Supplemental Log – Introducing Shoreleave 37
Supplemental Log – Introducing Shoreleave 37 is now available for downloading. Check it out here. Mike (Sori) and Steve (MidniteShadow) sit down with Mike Schilling, Publicity and Media Relations for the oldest fan-run science fiction convention on the east coast, Shore Leave in Hunts Valley, Maryland to talk about Shore Leave 37. G & T Show will have a representative, Janice (Neoma), present this year to cover the convention, interview celebrities and authors, and report back to us all of the fun she experienced attending the convention. Don’t miss this interview as we discuss everything Shore Leave has to offer their attendees this year.
After introductions, we jump straight into the interview with Mike. Shore Leave is one of the oldest fan operated conventions on the east coast and has been around for 37 years. They are doing something right to have survived this long. Mike has been in their Public Relations Department for some time now and is proud to spread the word about everything Shore Leave has to offer.
Sori asks, how did Shore Leave get started? Mike wasn’t there in the beginning. His first Shore Leave was Shore Leave 8. He joined The Star Trek Association of Towson, the association that puts on the convention around Shore Leave 14 or 15 and joined the committee a few years after that. He recounts the story he had heard about how the convention had been founded in 1978 and 1979. The founding members had noticed the number of conventions that were popping up in New York and elsewhere and decided to do something small scale on their own in their area. In July of 1979, they put together the first Shore Leave event.
Shore Leave was named after the first season Star Trek episode where anything you can think of, anything you can imagine for good or for bad was instantly created into reality. Mike appreciates science fiction, but he is a classic Trek fan. When people ask him to describe Shore Leave, he mentions what Spock said at the end of the episode about the planet. This is kinda like an Amusement Park – a place where people can go and see all kinds of fascinating things.
The first event was a one day event and took place at the third floor of the University Union Building at Towson University, his alma mater. The leap of faith that the initial founders took, wasn’t in putting on the first event, but deciding to proceed with a second one, at a major hotel and spanning three days. These high school and college students borrowed money from their families and put on Shore Leave 2 in 1980. Ever since then, they have managed to survive. Every year, except for the first one and Shore Leave 8, they had been at the same location, the Hunts Valley Inn. He describes the event as a three day party with a couple thousand of your closets friends that you never knew that you had. It has grown ever since then and they are very proud of the hard work they have put into keeping its tradition going. They are all volunteers, any profit that they make goes into the following year’s event. They do it because they love Star Trek, Science Fiction, Fantasy, fandom, and the friendships that they have created over the years. He believes that that effort and that feeling shows throughout the event.
Sori mentions that when G & T Show covers a convention, the theme song they use for is always Five Year Mission’s Shore Leave. Sori asks about this year’s event. Who are some of their guests and what events are they hosting?
Shore Leave may not be the biggest convention, and can’t compete with some of the larger 0nes in terms of celebrity guests. However, they try to find a balance in terms of their size to where there’s a buzz and energy that builds from the audience, without turning it into a mob scene where the human interaction between people is taken away. Whether you want to meet with a friend, or speak with a writer, scientist, or celebrity, you will be able to find some place quiet in order to do so. The Hunts Valley Inn can only hold 1500 people at a time and that seems to work well for what they seek.
For a convention their size, they are able to offer a lot of choices to their attendees, since different people come to different conventions for different things. Some people want autographs and photo ops and want to meet all of the celebrities they can. Others are there for the gaming aspects and spend all of their time in the gaming room. Others, including Mike, prefers the fan panel discussions, where groups of fans have passionate discussions on a variety of topics. Fan films and art shows, the big dance (Ten Forward), and the Costume Contest (The Masquerade) are some of the activities he mentions. Some of these activities are recent, but some have been around since the beginning of the convention.
His advice for fans attending Shore Leave for the first time includes: getting through registration, taking your program to a quiet corner, and start circling everything that you like. Most people will find that there is so much going on that they wish they could clone themselves in order to attend in everything. Saturday is their busiest day with ten to fourteen different tracks going on at the same time. Hard choices about what you want to do will have to be made. A person that comes to Shore Leave and isn’t able to find something to do, there must be something wrong with them. Weather it’s party, hang out with friends, go sight seeing, or any number of other activities.
