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  • Writer's pictureMatt Wilkins

My time at Legends Con: A Retrospective

By Marcel Ryan


On September 9 and 10, 2023, a fan-run convention focused on a celebration of the Star Wars Expanded Universe was held in Burbank, California. Despite living closer to the East Coast, I found myself on the West Coast around that time for a wedding and so decided to make a trip of it. I knew a few other friends who planned on going and I was looking forward to meeting up with them.

 




LegendsCon was held at the Burbank Marriott Convention Center, a mere walking distance from the Burbank Airport. It boasted an impressive line-up of EU authors and creatives, including Matthew Stover, Michael Stackpole, Barbara Hambly, Sean Stewart, Randy Stradley, Corinna Bechko, Abel G. Peña, Jason Fry, Shea Standefer, Joe Bongiorno, Henry Gilroy, Michael Kogge, Mike Hansen and Craig Miller.

 

Reflecting back on 2023, LegendsCon stands out as a clear highlight. I had an amazing time overall. While there were some things I would do differently (see my next article in this series for more on that), I thought that the convention was a success. In the days following the con, I went on several YouTube channels to talk about my experience there, including Matt Wilkins’ “A More Civilized Age” podcast, as well as Stupid Chainsaw Productions’ Legends podcast.

 

I had always intended to do a video on my own channel to talk about my time at the con, but the opportunity never materialized. So, I finally decided to put pen to paper and hammer out some of my recollections on how the two days went.

 

The most meaningful experience for me was being able to meet fellow Expanded Universe fans. Some of the people who attended are people I’ve known for a couple years but have never had the opportunity to meet in person. Others were people I met for the first time and subsequently befriended. It was a bit surreal to be surrounded by people who were just as passionate as I was about this part of Star Wars fandom. Case in point: on the Friday night before the first day of the convention, several of us hung out in the Marriott courtyard for a staggering six hours (maybe more), chatting about the EU, our hopes for the con and anything else that came to mind. Time flies when you’re having fun.

 



LegendsCon was a small convention. I estimated about 400-500 attendees in total. This turned out to be a major advantage when it came to engaging with the special guests. I have been to several larger conventions where fans barely have more than 30 seconds to a minute with special guests, due to the sheer number of individuals who are lined up to meet them. At LegendsCon, I never felt rushed when talking with any of the authors at their signing table. I even had the opportunity to talk with a few of them randomly on the convention floor as they walked around and engaged with the fans.

 

Every single guest that was invited to the convention was incredibly nice and generous with their time. I did not have a bad experience with a single individual. They were as delighted to see the fans as the fans were to see them. While I had the opportunity to speak with every guest that attended throughout the two days (a first for me in any convention setting), a few guests in particular made a significant impression on me and I wanted to briefly highlight them for posterity’s sake.

 

-        Matthew Stover: After the convention concluded on Sunday, Mr. Stover stuck around an additional hour to talk to some of us about his life and his work. He has a very earnest manner and instantly makes one feel as though they are welcome and respected. It’s no wonder his writing is so good. This is a person who fundamentally understands people and the hardships that life throws at us on a daily basis.

 

-        Abel Peña: In addition to being a huge fan of Waru (and therefore possessing taste far beyond your average mere mortal), Mr. Peña’s knowledge of the lore is extensive. You can bring up an obscure reference in his presence and chances are he knows exactly what you are talking about. I would also be remiss if I didn’t bring up the unmistakable coolness factor he possesses.

 

-        Sean Stewart: Mr. Stewart is a literary titan that does not get enough credit for it. Yoda: Dark Rendezvous is one of the best written novels in the EU. As I discovered shortly before the con, it turns out his non-Star Wars work is just as good. I could go on about his insightful remarks or his great sense of humor, but what made the biggest impression on me was his humility. I truly appreciated the time he took to engage with fans, myself included, on a very human level.

 

-        Joe Bongiorno: Mr. Bongiorno is pure magic. From the captivating way he talks about Star Wars and space opera more generally to the way he makes you feel like you’re the most important person in the room, I cannot say enough good things about him. I will never forget our conversation about the importance of preserving lost works.



Suffice it to say that I could legitimately write something about each and every one of the guests, but I wanted to keep this article to a respectable length and so I had to focus on the experiences that resonated the most with me on a personal level. I never grow tired of hearing from the other attendees on what their experiences with the guests were like. And, if I can at all drive home how positive the experience was for us fans, I can faithfully report that I have not heard of a single negative interaction at all in the months since the con.

 

When I wasn’t hanging out with friends or getting my books signed, much of time at the convention was spent running from panel to panel. And, oh my word, there were a lot of panels. On one of the days leading up to the con, I recall planning out with my friends Brennan and Alex what panels we wanted to attend. It was simply not humanly possible for us to attend all of them, but we managed to cover a lot of ground between the three of us.

 

For the most part, the panels that I attended were well-moderated and insightful. Some of the ones that stand out in my memory are Sean Stewart’s panel, the Supernatural Encounters panel, the NJO panel (the room was packed!), the Space Opera panel, and the Authors Geeking Out panel. These constitute a mere sampling of the panels I attended over the course of the two days. You may be able to find clips from some of them on YouTube if you look hard enough. Again, unlike some of the larger cons I have attended, there was a greater opportunity to ask questions during the Q&A sessions following each panel.




 

The other highlight of the convention was the focus on Supernatural Encounters: The Trial and Transformation of Arhul Hextrophon, a 1,000+ page tome written by Joe Bongiorno that focuses on the supernatural origins of the Star Wars universe and asks three fundamental questions: who we are, where we come from and where we’re going. It’s available for free in PDF and EPUB format on starwarstimeline.net. Physical copies were featured at the convention, in both paperback and hardback. Two of the editors on this project, Kyle and Patrick, were also in attendance at the con as part of the team of organizers and the two owners of the Legends Consortium LLC.

 

Some of you may know that I’ve been covering Supernatural Encounters in the form of a book club on my YouTube channel over the past several months. When I first gazed upon its intimidating form, I never dreamed I would be able to comprehend such eldritch knowledge and still retain my sanity. And yet, here I am, two thirds into the book with my sanity still (mostly) intact (I think). Regardless of your stance on its canonicity, I recommend checking out the PDF online if you have not already done so. In addition to the wonderful prose, extensive lore and meticulous research featured in the form of comprehensive endnotes, it boasts impressive artwork from Chris Cold and Guillaume Ducos that does not get nearly enough spotlight and praise.

 

After the two days were finished, it was very difficult to say goodbye to my friends. We all live pretty far away from one another and there’s no way of knowing when we’ll see each other again – hopefully LegendsCon II? While I managed to successfully lug all my signed books and comics back across the continent, I also came back with a restored sense of appreciation for the EU fandom. Regardless of our takes on any particular work, we are all united in our appreciation of this sandbox first created by George Lucas – the very stuff that dreams are made of.

 

On a parting note, I want to extend my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the organizers, the volunteers, the guests, the vendors and my fellow fans, all of whom came together to make this an unforgettable experience.

 

Hope to see you at the next one!



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