Sometimes life gives you gifts, and sometimes these gifts come wrapped in nice packaging and a neatly tied bow. Other times these gifts come in less than recognizable wrapping. Sometimes you have to go digging for them, and other times they hit you over the head, nearly taking you down, and it’s not until your vision is restored that you recognize it is even a gift at all.
This past week, I was fortunate enough to receive all these forms of gifts. And perhaps the most meaningful was the one that was hardest to accept.
I started the week with the anxious excitement of a kid waiting for the school year to finish. Galacticon was only a week away and I was going to reunite with many of my dear cast members after years of distance. We’re like family, so the distance has never made a difference. No matterhow many years pass, if we’re together, we’re a team. Even if we’re apart, we’re there for each other. We have the type of camaraderie that only comes from going through (excuse my language) shit together. Somewhere between the people you attended summer camp with and fellow soldiers at war, lies the strength of our bond. It helps that the BSG legacy extends far beyond our humble cast and crew. So many people across the world, or dare I say galaxy, are part of what makes Battlestar such a unique, powerful and important show.
When I started getting emails from the cast discussing the fact that the convention management had decided to move our hotel, and how this could be a sign of much greater problems, I started to feel a little discouraged. But as is typical for me, I wanted to believe everything was fine and that people were just over-reacting. I tend to be pretty laid back with these sorts of things, but in hindsight perhaps I should have taken notice.
In the same thread suddenly came a new development. It came from our faithful leader, Edward James Olmos. His presence amongst our group is no different than on the show. He commands authority through a consistent expression of love and character. He is powerful and larger than life, and as down to earth as they come. So when he told us that Kate Vernon and Michael Hogan had been cut from the roster, we paid attention. Then, only minutes later, he confirmed the news and informed us of his stance. If they don’t go, neither does he. A noble gesture and, knowing him, it didn’t come as a complete surprise. Still, the reality took some time to digest. I immediately started thinking about how I wanted to handle this. There were still so many unknowns: Why were they being cut? How was it being handled? Are they planing to cut anyone else? And indeed, not long after, that’s what they did.
I’ve never seen anything quite like it. “They just cancelled me.” “I just go cancelled too! CRAZY.” I don’t remember how many there were in all, the communication lines were still messy, and some people were deciding whether to go if still invited. Because I’d been in touch with the promoters for months, and even helped them secure Grace as a guest, I didn’t think they would have the nerve to cancel me, and I was right. In the end, it was me, Leah and Trucco still on the roster, and I couldn’t figure out whether I was glad or disappointed.
At first all I could think about were all the fans who’d bought tickets and had been looking forward to this event for months. Could I really just cancel? The implications of that felt like too much of a burden to carry. How would I make it up to them? How could I feel okay simply not showing up? Not to mention other personal implications that I won’t go into, but let’s just say I had lot riding on this convention and trip out West. I tried to put any of my selfish interests aside to evaluate how to make the right decision. And when I say “right,” I only mean what’s right for me. Everyone involved has their own values and considerations, which I could never pretend to know or understand. My focus was on what I evaluating to the best of my ability and trying not to be swayed by popular opinion, or “fan pressure” (yep, that’s a new thing I just made up).
So my first inclination was to uphold my commitment. I looked up the contract and discovered there was a clause that allowed either party to cancel the contract at any time without reason and with no consequence. It wasn’t even in fine print, so really, joke’s on us. But since they weren’t technically doing anything illegal, I made it okay. If they were having financial doubts, better to cancel than not pay... Right?
Despite voicing my decision to the rest of the cast and fans through social media, I didn’t feel resolved. When I thought about being there at the con, meeting the fans who had put up with the runaround, and inevitably supporting a business that doesn’t uphold its agreements, I just feeling lousy about the whole thing. But I didn’t see any other options; I still felt like cancelling wasn’t right.
Perhaps one of my most treasured gifts is the support and insight from my caring and thoughtful friends. They’re not necessarily the type of friends who necessarily give their opinions or advice, but rather ask the right questions to help me understand better which factors to weigh and shine a light on the areas I can’t see. With help, with lists, and with some problem solving, I came to the conclusion that I did not want to support a company who cancels on their guests. Period. Yes, they had been nice to me. Yes, it was two days before the event. A lot of things are shitty about it, but it really came down to an issue of integrity, or lack thereof.