The guest stars this year are a very diverse mix, even if they are not Star Trek oriented, but have appeared in various science fiction television and movies. This year’s headliner has gotten the most buzz and has made a huge splash on their twitter page, especially among Doctor Who fans is John Barrowman. Sori mentions Nick’s disappointment that Barrowman was going to be in attendance and he was not able to attend and meet him. He congratulates Mike for landing Barrowman.
Mike praises their guest relations team, con-chairs, and other colleagues for their hard work over the last several years in getting some extraordinary guests, including: Leonard Nimoy over Skype last year, William Shatner for an afternoon, Levar Burton, Brent Spiner, Kate Mulgrew, and Richard Dean Anderson last year. When a big celebrity makes an appearance, it’s a lot of pressure to keep repeating it year after year. With Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary coming next year, Mike is already looking ahead to next year’s convention, wondering how they are going to be improve upon what they have already done with their available resources and the size of their space. He’s confident in their team’s ability to keep making the convention better and better.
Returning to the question about guests, Mike states that they have three guests from the SyFy show Defiance (which just premiered recently), include: Jaimie Murray, Tony Curran, and Jesse Rath. Rekha Sharma known from Battlestar Galactica, The 100, and V has agreed to attend recently. Aaron Ashmore from Warehouse 13, Smallville, and Killjoy will be in attendance. His brother was also supposed to attend but had to drop out when he got some acting work. David Nykl from Stargate Atlantis will be there. Finally, Daniel Davis appeared in TNG as Professor Moriarty. Mike McPhail is their guest artist.
He doesn’t have time to go through the entire list, but Shore Leave is known for bringing in a lot of Science Fiction writers. Mike doesn’t know how it got started, but over the time, it seems as if one author told two friends who told two friends and so on and so forth. He jokes that there are more authors than actual attendees. It gives them the opportunity to mix them up for panel discussions, book readings, signings, and asking questions about the industry as well. Some writers will put on workshops for would be writers to learn more about the business. Artists will sell their wares at the art show. There are a lot of fans that not only appreciate science fiction and fantasy, but also love their science fact. Therefore, Shore Leave even has a number of scientists coming out to talk about Hubble, space flight, and so much more. There is a varied lists of guest and are proud that they can get celebrities and guests at tables where fans can approach them and strike up a conversation, get a photo op, or an autograph. This is one of the benefits of a smaller convention verses larger cons with so many people.
Sori mentions that the G & T Show has spoken with many of the authors and most of them have mentioned Shore Leave as one of the places where fans can come and meet them. Sori is pleased that they are able to focus so much on the writers. Most of the larger conventions tend to focus on the celebrity and leaves the writers out in the cold. Mike mentions a few of the larger conventions, some with more literary focus, than Shore Leave. He says that Shore Leave didn’t plan to for it to be this way, but over time, it naturally took on a more literary bend. He shares a story about the early days of Shore Leave and their first Zine writer guests. Sori describes Zines as fan newsletter-like magazines that usually cropped up around fan clubs. Mike mentions that whenever the powers that be denied fans their Trek fix, they made their own. It goes back to the beginning of fandom. For the first Shore Leave, they a couple of Zine writers, for Shore Leave 2 or 3, they got their first two writers: Howard Weinstein and Bob Greenberger. They have participated in nearly every Shore Leave since then and became a part of the family. They told their friends and it grew from there. Now, they have so many, they can’t fit all of them on a flyer.
Sori states that Story and character which are two fundamental elements for any good story across every media begins with the writer. Mike says if its not on the page, it’s not on the stage. Writers don’t get the credit they deserve. He attributes their success to the writers that have helped them keep it going year after year. They are not the only part, but an important part.
Sori mentions that Shore Leave also supports a number of charities. Mike says that there are charities they support every year, while others, such as those supported by the auction vary. They take collections of food and cash for the Maryland Food Bank. They also have a Blood Drive, however, this year, they will only be doing it on Sunday due to the availability of the Blood Mobile. In the past, they have taken collections and auction for various charities such as the Motion Picture Fund. They usually take a vote and select three or four organizations. To find out what those charities will be, go to the Charities link on their website. He thinks that COPD will one of their charities this year in honor of Leonard Nimoy. He goes on to say that no matter how good or bad the economy is, attendees tend to be extremely generous. He praises the science fiction and fantasy community as always willing to help.
