch.
  • Family - $350: good for 2 adults and 4 kids. Again, access to a private family lounge, food vouchers, some early access, merch discounts.
I don't know how I feel about this. I fully support premium packages that offer perks like reserved seating. The idea that I'm handicapped for next year's badge sale unless I pony up is annoying. I don't really care about private lounges and I'm long past the race-for-the-floor stage. So while I initially decided to roll out for the Comic Fan package, doubts are beginning to creep in. I'm curious how others feel about it?

If you're on the fence for the entire show, remember that Lyte is there to relieve you of your tickets, should life interfere. Tragically, this was me last year - and Lyte made the whole process very easy. Presumably it's just as easy to await tickets for sale as well. So if you find yourself on either end of that exchange, whether you can't go or you didn't buy tickets in time, you should be fine.

That said, don't bank on tickets being turned in. If you really want to be at Emerald City in March, be in that queue on Wednesday. Badges will go very quickly. Make sure you lock down your hotel room as well.

I'll live blog the sale Wednesday, with an eye on which tickets sell out first, the general or premium.  Stay tuned.

Returning Reg is happening

12 OCTOBER 2019

9:54 am

Well. That was one of the smoothest badge sales ever. I worked with a small local group this year and we did quite well. My ancient (but badge sale-lucky) laptop that wheezes like an old man died at 8:53 a.m.. Ominous, but I was able to adapt and I got a Preview Night badge faster than I could believe. Then it seemed like nothing happened for a while. People were saying badges must be going slowly... but ultimately it didn't seem radically off from previous years. Someone in my group was able to buy all 4 days at 9:40 am, right before Saturday sold out, apparently. If you remember the horror show days where people regularly got booted out of the system or the whole shebang would crash, you have to admit CCI is running a decent operation now.

Most everyone I spoke to online/texted got badges but there were a few sad nerds today. If that's you, buck up and do what you have to do to prevail in Open Reg - which probably isn't far away.

How did your morning go?

8:24 am

The day we've been waiting for is here! Hope you are not sleep deprived and over caffeinated like I am, and you're approaching this with some semblance of calm and perspective. But probably you're just as anxious as everyone else.

Problems so far: nothing terrible that I've heard, other than a resolved issue with getting kicked out of the waiting room. I'll keep posting what I hear. Share what's happening to you!

Are you ready, steady?

SDCC badge sale refresher

9 OCTOBER 2019

San Diego Comic-Con Returning Registration is just 2 days away. Are you ready? Are you nervous? Have you already practiced all the steps several times in your mind?

You probably don't need to; SDCC badge sales have been pretty consistent for years now. But if somehow other people have bought your badges for you and this is your first time at the wheel - let's review.

How it works

1) On Saturday morning, you'll click the link you got in your email from CCI today (which is also in your Member ID account) and input the code that was also in that email/your Member ID account. You want to do this before 9 am PST. A minute late and you won't get into the sale.

2) Once you're in the waiting room, you'll probably nervously text your friends, check Twitter, worry about the flakiest person in your buying group/circle of friends. If you're working with enough people, inevitably someone will experience a dead laptop, hangover or personal crisis that prevents them from participating in the sale. OR you'll have the opposite happen in a bit of luck - someone will send you their code to use since they've decided not to go to SDCC next year.

3) Finally it will be zero hour and the sale will start at 9 a.m. PST. And... not much will happen at first. There will be a spinning blue circle and a yellow bar of CCI's nerd jokes. They'll assure you that people are being moved into random groups. You'll wonder if people are finally buying badges yet. Then you'll see someone crow about getting a Preview Night badge - and at the moment, your real anxiety will begin as you wait to be chosen.

4) Once you're picked for a session, your waiting room will automatically convert to a very intuitive interface that asks your member ID and last name and how many people you're buying for. Do not screw that up. In fact, don't rush at any point through this process. You've got time. Slow down and make sure you input the correct information. The last thing you want is to give up a spot or only get your friend a Sunday badge when Preview Night was available.

5) You'll do the same for the other people you're buying for, inputting their last names and Member IDs and then choosing the days you all want - and doing all of it very carefully. Note: just because it's your code that got you into the waiting room (or someone else's code), that doesn't mean you have to enter the Member ID and last name associated with that code. In fact, if someone else already got you a badge, you can buy for 3 other people when you get picked.

6) At this point, you will advance (after double checking everything) and pay with a credit card. Again, slow down and make sure you enter everything correctly. It's not uncommon for hearts to pound and hands to shake through a badge sale, so try to be calm and focus on being accurate. Errors are common and I know attendees who are carrying grudges to this day because of a friend accidentally costing them a badge years ago.

7) Once you pay, you're done - there's no next stage of booking a hotel like there is with some other Con ticket sales.


  • Screenshot everything you can. I always send a picture of my final screen with all the names and days on it to whoever I bought for - it's a little piece of reassurance for them until their email confirmation comes in. And screenshots can save you if something doesn't go through.

  • Double check last name and Member ID spellings before the sale - but if you still can't get someone's to validate, check with them and then move on to someone else if they don't respond.  Don't waste a spot because someone flubbed their own information.

  • Even if you're disappointed because you couldn't get Saturday/the whole show, take what you can get. This is Returning Registration; you can try to upgrade in Open Reg. And even if you get "only" a Sunday or Thursday/Sunday, it's still worth it.

  • Test your technology and lock down your funds ahead of time. If you're the first one picked in your buying group, can you afford to buy 3 Preview Night badges on your credit limit? If not, borrow someone else's card.

  • Follow good buying group etiquette - be organized and stay in real time communication to troubleshoot any difficulties and understand everyone's badge status. Pay promptly. Share screenshots. And remember CCI's threat to cancel all badges bought in the same session if 1 of them is sold on the black market. You want to make sure you're working with people you trust.

  • Take your whole weekend into account, especially if you're emotionally invested in this badge sale. (And who isn't?) Don't descend into some chemical-fueled wormhole Friday night and then crawl hungover to your laptop on Saturday morning (or wake up hours after Ret Reg is over.) And think about how you'll feel if you don't get a badge. That's always a possibility so carve out some Saturday space where you can afford to marinate in self-pity.

Finally - I know many of us are being orbited by first-timers ready for Open Registration. Make sure they make a Member ID account now. Do not wait. CCI will shut that down without warning. And it's quite likely that Open Reg will be in November, though that's not certain.

I'll be live-blogging the sale like always. Good luck.