Sage: This isn’t a normal time — not to go to a con or to eat a sandwich or anything else. But Gallifrey One 2017 still happened. Not rain, not sleet, and apparently not the speedy death of democracy can keep Doctor Who fans from gathering yearly at the LAX Marriott over President’s Day Weekend (THE IRONY) to hug, drink, and talk shop. L.I. Who happened the weekend after the election, and the general mood of the con was utter shock and numbness. But a few months passed, and the next geeky fan get together we attended was basically Resistance Central. Gally1 was political af this year without the despair and depression that can come with that. There was camaraderie and joy and and a lot of “hell no, we won’t go.” The whole weekend felt like a declaration of who we are, what we stand for, and what we absolutely will not abide. Is that a fair characterization?
Kim: I feel like I stumbled through a lot of LI Who in a state of bewilderment. That’s not to say that it wasn’t an AMAZING experience (remember when we interviewed Paul McGann on the mainstage?) because it was. I just had never experienced a con where the main feeling was almost…”Is this the right thing to do at this moment? Is this whole experience silly when you look at what’s going on in the world?” Gally felt like a giant bottle of Gatorade to my parched soul. It was revitalizing. It was a time where we could immerse ourselves in both our fandom AND our friendships. I left Los Angeles on Monday afternoon physically exhausted but emotionally? I was raring to go.
TL;DR, yes, that’s absolutely a fair characterization. And it’s a big reason why this con is so freaking special to every person who comes and why it’s the CANNOT MISS convention on my calendar every year.
What blows my mind the MOST about Gally is that the attendance is right up around 3000 people, and yet it feels like a family, especially the more times you go back. I know there are a TON of people there I don’t know yet every face at the con looks familiar. You can barely walk more than a few yards on that con floor without running into someone you know and having a chat or hugging that person you flailed in line for a photo-op the previous year. How special is that?
Sage: I can only speak confidently for myself, but I’d wager that I’m not the only person at this con who went through a period of my life where I felt invisible and socially inept. (Everyone: “Yeah, dummy, it’s called high school.”) My point is that Gally brings together a lot of scrappy folks who haven’t had it easy, and this is a place where they can strut confidently down the halls in whatever it is they want to wear, live their fandom out loud, and be surrounded by people ready and willing to embrace them. It feels like I’m reaching back in time to tap the friendless 13-year-old in the Han Solo t-shirt and tell her that someday she’ll find her tribe.
But enough teenage sob stories. Let’s talk about the important stuff: ribbons.
The Gally ribbon game is always strong, but this year it was TOO LIT. “Black Lives Matter.” “Don’t You Think He Looks Tired? (with clip art of Tr*mp)” “Bustin’ fascists makes me feel good.” Those practical pronoun declarations!
Swapping ribbons has always been a big part of the fun for me, because it’s like I’m getting little pieces of everybody I meet to take home with me. And though there were the requisite Doctor Who quotes and podcast promo designs, I was so delighted to see that people were using those little scraps of fabric to make a real statement. And you can tell us in the comments if it happened to you, but I personally didn’t see anyone take any shit for a political ribbon. I really hope that’s representative of the whole weekend.
Kim: One of my favorite things in the build-up to Gally is the Ribbon Exchange group on Facebook, where everyone shares the designs they are planning to bring to the con. What’s super fun about that group is that it feels like people took inspiration from each other and one politically themed ribbon would spawn at least five more. I think it was a combination of the current state of the world and the fact that we only had “Doctor Mysterio” to provide inspiration for new ribbons that REALLY spurred people to up their creativity. There were so many Star Wars ribbons! My final ribbon count was 215 and there are STILL a few ribbons that I am SUPER upset that I didn’t get. Namely the “But when all is said and done, Saxon has beliefs, Tr*mp has none.” one. I will cry over not getting that one for a long time.
Speaking of taking inspiration from each other, I have to bring up our Punk Companions Cosplay. What started as an idea inspired by some Punk!Bucky art we saw at San Diego Comic Con became so much more than that. We debuted the Punks at LI Who as just a fun chance for our girl group to get creative and have fun together because we aren’t screen accurate cosplayers, for the most part. And it’s a cosplay that works the best within a large group because individually we may not be recognizable but when we’re together, it’s like “Of course! There’s Clara, there’s Romana, etc.” The Punks got taken to the next level for Gally when Alyssa (@WhovianFeminism) suggested that we add protest signs themed to all our companions. It was perfect because we did our cosplay on the same day as the first General Strike, so it felt like we got to have the best of both worlds – Being massively creative Doctor Who nerds while making our own political statement. And the best thing about it? We didn’t get any sort of blow back from it. Other than a few trolls on the Nerdist Instagram post anyway.
Another really important aspect of Gally is that it feels like a safe space for you to push yourself outside your comfort zone. While I didn’t do any formal panels this year, I definitely upped my participation level, which is always something I’ve been HORRIBLE about. I’ve sat on the front row of “In Defense Of” EVERY YEAR and judged the hell out of the BS coming out of the participant’s mouths (which is the fun of the whole thing) but I’ve never had the guts to put myself on the line. It’s silly, really, because if you can’t make a fool of yourself at Gally, where can you? After Michelle’s triumphant performance at LI Who, I promised myself that I would do it. That didn’t stop me from breaking out into a cold sweat the moment Deb Stanish called my name though. “In Defense Of” is like an out-of-body experience in the BEST way. You just have to give no fucks in regards to whatever comes out of your mouth (I actually tied Tegan getting the snacks to women throughout history being water-bearers?! I don’t even know where that came from.) or turn your OWN criticism on topics into sarcastic defenses (Shippers NEED to be told by old school fans how to think about Doctor Who, you guys). I was RELIEVED when I finally was dethroned but it was the MOST FUN and I’m so glad I did it.
When you combine that experience with doing a live Comedy Sketch for Reality Bomb and participating in Paul Cornell’s “Would I Lie To You?” game show, so much of my panel experience was performance oriented and fly by the seat of your pants improv, which was a totally new thing for me. And it felt GOOD remembering that part of me that went kicking and screaming into my college improv troupe before I ended up loving it.