Sori asked about the Dealers area at Shoreleave next. Mike has dropped some money on memorabilia over the years. One of his favorite hangouts at the convention is the dealers area. He describes it as not so little. Shore Leave takes over two floors of the hotel. The first floor is where the ballrooms are where guests and panels are given. The second floor is where the vendors are. Some dealers have been in attendance for years, while others are brand new. It gives them a wide variety for their attendees. Some items are inexpensive, while others are more high-end.
Sori asks Steve if he’s got a question that he’d like to chime in with, but before he can, Mike quickly thanks Steve and Mike for allowing him on the G & T Show. For fans that have never attended a small fan run convention, or that only have attended large conventions, such as Creation’s Grand Slam, or San Diego Comic-Con, or Dragon Con; he invites you to drop by Shore Leave early on Saturday or Sunday and guarantees that you’ll find something that’s going to capture your interest, whether its programming or like-minded people that get it, that understand Science Fiction.
Roddenberry described the future as a place where everyone gets along and people are able to see past differences in order make the world a better place. Mike never saw Roddenberry in person. If we can’t accept the slight differences found in ourselves, then we don’t deserve to go out there and meet the real differences that are certain to be out there. People from all walks of life, of all ages, that share the same interests. When you’re fans are young, they may be drawn by the celebrities, but as they get older, its the people that they come to the convention to see. It’s the real joys of the convention. He points people to their website and their info line at 410 701 0669. They are on Facebook and have a Twitter feed. They are not sold out yet, but they are selling well. Pre-Registration closes on July 15th. Mike will be there most of the weekend. He hopes to see some G & T Show listeners.
Steve asks whether the clashing dates with some of the other larger conventions such as Comic Con and Grand Slam have been problematic for Shore Leave. Mike is pleased to announce that the dates for Shore Leave 38 have been set and they do not conflict with any other major convention. Shore Leave traditionally has been held on the second weekend of July, but had decided to change it when San Diego Comic Con starting holding their event on the same weekend. The nearest open available spot for the Hunts Valley Inn was the second weekend of August, which caused a conflict, when Creation’s Grand Slam was moved to the same weekend. He has the deepest respect for what Creation is able to do, but it also makes it difficult for them to compete. Therefore, they have made the decision to move back to mid-July. Shore Leave 38 will be held on July 15th through the 17th. Most of the people he has spoken to are pleased that they have returned to their mid-July date. And, unless some other convention unexpectedly changes their dates, Shore Leave will not be in direct conflict with any other major convention. They are excited about the possibilities that next year’s show will afford them.
Sori says that G & T Show is very excited about these dates, because not only will our listeners be able to attend, but so will we. Nick has attended Shore Leave in the past and was upset when the scheduling conflicts arose. They had moved to avoid one conflict and in the process got hit with another. But, still they managed to get an eclectic group of celebrities to join them, even though most are not related to Star Trek. Mike mentions that they will have a producer, Janice, attending the convention this to report back on all of the happenings. We are all sad that the rest of us won’t be able to attend this year, but we are looking forward to attending Shore Leave 38 next year. Mike hopes that they will be able to help Janice connect with some of the celebrities and authors for interviews. Sori praises the interactions he has had so far with the Shore Leave committee and how helpful they have been. Mike is gratefful for the kind words and explains that it can be difficult since they are all volunteers and do this for the love of it. As long as they able, they will continue to put on the best convention that they can for their friends, fans, guests, and attendees.
Shore Leave is seven weeks away.
Sori winds up the interview by thanking Mike for joining them and hopes that their convention is around for many more years because he loves what they are doing.
But, wait. There’s more.
He is the co-owner of Busy Little Beaver Productions and is the producer and co-host for G & T Show and Gates of Sto’vo’kor. He’s directed voice actors, and produced and edited audio podcasts and dramas because he doesn’t have the face for video. He plays well with others and is always on the look out for the next project, the next thing, the next next. If he wasn’t working on something with a half dozen other projects waiting in the wings, somebody please check to make sure he’s still breathing.
During the day, he’s a mild-mannered computer repair man who dabbles in web design in his small, rural, Central California community. He lives with his lovingly dysfunctional family and loyal canine companion and spends most of his time in the closet concocting some hair-brained scheme or another. He’s got an unhealthy obsession with Lego video games, Klingons, and Star Trek Online that borders on the neurotic.
Despite all this, he still finds the time to write the words. Find out what he's doing here.