Happy August, GNP readers!
Well, it took me long enough, but I’m finally carrying on a GNP tradition: the G-Fest Post Mortem write up! Three weeks might’ve passed since the con wrapped up its four days of festivities, but the memories of a weekend well spent are still rattling around in my brain, and I think they’re more than worthy of sharing.
Simply put, this year’s G-Fest was truly incredible, both as an attendee and a participant.
For those who might be unaware, G-Fest – the largest gathering of Godzilla fans in the world – has been held annually since 1993. Unfortunately (but understandably), the con – like so many other things – had to be put on the back burner during the tumultuous years of 2020 and 2021. For fans like myself, it was a particularly big blow in a duo of years already filled with sadness, isolation, and fear. G-Fest has always been my place to recharge and re-center among like-minded people (and blow money on expensive toys, of course). I knew that canceling the con was necessary, but I missed it terribly.
The three-year wait for the return of G-Fest was a tense “will it or won’t it?” waiting game. But fortunately, by the time 2022 rolled around, the world had gotten a bit safer. More and more cons began responsibly returning after multi-year hiatuses, and G-Fest XXVII was officially locked in for its usual mid-July slot.
And despite the craziness of the economy and the tightness of my finances, I knew I wasn’t gonna miss it.
In so many ways, this year felt like a new start for the con. A kind of “soft reboot” full of both familiar and new elements. It was the first G-Fest in three years, and the first to be held at their new digs in the Hyatt Regency. A lot of the “old guard” of organizers didn’t attend, and things like the Artist Alley and the Kaiju Konfessions wrap-up party didn’t make it to this year’s event.
But in most ways, it was business as usual. There were panels, art and model rooms, and celebrity guests. The beloved in-house channel (despite being glitchy the whole weekend) made its return, as did movie screenings at the Pickwick and the always amazing costume parade.
However, the pervading conceit behind this year’s con wasn’t the movies, the panels, the parade or whatever the heck happens at those crazy after-hours parties (which I’ve never attended). It was the anticipation. It was the built-up excitement and hope to finally return to a bubble of like-minds and a common interest. It was a desperate need for us to reconnect with each other.
This year’s G-Fest (more so than any other G-Fest I’ve attended) was all about the people.
And thereby hangeth a tale to tell.
On July 14th, I braved the insane gas prices of mid-2022 and hit the road for a solo five-hour drive to Chicago. I arrived just in time to meet up with a group of friends for the first of the Pickwick’s Double-Double Bill screenings of the day, which included Godzilla vs. Hedorah and Godzilla vs. Megalon (both staring one of the con’s special guests, Hiroyuki Kawase). My group included Robert Monsarrat (my “brother in kaiju” and collaborator on “Project: Kayama”), Daikaiju Danielle Fey and her mom Allison (two of my favorite people on the planet and extended family to me), Nate Marchand (the purveyor of The Monster Island Film Vault and about 47 other podcasts), and Elijah Thomas (podcaster, researcher, non-sleeper, good friend, and one of many awesome people I’ve gotten to know over the last three years, but had never met in person).
After the movies, I checked into my hotel room (which wasn’t the room I’d reserved, but I did get a balcony out of the deal!). The Hyatt Regency was an experience all on its own; the place was opulent as all get out, and featured massive ceilings, long walkways, cylindrical glass elevators that ascended on pillars, and probably 14 restaurants. It felt like walking into a sci-fi movie; I spent the entire weekend comparing it to the underground Krell civilization from the 1956 classic Forbidden Planet, and I still stand by the accuracy of that comparison.
After settling into my room, I experienced a major high point of Thursday: getting to walk into the dealers room early and meet a few awesome friends that I’d been dying to see. First up was finally getting to meet the amazing Alyssa Charpentier (author, musician, poet, YouTuber, and all-around creative powerhouse) in person for the first time. She was there to sell her debut novel “Daughter Darkness” and an assortment of other written works (all of which she’d sold by Saturday!) Getting to talk, laugh, and even sing with her in person was a highlight of the whole con.
Next was meeting up with my bud Chris Oglio at Seismic Toys. Chris remains one of the kindest people I’ve ever encountered within this fandom, and he was generous enough to let me reserve a toy a whole day before the room officially opened. How cool is that?
Before I knew it, Friday had dawned and it was time to prepare for another big part of the weekend: hosting panels! As I mentioned in my previous update (and multiple times on social media), I ended up on EIGHT panels at this year’s G-Fest, and the first two – anniversary celebrations for Godzilla vs. Hedorah and Godzilla vs. Gigan – were actually two of the first panels held at the con. I thoroughly enjoyed being on both, and multiple people stopped me after each panel (and at various other points during the weekend) to tell me how much they’d enjoyed what I had to say. Talk about humbling!