Now, with more solidity in my stance, I needed to take action. My plane was set to leave in a matter of hours. There were people I needed to tell, negotiations I needed to make, and strategies I needed to generate. As I said earlier, my main concern was the people who had been looking forward to this event for months, some even two years. Maybe I’m extra sensitive, but the thought of not seeing little Savannah on her birthday, not getting to meet Leah’s son for the first time, or not getting to hug Tim the Cylon after a rough year, it broke my heart. The fact that my (biological) family in Vancouver were anticipating my arrival also didn’t help. So how could I make it all work?
I’ll admit. At first, I didn’t think I could. But I stayed up all night emailing, thinking, on the phone with airlines, with my family, with the lovely woman Cheryl from Galacticon who was still trying to make things work for people. Come morning, I called my friend who owns a local comic shop for help. Maybe he knew someone in Seattle who ran a shop I could sign at. He didn’t. But he knew a comic writer who might, so the two of them joined forces and within a few hours, I had a place to sign. I also had a deepening faith in people’s desire to help. And as the day went on, that faith just strengthened.
Fans stepped up and supported my decision to cancel the event. I had hoped that people would understand, but never did I think I’d get the response I got. The night before I’d interacted with a fan through Twitter. He was desperately calling out as he decided whether to board a plane to Seattle or not. I hadn’t announced my decision publicly yet, but I couldn’t just leave him hanging like that. I messaged him directly to tell him my plan, which at that point, wasn’t much. But his understanding and his appreciation in being considered not just in the result, but in the principle, affirmed for me that I was doing the right thing.
The rest of the story brought a series of events and interactions that, if there was any doubt in my faith in humanity, it has been restored completely. A friend stayed up late to create posters for the event. Fans reached out asking if I need help or shared ideas of how to make the event even more memorable. The Twitter and Facebook comments are too many to even acknowledge. And the interest from my friends who don’t even know anything about this part of my life has been humbling to say the least.
The day, and the weekend, offered many gifts; mostly in the form of wonderful memories, and some I'm even still unwrapping. I can wholeheartedly say we made lemonade, and they were damn good! I’d like to thank the following people specifically, and everyone else who came out or showed their support in some way. I was deeply moved by the whole experience and grateful to everyone who played a part.
- my friends who helped me mull it all over (you know who you are)
- Arcane Comics (for helping me make lemonade, figuratively and literally)
- Ron Marz (for hooking me up with the comic shop)
- Darren Carrera (for hooking me up with Ron who hooked me up with the comic shop)
- Herb Coultier (for making super awesome super last minute posters for the event)
- Amber Greenwalt and Savannah (for providing the motivation and inspiration to make it happen no matter what)
- Leah Cairns (for being an added inspiration to make it out West and for supporting me either way, and an honorable mention to my new pal Bodhi)
- the whole BSG cast (for affirming why we’re the luckiest cast not on television anymore #bsgfamilyforever)
- Aaron Douglas (for being a continued support and source of inspiration for how to make the best of things!)
- Gwendolyn King (for being an absolute angel and taking care of anything and everything. love you!)
- Emily Zimmerman (for being my long lost NY sister and letting me crash at her place)
- Tak H. @takkers99 (for reaching out and pledging support)
- all the fans who came out to the event and shared the lemonade!
If you want to read more about the weekend, the madness, and the awesomeness, here are a few places to visit:
- Savannah and Seattle #United -- Amber, Savannah's mom, recounts beautifully how the whole event went down for two awe-inspiring little girls. I feel so privileged and proud to know them and can't wait until our paths cross again!
- Galacticon Facebook Page -- I do not in any way promote slander or gossip, but if for some reason you can't sleep and want to see a very human account of the before, during and after, this is a good resource.
- Galacticon – A Look Inside The Promise of a Battlestar Galactica Reunion and Making Lemonade -- These lovely twins from Belgium have done an amazing job honoring BSG and made the best of the weekend too.
- My interview with SciFi Monkeys -- Had a lovely chat with Ronnie at SciFiMonkeys from inside the bowels of Arcane Comics.