The rest of my Friday was spent blowing wads of cash in the dealers room, attending panels (including the opening ceremonies, which reduced me to tears during the “in memoriam” video), and talking with people. So, so many people. I got to finally meet up with the wonderful Kaiju Kim and the super-talented Neil Riebe, chat with a lot of the dealers, and have conversations with random people who I was standing next to in lines or who sought me out to ask questions.
On Saturday, I joined the Terror of Mechagodzilla retrospective panel and the Kaiju Writers panel, both of which went great! It was during this time that I finally put on my GNP tee shirt to wear around the con, and this was when the truly incredible part of the weekend began.
After putting the shirt on, I started getting stopped by people. Every five minutes or so for the next few hours, someone would walk up, tell me they were a big fan of what I did, and thank me. It was… well, to be honest, I’m not quite sure how to adequately describe how it made me feel. It was amazing. Beyond amazing, in fact. And it just kept happening, over and over again.
One fan shook my hand for a solid 30 seconds as he explained how he was so excited to meet me, and how he listened to every podcast I’d been on. Another stopped me to ask questions about upcoming projects and told me how much he enjoyed and respected my work. Yet another pulled me aside after a panel, told me it was “an honor” to meet me, and asked for a picture with me.
Needless to say, it left me speechless, humbled, and emotional. I still lack the words to describe how much it all meant to me.
At a certain point during the weekend, I lost count of all the people who shared their kindness. The sheer number of fans who wanted to chat, asked me questions, and clapped for me when I introduced myself on my panels was beyond anything I could’ve expected.
If you’re among them, please know how deeply appreciated you are.
The rest of Saturday passed in a blur of dealers room visits, amazing panels (with Matt Burkett and Norman England’s “Behind the Kaiju Curtain” panel being a huge highlight), amazing conversations, cheap cheeseburgers, and amazing costumes. One of the best moments of the weekend came when I finally got to meet the one and only Monster Island Buddies (YouTuber extraordinaire and one of the most painfully funny guys in the fandom) and – get this – he saw my GNP shirt, recognized me, and gave me a hug! I certainly wasn’t expecting that!
Sunday is always a melancholy day at G-Fest; while the con wasn’t over yet, a feeling of impending closure hung over the whole day like a cloud. But I didn’t have time to be sad, mostly because four of my eight panels were spread out over that last wonderful day. The King Kong vs. Godzilla 60th Anniversary panel (viewable on YouTube at the link) was great fun (I even brought my copy of the dinosaur picture book Dr. Johnson uses in the American version to set on the table), and the Akira Takarada fan tribute panel was an emotional but healing hour of personal stories, remembrance, and celebration.
Between trips to the dealers room, I connected with even more fans and friends: Matt Burkett of Monstrosities, Jay Key from TokuToyTown, my pals Benny and Max (who accompanied me on G-Tour in 2016), Greg Noneman, Brenden Morley, Kevin Horn, Avery Guerra, Matt Walsh… just so many amazing people.
Sunday was also the day I finally got to reconnect with the fine fellows at Aardvark Tees, and to finally meet people like Ron Bonk (the mastermind behind SRS Cinema) and kaiju toy maker Fumiaki Kawakami (the creator of the Y-MSF toy line). It was also autograph day, and getting to see Tomoko Ai again, meet Kawase-san, and speak with Akira Takarada’s son and daughter-in-law was beyond special.
My last two panels – a script doctor session with Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah and the Kaiju Podcasters and YouTubers panel – went amazing, and my final adventure for the weekend was to join Kaiju Kim for a fun and emotional post-convention livestream. By this time, I’d long since checked out of my room and beginning my inevitable five-hour drive home was becoming more and more necessary. I simply didn’t want to leave, and by the time I’d finally said my goodbyes and given my final hugs, it was nearly 9:00 PM.
I rolled into my little corner of Ohio at 2:00 AM, and five hours later, I was getting ready for work. After three years of anticipation and four days of soul-affirming camaraderie, it was back to the grind.
But (and this is gonna sound cheesy, so bear with me) my heart was so full, that I couldn’t be too sad.
At the end of the day, being back at G-Fest after so many years was beyond cathartic. The genuine love and support I got from friends and readers was tremendous and emotional, and the many kind words I got from fans of the GNP, my academic writing, and my podcast appearences were, to put it mildly, remarkably humbling.
Like I said before, this G-Fest was all about the people. And if you were one of those people – whether you were a friend, a supporter, or both – I want you to know that you enriched my weekend experience and warmed my heart in equal measure. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all.
And I don’t know about you guys, but I’m already planning for next year. G-Fest might’ve just ended, but the next one can’t come soon enough.
Thank you all for reading, and for being the best fans a writer could ask for. More GNP content is coming your way soon, so stay tuned, and remember: live every day like it’s G-Fest!